Monday, September 30, 2013

Hit the Brakes

As I sit here on my front porch pondering my daily blog (too many ideas flowing at once) I watched
as a car rolled through the corner stop sign without even touching their brakes. It isn't the first time I've watched cars do this at this supposed "four-way stop." Some of them at least put up a pretense by tapping their brakes while others blatantly ignore the sign and speed through it. I recognize that it's against the law, but my anal-retentive personality won't let me do that in spite of the law. I wish that I could say my diligence in "stopping" was as easy in other areas of my life.

There is value in knowing when to stop-whether it's a break to rest our minds & bodies or the desperate need to cease some habit or activity that's about to cause great damage. I think that we instinctively know when we should, but when we ignore that signal long enough we have a stop sign thrown up in our lives to caution us about what's ahead. You might avoid damage and detection for a while as you keep blowing through this warning, but eventually you'll get caught or cause damage to yourself and others around you. 

We show more wisdom when we slow down and come to a full and complete halt than when we think we are foolishly courageous enough to keep going without causing collateral & personal damage.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Change It

"The way things are is not the way things have to be.Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Are you discontent? Honestly, I know very few people who are completely content in every facet of their
lives. We all have times when we are dissatisfied with our job status, the health of our relationships, where our previous life decisions have led us, the perceived slights we feel from others, and the stability of our spiritual life. When we feel this discontent we are left with two obvious choices: fall into a predictable pattern of complaint-driven living or change something to make a difference in our lives. 
We can choose to accept an unpleasant current reality and by our bitter inaction ensure it's longevity. We can also decide to recognize the temporary nature of our present status and actively work in ways that reveal our trust in God's ability to transform us and our circumstances. 

We either resign ourselves to unhappiness or resolve to do something about it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Powerful Tongue

The tongue is one of the smallest parts of the body and
yet it can trip us up more than anything else. Without
the proper focus we use it to scathingly insult people, light up a room with sarcastic remarks under the guise of humor, and spread vicious gossip that never helps but always hurts others. Our tongue can also be used to speak words of blessing, offer encouragement to the down-hearted, and proffer wisdom in good timing and patience. Each of us has the choice to use this power for good or to wantonly waste our words while leaving a trail of collateral damage. Choose wisely what words you will speak.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dinner Time

We spent an hour and a half around our dinner table last night. The meal was good, but our reason for sitting there that long had nothing to do with a long, drawn out meal. It was centered around our family and the fact that we enjoy spending time together. We laughed at each other's quick quips and funny one-liners, talked about silly things that don't have great depth of meaning, and told stories. Our girls listened intently, interrupted with questions, and we all got off track only to wind up back where we began. When we finally got up from the table I told my wife that it was the best part of my day.

I love these girls and everything we get to do with them. These simple times of conversation around the dinner table are a key part of who our family is. I feel confident in knowing that our girls value it as much as we do.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fuel Tank

My philosophy on long road trips has always been one of trying to get as much mileage as possible before having to stop (at least when traveling alone.) I want my stops to be dictated by the fuel tank and not any biological reason. It's the principle of going as far as possible without interrupting the journey that I try to live by.

Physically I want to able to keep going as well and end up relying on my glycogen stores to provide endurance. The problems come if I don't fuel properly or fuel frequently. When this happens I am unable to take it up a notch or to repeat an action. It's the difference between a champion and a contender--one is able to sustain focused energy for longer periods of time because they have the right fuel.

There are many things I want to be as a man: patient, encouraging, wise, slow to speak, increasing in love, thoughtful, intentional with my words. I can see where God has been changing me to be this man even more, but there are still many times that I fall flat. At the end of the day (and my energy reserves) I can forget these admirable qualities that I desire and find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum. My personal fuel tank (driven by my capabilities) is now empty. What a difference it makes to know that God is ready to provide what's necessary to ensure that I stay focused on being a godly man. When I draw on my own energy stores I will find that I run out, but I am thankful that because of the work of the Holy Spirit in me I can continue to do what's right. It's not a lack of desire that causes me to fail--it's when I rely on what I am capable of doing instead of what God is doing in me that I fall short. 

