Archives For Beyond the Comfort Zone

Intoxicating Success

March 3, 2015 — 2 Comments

vsportrait

On this day, March 3, in the year 1863 a resolution was adopted proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Fasting. The United States of America continues to recognize this resolution on the first Thursday of May each year.

I was reading the speech that President Lincoln gave on March 30th following the signing of the resolution. It is a fascinating read and can be found in its entirety at this link.  This was a President who recognized the need to honor the God in whom all things have been created.

There is a quote that stands out as particularly intriguing to me:

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. – President Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln recognized that we can get to a point in life where self-sufficiency overrides our perceived “need” for God.  We find ourselves in a place of complacency.

This does not just happen to those outside of the Church – it happens just as quickly inside the Church. We find our routine. We go to Church on Sunday, serve as an usher, show up once a month for a mid-week service – but outside of that, we can’t seem to find the time to dig into His Word – pray, seek and discover. We might “walk the walk” but where is the fruit?

This post is short and simple: I pray we not be intoxicated with unbroken success, as President Lincoln said. Rather, let us be brought to a place where we are overwhelmed with a desire to know God on a deeper level than we did yesterday.

Let us be sickened by complacency and strive toward change.

Question: How do you overcome complacency?

 

Consistently Thankful

December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment
Photo Credit: https://openclipart.org/detail/204505/thanksgiving-dinner-family-by-j4p4n-204505

Photo Credit: Link

Thanksgiving has come and gone. All that remains are the leftovers sitting in the fridge (and the added weight from all the desserts).  I am sure that many of you spent time reflecting over the weekend about what you are thankful for.

My list is extensive. I am thankful for my amazing family. I am thankful for my wife who constantly supports and encourages me. I am thankful for our beautiful Son – a proof that God does do miracles! And, I am particularly grateful for all of the hard seasons in my life that have led me to where I am.

That last statement might sound absurd to some. Why on earth would I be thankful for hardships? Simply put, they have developed my faith and strengthened my resolve allowing me to constantly focus on the fact that God is in control – my life, after all, is His story, not mine.

This concept of rejoicing in our sufferings is one that was all too familiar to the apostles. I have read the book of Acts countless times, and somehow I always breeze past the verses like that of Acts 5:41 “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

This was not their first time being arrested and threatened.  A chapter earlier, Peter and John were arrested and released being strictly forbidden to ever speak the name of Jesus. Most people would either take heed the stern warning and follow instructions or flee from this persecution and go elsewhere. They however, pray for boldness and go about their mission. Shortly after, they are back in the temple preaching and subsequently were arrested again – although freed by an Angel in the night, they were again back in the temple teaching the next morning. They were a persistent group of people!

Acts 5 tells us of their trial and how at the conclusion they were beaten, threatened and released. We read in Acts 5:41-42

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ

Persecution did not immobilize the apostles – it fueled them. Their version of a “bad day” was one that I hope many of us never have to endure – yet they chose to rejoice amidst their suffering. They chose Jesus over self-pity, they chose the greater story over their own story.

The realization of what Jesus has done for you should change not just your perception but your behavior. You walk away from troubles unscathed and motivated to turn any issues into testimonies for Him.

He is our All in All – He is our peace, provision, joy, strength, healing – our Everything.

So take some time to be Thankful this season for all He has brought you through – reflect on what you have become because of His greatness.

Let the trials be fuel to the burning fire inside of you to tell the story of Him this Season.

Question: How have you turned trials into rejoicing? 

I have always appreciated the “Skit Guys” and their amazing ability to deliver a message.  I recently saw this clip and thought it would be a great way to start this post. Take a few minutes to watch this before you read on.

In all seriousness, fear is debilitating. It is the thief that not only steals your joy, but your ability to live in the present. Fear encapsulates your mind and forces you to live in a constant state of “What if?” thereby robbing you of living in the now.

I have seen it lived out in others and I have most definitely spent my fair share of days living in this state of existence. There have been those times when I have refused to take a step out of fear – fear of failure, fear of others or fear of the unknown. We cling to what we know, what we can predict and what we can control.

When I look back on those times that I took a stance over fear, it is in those times that growth and life truly happened. Don’t get me wrong, success did not always follow suit just because I overcame my fear – but there is no doubt in my mind that I became a better person each and every time.

From starting a business (and closing a business) to jumping on a plane to a third-world country with nothing but a passport and a few vaccinations – God has always brought me through. We are not to have a mind of fear. God has made that abundantly clear:

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 ASV)

Look back at the call on Joshua’s life and just how many times God told him to fear not and have courage! In fact, there are numerous times in the Bible that God calls His people forth and says “Fear not”.  This leads me to believe that wherever it is that God is calling both you and I too would appear on the outset to be a scary path – however – God is with us.

