Are You Following or Forcing?

We started a new series tonight at church called Jesus – You Are More Than Enough.

The series is about the relevancy of Jesus and that any area in your life where He isn’t the most relevant thing that area is dying.

He posed the question “Are you following Jesus into life or are you trying to force your way through life?”

Question really hit me…..

Am I making Him the priority in my marriage? My family? My job? My finances? My ministry?

I’d love to tell you the answer is yes…..but it’s really not.

Heck I’d love to say He is most of the time…..but I really don’t let Him.

Far too often I would rather trust in my own way and my false sense of control than to submit to Him. I like to make it really complicated but it’s really not. It’s actually quite simple…. Ask, Listen and Respond.

Ask God what He has for me. What does He have for me in my marriage, my family, my job or my ministry?

Listen to Him. He will speak that isn’t the question.  

Respond to what He says. It’s simple obedience!

Matthew 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Simple…..Yet more times than not I feel like I know a better way. I’ve figured out something that the Creator of the Universe couldn’t!

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

It’s like God wants me to walk down a beach with Him. I tell myself that the sand is too hard to walk in and instead decide to run in the water. I convince myself the water is better than the sand because I don’t have to struggle with the sand. Problem is I completely ignore how difficult it is to run in the water. The more I run, the harder it gets. The waves toss me around like a rag doll. The waves I’ve chosen to run in want to pull me out to sea and away from what God has for me. All the while Jesus is walking along the beach beside me calling me to stop fighting waves that I was never supposed to fight and just follow Him.

So today I’m stepping out of the waves.

I don’t want to waste my time, energy and resources trying to do things my way. I’m going to step out in faith and follow Him.

I don’t have to understand it and I sure don’t have to “want” to do what He asks.

I just have to follow Him down the path He sets before.

Advertisement

Set Apart

While I was reading my Bible today at lunch I stumbled across a line in Acts that hit me…. Such a small line but it says so much about who God has created us to be!

Acts 13:2  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that but think it pertains only to Barnabas and Saul?

God set ALL of us apart.

Not just Barnabas and Saul!

He has work for ALL of us.

Not just Barnabas and Saul!

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 

You are Chosen!

You are Beloved!

You are set aside!

Can people see that in you? Are you living in a way that shows that?

When the Queen of England walks into a room she carries with her a presence and authority. It is undeniable and it captures the attention of that room.

If the leader of a country carries that presence…. how much more presence do you carry as a person of Royalty from a nation that knows no borders… no limitations… and could never be conquered!

Are you walking out that authority?

Can the people in your life see you as a carrier of Salvation or do they simply see you as someone that wakes up early on Sunday morning, sings a few songs and has bad potluck lunches?

If you don’t even believe yourself that you are set apart, beloved and chosen……How can you ever expose someone else to the Fullness and Acceptance that can only come from Christ?

You weren’t Chose to follow others! You were Chose to lead them to Christ.

If  you aren’t willing to use EVERY (even the ones you really love) possession in your life to lead others to Christ you simply convey to them that they aren’t more valuable than your stuff so they surely can’t be valuable enough that Christ would have given up His life for them.

If you aren’t willing to use your story of Forgiveness, Righteousness and Favor of God that you have experience and continue to experience every day of your life then the darkness will all seem too dark and the Light will always seem too far away and not for “someone like me”.

When He set us apart it wasn’t because we deserve it or because we are “better” than someone….. He set you a part from a world full of hurt, sin and brokenness so that He can use you and your story to show those of this world that there is a life changing Salvation that will forever change how they see this world because they will view it from His Kingdom!

Barnabas and Saul were set apart! They were set apart to go and share a Love that changes lives, situations, circumstances and failures.

So were we!

The Last 10 Percent

What if we lived our lives saying the last 10 percent of the things that are in our heart’s  that we never say?

Those things that you should have started your conversation off with…

Those things that should be the foundation of our relationships not the regrets that haunt us after those relationships have starved to death from lack of words of life being spoken into them….

What if you reach that point where you feel like you can’t go any further or give anymore and instead of giving up you gave just a little more?

At this point you’ve already exhausted the 90 percent why is it so hard to give just 10 more?

Say one more…

I love you!

I appreciate you!

I’m so grateful for you!

I’m so proud of you!

I’m sorry! (AND MEAN IT)

If you can’t say those things with your “last” 10 percent can you honestly say you meant it when you said it the other times?

If you weren’t saying them up to this point where you are considering walking away I hate to tell you but you aren’t even close to giving enough!