I am forever grateful for His grace that covers me and fuels me to better living.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bright Light

I have never been a fan of big, overhead lights. I prefer to use strategically placed lamps instead of a
light that fills the room. My office at Mainland was referred to as "The Cave" due to its dark wood paneling (hello 1970's construction) and the dim light source from three lamps. My subsequent church offices very rarely had the overhead lights on, but instead relied on natural light and other smaller sources. 

While my desire for limited light is a personal physical environment preference, it can be much more dangerous when it spills over into my spiritual life. Here the danger is found in what the darkness is hiding. It's easy for us to keep things in the dark corners of our life that we don't want anyone else to see. It's a reflection of hidden sin--the things we're afraid someone will find out, the behaviors and decisions that cause us shame, and the parts of who we are that we simply don't want to address. As long as we keep those parts secluded from the rest of our life, we can operate as if nothing is wrong. Dimly lit rooms hide dirt in their corners--illuminating them reveals the need for cleansing and starts the hard work of making it right again. Once this process is started it's much easier to keep the lights on to help us make sure they don't get that dirty again. Our eyes need to adjust once we walk from darkness into light, but once they do we are able to see more clearly. It might be difficult, but it's the only way to live that honors God.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:20-21 ESV)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Follow Me

Jesus compacted his earthly ministry into three years. He was intentional with who He asked to travel with Him, knew exactly where He wanted go, and didn't waste opportunities to minister along the way. He was confident in who He was and the purpose of His mission on earth. Granted, He is God, so He is privy to information that we don't have in front of us, but His example is still worth examining. Following the model of Jesus tells us: 
  • Don't waste efforts--know what you're trying to accomplish and work diligently towards that goal.
  • Look for opportunities to make a difference in the the people we see along the journey.
  • Keep a close band of brothers (and sisters) around you that encourage and help you.
  • Take dedicated time to pray in the middle of busy schedules.
  • Remember that no matter what we are doing, it's the Father's work.
  • Conditions will not always be ideal, but you can still do what's right.
  • Willingly submit to God's authority and plan even if you'd rather do something else. It's our obedience that matters more than what He's asking us to do.
  • Be compassionate towards the people we pass on this journey. We aren't always able to see what's going on in their lives, but we can stop to let them know that they aren't alone.
  • Stay focused on the mission that God has given you and don't forget that the steps of the journey are just as important as the destination.
  • Move with intentional confidence-not in your own abilities, but in God's direction and plan. 
  • When you're listening intently to God you'll know when a job is finished.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Are You Doing?

Each day we casually walk by people and ask a common question, "How are you doing?" Many times we aren't really looking for an answer--at least not an in-depth one that will cause us to break our
stride as we move past them. I'm not so sure that people want an honest answer when we ask anyway. It's a question designed to be a polite gesture and offers a hint of personal interest and intimacy even if it is truly only surface level. 

The problem is that the most common answer to this most common question is simply, "I'm fine." When the social dance between two people is paced around superficiality this exchange sets an easy rhythm. Unfortunately this surface level exchange becomes the norm for all our relationships instead of the exception. 

I'm not suggesting we pull up a counseling couch every time you walk by someone, but it might be a benefit to each of us to probe a little deeper. Instead of simply accepting the stock answer and walking away we should sacrifice a moment to pause and make sure their answer is true. I've found that some of my best ministry and conversations happen when I hesitate before walking away and check to make sure their response indicates their true status. It only takes a moment of willing vulnerability on both sides to create an opportunity for genuine human interaction that surpasses the casual flippancy we've become so accustomed to. are you doing?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Same Room

One of the most awkward things I have had to adjust to in ministry was the invitation time. It's fine when people are coming forward and making decisions and asking for prayer, but a little off-setting when no one moves at all. It's not just the lack of response that is difficult to adjust to, but the fact that I am facing all of these people while not leading them in any specific way. The longer I am in ministry the more I am able to see other aspects of this time and appreciate it more fully.