It is the “I Am” that has sent you.

There is no greater statement than that. The “I Am” has sent you. Rest in that. Take a hold of the power in that statement and know that there is nothing you cannot accomplish if He is calling you to do it.

Refuse to let fear rob you of living your life any further. Begin today anew with a spirit of “power and love and discipline”.

Question: Can you share a time that God helped you overcome fear in your life?

Is Fear Enough?

September 18, 2013 — Leave a comment
Photo By TJDwewy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/22416200@N05/

Photo By TJDwewy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/22416200@N05/

“Not me Lord” or “I am not able Lord.” How many times do we see that in the Bible when God calls forth His people for a purpose or cause? I spoke about this last year in my post “No More Excuses“, but this morning I was reading in 1st Kings 18 and couldn’t help but pause and reflect on a few points in that chapter. I will give you the back story in one sentence: Elijah is a man of God, who told Ahab ( the King of Israel, evil in the sight of God) there would be a famine and Elijah has been gone for 3 years now returning.

As Elijah begins his journey back in encounters Obadiah. The Bible tells us that Obadiah feared the Lord greatly and even hid and saved 150 prophets of God from Jezebel. Obadiah knows that Elijah is a man of God and drops before him when he encounters him.  Elijah then tells him to go and tell Ahab that he is here.

Without a delay Obadiah spits back:

So he said, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? (1 Kings 18:9 NKJV)

How quickly Ahab moves to a place of fear.  But it doesn’t stop there:

12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth.13 Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid one hundred men of the Lord’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 1 4And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here.” ’ He will kill me!” (1 Kings 18:12-14 NKJV)

Here we have a man of God, who fears the Lord and he is being instructed by the Prophet of the Lord on what he should do…and he jumps straight to fear and a myriad of reasons why he shouldn’t do as Elijah (and God) is asking him to do.

There is one very important lesson to take away from Obadiah:

Fear of the Lord is not enough – action is ALWAYS required.

God is calling you and I to move. Yes, it is scary. Yes, it is dangerous. And yes, it is most certainly unstable and unpredictable.

Don’t hear me wrong – fear of the Lord is essential – but without action, it means nothing.  Obadiah had to step outside of his comfort zone, outside of what he viewed as “safe” and carry out the command of the Lord…no matter the cost.

The reality is quite simple. No matter what we are venturing into, no matter what He is telling you to do, He will never leave you or forsake you. It is a promise and God cannot break His Word:

5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 NKJV)

Today, I encourage you to step outside of your perceived comfort zone and move into the next stage that God is calling you into.

Question: What is your strategy for making sure you are aligned with God’s plan?

Photo by Eric Fisher (Flicker)

Photo by Eric Fisher (Flicker)

Before we jump in, it is important to note there have been 2 parts to our topic already posted last week. I encourage you to read them first if you have not done so: Part 1 and Part 2.

Numbers 14 starts off in a very interesting way:

1So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

Wow. They took a turn down a horrible track. This is the track of “What If”. What if things don’t turn out like we want. What if things get worse.

They were desiring to go back to what they knew as “safe”. Slavery, although horrible, was predictable to them.  They knew what tomorrow brought. They felt safe in that bubble. And this new adventure was unpredictable and scary.

Everyday, we seem to want to live our lives in a “safe” way as well. Jump back a few months and watch this clip I posted about “Fighting the Safe Life”.

I am not sure what in our human nature it is, but we always seem to live on the side of over-preparedness.  Even if it is something we think God is leading us to, we try to get all of our ducks in a row, and then proceed…Isn’t that then doing things according to our own will and not His will?

I personally believe that everything God is calling you to is insurmountable without Him!

Just think for a moment if the spies would have entered the land of Canaan and instead of giants they found an a group of men that were puny, tiny and could not even muster the strength to lift a sword. If that were the reality – the 10 spies that came back with a negative report would have been singing a different song. Yet, there would have been no demonstration of God’s power in that!

God desires to be the one who battles for you. You don’t have to fight the giants. And besides, if you were to look through the lens and view them as God does – He sees you as bigger and more powerful than anything that stands in your path.

As we finish out Numbers 14, you see God’s wrath against these 10 men and the Israelites were forced into the wilderness for 40 years. What we take away from this is simple, yet profound (and we find it in Hebrews 11 as well):

It is impossible to please God without faith.

Faith is an action. It requires you to step forward into something that you cannot accomplish without Him.

