Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Brand New Day

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; 
great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

I take great confidence in these verses and the promise of new mercies from God every day. It means that He doesn't hold my (confessed & forgiven) sin from yesterday against me today. It promises a clean slate and the unconditional love of a Father who won't hold yesterday's mistakes against me.

It's more than just God's mercy for us though--it's a challenge to live today better than we lived yesterday. It's a declaration on our part that we will not allow the mistakes and sin of the past to determine our future. We don't have to carry the banner of the wounded & downtrodden, but can choose to move beyond past hurts. We can choose to not let our present & future be defined by our past--whether it has been done by us or done to us. The gift of brand new mercies peeks over the horizon and illuminates our potential to be & do something new today. I never get tired of the beauty of this gift, but I often forget to be thankful for it when the day begins.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prep Time

Our leadership team was at a conference in S. Carolina last week and the opening session was led by a pastor who was sharing the story of David & Goliath. He was talking about David's willingness to enter into battle and that it wasn't false bravado that fueled this desire. David had been trained to engage in risky situations as a shepherd and had been delivered through them by God. To him, this was merely the next step in using what God had taught him and trusting God to reward his faithfulness.

As a developing leader (as if there is any other kind) I ask hard-hitting questions of myself out of this passage: What battles am I currently fighting? What battles am I currently preparing for? Is it any surprise that I lose when I'm not prepared? I am certain that I will fail in the future, but I don't want to fail due to lack of preparation & focus. Each encounter and trial that I endure is an opportunity for God to do something in and through me and I don't want to blow it.

The true story of David & Goliath isn't about a giant being killed. It's about a shepherd beginning to fulfill his destiny as a king. David had actually defeated Goliath years before the actual battle took place and that same tenacity of faith and obedience is my goal.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Give Me Both

I blogged recently on the hope of Heaven and a realm that waits at the end of this earthly life. I was recently reminded of the power of that promise at a friend's church as they sang about the day that we would be made complete in Heaven. I loved the passion that was shared as we sang about the gates of Heaven opening and the desire to take people there with us. We were describing something beautiful to look forward to and the anticipation of the fulfillment of God's great promise.

I found it an interesting contrast from what we normally sing about in the churches I have been in. Most of the songs are about seeking what God has to help us get through today. They describe the awesome power of God and how He provides comfort to us through difficult times. The lyrics are filled with a desire for our earthly life to be transformed and for us to surrender our will to God so that we can make it through the toughness of this existence. Neither approach to God is incorrect, but on their own they only offer half of the answer.

The truth is that we need God for today and for the future. We aren't only looking forward to Heaven, but we are seeking God's power and deliverance for today. If we don't seek and celebrate both of these we have an incomplete picture of who He is.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In His Presence

We all want God to be for us--we just don't necessarily want Him to be with us. 

Most people would admit that they want God's blessings. We ask people to pray for us and for God to bless financial endeavors, job opportunities, health & medical situations, and our families. It's not a bad thing to ask for God's kindnesses, in fact, He makes promises to us and tells us to seek them out. We have confidence that we can look forward to His deliverance when we pray in faith.

The dilemma for us is that we spend so much time seeking the presents of God that we forget to seek the Presence of God. We desire Him as our advocate, working tirelessly our our behalf and always in our best interests, but we don't necessarily want Him as our traveling companion. Having God on our journey of life means that we have to be more aware of our actions, thoughts, and attitudes. Being conscious of His omnipresence means that we can't (in good conscience) willingly choose to sin and ignore the spiritual consequences. We can't grab onto the blessings God offers and live a life that's not dedicated to His will. 

Some people might say, "Just give me the good stuff!" not realizing that God With Us is the best thing He can give us. It's an adventure of maturing faith as we learn to desire God more than the gifts He can deliver. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In Control

I love how God will create a spark in your spirit when reading the Bible. I was in 1 Peter 4 this morning and read this verse: "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." I had to stop at this point because I knew that this was a verse that I needed to meditate on. The actions of being clear-minded and self-controlled are game changers--big time disciplines that influence every part of our day-to-day life and help determine our future.

What does it mean to be clear minded and self-controlled?