I stood today at the front of a room of 300-350 people while our worship team led a powerful song behind me. While I was fully engaged in singing (while also carefully watching for anyone who might come forward for prayer) I was able to watch people simply worship. The varying outward expressions of people were a balm to my heart as I was privileged enough to witness it while taking part in it myself. The room held quiet intensity, prayerful focus, demonstrative joy, tears of healing, and fervent hope. Some hands were in the air, others clasped quietly, while some desperately gripped the chair in front of them. Response varied among us, but we all responded in some way-whether privately or publicly.

It was the beauty of a shared experience on full display in the Church. None of us is at the exact same moment in our faith journey, possesses an identical background, or has matching maturity. There is still this grand moment for us to come together, be who we are, and offer what we have to the same God.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Health Assessment

People often associate good health with an absence of illness. While this might seem to make sense, it doesn't indicate a true understanding of what complete, good health is. The lack of an apparent illness doesn't necessarily reflect how well our internal organs are functioning, our emotional and mental state, the health of our self-esteem, or the well-being of our relationships. For us to accurately assess our personal fortitude and work to improve it, we have to change our perspective.

The problem with shifting our viewpoint is that we might have to admit that our relationships are not as strong as we believed them to be, our character is not as unyielding as we have convinced ourselves, and our personal holistic health is subpar. Ignoring this truth leaves us uttering the cliche (and in this instance false) platitude that "Everything is fine." The truth is that the problems (disease if you will) that we end up facing are most often the symptoms of much larger health issues. We can reject the possibility that something is wrong, but it will eventually become a big enough problem to demand our attention. 

Analyzing our relationship, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health requires a dose of humility and a willingness to work to correct any deficits we see. Waiting until a bigger problem arises is more detrimental to us and takes longer to recover from. Take an honest look at yourself to see if you're truly healthy and then take a few small steps to improve it now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Search Engine

When we've lost something our natural instinct is to look for it until we find it or become so frustrated that we give up. Our urgency in searching is fueled by our need to locate the object, our indomitable will, and the
value we attach to what we seek. If your child lost a quarter in a pile of leaves you would not expend inordinate effort in trying to find that exact quarter. However, if you misplace a family heirloom in the attic you would lose sleep until you were able to find it again. The urgency with which we seek a lost item is directly proportionate to the value we place on it.

We don't only search for lost personal items, but also for abstract things like truth, validation, purpose, healing, and restoration. These are usually more difficult to find and require greater persistence in our efforts which reveals their personal importance. If it really matters to us then we won't give up easily.

Do you know what matters to you? What answers are you willing to diligently search for? What solutions for your family and your future are you investing in? What spiritual truths do you need to discover? How can you find personal and relationship healing from past brokenness?

These are all things that are worth the investment of energy and attention to find. Don't give up before you do.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Changing Discipline

Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective

This is one of my favorite quotes(credit to Mark Batterson) and I use it to help break out of ruts and find new life in routines. The key is balancing the need for change with the importance of discipline. I won't find success if I give up on doing the right thing consistently, but I might find new energy and renewed focus when I alter the pattern of it. In fact, the rejuvenation I find reminds me of why I started doing it in the first place.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Now What?

Gaining someones attention is not guaranteed to be an easy task. Whether it's your family, friends, colleagues, or people in your community, this commodity is precious and you don't want to waste it once you have it. Businesses, leaders, marketers and politicians expend ridiculous amounts of energy simply trying to gain the attention of their customers, followers, consumers, and constituents. Sadly, once that focus is directed so many of them have nothing of value to say. It certainly seems like an incredible amount of energy invested that produces zero actual gain.  

Getting their attention is the first part of the equation. Make sure you have something of value to offer once they're listening or you'll have to work twice as hard to get them next time.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life Happens

"Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes."

Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

The pace of life often seems haphazardly designed. We flow from moments of peace to extreme unrest in a smattering of emotions and words. Just when we feel that we have a firm grasp on our future, possibilities change and it quickly slips from our grip and shatters on the floor. Solid relationships become flimsy with one unexpected event. Unplanned circumstances transform stable surfaces of trust into quickly tilting floors of disbelief and uncertainty. Simple confidence in our physical health evaporates under the wilting heat of a surprise diagnosis. Our boastful confidence in personal truth is snatched away as our reality is distorted through other's perceptions. 

