Friday, November 30, 2012


My name is Craig and I am a recovering fool. This is not an admission of being an idiot, but a confession of my continual process of transformation. I look back and can see the incredibly foolish ways that I have reacted to circumstances, treated people poorly based on my own insecurities, mishandled resources, and continued to commit the same sins. It certainly doesn't inspire any personal pride to admit this, but recognizing my need for recovery will help me stay focused on avoiding the foolishness that threatens to trap me.

The good news for me is that Christ died for fools and there is hope for my future. If I will genuinely search out His ways through Scripture and base my decision making on His wisdom I stand a solid chance of improving. Fools can change, but we have to recognize God's wisdom and recondition ourselves to choose what is best. The diligent discipline of choosing wisdom is the only successful recovery for fools.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Customer Service

My wife & I were eating in a McDonald's near the Apache reservation this week and heard the woman behind the counter ask one exact question to each customer, "What can we make for you today?" This isn't about them getting something pre-made for a customer--it's an admission that they were tailoring something specific for each person. This isn't a mass-produced item, but is made as you ask for it & made with you in mind.

My mind started working on how this applies to the church. There are certain parts of what we practice that are important components of liturgy and culture. If we want to reach new people though, is there a way to tailor-make an experience for each person? Are we willing to be open to the idea of restructuring our services and programs to reach people that we aren't currently reaching? If the church wants to impact people that we aren't presently influencing we'll have to do something different than what we're doing right now. Our choice is to either change or to be content with saying, "Here's what we do--either grab it or don't."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Math

I'm constantly reminded about the need for well communicated, godly vision. This is vital for successful families, passionately focused marriages, thriving churches, and growing organizations. Clarifying that vision helps people make the best decisions with their resources and invest energy in efforts that move along the right pathway. As that vision is communicated it becomes contagious to the people it directly impacts and inspires others to join in. When times are tough (and they will be at some point) it's the clear vision that motivates people to keep pushing forward. It reminds me of a simple equation I came across in my reading:

Need + Vision = Inspiration            Need - Vision = Desperation

There will be times of need in every family and organization. The key factor in thriving is to have a clearly articulated vision that involves everyone and gives people something to work towards during adversity. The hard work of clearly defining & sharing that vision is the only way to guarantee lifetime success. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mission Minded

My wife & I are currently in Arizona visiting the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low. It is a place that I have been leading mission trips to since 2004 and have now made 15 different trips there. I don't ever get tired of the views along the way or the opportunity to make a positive impact through one of the missions that we support. We have watched young children grow up and have children of their own, experienced joy as life decisions are made that break cycles of depression and pain, and sadly watched as lives have ended prematurely. Our stories pale in depth & number to our friends and fellow servants who have given so much of their lives over the years to further the mission of AICM.

This is a difficult, heart-breaking mission field and we are tremendously grateful for the full-time missionaries who serve for the opportunity to change the destiny of a Native American child. We keep working together from a distance to see the same goal achieved--transformation of a nation by equipping and evangelizing Native Americans to make a difference in ways in their nation that we cannot. The journey is wearying, but the call and commitment are clear. We have to keep fighting to help change their future and trusting that we are making a greater impact than we can sometimes measure.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tunnel Vision

In the book of Acts there were Jewish leaders who wanted the apostle Paul dead for his conversion & missionary lifestyle. As far as they were concerned he was a traitor to the Jewish faith and since they could not stop the positive effect he was having on God's Kingdom, they decided to kill him. Circumstances led to Paul being imprisoned and left unable to travel or speak publicly to share the truth of Christ. Most of us would tend to neglect Paul at this point and pull back on the ferocity of our attacks on him. The Jewish leaders refused to do this, but were instead pushing hard for his death two years after he had been locked up.

As I read this I found myself thinking about the life of these religious leaders during those two years. What other things did they forsake in that time because they were so focused on ruining Paul? What needs in their family & community did they miss because they were consumed with ill-conceived notions of revenge? While we might agree that these leaders were overzealous it might help us to examine our own obsessions. Where do we place our passions that ends up being a waste of time? How do we reconcile these wasted efforts in light of the bigger picture of need for our families, churches, and communities?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Go Hard

When I was working in athletic training we were always cautious with athletes who were returning from an injury. Not only we were focused on rehabilitating the physical injury, but we had to help the athlete develop the confidence to return to action. There is always great danger in an athlete returning from injury and being tentative. They were more susceptible to further damage by playing with less than 100% focus and energy.