Today, let’s put into action the passion and zeal that we saw in Caleb. Our God is for us, fighting in front of us, leading the path saying “Come, join me, the victory is already accomplished.”

Question: What are you doing to demonstrate your faith today?

Stay on Trail

I recently saw this tweet by Dominic Russo: “The next generation of Christian leaders are largely invisible right now. They are being prepared in ‘caves’ and ‘dungeons’ like David and Joseph.”

There is so much good truth in that statement; And not just pertaining to our future Christian leaders.  I believe there is something even deeper to this statement. It seems to me that the large majority of “influencers” for the kingdom experienced some type of desert experience. Even Jesus himself spent 40 days in obscurity and solitude in the desert before His mission was activated. But even beyond that, there are countless others that had to develop their calling in what many would call less than ideal circumstances.

David was told he would be king…but then he spent many years hiding in caves. Joseph saw his future, but was then forced into slavery and even prison.

If you know your calling, then might I challenge you that a season of preparation is required.  And this season of preparation might not be how you envisioned it, but it is exactly how God desires it.

I have seen some come into our church feeling that they are called to one form of leadership or another and want instantly to be put in the spotlight, but then when asked to serve first where the need is…perhaps something simple like ushering, or helping with the children, they feel as though their calling is not being recognized and they subsequently leave.  But, isn’t the Word clear that if we are faithful with little, He will reward us with much?

Develop your strength where you are today, not where you think you should be tomorrow.

God has a clear path for us.  Even though we might not see the full plan from our current angle, when we stop to look back, it will all come into perspective.  Stay on the path that God placed you on.

Question: How do you keep your focus on developing your strength from where you are today?

The “Even If” Mentality

September 16, 2012 — 1 Comment

Even If Mentality

There are so many people in the Bible that take on what I call the “Even If” mentality.  And it is those people that I want to model my life after.  But there is one story in particular that really seems to sum it all up and it is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel Chapter 3.

These three young men took a stand against King Nebuchadnezzar who had recently decided to build an image of gold that he commanded everyone to worship.  Just to put things in perspective a bit, that image was said to be 90 feet wide and 90 feet tall of gold (that is roughly a 9 story building).  I would imagine this would be quite the impressive sight to see.  It also says in Daniel 3 that when the music would play, everyone in the land would bow down to worship this idol – except these three young men.

As we jump ahead, King Nebuchadnezzar confronts them and it is their reply that we should focus on:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)

Here they are, looking into this blazing furnace, standing firm in their faith.

They truly understood that this was not their story, but rather, His story.  Even if God does not deliver us – we will not bow down.  Even if God does not come through like we think He should – He is still God Almighty.  They acknowledged that God was powerful enough to deliver them, but also Sovereign to the point, that even if they were not delivered, it would serve a bigger purpose for God’s ultimate plan.

We know the end of that story – God does deliver them (without even a smell of smoke on them) and a new decree from Nebuchadnezzar is issued to serve the God of these 3 men.

Their faith changed a nation.  Their submission to ultimate story of God allowed for a miracle to occur.

The “Even If” mentality is not easy.  We are told to pray constantly and believe.  We are told that whatever we ask of our Father in Heaven we will receive.  But…even if He does not provide the answer the way we desire, He is still Alpha and Omega and He promises to make ALL things good.

Stop and think about that for a moment.  If what you are standing for does not occur in your timing, are you going to throw it all away because of it…or will you surrender to the fact that God’s timing is perfect?  His story for you works out so much better then any story you can create on your own.

Even if God does not deliver me from _________(you fill in the blank for your life), I know that He reigns and that just as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, He has a plan for me:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Question: How do you walk out the “Even If” mentality?

Seeing that the Olympics just finished, I think it is fitting to share this great video I saw awhile back from Francis Chan:

Have you ever found yourself clinging to the balance beam of life?  Holding on tight…just waiting for things to stabilize?  Have you ever caught yourself getting too comfortable…almost to the point where you become complacent in your journey?

I know I am guilty of that!  I know there have been times where I would rather close my eyes and hold on – just let me know when the shaking is over.

However, with that said, I know that is NOT who I want to be.  It is NOT who God created you to be.  God calls us to live a challenging, exciting, adventure of a life.  The adventure is here, now!

Why are we so scared to step out and try something new for Him?

Isaiah 43: 1 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

With a promise like that we should have no fear.  We should pursue our calling with reckless abandon chasing after Him who is at our side.

I would rather cross the finish line broken, bruised and tired rather than the picture Francis described in his video – rolling off the balance beam after playing it safe only to expect to hear the words “Well done”.

Question: What does Isaiah 43 mean to you?