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ONE YEAR! Really?

On this exact week, one year ago, the Renner family arrived in Orlando Florida. We sold our home and moved away from everything we were comfortable with to travel the 36 hour drive from Phoenix. We moved because I was hired to be the Lead Pastor of a Church that confirmed to my family that they wanted to change and grow. Well…let me simply say, this year didn’t go like I thought it would go…

This past year my family and I have experienced wonder and awe, inspiration and depression, joy and tragedy like we’ve never experienced in life so far. In Florida, I have encountered some very amazing and incredibly wonderful people and at the same time some people, that…well…I don’t even want to type it. Let’s stay positive.

One year. It has been the hardest year of my life. Yet…here we are, moving forward and facing joys and challenges that remind me I’m still alive and my heart is still beating and confirming that there is a lot of work to do for the Lord.

I’m concerned about my kids.
I’m concerned about my wife.
I’m concerned about our new Church Plant.
I’m concerned about a lot of things…but…

God is bigger than all my concerns.
So what does a man do? The answer is simple. The answer is good. The answer is not easy… I press on. I keep my eyes on the finish line of the faith. I refuse to be one who stands before Jesus trying to explain why I let life’s circumstances get in the way of my calling to reach those who are far from God.

I don’t know what this next year holds…
But I know who holds this next year!

Bring it on. I will stand on 1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

I wonder what I’ll be blogging about this time next year?
ONE YEAR goes by so fast.
Ready…Set…Go!


The Encounter

Every day we awaken to the fact that a new journey is awaiting to be traveled. It’s an unwritten personal script. A clean slate. If you are human, that clean slate tends to get dirty earlier than any of us are comfortable with. Our collisions with the world, and the people who meander her paths, are never perfect. The soil, soot and slime thrust upon us might be our own doing, or it is the doing of another upon you. Our response to the collision is our victory or our defeat, and most definitely, our choice. Each encounter is an original collision. The collision could leave us thrilled and impassioned and better. Or, the collision could leave us hurt, wanting, and defeated. Very few collisions leave us neutral.

Some collisions will be with people who TEST us. These tests will be graded and it’s always good to get a passing grade. These people-tests can make us better or bitter. A test is not a bad thing. If we choose to pass the test, it will leave us better. A test will only make us better, if we, out of sheer discipline, choose the path of better-ness. The people who test us, are those we will be very careful to journey across again, but we will not avoid them. Other collisions are with people who collide into us like PAINT being applied to a rusty old automobile. It’s tempting to like this collision and think it is good for us, but it doesn’t make us better. This type of collision only gives us the facade of improvement. Too much time with these types of people and we end up beautifully painted rust. At first glance we will be tempted to think that painters actually love us, but reality eventually shows us that their paint wasn’t love at all. Another type of collision we will encounter is a USER. This collision will leave us thirsty, malnourished, buckled and bent. This collision will leave us needing the jaws of life to free us. The repair bill that arrives after this collision is higher than we will expect it to be. The effort to recover the lost confidence from this collision will take your breath away. After a collision with a user, the only benefits we get from it, are calloused knees, as we beg for it to never—ever happen again.

I’m confident that we could brainstorm other types of collisions, and I welcome them in the comments section, but I end this Art of Encounter with this. The best collision to have today is with the POLISHER. The polisher is one whom only brings out the best in us. They will be few and far between, but their encounter gives us the stamina to keep venturing out again and again and again. Taking hit after hit after hit. Who doesn’t love a polisher? They are selfless and they promote other’s progress above their own.

Each encounter is a collision. Each encounter is a teacher.

If you are like me, we thought about specific people we have collided with as each type was read above. Do not dwell too much on them. The most important question to ask ourselves is this…Did anybody reading this… think of my name?


Power, Secrecy and a Lack of Accountability…

I was watching the news over a lunch break just a few moments ago and couldn’t help but notice, through sheer repetition, Jay Carney, President Obama’s Press Secretary saying, “The President believes that the Press should have unfettered & balanced freedom to information so as to honor the first amendment rights of the Constitution, anything else would be inappropriate.”