Colossians 2:6-7  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

He taught us to give everything even when its not appreciated, reciprocated or acknowledged. To be strong and to be thankful to a point that it overflows well beyond our measly 10 percent or even our 90 percent…..

Is it hard?

Of course it is!

Loving others is one of the hardest things you will ever be called to do. We are imperfect, damaged, hurt and broken. We make messes of our relationships and our lives. We chase idols and temptations all in search of a fullness and wholeness that can only come from the One who was willing to give His everything so that when you feel like you are in your last 10 percent His cup runneth over for you.

If you want to continue to have surface level relationships… by all means continue to give what you think is enough. If you want deep, rooted and true relationships you have to give beyond any point you ever thought you could give so that you can receive beyond any point you could ever fathom or imagine.

 

 

 

I Hate You

Hate isn’t a term that is thrown around lightly in our home.

It’s an ugly word that never carries a positive weight with it Any time it comes out it is speaking death into or about the situation the word is being used in reference to.

So if one of our sons or even one of us says the word hate it is quickly and always corrected. You’ll get a “hate isn’t a very nice word”, “hate is a very strong word” or “it’s unhealthy to hate something”.

I’m a firm believer that if you allow hate into ANY situation it immediately tries to push Christ out of that situation. The two simply can not co-exist together any more than snow could exist in a Texas summer or that day can exist during the night. They might last for a small amount of time but before long one is going to defeat the other.

Let me be clear… Hate will never defeat the love of Christ…. but what it will do is make you replace Him with disappointment, bitterness, jealousy, selfishness…..It allows your fruits of the Spirit to be to be infested by weeds that will eventually choke out and steal, kill and destroy your joy and hope.

To hear one of your children tell you that they hate you is one of the most difficult things you will ever experience as a parent. That hurt is conveniently written in the small print of your parenting agreement. Oh they tell you all about the game winning hits, the first time they walk, the first words they will speak….. but somehow we seldom speak of the first time they hurt you with their words or how sometimes it doesn’t stop after the first time.

I’m not really sure why we don’t talk about it…

Maybe its because it just hurts too much.

Maybe its because we don’t have an answer.

Maybe we are just embarrassed that someone we love so much could “hate” us.

Well I’m going to talk about it for a minute….

It sucks!

It hurts in a way you can’t quite get your head around.

It breaks your heart in a way that you never quite knew it could be broken (because you love them in a way that you never knew you could love someone).

It makes you feel like a horrible parent and causes you to question every decision you’ve made as a parent. You had to mess up a lot as a parent to make your kid hate you right?

That hurt effects EVERY relationship and aspect of your life.

It will test your marriage, it will change your relationships with your other kids, you will carry that hurt into your work and you will 110% drag that ugliness into your faith and walk with Christ.

Its inevitable.

When your relationship with someone that is your everything isn’t healthy it will effect everything in your life! No way around that.

So what do you do?

I don’t know……..

Seriously?

You read all this rambling to get to me saying I don’t know?

Well it’s the truth… I don’t have the answers. I don’t know your situation. I don’t know your circumstances or the history.  I will share with you a few things I know about mine.

  1. Protect your family. The other members of your family are going to be effected by the situation and you have a choice whether you want them to be led by Love or by the hate that is trying to destroy your family from the inside out. ALWAYS respond with love. ALWAYS!
  2. It’s not about being right it’s about doing what is right. Your responses should be a response that builds up even when they aren’t receptive to them. You aren’t your child’s boss you are their example of Christ!
  3. Love them unconditionally. That means when it hurts the most. Love them! That means when they don’t “deserve it”. Love them! ALWAYS battle hate with Love.
  4. Set boundaries and guardrails. If your family has no direction it encourages everyone to just do their own thing and be concerned about themselves more than others.
  5. Love isn’t dependent on them loving you back. If they don’t reciprocate your love back while it hurts in a way you can’t describe that shouldn’t change your love for them. He loves us in spite of ourselves and calls us to love others the same way.
  6. Don’t allow yesterday’s disappointments to become tomorrow’s expectations. I heard this last night and it felt like words spoken directly to my heart from a Father who loves me in a time when as a father I needed to hear that! If I expect tomorrow to be just like yesterday… you know what it probably is going to be! I have a choice to extend grace, to put aside my hurts and disappointments and to love my child today! Not because he hated me yesterday but because I love him yesterday, today and tomorrow the same way my Father loves me.

Like I said I don’t have all the answers. I simply know the things God has placed on my heart for ME to work on and my hope is that the good works He has started in me can feed the good works He has started in my child as well.