These tumultuous changes can paint a grim picture of our lives, but in the midst of hectic uncertainty we have a choice. We can be overwhelmed to the point of despair or we can choose peace that passes understanding and grow in stature and wisdom. Our response (even if inconsistent) will reveal our character and help to shape the people we are becoming.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Beach

Now that we have been back in the true rhythm of life for a week post-vacation, I feel that I can accurately say that life is simpler at the beach. There we had no distractions and our pace of life was never threatened by outside influences. It was a place to recover from a hectic pace, to rejuvenate tired minds and souls, and to simply find rest. It was a place to be reminded of what is most important and to refocus energy where it's needed the most. I found peace in watching the sun peek over the horizon, the almost constant smell of sunblock, the thunderously peaceful sound of waves hitting the shore, and the dolphins, sharks, and fish that reminded us whose house the ocean actually was. Food was eaten hedonistically with no concern but appetite and what was easily available. Conversations were deep, but hours of silence were also freely, willingly shared. It was an almost perfect week.

The interesting truth about a vacation on the beach is that while it might provide the respite that you so deeply desire, it cannot be a substitute for real life. We might wish for things to be easier and simple, but a life that brings maturity and character isn't developed that way. We eagerly anticipate times of relaxation, but also treasure the tough moments when life isn't handed to us so easily. The time away hopefully refills us enough to move forward with strength and confidence when the path is difficult to maneuver. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Today was a completely packed Sunday with challenges, rewards, and satisfaction throughout the
day. At the end of it I was able to take my youngest daughter, Olivia, out on a daddy-daughter coffee date. I have blogged about these dates before, but today ended up being far more than I anticipated.

I always value the one-on-one time we have on these coffee dates and hope they might lead to in-depth conversation along the way. I will admit that I was extremely tired from a poor night of rest and high level of energy expenditure. It can be difficult to gauge the mood of a 13 year old girl sometimes (at least that's what I have read somewhere) and I wasn't entirely sure how things would progress as we talked. While we started talking about simple superficial things the avenues for depth quickly opened up and we found real common ground and honest communication. There were moments in this conversation where she was completely genuine about her emotions and perceptions without fear of rejection or judgment. I was able to quietly interject nudging thoughts along the way that hopefully helped her see other viewpoints and possibilities. We were able to laugh at ourselves and our weaknesses a bit and talk about ways for both of us to continue to grow. There was a powerful depth and a genuine, simple, loving connection between us. It was a fantastic end to a good day and reminded me again of how much I love being a father to these three phenomenal girls.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Directed Misdirection

 I watched a TED Talk today and found it hilariously fascinating as your attention was directed one way while something else was going on in another direction. It's a fantastic example of how your mind processes and how and how quickly we can get someone to see what you want them to see.

Friday, September 13, 2013

All In

I struggle with the idea of doing things half way. I believe that if you commit to doing something that you
should attack it with full intensity and focus. It's the only way to ensure that things get done and are done with excellence. Unfortunately, I don't always apply this attitude to the right things and can find myself throwing that energy into something unproductive, distracting, and sometimes destructive. The missing ingredient to the formula for productive maturity is discipline.

When I am driven to see positive results I am more disciplined in my approach. This rigid, directed energy may start in one area of my life (ie. diet & exercise) but quickly influences other parts of my life as well. I recognize that I need to maintain this discipline in all areas of my life or I will find that I have it in no parts of my life. Not only does it help me achieve my goals, it makes me a better Christ-follower, husband, father and pastor.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Grow Together

My wife and I have had a couple of spectacular weeks with our girls (not that we don't have great times often.) Last week we thoroughly enjoyed a great vacation on the beach as we floated in the water, spent a lot of time laughing, ate good food, and had lots of ice cream. We've also had some in-depth conversations with them recently that have shown us some of what they think and given us a chance to speak blessing and truth over them. We are gaining greater insight into each other and understanding even more our individual personalities, strengths, and passions. We have even had our eyes opened to the truth of the things our girls struggle with-things that we didn't anticipate or predict, but can now help them work through. 