I’m grateful to know that our constitutional rights are being protected and valued by our leaders of this great country. I do worry about its validity though. Why? Not because I may or may not be a fan of this administration…I pray for it daily, but because I believe deeply, that if you or myself have to keep repeating something publicly, the only persons we may be trying to convince is ourselves.

Does Martha Stewart have to publicly say that she is a great cook?
Does Michael Jordan have to publicly say that he is a great basketball player?
Does Billy Graham have to publicly say that he is a great evangelist?
Does Mother Theresa have to publicly say that she is compassionate?
Does the Miami Heat have to say that they will win the 2013 NBA Championship?

The answer is no, to all the questions above. Why? Because it is obvious. Actions speak louder than words.

In the past I have encountered individuals and groups of people who hungered for their personal agendas to be protected. I have worked through forgiveness for these tragic situations and now have the privilege to be able to write about lessons learned and observations made as I look back now with 20/20 hindsight. I am grateful for you, as you read this, for you have granted me such a privilege of writing, because—well, you are reading this. 🙂

In the multiple accounts I am referring to, I have noticed a similar pattern in each. First, an unspoken and obvious desire to have no accountability or responsibility when something goes wrong. Second, a hunger for power. And third, a hunger to pursue selfish ambition. By the way, ambition is not a sin. The Bible doesn’t warn us against ambition. Jesus was ambitious. What the Bible warns us of, is selfish ambition. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition.” What is the difference between ambition and selfish ambition? One promotes the progress of self at the apathy towards others. Personal agendas are very dangerous. I might add, personal agendas without accountability grow into forms of devastating evil.

Do a self check right now. This is hard to do when you think you do no wrong. I confess that I have had times in my life where I felt I could do no wrong. The ability to confess that fact is the very act that cleanses that sin. So, I say all that to say, those who need to do a self check the most, won’t…because they don’t think they need it.

Self-Check Time. Is there something in your life that you keep telling yourself or publicly declaring? You will notice it by its sheer repetition. I have repeated to myself in the past, “These people will like me”…and I had to keep telling myself such. Why? Because I really didn’t think people would like me for who I was. It was just a deep insecurity that I grew up thinking. I played on a basketball team in college that was lead by a coach who kept saying that we were a united team, while allowing a couple of players to travel on their own on B-ball trips in their own vehicle. (Not coach Rupe…in case some are wondering) It was clear we had unity problems on and off the court. Yet, the coach kept saying we were a united team? He was only trying to convince himself, we all knew better. I have encountered people who believed the best thing that could happen to their company was simply making sure their presence remained in the company for as long as possible. Who were they trying to convince? I have encountered a group of people who kept telling themselves and me, that they had to have the power. Who were they trying to convince and what was their agenda?

When you hear a preacher, continually harp on an issue…it’s is likely that he/she is struggling with it him/herself.
When you hear a Press Secretary repeat something over and over, it is likely that he is trying to convince himself and/or protect a personal agenda.
When you hear a group of people continually debate about who is in charge, it is likely that they are trying to self-preserve.
I am a student of Church world and have noticed some churches keep repeating how they are the biggest church in their town.(I’m not referring to CCV) Why are they repeating that? When you hear a professional athlete repeat how dominant he is, who is he trying to convince and who is he trying to protect?

What is it in your life that you have been vocally repeating? Who are you trying to convince? You don’t have to convince the people who are watching you. We know you by your actions. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16 (NASB), “You will know them by their fruit.” When my words do not back up my actions, everybody knows it but me, and how I look foolish. When your words do not back up your actions, everybody knows it and how foolish you look. Once, there was an elder who told me in front of a bunch of other people that I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. That reason is to talk less and listen more. That was great advice that cut to my core. I learned from that elder. I appreciated the accountability, even though it hurt at the time, it made me sit back and shut up and listen. I am still working on getting better at such. What shocked me, is that specific elder was one who wouldn’t shut up in our private meetings. LOL. Crazy isn’t it? We are imperfect people and the only time that gets us in trouble is when we actually try to make other people live better than we do ourselves. I call that behavioral modification and control. It’s everywhere, but it is at its stinkiest in the church. It is crazy how Christians get very angry at other people for sinning differently than they do themselves.

