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second-thoughts

The primary key to operating an automobile is being in control of the vehicle and not vice versa. Can you imagine letting go of the wheel and letting the car take you where it wants to go? If the car is aligned correctly, you might make it a few hundred feet before running off the road and crashing. However,  the crash would surely happen unless you regained control by taking hold of the wheel again.

Thoughts have the same potential. You can control them and have a great adventure of faith or you can let go of the “Wheel,” and let them take you where they want to go. You might cruise unharmed for a few hundred feet, but sooner of later you are going to crash unless you regain control of your thoughts for God’s purpose.

Your thoughts can be a temple of worship for God, or your thoughts can be an idol of destruction that leads you astray and off course. The choice is your choice to make. Each of us needs to take control of our thoughts, giving them over to God along with everything else in our lives.

We are commanded in scripture to bring every thought into obedience to Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:10) Every thought means every thought. We are called to bring the good, bad and the ugly thoughts to the feet of Jesus and filter them there.

Believe it or not, you have exceptional control over what you do with your thoughts. Thoughts coming into your mind are often fast and furious, but they are never non-controllable. When a thought comes to you, a choice has to be made and can be made.

I challenge you today. Take inventory of your thought life today. It will tell you much about yourself. Ask God to make you more awake to what’s on your mind. Ask God to help move you in Godly directions with your thought life.  I promise you that if you fill your mind with good thoughts, the bad will soon dilute and lose power of influence in your life.

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

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I’m empty today. There is nothing inside of me that is happy. I’m my own worse nightmare. I break promises to God all the time, and I feel there is no way He can love me knowing the thoughts of my heart.

Bitterness haunts me and broken dreams seem to be the only thing in front of me. I keep going and yet deep inside I long for another direction for my life. I question if God knows what He is doing in my life. I fail so often I’ve almost started to expect nothing less.

I wonder constantly how to be a better Father, and yet I seem to never follow through on things and time is slipping away. I desperately want to be a better husband and yet I fall short time and time again. I want to be a better pastor, but I’m confused to what all that means and I wonder if I’m just setting myself up for more disappointment.

I write these things today to show you the voices I encounter on a daily basis, but I also write to tell you more.

I’m actually not empty because He said He would always be with me. That is a promise I can count on regardless of feelings. I don’t have to always be happy because He has promised me joy by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t have to worry about being my own worse nightmare because He is for me. I may break promises, but He is the God of mercy and even though He sees the thoughts of my heart, He knows I’m but clay and loves me anyway.

The Bitterness that comes from broken dreams only proves He has a better plan and a better way. The longing for another direction is only a thought of momentary escape, and God knows I’m committed until the end. He is not afraid of my questioning Him because in doing so, I’m drawn closer to His heart. I might fail more often than succeed, but He is there to pick me up when everyone else has run away.

He whispers to me that being a Father is not about being perfect but about loving them and pointing them toward Him, the perfect Father of all. He encourages me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and yet knows I will fail from time to time. Again He shows me His mercy and Grace. He calls to me to remain steadfast in being a pastor and promises me that when the chief Shepherd appears, I will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Oh the beauty of following Christ! Maybe you have similar feelings about your life today? If you do have similar feelings, then welcome to the human story. If you do have similar feelings, then He knows all about them. If you do have similar feelings, then you need to know they will one day pass away forever. Until then, keep walking, keep believing for He is with you.

Falling Forward

February 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

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My son showed me a video the other day on YouTube, and we had a good laugh watching it a few times. A father was filming his daughters learning the trust fall. If you’ve never heard of the trust fall, it’s a trust-building game often conducted as a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows himself or herself to fall, relying on the other members of the group to catch the person.

Anyway, in this video there were only two girls and the father. After, explaining to the girl who had never done it before how to do it, she took her place and prepared for her first trust fall. Her sister got behind her. The father was filming and talking her through it. Finally, she began to trust and let herself fall. She was suppose to fall backward into her sisters arms but instead, she fell forward and right onto her face. She didn’t’ get hurt, but man it was funny to watch.

The trust fall got me think about falling forward. The game of trust fall is designed to fall backwards. However, in the walk of the Christ follower we are called to trust forward. In other words,  we are called to fall forward as we trust Christ to lead us.

Many times God calls us forward and our faith is weak and so we fall away in disobedience. We think to ourselves, “There is no way God can pull off in my life what He is asking me to do?”

We see in our heart the story of Peter getting out of the boat at the command of Christ and then sinking. We say to ourselves, “No way is that going to happen to me, I’ll just say in the boat and drift the storm out.” However, deep down we know we can’t stay in the boat when He is calling. We know our faith won’t grow in the boat, and He won’t get the glory by us staying in the boat.

The only decision that is God honoring is to get out of the boat and not be afraid to fall forward. What is God calling you to do? Where is He calling you to fall forward? I challenge you! Go ahead and fall. He will be there to see you through.

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That day in the future, you know the one I’m talking about. That dream of becoming a (Insert dream) will only be accomplished when you do the work today that needs to be done in order to get there. Dreams rarely just fall into your lap. Therefore, hard consistent effort must be you daily exercise.