Clear minded: singular in purpose, allowing no distractions to take you away from your goals, focused on what God desires for you, acting in compassion, patient, productive, goal-oriented instead of task driven, able to see paths that God is opening up for you, having awareness of people around you & their life journey, accepting of criticism as an opportunity to grow, resolute in your pursuit of godly vision.

Self-controlled: not allowing emotions to drive your reactions, avoiding temptations that threaten to overwhelm you, choosing the right thing even when it's a difficult decision, maintaining spiritual & physical discipline when you don't feel like it, acting calmly with patient wisdom in difficult times, recognizing potential distractions and choosing to avoid them, proactive and not reactive to situations.

This is by no means comprehensive, but it is the beginning of what this looks like for my own intimacy with God to increase. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Feeling Tense?

It almost sounds counterproductive to say that you need conflict to thrive, but it's been proven true. To increase physical strength you have to create tension that pushes you beyond your current muscular limits. The physiological principle carries over into our psychological health as well. Handling tension in a healthy way will produce stronger people, organizations,  and relationships. Recognizing the truth of this principle doesn't mean that we always embrace the opportunity to grow through tension however. In fact, most people would be content to attempt to avoid it and believe they were better off trying to say in a "middle ground."

 In the past, I have handled tension & conflict poorly more times than I care to count, and subsequently damaged several relationships--some permanently.  Sometimes this is a result of ignoring conflict because we don't want to deal with it or we are afraid of the change that will be necessary in us. We can also forcefully engage conflict without actually working to resolve anything, but cause widespread damage due to our pride and insensitivity. The landscape of the American church is littered with wounded pastors, leaders, Christians, and former church-goers who have dealt with this poorly and bear the battle scars of poorly managed tension.

The key to growing through this is to recognize that there is a tension that needs managing, prayerfully consider the next steps, and then work in humility to see this conflict resolved. It might be painfully uncomfortable during the process, but the increase in trust and strength that results from handling it in a godly way are worth the efforts. Managing tension with humility leads to healthy transformation in us as individuals, in our relationships with family, co-workers & friends, and in the organizations we partner with and lead.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learned Behavior

Our dog Zeddie (love of my girls' life & frequent bane of my wife's existence) is a rescue dog. Friends of ours in Florida gave him to us several years ago as we rescued them from him as well. He had obviously been beaten when he was a puppy and continues to exhibit some of those same characteristics of trauma today. He will cower when I walk into a room even though I do nothing but pet him and show him love. The past is such a powerful reminder for him that he can't move beyond it, but reacts in a way that he has been conditioned to react.

How often does this describe us? I was at a conference with our leadership team this week and we were talking about coaching sessions for church staff. I admitted that it had taken me a few years to change my perspective on coaching because it had been done poorly and infrequently in my previous experience. It left such a negative image in me that I would be filled with anxiety for several days before a coaching session. Even if I knew that the end result would not be a negative one, I still struggled with the reality of my present circumstances because of the pain of past situations. 

I wager that this is why so many people struggle with the grace & mercy of  God. We equate our poor human representations with the magnanimous love of God and are afraid to freely accept it. When God extends His hand to show us love, we cower in the corner waiting for Him to strike us in retribution. The process of unlearning fearful, reactive behavior can only be achieved by humbly accepting the flood of genuine love God is waiting to give us. Once we have experienced the genuine passion He has for His people we can break the cycle of negative expectations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Think About It

Proverbs 15:25     The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to Him.

Sometimes my thought life is my greatest enemy. There are some days when it doesn't take much for my mind to wander into places I don't want to frequent. Some of these are familiar difficulties of struggling self-esteem, revisiting old wounds, being haunted by past sins, and exaggerating current circumstances. I can often recognize these old pathways and make the conscious decision to move in a more positive and productive direction. This doesn't always come easily, but the negativity (and sin) that comes from wallowing in it should spur us to do the hard work of transforming. 

