God’s Not Impressed By Your “Do”

Have you ever been driven by results? As a man, I have to admit that I hate to fail.  In creating this blog, I feared that it would never take off….and it still may not take off.  What I can tell you is that I am driven.  I want to see my Google Analytic results going sky or the sales on our site increase.  Nothing could set me up for what God had in store for me next.

One thing that I have never been able to shake up until recently is work.  I have always been driven by works.  I was always worried that someone was upset because I didn’t do good enough.  If someone was upset, I would take on the responsibility for their unhappiness not realizing that I was trying to play the part of God.  Let me explain.

Growing up  I would say to God “If you will…I will…” “If you do…I do…” thinking that I could manipulate God into doing what I wanted to do. The only problem was, God doesn’t go by what we do but what He has already done. We often, as Christians, have a works oriented mindset. We find ourselves walking down the road negating what happened on the cross. We decided our eternal destiny by standing on what we can do when Christ already conquered in turn trying to take the place of God.

God has not given us the authority to work our way into grace.  He already conquered it on the cross long before we even decided to sin or fail.  Before you and I were even knit our mother’s womb, God decided to send His Son to die for the sins that you would commit long after you were placed on this earth.  The authority of grace lies in the cross and in the cross alone. Without grace, we would find ourselves lost and deserted. Instead, because of the cross, we can now find ourselves free.

Grace does not give you a get out of hell free ticket or a free ticket to sin. No, grace causes you run from sin. Grace causes you to want to show love to the Father. Grace causes you to come to Him instead of shying away from Him. Beyond Grace? Now you can see Him in a new light.

Opinion | The Modern Day Press

Recently, I have been watching the political climate of our country and listening to what people have to say in the political arena and in the public arena. I have many amazing people on my page the follow me and many of them have opposing views than me. I am pretty quite typically about my political views and what I think. I have been watching our President over this past year and how the press has treated him. First – you may disagree. But please refrain from putting rude comments on my post. I don’t do it to you, please don’t do it to me. No – seriously. Don’t.

(1) Over the past few months, I have listened to the different press conferences that have been made whether it was the President or his staff and witness egregious attitudes from those in attendance. The individuals claim to want to unify the country and ask questions about what the President is going to do about bringing the country together yet in the same breath yell at those to whom they are asking questions of. Does anyone else see something wrong with this?

(2) Do you remember a time when the President spoke (regardless of party affiliation) that people would show respect for him? Or even allowed him to answer their questions without their interruptions? I remember a time when if the President was going to speak, regardless of what we thought of him, we would show respect to him. Each time I listen to these reporters in this Press Conference today, I wonder what is really going through their heads when they address the President. Multiple times they over spoke him, tried to catch him in a lie, yelled at him, etc. I was honestly appalled and have been in recent years when I listened to the press speak to the President.

(3) Do we really expect our country to be united when we ourselves cannot do the same in our own homes, churches, and communities?

To quote President John F Kennedy;

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

I firmly believe that regardless of who is in the White House that we should be respectful. I can respectfully disagree with our President on certain things (regardless of which President that I am speaking of.) I pray for our President – especially this one. I have never seen such vitriol, vile hate towards him. I pray that God will direct him, give him wisdom, protect him, show him the right paths to walk, to make decisions for our country that will serve our people, and to reflect the office with great intentionality for the good of this nation. God bless the President of the United States.

The Seed Does Not Return Void

A while ago, we pulled into the church parking lot and I was prepared to drop everyone off at the door when all of a sudden the hood filled with steam. It is never a good sign to see the steam fill the hood and the thermostat reading hit overheated. I parked the van just to watch it drain coolant down the parking lot ramp. I went inside and got our seat for church then headed to get our classroom set up. I had our tithe in my pocket and needed to fill out the envelope. Here’s the crazy thing; I didn’t second guess myself in giving our tithe. Why? It’s not mine to keep. It is holy unto the Lord and I refuse to rob Him of it.

It may come across as being extreme for some who read this. However, I learned very early on in my journey as a Christian that when I put the seed in the barn, I will have plenty left over in the end. I am not saying that you should be irresponsible with your finances. What I am saying is that there will be times that you will find yourself in a place where you just know that you have to plant the seed.

Not long after this occurred, we were given money above and beyond what we needed to repair the van. Never wavering, we have seen God move mountains with our little faith. There are times where I know it would be easier for me to doubt God than to trust Him. Then, He shows up and shows off.

Regret | A City Not Worth Remembering

It’s hard to believe that I have entered into my mid-thirties. I have had a lot of time to look back and wonder what I have done over the years, as well as, where I have come from. I have had a lot of time wondering what I could have done to be further along in life. I could take time to stand in the City of Regret. As a matter of fact, I lived there for a long time. I am grateful that I have learned how to pack my bags and leave the city and move to freedom. Sure, I could reminiscence about what I could have done or even the wrong that I have done in this life. The only problem is that I left the city so far ago, I don’t even remember what my address was. I have heard this story time and time again…yet it still is pertinent to today;

Leaving the City of Regret

I had no plan on taking this trip but found myself packing. I knew that no good would come out of this journey but the sucky baby in me went anyway — to the annual “Guilt Trip”.

I got a ticket to fly with “NORTH WISH I HAD Airlines”. I got my tear up baggage which I could not check and carried it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a ton of memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the feeling crappy terminal to the “Regret City International Airport”.

As I checked into “Last Resort Hotel”, I noticed that they’re hosting the city’s most prestigious event, the annual “Pity Party”. I heard many of its leading citizens would be there so I wasn’t going to miss out on that.

First, the “Done Family”, you know – should have done, would have done, could have done. Then the big in the industry “I Had Group”, you probably recognize ole wish I had and his entourage. Of course, the dazzling couples Opportunities would be present, Missed Opportunities and Lost Opportunities.

The biggest company is the “Yesterdays”. Too many of them to count but each has a sad story to share.
Then “Shattered Dreams” would surely make an appearance and “Their Fault” would regale us with stories, I mean excuses – about how things had failed in his life. Each story would be loudly applauded by “Don’t Blame Me” and “I Couldn’t Help It”.
Well, to make a long story short, I went to the party thinking that it would help. But as usual, I became depressed. As I thought about the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that the remainder of this trip and subsequent pity parties could be canceled by ME!

I realize that I didn’t have to be there.
One thing going through my mind, I can’t change yesterday but I do have the power to make today a wonderful day. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged , as well as encouraging to others.

So, I left the City of Regret immediately.
Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? Yes!
But there is no physical way to undo them.

If you’re planning a trip to the City of Regret, please cancel your reservation. Instead, take a trip to “Newness Town”. It’s nice here so I got a permanent resident. My neighbor, “I Forgive Myself” and “The New Starts” are so kind and helpful.
By the way, you don’t need to bring and carry a heavy baggage. All load is lifted upon arrival.

God bless you for finding and living in this great town. When you come, look me up. I live on “I Can” Avenue. You won’t miss it, it’s by the famous Lake Love and Joyful Park across the street.

(C) Larry Harp

The City of Regret is a sorrowful place to live. But God will take us through and allow us to come out on the other side. Don’t fall for the lure of regret but instead head to Newness Town where life is a whole lot more carefree.

 

 

Whatever Turns You On

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Albert Einstein

     I can already see it now, there are teenagers reading this thinking alright he’s going to talk about…. I can see parents going, “this could be interesting.” I see the grandma in the back putting in her teeth with her jaw dropped. Relax. I promise this message is rated G.

     I was stopped at a stoplight (makes you glad that I stop, doesn’t it) in a town not far from home on a Thursday morning when a bus was in the turn lane in front of me. You know how some buses have those big advertisements for facilities on it or a brand name on it, well this particular one had an ad for a casino that was built in downtown Saint Louis. Illuminating the entirety of the right side of the bus was “Whatever Turns You On.” I won’t say the hotel and casino that it was related to but I will say it had a hidden message in it.

God revealed clearly to me that we need to be turned on by the Spirit. By that I mean we need to be prepared to have our switches turned on and readily be sensitive to the call of the Holy Spirit. When we prepare ourselves to be used by the Spirit, we are more apt to hear what He has to say. We are to be like a light bulb. If we are turned off, we can not shine to the world. But if we are turned on, we shine brightly to the world. In Matthew 5:16, the Word says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.” Let your light shine brightly, don’t let Satan put it out. We often let our emotions dictate how we live in the Spirit. We often find ourselves wondering why we can’t change the circumstances or have a “where is God” mentality instead of quietly waiting on the Spirit to tell us in peace what we should or should not do. God tells us in Psalms 46:10 to “be still”.

In the stillness, you hear God speaking and we find that out when we read the story of Elijah when he was on the run in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 19:10-12, Elijah was in despair and was ready to end his life even after his major victory. But God told him to go to the mountain and wait there. Elijah had to be thinking he was in a heap of trouble. Getting there had to be a challenge in itself because now he had to face God Almighty. It had to be almost like hearing your father saying “go you to your room and wait for me there.” Nothing good comes from that statement. You know that there is either a hand or a switch on its way. But he gets there and sees all these things happening; the earthquake, the strong winds, the massive fire, yet God was not in these things.

There was quietness and a stillness that God came and spoke to Elijah. In that stillness, God intentionally overlooked Elijah’s faults and his weakness. He told him to simply go and anoint this man to be king. I love it when God goes, “What are you doing?” because we already know God knew what we were doing. What would have happened if Moses had not listened to the Holy Spirit? What would have happened if Abram did not listen to God’s plan for His life and stayed where he was? What would have happened if Saul had not heeded the command of the Spirit on the road to Damascus? What would have happened if you had not listened to the Spirit when He called you to be His son or daughter? In the stillness, in the quiet, listen to the Spirit. Turn that light switch on and get turned on to the Spirit.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.- 

Matthew 5-16.png

Growing Nearer to the Heart of God

“The dog you feed will be the strongest. Which dog are you feeding?”
Ron Coleman

With the T.V. blaring in the background, the kids yelling, the dishwasher running, and your spouse begging you to get something done around the house, I want you to take a moment. You laugh at the idea but God is asking you to remember, who is the Master and who is the slave. We see in the dictionary that a master is ‘one whose teachings or doctrines are accepted by followers’ or ‘one who owns a slave’. Many people flinch at the idea of being a slave to something or someone. They are reminded of how slaves were treated in the Civil War days and refuse to retreat to that but we have to be reminded that we are a slave or a bondservant to Christ. The Masterplan is to follow the Master. We often find ourselves being a slave to other things in life and without realizing it; we treat it as our god.

Now there is some balance in what I am saying, I am not saying you can’t ever watch television or play a video game but what I am saying is there is a balance. If you watch television for 4 hours a night and never spend more than 10 minutes with God, then what is your god? The word ‘god’ is defined as ‘one that is worshiped or idealized’, which means if you would ideally rather watch television than to spend time with the Master, then we know who is your god. In Exodus, God put in His commandments to ‘have no gods before Me’.

