Friday, December 30, 2016

Resolutions

As we reflect upon 2016 and look forward to 2017 all I can say is that my heart is full with expectation. I am fully convinced that our best days lie ahead and not behind. You might call me an optimist, but I really think that I am a realist. See I know who my Father is and He delights in giving good things to His kids (Matt. 7:11).

I recently heard someone say that 'if you want something to change then you must first change something.' As we celebrate the New Year many people will make resolutions. Resolutions to lose weight, to spend more time with family, to read the Bible daily, etc. If I may be so bold I'd like to suggest the most important resolution you can make in the coming year -

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33 NIV

Wherever we are at in our relationship with God there is always room for growth! The Greek word used here for 'first' is Protos and Strong's defines it as, "first in time or place; in any succession of things or persons; first in rank; influence, honour; chief, principal."

Make a decision to put Jesus first in your life in 2017. If He already is then make Him firster! If we will I am convinced that God has great things in store for us!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What's the TIME?

So the Cubs just won the World Series after a 108 year drought. AND they did it in style – game 7, extra innings, a rain delay – it doesn’t get much better than that! Well unless you’re an Indians fan. I’m not a particularly huge sports guy and honestly didn’t have much invested in which team won but wow! It’s been said that hitting a major league fastball is the most difficult feat in all of sports. Let me break it down for you with a few quick, REALLY QUICK figures –
  • 400 milliseconds – roughly the time is takes for a major league fastball to travel from the pitcher’s hand to home plate. Now we start subtracting.
  • 100 milliseconds – the time it takes for your brain to process the image of the ball being hurled precariously close to your body.
  • 25 milliseconds – the time it takes for your brain to send a signal to your muscles to swing the bat.
  • 150 milliseconds – the time it takes to physically swing the bat.
  • 125 milliseconds – the amount of time left to gauge the trajectory of the pitch and decided whether or not to swing.

Just to put that in context it takes 3 times longer to blink (300-400 milliseconds). The actual window in which a pitch can successfully be hit is only 7 milliseconds! Too soon and it goes foul, too late and WHIFF! Swing and a miss. It all comes down to timing.

In 1 Chronicles we have a list of the people who began to gather around David before he became king. Among those named were some -

“from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;” - 1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV

These guys understood the importance of timing. See you can do the right thing, the right way, in the right place with the right people and still fail. If you miss the timing. When it comes to timing I see three options –
  1. Too early.
  2. Too late.
  3. Just right.

It is essential to get the timing right if we are to fulfill the God dreams He has placed in our hearts. We don’t want to get our ahead of Him, or lag behind. We want to walk ‘with’ Him, like Adam did in the garden. I think there are a couple of things to consider when it comes to God’s timing and His plans for our lives.

The first is IMPATIENCE. I’ve seen so many people, myself included, miss God because we were not willing to wait. When we are patient we don’t end up settling for less than God’s best. I usually find when I full surrender the timing to God THEN things begin to move forward. See with God the journey is just as important as the destination. He is building our faith every step of the way.

The second would be FEAR. Faith requires action and often a certain amount of risk. Just like Abram set out into the unknown we must be willing to step out in obedience and trust that God will show up. If you never step up to the plate and take a swing I promise you will never connect with the ball.

So what is God calling you to? And when? And what you should doing right now? May God help us to be more like those sons of Issachar.

Friday, October 7, 2016

What I learned while teaching my teenager to drive.

I’ve recently enjoyed one of parenting’s greatest experiences… teaching a teenager to drive! Let me just say that it does wonders for your prayer life. Actually my girl did great, especially considering she had little to no experience driving any motorized vehicle before getting behind the wheel. But there were a few things that occurred to me during our adventures that I think may have broader application.

One of the things I encouraged her to do was to focus on doing everything purposely smooth. Let me explain. Jack rabbit starts, abrupt turns and sudden stops do not make for an enjoyable ride. It also causes unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle. Gas mileage suffers, tires and brakes need replaced more frequently and other components endure excessive strain. Beyond all that it increases the probability that you will have an accident.

