THE BLOG

28
Mar

Create in ME a Clean Heart

In your mind, imagine a swamp. There is absolutely nothing about seeing a swamp that makes you want to go for a swim! Just the way it looks is utterly disgusting! When we drive through Louisiana, I always look out over the swamp and expect to see something from Animal Planet at any moment… like an alligator jumping out and chomping a bird with one bite.

A few months ago, the Lord gave me a vision of people going for a drink of water. But when they came up from the drink, they had dirt and rocks stuck in their teeth with moss dripping from their chin.

Psalm 23

“The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me by still waters.”

We hear this verse often. But what I want you to see here is that the waters God leads us by are clean, pure waters. Waters so clear that you can see straight to the bottom. David describes them here as being STILL waters.

God doesn’t lead His people to a raging sea, or to a swamp that is filled with filth. He leads His people to pure waters that are clean and still.

David’s prayer in Psalm 51:10 is “Create in me a clean heart.”

As leaders, our effectiveness is directly linked to the condition of our heart. We must fight to keep our hearts clean. If we don’t, then our churches, organizations, and homes will become swamps. Instead of people coming to us and getting refreshed, they will come and get infected with the same thing that infected us. When our hearts become infected, people drink of the water we have & they will come up with unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, insecurity and anger in their mouth.

Pastor Lawrence said something a few years ago that has stuck with me through the years: “When we as leaders become toxic, The Lord is obligated to limit our influence so we don’t infect other people.”

Psalm 23 says that GOD will lead HIS sheep to still waters. So when the condition of my heart remains pure, growth is an automatic result. God will lead His people to where HE knows they will be well taken care of. Hurt people hurt people. When the waters of your heart become polluted, then people leave sick. When the waters of your heart are pure, people who come drink are healed. They feel loved, affirmed, restored.

It is a lot easier to look outward than inward. Outward focus takes the responsibility off of me and places it on the shoulders of another.  Inward focus is what David is doing in Psalm 51: “create in ME a clean heart.” So in effect he is saying: “God, there have been things in my life that have polluted the waters inside of me. I cannot fix it by myself, but I know you can.”

How is the condition of your heart?

How is the condition of your organization?

Let’s make our prayer today like David: Create in ME a clean heart.

 

-Crystal Sparks

17
Mar

Destroyed by Distraction

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but distractions seem to be everywhere you turn. When I was a kid, times were simpler. You should see the look on my kids’ faces when I tell them I grew up without a cell phone and that Google didn’t exist until after I graduated High School. With a look of shock on their faces they respond with, “Dad, was there electricity and running water?” It really is amazing how far technology has come in just a few short years. It’s hard to imagine that Google, something everyone uses almost on a daily basis, has only been around 15 years! Can you imagine life without Google? Where would all your answers come from? If someone asked you a question you didn’t know the answer to, you might actually have to respond with “I don’t know.” Instead, you google it secretly and act like you’ve known the answer for years.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an anti-technology rant. I love Google, Twitter, Instagram, etc. After all, technology has brought us closer together. Long lost friends don’t have to be lost anymore. We can reach almost anyone with a simple friend request on Facebook and in a matter of moments know what they’ve been up to for the decade you’ve been separated. But sometimes I wonder, “Is the technology that brought us all together actually tearing us apart?”

Put the stones down and let me explain myself!

The other day we had a bunch of friends over to our house for dinner. We greeted everyone and were sitting around the living room catching up on life while we waited for dinner to finish cooking. The kids had been WAY to quiet for WAY too long so I excused myself to go check on them. After I had figured out what was going on in kid world, I returned to mine. When I came around the corner I saw it! I saw what my grandparents and parents have been complaining about ever since my wife and I got a smart phone. There, in a room full of people, all of my friends had a phone in their hand. They were all distracted from reality and were lost in technology. Here they were, surrounded by real people and technology had gotten in the way. When I mentioned what I had just observed they all defended their actions. “I was just playing a quick game;” “I just needed to check my email real quick;” “Don’t you dare judge me, Bryan!!”

The truth is we’ve become a society of the smart phone. I heard someone say the other day “the smarter our phones become, the dumber we become.” But that’s a topic for another day. The point is, everyone that has a smart phone is more than likely distracted by it.

We are a society that is so in touch with everyone that we’ve lost touch with the people we can really touch.

I’m not here to judge you. The truth is, I’m just as guilty! I’ve been the guy sitting across from my wife at a dinner table and checking to see what’s happening in the land of twitter. You might be reading this thinking, “That’s not me Bryan. I don’t have an issue with technology.” If that’s the thought you’re having right about now then I would like to extend a challenge. A challenge that won’t be difficult at all if you truly don’t have a problem.

Here is what I want you to do. Take Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever game to which you are addicted at the moment (flappy bird), etc. off your phone for the next 7 days.

I’ll let you regain your composure for a moment……. You back?

Good!

Now, in place of one of those apps, put something meaningful. I personally like to put the bible app in the place of one of those before mentioned apps. Maybe yours is a book, or maybe a reminder of people to write letters to. The possibilities are endless. Now, as a replacement for checking your social media or playing that game, instead read a chapter in your bible or read a couple of pages in a book. Take a moment to write a letter to your spouse or your children, letting them know how much you love them. You will be amazed at how much you will actually accomplish in the next 7 days!

During your 7-day detox, schedule lunch with people you work with and dinners with friends you haven’t seen in ages. Sit around the table at dinner with your family and talk to them about what’s going on in their lives instead of reading about it on Facebook. Let’s take back our time! Let’s reconnect with one another! Let’s go “old school” and actually sit around and talk with the people we love and laugh with the people we care about. Let’s stop being so busy trying to stay connected with everyone that we can’t (or don’t) take a few moments to really connect with the ones that actually matter. Let’s stop being distracted by the latest social media craze and get back to being social!

I hope you take this challenge, but even more, I hope you live this challenge…… I promise it will change your life! Good Luck!

-Bryan Sparks