Saturday, August 17, 2019

Do the Hustle.


Last year, as a ministry staff, we believed that the Lord was saying that 2019 would begin a season of Miracles, Breakthrough and Long-Awaited Harvest. Praise the Lord we are seeing that come to pass. What many of us failed to realize is that many of answers came with conditions – i.e. hard work. A good friend of mine pointed out that harvest is one of the busiest seasons in the life of a farmer. If the crop isn’t gathered in quickly the harvest can go from ripe to rotten in the blink of an eye.

I guess another way we could say it is that you, ‘got to strike while the iron is hot.’ Another friend of mine is a blacksmith and I've had the opportunity to work with him on a few occasions. You have a limited time to work the metal once it comes out of the fire. Another friend of mine is a successful business owner. He once told me that his success wasn’t because he was the best or brightest in the room, but that he would ‘out hustle 99 out of 100 people.’ I believe it. Someone once said that, ‘good things come to those who wait.’ I agree, but when it’s time for action patience will cause you to miss your opportunity.

“The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work.” – Anonymous

The apostle Paul understood,

“There’s an amazing door of opportunity standing wide open for me to minister here, even though there are many who oppose and stand against me.” – 1 Corinthians 16:9 TPT

When God provides an opportunity we have to seize the moment. That’s not the time to be patient, that’s when it’s time to hustle.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

Every day is a gift from the Lord, what you choose to do with it is your gift to Him. I believe God has GREAT things in store for you!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

When bad things happen to good people.


When I was eight years old my parents went through a bitter divorce. I was clueless and had never even seen them speak a cross word to one another. My little world came crashing down overnight. My mom moved from southern to northern California so I only got to see her on holidays and summers. In the seventh grade I decided to move in with her and my step dad and go to school there. It was a tiny school out in the country with less than 10 people in my class. It was so small in fact that they joined classes to save money on staff and so we were in the same room as the eighth graders. One of those students happened to be the girl that is now my wife.

I would never wish divorce on any couple or family. But I also wouldn’t change my situation in a million years because God brought something beautiful out of the brokenness.

My wife and I had been married for only nine months when her mother, 47 at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. Two weeks after getting the news that she was sick my wife and I packed up our little apartment on campus in Reno, NV and headed east for North Carolina. She finished her race less than a year later and went home to be with the Lord. People aren’t supposed to die at 48 and our girls never had the chance to meet their Grandma Linda. But in that time of caring for her family we found a church that forever changed our lives. What we thought would be a short intermission became a life calling.

It seems everyone has been touched by cancer’s curse at some point in their life. It’s an ugly disease and it’s just not fair. Let me be clear that I DO NOT BELIEVE that God gave my wife’s mother cancer. But in the midst of the tragedy he was at work guiding our path toward yours.

See if my parents never divorced then I wouldn’t have met my wife. If my wife’s mother hadn’t become sick we never would have moved to Western North Carolina, went into ministry and started writing this blog.

He is the God of meaning in meaningless situations. He is the God of hope in hopeless circumstances. He is the God of purpose in the middle of life’s messes. He is the great redeemer and we can trust that He is bigger than whatever it is we are dealing with. We can trust Him.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 NIV

Jesus is proof of the lengths that God will go to, lovingly working for your good because you are called according to his purpose. If you have made it through and can see God’s hand praise him for what he’s already done. If you are in the middle then trust that he is in control, he loves you forever and he IS taking care of you whether you can see it or not.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

My favorite person's favorite verse.


My wife is my favorite person in the world. One of her favorite verses from the Bible is Philippians 4:8. Therefore this in one of my favorite verses.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 NIV

When Paul says “finally” he is saving the best for last. I was recently chatting with a friend and he said that life is about 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent your attitude about it. I believe he is correct. There is always a reason to be negative, critical, frustrated, discouraged. But there is always a reason to be thankful, hopeful, appreciative, encouraged. Both are true in every area of our lives – our careers, our relationships, our finances, our church…

I think for most of us it is easy to dwell on the bad. Most of our time spent on ‘what ifs’ don’t lean toward the good. But the Apostle Paul continues his instructions –

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:9 NIV

He uses the word ‘practice’. People who want to become better at something practice. People who want to become great at something practice and practice and practice. Some of us have practiced worry for years. We have become quite exceptional at it. God is willing and able to help us renew our minds, after all He is the ‘God of peace’.