So I have a question for you, who or what is your god? Is it money? Is it a sin? Is it a god? In Matthew 6:24 (AMP) it says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).” In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you ever noticed those who are in God’s Word that the bondservants of Christ are ones who give up themselves to do His will. Take Paul for example. In 2/3’s of the New Testament is written by Paul and we can attest that the Almighty God is his Master. Even in the church, we find out who our master is. If you are not careful, your pastor can be your master. Yes, your pastor should be your spiritual leader and you should seek his counsel, but if you set him on a master level, when he sins (and he will by the way because he is human) you will be disappointed. So we should set our eyes on the higher prize of Christ being our Master.

When Christ came to this earth, He left behind His Godhood, if you will, and took the form of man which He then became a servant (see Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45). We are to follow the example of Christ and imitate His example. Are we going to do it perfectly? I believe we can do it through Christ. We have to decide who are we going to serve, are we going to serve God or man?

Now going back to the beginning, With the T.V. blaring in the background, the kids yelling, the dishwasher running, and your spouse begging you to get something done around the house, I want you to take a moment. Who or what are you going to be a slave to? Are you going to be a slave to sin? Well, you now have a choice because it says in Romans 6:14 (NIV), “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace”. It’s time to turn the T.V. off for a few minutes, put the kids to bed, wash the dishes by hand with your beautiful spouse by your side, do the task that they ask, and get into the Word. You can not live by mere bread alone. Why? Bread only satisfies you for a moment, the living water will satisfy you for life. Your master needs to be the Master.

In Joshua 24:15 (AMP), “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua challenged the Israelites to choose who they were going to serve and he also took a stance, he was not going to be bullied into serving another master.

Now with that T.V. turned off this will make some sense. The requirements of being a servant of the Master are simple. You have to love one another (see Galatians 5:13) regardless of the past histories. That means your worst enemy and your best friend. You have to serve God alone and no other gods (see Ephesians 6:7) so that means that T.V. has to be turned off for a time. I am not saying turn Amish and forsake all modern technology. But you do need to have some time to clear your head. Besides, there’s not much worth watching on T.V. anyhow. And finally, you have to give God what you have. What? You don’t make enough to give to God? I beg to differ. Let’s travel back in time to Matthew 25:14-30.

We see in this little piece of history that God doesn’t take lightly those who are stingy, let’s just call it like it is. The man who had one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Are you guilty of hiding your ‘master’s’ money? The bank is what some people say a great place to invest. Let’s do the math, if you put your money in a savings account for a year your gain 2-3 percent interest in a good bank. However, you put 10 percent into God’s work, you will receive it back in full. As you have witnessed, the one got 5 talents received 10. The one with 2 received 4. That is a 50 percent return on your investment.

However, you bury it in the ground and you will get…. UTTER DARKNESS….I think it’s time to reevaluate your position. Being a servant is merely giving yourself fully to God. Does it mean you go off in a cave, collect lint, and only come out on the Holy Mass? No. I mean, spend time with God. You call your friend up 2-3 times a week but you can’t call the one who died for you? The call is free and the connection is priceless. So what are you waiting for? Turn off the T.V. and place that call to God. He’s waiting for you!

Opinion | Are We Living in a Modern Day Country Club?

 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
John 13:34

      I have found myself at a place in my life where I have questioned the worldview of the church.  Being that I was a part of the world and the church both for many years, I have seen a lot of what Christians believe and what we as Christians actually do in relation to what we believe.  What’s alarming is that there are many people who come into the church and find the hypocrisy of the church congregation, which causes them to simply walk away.  I am not insinuating that the church has permanently fallen nor am I implying that church is solely responsible for people coming and going in the church.  I am, however, making a point to tell you in this short teaching that there are misconceptions of the church and it has been duly noted by the world.

 

        There are those who haven’t been in the church long or are not even in the church find themselves lost in a sea of faces but no relationship with people in the church. The word fellowship is defined in part as a “relationship.”  One of the main problems is that many people that come into the church from outside in the world find themselves ostracized or put out because they just feel that they fit in.  They have nothing in common at all with the people of the church and often it is because they feel more at home at the bar with Joe than in the pew next to Jim.  I am not saying that we should indoctrinate ourselves with a flavor of seeker friendliness or open a bar in the courtyard lobby of the churches in America.  Nevertheless, I do think that we are often too focused on ourselves and are totally missing a great opportunity to reach out to a lost and dying world.

        We have a couple in our church, which comes to mind, that many people would not normally associate with because they are still “rough around the edges.”  They haven’t embraced the Church for very long and that means they haven’t given up all their lifestyles.  It has been these types of situations that posed this question in my heart; “Have we totally missed the point of what the church is all about?“   Are we finding ourselves receiving the sick, the needy, the widows, the orphans, etc? Or are we coming together to talk about politics, sports, the latest model of phones, etc.?
        There’s an old song called “What the world needs now is love sweet love” and that is so true in the world today.  The fact of the matter is, when someone from the outside comes in, they are expecting to receive Christ. The world is expecting to feel Christ.  They are expecting another experience that they have never experienced before.  What are you and I doing to practice what Christ practiced?  It is not enough to say that you love God.  In I John 4:20, the author stated that “If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?”  We, the church, are now at a place where it is not enough to have a bumper sticker and a Jesus pin.
      There’s a story about a woman who was driving and she had come to a stop at a schoolyard where she was stuck behind someone.  The person did not move so the woman proceeded to honk her horn and yell out obscenities out the car window.  Behind her, there was a local police officer and he found it quite odd so he decided to watch her.  It wasn’t long that the police officer assumed something was wrong and arrested the woman.   A few hours later, the officer came up to her and handed her belongings to her.  He said “I am sorry for the mix-up but I thought your car was stolen.  You see, I saw the bumper sticker and the fish on the back of your car but I didn’t think it could possibly be the owner of the car who was driving.  Again, I apologize.”  I know you and I get a chuckle out of this story but the fact is, it happens more often than you realize.  The world is watching you and is taking note of it.
        Let’s take the Woman at the well for example since we need scripture to back up what we are teaching here today.  In John 4, Jesus came to a well in Samaria to take a moment and rest.  Let’s stop here for a moment and think about this.  There were two other routes that Jesus could have taken to avoid Samaria but he went straight into a city in the heart of the people.  It was not customary for Jews to associate with the Samarians.  Sounds familiar?  You and I hear often that it is not customary for Christians to associate with the world.  We have twisted scripture around so that we don’t have to a part of the world which is biblically false.  Jesus went against the custom of His people and the norm of what others thought.
         As He was resting at the well, there was a person there that two things that would have made the Jew of this time avoid the well; this was a woman and she was a Samaritan.  This did not bother Jesus for one moment.  In a dialogue that would change history, Jesus challenged this woman on her faith, her lifestyle, and her heart.  Her faith was challenged when He asked her for a drink.  She, in the natural, saw her flaws and what she should not do.  Jesus, in the spirit, saw her healing and what she could do.  “Please give me a drink” He said to her.  She, before even truly thinking about it, said that she was unqualified.  Jesus did not come back to her with the John 3:16 evangelism.  He met her where she was at which was at the well.  Jesus’ response to her was this, “anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  What did Jesus do?  He offered her a solution, not a pad answer, to her problem or her disability and yet did it without judgment or criticism.
        Jesus then addressed her lifestyle without judgment. ‘ “Go and get your husband.” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.  Jesus said, ‘You’re right! You don’t have a husband-for you have had five husbands and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth.” Here, Jesus uncovered what she was living in yet I don’t see Him saying, “you can’t come here” or “you can’t hang around me” or “you sinner are going to burn in hell….” He uncovered her sin and shortly, you will see where he covered it with the Word. I recently read out of Craig Groeschel’s “Confessions of a Pastor” of a time where he had gone to guest teach at a church. A single mom came to the church that he was guest speaking but she was turned away at the door.  Why?  She wasn’t wearing the “appropriate attire” for church.  What would have happened if Jesus had told the Samaritan woman that because of her life style, she couldn’t come to Christ to receive the free gift he had?
        ‘“Sir”, the woman said, “you must be a prophet.  So tell me, why is that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place to worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshipped?”’  Until I started writing this message, I never understood why this was in the scripture but I believe now more than ever that a hindrance or a barrier in her faith in God was that she was not accepted in the synagogue because she was not a certain demonination.  That’s not biblical but it is an observation that I have made.
       “Jesus replied, ‘Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while the Jews know all about him for salvation comes through the Jews.  But the time is coming- indeed it’s here now- when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.’“  Just a side noted; I love the simple faith of the Samaritans that is represented here.  Jesus had said that “Samaritans know very little about the one you worship.” This leads me to believe that they didn’t know much about God but revered Him and worshipped Him.  I believe that John was making a statement here that was subtle but profound.   You don’t have to be Baptist, Jewish, Charismatic, Catholic, etc to love God.  All He requires is that you come to Him.
        We, as a church, need the answer to give and we need more than just the evangelism side of the answer.  In James 1:27, James wrote “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  What James was saying is that people need you to just be there.  We as a church need to be there for those who are suffering and who are going through trials.  Jesus exemplified that here with the woman.  He was there in her affliction which was the lifestyle that she was living.  Jesus did not spend time on Romans Road and how she should get saved before she burns in hell.  He loved her at the moment that she was in.  I wonder what would happen as a church if we decided to treat those who are on the outside looking in with love, respect, honor, and hope.
         Challenge: This is not just for the reader of this message but also for me.  I challenge you and me to take a few minutes out of our socializing and grazing to find someone in the church that we attend to love on, to say hello to, to acknowledge, etc.  Take some time to pray about who God can put across your path to show love to.  You will have the opportunity to bring someone who is on the outside looking in, into the world of faith.and possibly change their lives for eternity.

For the Grace of God

 “For the Grace of God is the power that never fails”

A couple of years ago, I read a book entitled “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince. So often, our thoughts and our hearts revolve around our sin and what we have done wrong. Sin means to “miss the mark” which is what we do on a daily basis. If not for the grace of God, we would all be condemned to hell. Now, hang with me because there is a point for us fathers to get on this. I am a pretty straightforward guy. The sky is blue, the grass (when watered) is green, God is love, and etc. My children are learning that pretty quickly as they are getting older and as they see it, what Dad says Dad means. That’s good, I guess until they see that there is no leverage.

In Jonah, God had already prepared to wipe out the whole city and he had just the right man to go tell them. Jonah wanted no part in it. So far, he had heard that these people were the utmost heathens and they could all rot for all he cared. Therefore, Jonah would embark on a journey of running from God. While on this journey, God sent a fierce storm to get Jonah’s attention and attention is what God received. Jonah told the fishermen to cast him overboard and all would be well. Jonah would then be swallowed up by the big fish and then be puked up on the coast leading to the landlocked city of Nineveh.