 

 

 

Plans For My Relationship With God 2018

When I put my younger two sons to bed at night (14 years old and 12 years old) we always pray and they always try to do whatever they possibly can to prolong their inevitable bed time…..

Suddenly it’s really important to know about my day, talk about their day or discuss anything that will gain them an extra few minutes of being awake.

One of their schemes is to have me read them “a story”.

They know that I write and they seem to give it way more weight than it really holds, but it’s pretty cool to have people I love want to hear things I’ve written. It’s funny how just verbally reading the things I’ve written some times puts a new perspective on it for me.

Last night I read them the “story” What if…..

When we finished they of course asked me to read another and I told them not tonight that if I read multiple ones we’d run out soon. They immediately told me the obvious “You can just write more!” and then asked why I haven’t been writing lately.

I didn’t really have an answer.

I had a bunch of excuses. I’m busy, it’s harder to write now that I have someone else in my office, life has been crazy, etc….

Like I said excuses.

So I asked them what they would like me to write about and this is what our 12 year old came up with….

“You should write about “What Are My Plans For My Relationship With God This Year”.

Well…….

Here we go!

I plan to be more intentional about reading my Bible. I’m currently doing a reading plan with our church as we do a 21 day fast. I want to continue to read through the book of Acts. After that I plan to read the book of Matthew. This year our church leadership is leading us through reading the Bible and I plan to participate in that.

I plan to read more books. I had a goal last year to ready 10 books and I got through 8 complete books and 2 half books. I want to exercise my brain, challenge my thoughts and really press in to see what God is saying to me. What He has planned for me!

I plan to give Him more space in my life to speak to me. Less stuff and more substance.

I plan to continue to grow healthy relationships in my life. Its undeniable the people who He has placed in my life. If for no other reason than obedience I need to press into those relationships.

I plan to be a better husband, a better father and a better follower. I want to be an example to my family of what it looks like to live a life of service and a life surrendered to Him.

I plan to spend more time with my family. Game nights, date nights, one on one time…. Living life together! Experiencing life together! My sons are growing up so fast! I get one chance to walk through these times with them….. Who wants to miss that with their face in their phone, head stuck in a tv or buried up with mindless work/chores? They won’t remember the things I bought them or that I got 25 likes on my witty and awesome Facebook status! They just won’t…… So why should I?

I plan to write more. I tend to write more when I’m struggling or life is overwhelming me. I need to do a much better job of writing when I can clearly see just how blessed I am.

I plan to follow Him wherever His cloud takes me.

Penny For My Thoughts

penny

My wife loves to pickup money.

If there is a penny on the ground she will ALWAYS pick it up.

It doesn’t matter how disgusting it is.

It can be sitting in water, mud, gum…. she doesn’t care! She picks it up.

I always laugh about it. Heck I point them out to her and I’m thoroughly amused as she wipes some nasty penny off and puts it in her purse with all the other ones.

So I asked her once… Why?

Why even bother picking it up… It’s a penny for crying out loud!

Her explanation was simple and yet so incredibly profound (I didn’t realize how profound until today).

“It’s one of God’s ways of showing He provides for me”.

I remember at the time thinking that’s cool but c’mon….It’s a penny!

Well today God showed me the true value of a penny.

This past week or so has been pretty tough.

Lots of changes in our lives. Lots of changes in our friends lives. One of our son’s teachers lost his battle with cancer. Walking through some of the hardest battles I’ve ever walked through with people God has placed in our family’s lives. My heart breaks for them.

I sat there eating my hamburger and felt so inadequate and so ill-equipped to help them.

I don’t have the words to fix their hurts.

I don’t have the Bible verses to ease their pain or strengthen their faith.

I don’t have a solution to their complex issues or even remedies to my own fear of change.

While I was waiting for my food I prayed… Prayed for clarity. Prayed for peace and comfort to the many hurting people in my life. Prayed for the 16 year old kid who thinks Christianity is “Bull****” because there is no way a loving God could let him walk through the pain he is walking through right now. Prayed for my friends, their families and my family. Prayed that in the midst of all this stuff….. that He could be revealed and glorified.

Finished my prayer and ate my hamburger.

I tried to call a few people and couldn’t reach them. They were busy…. He knew I needed some quiet.

I get up to leave and I see a penny on the ground. It made my heart smile a little. But I left it on the ground.

I threw my trash away and something made me go back and pick it up…

The lady’s that were sitting in the booth beside me stared at me and must have thought I’d lost my mind… coming all the way back to get just a penny.