In Mark 12:30, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It isn't a dictatorial principle of God, but is instead a measure of protection. He knows that we won't be successful or reach our goals if we not completely invested in following Him. Not only will we fail to see the completion of His vision in us, we will be more susceptible to the schemes of the enemy. Pursuing a 100% self-investment is the only way to see spiritual victory.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Ecclesiastes 10:10 If your ax is dull and you don't sharpen it, 
you have to work harder to use it. It is smarter to plan ahead.

I haven't cut a whole lot of wood with an ax, but have worked mainly with a chainsaw in my time. From my limited experience with a human-powered tool, I do know the importance of making sure the blade is sharp. It is tiring to continue to swing the ax with great force to attempt to cut wood when the ax head isn't prepared to help with the work. If you know that you're going to be chopping wood then it would make sense to spend the time beforehand making the sure the tool is ready to use.

What personal "axes" do we need to be sharpening each day? We don't always know exactly what we need to be ready for, but there are ways in which we can begin to prepare. Working to maintain our integrity is a sharpening that will guide us to make the right decision in our relationships, finances, and habits. Developing the disciplines of prayer and Bible application will have us ready to depend on God when circumstances are tough. Having confidence in our moral boundaries and reinforcing those choices daily will help us make the right decision when our resolve is weakened.

It's been said that tough times reveal our character more than they shape it. The preparation that enables us to be successful in these trials requires forward thinking and diligent sharpening of the right tools.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ebenezer: Greatest Gift

As I wrap up this week of thanksgiving blogs, I have to pause to recognize the greatest provision of God in my life. The blessings of a wife and children, fulfillment of vision, and even rescue from dire circumstances are all inferior to the most powerful intervention. God willingly chose to step into the gap and provide payment for me through His Son.

Some of my friends can point to a specific date when they were baptized as the day that everything changed for them. They look back with fondness and can recall exactly how that experience unfolded for them. I have a tendency of making things more difficult than they have to be so my story isn't told with the same precision and finality. I grew up in church and remember being baptized at a young age when other people were doing the same thing. I knew that I believed in Jesus, but didn't know what it meant to follow Him with my life.

When I reached my junior year of high school I left the church. For several years I only attended for non-religious reasons and set aside the beliefs of my childhood. After I was married and Dana was attending church in Ormond Beach, I made the decision to reconnect with what I once believed & practiced. I didn't have any doubt that I was "saved", but wasn't sure about the question of re-baptism. Our pastor told me that if I had any doubts it wasn't wrong to be re-baptized & could be beneficial to me if it helped solidify my relationship.

I share all of this to say that my relationship with God has been one of working out my salvation with fear & trembling instead of one revelatory moment. It has been a lengthy journey of discovery for me and continues to be in a lot of ways. My thankfulness in my wandering is due to one great moment in history: when God decided that His Son would bear the pain for my sin so that I could be set free. Even though I took my time getting to this point, the freedom that I was seeking had already been provided for in one instance of sovereignty and obedient sacrifice. Our salvation stories don't look the same, but that doesn't negate the powerful provision of a God who works to draw His people to Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ebenezer: Relocation

In August 2009 our life as we knew it was thrown into upheaval. I was unexpectedly asked to leave my ministry position and the only church our family had really ever known. Our world had been rocked and the fallout from it would take us a couple of years to work through. Fortunately, God already had a plan in  action to rescue us.

Earlier that month I had visited a church in Milledgeville, Georgia to see a great friend & his wife. They had asked me to come up and spend the weekend to help them in their search for a youth pastor and to preach. None of us knew that it would serve as an interview weekend for me, but God knew that we would shortly be returning here for good. My wife and I laugh constantly when we look back and see how God was working each detail out to bring us here. When He makes His grand plan so visible to us, even in hindsight, we can't help but be amazed at how much He must truly love us. The story of God setting us up to be part of Northridge will be a tale that we tell our grandchildren and will hopefully continue to be told long after we are gone. It's a definitive marker of His provision and ability to work through all circumstances.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ebenezer: Vision Fulfilled

It was March 2003 and I was happily working at my alma mater, Mainland High School, as the Head Athletic Trainer. The program was growing and gaining national recognition and we were finalizing plans for a state-of-the-art facility in the new school. Our Sports Science Academy was continuing to increase in student numbers and our local college partnerships were flourishing. Needless to say, my professional career couldn't have been going any better.