There is always a reason to be positive because there is always GOD. In every situation He is always in control, He always has a purpose and He always loves you. Will you purpose in your heart today to join me on a journey of practicing a positive life? Let’s take our negative thoughts captive, make them obedient to Christ and choose to focus on good and Godly things! It may not be easy, especially at first, but I promise it will be worth it.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV

Friday, June 21, 2019

THRIVE!


“Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health [physically], just as [I know] your soul prospers [spiritually].” – 3 John 1:2 AMP

What an amazing passage of Scripture. I believe that God wants to touch EVERY area of our lives. He is not just a spiritual Savior that will one day deliver us at death into glory. He cares about our physical, emotional, relational, financial AND spiritual well-being today.

So why are so many of us walking around sick and tired of being sick and tired? Well some of it has to do with the impact of sin on our world, but some of it might have to do with our lifestyle choices. Here are four areas that can cause us to live beneath our God given potential -

  1. Exercise – Most of us don’t get near the amount of movement that our bodies were created for. Think of how much our lives have changed in the last couple hundred years. We built our own houses from trees we cut down by hand and ate food that we hunted, gathered or grew. Every day required hours of physical activity just to live. I’m not advocating that we go off the grid but we do need to find ways to move more. I’ve heard people tell me that they walk 5 miles a day at work. That is certainly better than sitting behind a desk but just to put that into perspective the average turtle walks at just over 1 mph and can ‘run’ at 3-4 mph. So in an 8 hours shift the turtle is leaving you in the dust. My suggestion is that you find something you enjoy doing and sweat for at least 30 minutes a day.
  2. Food – Much of what we eat isn’t actually food. It’s highly processed frankenfood that is basically devoid of any nutritional value. You can’t put garbage in the magnificent machine that God created and expect it to perform at peak levels. Drink more water, eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins. Shop primarily from the perimeter of the supermarket. Plan your meals ahead of time and avoid the dreaded drive thru. Full disclosure – This is one of the areas I am working on to do better! 
  3. Rest – Did you know that many pro athletes sleep 10+ hours per day when training? They know that sleep is necessary for optimum health. We are chronically sleep deprived and it affects us more than just physically. If you wake up tired on a regular basis and need coffee/energy drinks to keep you going throughout the day you need more sleep. Now God may not sleep but even he set aside a day a week to rest! Make it a priority. Try setting an alarm to go to bed, monitor your caffeine intake and how it affects you, limit screen use in the evenings and turn your phone off at night! 
  4. Stress – Speaking of phones I have a love/hate relationship with mine. It allows us to stay connected with family and friends and increases productivity but it also makes it really easy to take work home with you. People expect to be able to get a hold of you 24/7/365. That isn’t reasonable. That bears repeating. It is not reasonable to work 7 days a week. You need downtime. Find something that helps you de-stress. Exercise, sew, read, fish, whatever helps you relax and schedule time to do it. Caring for your soul isn’t selfish. It’s hard to effectively help others if your life is a wreck. Listen to what Jesus said –


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Is it possible that we are carrying and caring about burdens that God hasn’t called us to?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31-33 NIV

One last passage I want to share with you to lighten your load.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8 NIV

So if you are sick and tired of being sick and tired don’t despair. There is ALWAYS hope in Jesus. My suggestion is that you find one small thing in each of these areas to change and start there. Don’t sign up to run a 5K this weekend, go vegan, turn off the internet and throw your phone away. My guess is the wheels would come off that bus in less than a week. Maybe park farther away when you shop, pack a salad for lunch two days a week, go to sleep 30 minutes earlier, do something you enjoy and spend some time with God each day. You’ll be amazed at how little changes can make a big difference.

I love you, God loves you and we both want to see you THRIVE.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Distressed or De-stressed?


My oldest daughter has been on a mission trip for the past month to Greece and this morning left for her next assignment in France. She had to catch an early morning flight from Athens so she got everything ready the night before. She grabbed her bags, left her key to the apartment on the desk, locked the door behind her and headed downstairs to meet her ride. Except her ride was late – 15 minutes, 30 minutes, she started making phone calls, knocking on the door, downloading a taxi app. Here mom and I started reaching out to everyone we could think of through Messenger, Skype, texting, carrier pigeon… 45 minutes late and no word.