When I got back to work I took the penny out and looked at it….

In God We Trust

He does provide.

While he may not provide me words or even verses to ease their pain…. He has provided me a story to share with them of how I’ve walked through situations that are eerily similar to what they are walking through and He never left me.  He placed so many “pennies” in our lives that helped to sustain us and built us up until our family could stand up again.

2013

This is a season! There will be another day and this to will pass. This is one day, in one week, in one month that is in one year! I’ve had ALOT of days in my 42 years and the good have so far out weighed the bad that it’s not even remotely close. So take it day by day…..

On a side note of His sense of humor…. I find it very hard to believe it’s a mere coincidence that the year is 13 and that just so happens to be the penny collector’s favorite number.

Honest Abe

In this season…. those who are hurting need Honesty. The need to know that the Truth came to set them free. When life is being brutal only brutal honesty can bring it out into the light to be dealt with.

These days will pass.penny1

He will always provide.

He can be glorified.

Being a penny for others is never clean….

You will be covered in their hurts, their mud, their messes and their tears. You will get scratches and dents…

Many times you will get tossed aside like a nearly worthless coin…

But if you are willing to submit yourself to Him…

He can do amazing things with just a penny!

 

 

 

 

What if…..

We live in a world that is driven by technology. Technology in itself can be a very positive thing. We have information, scriptures and assistance at our finger tips in a way the world has never had.

The issue is….. for all that technology can do for us…… it can never give us presence.

If you’ve ever had someone you care about far away you can understand this.

Sure you can Skype them, Facetime them, you can call them on the phone or send them an email. While there is some level of satisfaction in that communication (You take what you can get).

Make no mistake it isn’t equivalent to having them in front of you!

My question today…… is how often does technology give an eerily similar disconnect when we have someone God has placed right in front of us?

Next time you are at a restaurant having lunch take a look around. (This will require you putting your own phone down). Notice how many parents are on their phones as their kids look blankly around. Notice how many couples might as well be eating alone as they both have their faces buried in their phones.

What if…… we put our phones down and engaged with our kids? Parents are amazed at how quickly toddlers pickup technology. They brag that their kid’s can use their phones better than they can. The problem is that while our children are learning how to use technology….they are also learning to hide behind their devices. They are learning by our example that their text messages, phone calls and Facebook statuses are more important than them and take priority over their needs.

What if…… next time you are having a conversation with an actual person you don’t answer that phone call? You show that at that moment their conversation is more important than anyone else. It would immediately make them feel valued and significant simply by letting that call go to voicemail.

What if…… instead of holding your finger up to them while you send that meaningless text message that could easily wait you simply listened? You gave them your attention. It would be a tangible example to them that they are heard!

Christ asked Peter to leave his fishing boats and follow Him. Maybe just maybe Christ is calling you to leave your phone behind and instead of making you a fisher of contacts He is calling you to be a fisher of actual relationships with His presence with the people He has placed in your life.

 

Change the World

god-god-is-love-lord-love-the-greatest-love-of-all-favim_com-85563

“Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved.”

I read this today in my daily reading and it struck me with its simplicity.

But how true is it?

How often do you hear of people wanting to start movements? Heck I tell my boys in the  mornings when I drop them off at school to “go change the world”.

Do I truly mean it?

Could it really be so simple as showing one person Love and that rippling out to illicit a change so much bigger than we could ever dream of?

We only have to look at our history to see it. There are so many individuals who completely changed the course of the world.

One person!

They all did multiple deeds to change it but it started with one.

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Abraham Lincoln, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, Sister Theresa, Helen Keller, Princess Diana and the list just goes on and on……

They all left a lasting impact on this earth but it all started because someone loved them enough to set that change into motion.

The greatest change agent in the history of this world was Jesus. While His death on the cross forever changed the world….. His change didn’t start there!

His life was a tale of acts of Love. Some small and some bigger than life!

By the time He performed His first miracle He already had disciples. He had already showed them Love enough that they left their lives to follow Him. Jesus was around 30 years old when He turned the water to wine. That was 30 years of doing acts of Love before His first “miracle”.

You don’t have to turn water to wine to show Love to the people in your life!

Tell them!

Show them!

Live out the change in your heart if you want to change their world! Never leave even a shred of doubt if you love them!

Can your kids tell that Jesus is the center of your heart from your actions and how you treat them? Your friends? Co-workers? The waiter/waitress at the restaurant you had lunch at?

