For The Sake Of The Name

October 21, 2014 — 2 Comments

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There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

Mother Theresa

Having a mission mindset requires us to be attached only to Christ.

We must focus on Christ and His nature.

I too easily get distracted.  I am easily swayed by the “attractions” and “distractions” of this world.

And this is why I need the Holy Spirit in my life – to remind me, to teach me, to rescue me, to point me back to the Name.

It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.  3 John 7

God, I want to serve You.  I want to know You.  I want to bring glory to Your Name.

What is distracting you from having a mission mindset?

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I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked me how my book was doing.

I get this question a lot.

I filled him in on the general statistics, and we proceeded to talk about the challenge of releasing a book project in today’s social media driven world.  As I work on my next book project, I wrestle with the idea of pursuing a more traditional book publishing route for this project.  I went the self-publishing route with my first book project.  A more traditional book publisher could bring a wider audience and distribution which is attractive, but there are also pluses to the self-publishing method.

Either way, a larger platform is critical to success in today’s world – in terms of quantity of book sales.  And this is where I struggle.

I heard it said by one of my author friends that 90% of books sell less than 200 copies.

This is the reality in today’s world.  I’ve learned that it takes a lot of hard work and self-promotion just to approach this number.

Publishers are looking for a large e-mail list, lots of Twitter and Facebook connections, and a lot of blog traffic.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

How does a person remain humble with a correct focus while promoting themselves and their platform?

This is the problem with platform.

We are instructed to be humble.  We are taught to put aside our own interests for the sake of others.

Is it possible to build a platform while staying humble and pointing people to Christ?

I think so, but I think it’s a challenge.

This is the challenge I now face.  As I pursue my next book project, I’ll be taking steps to grow my e-mail list and blog traffic.  Meanwhile, I plan to use this platform to point people in the right direction.  I’d appreciate it if the Stretched Community would keep me accountable to staying on the right track.

Thanks!

What are your thoughts on building a platform?  What have you learned in the process of building your own platform?

This song by Colton Dixon speaks to me as I pursue this next project:

(For the record, I’ve sold or given away 116 copies of On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field.  This includes paperback and Kindle eBook versions.  This does not include the electronic copies given away to subscribers of my blog.  As you can see selling more than 200 copies is no small task.)

Ice Breaker – Yacht

October 17, 2014 — 11 Comments

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Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  If you had a yacht, what would you name it?

My Answer:  Stretch seems like the obvious choice.  If I followed the pattern of my recent blog posts about having a mission mindset, you might think I should go with On A Mission.  I like the name Hope Floats.  I never saw the movie, but I think the name sounds “uplifting.”

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

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Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
St. Augustine

We want to be people to be people of action.

We want to be part of things being accomplished.  When we go on a short-term missions trip or when we chose to serve in our community, this typically means we want to get our hands dirty.  We want to build houses.  We want to feed hungry children.  We want to help widows.  These actions are important, and I believe they are part of every Christ followers calling.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:26-27

But what if we are missing out on the key action we must take to truly move from just having a mission mindset to actually going on a mission?

The action we can easily overlook involves getting our knees dirty instead of our hands.  Yes.  Prayer is the action we must take if we want to be the most effective missionaries.

 “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:38

  • Prayer keeps us connected to God.
  • Prayer humbles us.
  • Prayer gives us appropriate perspective.
  • Prayer reminds us who is in charge.
  • Prayer works.
  • Prayer is effective.
  • Prayer is an action.

Let’s not forget about prayer!

How is your prayer life?  What is so hard about praying?  How has prayer changed your life?  How do you think your life would be different if prayer became a larger part of your life?

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
Helen Keller

God may have given us a vision, but this is not all we need in order to fully achieve a mission mindset.

If we go full-out in an effort to realize the vision we have been given but we fail to cultivate our relationship with God, we will be useless.  We will be missing out on the key ingredient of a mission mindset.

In Exodus 2:11-25, we see Moses who has been given a vision to save and protect the people of Israel.  As a young man, he goes after this vision with pride and perhaps self-absorption.  He kills an Egyptian who is mistreating an Israelite.  His reputation among his own people quickly deteriorates.  It seems that Moses’ initial actions towards achieving his vision is done so without God.  Next, he heads into the wilderness where he lives for 40 years.  It is here, he meets “I AM WHO I AM” in the burning bush.  His wilderness experience provides an opportunity to be re-centered on God and to be personally humbled.  Only in this state can Moses lead effectively and can he appropriately approach the vision he had originally been given to save and protect the people of Israel.