The senior pastor of our church asked me to breakfast on a Friday morning and said that he needed to talk to me about something big. He & I were friends and it wasn't out of the ordinary for us to get together, so it didn't surprise me that he had asked. I remember thinking that perhaps he wanted to talk about church leadership and the potential of stepping into a greater volunteer role. I was quite stunned when we met and he asked me if I would consider coming on staff to be their youth minister. It was not something that I had ever imagined and it took me three days to process it and come to the right decision to go into ministry.

Even though I never would have sought it out on my own, this was a definite God moment. As my wife and I looked back over our past we could see where God was guiding us to this very point. He had been preparing us to enter into ministry even though it wasn't something we thought we would end up doing. As much as I continue to miss working at Mainland, this was a moment of God delivering us to the calling that we were supposed to follow. This is what I was meant to do and without God's orchestrations it never would have happened. It has been harder than we ever dreamed, but we believe in God's promise to continue to deliver us through it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ebenezer: 3 Gifts

As a continuation of yesterday's blog, I admit that I am going to cheat a little and meld three events into one that is evidence of God's great help.
Due to my wife's breast cancer we probably shouldn't have any children. Her survival odds weren't fantastic (at least according to medical science) and the odds of getting pregnant were low as well. Needless to say, God came through in bigger ways than we could have anticipated. 

The first moment we saw each of our girls was a beautiful fulfillment of God's promise to heal. All three births increased the love that my wife & I share and remind us that God doesn't have to listen to medical science. These girls represent God's ability to deliver and a life that He was sharing with us that was (and is) filled with potential. Our lovelies are beautifully and wonderfully made and I am humbled that God would trust me to be their earthly father. It's a responsibility that frightens me when I think about the weight of influence, but gives me incredible joy as we live out our futures together. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ebenezer: "Yes!"

1 Samuel 7:12  Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it "Ebenezer" (Rock of Help), saying, "This marks the place where GOD helped us."

If we took the time to reflect on it, I am certain that we could find moments in our life that stand out more than others. It could be a specific answer to prayer or a confluence of events that ended up being life-changing. This season is an appropriate time to be grateful for those and see where God brought things together as part of His plan.

One of those destiny-altering moments happened for me on February 14, 1993. It was the one year anniversary with my girlfriend-the longest relationship I had ever been in to that point. We had met as cast members of a play in college and had our first date on the previous year's Valentine's Day. I had purchased a ring several months before and was waiting for this day to ask her to marry me. Fortunately for me, when the moment came, she never hesitated, but quickly (and tearfully) said yes.

While others may not see it the same way, I can clearly look back and see how God brought the two of us together. There have been many moments in our almost 18 years of marriage (and 20 years together) where I can see God's hand at work, but this was the beginning of our covenant relationship. God brought me the most incredible companion for this journey and knew how she would bring out the best in me and help me see the truth of the man I'm supposed to be. 

I'm thankful that God steered our paths to cross and even more grateful she said yes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stolen Moments

Parenting probably causes me more stress than anything else in my life. It's not that my children are bad or difficult because they are pretty wonderful girls. My anxiety is more about my wife & I doing the very best job that we can to set them up for future success. We don't want to miss an opportunity to guide them to make the right decisions and choose to stay on God's path. I realize that our daily time with them is growing shorter and this seems to add urgency to my awareness of investment opportunities.

I was blessed to get one of those opportunities today with my youngest daughter, Olivia. Our church is providing Thanksgiving baskets for families in need in our area and we needed a few more baskets purchased. Olivia was the most eager to be part of the process of buying & putting them together so she & I went out this afternoon. Not only we were able to set up food for 6 families, but it gave us a chance to talk about why we were doing it and how blessed we are right now. It ventured off to talks of mission trips to Arizona and her desire to go with us. She asked if I missed her & her sisters being babies and I told her that while I did, I was excited about this next phase of life and their life as adults as well.

There was nothing earth-shattering in our conversations--just sharing thoughts and glimpses of the future with one of my girls while serving others. It's an investment in love that I am sure will continue to pay off as they grow older.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Speed Walking

It's easy to walk through a crowd and ignore the people around you. If you are focused on your fulfilling your objectives or a reaching a destination, you can miss those you pass by. What we often to fail to realize is that each person we pass by represents a life story. We have have no idea what frustrations they might have, the weight of their past, the things they have overcome, or the vision they have for the future. It takes intentional effort to stop and notice these things and the truth is that the pace of life encourages us to keep quickly moving.