Because if they can’t…

They will never follow a God that you say changed your heart but not your actions. Can you expect them to change their world, never mind THE world, if He isn’t even big enough to change you?

Show Love! You don’t have to change them… You can’t! Don’t fool yourself. You will never change a single person!

Change only comes from Him.

So live Him out in your life in a way that changes your world…..

He will take care of the rest!

 

Buckets of Time

maple-sap-dripping-into-bucket-1272x883

I’m currently reading a book by Ann Voskamp called The Broken Way.

If I’m being completely honest I couldn’t tell you how I came across the book. I believe it was in reading another book she was quoted and I liked the quote so I added her book to my wish list. It could have been that I saw one of her quotes on social media…. Like I said I have no clue how I found the book but it was bought for me off my Amazon wish list… so here we are.

It’s a really cool book by a woman who is brutally honest about her struggles with self-harm. Something I’ve never in my life had to deal with but her honesty is intoxicating and makes you want to know more.

So last night as I was reading I came across something she had written and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Kind of just stuck with me so I decided to dig into it a little bit today….

“God gives us whole buckets of time” 

I’m very intrigued by this idea that our lives are a bucket full of drops that represent the days of our lives. That every day we live there is one less drop in our bucket than there was the day before is a way I’ve never looked at it. Every drip is like the ticking of our own personal clock of life.

If we looked at it that way…. wouldn’t we value those drops a little more?

It adds a tangible illustration that we can grasp and understand. We get that once a bucket of water is dry there isn’t anything else you can get out of it. It has served its purpose.

It doesn’t matter if it leaks out on concrete, hard dirt  or if it is used to water fruit trees.

Once its gone it’s gone!

So where are your drops falling?

Are you days wasting away? Drop by drop falling on ground that is too hard for your drops to make a difference.

Or are your drops watering plants (people in your lives) that are starving for the life changing drops you have that will help them grow to produce His Fruit?

Those drops are getting used every day no matter how you use them. Today is one less drop in your bucket of life… so how about instead of making a “Bucket List” we starting live our Bucket Life that He has blessed us with?

She also references a quote from A.W. Tozer:

“The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.”

I pray that your drops are dripping back into the everflowing Spring of Life.

Drip…. Drip… Drip…

 

New Year’s Revelation

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

Just never have and don’t really see myself starting at this point. Every year when you go to church what ever church it is wherever you are there seems to be one theme.

They push you to come up with a resolution or a theme for this year…. as if the rolling of the calendar somehow makes it more important to lose weight, stop cussing or quit being a jerk to your spouse… then it was few minutes ago when it was “last” year.

I don’t guess I’m particularly Anti-New Years resolution…. I’m just in the camp if it needs to be changed that bad, you probably shouldn’t sit around and wait for New Year’s to do it.

Well this year for New Year’s we had the opportunity to go listen to one of our really good friend’s preach and the message he gave planted a seed that I believe God wants me to cultivate.

NOT a resolution but definitely a revelation!

He spoke on 1 Kings 2:1-3.

It’s the story of King David who is nearing the end of his life trying to prepare his son Solomon for that that day.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go

As I played this verse around in my head it made me realize how much room for growth I have in my life to get me to a point where I can speak these words to MY son’s and them be able to see it played out in every aspect of my life!

Be strong….. Always follow God’s will! In my moments of weakness, doubt, temptation, anger and any and every other thing that leaves me with a choice of His will or my selfish desires… Be strong and choose His ways for they always lead me to a better place than I’m leaving!

Act like a man….this isn’t a call to be some macho tough guy. It’s a call to be a man of God. It has nothing to do with gender. We are blessed sons and daughters of a God that loves us. Act like it!

Observe…..God gives us opportunities every single day to be His hands and feet…to show other’s a Love like no other love. Look for them.

Walk in Obedience……Walk in a way that your motives can never be questioned. Not because we fear a God that wants to punish us. Be obedient because He gave us laws to protect us not to punish us.

Do this so you may prosper…. Not in a worldly way.  Very often prospering in Christ means giving up the treasures of this world so that we may store up our treasures in heaven.

So not just year but from this point on I want to live a life that lives out this verse!

I want to be strong for my strength comes from Him.

I want to act like a Man of God in every aspect of my life. From the deepest conversations I have with my wife to the stranger I meet on the street.

I want to Observe what He wants from me.

I want to faithfully follow Him wherever He calls me.

I want to prosper in my life and when I get to the end of this life…. I want to be able to throw a huge party in His Kingdom with all my fellow misfits that lived our lives to it’s fullest in the glow of His Grace.