God tells us to take every thought captive in an effort to protect us and so that we might increase our devotion to Him through our efforts. While it may seem impossible at the outset of this endeavor, it becomes more manageable with disciplined spiritual training and the increased influence of the Holy Spirit. Our confidence in the promises of God will blossom when we don't allow our mind to dwell on negative & impure thoughts. We will instead experience transformation that leads to lasting life-change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I had the tremendous pleasure of being at Vaughn Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Sunday after services at Northridge. It was the anniversary of my good friend, Pastor Tony Fraley, and they asked me to come and say a few words on his behalf. I wasn't able to get there until 12:15 but was quickly ushered onto the stage to sit with other pastors for the duration of the service. As an African-American church it was stylistically different from the normal Sunday at Northridge but it was incredibly passionate and energetic. While I didn't know all of the songs that were sung, I was able to catch on quickly and our shared enthusiasm for powerful words seeking God's Kingdom created an energy that filled the room.

I was impressed with the deep love that the people of the church feel for their pastor. This was an obvious reflection on the life-to-life investment that Tony has made over the last six years. The level of respect for him and for all of the visiting pastors was also very humbling. It was inspiring to share in this celebration and to be given the future opportunity to return and preach. Sharing in our "chat & chew" after the service was also a tremendous pleasure--not just from the great food, but the chance to spend time with brothers & sisters fighting for the same Kingdom cause.

I made the statement on Sunday that I felt very welcome in my 2nd church home. The people of this church have shown me tremendous love and honor on multiple occasions and it gives me hope for the future as our two churches work together. While the prejudicial lines of race and socioeconomic status are still deep within our community, our two churches are working diligently to see them erased. We are not where we want to be, but I am confident in the progress that has been made as we join together to change the future of our community.

Monday, October 22, 2012


This past weekend was homecoming for my old high school-Buc Pride Never Dies! As I looked at pictures of the game and friends that were in attendance, it got me thinking about my years working at Mainland and some of the old teams & athletes. For some reason, one former athlete in particular came to mind and I Googled him to see what he was up to. I knew that he had been arrested several years ago and was curious to see if things had changed--sadly, they had not.

This young man had incredible athletic talent & was intelligent, but lazy. He continually got into trouble at school and failed classes, but instead of being held accountable his athletic talent helped him avoid the consequences. This was a repeated pattern of being bailed out under the misguided notion of benefiting him by helping the football team.

As I look back on this, I wonder if we did him any favors. I'm not denying his personal responsibility in his current circumstances, but did we do the best as influential adults to prepare him for future success? Did we send the message that there are no consequences for poor decisions--that someone else will pay the price for your mistakes? It only reinforces the stirring in me that there are bigger things at stake when we are investing in the lives of others. We can't just be concerned with the present, but have to realize our potential to influence their future. Do we have the courage to make hard decisions that might be difficult to temporarily endure, but provide a better opportunity for mature decisions later in life? 

Recognizing the need for "tough love" and choosing to avoid it is a failure of nerve that neglects our true responsibility to develop the character of those we've been entrusted to care for.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Winning & Losing (Part 2)

How do we intentionally play to win instead of coasting and doing the safe things in our lives?
  • Having tough conversations with our children that guide them through difficult ages and decisions instead of coasting through each day & assuming things are fine because there aren't any glaring problems
  • Speaking honestly & respectfully with our spouses instead of ignoring problems and hoping they will go away
  • Living with a spirit of financial generosity that benefits your church & other missions instead of limiting contributions to what seems safe
  • Taking risks in our career (even if that means changing jobs) to find the fit of vision and passion that God has created in us
  • Giving up our most precious commodity-time-to volunteer in a ministry that stretches you instead of just a comfortable place that allows you to not feel guilty
  • Contacting someone you have held a grudge against for years and asking/offering forgiveness instead of allowing a past event to control your present spiritual state
  • Choosing to take an active role in meeting the needs of people in our community and around the globe instead of assuming that someone else will do it
  • Looking at baptism & following Christ as the first step in our journey of faith and not the finish line
  • Realizing that having kids that obey us & get good grades, a stable financial status, a job we don't hate, and a turmoil free marriage isn't the end goal of our existence. We are called to make a bigger impact that actively & intentionally seeks out God and leads to taking risks of faith that probably scare us.
Choosing the safe route might get us into heaven, but it isn't a life that will change the world we live in. We've got to expand our vision, take risks of faith, and play to win.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Winning & Losing

Are we playing to win or playing not to lose? In athletics this applies to teams that are afraid to take a risk that might lead to a loss. Instead they run a game plan that isn't willing to be aggressive, but hope that a passive (and somewhat timid) approach will bring victory. In my sports and ministry experience this isn't usually successful in the long run.