John Maxwell, leadership guru, says that a leader walks slowly through a crowd. While I frequently move through crowds, I can become guilty of going too quickly and missing moments with people. I need to learn to slow down and take time to see each face, learn names, and hear people's stories. It is the mark of a person who genuinely cares for others and wants to share moments of life. There is something powerful in the intimacy of sharing our names and stories and we won't find it by speed-walking through the people around us.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I love to read. Discovering books and being challenged by authors is something that I have always been passionate about. I remember walking home from the public library as a child, struggling to carry all the books I had checked out. Even as an adult, I have continued that same passion and am proud to say that my children are the same way. I think it is safe to say that I am a full-blown bibliophile although the transition to electronic books has certainly made it easier to store what I seek to read.

As a leader, I recognize the need to read as a way of improving specific skills and developing new methods. The danger comes in the vast amount of literature that is available to us. I can find books for growing in faith, developing a prayer life, becoming a better husband & father, finding my purpose, fulfilling vision, and growing a church. I have enough to read right now that I could sit in my recliner until the end of the year and still not be through the stack. If I'm not careful however, I can simply sit and collect information and never put anything into practice. New thoughts & helpful practices aren't very much use if you never try them. It's the same as reading a cookbook and never going into the kitchen. When we gather information and fail to use it, we are
over-educated beyond the level of our obedience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Best Practices

I am finishing Andy Stanley's new book, Deep & Wide, and gaining tremendous insights from his wisdom. Towards the end of the book he writes about how NorthPoint always asks questions about what they do. The big question is, "What's the best way to __________." It's an exercise in evaluating what you are doing & how to do it better. Even though the book was applied to the church, it stirred thoughts for other parts of life as well.

What's the best way to:
  • be a committed Christian that engages community without absorbing the culture
  • lead my family without allowing my personal agenda to be the driving force
  • influence leaders
  • increase financial generosity
  • develop the best God-led path for my children to follow
  • encourage people to volunteer in ministry
  • help people see their need for Christ
  • to prepare for God's future calling on my life while working diligently in the present
  • be involved in our community in ways that are deeper than only meeting physical needs
  • stay clear minded & self-controlled
  • live a life that leaves a legacy worth following
The hard part isn't asking the question--it's the strategy of follow through that comes with the answer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So Far Away

Long distance relationships might work in romance, but they aren't very effective in facilitating societal & spiritual change. Transformation within our community is most effective when there is a life-to-life investment. The most powerful impact isn't found by sitting on one side of town and throwing money & prayer at those in need, even if those resources are desperately needed. It's an invested level of commitment that we might struggle with, but is essential if we genuinely want to be an active part of a lasting solution.

When we engage in spiritual battles and work to reclaim God's territory, it usually involves some form of hand-to-hand combat. While we can (and should) pray for people & areas that are far from us, we must combine that with intentional efforts to come face-to-face with our community's struggles. If we profess to be a Christ-follower, it isn't effective to declare that we are claiming territory for God. We have to enter that property and plant the flag of ownership ourselves. It isn't safe to do this, but re-claiming nations & people is worth the risk.

You can't solve problems from far away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Do we ever stop and ask why we do something the way we do it? Introspection & careful analysis are keys to increasing market share for businesses but we often fail to do the same thing in our personal lives. The honest answer for most of our habits in family, church, etc. is "We've always done it that way." 

While there is comfort in familiar patterns, if this is the only motivation for our choices we will never determine if what we are doing is effective. Honestly, it doesn't really matter how effective it is if we are unclear about the vision of our future and the steps that are leading to it. When you don't know (or care) where you're headed then your motivation isn't that important to understand.

The refinements that will need to take place if we ask, "Why?" can be daunting. This isn't just attributed to the hard work of change, but to the intimidation factor that comes from things being different from what we have known. It's worth the effort, however, to avoid lapsing into patterns of behavior without understanding the motivation behind them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hit or Quit

While there are always exceptions to generalities, I can safely say that a characteristic of our society today is that we aren't willing to work hard for the things we want. We seek immediate gratification and if we don't get it, then we walk away. If we are unable to hit our ideal the first time out or if something isn't easy for us, we simply quit. This reflects our cultural laziness, a wandering attention span, lack of work ethic, and an unwillingness to persevere.