Soon, Jonah would arrive in the city and proclaim that God would wipe out the entire city if they did not repent. Unbeknownst to Jonah, the city did repent. Jonah went far from the city and sat to watch its impending doom. Something strange had happened… the city of Nineveh did not get flattened. God would spare the people and give them yet another chance. What happened to the God who wanted to squash this great city? The heart of God was compelled to show grace to His children, even though they did not deserve it.

Fathers, I am guilty. I have to admit that I am pretty graceless when it comes to our children. I have to daily remind myself of God’s grace when it comes to teaching our children. How much more does our Father in heaven extend grace and forgiveness to us as His children? In Matthew 18:21, we see a candid reminder of how much of Father extends His grace. Peter had had enough of being stabbed in the back thus he asked: “how many times must I forgive my brother?” Giving a number of 70 times, he lays the ball in Jesus’ court. What is Jesus’ response? “Seventy time seven.” How does this correlate with God’s grace? If God is calling us to forgive others over and over again, would He not then follow His own instructions?

Here is the rest of the story: “Therefore, the kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king to decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors who was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold-along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt. But the man fell before his master and begged him, ‘please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.” Take a moment and let that sink in men of God. The king heard the cry of mercy and grace from his servant and forgave the debt. God knew that you and I could not repay the debt that we owed and gave us grace towards the debt.

As we read on, we see that this servant did not appreciate the grace. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘ Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.” The servant of the king did not extend the same grace that the king had given to him. Here’s the irony; we are the same way. How often do you and I get cut off in traffic or have someone being promoted before us or have someone mistakenly bill us for something that we didn’t do yet we have a “how dare you” attitude? Ouch. This was the revelation that I received when reading this book. The revelation was that not only had God given me grace but that He expects me to extend grace. You know the rest of the story of the servant. Someone witnessed it and the king found out bringing him to the ultimate decision to throw him into the prison to be tortured. There’s a sermon in itself but I won’t go there.

If God turned His back on you and I every time we sinned, we would have no relationship because you and I sin on a daily basis. We miss the mark so often that Jesus had to die so that our sins would be cleansed. The ultimate act of grace was that instead of you and I getting the beating, Jesus received it. In order for our children to give grace to those around them, they must first see grace given to them.

I challenge you in this area as God has challenged me. “If Jesus must forgive his ‘brother’ seventy times seventy times, why would our Heavenly Father not do the same for us? Why would He not follow His own example? We as His representatives must do the same. for our wives, our children, our families, and the world around us.”

He Restores

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.  “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”
Joel 2:25-27

2017 was a year that I would just assume that I forget. I mean, just to be honest, it was a horrible year in our book. Beginning on January 30, I began a long and painful journey of realizing that the career I had chosen was no longer for me and that my then-employer would let me find a new one on my own. For eight months, I would search and would try to find my new career. I never thought the day would come that I would have to consider settling for a job.

Then God would open a door that no man could shut. Several months into the process, I wondered if the door to my new career would ever be completely opened. With a text, my new life as a Help Desk associate would begin and I would start a career in the IT industry. This career would allow me to learn and to grow into a great profession. I love computers and I love people. With these two, I would find myself with a new passion.

None of this would have been possible if the job that I had at the time not been taken away. God restores what the enemy will take away. At the time of this writing, we are still rebuilding. It was not an easy road. Whoever tells you to become a Christian rids you of all bad things that happen in life and that you will be given all the money in the world at your disposal – run from them because they are full of it.

The new year will be the year of restoration. The new year will be a great year.

What are you believing that will be restored in the new year?

Is Your Grace Sufficient?

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I pose a question to you with a heart of understanding; if God’s grace is sufficient enough to forgive you of your sins, is your grace sufficient enough to forgive someone of theirs toward you?  I know that we are not perfect, yet we are to be perfect in Christ.  We, as Christians, are called to a higher level of excellence.  We are reminded of Peter when he asked Christ, “Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!”( See Matthew 18:21-22) What the world would consider foolish, God sees it as wisdom.  The world would want you to hold a grudge so that you don’t get hurt again.  God wants you to forgive so He can heal the wounded.  As Joyce Meyer says, “Hurting people hurt people.”  Many times, people offend, ridicule, or disrespect us because they are hurting.  But as Christians, we should be able to say that “if God is for us then who can be against us?”  You can take what the enemy meant for harm and turn it around for your good.  Grace is defined as “Unmerited favor.”  This means that you give favor to those who have not earned it and do not deserve it, as Christ did on Calvary.  What power do we have to give favor to people that do not deserve it!

For example, someone cuts you off in traffic and you have to embrace yourself for the worst side of you. Now, you have a choice, are you going to give grace or are you going to have a swift tongue and a hateful attitude towards them?  Talk is cheap, it is plain and simple.  People don’t want another gospel tract or to see a Christian bumper sticker.  They want to see you act what you preach.  People don’t need another Sunday School lesson.  What they need is proof of your love for Christ.  If you get cut off in traffic, the best thing to do is to practice grace.  It’s going to happen anyway, so prepare yourself.  “God, I am not going to get upset at the person.  Protect them wherever they may be going.  If someone is sick, heal them in the name of Jesus.”  You never know when someone who cuts you off may be having a bad day or someone is dying in their life and they are deep in thought or even they may have just lost their job.  It’s so easy to fly off the handle at people who wrong us, but God has a higher level for you to obtain.  Wouldn’t be awesome if someone cut in line in front at the grocery store and you paid for their things.

Or what if someone dropped trash in your yard and you went over and cleaned theirs?  What would the world be if Christians simply acted like Christians?  Grace knows no status, no race, no religion, no popularity, and it does not conform to the wise, to the elect, or to the underprivileged.  God’s grace is available to all people, everywhere, anytime, and anyway.  God does not say to one that His grace is sufficient for sin A, B, but not C.  We must not neglect the fact that we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  As we reflect the love of God, we should be ready to embrace for impact.  Many remember the plane crash in the Hudson River.  Many testimonies reflect the pilot’s instructions to his passengers, “embrace for impact.”  Whenever you are flying, your life is not in your own hands.  It is in the hands of a person in the cockpit of the plane.  If the pilot tells you to put your seatbelt on, you are not going to ask for scripture and verse on why you should have your seatbelt on.  The same is true with God.  If God tells you to extend grace to people, you need not ask what scripture it is and the verses to go along with it.  God wants to see you free from bitterness, resentment, and anger.  Those things are harbored up in you when you don’t extend grace to those who offend you.  Be prepared at all times, in season and out of season, know that you will be tested and tried on grace in the next twenty-four hours. Grace is also a heart matter.  If you harbor the unforgiveness in your heart, you will expose it in the world.

In Matthew 12: 33-35, Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of Jerusalem, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Christ was none too pleased with the religious leaders because of their double-mindedness. But Christ also offered grace to them.  How so?  He offered, through his teaching, many times in many scenarios on how to be truly born again.    The question remains, “if God’s grace is sufficient enough to forgive you of your sins, is your grace sufficient enough to forgive someone of theirs toward you?”  How are you going to extend God’s grace into someone’s life?  When someone commits a sin in your life, are you going to jump all over them and quote verse by verse scripture of why they are wrong and you are right?  Or are you going to say ‘eh, it’s not big deal?  Thank you, God, for taking care them. Give me the grace to forgive them and to move on.  If I need to address the situation, give me wisdom.  Allow me, Father, to be a vessel of your grace.”  I give you this challenge today to simply allow someone to receive God’s grace through you.  Experience the freedom of God’s grace!

Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear

 

I was in church the other day and something hit me.  No, it wasn’t the Bible of my wife waking me up but instead it was a revelation.  I won’t say the scenario nor will I mention names but just in passing, I noticed a few things.  It’s so easy to see things when you are in the center aisle of the sanctuary and notice that certain people are doing certain things at the certain times.  Sometimes you want to just get up and tap the person on the shoulder and tell them, are you here to praise God?  It came to me when I noticed that people weren’t into the praise and worship nor were they into the sermon.

The thought came to mind, “Are you here to praise God or to condemn His people?”  It took me a minute to realize that we react in the same manner.  Often times, we come to church expecting to make friends with the elite and higher class individuals of the church and often pass the lower end of the spectrum.  Have you ever passed someone who says hello and thought a nasty thought about them? Are you living what Christ would have done to the undesirable person that sits in your row at work?  Are you the one that will take up the underdog even when it’s unpopular?  What would have happened if Jesus decided to hang out with just the prestigious and elite?  There would be no Mary or Martha nor would there be Peter, James, John, etc…do you get where I am going with this?  He actually called many of the prestigious people “brood of vipers” which was not a compliment in that time.  He even called a tax collector out of a tree to dine with him at his home.  Would you do that for an IRS agent?  I would hope so, but I think not.

Jesus met a woman at the well who was full of sin and shame. Jesus would have been shunned by Jew and Gentile for His participation in any type of communication with a person of such stature.  But remember, Jesus was not a people pleaser.  He was out to touch them and heal them.  Jesus once said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Jesus was in the healing ministry.  Many see healing as just physical, but that is not true.  Jesus healed the demon processed, He made the insane become sane, and He even put the holy-art-thou with no fruit spirit out to pasture. Something neat about Christ was that He didn’t tell the leper that he could not come ten feet near him, no.  He told the leper to be healed.  He didn’t allow the cripple to sit and suffer in his own disability.  Jesus touched him and told him to get up and walk.  Paul spoke of Christians as “ambassadors” of Christ.  The word ambassador means “an authorized messenger or representative”.  We are to represent the love of Christ in a fashion that is contagious.

rear-mirror-167581_1920The world is tired of the same old rhetoric and is ready to see action.  The word doesn’t need a W.W.J.D. bracelet; they need the action of love.  If you see someone who needs money, meets the need if you have it.  If you don’t have it, like Joyce Meyer says, get people together and collect it.  It doesn’t take much to impress the world, just watch TV. for five minutes and you can relate to that.  Take a Christian who acts like a Christian and you have won the heart of the world.  Why am I saying this in contrast to “special clubs in the church?”

Because the place people get hurt the most is sad, the church and in ministry.  We find ourselves “hanging out” with each other and failing to see the need.  So, what do we do about it?  In James, it says, “be a doer of the word.” Simple as that, do what Jesus would do.  Is it hard? I am sure it was hard for Jesus’ disciples to allow the sick to touch them but they let them anyway. It doesn’t take an act of God and Congress to act like a Christian.  In Matthew 25: 35-36, Jesus told a parable,  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ The righteous answered back to Christ when did they see Him.  Christ answered in verse 40, “‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” Simply put, be a Christian.