There is a richness to our relationships now (even as it continues to develop) that brings us great joy even as we struggle with the idea of how quickly they are growing up. God is doing a remarkable work in them and we are blessed enough to be part of their process of maturity. I will always look back on their early years with incredible fondness, but I am also looking forward to what the future holds as we all grow closer to Christ together.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quiet Time

I am an outspoken, (mostly) extrovert that loves to talk with people and share ideas. I want to hear people's stories and know what inspires them and gives them the strength to keep moving forward. I was born to
teach and thrive on the opportunity to share fundamental truths and see people's lives changed. I love getting a cup of coffee and investing in another life or just simply sharing life together. I love talking with my wife and sharing dreams and pushing each other to grow as we seek God's vision for our families.

As much as I love to talk and share there are also times when words are tiring and the effort (especially at the end of a long day of talking) is just too much. It's reminds me of my need to pull back and be quiet so that I can recharge. It's why my relationship with my wife is so vital to me--not only do we share everything with each other, but we also share silence as we simply sit in each other's company. It's a good thing that works well for her too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spend Wisely

As I wrote here earlier this week, I believe most of us understand that we have limited resources. We
recognize that we can't do everything we want to do or have everything that we desire either. No matter how much we may attempt to manipulate the clock we all have the same amount of time each day. Even if we are in excellent physical condition there will be a limit to our physical energy. We are only able to process so many things mentally. We possess a finite amount of emotional currency to invest in our relationships and can only truly connect to a certain number of people. What this means for each of us is that there are choices that must be made as we decide where we will put our daily emphasis.

How will we spend what we have? What areas of our life will we give more to than others? Will we spend generously with what we've been given or we will be miserly in our time and energy with other people? Our answers to these questions will determine our overall health, our rate of maturity, and the health of our relationships with those that are important to us. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a Start

I want to fix all the things quickly. I have a vision of the man I want to be and realize that I am far from the point that I desire to be at. I want to be a more patient person, a heavily invested family man, a dynamic and effective pastor, a man in excellent physical shape, a deeply devoted and supportive husband, a creative thinker, a generous staff teammate, and a kind, encouraging man that intentionally invests in others. I recognize that I am able to check off parts of this list, but I am also able to assess my current weaknesses and see that I am far from the ideal.

I could let myself be overwhelmed by the amount of things on my personal list. I could feel discouraged by my perceived distance from my goals and the shortcomings I still see. Here's the deal though--today I started working in the right direction. It's a journey I won't accomplish overnight, but I took a step or two towards being a better man today. After today there are 112 days left in this year and I am one day closer to who I want to be.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Limited Resources

If I gave you $113 you probably wouldn't have a hard time spending it. There are bills to pay, things to be repaired, needs for our kids, and groceries to buy. You might choose to go shopping, take your family out
for a good meal, or blow it all in a poker game. Whatever you choose to do, you would have a lot of options and probably wouldn't debate for too long- especially with an amount as small as that. 

At midnight tonight there will be 113 days left in this year. They are a more valuable resource than money and have the potential to change your life in a more powerful way than $113. Much like a windfall of cash it can be gone very quickly with only fleeting memories of how we spent it or we can choose to leverage what we have to create the best opportunity for growth and personal change. It won't happen accidentally or by some random chance either--we need to plan carefully and step into action to see the results we want. 

Only 113 days left in 2013. What will you do with them?

Saturday, September 7, 2013


My family and I have just returned from our annual vacation to the beach. It is a trip that we look forward to all year and wish that we could make more often, but time and resources inhibit the fulfillment of that desire.The trip actually isn't even possible without the incredibly generous kindness of good friends who allow us to stay in their condo each year. They bless us more than they know with the use of their home and their desire to share with us. It had me reflecting on the many people in our lives who show us incredibly generous love. I couldn't even begin to list all of them from just this calendar year. Suffice it say, I am blown away by how people care for us and their desire to show it in so many ways.

It's a good, good feeling to know that in spite of your many flaws we are loved deeply by the people around us--those in close proximity and those that will always be close to our hearts.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Faithfully

(This is the final blog on of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog or find any previous installment in the column to the right.)