You know the same thing applies to life. I’ve observed hundreds if not thousands of people over the course of more than two decades in ministry. I’ve noticed that people who take thoughtful and intentional actions do better than those who make rash decisions.

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”” - Luke 14:25-35 NIV

In other words slow and steady wins the race… and saves wear and tear on the vehicle… and avoids accidents… and makes for a more enjoyable ride. Cars are meant to be driven just like lives are meant to be lived. A follower of Jesus who does not serve their brothers and sisters in Christ and their community is like an un-driven car. But a disciple who tries to do everything only to burn out and quit is like car that has been driven into the ditch. Both are going nowhere and both have lost their saltiness.

Do something, do it well and do it consistently. It works when it comes to driving. It also works when it comes to your health, your family, your finances, the Kingdom and well just about everything else. Small adjustments over the course of time make huge differences and keep us on the road and moving forward.


Be safe out there and just one more thing… don’t forget to use your signals!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Kindness

I've been chewing on this Scripture for the past few weeks -

"So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" - Romans 2:3-4 NIV

There are a few things I want to point out before I dive in any deeper -
  1. You can’t read this Scripture out of the context that Paul defines in the previous chapter. Go read Romans 1:18-32 right now. No, seriously.
  2. These verses in no way condone the sin. Chapter One addresses several sins specifically including ALL TYPES of sexual immorality but it also talks about disrespectful children, gossiping and greed to name just a few.
  3. In Chapter One Paul addresses the depravity of man without Christ. In Chapter Two he rebukes the church for walking in those same sins and yet condemning those who don’t know Jesus.

This Scripture parallels perfectly how and what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-5. Jesus instructed his followers to consider the ‘log’ in their own eye before addressing the ‘speck’ in others. However, many people miss that the goal of dealing with the ‘log’ was to see clearly so we can help others with their ‘speck’. Jesus never intended for us to leave people with a speck in their eye.

Recently I was working on a project and ended up with the tiniest, least little flake of metal in my eye. At that moment EVERYTHING STOPPED! My eye was watering out of control, I couldn’t see anything and by the amount of pain I felt I was convinced something the size of a steak knife had to be protruding from my skull. Nope. Not even close. To be perfectly honest a ‘speck’ was being generous. It took me and a friend a couple of minutes just to find it. Even though it was so small I can tell you nothing else mattered until it was dealt with. Getting it out RIGHT NOW summed up my total life’s goal in that moment.

Specks can be a HUGE deal and Jesus wants us seeing clearly so that we can help others experience that same freedom. So this is what I believe the Bible is saying -
  1. Deal with your own issues first. Maybe before we slam the Pride Parade on Facebook we should take a look at our own porn addiction. Global Christian Center’s website states that, “The use of pornographic material among Christians continues to rise, reaching near epidemic proportions in the church. Shocking statistics released by Net Accountability reveal that 50 percent of evangelical pastors viewed pornography last year. A study by Internet Filter Review revealed that 53 percent of Promise Keeper men viewed pornography the week before the survey, and 17 percent of women admitted to struggling with pornography addiction. Focus on the Family recently reported that one in seven calls to their pastoral care line concern Internet pornography.” Both are sexual sin period. But is it possible that the Church might have a log problem?
  2. Remember ‘how’ you say something is often more important than ‘what’ you say. If it’s God’s ‘KINDNESS’ that brings heart change then maybe that should be the tone of our voice and the attitude of our heart.
  3. Don’t forget it’s GOD’S STRENGTH in OUR WEAKNESS that brings freedom. We really don’t have much room to judge, just offer others the same hope that God has given us. Humility is key.


So let’s let God deal with our stuff. And let’s be kind when God allows us to help others with theirs.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why I became a missionary.