When you apply faith to daily hard work, your dream will take one step closer to you. If you believe in your dream, and have the passion to see it come to pass, your dream will happen in God’s timing. Dreams are not accomplished through haste. Dreams require time to develop and grow.

All great dreams take time to be accomplished. Don’t let impatience steal your dream by causing you to give up before you cross the finish line.  You have the dedication it takes! There is no mountain you can’t climb with God help.

Nature often teaches us about patience if we will only notice. I spend a lot of time in the woods hunting and observing nature up close. For instance, I’ve seen birds building a nests as I’ve set for hours in a tree stand. I’ve watched them over hours and hours fly back, and fourth finding sticks and straw to build their nest.

At times, while the bird was away finding more material, the wind would blow away the previous work, but it didn’t deter the bird once it returned. The bird would simply replace what the wind blew away and continue building. The dream of a nest must move forward.

Pursuing your dream will not always be easy. You will have times that you feel like giving up and walking away. Hang in there! Don’t throw in the towel! God is with you and will give you the grace to take daily steps if you will just trust Him and keep moving and working.

Don’t let anything or anyone discourage you from dreaming your dream and pursuing it. Don’t allow stumbling blocks and bad days to be the strongest voice in your life telling you to stop. Don’t settle for average, but instead, set your sights high and land among the stars.

John Maxwell describes a dream as “an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will, and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it.”

Allow me to give you a few tips on achieving the dream God has put inside of you.

1. Know what the dream is. (Write a book, Become a painter, Become…)

2. Plan the path and pray the path. (You need action steps empowered by prayer)

3. Bring others into your dream. (Find people who will keep you accountable)

4. Overcome fear. (Never allow fear to master you) 5. Stop waiting. (Today is the day you start and not tomorrow)

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your dreams be built in a day. Now get going.

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Getting away has always been hard for me. I feel like the weight of many peoples lives lean upon my faithfulness. They count on me to give them comfort, hope, purpose, and a weekly word from God. I try to get away a few times a year, but I can’t ever seem to get away.

My wife knows how hard it is for me. She tells me all the time when we are on vacation or an anniversary getaway, to let go of ministry for a few days. I do understand what she is saying, but in my heart I hear, “If you let go of your ministry thoughts you are letting go of God’s call on you life. You are letting go of your responsibility and call to help people.”

While on our latest getaway, (our 24th anniversary) I tried my best to disconnect. Amy asked me more than a few times to stop thinking of ministry and doing ministry. I smiled each time and said, “No problem, I will.” Thirty-seconds later while she was talking, I’m thinking of some family that needs my attention. I’m trying to listen to her and hear my own thoughts and plans that will help them through a difficult time.

I’m not particularly good at faking my wife out. She knows me too well, and yet she somehow still loves me. I don’t get it! I’m one lucky man for sure. Anyway, it doesn’t take long for my wife to see I’m lost in thought and not actually in the moment with her. It’s kind of like when the T.V. is on, and she is trying to communicate with me and I have part of my attention on the T.V. and part of my attention on her. It just doesn’t work for either one of us. At least in a T.V. situation she can and does just turn it off or hit the mute button to capture my attention.

I’m convinced my wife knows me better than I know myself. I’m certain God knows me better than myself, and I’m pretty sure He speaks through her often if I would just listen. Our latest getaway has certainly helped me. She told me many times to unplug and sadly it took me to the last day, but I think I’m beginning to understand a absolute truth. It’s a truth I know, but often I don’t apply properly. That true is, God doesn’t need me to do His work; He has called and chosen me to do His work.

The “need” part is where I get messed up. I often live my life like God needs me, and I put undue pressure on my life and family. Instead, I need to wake up the “CHOSEN ME” part. According to research 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. I’m convinced much of the cause is because pastors, and yes, even spouses can’t let go when God has called them to rest.

I once read, “Pastor burnout is a weapon the enemy uses with great efficiency. It is surprising in its simplicity but brutal in its impact. Burnout begins by encouraging us to do what we do best – minister to people.” I’ve learned this last time away, sometimes I’m the people, and God wants to minster to my family and me.

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Psalm 55:12-15 (ESV)
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 15 Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart

When a person helps heal a wound in your life you are thankful, and rightfully so.  They were there for you in your moment of greatest need. However, what happens when that same person reopens the wound by partnering with the very one that caused the wound in the first place?

When that happens it’s called, talking out of both sides of their mouth. It simply means to say different things to different people about the same subject. Betrayal hurts no matter what you call it.

Many things in life hurt and can be difficult to handle, but when a friend throws you under the bus, it’s a pain of a special category. Betrayal brings many negative emotions to the surface of your heart, and it hurts tremendously.

In our text, the psalmist uses some strong language in verse 15 that I’m not sure how to fully process, nor interrupt in a way that makes perfect senses to me. However, it’s real language and shows the depth of the pain he was feeling.

Getting rid of negative emotions can be a battle all by it’s self, and the last thing you need to do is add another battle to the battle that is already raging in your heart. I suggest you take a cue from Jesus himself and walk in the power of extreme forgiveness. I once heard it said that forgiveness means to “let go.” Letting go can be done in spite of your emotions.

Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal. When a friend betrays you, you can seek revenge and feed your negative emotions if you choose, but it’s only a prison you are building for yourself.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me say it again. Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal.

Matthew 18:21-22(ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

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Revelation 4:11   Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

God did not need to create you; He chose to create you.

You were created by God’s choice for the work of His purpose.

One of the most disconcerting things in this world is to believe you don’t matter, that your life has no reason or rhyme.

Inside your heart,  you believe and say things like:

  • I’m useless
  • I’m a waste of space
  • I’m not good enough
  • I have no worth.

We all know what that kind of emptiness feels like. Adam and Eve were created for a purpose but lost their way when they tried to go their own way. God found them in their brokenness and called them to follow him to healing.

God did not create you to be insignificant.

However, don’t misunderstand; life is not ultimately about you.

It’s about God and His glory.

Your significance comes through showing Christ significant to a lost and dying world.

To go deeper and find out more, view the video message of Identity Check Part 4- Created For The Work Of His Purpose.

Make It Right Today!

January 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Philippians 2:19-23 (NKJV)

19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

When God looks around His table of children, could He find a ready and willing servant heart in you? Don’t be too fast to answer yes! We all would like to think we would be the one that God would send, but are you sure?

In verse 20, Paul said, “I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for you state.” He said this right before he announced he was picking and sending Timothy. Paul’s difficulty in finding others was grounded in the problem that, “all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”

Timothy sat at the table of the Lord under Paul’s watchful eye, and he was found Faithful, Available, and Teachable! He had a heart that cared more for others than himself.  Timothy didn’t seem to mind being asked to move beyond his comfortable circle of friends to help others.

We are called to reach beyond our comfortable circle. We are called to have the same proven character that Timothy had. We are called to notice and encourage the unnoticed. In fact, in verse 13 of Philippians 2 Paul tells us, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The will of God is to go and do.

God’s good pleasure is to live a life that serves. After all, it was Jesus who set the example to follow. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If Jesus came to serve, then we must serve also. Any other attitude of the heart is lacking God’s best in and through our lives.

When God looks around His table, could He choose you? Read the opening verse again and drop your own name in it. Does it feel true? If not, make it right today.

Your Anger Blew Up Again?

January 10, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Anger is an emotion and emotions serve a purpose for good if we submit them to God.  Anger can find solutions to a problem or it can add destruction to a problem. For example, if you are angry at a certain behavior in your child that needs to be corrected, anger is an emotion that is telling you something is not right. Anger is not the problem. How anger is allowed to manifest is the real issue. Anger can be useful or hurtful.

Not long ago, I lost my temper with one of my children. I allowed anger to determine an unhealthy way of handling the problem. I started out calm enough, and my correction seemed to be going okay. Then something happen that caused me to raise my voice.

At that moment, whether I want to admit it or not, I lost my influence for good and turned into the old fallen man that doesn’t reflect the long suffering of God, nor his patient love.  In my heated moment, I forgot that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.

The more I allowed my angry to run out of control the more it consumed all the grace, mercy and reflection of God away from my child. I could see the fire of anger burning but instead of throwing water on the fire, I just threw more gas. The frustrations of my adult world that I should take to God in prayer and leave at His feet found their way out and projected onto my child.

My anger had become harmful instead of constructive and redemptive. I’ve heard it said before, and I believe it to be true, “Anger becomes harmful when you don’t regard it as a signal to fix the cause.” The bible declares in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

I got the second part of that verses right. Before the sun went down, I had apologized to my child. The next time I want to get the first part of the verse right. In my anger,  I don’t want to sin. When I honestly think about what I did, I concluded I was exceedingly mad at myself more than what my child was doing. I had  some unresolved stress in my own life that I had allowed to come out in the form of anger and onto my child. I had failed to protect my child from me.

If you have ever had a similar experience and need to apologize, here are a few tips.

1. Leave your pride at the door.

2. Just say you were wrong. Don’t include any excuses.

3. Look your child in the eyes and say I’m sorry.

4. Ask for forgiveness. Let them decided if they want to give it. Don’t demand it.

Who Will You Affirm Today?

January 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Everyone needs affirmation. Whom will you affirm today? I’m not talking about just giving someone a passing acknowledgement. I’m speaking of giving a compliment, an affirmation that is life giving.

As Christ followers,  we have been placed in the harvest field of life surrounded by humanity and their felt needs. We are called to build others up, where the world and possibly their own idea of themselves have torn them down.

Take time today to notice someone whom you know has not been noticed in awhile. Make a comment that places value in their life. For example, if you work with them share how effective they are to the workplace. Deposit confidence into their life. When you do that, you uplift their worth.

You just never know who might be close to giving up. Your words of hope could be the precise thing that keeps them going. As Christ followers,  we should be looking for ways to take away the feelings of insignificance that others might be secretly carrying deep inside.

As you face the world around you daily, walk in the power and passion of Acts 20:35, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  We are called to do more for the world than it does for us. We can accomplish that by thinking of others before ourselves.