Just as there is a distinctive difference between the two methods in sports, there is the same discrepancy in philosophy of life. We are faced with the decision of which strategy we will choose to employ. The path of fear & hesitation is aimed at not disrupting our relationships or the temporary reality we feel we have worked so hard to construct. Pursuing God's vision will require a focused mindset that will change our actions. We will have to choose to have difficult conversations, to increase our generosity to the point of financial sacrifice, to risk rejection as we share Christ, and to boldly & consistently ask God for big direction that we can act on. These aren't actions of people playing it safe, but that isn't the way of life for a Christ-follower anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two Worlds

I have to admit to a guilty pleasure. Probably at least once a month I go to YouTube and listen to David Phelps from Gaither ministries sing the song, "No More Night." It's a style of music that doesn't appeal to everyone & isn't something I listen to any other time. There is something captivating about this particular song however, that keeps me coming back to it. Part of the attraction is in Phelps' voice--it is one of the most pure and powerful voices I have ever heard--and I am a music geek that finds tremendous pleasure in harmonies & melodies.

It's not just an appreciation of talent that keeps me coming back to this song though. It's the depth in the lyrics that resonates with my soul. It reinforces a tension that I regularly feel--that we are made for more than just this world and moment. We are incomplete here--even in this world's joys & pleasures created by God. This world is merely a reflection of something better and perfect and our best moments here will be wisps of memory when we achieve perfection in Heaven. Meditating on this song and the promise of a better realm creates feelings of longing and provides comfort when this journey becomes weary. It can be a bright light when things seem dark or when I simply need encouragement to keep pushing through difficult times with the hope of a better day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crammed Together

Have you ever had a day that felt like three or four completely different days? I don't mean in terms of length of the day (although that certainly applies) but segments of one day that don't match the other pieces. That's what my Wednesday has felt like. There wasn't one constant theme throughout it except for busyness.

I don't know that describing each portion of it will be sufficient to express the widely changing emotions. Suffice it say that it included laughter, frustration, semi-productivity, camaraderie, good food, exhaustion, mundane activity, prayer, sorrow, exercise, coaching, conversation, catching up with an good friend, and more exhaustion. It seems like an often-frantic pace (and felt like it as well) but I hope that it contributed to the greater cause of the Kingdom. At the end of the day, that's a big chunk of what I am looking for. I want to know that what I did made a difference in some way even if the process was chaotically hectic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:17-18

I hate traveling and getting stuck in traffic due to construction or an accident. It can tie up ridiculous amounts of time (often for what appears to be nothing) and ruins a travel schedule that was going well. On a few occasions I have been vigilant enough to look ahead enough to see potential slowdowns and detour around them. I wish there was a more reliable way to see these pitfalls and find ways to avoid them.

This is a true spiritual principle for us as well. If we have decided to follow Christ, it is necessary that we pay attention to the road that we travel and look to avoid things that cause delays and destruction. We can't cruise along and pridefully believe that we have things conquered or we will quickly find ourselves waylaid along our journey. Scripture (and experience) caution us to guard our path or we will end up causing destruction to ourselves and those that are important to us. This means that we have monitor our conversations and avoid coarse talk and gossip. We learn to protect our eyes (and mind) from impurities on our TV, in movies, on the Internet, or in person. We choose to avoid places that we know will influence us to make decisions that will only destroy our family and not build them up. We don't engage in "harmless flirting" to make ourselves feel better when we are married, but quickly run the other way. 

Being on the "highway of the upright" doesn't mean that we will never see any evil--it means that we work diligently to avoid it. We make the right choice to detour around the things that can derail our life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

True Hunger Games

A friend of mine once commented to me that he thought it would be easier to share Christ with a homeless drug addict than with someone who lived in a large home and had every daily physical need met. His rationale was based on the premise that one of those people will be more desperate for truth while the other will deceive themselves with the comfort of material things.