This is reflected in relationships, jobs, learning new skills, leadership, and academics. It's modeled in giving awards for simply participating instead of setting a higher standard that gives people something to aim at. I'm not denying the need to affirm effort, but I am also advocating the need to realize when an effort has fallen short and adjustments need to be made. This provides an open opportunity for genuine improvement through setting goals and identifying the steps it will take to reach that higher plane. There is value in the struggle to succeed.

The truth is that no matter how talented or gifted you are, things will not always be easy. There will be seasons of failure and frustration. Our character will be revealed (and strengthened) in our willingness to evaluate, make adjustments, and put in the sweat equity to eventually succeed. This tenacity will leave a legacy for those that we lead that surpasses the "feel-good theology" of only doing the things that come easily to you. Disappointment can be a valuable teacher if we channel that into an investment of labor to improve.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What a Waste

We grew up fairly poor by most standards. There wasn't an excess of food, clothing, or new things as we struggled to meet our day-to-day needs. We very rarely threw things away as we would use them until they fell apart or were handed down to someone else. It was a common understanding that we needed to be careful with what we had because we couldn't afford to waste it. We knew that our supply was very limited so being profligate wasn't an option.

Unfortunately, this attitude of cautious usage isn't the norm. Societally we tend to be wasteful people with our food, money, energy, and relationships. Spiritually, our repetitively sinful actions reflect our waste of God's grace & mercy. We cast them aside as we seek short-term pleasures and then beg God for more as these temporary visions fall short of fulfillment. We squander His forgiveness through our own selfishness and then fall before His compassionate nature in desperation

How fortunate are we that God is recklessly extravagant with His gifts for His children? Even as I continually stumble, I am grateful that God's supply of grace is bigger than the demand of my sin.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Keep Trying

I was working in my office this afternoon & had the Florida Gators football game playing on my laptop. It was obvious that they were being outplayed and as the game wore on it appeared they were going to lose. I had resigned myself to this unexpected defeat, but fortunately for Gator fans the team had not. I was amazed & impressed as they scored once to tie the score and then miraculously blocked a punt & returned it for the winning score with two seconds to go. It was a testimony to the perseverance of the team when things were not going as scripted. They understood that the potential for a great season was hanging in the balance and refused to stop working hard until there was no more time on the clock.

When we have something that is important to us we should keep working hard & doing what is right even when it doesn't seem to be going our way. The inner confidence we have gives us strength to keep fighting for our families, to be advocates for those that can't stand on their own, to correct injustices, and to be messengers of grace. We won't always feel like we're winning, but we have to continue to do what we know is right. Perseverance creates hope and builds character within us that stays strong regardless of circumstances.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stand Strong

Acts 8:1 "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria."

It was a rough time for the new church. People were now being killed for their beliefs and panic had set in among those who were beginners in their faith. Most of the followers went into hiding, but the apostles stayed in Jerusalem in spite of the circumstances. They would set the best example by being calm, focused, and committed to the furthering the vision of the church.

Leaders learn to withstand persecution and difficult times by not overreacting. We need to have confidence in God even through times of struggle, and not avoid tough decisions and situations. A leader can bring peace through consistent actions that reflect confidence in God's ability to work in good & bad times. You can't effectively lead people by looking back over your shoulder as you run away from conflict.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Have we become so consumed with the principle of not offending anyone that we forget that bold faith will be offensive? If we are going to take a stand for Christ it will inspire some to follow, but will also cause enemies to rise up against us. Just as there is no middle ground in being a follower of Christ (you either are or you aren't) there is no middle ground in the response we receive to the life we lead. Many fellow Christians know this truth as they live in persecuting countries and yet still maintain their passion for Christ. Ironically, the same enthusiasm that their tormentors live by is mirrored in the commitment of new Christians in proclaiming their faith in spite of the circumstances.

I believe in the mission of the church to reach those who haven't chosen to follow Christ. This must be done in love and by fully extending grace, but the reality is that God's truth will not always be well received. Scripture even tells us that God's wisdom will appear as foolishness to some and can cause disruption in families and between friends. This isn't the relationship I want to develop with others, but I have to put my faith in God's principles and remain there regardless of the response I might receive. 

Our commitment level combined with God's power will bring about positive & negative reactions. Passionately authentic faith is a catalyst for revival and persecution. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Working It

I was talking budget/finances with a colleague and discussing programs for helping people manage their resources. There are several good ones available and while they may have different flavors, they essentially share one common ingredient: have a plan & work the plan.