I believe that God has called us to something greater than the life we are currently leading. Even if we are actively living in faith, God has a grander plan than we can imagine. I feel that we get glimpses of this as we invest more relational energy in seeking Him, but I also think that we become afraid of what the next steps will be and what they will potentially cost us. This particular failure of nerve keeps us trapped in the same location following a replica of the pattern we've followed for years. We are afraid to take the next step of obedience and follow through in baptism, sacrifice money and time to go on a missions trip, re-prioritize our finances to practice deliberate generosity, intentionally invest in our community, or leave our comfortable position to travel somewhere new and do something ridiculously big for God's Kingdom. 

There is a grand adventure of faith waiting for each of us--I have no doubt about that. The choice to follow it is a matter of faith for each of us. Overcoming this failure of nerve is the difference between living a good, safe life or risking it all for an adventure with greater challenges and rewards than we can begin to fathom. Where is the step of faith that you have been afraid to take? How you can you overcome that failure of nerve and begin to move forward today?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Confrontational

(This is part seven of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog.)

Let me issue this disclaimer at the beginning of this blog. This is an entry intended for those that have already committed their lives to following Christ. The concept of confronting personal choices of sin doesn't apply to anyone who is not a Christ follower. While the law, societal moral codes, and common decency can guide our behavior and should be emphasized, the enforcement of God's law won't shoehorn anyone into a relationship with Him. I think that the church sometimes forgets this concept and tries to impose Biblical regulations on people who need to hear about God's abundant grace & fantastic mercy first. Attempting to legalistically excise behaviors before a heart is transformed produces a spiritual vacuum that will only be filled with new poor choices. 

Confronting sin is an extremely unpleasant undertaking. It's often easier to sit in the church and talk about what's wrong with the world than it is to talk to Christ followers that are trapped in their own sin. Jesus gave us a model for doing this because He knew that it would be necessary and that it would also be a tough task. Unfortunately, we often fall into two different camps in terms of our reaction to sinful choices. We either ignore it in a misguided attempt to keep peace (and a complete failure of nerve and responsibility) or we attack the individual without following Jesus' model of love and mercy. It's an interesting scenario when we confront sin with our own sinful attitude. 

God tells us what is acceptable and expects His followers to lovingly approach each other with confession, repentance, and restoration in mind. When we declare that our lives belong to Him we simply can't tolerate things that God won't accept either. Ignoring these behaviors in the church will lead to disunity and the removal of God's protection and blessing. Attacking people instead of gently reminding them of their commitment to Christ and prayerfully helping them to overcome it will break down the church as well. The world is watching how the church treats their own. If we demonstrate kindness and genuine love we stand a far better chance of healing a fellow follower and creating an avenue to reaching the world as well.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Share the Truth

(This is part six of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog.)

Rejection is something that most of us work to avoid. We analyze the possibility that our advances might not be well received and often choose not to take the risk. This can be true of our personal relationships, but can be particularly paralyzing when we're fearful of sharing Christ. 

I have never baptized someone who wasn't excited about their decision. That powerful moment produces emotional and spiritual energy that fosters transformation and the realization of a preferred future. Excitement bubbles over at the inner peace we now have and new vision is gained as the blinders of our past beliefs and decisions is finally lifted. This is a sentinel moment in our lives and most people can't wait to share it with other people. It's interesting then how quickly that enthusiasm for sharing can often fade. While we are passionate about the personal decision we have made we become reticent to pass that energy on for fear of alienating someone, offending their beliefs, or appearing intolerant of other viewpoints. 

All things need to be done in love and not necessarily by force, but we have to set aside this particular failure of nerve for the sake of eternity. It's a shifting viewpoint of choosing to share the story of our journey with Christ instead of fearing what someones response will be. Overcoming this hesitation isn't a matter of improving our daily life as much as it is giving a person an opportunity to change their eternal destiny. It's far less about our fears and more about our obedience to our calling as Christ followers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Career Path

(This is part five of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog.)

It's becoming more common to change your career path in the middle of life, but it's still not an easy decision to make. I still remember being completely unprepared when God offered me the opportunity to leave the high school level and step into ministry. I mentally and spiritually battled through the decision for four days before deciding to take the leap of faith. It was difficult to think about leaving behind a program that I had worked diligently at for years, the incredibly close friendships that had been developed, and the young lives that I was having an impact on each day. It was a difficult enough decision that I changed my mind several times before saying yes. In fact, I had firmly made up my mind to say no, but was encouraged by my wife's direct, gentle honesty and a good friend's counsel. 