Spiritually malnourished people who ignore the sustenance of God & those who are unaware of their need for Him both end up dying of hunger. One group sees the truth and chooses to reject it while the other is blinded by ignorance. To be truly effective we have to recognize our own desperate desire for nourishment from Christ and then our mission shifts to bringing others the same revelation. God's illumination is necessary to reveal the need for Christ when we are trapped in sin, regret, insecurity, and discontent. Convincing a starving person that they have a deficiency of God's nourishment is the first step in the battle against spiritual emaciation. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back to the Future

We have hope for the future because we have evidence of what God has done in the past. We often neglect to remember this when we are consumed by the details of each day, but our forgetfulness doesn't change the truth. The reality of daily anxiety and what appear to be insurmountable dilemmas can make it difficult to trust God. Pausing to meditate on how He has already delivered us can provide the strength we need to push through. Revering God's work in our past and eagerly anticipating God's future rescue will culminate in our present worship.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Resolved (Part 2)

The potential for societal change is tremendous if men & women would resolve:
  • To do all things with integrity--not just those that other people see
  • (Men) To love & encourage our wives with genuine devotion and a desire to see her grow in Christ
  • (Women) To love & support their husbands with respect and honest communication
  • To parent our children for their benefit and not our convenience
  • To model a life of prayer and devotion to God in studying His Word
  • That our family will contribute to the benefit of the world around us through our finances, time, and abilities
  • To faithfully partner with a church & actively engage in growing closer to Christ & serving others
  • To not waste moments with my family, but to intentionally invest in them regardless of our current mood
  • To not allow the prejudice of others to taint my view of the people God has put around me
  • To be part of the solution for the poor, disadvantaged, forgotten & ignored peoples in our neighborhoods as well as around the globe
  • To teach our children to stand for what is right even when it's hard
  • To do all things with honoring Christ at the forefront of our ambition

Friday, October 12, 2012


I was listening to music this week and heard the lyric, "I have decided, I have resolved." It's not a new song, but the line stirred my thoughts.

What is the difference between the two? A decision doesn't necessarily carry conviction & can be easily changed. I decide to do a lot of things during the day that don't necessarily have a huge impact on my life.

When I resolve to do something however, it is usually the result of being fed up with a current circumstance or being so desirous of a positive outcome that I am willing to change. It involves hard work (even when I don't feel like it) and keeping my eyes focused on the prize ahead instead of temporary pleasures & relief along the way. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ugly Duckling

When you only hear the negative things that people say you start to believe that is who you are. As an adult it becomes further validation of the ugly things that were part of your childhood from family, bullies, schools, and friends. You begin to believe you can never be good enough, that you were a mistake, that you'll never measure up to (fill-in-the-blank). Your weaknesses become the things that people are quick to point out instead of your positive potential. Your past actions & attitudes threaten to overwhelm your personal estimation of worth. We fall victim to the lie of defining ourselves by what we have done and what has been done to us.

This is heavy stuff. It can derail the momentum of a changed life when we refuse to believe that we have value simply because we are sons & daughters of the King. The truth is that our past (and sometimes our present) is ugly. We don't need to run away from that truth. We find hope when we realize that God is in the business of transforming our ugliness into beauty. In fact, it's what He specializes in. His power over our sinful circumstances and His willingness to reach into the mess of who we are is what makes Him a Father like no other. He sees the inner potential of His creation and is able to compassionately complete our transformation. 

He makes beautiful things out of us. Thank you, Abba.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


As a Christian, I believe that we can desire to make changes in our lives, but permanent, life-giving adjustments only come through the power of the Holy Spirit. This inner strength for change and vision comes after repentance & baptism and is a promise from God. The depth and permanence of this life change however, can be inhibited by our own lack of faith and fear of letting God have control. Our lead pastor, Mike, was preaching a few weeks ago and talking about the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. His accurate statement was that Christians aren't being led by the power of the Holy Spirit because we won't cede the authority to Him. 