Where’s the Rewind Button?

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Have you ever held a grudge?  Did you ever have someone say or do something to you that you felt that was just unforgivable?  Have you had someone do something totally opposite of what you told them to do and it caused them to fall?  The “I told you so” syndrome has swept this nation like never before.  We find ourselves with our noses in the business of people and yet we really don’t even know their hearts.  We give them advice, we tell them how it is, we tell them “I told you so” when they never even asked us for the advice, and sometimes they even ask for the advice that they rejected.  We have to find that fine line between distance and unforgiveness.  Many of us walk around this world bitter because we don’t get our way in other people’s lives because we think we know it all, or people do things to us that we just can’t explain.  Now, you are probably wondering where this is going.  I am setting a foundation for the title of this message and I hope that it makes you and I really think.  I pose a question for the both of us today that I hope will help you to pause and think before holding a grudge or unforgiveness; where’s the rewind button?  You know, when you miss a point in a movie or a story and you can just flip back or rewind the tape and see it again.

When someone does the things that I have mentioned before that cause us to harbor bitterness, where is the rewind button so they can go back and fix that mistake that they had made?  Do we continue to throw it in their faces each time they do something we disagree with or do we let it go and move on?  In Matthew 18, Jesus told a parable of a master and his servant who owed him a large sum of money.  The servant did not have it and begged the master for leniency.  The master had mercy on him and set him free.  However, the servant went out and found another servant who owed him money and demanded he pays what he owed.  The master caught the wind of what was going on and in verse 32 Jesus reveals his response, “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.”  It is interesting to see that in verse 33 Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”  Now, you are probably pondering, “you mean the same God that has the love, grace, and mercy to send His Son to die for me would not forgive me?”  The answer is clear.  We are so quick to quote the goodie scriptures but when it comes to God’s demands of our lives, we are quick to forget those scriptures.  Can you find the rewind button to delete what was just said here?  Just kidding.  But all jokes aside, we need to let it go. Many would ask, “how many times must I forgive this person for the same thing.  I do it over and over and it’s tiring!”  Peter asked this question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus spoke to him and said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Are you harboring unforgiveness toward your mate or your child?  Are you upset because your employer treated you unfairly?  Remember, God calls you to forgive them, whether you believe they deserve it or not.  It is so easy to harbor that bitterness.  It so easy to say, “they haven’t forgiven me, then why should I forgive them?”  The enemy loves to use bitterness and unforgiveness to his advantage.  It opens the door for strife and anger to enter.  It’s so easy to let the situation sit on the back burner and fan the flame.  I pose this to you today and to myself, put out the flame, get out of the pot, and move on.  Sitting in your world of bitterness and anger is not going to change the person or the situation.

Your bitterness and anger are not going change the situation.  There is no way that we can go back and make that person, who did wrong, do right.  Bringing it up will not cause it to happen, it only hurts the person and hurts yourself.  I want to say this in closing; what would you do if God came up to you and threw everything you ever did in your face?   Now I am not saying that you can go sin like no one’s business.  I am saying that when you have repented, God has forgiven it as far as the east is to the west. (See Psalm 103:12) Don’t be an instrument of Satan, but be an instrument of God.  So, quit trying to hit the rewind button and hit the pause button and pray on this.  Be blessed!

 

 

 

Opinion | The Shock Wave of Sexual Harassment Allegations

Over the past few weeks, we have been plagued with news stories on famous individuals caught up in a sexual harassment scandal. It is almost a normal occurrence to hear on the morning news that someone has been accused of these awful crimes.  Long have reports shown that our current society is over-sexualized by media such as movies, games, music, etc. Yet we seem surprised when we have sexual crimes on the rise. I am absolutely not condoning it. I have a wife, daughters, sisters, etc.

This is where I have to ask the question; should we be surprised that these events are happening in light of my statement on the media influence? For an example, just the other day, I was watching my Security + course video on YouTube and it went to an Ad of a girl prancing around in her underwear. No exaggeration either! But should we be anymore?

Gone are the days when you can watch a television show without something popping up that is scantily clad. Even during the baseball game, I have to watch what’s going on the whole time because, without warning, someone begins walking across the screen practically nude. Then we preach to people that it is wrong to say or do certain things. Does anyone else not see the issue here? Or am I turning into an old prude?

I can talk about this from a male or female perspective, but because I have lived this long on the male side of the street, I can approach it like this. Men are visual. When we see something, it doesn’t just leave our brain because it is wrong. It doesn’t just leave because of a moral compass that tells us that we shouldn’t be thinking about it.

As a society, the street should go both ways. If you want men to respect women and vice versus, quit pushing the sexualized agenda of the media! On the flip side of it, if you want this type of behavior to stop – quit funding the media that produces it. If you stop feeding the predatory actions of these types of movies, shows, music, etc and bring an end to the endorsement of these activities.

 

Forward Thinking – 8 Keys to Changing Your Way of Thinking

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

                                                                                                                   Philippians 4:8-9

“I am depressed.”

“I am down.”

“I am worried about…”

“I just can’t shake this….”

I will be the first to tell you that these are just a few of the thoughts that I have had over the past 30+ years of my life. Fear and dread were a part of my everyday life which robbed me much of the joy that I could have had. I can still remember thinking about how the world would just be a better place if I were not a part of it Why am I telling you this?

You’re Not Alone.

Even as a believer in Christ, I struggled with these things. I never would have guessed other people felt this way until I talked to a pastor about it. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of men and women who love God but cannot love themselves. It’s like a cement block tied to their feet and they are being thrown into the lake with no hope of recovering.” Wow. Pretty deep stuff, right? When I began writing again, this was something that I knew that I needed to reach out and address. Why?

You’re Not Alone.

There are 8 keys that helped me re-frame my way of thinking. Have I arrived? Heavens no. But I am one day closer to that victory. Here they are;

  1. Is it True?
  2. Is it Honorable?
  3. Is it Right?
  4. Is it Pure?
  5. Is it Lovely?
  6. Is it Admirable?
  7. Is it full of Excellence?
  8. Is it Worthy of Praise?

If the answer is no to any of these questions; it is not worth thinking about and it is time to change the subject.

I know that this was really deep, but hear me out on this. If I can redirect what I think about into these eight areas, I can be sure that I will be victorious in whatever I do. I am not talking about some magical potion or cues that you can use. What I am talking about is taking these eight questions and re-framing the process of how you think.

What ways are you re-framing your way of thinking today?

Live at Peace

 

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

We are way too offended in today’s society. Never in my life have I seen so many people get offended by something someone said or did. When I was younger, we were always taught to just walk away and move on. In this politically correct or lack thereof society, I see way too many people getting bent out of shape over certain things people say.

For example, I just glanced at an article headline that read that a man was fired from his job because of a comment he made that made some people feel uneasy. Gone are the days that free speech prevails. I am not saying what he said was right, however, I am saying that some people just need to become adults and grow up. If I got my underwear in a wad for every person who said or wrote something about me, I’d have one solid piece of cotton.

Our veterans have fought for you and me to have a right to think the way we want to think, say what we want to say, and feel the way we want to feel. I know, this is my thoughts and my opinions. But I have to wonder how the other guy felt when he was fired. I have to wonder if he decided that it would be better to be silent than to voice his opinions. I wonder why is it alright for one man to have an offense but the guy who they are offended at had no rights.

I believe that we have to come to a point in our country that we quit living with our feelings on our sleeves and get out there to live a productive life instead of a destructive one. Instead of being offended, live a life of peace as much as you can with your fellow man.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14

Instead of worrying about our neighbor’s issue(s), perhaps it is the time to focus on ours. It may be the perfect time to work on our own things. If we could fix just one thing in our lives, I firmly believe that it would better the world for the greater good.

Dealing with Offense – Special Video Content.

 

Reinvention | Becoming Who I Am

The year 2017 wasn’t just another year in my book. It was a year that would forever change who I am. It was a year where I would once know what it was like to be gainfully employed to becoming a floating vessel in the sea of applications.  I changed. Maybe I should say this, “I finally became who I am.” Let me explain. For nearly 10 years, I had morphed into a people pleasing person who lost his identity on the altar of being something that I could never be… perfect.

What I decided to do is start writing down what I was learning about life, hence my latest book, Unpacked: Life Lessons of an Unemployed Rock Star. Then I began writing on this blog and started becoming me again. Here are just five things that I have learned over the course of this year. Though it is not everything that I have learned, these are crucial steps that I am currently working on to be me.

1- My Core Beliefs Make Me Who Am I. Have you ever had the conversation with someone who tried to change your mind about a topic and you just changed yours to shut them up?  I am guilty!  In all of that, I had relearned what I believed. I know, it’s funny to see that, but it is true.

2- What I Do Is Not Who I Am.  My job (or lack thereof) does not dictate who I am as a person.  The jobs we have aren’t the people we are. If we are not careful, we can typecast ourselves into a role that we never wanted to be a part of.

3- Just because God’s people aren’t good to me doesn’t mean that God isn’t good to me. Let me explain this one. I love God with all of my heart and all of my mind. Every part of me speaks that God is so good to me. With that said, His people aren’t. I have been a Christian for the vast majority of my life and have found that God’s people tend to have their own groups and if you aren’t a part of it, good luck. This hasn’t changed as I have gotten older. I have to learn to forgive, move on, and be okay with being me without trying to be someone they want me to be.

4- Though I May Not Have Many Friends; I Have God, My Wife, and Children. This year probably was the hardest in this area. I had people in my life that I thought were really good friends only to find that they weren’t. Perhaps not of their own doing, but it doesn’t hurt any less. Thought I have lost those friendships, I have God and my amazing family. I have to come to grips with that.  Not in a negative way, but in a way where I can be okay just knowing with God and my family, I am fulfilled.

5- My Past Does Not Decide Who I Am It Only Enhances Who I Am. So often, we put a label on ourselves when it comes to our past. For example, some people believe that once you are an alcoholic, you are always one. Personally, I don’t believe that. I believe that God can redeem and heal a person from anything and to label them with that or any other addiction or disease is basically saying that the blood of Jesus isn’t enough to clear that. Of course, this is my opinion. What I have done in my past can be used for God’s glory and does not negate His power to use it.

There are plenty of ways that I could drone on about how much we have changed over the years.

 

 

3 Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance.
Virgil

I have always seen God’s word to be easy to understand when it comes to the hard things in life that we are going through. Whether it is a divorce, a death of a loved one, bankruptcy, job loss, God has already pre-planned a course of action to help overcome those things. For our minds to comprehend, we tend to believe that God just shouldn’t allow that to happen anyway, right? Unfortunately, we live in a world that has fallen from grace. We witness that in the book of Genesis with the fall of man.

