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Squirrel!

December 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

Once! Only one time have I posted in this blog this year.  Shame on me.  Something I set out to be diligent about and here we are concluding 2016 and I have simply 1 post. I am looking back and this year and am truly confused on how it went so fast!

The end of any year is always a great time to take stock of things and begin to plan out the path for the upcoming year; and for me, this year is no different.  It is hard for me to sum up 2016 in a word much less a sentence.  Heck, I don’t think I could write a book explaining this year.  From difficult closures of one season to the new beginnings of another 2016 has been scattered with so many different experiences.  When you sum them all up together, this has been one crazy year.

One thing that has become more and more obvious to me, even as I logged on to my blog to post and noticed I have only 1 entire post this year, is how easily distracted we can become.

My life sometimes looks just like the silly dog in the movie “Up”.  I can be so easily distracted by a squirrel.  Ok, for all of you who have no idea what I am talking about:

But in all seriousness, there is a great quote from C.S. Lewis that really brings it home:

“We are always falling in love or quarreling, looking for jobs or fearing to lose them, getting ill and recovering, following public affairs. If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”

If you were to be completely honest with yourself, I am certain you can think of a time or two in your life when you have used those infamous words “the time is just not right yet for me to do _________ (fill in the blank)”

Yet, just as the wise Mr. Lewis points out, favorable conditions never come. You simply have to decide and execute.

Take going to the gym for example. I don’t care who you are, there is never a “favorable time” to go there. If I have an open hour to spare in my day, I would much rather do something I would enjoy, like drink a nice cup of coffee and perhaps eat a donut – but that will never achieve the same results.  In fact that would achieve the complete opposite result.

It has become an almost cliché saying but you have to be intentional in all areas of your life.

It starts with your focus. Be intentional about where you focus. Jesus sums it up pretty simply in Matthew 6:31-34

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own troubles.”

That set of verses is probably one of the most encouraging and also the most discouraging verses in all of the Bible.  In one sentence, Jesus is saying “hey guys, I got this covered – just focus on me” and then he ends it up with “today is going to have enough troubles of its own…”

Another way of saying it might be something like this: Today will have troubles. Tomorrow will have troubles. In fact, next week is filled with various troubles. BUT don’t focus on those, in fact don’t even focus on trying to solve them, just focus on God and He will take care of it all for you.

That to me is the hard part. Honestly, I feel like I am trying to not “bug” God with the little stuff. I know He is busy, so I figure I will take care of the little things and maybe He will appreciate that I freed up some time for Him.

Ridiculous, right? But so many of us our guilty of that. And the problem amplifies as we continue to focus on all the little things that turn into one big distraction which takes our eyes off of Him.

This world is full of distractions. Add on my 3-year-old and 1-year-old and the idea of quiet time seems about as likely as winning the lottery while never buying a ticket.

Yet, I strive to be intentional.  Do I win that battle daily…no way!  But, I wake up and try again.

It is easy to focus on Him at Christmas. It is easy to pause and realize that He is the reason for the season but in a matter of days, life picks right back up to its normal pace and it is in that moment that you need to stop and decide to be intentional about your focus, keeping it all on Him.

Here is my prayer for 2017: Lord, may I never cease to be intentional about priority number one – you. May my focus be first on the Kingdom of God and Your Righteousness. Lord, help me to discern quickly what a distraction is and know when to push it aside and recalibrate my focus.

That is my prayer for you as well; for anyone reading this, that God will be your center, your guiding light and your focus.

Together, let us make 2017 the year of Intentional Focus!

Question: What is your secret to being intentional with your time?

Don’t Blink

June 11, 2016 — Leave a comment

Businessman pulling a clock hand backwards

Don’t blink. You will miss it.

Honestly, that is how I feel right now. Time has a sneaky way of moving so fast that it is not until you pause to look back that you realize just how much of it has passed. Looking back could be filled with regret over lost time, or filled with excitement over what has been accomplished.

Today it is hitting me differently.  Today we celebrate my first born’s 3rd Birthday, but four years ago…he was simply a prayer (and quite frankly, a prayer that we felt was never going to be answered).  Four years ago, we were finalizing our final round of torture (otherwise known as fertility treatments) and we had began our shift to adoption.

Just a few months later…but God…

Then, I blinked and here we are celebrating this little man’s 3rd Birthday with a little 7 month old brother at his side. This is not how I envisioned it all to pan out many many years ago – but yet – God’s timing is so much more perfect that my timing. His plan is so much more perfect than my plan.