I attribute my hesitance to my failure of nerve. Leaving something that I knew well and was good at was an enormous risk. For the most part I knew what the future held for me at Mainland and the path that I could choose to walk down for future advancement and personal goals. The potential of where God was leading me was much more abstract than what I already had in front of me. I had to set aside my trepidation and trust that God's plan was more fulfilling than the one I was already on. 

How many people walk up to the edge of new opportunities and then quietly shrink back to their "comfortable" present reality? It's a definitive leap of faith to change our career-a part of our lives where we place so much of our identity. At the root of our indecision is a lack of trust in God's power to direct our lives and our fear at letting so much change take place. Let God keep transforming you and opening you to the potential for new possibilities. Don't let the failure of nerve keep you so focused on job security that you miss out on the grand adventure that could be waiting.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Money Talk

This is part four of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog.)

I love being generous. I enjoy treating my family and friends to meals, events, and gifts and watching their reactions and pleasure. We didn't have any expendable income when I was growing up so I'm sure that contributes to my desire to spoil those that I care about. My wife and I also love to be generous for the sake of God's Kingdom. We want to support missionaries, sponsor children, and contribute to the growth of our local church. It's a way to feel that our God-given resources are being used in a way that makes a difference that is bigger than we are. 

This wasn't always our mindset. Early in our marriage we were consumed with the next best thing and how we could enjoy something now by paying for it later. It led us down a nasty road of debt and poor financial management and constrained the freedom of our resources. We were also a one-income family after children arrived and had limited earning potential working in the school system. In the midst of an unbalanced checkbook we couldn't even see the possibility of giving generously for the cause of Christ. It was easier to put a $20 bill in the offering plate to appease temporary guilt than doing more and trusting God to cover the gap. 

It isn't an easy transition in the beginning, but a failure of nerve in our finances will never lead to a balanced budget. As difficult as it may seem at the start, we have to prayerfully commit to taking the first step of faith and giving to God's Kingdom work first. It might mean saying no to the newest outfit, car, dining experience or road trip, but it will bring deeper satisfaction when we see the impact we are having in lives beyond our own. Start trusting God with the management of your resources first instead of doing what we think is best and then asking Him to bless the decisions we made without His input in the first place. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Failure of Nerve: Parenting

(This is part three of a series of blogs on failure of nerve. Click here to read the introduction blog.)

I've had many different jobs in my life. I worked all summer at a state park in maintenance, delivered newspapers, worked in the fast food industry, done telemarketing (hated it!), waited tables, managed a restaurant, taught high school, worked in athletic training, and am now a pastor. In all of my varied experience however, nothing has been as difficult as parenting. Please don't mistake my admission of difficulty as regret. I love my daughters deeply and my wife and I can't imagine life without them. It is still one of the most emotionally and spiritually challenging responsibilities we have ever had.

Parenting requires patience, forethought, insight, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The immense responsibility that God has given us in teaching them and guiding them can be overwhelming. I think this is where so many parents get confused. They believe that their ultimate goal is to make their children happy. While I enjoy it when my children are happy I also realize that their temporary emotional state cannot be the ultimate goal. This means that we will often have to make decisions that they will not agree with nor understand. It leads to us having heart-wrenching discussions as we delve into topics that make them (and us!) uncomfortable at times. While it might mean that things are tense at home sometimes, we firmly believe that our daughters will be better in the long run because we were willing to have the hard talks. Unfortunately, I have witnessed too many parents exhibit failure of nerve by refusing to confront sin and struggling through the process of helping their children develop God-centered decision making skills. 

God blessed us with the gift of our children and has asked us to raise them His way. Seeking to be their best friend and simply maintain peace might make the home an easier place to live for a while, but this particular failure of nerve will eventually damage your relationship and leave your children unable to interact with society in a mature and wise way. Take a deep breath, pray and ask for God's wisdom, and do the right thing while you still have daily influence.