Adam and Eve had taken a bite of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Honestly, I wonder why God put that tree there in the first place if He didn’t want the man to eat of it. Truthfully, I believe that God wanted to have a relationship that was honest, open, and trustworthy. He didn’t want a relationship with His creation that would make them be robots. He wanted a relationship that was a two-way street that allowed them to make decisions on their own. Knowing what God had already told them, they still disobeyed God’s direction. With that, God cursed the ground in which they lived on. Every action has a consequence whether it be good or bad.

The tide turned on the earth when evil prevailed. The man was no longer the sinless creature that was created to roam the earth. Now, sin had entered. But with God, He always has a plan in place for when things unravel. Through the word, He gave us three (3) steps to overcome those troubles;

1. Always be joyful. No matter what we are going through in life, God has called us to be joyful. Like it says in Proverbs 17:2, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Find something that you can laugh at or write a gratitude list. No matter what you are going through, there are things that we can do to make ourselves joyful. For example, while I was going through unemployment, we watched M*A*S*H. I used to not really like this show, but as I have grown in “maturity” I have grown fond of laughing at the antics of these surgeons of the famous 4077.

2. Never stop praying. I grew up believing that we should only come to God one time with our request and it is done. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. We find in the book of Matthew 7:7-8, where Jesus directed His disciples to “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” This changed my paradigm with how I believe when it comes to prayer. While you are going through the storm, ask…and keep on asking. That is pretty neat to see that God has given us a standard to communicating with Him and wanting to have that deep relationship with Him.

3. Be thankful. There is a change in our heart that occurs when we find ourselves being thankful. When we find something to be thankful for, it opens our heart to receive what God has in store for us regardless the circumstance. The fact of the matter is that when the heart is thankful, it is not hardened to the miracles that could occur.

There are a lot of examples that you can find out there to overcome during a struggle. These three are just a small way to get through the day and overcome the moment. As we get through these things, we are more opened and available to get through those issues.

Why I Cut Ties With Most of My Former Co-Workers

With every job that we have, we create new relationships and friendships with those that we work with. At a certain point, we tend to allow them into our inner circle. Then you have those that you work with that are acquaintances.  There is nothing wrong with them, but you simply don’t mesh as well as you do with those in your inner circle. There are even those that you don’t like. Face it, not everyone gets along even at work. Shocking, right?

When I departed from my last job, I felt guilty. Though it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t get a final goodbye, I felt like there was not an opportunity for closure. What I decided to do was to make a video and put it on social media to express my gratitude and my goodbye to them. All the while, I kept seeing updates from many of these co-workers about how awesome their job was and how amazing this company was. I struggled for a short time with it. Every time I would see it, I would have a heavy feeling hit me. I mean, I had dedicated a long time to this company and was discarded like I didn’t matter. The pain was real.

What I decided to do next was unexpected. I began cutting ties. I began unfriending people. I began removing emails. I began cleaning the plate. I wanted…no I needed to start over. Those that were not part of my inner circle, I made an attempt to clear the plate. Those in my inner circle that I worked with knew the pain I felt and understood what I was going through. I didn’t tell them I was doing this because they were not on my “cut list.” But they understood the pain.

Is it wrong to cut ties? Absolutely not! For me, it was causing feelings that were not healthy and I honestly did not have a close relationship with those I cut ties with. Why put me through the pain of bitterness? That is not to say that I should not forgive and move on. I have done that. But I don’t need to allow myself the opportunity to be bitter.

Should you cut ties with former co-workers? That is up to do you. For me, it was a refreshing opportunity to start over with my professional life.

Have You Forgiven God?

 

        It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?  We all know that when we ask God to forgive us, we have received His forgiveness.  But what happens when God does something to tick you off?  I know what your spiritual mind is saying, “I would never be mad at God because God is good.”  Let us be honest with ourselves and think about the last time that we were mad at God for doing something that we didn’t like or didn’t do something that wanted Him to do.  Sure, it is all in His will and in His timing. But our flesh cries out in anger when it doesn’t get what it wants.

I was taken to the book of Ruth for this question. Everything in life as they knew it was grand.  Elimelech and Naomi took their family and moved to the land of Moab.  It was there that their children would marry the Moabite women and begin their lives.

Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.”
Ruth 1:3-5

Naomi was left with her two daughter-in-laws alone in this place.  All that Naomi had longed for and lived for was snatched from her hands when her husband and children died. So bitter, that she changed her name from Naomi to Mara which means “bitter.” Why was Naomi so bitter? Let’s read.

“So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me? So Naomi returned from Moab, accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth, the young Moabite woman. They arrived in Bethlehem in late spring, at the beginning of the barley harvest.”
Ruth 1:19-22

Going through changes always raises the eye brow of the unexpecting passerby.  You know what I mean?  You try to quit smoking and so now, you have decided to have only gum at your desk.  Next thing you know it, you are the Super Bubble King of the world.  That person who used to bum a cigarette off of you now feels awkward and abandoned by your treason.   The past several years for me have been marked and marred with changes.  For you, a change is just something you find in the seat of your car.  For me, it’s a lifestyle.  It’s more like Jon Acuff’s Quitter, I have become a serial changer.  I may have to adapt a Change: Closing the Gap between your Cushion and Your Checkbook. I have discovered the art of frugality.

      Since 2006, I have found myself going from single, broke, confused, and daunted to married, making ends meet, enlightened, and daring. But I have had to make changes in my everyday life to serve the purpose to which God has put into my heart.  In order to do that, I have to change relationships, change jobs, change houses, change lifestyles, etc.  To the average Joe, I am a changer.  I constantly am going through change and probably will do so until the day I go home.

Something that struck me is that without change, my life would be boring and I would be broke.  Change is the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit that lies within me.  Without change, I would find myself wandering alone on a deserted road wondering what to make out of life.  It’s not just me who is addicted to change.  Ask the average Christian and we will tell you that we are addicted to change.  We change churches like we do clothes.  We change music styles to cover the real music we like.  We change our clothes because we would hate to be seen wearing a Camel’s shirt.

This thought was brought on by a book I am reading called Developing the Leader within You by John Maxwell.  In that, I read “to be a leader you must preserve all through your life the attitude of being receptive to new ideas.  The quality of leadership you will give will depend upon your ability to evaluate new ideas, to separate change for the sake of change from change for the sake of me. –William A Hewitt.”

For the sake of you; change is vital.  We must change to better ourselves as a society, as a people, and as a person.  God did not develop the human mind to stay the same but to change.  How so?  In Galatians 6:15, we read “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. God doesn’t so much care about your denomination, your cross, your Jesus Juke, etc.  What they want to see is that change in you.

With that said, have you forgiven God for allowing the doors of these difficulties to be opened instead of closed? Have you changed your name from Naomi to Mara? Or have you taken that sorrow and made the change of heart towards something greater?

3 Ways to Effectively Train Your Team

 

Over the years, I have found myself in a position of teaching and leading others. One of the things that I have learned quickly is that training is not a one size fits all. I would see people leaving these training seasons that we would have to go to with glazed over eyes. After a few of these training events, I began to ask the question – what is the big disconnect?

The major connection that I found about these courses is that they are geared to teach all people one way. The problem with this is that not every person learns the same way. Some learn by visual. Some learn by doing. Some learn by both, Some learn by different methods. I believe that we are doing a disservice in how we train our employees.

After seeing these souls go through the wringer with the way we were trained, I was determined to find a way to help resolve this issue. I was given an opportunity to lead 40+ co-workers into a training program regarding a new software system that our company was launching. This would be no easy feat. Not only do you have the different learning styles, you have the generational gap that we were embracing in our culture. From ages 20 to 80, there had to be a way to connect each of them with this new system in a methodical way.

First, as a team, we would conduct a group training which is standard for these types of events. As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of glazed over looks. There were comments on how this was counter-productive and a waste of time. There were even comments from those who trained, “Less is Better.” You know the drill, right? I approached our team with a new method to add; the three-step program.

  1. Team Building. Cliche, right? Listen to this one. Our department was set up with rows that had between 5-9 people in them. I would take each row for 60 minutes at a time and go over the steps to the new system (There were multiple components to this new system which means we took an hour for each of these components). I would break the ice with a joke (I know – not professional but very effective) and proceed with the things that we had to cover. This time was split into half; 30 minutes of talking, 30 minutes of doing.
  2. Smaller Group Training. We would take groups of 3 people in 30-45 minute increments. I would find out what their learning styles were, write them down, and we would talk over the blockages that they were having. Each group was from the initial Team Building exercises that were still struggling with the concepts before the main launch. They were given time for hands-on for 30 minutes to an hour following our time together.
  3. One-on-One. These were sessions that were requested by individuals that were still struggling. The team member had to specifically request for this time and they were allotted one hour at a time to ask any question without fear of being made to look stupid. They were allowed to voice their frustration without fear of retaliation. They were able to walk through with me, hands-on, with the issues that they were running into. I was able to give them techniques for remembering how to work through the system and encouraged them through the process.

This all sounds like it takes a lot of time, right? It wasn’t. As a matter of fact, this process took three weeks total before the release. Yes, you read that right. In addition to this three-step program, we split the trainers up to walk each aisle for an hour a day during this training session to give the users time to have hands-on experience in a test environment. This allowed them to make mistakes, find bugs, ask questions, and feel comfortable with the system. If the user felt comfortable, we would require them to attend the smaller group training sessions.

At the end of this training session, we had a high success rate of understanding. Only a hand full of users were lacking confidence and the ability to use the system which was not at the fault of the training but the user’s level of confidence. Did I give up on that hand full group of people? Nope. I gave them additional One-on-One training in a test environment at their desk, made arrangements for them to ask more questions, to be able to vent their concerns and fears, and began to help them grow confidence in themselves that they could do this.

Today, there are still high accolades on this method of training from many of the employees who went through it. What would you add to make it better or change?

Creating a Culture That is Consistent with Reality

Long have we heard in the marketplace that great culture leads to profits. We have gone so far to say in our employment ads and recruitment efforts that “we are the best because we only hire the best” only to find out…this simply is not true. It begs to question; “Is your organization’s culture consistent with reality?” Let me explain.

In reality, we write out our mission statements and offer incentives on making it happen throughout our workplaces. However, studies show us that most employees…do not believe that the mantra of their workplace culture is accurately portrayed. According to Vital Smarts,

” Overall, the study, which surveyed more than 1,200 employees, managers and executives, found that employees have a much more negative view of their corporate culture than their bosses. And, the more senior a person is in the organization, the more positive their perception of their company culture.” – vitalsmarts.com*

What is the big disconnect? Honestly, I believe that it that, in reality, management isn’t in the seat of the employee on a regular basis. It is easy to make decisions and implement change when you aren’t the one being affected by it. Furthermore, it is easier to make the decision when you do not have to face the people that you make the decision about. Let’s face it, it is easy to make a “great culture” on paper, but far different than making a “great culture” in the actual workplace.