Bottom line…We all need accountability. We need it of any kind. If someone tells you they don’t need accountability…that is the very person who needs it most. Why? Because they said it! Who are they trying to convince?

As far as the Top of the News is going right now….

We are seeing what happens when power seeking more power goes “unfettered” by a lack of accountability through biased-non-reporting from the press. The press is crying foul at something they actually empowered to happen. I pray it is a lesson learned. This lesson should soak into every fragment of our individual lives, corporate lives, committee lives, elder’s in church’s lives, marriage lives, and friendship lives. Hunger for power and living for self leads to secrecy, and secrecy is the beginning of sin/evil…let it go unchecked by covering up the truth and the truth will build such power that it will eventually blow forth in such a mighty way that it will reveal the culprit in a very naked way.

If you are a Christian and in a healthy Church, you should be able to come forward, confess your sin and be embraced by the loving arms of the body of Jesus Christ. There will still be consequences to covering up the truth and sin, but you will be loved not judged. That is the Church behaving its best.

If you are not in the Church, and are, like in today’s top news stories, the U.S. Government…well… your role, and the hot water that seems to be coming to a boil. I’m afraid more judgment is coming than love. The Government is not like the Church. The Government works for the people, and hell hath no fury than a people scorned, lied to and tricked. Its different for the Church, nobody answers to people, we answer to Jesus. There’s a big difference. I would rather answer to Jesus than to people. People are scary. Jesus is not. People are unpredictable, Jesus is not.

I like to say, “Time tells all things.”
Jesus said it better. “You will be known by your fruit.”
Jesus said it best, when He said, “The truth shall set you free.”
Be truthful now and there is nothing to hide and nothing to blow up in our face and leave us naked before our judges.

Power, Secrecy and a Lack of Accountability are very dangerous things.
I’ve never seen a single soul, in all of world history, be able to safely play with power, secrecy, lack of accountability, and not get burnt and thus be left naked and exposed before the whole world.
If you hunger for power, have secrets and a lack of accountability I’ll bet you keep secretly telling yourself that it will all be okay.
Who are you trying to convince?
My advice, if you will accept it, is to take up 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”

God is the Power. God knows all secrets. God is the ultimate accountability. AND…God is love. That makes me stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. He is the one and only true King.

In 1905, Charles Gabriel wrote a great Hymn called ‘I stand Amazed in the Presence.” It’s one of my favorite songs. I think when you read the lyrics below, the notes will play in your head. I dare you sing it right from where you sit…who cares who hears you…sing it! 🙂

I stand amazed in the presence
of Jesus the Nazarene,
and wonder how he could love me,
a sinner, condemned, unclean.

Refrain:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful
is my Savior’s love for me!

He took my sins and my sorrows,
he made them his very own;
he bore the burden to Calvary,
and suffered and died alone.
(Refrain)

When with the ransomed in glory
his face I at last shall see,
twill be my joy through the ages
to sing of his love for me.
(Refrain)


What Is The Motivation?

Jesus’s teachings, life and death are common. Many others have taught, lived and died. These common things didn’t motivate the apostles to begin The Church. It is Jesus’s resurrection that charged His followers to boldly give everything for Him.

The resurrection is what set Christianity apart. The resurrection is what makes Christianity right. The resurrection, not your personal preferences, is what should cause deep passion in you. THE RESURRECTION OVERRULES your need to be right, your music preference, what you wear, your leadership style, your insecurity, your ignorance, your sin, your attitude, your control, your dominance, your flesh, and your last breath. They all have been overruled! What else could it mean to be titled, “Lord of Lords and King of Kings?!”