I have a vision to write a book about short-term missions and mission mindset.  Last year, I spent a lot of time outlining this project and working toward this desired outcome.  I sent the outline out to some trusted friends and advisers who gave me incredible feedback and confirmation regarding this project.  I put the project on hold for several reasons.  In a way, I felt like Moses being sent into the wilderness to meet “I AM WHO I AM.”  I needed to be humbled and re-centered on God before I could effectively go after this vision.

As I’ve pursued my relationship with God more intentionally, this vision has been reignited and the content creation has become much richer and deeper than I originally outlined.  In fact, the outline which I spent so much time on last year is being altered based on my reinvigorated pursuit.

I don’t know what vision God has put on your heart, but I’m sure it’s exciting and worthwhile.  In the pursuit of realizing this vision, don’t forget to pursue God first.  This is a decision you will not forget.

What vision for the future have you been given?  What is preventing you from realizing your God-given vision? 

 

Hitting The Right Stride

October 14, 2014 — 3 Comments

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“The test of a man’s religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, when there is nothing tremendous or exciting on.”

Oswald Chambers

I am nearly six and a half feet tall (six feet five and three-quarters inches to be exact), and I have long legs.  With long legs, comes a long stride.  If I’m walking down the hall at my office, there are many of my co-workers who simply cannot keep up with me.  Their legs are too short, and they cannot match my stride.

In Genesis 5, we meet Enoch.  He is part of the genealogy between Adam and Noah.  There is not a lot shared about him in the Bible.  We know his father’s name is Jared.  We know he had a son named Methuselah.  And we know he lived 365 years.  But this isn’t it.  Enoch walked with God.

Does this mean Enoch had long legs and a huge stride?  I doubt it.  My guess is that Enoch was probably fairly short compared to today’s standards.  Most likely, he had a complete, intimate focus and relationship with God.  I get the feeling Enoch knew God.  The Bible doesn’t give us any other details about his life.  He didn’t invent the wheel.  He didn’t rule the land.  He didn’t do anything spectacular as far as we can tell, but he walked with God.

In today’s world, most of us have a thirst for adventure.  We want to achieve greatness.  We want to be well-known.  This becomes our focus and even our god sometimes.

What if we changed our focus?

What if we really pursued a relationship with God?

At the end of my life, I would love to be remembered as a man who walked with God.

How about you?

How would your life be different if walking with God became your first priority?

How To Have The Best Dreams

October 13, 2014 — 3 Comments

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.
James Dean

People are always talking and writing about dreams.  I think it can be healthy to dream and to have big dreams for the future.  But it can be discouraging when the dreams don’t come true.  Maybe we don’t always have the best dreams.

What if I told you the secret to having the very best dreams?

A short-term missions trip can be the catalyst for developing a vision for the future.

Shortly after returning home from my last trip to Guatemala last summer, I took time to write down some of these visions or dreams in a post titled “Guatemala Dreams.”  These visions and dreams are great, but they often fall to the wayside when we return to the pushes and pulls of everyday life off the mountain.

Keeping these dreams and visions alive can be a real challenge.  I look at this list, and I remain hopeful that they will be realized over time.

And yet, I’m reminded that it is so important that these dreams are birthed out of a vision from God.  Knowing God’s vision for me will only truly happen as I seek to know Him.

I still have these Guatemala Dreams, but I see how I must pursue Him first… then all these things will be added unto me….

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

And this is how you will have the best dreams!

What are you dreaming about?  How do you know you are having the best dreams?

 

 

Ice Breaker – Bucket List

October 10, 2014 — 5 Comments

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

This week, our family said goodbye to my Grandma.  In 94 years, she saw and did a lot of amazing things.  I don’t know if she had a bucket list.  Based on what I know, she was ready to leave this life.  She was satisfied with what she had seen and accomplished during her lifetime.  My Grandma’s passing was a reminder how quickly life passes.  This week’s Ice Breaker question is inspired by this reminder.

Question:  What is something on your bucket list?  And what are you going to do to cross it off your list?

My Answer:  I don’t have an official bucket list, but there are many things I’d like to see, experience, or accomplish before I “kick the bucket”.

  • I’d like to build 100 houses in Guatemala.
  • I’d like to write another book.
  • I’d like to be completely debt free including my house.
  • I’d like to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary (and 60th, and…).
  • I’d like to visit Sweden in late June.