The truth be known, until management of any organization sits down and does the job of the person that they are trying to make happy, the creation of the perfect culture will fall flat. Here are few tips that I believe will help management of any organization to create a great culture;

  1. Don’t fill your team with bull. Pretty strong right out of the gate, right? There’s nothing worse to an employee than hear how amazing they are with your words and in the same breath show you with their actions…you don’t really care. John Maxwell may have said it best – “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Don’t just tell someone you think that they are awesome, prove it!
  2. Don’t talk with your mouth if you aren’t willing to act with your wallet. Yep. If you want a great culture, you have to prove it by the almighty dollar on how much you care about people. Anyone who tells you that they aren’t in it for the money, take their paycheck for a month and suddenly their tune will change.
  3. Don’t expect much if you don’t give much power. There is a very fine line to walk on this. You cannot give your team all of the power. But they need more than what you are willing to give them. They need to know that you trust their judgement when they give you 40 hours a week. They are not your children (see the next point.)
  4. Don’t expect your employees to act like adults if they are treated like children. I have long thought this was true. Why? Who wants to go to work 40 hours a week and let someone treat them like a child? They don’t need you to micromanage them. Let your employees act like adults. No, seriously, stop it.
  5. Do their job. Yep. You read that right. Don’t sit in your office and make decisions for the employee if you don’t even know what they do. Even if you used to do what they do, you need to get out on the floor and experience it again. I don’t mean to sound rude but, get off of your high horse and get in the dirt with them. I love how Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, was known to go on the road with his truck drivers, work in the stock room, walk the floors of the store, and so much more. Why did he do that?

“I’d still say that visiting the stores and listening to our folks was one of the most valuable uses of my time as an executive. But really, our best ideas usually do come from the folks in the stores. Period.” -Sam Walton**

These are just a few things that we can do to help fix the culture in our organizations. There a lot more ways to make it better, but this is just a few thoughts from experience. When you have employees that are engaged, loving their company and their jobs sincerely, and a management team that produces rock stars, there are no ceilings to hinder you from great success.

*Retrieved 28OCT2017 – “https://www.vitalsmarts.com/press/2016/07/corporate-culture-chasm-employees-view-their-culture-much-more-negatively-than-management/”

** Retrieved 28OCT2017- “Sam Walton- Made in America.” Sam Walton- pp 230. Bantam; Reissue edition (June 1, 1993). ISBN 978-0553562835

Finding Peace in a Chaotic World

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Francis of Assisi

At the time of writing this, major terrorist attacks have been flooding our news headlines, North Korea is aiming their aggression towards the United States, the Democratic Party of the United States is at odds with the President, and the list could go on. Jesus would warn His disciples that there are things in this world that would go on to cause them to be in fear. Jesus would respond with a gift;

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27 NLT

I love this version of John 14:27. It shows the humanity of Christ knowing that His disciples were concerned and worried about the future. However, Jesus puts those fears and worries to rest.

  1. A peace that is not conditional. The peace that the world offers is this – if you will, I will. When two countries sign a peace treaty, they have conditions that apply in order for the peace to continue. There’s a contingency clause that tells them that they must do the following in order for there to be peace. God’s peace does not come with those conditions.
  2. A peace that is not based upon your beliefs. The peace that the world offers is this- if you are a certain sect or belief system, we will give you peace. If you believe the same way we do, we will not wage war or wage conflict upon you. However, if you believe otherwise, you will be attacked and you will be considered the enemy.
  3. A peace that is not transactional. The peace that the world offers is if you pay us enough in money, in services, in whatever it takes transaction wise, we will give you peace. God’s peace is a free gift that does not come with a bill at the end. It was paid for.

Jesus would follow this gift with reassurance which was that they don’t have to worry. As these things happen in our lives whether they are with friends, family, co-workers, and people we don’t know, we can walk in that peace and know that we don’t have to be afraid. Thankfully, God’s peace comes with that assurance guaranteed. When we see the things in life that happen around us, we can trust Him to bring recompense for it.

I am not discounting the horrible tragedies around the world and at home. What I am saying is that we can find solace to know that He has the key to peace that passes all understanding.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 

Are You Hardened to the Miracles of God?

Sara and I have been witnessing miracle after miracle in these past few months.  There for a while, we were really getting slammed with the enemy’s attack but we stood strong.  In Ephesians 6, Paul wrote, “Having done all that the crisis requires…stand.” I believe that we have stood and now God is rewarding us.  I have to be attentive to what I felt in my spirit when I wrote this and try not to get too hyper-spiritual. In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus had needed some time to rest and had commissioned His disciples to go to a place of solitude so that they could rest awhile. However, the crowd had taken notice of them and followed.  Jesus, being filled with compassion, began to teach them and to minister to them. It had begun to get late and the disciples told Jesus to send the people away so that they could eat.  Jesus said, “you feed them.” In disbelief that the King of Kings would make them do such a feat and it cost a high price, they persisted. Jesus would then pray to the Father and the multitude would be fed.  The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 had taken place and the disciples had walked away with 12 baskets full of food.  Jesus sent them away while he dismissed the crowd and then went to pray alone.

Many commentators will give their opinion and that is fine but I don’t think that the disciples were stupid. Follow me on this.  I believe that they had become so accustomed to Jesus doing these miracles that their heart had formed a familiar spirit around them.  Their hearts had become hardened to the miracles of God.  When your heart is hardened to the miracles of God, you get used to them and you miss them.  The Spirit of God is pouring into the churches of today but we are missing them because our hearts have become hardened to the miracles of God.  We have become so familiar with it that we miss the miraculous and call it normal.  Nothing about God is normal.

One of the things that have been a consistent metaphor throughout the Word of God is when the king gets a hardened heart.  When the heart is hardened, it doesn’t receive anything that is being offered by the other party.  As people, it is easy to harden our hearts when we get hurt or when someone stabs us in the back.  The phrase “I will never get hurt again” comes out of our heart and causes us to be hardened to the miracles that are being performed all around us.

We must never become so familiar that we miss God. For the disciples, the miracles of God became “business as usual” and they missed something spectacular.  Jesus fed 5,000 people! God gave you a beautiful life!  God allowed you to have internet access to read this blog!  Let us know not grow hardened to the miracles of God!

 

From Inside These Walls

I have been a Christian for nearly 25 years. The church was my way of life growing up. If the doors were open, we were there in our seat in the sanctuary. We were the family that spent time serving and giving in the church. With that, my opinion is simply an observation of what I have seen over the past few years.

I have grave concerns for the current status of the church. In recent years, I have witnessed this huge shift on getting people in the doors and build up attendance. Maybe it isn’t intentional. Perhaps it starts with the hope to get more people in to help them have a relationship with Christ. We build up a production to woo the non-churchgoer into the church with hopes that they will meet Jesus there. Unfortunate as it may seem, the church brings these people in but can’t seem to keep them. Why? What is the biggest disconnect?

From the experience that I have had is that though it may not be intentional, the church does not take care of its own people. How many people do you see that suddenly decide not to come to church anymore? How often do you wonder where those very people went? I have heard some believers use the term “backslidden” to describe the ones who left. I tend to disagree with this term. The term “I have had enough” or “what’s the point” may describe it better. So often, we as churchgoers tend to draw to people that we know. We don’t want to branch out of our own group and create a clique that only certain people can be a part of.

I have recently seen this as a huge problem in the church. There are certain groups that only certain people are allowed to be a part of. Though it may not be intentional, no matter how hard we have tried to be a part of their group, we are simply not genuinely welcome. We aren’t invited to do life with any of those people. This birthed this thought in my spirit’

“Before you reach the world, you must reach from within your own four walls.”

We must love those in our midst before we can even attempt to reach out to the world. There are people all over our churches that are hurting and lonely, yet we spend the least amount of time reaching out to them. Our goal, as the church, is to show people the love of Christ. Once we begin the show the love of Christ to people within our own four walls, we will see an explosion of growth in our churches.

ACTION QUESTION: What am I going to do to reach someone in my four walls?

Broken Toys

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7

I can remember as a child that I loved to take apart my toys. Whether it be something simple like a Hot Wheel or something complicated like the remote control car. Never knowing if I would ever get it back to what it was created for, I would look inside and be inquisitive. I guess all boys are that way. We like to find out for ourselves how something works or how something is built. We desire to be a creator of something or an inventor of something, it is a right of passage for us. It’s the same thing with life. We try to take apart our finances to see what is being done incorrectly or we separate our marriages from deciding who really is at fault. We find ourselves so often wanting these miracles and yet we are not willing to work for it or even trust God for it. We have all these needs and desires but you refuse to ask. Instead, you complain and whine about what you don’t have.

Sounds pretty harsh but we end up treating God like a genie instead of God. You don’t rub a bottle and out pops God with three wishes for you. He’s not into wishing. In Matthew, Jesus said to ask and you shall receive not beg and you shall get. There is always balance to the Word of God. This is not a name it or claim it gospel nor is it a prosperity gospel. You can’t call out into the heavens that you have a million dollars and a Rolls Royce. However, you can’t walk through this life with the mentality of if I don’t expect it then I won’t be disappointed if I don’t get it. So many of us, myself included, want deliverance but we won’t let the shackles fall off of us. We won’t let the ball and chain break and I don’t mean your wives men. You have to leave the problem; you have to leave the situation to God. He says to “cast your whole cares” not some of them. Many of us decide to carry around the ball and chain and wonder why we are so tired all the time. We carry the burden of our lives around like bricks on our backs and we wonder why we are always in pain and always sick. We want to rest but we don’t trust God to give us that rest. We want wisdom and yet we aren’t quiet enough to receive it and when we are, we ignore it and call it the devil. We give the devil way too much credit. Many times, our worst enemy is ourselves. We think way too much, we talk way too much; sometimes we just need to chill and see what God is going to do. When you have a bill that is sitting there that you don’t have the money to pay for, worrying about it will not pay it off. Sometimes we just need to sit and wait on God. There again is the balance. If you are unwilling to work, then you don’t eat (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).

God’s not going to bless you if you are blatantly dishonest and lazy. I was reminded of a story of a father and his son. The son brought his toy that was broken to his father to fix. The father took the toy and began to work on it. While he was working on it, the boy climbed up and tried to help. The father would place a tool on the toy and the boy would put his hands in the middle trying to help him fix it. Soon, the father sat the boy down and handed him the toy. “It’s still broken” the boy exclaimed. The father looked at him and said, “You seem to know how to fix it better than I so I will let you work on it now.” The son was confused about the whole scenario. “But Dad, I don’t know how to fix it.” The father took the toy back and said, “Then let me fix it.” What is the moral of this story? The Father wants to fix your problems. But He can’t fix them if your little hands keep getting in the way. In short, let God be God. Don’t try to fix what God is trying to fix.