Now mind you it is the middle of the night in Greece and everyone is fast asleep. We were all becoming increasingly concerned that she is going to miss her flight. With each passing minute and every failed attempt to contact someone the stress level was swelling. So with our daughter on speaker phone the three of us stopped to pray. I reminded my girl, my wife and myself that God was in control when we weren’t and that the worst case scenario, missing her flight, wasn’t really that big of a deal. We could buy another ticket for later today or tomorrow for less than a hundred bucks. That brought everything into perspective and we were able to collectively exhale. We shot out a quick message to our friends asking them to join us in prayer.

Within a minute or two the phone rang, my friend in Greece was making calls and her ride was 5 minutes away. We started checking travel times, boarding times and when the gate closed and she had JUST enough time to make her flight. Then we checked the flight. Wouldn’t you know that it was delayed by about 30 minutes and she had plenty of time?

God is in control of all things, well almost all things.

See he has given us control of our own perspective and that makes all the difference in the world. We can’t always control what is happening around us but we can control whether we react or respond. In the chaos of life we have the choice to become distressed or de-stressed.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

Sometimes things don’t go according to our plan, but rest assured they always go according to God’s.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13 NIV

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Joys of Confrontation.


CONFRONTATION.

Most people will do just about ANYTHING to avoid it. Years ago my friend Brian Cagle preached a message and made this statement –

“Love is not the absence of confrontation.”

Now I’ve forgot more sermons than I can count, but there have been a few like that one that stuck in my heart like an arrow. Healthy confrontation has the potential to free us from the chains of living beneath our Spirit filled life. When we take a look at Scripture we see that God is a confrontational God –
  • He confronted nothing with creation.
  • He confronted darkness with light.
  • He confronted the devil with Job.
  • He confronted Jericho with Joshua.
  • He confronted Jonah with a storm and a fish (definitely a Megalodon).
  • He confronted Goliath with David.
  • He confronted David with Nathan.
  • He confronted Peter with the truth.
  • He confronted sin with the cross.
  • He confronted Paul with blindness.
Now God is love, and God uses confrontation therefore Godly confrontation is an expression of love. Jesus perfectly represented His Father while on earth and He confronted people on a fairly regular basis when it was in their best interest.

Here are some quick thoughts about Godly confrontation.
  1. The key word is Godly. Have his heart for the person and the situation.
  2. Make sure it’s a two-way street. If you can’t receive it then you probably aren’t ready to share it. Remember Jesus said something about a log and a speck. (Matthew 7:5)
  3. Focus more on their potential than the problem. This is not about getting something off of your chest but rather helping to lift someone else up.
  4. Pray, pray and pray some more. It takes the right timing, tone and touch to effect lasting change. If the Holy Spirit isn’t convicting there is a good chance you will only bring condemnation. After all where the Spirit of the Lord is there is FREEDOM! (2 Corinthians 3:17)
“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” - Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks.

I want to brag on one of my best good friends Danny. He is part of our Pastoral staff here at LifeWay and we are so fortunate to have he and his sweet wife Ronda on our team. One of the things that most impresses me about Danny is his willingness to try new things. Here is a perfect example -





As we age we tend to take fewer risks. A friend of mine who is a Christian Counselor recently said, 'We view our tomorrow through the lens of our yesterday.' In other words we have a habit of projecting yesterday's failures and pain onto tomorrow's possibilities. The end result is we miss out on the adventure of life. Danny has started and sold businesses, traveled around the world sharing the love of Jesus and just last year jumped out of an airplane just for fun.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
- Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

There are a thousand reasons why you can't   (fill in the blank)  . But you only need one reason why you can - Because God said so. If you have a dream that He placed in your heart then go chase it down and don't let anyone stop you. Especially YOU! God's plans for your tomorrow aren't held captive by your yesterday. We have to be willing to do something different, to welcome change and embrace the unknown if we are going to grow, to live, to flourish. When we try something new and step into unfamiliar territory it may feel a little scary, a little unnatural, perhaps like riding a hoverboard for the very first time. But with a little practice we'll be flying around like an old pro in no time at all.

Do the Hustle.

Last year, as a ministry staff, we believed that the Lord was saying that 2019 would begin a season of Miracles, Breakthrough and Long-Awa...