How pitiful is it that we beg God to remove the chains of sin & bondage from our lives and then we turn around and put them on the Holy Spirit? God did the hard work of setting us free from sin and we are afraid of letting Him work in the rest of our life so we bind Him up. We are afraid of where He might lead us, have become too comfortable in our old patterns and don't want to give them up, or simply think we can manage our lives better than God. The Holy Spirit is inclined to transform who we are and we negate that potential through our unwillingness

It's interesting how we seek freedom from the consequences of our decisions, but resist God's power to help us change the character that led us there in the first place.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Target Practice

You probably wouldn't consider yourself an expert marksman if you only occasionally hit the target. I guess you do have the alternative of shooting & then painting a target around it to make yourself feel like you accomplished something. It's like hunting with an automatic weapon--you can strafe the woods with gunfire and you will probably kill something in the deluge of bullets, but that doesn't make you a great hunter.

Do we act any differently in our personal lives? If we aren't intentionally aiming at something then we can't truly call it success if we happen to hit something positive. What targets (goals) are we aiming at in our lives? Are we specific in our marriages with building up our spouse and helping them become more fully developed in Christ? Do we know what we are praying for our children, and are we helping them to make the right decisions to get there? Are we cruising into & out of church each weekend and hoping something rubs off? Is our prayer life filled with wishes for general blessing and God "being there" for us or are we being bold enough to ask for specific direction and wisdom?

We won't necessarily fail 100% of the time if we don't specify what we are aiming for, but hitting a random target doesn't always bring victory either. Know what you're aiming at and work to make that a reality. The victories we celebrate along an intentional pathway are much sweeter when we manage to hit the target.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Have you ever been in a situation where you said to yourself, "This isn't what I thought it would be?" Perhaps it's a relationship that has had some of the initial shine of attraction wear off. It might be a new job that seemed like the perfect place to work until you spent a month there. Parenting can certainly cause this thought to dominate your mind--especially during the teenage years. For some, it might even be in the months after baptism when you still struggle with the same old sins & temptations. 

I remember when I entered into ministry in 2003 after teaching high school for nine years. I was excited about the potential of getting a chance to work everyday in an environment that was focused on bringing Christ to those that needed Him. At the end of my first day after an hours long staff meeting, I remember sitting in my office and dejectedly thinking, "This is not at all what I expected." The expectations I had created in my mind were dissimilar to the realities that I was facing. This left me with two options: to go through the motions with lowered expectations or bear down in prayer and work through the situations and trust God to deliver. It reminds me of a quote from Bobby Bowden, former head coach at FSU, who said, "Great jobs don't usually become available. Great leaders get in, work hard, and make the job they have a great one."

If we believe in the sovereign plan of God, then we are not here by accident. He has positioned us in this time and place to achieve His directives and will. Things will not always be as easy as we hoped, but we place our trust in His ability to work in and through us. We move forward in faith knowing that the end result of our endeavors will justify our diligence in overcoming our struggles.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Matters Most

Leonard Sweet's book, What Matters Most, will cause Christ-followers to reevaluate their relationships and make a choice between pursuing something that is real, or continuing a life of artificial superficiality. His initial charge is based on the premise that we have made rules more important than relationship. This isn't just true within the confines of the church, but overflows into our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and the rest of the world. To fulfill our mission of reaching the world, we must get back to our roots of developing an intimate, personal relationship with Christ.  

Sweet challenges my thinking in many areas and doesn't hesitate to step on my toes. He creates tension by pointing out the desire of God for in-depth, authentic intimacy in the way that we live out our faith. It is from this initial misconception (and malpractice) that the rest of our relationships suffer and then we wonder why there is no genuine connection or attraction for our Christian lifestyle. 

This book challenges our faith and then examines our relationship with the full spectrum of divinity: God, God's story, other people of faith, those outside the faith & those who are different, God's creation, symbols, art & things, and the spiritual world. He leaves no relationship outside of his challenge to look at them all through the lens of closeness with our Creator. He correctly postulates that all aspects of life will be altered for the better if we commit to making them part of our daily intimacy with God.

Sweet is a deep thinker and expressive writer. His sense of humor (with an occasional hint of sarcasm) illustrates his points well and even made me say, "Ouch" and "Wow" in several passages. He has obviously been challenged to change his approach to his own relationships and his book reveals his conviction that this is necessary for all of us.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nothing Happening

I am a thinker and like to analyze & process things as I make decisions. This week has challenged my thoughts in many different things: parenting, ministry, vision, relationships, and even purpose. I don't have a lot of clear answers for these things just yet, but they are a work in progress. As a result of this, my sleep pattern has been off more than usual and the end of the week has left me more tired than usual.