Finally, cast your whole care on Him. God wants you to rest and not carry the burden of it all. Jesus died so that your life would be full of abundance and blessings. We often over analyze our situations when God is simply calling us to “be still” and know that He is God. God wants you to trust in Him for your rest. Trust in God for that rest, let Him be your peace, and your life will never be the same. I thank God that He has placed that desire in me to rest in His care and not worry about the trials around me.

Sometimes Being Alone Has Its Perks

A tree does not rely on other trees to flourish. They rely on their own root system, the rain, the sun, and the soil. Other trees would just get into the way of this tree from growing.

A co-worker of mine was going through a moment where they felt that they were invisible to others except God. This thought came to me;

“Sometimes – invisibility is known as a superpower. Does that make you a superhero? If it does, make sure you don’t flip any desks over and get upset over your stapler being moved. I don’t have the energy to explain it all to those around you.
But seriously – On days like that, I have to constantly remind myself the purpose behind what God has in store for the life of a believer is that He is the center of it all, therefore, I cannot be truly alone. Man, I wish that we could always feel that way, you know? I often wonder how the Psalmist David felt when he was out in the wilderness tending sheep while his brothers were invited to be anointed as king. Did he feel alone? Or did he simply go about his father’s business?”

Think about it for a moment; David’s father, Jessie, invited all of his brothers to the opportunity to be anointed king while David had to tend sheep. The rejection from his own father had to be painful. Instead, God would use this opportunity through David to show off.

 

 “In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”  Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” “Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”
1 Samuel 16:10-11 NLT

God not only showed off…He showed up! Samuel took God at His word that this king would not be like others because men would have looked at the exterior where God was looking at the heart.  Can you imagine what was going through the minds of his brothers, of his father, or of Samuel? The field wasn’t exactly across the street or down the block. Most who had sheep had large fields. These men had to wait a long time. Talk about waiting for an eternity!

In the 2nd part of verse 12, something exciting happened;

“And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

What? David didn’t have to say one word. He didn’t have to plead his own case (notice none of the others spoke up for him.) David would be chosen regardless of what others thought of him. If you think that David would only encounter rejection for the first and only time in his life, you would be wrong. All throughout scripture, we read how David escaped Saul’s temper, the rejection of his own wife and children, the loneliness of being abandoned by his men, and so much more!

Are you like David? Do you feel like you have been abandoned? Let me share the secret that David shares;

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.
Psalms 27:10

 

 

Your Hope Will Not Be Disappointed

You will be rewarded for this;
   your hope will not be disappointed.
Proverbs 23:18

Could you imagine this promise from God’s word coming to pass in your life? Knowing that if you don’t give up and if you persevere, that your hope is going to be rewarded should be the catalyst of your faith that God will fight on your behalf.  I love the fact that God, in His infinite grace, brings us out of the despair and in the hope that we will overcome.

What is this hope that is talked about all throughout scripture?  The best definition that I have heard is the “confident expectation of something good.” I am not just expecting something good. I am confident that it will happen. I am grateful that we are given the expectation of something good in our lives otherwise we would be doomed to sorry for the rest of our lives.

 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
  but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life
Proverbs 13:12

 

If God’s word is so explicit on what hope is and how it affects our lives, would not the God who put the word into action fulfill that very promise?

 

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:19-20

 

       Hope isn’t something that is flippantly written throughout God’s word. It isn’t a “well I hope it happens” or “I hope that it comes through.” Hope is a powerful word that we can be assured that God will fulfill in our lives.  Will it happen automatically or quickly? I won’t yes because that is not entirely true. More often than not, hope fulfilled takes time. Patience is at practice here because we don’t always see it happen right away.   I have seen in my own life that it came to pass sooner than it should have.

       I have always wanted to be married and a dad. It was my dream growing up which I looked forward to. For a while, I thought it would never happen. I eventually swore off dating and decided that I was destined for singleness. A bit extreme, but that is how I felt at my young age. Not long after I moved to St. Louis, I met my beautiful bride in an unexpectant way and not in my timing. Not long after we met we were married and began having our family.  Sometimes, God will use a move or something unexpectant to fulfill the hope that is in your heart.

       If you are losing hope or feeling hopeless, know that you are not alone. Even now as I type this, I have struggled with having hope that anything better could happen for our family. Just like you, I have to remember God’s word and pray.

When God Takes the Backseat

Ever have a moment when everything is in a whirlwind and you feel that you have so much to do that your time with God tends to take a backseat?  Instead of God being our driver or our pilot, He often ends up being the backseat driver that we find annoying.  It is a sad analogy but we both know that when we are living our lives that most often God isn’t the most important thing to us.   I have often found myself here and so have many of the wonderful people in the Bible.  From the Israelites to their kings, we find over and over that God was put aside while their own agendas were put in the forefront.

When I was reading about Mary and Martha, God revealed two things for me. 1) You don’t have to work to get my approval.  2) Though work is important, it isn’t the most important thing.  As men, we thrive on work and approval.  We desire nothing more than to see God happy with us.  Our definition of happy is not the same as God’s.  God was happy the day that you and I said: “I believe.”  He is no happier if we are busy making millions of dollars that we are making a meager salary. He is no more pleased if we decided to be a pastor than being a stay at home dad.  We as men don’t have to perform for God!

Do you know how freeing that is?  Perhaps you received that revelation.  Maybe you are not like I am who is performance-based and thinks that I have to do something to get something.  As children of God, we often find ourselves in a destructive pattern of “doing” instead of “being.”  The story of Mary and Martha is a great example of that.

Martha welcomed Jesus with opened arms into her home and got busy working for the Master.  Jesus sat down and along came Mary who sat at her feet, listening to what Jesus was saying.  Martha was “distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.” God emphasized that Martha was focused on the “doing” instead of the “being.”  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.  Not out of disrespect out of Martha’s work or even Jesus’ authority but she wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.  Dinner can come later. Jesus had something important to say and Martha was distracted.

Jesus spoke to Martha after her stiff rebuke of Mary, “you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” Then Jesus gave her a hint of what she should be concerned about, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Men, work is important.  It is vital.  But it is not the most important thing.  The most important thing that you and I can do as men are to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Spiritual Hypocrisy

Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.
Mark 7:7

Could you imagine a time when the religious hierarchy had more power than most governors or kings? It certainly appeared to be that way when the Pharisees walked into a room. But Jesus, in His typical fashion, did not shy away from the elephant in the room. During this time, the Pharisees had written rules and regulations that the common townspeople had to follow if they wanted to be a part of the religious community.  When Jesus began to question their practices and religious regulations, the Pharisees began to push back.

“Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him,  “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”
Matthew 15:1-2


Regardless, Jesus never backed down from a righteous fight. He pointed out the elephant in the room and then went further;

 

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.”
Matthew 15:3-6

 

Like salt in the wound, Jesus made it clear that you cannot have spiritual hypocrisy. There were things going on with the Pharisees that ought not to have been happening. And with that, Jesus reminded them of the prophecy in Isaiah;

 

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
 ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
 for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Matthew 15:7-11

Ouch! He didn’t mince words, that is for sure.  A few feathers were ruffled during this confrontation. Jesus did not care about being politically correct in this situation. He only wanted to say what was true and right. He wasn’t impressed by their clout and He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. However, His disciples were concerned.

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
Matthew 15:12

In His typical fashion, Jesus made sure that His disciples would not be as alarmed. Again, He wasn’t impressed by the clout that the Pharisees carried over the townspeople.

 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted,  so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Matthew 15:13

Just another jab at the religious elite.  Jesus’ words pierced through the scriptures to us today as we are each called to be light in a dark place. Here’s the problem though. The religious elite is not our pastors or teachers. They are you and me. I easily get caught in the trap of pointing my finger at someone else’s sin when my own is still glaring at me in my face.  Jesus even spoke on this;

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”
Matthew 7:3

Jesus wants us to take out our own business before we try to take out someone else’s business. Let us be careful to not become part of the religious elite and believe that we are better than any other person. Let our hearts be open to better ourselves without judging another.

 

 

 

3 Things That I Learned From My Unexpected Hiatus – Where Did I Go?!

 

Recently, I began a new adventure. As many of you, my readers, know that I was unemployed for quite some time. On September 5th, I began my new journey in IT with a  new job. What did that mean?  My regular postings on my social media platforms took a huge hit. My videos fell behind. The preparation for new posts took a backseat with the new material I had to learn for my job.

I failed. Yes. I failed at something crucial and I saw it coming. I knew that I would be busy learning a new job and working on my training. I didn’t prepare for it and discovered this simple truth – sometimes, the new things drown out the old. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens. Here’s one thing that encouraged me – YOU have shown me a lot of grace for the past month.

I learned three things that are vital to keeping a blog going when you go through a huge change;

Schedule Your Blog Posts. I did this with excellence. Every Monday, my blog automatically posts a new post religiously. Truth be told, this is important because you don’t want your audience to run out of content.
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Schedule Your Social Media Posts.
This is where I bombed it. When I say bombed it, I mean a huge bomb. The platform that I used quit working and I let it slide. Make sure that you schedule your posts at least 10 days in advance. Why? This will give you time to adapt to your new change and get ready for the next chapter.

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Pre-Record Your Videos. If you do vlogs like I do, pre-record them at least 4 weeks in advance. This will give you time to create new content when you get a free chance. Make sure you schedule that time too!
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From not doing these things, I witnessed a sharp drop in activity! So, learn from my mistakes. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to go MIA without going MIA on your blog/social media.

For what I learned about after I lost my job, read UnPacked: Life Lessons of an Unemployed Rockstar for $1.99 on Amazon!

5 Keys to Success and They Aren’t What You May Think

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.

Jeremiah 29:11-14

Do you ever feel like you have no direction in life? Do you ever wonder what’s the point? So often, we get caught up with our purpose in life that we forget the One who created that purpose in us. I am guilty of this for sure.

Right now, I am working on finding my purpose in life. For over 20 years, I worked in the same field finding myself frustrated with the direction that I should take.  An entrepreneur at heart, I had several business ideas that failed and a few that were successful. Because I have a family, I have had to put a lot of those ideas on the back burner until something changes in our situation.  Does that mean God doesn’t have a plan or purpose for me? Absolutely not.