That, however, is not the point of this post. The thing that seems most striking to me is that we can get so caught up in “our season” that we lose sight of the purpose. To make matters worse, when we finally escape one season and jump into the next – we turn around to realize we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do during that season.

I have talked with so many people, fellow wanderers, who have let precious years slip by only to say “I blinked…where am I”?

Each day is an opportunity for a new beginning.

I love Isaiah 43:9

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Do you see what God is saying there? Don’t miss it. He says he is doing a new thing…not that He plans to, or only if you do something for Him first…He has already done it! The question He asks is, “don’t you see it”? It is accomplished. It is a finished work. You just have to look up!

Look up every once and awhile while you walk the road you are on. Look around, lift your eyes to Jesus and gaze upon the wonder of what He is doing. The Kingdom of God is here now; Are you paying attention enough to actually see it?

My encouragement to you (as well as myself) – don’t look down; look up. Don’t let a “season” distract you from the new thing that God is doing in your life.

Question: How do you stay focused on the new thing?

A New Thing

January 1, 2015 — 1 Comment
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Photo Copyright: Amodiovalerio Verde

 

Each year on December 31st, people from every corner of the Earth gather together to watch the clock strike midnight as we roll into a new year. We awake the next morning with freshly made goals, vows and promises.

We are determined and we are resolute.

We resolve to lose weight, get organized, get on a budget and on and on and on. There is nothing wrong with this. I believe it is all well and good to make resolutions. Nothing bad comes from outlining your goals in life.

In fact, a recent study at University of Scranton showed that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. If you are easily discouraged, don’t read too much into their study, because you will also see that they found only 8% of people are successful in reaching their resolution.

So what does this mean to you and I? To me, it means that most people will not succeed. Most will fail. However, it also means we put way too much stock in this magical date switch from December 31 to January 1.

I like starting over and love new beginnings just as much as the next guy. The beauty of walking with Christ is that each morning I awake, it is a new beginning. A new chance. Another day for a new victory.

Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19 NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

Come January 20th (a likely timeframe when most people fall off the resolution bandwagon), go back to those verses and declare – “He is doing a new thing in me”. Let 2015 be a year of “New Things”.

Step out of your comfort zones for the Kingdom. Walk in the destiny He has called you to.

There is something exhilarating about releasing your desire to control everything and allowing God to do something new. I know, change is not fun, but it is always needed to move to the next level.

One year from now, I do not want to be sitting here looking back at 2015 and not be able reflect on the amazing new things that God has done. I am determined that my blog post in 2016 will reflect that.

Will you join me in that determination this year? Will you join me in allowing God to do that “new thing” in our lives, our families, and our churches? Let us all desire that above all else.

From my family to yours, I wish you a blessed 2015! May the God who is ever able, start a new thing in your life today.

Question: What new thing did you experience in 2014?

It is Finished!

April 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

It Is Finished

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:30 NKJV)

Those are three of the most powerful words ever spoken in the history of the World. “It is finished”.

At the time, the disciples watched in horror as their teacher took His final breath on that fateful Friday. Everything they had been taught over the previous years was now being put to the test. Little did they know that this was just the beginning. Some followers fled, and some even denied ever knowing Jesus. To many of them, those final words meant exactly that – “it is finished”. What we had hoped for, dreamed of and desired are gone. Everything was shattered.

But Jesus meant something completely different. Those three words were not a statement, but a proclamation. A deceleration of Freedom, Forgiveness, Grace and Love. “It is finished” meant that we are now the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, that we are heirs of an amazing inheritance, that sickness and disease must flee. Those three words bring forgiveness, healing, joy, strength and provision to all who simply believe and accept.

The cross was gruesome. The cross certainly appeared to be an unfortunate and disastrous finale. We have to go through the cross to arrive at Redemption.

It’s not over. It’s never over. No matter what you may feel, think or see – the joy of Sunday’s resurrection is coming fast. When Jesus uttered those three words from atop of that cross sitting on the hill, He was thinking of you. All the pain or sorrow that you may have, He was speaking to you – He was paying the price on your behalf and stating that all of the sadness and pain is over – you have an option for joy beyond description, for forgiveness that is unexplainable and peace that is insurmountable.

I am sure for the disciples, this was the darkest hour they ever experienced. It was in this darkness that all things came to pass and the plan of God was finished.