These facts ended up changing my Friday-day-off routine. I normally mow yards (ours & our neighbors) and catch up on leadership podcasts & sermon series while doing so. Today I just couldn't bring myself to challenge my mind anymore & simply put my iPod on shuffle and mowed. My eclectic collection of tunes provided the soundtrack I needed today & gave my brain some much needed rest. 

This mental break only reinforces the decree from God to take a Sabbath. While I like to push myself to limits (and beyond) I'm only cheating myself when I don't "unplug" and allow myself to rest. I won't necessarily do a better job of it next week, but I'm hoping that I can slowly start to make progress in the art of doing nothing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Buts (one T)

It's commonly said that if you say something positive and then follow with "but," it negates whatever was said first. I don't necessarily disagree with that theory--especially in view of God's Word. The phrase "But God" carries such weight that it overpowers circumstances, devastation, devious schemes, and even death. I've had a sermon series on this phrase planned for three years & hope to have an opportunity to share it one day. 

In lieu of a sermon on this blog, however, I offer a few Scriptures to affirm the hope we have when God intervenes.
  • Genesis 8:1  But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
  • Genesis 50:20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
  • Psalm 9:18  But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
  • Jeremiah 10:12  But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
  • Acts 2:24  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
  • Acts 3:15  You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
  • Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • Galatians 3:18  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
  • 1 John 5:9  We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Captain Plan-It

Some people might think it odd that I got excited to see a delivery from Franklin Covey today. For those not in the know (or in the cool crowd for that matter) this is the company that I have used since 1995 for my planning needs. I actually keep previous years--I currently have 2003-2011 stored in my closet & only got rid of 1995-2002 when we moved to GA. Needless to say, I am a proponent of the Franklin Covey planning system.

Part of my excitement is in getting something new, but I really think it is more about what the blank pages of the planner represent. It can be discouraging to keep doing the same thing each day without understanding how it all fits into a preferred future. Even some things that might seem beneficial on the surface don't bring the same satisfaction if I don't see how it is helping me to achieve my overall life goals. A fresh new planner is an opportunity for planning ahead & staying organized, but it is more of a reflection of fulfilling vision and plans to put that into action. As ridiculous as it may sound to some, it symbolizes hope for a brand new year and the continuation of the work that God is doing in me & my family. 

It's the potential for progress and trusting in God's vision for something new that stirs my spirit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mark My Words

I've always found it a bit puzzling that in the Gospels Jesus tells His disciples what is coming and they are still surprised when it happens. There are multiple instances of Jesus predicting His death and resurrection and yet His followers react in stunned panic when it actually occurs. I know that I have the benefit of reading the entire story, but I do often wonder why no one commented on His words coming true.

I guess that's because it's much easier to see the truth of something when you already know the outcome. When we are in the moment, there are times when we don't understand what God is saying either. He can be direct & to the point and we still search for hidden meaning instead of acting on the truth He is trying to tell us. 

Why is that? I think the most honest answer is that it's just not what we want to hear. It's too uncomfortable for us, an area of sin we don't want to confront, a risk of faith we aren't ready to take, a step of obedience we don't want to follow through on, or perhaps it just seems overwhelming. 

Ignoring God's message doesn't negate its value nor does it remove our responsibility to act on it. He'll just keep telling us through prayer, the Word, and other people and leave the decision of obedience up to us.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sign of the Times

In Mark 8, Jesus has just performed another miracle and fed 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fish. This is the second time that He has taken what was available and turned it into enough to benefit the people there to experience Him. The interesting thing is that right after this, the Pharisees come to Him and ask for a miraculous sign of power. He chastises them and tells them that there will be no signs for this generation even though He had just performed a miracle. He obviously didn't contradict Himself or deceive them so there must be some other explanation.

I think what Christ is saying is that the motivation of the person seeking Him is key. If we are simply out for selfish gain then it doesn't matter what happens--no sign/miracle/wondrous event will increase our commitment to Him. It is only when the driving factor behind our search for Christ is simply to know Him more that we can be blessed. Our belief triggers a genuine passion for Christ's deliverance instead of sitting and waiting for God to impress us before we jump in.