Hydrate — Winning from the inside 35 (Matthew 7:6) Pearls, Pigs & Dogs

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

Jesus used some crazy illustrations. I imagine He fascinated His listener of His day. I’m fascinated by what He says just by reading it. This Bible passage has been used to teach many personal agendas. The passage is vague enough that I believe its okay to use this passage to make all kinds of conclusions. I intend, before this post is over, to make a specific point using this passage to teach about dogs and pigs in the form of people. Before I write my intended point, I think it would be healthy to take a quick shot at what Jesus literally meant when He taught this passage referenced.

In passages throughout the Bible about judging, we can read that we aren’t to judge unbelievers…and “dogs” was a slang term for unbelievers, in Jesus’s time. I think that Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t try to use Biblical ideas/principles/wisdom to try to help or teach unbelievers through their problems because they do not even believe the Bible to be true at this point in their life. I have tried this. I have tried to talk to unbelievers about their problems and have quoted parts of the Bible to them. I found it thrown back in my face. Almost with hostility. (Have you ever purchased a Bible and gave it as a gift to a non-believer? It has a tendency to turn the stomach of the recipient. It seems to backfire.) It is giving something sacred to a “dog” or a “pig”. When its all said and done, the sacred gets defiled and the pig just stays muddy. I think that’s what Jesus literally means. The solution is to love unbelievers as they are and when they start believing, they will open themselves up to the “pearls.” Its better to wait than to try to force feed the Bible to someone who isn’t ready for such a huge meal.

The rest of this blog is biased by what I want to write about. I want to write about “CHANGE” as the sacred pearls and the dog and/or pig could be anyone of us at any given time in our life.

I grew up on a large farm in the NW corner of Kansas. (Oakley KS) My parents still live there and it is now quite fun to take my wife and 4 children there to experience farm life. At the Renner Farm we have always had a dog and have had significant periods of time where we owned hundreds of pigs. I think that most people believe that dogs, overall, are very intelligent. I’m guessing that most people, however, are not aware that pigs are just as, if not more intelligent than a dog. I know for a fact that most people do not think that pigs are animals of cleanliness. No doubt, every pig likes its mud, but most people do not know that mud is a pigs air conditioner. A pig does not like to get dirty as much as it likes to stay cool. A pig can only sweat through its pores on its nose, which means it can’t sweat much to cool off. It has to use external resources to cool off. A water puddle and mud is to a pig, as a swimming pool is to a kid on a hot summer day! It cools.

There is a point to this lesson about dogs and pigs. Keep reading.

A dog, as it ages and gets accustomed to its comforts and patterns of habit, doesn’t like to change. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” A sweaty pig ends up in cardiac arrest due to heat stroke. “You are sweating like a pig” If a pig can’t sweat enough to cool itself off, then it just sits in the mud with very little movement in the heat of the moment.

Using this beastly illustration is my attempt to teach on change or the ability to change. Are there moments in my life where I act like a dog? Are there moments in my life where I act like a pig? My answer to those questions is yes. Sadly we all can act like dogs and pigs when it comes to needing change. The remaining post below is an all out assault on the human pigs and dogs that exist today. On rare occasions I personally need the following assault.

**WARNING** If you are offended by the remainder of this post you are most definitely resisting learning a new trick or you are willfully stuck in the mud. Or, to say it succinctly, you are a dog or you are a pig. Hopefully not both…I’m not sure what that would even look like.

How do we know if we are morphing into a dog or a pig?

Its simple…I am becoming a pig or a dog if I am resistant to change something that needs to change.

The piggly or doggedly things in us start to surface when someone else suggests the need for change in our lives. I have realized, through a couple of surprise life altering encounters in my recent past, that there are some underlying issues that cause us to not want to change. Show me where legitimate change is needed but is not happening and we will also find the underlying reasons as to why those who need to change are not. The number of things I am going to list is not complete. You may be able to think of some other reasons. If you can think of others, please share them with me in the comment section as I want to continue to be a learner and change agent.