Don’t let the dark hours deceive you. The deceleration has been made. The work has been done. The sacrifice has been paid.

It is finished.

Question: How do you stay focused on the fact that we are the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?

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?

Your Time is Now

April 8, 2013 — 1 Comment
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nyoin/

Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nyoin/

There has been one verse that has been running in my mind all week:

Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.” (John 7:6 NKJV)

This statement comes on the tail of one of Jesus’ largest public miracle – the feeding of the 5,000.  Following that miracle, you can see a chain of events in John 6. I recommend reading it in its entirety – but I will provide the readers digest version here.

We see Jesus make some very bold statements throughout John 6 that He is the bread of life and whoever seeks after Him will be redeemed.  These statements perplexed many and offended others resulting in somewhat of a dissension in the ranks. John 6 tells us that many of His disciples turned away and stopped following Him. His own people rejected Him.

This statement in John 7 is given to His disciples who desired to go into Judea while Jesus did not:

My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready

A bold call. I believe this was not just meant for those 12 – but for all who are still following Him. For me and for you.

I spend quite a bit of time discussing seasons in life, the ups and downs, but one thing holds true with the words of Jesus: your time is now!

Everything you see written in red letters in your Bible is meant just as much for you living today in the 21st century as it was for those walking with Him over 2000 years ago.

I have always been a big fan of taking the promises we see in the Word and making them personal. Put your name in there, write it down, hang it on the fridge:

Then Jesus said to them, “my time has not yet come, but <insert your name>, your time is always ready.”

Are you in a place of loss? Your time is now. Are you in a place of victory? Your time is now. Are you walking through a desert season? Your time is now.

We are to be ready in all seasons. Do not believe any lies that try to propagate themselves in your mind. Today is a day of victory. Today you are being told: your time is now! Be always ready.

Question: What do you do to stay ready in all seasons?

NewAndImproved

It is so refreshing to know that we have a God who desires to do something new. Not something ordinary and mundane – but something new, unique and astounding.

Read Isaiah 43 verses 16-21, I have it here in The Message translation – but read it in a few different versions:

This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me.

I could read this again and again! No matter the situation, God desires to do something new in your life! Take special note to the first sentence – we serve a God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through the pounding waves. We serve a God who can part the seas, heal the sick and raise the dead and He desires to do a new thing with you as well!

What does the landscape around you look like? Is it a desert, a storm or are you surrounded by the pounding waves? He commands us to forget the past and BE ALEART AND PRESENT! Live in a state of expectancy for Him!

Today! Now! This moment! Don’t let it pass you by. Expect God to do something new and He will.

Question: Can you share an time when God did something new in your life?

2012-2013

2012 is now something of the past and 2013 is already in full gear.  There is something refreshing about a new beginning, a clean start and that is exactly what the New Year represents.  A time to re-chart the course.

For me, 2012 started with obstacles and challenges and finished with victory and breakthrough.  For my wife and me, I know our single most amazing breakthrough of the year is that we are finally expecting our first baby!  Our son will be arriving in a few short months and the journey that God brought us through to arrive at this point is nothing short of miraculous.  I know I wrote briefly in a previous post about our struggle, and I will write the full testimony shortly and post it here – but the years of trying, the struggles and the sadness are now behind us and God has truly shown Himself as our provider in 2012.

It really makes me think of a song I heard this past year called “Way Maker” by the Northwest Choralons.  I love the lyrics and the simplicity of it all.  God is our Way-maker. He is the path provider, the joy giver, the finance fulfiller-the all in all!

Is there a wall between where you stand and where you should be? He is the one who can make the way.

Despite the fact that I have seen God act as a Way Maker in my life in so many amazing ways, I still struggle with the concept that what I see with my eye is not reality. Just because your situation might look rough, the Bible clearly tells us:

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV)

Sight is a pretty dominant sense in our body…if we can see something, then it must be real, right? But that is simply not how God operates.  He operates through the unseen…through faith. Hebrews 11 tells us that:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

There is no greater testimony then God showing himself and providing a way when you think there is none.  I know that what I saw at the start of 2012 was not pretty.  It didn’t look good.  I simply had to cling to my faith and cast aside what I saw in the natural and hold to what He promised me.  Let me challenge you in 2013, don’t let your vision dictate your reality. Let your faith dictate your reality!

Question: Do you have a good testimony of when God was your “Way Maker” despite a situation that did not look hopeful?

 

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?