And this is just off the top of my head.  In order to cross these items off my list, here are some of the things I’m doing:

  • I’ve built three so far, and I’m planning future trips to Guatemala to build the other 97 houses.
  • I’m writing content for the book every week.  I’m working on a few ways to build my e-mail list in order to make my book project more attractive to a book publisher.
  • I’m living debt free besides the house.  My wife and I are getting together weekly to go over our budget.  And we’re planning ahead to reduce our mortgage significantly in the next four years.
  • My wife and I are practicing a weekly date night.  We plan to get away at least two times a year just the two of us.  I’m exercising five to six times a week to keep myself in decent shape to make it to this milestone.
  • I’m not sure about the Sweden thing yet, but we’ll have to start working on plan for this one.

As I think about this above list, I’m reminded of a verse from Proverbs:

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.  Proverbs 16:9

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

“We slander God by our very eagerness to work for Him without knowing Him.”  Oswald Chambers

“To know Him, and to make Him known…”

We can’t do the second part very well without the first part.  While I’m convinced God can use us despite our failings, I’m fairly confident He desires so much more.

A mission mindset starts with us going on a mission to know God.  This isn’t a one time event.  Knowing God is a daily pursuit.

Our mission first and foremost is the make sure there is nothing between us and God.  Only then will be able to serve Him and make Him known.  Along this journey, there will be times when we must fully rely on the strength of Christ.  This will happen when we’ve done the upfront work to know Him.

How are you getting to know God these days?

Dive down into this deeper by checking out Mark 9:14-32.

A Tribute To Grandma

October 8, 2014 — 6 Comments

On Monday, we said goodbye to my Grandma.  During the funeral service on Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts about her.  Here they are:

As grandchildren, I’m sure we all have known the special touch of our grandparents.  Each one of us (seven in all) was always made to feel special whenever we were around.  (I was special, because I was born on Grandpa’s birthday.)  What a blessing!

I’m fairly certain we all have very special memories of Grandma.  She was certainly an amazing lady, and I’ll remember many things about her, but one thing stands out the most when I think about her special qualities.

Grandma was a woman of prayer.

When I was a young kid, I remember special times of prayer at the meal table.  Grandpa might read from a devotional.  We would look at a missionary card to learn more about a missionary or an unreached people group.  And then, Grandma would pray.  Her prayers were always soft-spoken.  It was obvious to me that Grandma knew God, and she was simply having a conversation with Him.

When I was in college, Grandma and Grandpa were visiting our home in New Jersey.  I was out late with friends while they were there one night.  When I pulled in the driveway, the house was dark.  My bedroom was in the basement of my parent’s split-level house, and Grandma and Grandpa slept in the basement family room during their visits.  I unlocked the door and quietly walked down the steps.  As I approached the bottom step, I heard voices.  At first, I thought Grandma and Grandpa were talking to each other.  Then I realized they were talking to God.  I sat down on the bottom step and listened as they continued the conversation.  Together they prayed for Norm and Candy (my parents), Max and Elaine (my aunt and uncle), Lauren (my cousin), Jon, Jane (my cousin), David (my brother), Tom (my cousin), Helen (my cousin), and Erik (my brother).  They prayed specifically for each of us mentioning specific concerns and even praying for our future spouses.  They especially prayed that we would have a relationship with Jesus.  This wasn’t an unusual occurrence.  It was clear to me they prayed for us every night.

After Grandpa passed away seven and a half years ago, I had a few opportunities to visit with Grandma.  These were always such special visits.  After talking together for a while about my family, the Cubs, the Bears, our extended family, and about other details, we would always pray together before we said goodbye.

Last summer during my last two visits with Grandma, It was clear that her memory was starting to fail her.  During my first visit in June, we talked for ten to fifteen minutes before she asked “What was your name again?”  In July, she knew my name, but she couldn’t remember Leanne’s name.  You could tell this was frustrating to Grandma who was always the smartest in the family.  After spending a couple of hours together, we gathered in Grandma’s room to pray and say goodbye.  I prayed, and as I said Amen, Grandma picked up the conversation with God.

In her final year, I understand it became more challenging for her to hold her thoughts together as she prayed.  I’m sure this was a sign she was ready to go home to heaven soon.  Nonetheless, Grandma would look up at the cork board hanging above her bed.  It was here she displayed her family tree which included her two children and their spouses, her seven grandchildren, and her fifteen great-grandchildren.  Even when she couldn’t hold her head up, she would pray for us as she looked up at her pictures.

Grandma will be missed by all of us.  We will miss the conversations, the Swedish pancakes, and the Swedish meatballs.  And I will miss hearing Grandma talking with her friend, Jesus.  I’m so thankful for the faith legacy left by Grandma.

It was sad to say goodbye to Grandma this week, but it was great to be with family.  And it was a privilege to celebrate the life of a saint – my Grandma.

How do you (or how will you) remember your grandparents?