Below are the main reasons why people don’t like to change. Or…below are the things that Jesus says causes Christians to become “Dogs” or “Pigs.”

SELF PRESERVATION – You want what you want! Its pretty simple really. A pig and a dog have a narrow focus. They think about their immediate desires and they pursue it. Anything that gets in the way of their selfish desire…well…have you ever experienced an attack from a dog? Have you ever listened to a hunter talk about being attacked by a wild pig? Encountering an angry dog or pig is terrifying. These creatures only think about their immediate desires and when those desires are being threatened, the fight or flight method kicks in. In the Church world, if pigs and/or dogs don’t get what they want, their fight or flight method kicks in. The fight method causes for long meetings and then extra special meetings after THE original meeting. The fight method in the church reveals who is really in charge. The fight method brings the worst out of people and reveals what is settled in their heart. If the fight method doesn’t surface, then that leaves the flight method. Its hard to say this, but it’s spoken in love. When pigs and/or dogs don’t get what they want in the Church and they don’t want to fight, then they just leave until they find what they desire. Churches that are dying, are really just hospices for the pigs and the dogs. I don’t mean that in a mean spirited way, I say it in total love and truth telling. If I refuse to change in areas that change is required, so success and fruitfulness can happen again, then bottom line, I am selfish. I am acting like a dog or a pig and I don’t deserve the pearls that God would have me manage. Self-Preservation is a sin that morphs christians into pigs and dogs.

EGO – “I like what I like and I think my ways are the best ways.” That sentence, which is a thought and very rarely spoken, is riddled with ego. Let me be clear about something. Ego in itself, is not a bad thing. Ego, in its simplest form, is confidence. As long as someone’s ego doesn’t rise higher than their ability or integrity, then that ego is a okay…it is confidence. Was it not ego for Jesus to say, “I am the way, the truth and the life”? The Apostle Paul had ego. David had ego. Goliath had ego. Jezebel had ego. The instant their ego level went higher than their integrity, they were disciplined by God. (Pride comes before the fall.) How they responded to their discipline determined if God allowed them to reestablish their influence or not. Repentance is huge! A dog and a pig are both confident that their way is the right way. The dog likes the tricks he is able to perform. The pig loves the cool comforts of its stagnant mud hole. The dog has learned to selfishly entertain itself with its old tricks and only gathers with other dogs and pigs that like those same old tricks. The pig has been laying in its mud hole for so long it doesn’t smell the stench anymore. Understanding this helps us realize how easy it is to become a dog and a pig. The dog and the pig see no need to change. Change would make them uncomfortable. To learn new tricks would require sacrifice as they worked through a new learning curve and would require admitting that their old trick used to be good. The pig would have to risk getting out of the mud, which takes a lot of effort, and could cause over heating issues as they stepped into the light. The dog’s ego prevents it from experiencing the thrill of new tricks. The pig’s ego prevents it from experiencing fresh mud holes down the road.


A typical pig or dog, at this point, would ask, “who gets to determine what tricks or mud holes are the right ones or not? They would ask, what makes you think your mud pit and your tricks are the right way? The answer to that question is, I don’t know if my idea is the right idea, but what I do know is that your old tricks and your mud pit are not effective anymore. I have found that pigs and dogs are confident of the way they think is right. Christians who are NOT pigs or dogs don’t know what method will work best, they only recognize when a way that used to be the right way no longer is. People who are not pigs or dogs want to leave the old tricks and want to get out of the stagnant mud hole. People who are not dogs or pigs are willing to try something new and they won’t have any of the reasons listed in this post that hold them back.
Pigs and Dogs, due to Self Preservation, are sub-conscienly driven by their own desires. This fact is an integrity problem due to selfishness. This integrity problem begins to rise. The person’s integrity now begins to drop under their ego and now they begin morphing into a pig or a dog. Unknowingly the dog and the pig enjoy being stuck in the mud of old tricks. Worst case scenario is that this reality is the beginning of a slow and safe death. If the worst case scenario doesn’t happen then the pig and the dog quietly slip into the village of average. Some might say that average isn’t so bad. I say that average is invisible. I would prefer death to invisibility. Eventually they end up in the same place. Ineffectiveness. Isn’t that the same as death?