So way back in 1997 I was in a ministry training school and part of that program was to go on an international ministry trip. My pastor invited me to be part of a team that was traveling to the former Soviet Union. To be honest I wasn't entirely sure how to feel or what to expect. Up until that point my foreign travel consisted of 1 trip across the Canadian border. If you haven't visited our neighbors to the north it's a lot like the US but colder aye. On top of that I am probably the last generation that grew up being taught to fear/hate the Russians. After all if the world came to an abrupt end it would surely be their doing. Now when I say my Pastor 'invited' let me be more clear - I was voluntold. 

I boarded a plane and before I knew it I was standing in Moscow. The following day we traveled to the Black Sea to host a leadership conference for pastors. I was a 23 year old punk Bible College student. What did I know that these men and women of God needed or even wanted to hear? I was given one teaching slot and at my pastor's request discussed the importance of youth ministry. I wrapped it up and we headed for lunch. The missionary we were working with came over to the table to inform me that I would be teaching on the subject again that afternoon. And the following day. The Holy Spirit sparked something in those leaders that day and He used me to do it. It was incredible to think that I made a difference in another nation. But that wasn't the only difference that was made that day. Little did I know that the biggest change was taking place inside of me. I've had the privilege of sharing Jesus and training leaders around the world and here are some of the things I've learned along the way.
  1. God is WAY bigger than we realize.
  2. People are just people regardless of where they were born or where they live.
  3. There is a big beautiful world out there.
  4. Where God guides He provides.
  5. The Holy Spirit is the same no matter where you go.
  6. The good ole USofA doesn't have the corner on Jesus, the Church and certainly not worship.
  7. Speaking of the good ole USofA I didn't appreciate how truly blessed we are until I left her behind.
  8. I've made some incredible friends along the way. You get to know people better in a week on the mission field than a year in church.

I used to think that we were doing a good thing by going. I now realize that He is doing a God thing and we are the real recipients of the blessing when we answer the call. In 20+ years of following Jesus I have found NOTHING that can impact a believer's walk with Christ like a short term mission trip can. And that's 'Why I became a missionary'. And that's why you should too. I'll leave you with a couple of thoughts to ponder.

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" - Matthew 28:18-20

""Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"" - Isaiah 6:8 NIV


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Shared?

This is one of my wife’s favorite Scriptures -

"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

What a different world it would be if we all actually put this into practice! See there is power in what we choose to focus on.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” - Luke 6:45 NIV

"From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." - Proverbs 18:20-21 NIV

So I have a question and a challenge for you. Ready? Here we go -

QUESTION - Of your last 10 Facebook posts (or Twitter, or conversations if you are technologically adverse) how many of them are positive and how many of them are negative? Be honest with yourself. Just so you know 9 of mine were positive and one was negative (I mentioned a mouthful of kerosene I had while working on a furnace but it was intended to be funny). I have actually started unfollowing people who are always fussing, fighting and complaining. Life is too precious to surround yourself with negative people.


CHALLENGE - For the next week make it a point to only share positive things and have positive conversations. If it’s not uplifting then it’s not uploaded! I promise it will brighten your day as well as everyone else’s around you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Driving along and then BAM!

The other day I was driving nowhere in particular and for no specific reason I just had this almost overwhelming feeling of how much I absolutely love life. It was so intense that it caught me off guard to be perfectly honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty positive person most of the time but I’m certainly not one of those eternal optimists. You know the ones with a perpetual smile plastered on their face right? There are lots of great things in my life but there are also just as many challenges. But this was bigger than all the bad stuff. And somehow at the same time it was bigger than all the good stuff.

It was grace.

It was a revelation of God’s undeserved favor.

In a moment I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me a glimpse of just how good God REALLY is, just how much He REALLY loves me (us) just how incredible my (our) future REALLY will be! Like you I encounter the ups and downs of this life with all the accompanying emotions involved. But the longer I walk with God the more I realize that those things aren’t what really matter.

“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

I want you to know that I have prayed and asked God to give every person reading this their own God moment. I think I have a new appreciation for what the Apostle Paul felt.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” - Ephesians 3:17b-19 NIV


So don’t be surprised when God shows up and peels back the curtain to give you a glimpse of His grace. As a matter of fact I would encourage you to expect it!

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