This obviously isn't just true of budgets and financial planning, but applies to us holistically. If we want to experience growth in any area of our lives we have to determine how we are going to get there and then work towards those goals. It helps to lay out the direction we are desiring to move and then fulfill the intermediate steps that mark off our progress. A lack of planning will only lead to our failure to achieve anything worthwhile. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I have always considered the phrase "high capacity leader" to be something that I desired to be and am working towards. I think it speaks to the ability to get things done, the potential for growth, and someone who is able to influence others to maximize their own potential. 

I was meditating on leadership and my own growth recently however, and realized that simply striving to be high capacity is an incomplete vision. The equation that actually brings the greatest level of success, influence, and vision fulfillment is this: 

High Capacity + Execution = High Productivity

We take the abilities that God has given us and apply a focused work ethic and dedicated performance so that we are able to produce what we are most capable of. It's a conscious decision to translate "what could be" into "what is." 

Action combined with ability turns potential into reality. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still Moving

There are certain traditions that I have started that continue to this day. One of those is a result of traveling with teens for many years & long hours of driving. Inevitably I would be asked the question, "Are we there yet?" and my standard response (no matter where we were in the journey) was, "5 more minutes!" When my kids would ask my wife this question on a trip, she would respond by asking them, "Has the van stopped moving yet?" The truth was that asking the questions didn't change the length of the trip or our arrival time.

Whether we are on a physical pilgrimage or moving spiritually the truth is the same. The journey we are on will take exactly as long as it takes. We can't speed up the process and work that needs to be done in us. Maturity happens as our preparation, faith, failure, and obedience collide in a constant journey of motion and development. The process can't be rushed so we might as well enjoy the trip.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Something New

I want something more. This isn't a statement of greed or desire for physical pleasures, but a yearning for an increase of God's power and direction in my life. My eyes have continually been opened to the great changes that He has worked in me and yet it only heightens my awareness of how much more needs to be transformed. The journey is difficult, but I am longing for the next phases of discovery for me & my family. I feel that we are on the cusp of something powerful in our faith progression and calling, but I know that this will also call for new, bold moves of living out our faith. I don't know the details of what that looks like, but I know that it impassions me to see the potential of  God-given vision become a reality. I have full confidence that He will do this great work and I know that our obedience in attitude, word, and deed are required as well. The deliverance of a preferred future calls for an increase of active faith in our present reality.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Good Enough

We often have a common misunderstanding about our relationship with God. We believe that God cares more for us when we are doing the right things and less when we do the wrong things. It's the trap of believing our performance determines the level of God's love for us. The Father actually settled that question before we were even created and instead of accepting the grace & mercy that are offered through Jesus, we fight against the truth of it. We keep trying to score points in a game that God stopped keeping score in a long time ago.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Used to Be

There is a Jewish proverb that states, "A man is what he is, not what he used to be." This can actually be a positive or negative thought depending on our perspective. It can provide encouragement when you aren't necessarily proud of your past. It can be a sign of growth and positive transformation when we have worked to correct character deficiencies and glaring weaknesses. It's also a reminder that we can't boast about the positive things we have done in the past and not continue to work in the present. Our spiritual growth, healthy relationships, financial strength, and physical health cannot be maintained because of something we once did. We have to be willing to build on the past, learn from our mistakes, and continually push forward to grow.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Clearly in Control

I am still meditating on 1 Peter 4:7 which God really highlighted for me this past Saturday morning. The need for clear-mindedness and self-control has been constantly impressed on me and I am still meditating on the depth of what that means. 

As I was re-reading it, I began to wonder why we were told to be clear minded before we exhibited self-control. I believe it's because we can't assert self-control if we are not focused on who we are working to become. That works out differently for each of us, but can share some common characteristics.
  • Monitoring what you eat & how you exercise when you have a picture of the physical improvements you want to make
  • Refraining from gossiping about other people's lives when you understand the damage it causes & how it doesn't reflect the character you are working to develop
  • Being patient & understanding in your marriage because your goal is strengthening your relationship and not winning an argument
  • Refusing to miss conversation opportunities with your children about real life situations because we realize our time of day-to-day influence is limited
  • Being content with what we own and using our financial resources to be generous instead of buying what we feel we need
  • Investing in community as part of church for the greater benefit of spiritual growth instead of choosing to fill our schedule with social engagements that don't challenge us
  • Choosing to relate with people outside our church (even when it's difficult) because we grasp the greater vision of transforming our community by working alongside them.
Clear vision is essential to consistent discipline.