CONTROL – When a person is committed to self preservation, which naturally leads to their integrity level to drop below their ego level, it will progress into the desire to control. Self Preservation + Low Integrity/High Ego = Control. Controlling people are dogs and pigs that will not receive the pearls that God would have them manage. People who refuse to change, keep everything under their control. A good illustration would be like a ship’s captain who refused to listen to the navigator as he warned him of a huge coral reef just ahead. The controlling captain, with all his/her ego and self preservation abounding…controls the ship right into death for all.
Pearls to swine…so tragic and devastating.

AFRAID – Change is suffocated by fearfulness on a daily basis. It is scary to get out of the comfortable smelly mud hole. The possibility of looking stupid as the dog tries a new trick is debilitating. People who refuse to change are really just people overwhelmed by fear. These reasons for not changing feed off of each other. Controlling people are in full tilt self preservation mode because they are afraid of something. Fear could be accused as being the king motivator as to why the pig and the dog even exist in church world. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of failure. Fear of losing a position of power. Share your thoughts with me about this in the comments section.

LAZINESS– Bottom line, its hard work to change. Lazy people hate change. We are busy, stressed, and don’t need more pressure. The pig and the dog lie to themselves, thinking that everything is fine and they don’t want to fix it, if it ain’t broke. The problem is that out of control ego and self preservation have blinded them to the fact that when something isn’t growing it is actually dying. When newcomers enter the old tricks mud pit, he/she notices the tricks are ineffective and the mud is stagnant. The new comer naturally, and even kindly, will mention the smell and age of the tricks, but the pig and the dog are overcome by fear which causes them to resort to control which causes them to fight or flight. Bottom line Pigs and Dogs struggle with being lazy. The pearl is hidden in the new trick and just outside the reach of a mud hole. Its hard work to get to get the new pearls. Jesus is warning us not to throw pearls to swine or give sacred things to dogs. Jesus knows the underlying reasons that are being listed in this post.
My hope in this post is revelation and awareness, not condemnation. I hope the pig and the dog, reading this, don’t see this as condemnation. I hope the pig and the dog realize they aren’t meant to be a pig or a dog, but a New Creation in Jesus Christ that is bent on completing the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do you kill the Pig or the Dog within you?

Kill SELF PRESERVATION by promoting the progress and purpose of other people, more so than your own… Matthew 20:28, For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Stop trying to make Church what you think it should be and make it such that people who are far from Jesus want to come and give their life to Him. Be willing to sacrifice your wants for others. Jesus did. As a Christian you can get what you want on your own outside the walls of church. You can fill your desire for your favorite worship music at home. You can fill your desire for your style of Bible study on your own study time. You can self feed. You are the Christian. Sacrifice your desires for those who are still searching for Christ. Paul said, I become all things to all people so that some may be saved! What a great attitude. Paul was not a pig or a dog.

Kill EGO by considering others as better than yourself. The following passage is adequate for Ego and Self Preservation. Philippians 2:3, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Kill CONTROL by giving it back to God. When you try to control anything, its like you getting in the face of God and screaming at Him, “I can do it better than you, God!” That’s eternally devastating. Romans 8:9 says, But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”
Kill FEARFULNESS by trusting God at His word. Don’t forget that God wants what is best for you! He doesn’t promise safety, but He promises eternal good to those who live for Him. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Kill LAZINESS by knowing that you work for God, not yourself and certainly not for your selfish desires. Romans 12:11 says, Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”

Change!
For God’s sake, be willing to change.
Gor the sake of the World, Change.
For the Church’s sake, keep changing the methods, but keep the message the same.

There are pearls/blessings/thrills/adventures/challenges/fruitfulness to be harvested!
Jesus says never give pearls to a dog or a pig.
Don’t be a dog.
Don’t be a pig.