“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:3

 As we commit our actions to God and give it to Him, He puts the process into place for success to occur.  I haven’t quite seen that in my life yet. However, I have seen it in the lives of several people that I personally know.  They wouldn’t have seen that success unless that followed the heart of God’s word.  Success doesn’t come to those who just want it. The natural flow of success found in God’s word can be seen in the following scripture;

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and proseper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalms 37:3-5

The steps to success are as followed:

  1. Trust in the Lord and do Good. The word trust here in the Greek means to have confidence in the Lord. We don’t just simply believe that He has our best intentions at heart. We are confident in it. As we find that confidence, we are to do good which translated is to do better.
  2. Then You Will Live Safely in the Land and Prosper. You cannot have the safety in the land and prosper unless you are confident in Him.
  3. Take Delight in the LordDelight in this scripture was a little strange to me, but it has two meanings. 1) to be delicate and 2) to be happy about.  The translation from this Hebrew attribution can be read as the following “to live softly and delicately for the Lord.” In addition, it can be read as “to be happy in the Lord”.
  4. Commit Everything You do to the Lord. To commit is to trust everything that you do for the Lord.
  5. Trust Him. It all comes back to having the full confidence in the Lord. You cannot have success unless you have full confidence in God.

Just in this simple scripture, we have pulled out five keys to success in fulfilling the life that God has for us. We all have a different definition of success. One might find themselves successful if they have a lot of money. Another person might find that having children is successful. The list could go on and on. The question now lies with you. What is your definition of success?

Connections – Cultivating a Dream Team

 “I can do what you cannot do. You can do what I cannot do.  Together we can do great things.” 
Mother Teresa 

        Have you ever gotten involved in a project that seemed to be overwhelming?  Did you try to carry the burden of another employee only to find yourself overwhelmed with the task?  Moses was found guilty of that when he led the Israelite people out of Egypt.  I can relate to this because I was and still am certainly the same way.  Moses would settle the disputes among the Israelite people all day long.  

        First, this was very time consuming and because of this, he could not his other leadership goals.  Second, it took his energy to settle these disputes.  There was always someone who was unhappy with is ruling and surely, they made it known.  It took his father-in-law to say something to him about it. 

 “The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”  Exodus 18:13-17 NLT

        Moses had the right heart.  He wanted to carry everyone’s load and help them.  The only problem was when he did carry their loads he couldn’t carry his own.  He was on the brink of utter disaster, not only in his ministry but in his personal life.   We are not built to carry a load of other people on our own.  

       In Galatians 6:2, Paul wrote to the Galatians that they were to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV).  We are built to help one another out, absolutely, but we are not built to carry the load alone.  Often in scripture, God refers to the multitude in servanthood.  Over the past year, I have found in leadership, that I cannot carry the weight of our load on my own.  With the help of my wife and the great team that we serve, I am able to delegate and walk with a lighter load.

         “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” Exodus 18:18-23

        Moses’ father-in-law saw could sense that his son-in-law was getting burned out.  Could you imagine carrying the weight of the world, our nation, on your own back all alone?  This is why so many people cave under pressure. This is why pastors quit serving.  This is why single moms are overwhelmed.   God made the law of two.  In Matthew, Jesus said, “When two or more are gathered in my name, so am I there.”  When God created man and woman, it was a law He made because either one did not have the capability of living life on their own.  Perhaps, He also did this so that we would rely more on Him making it more than one.  The power of more than one is extreme.  So many leaders crack under this law because they don’t have the team surrounding them to give them the help that they need.  You are not a one-man show. Let me just make that clear.

       Early on in ministry, I set things up to do alone and found myself constantly frustrated. I always seemed one step ahead but would fall two steps back.  It was when I conducted an “Experience It” session, which was our mobile coffee shop experience, in 2010 at a men’s conference that brought this to my attention.  We were asked to close our eyes and listen to what God was telling us.  Not just listen but to visualize what He was saying to us.  I had a vision of an outlet that was uncovered and a plug lying on the floor beside it.  I thought it strange that God would put that in my spirit.  Later on, I asked Him to elaborate.  In my spirit, I heard His voice say, “this is a season of connections and you are not connected.”  It jolted me.  This was a wake-up call for me. It was time to surround myself with people who could make this vision happen and to begin to create a team that would make a major impact.  I needed connections!  I could not create this ministry or business on the account of doing it alone.  

       A year or so later, when I started writing “Visual Impairment”, I sought out men and women who could add value to the book.  I sought people who could give me advice, counsel, encouragement, and support.  I valued their opinion and their heart.  In Psalms 1:1, David wrote that “blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.”  

       We need that righteous counsel.  God gives us the warning to be careful of what we hear and who we counsel with.  We are to use wisdom (James 1:5).  There will be times when God will use someone to give you a great idea.  I had this happen while working on “The Chipped Mug, a coffee house that my wife and I own.  It was founded by a dream that I had but the essential part of how it exists is a community.  Without the power of the multitude, The Chipped Mug doesn’t exist.  But there would be counsel that did not align with the Word of God on how to run our business.  Politely, I would decline the advice.  However, when there was godly wisdom, I felt the need to take it.

      Moses would heed to what his father-in-law said and from that point forward, he handled the major issues and left the minor issues to his delegation.  Moses had formed a dream team around him.  Much like Moses, Jesus formed a similar team around him while He was in ministry.  These men and women would care for the ministry, prepare, take the finances and delegate, and help in making crucial decisions while Jesus would minister.  Jesus could have impacted the places He went to simply by visiting them.  But it was Jesus’ dream team who carried the gospel of Christ all around the world. Sure, there were those that failed him at times.  But in the end, the goal was accomplished; “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Matthew 28:19 To sum it up, I would like to quote John Maxwell from his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of LeadershipWhen we see any incredibly gifted person, it’s always tempting to believe that the talent alone made him successful.  To think that is to buy into a lie.  Nobody does anything great alone.  Leaders do not succeed alone.  A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.  What makes the difference is the leader’s inner circle.”  (Pg 127) There are no self-made men, only God made teams! 

When forming yourself as a leader, what do you want others to see in you?

  • The Optimism of David
  • The Compassion of Jonathan
  • The Wisdom of Solomon
  • The Tenacity of Peter
  • The Intensity of Paul
  • The Meekness of Moses
  • The Righteousness of Noah
  • The Boldness of Joshua
  • The Courage of Esther

God, mold and shape me to my full leadership potential.” – Bill Hybels

When forming your team, look for the three C’s:  Character, Competence, and Chemistry.

Character

  • Integrity
  • Reputation
  • Testimony

Competence-Doesn’t always have a Ph.D. at the end of their name.

  • Adequate
  • Sufficient
  • More than able

Chemistry

  • The interaction of one personality with another.

When forming your team, take the basin/towel concept. You are not over your team.  You work with your team to accomplish a more efficient goal.

What am I personally looking for in a dream team?

  • Integrity- When someone says that they are going to do something that they will follow through with it.
  • Character
  • Competent
  • Courageous
  • Willing
  • Ready

 

Must I Suffer?

“After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. ”
Acts 14:21-22

In the true art of reading God’s Word, I found a portion of scripture that we’d all like to skip over. You know the ones that I am talking about- the ones that make you wonder about the whole package that you signed up for when you became a Christ follower. When I came across this, the question that arose in my heart for the title was “must I suffer?”  Do I have to go through the trials of life and deal with all of the disappointments that come with them?

It is easy to get sold on the fact that if we follow Christ that we will get our Rolls Royce, gold watch, and a million dollars in the bank. Unfortunate as it may sound, these promises that many teachers give for coming to the altar, are simply not true. If that is the case, I need to know who lost my contract with God on this.

In all seriousness, when we go through these trials in our lives, I believe that it makes us appreciate our lives even more as we are going through it. The believers in the passage in Acts were going through the great tribulations of life. However, they knew that if they stood the test that they would be able to see the treasure on the other side.

It has helped me to read God’s word to see that we are not alone in these trials. As a matter of fact, in James 1, we read where the church was encouraged to persevere because their faithfulness would pay off.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:2-4

Can you imagine that there will be a time that we will find ourselves in a perfect state, complete, and needing nothing? It is hard to fathom the simple truth that we will see a day where these things will come true. While you and I are going through these things, our hope is that we will come out stronger and find ourselves in a better place.

 

Why Remember?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Today, we remember those who lost their lives and the families that suffered these losses because of the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. It is hard to believe that it has been 16 years since many of us were mesmerized to the television in horror of the images flashing across the screen.  No one had seen an attack of this caliber on United States soil. There were 2996 lives that were taken from this country when 19 men decided to carry out the terrorist attack.  Our world would never be the same…so we thought.

I know that Mr. Santayana had a lot of criticism with the quote that I opened with. There is, however, some truth to it. I remember the weeks following the attacks on our country. There were calls to prayer, open dialog on what we should do, cooperation between governmental parties, and a renewed hope in our country’s foundation. Fast forward to today. I have never seen such division in our country, the dialog is more of a closing argument in a court case, and there are questions in the land regarding the fundamental truths of this country.

What happened in such a short period of time to our country? To me, I believe that we have forgotten the reasons that our nation came together on that September morning. That reason is hope. We have lost hope in so many areas in our country. Hope is an expectation of something good happening. Why are we not, as a country, having that hope? I believe that our nation must come back to that hope and unite instead of divide. I believe that the 2,996 people that died on September 11, 2001, would want us to be in one accord. Remembering their lives is sure to help us to make a difference in the future.

 

Christianity vs The World 

I am a Christian who loves Starbucks. There.  It’s out there in the open. I know that you won’t understand what I just said but as you read this article do you want understand in light of the things that of been said about Starbucks in the past.

Over the years I got caught up in every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s opinion pieces on social media about what company supports what and the like only to find myself starved, thirsty, and naked.  Okay, naked might be a stretch but that’s not my point.

Recently, I saw a bunch of op-eds about a televangelist whose church did not open their doors on the first day of a natural disaster.  You would have thought they denied Christ Himself. The problem is that so many people responded out of anger without all of the facts. Instead of looking at what really happened they posted a bunch of negative stuff about it and spread it to other friends and family. From time to time I know and it’s vital that we know information, however, it can be detrimental.

So when information keeps coming out on social media it brings a lot of confusion especially when it comes from the media. But my job as a Christian is not to let people know what I don’t believe in or what I don’t stand for. My job as a believer is to first love God and then love others. So when I started reading articles about restaurants and stores not supporting Christian values, it brought to light to me that we spend a lot of time telling people what we don’t believe that instead of loving the very people there within those stores.

What if we miss an opportunity to be Christ in the marketplace because of someone else’s opinion?

Dare I say that perhaps we must go in to the darkest of places in the marketplace to reach others? Or am I to become the way it was like the pharisee who said thank God I am not a sinner like this man?

Dare I say that we should become  an example to those who are social media or in real world life? Am I saying that we need to walk into a strip club or into a bar or into the darkest of places in the world in trouble? Most certainly not! I am saying however that we must be flexible to plan that God has. We cannot love our neighbor and love ourselves if we are too busy criticizing and condemning those that God wants us to reach.

Besides how often do we find out that those pieces that we read are false? I know said it is easy to jump on the bandwagon of social media reports.   But today we have to come to the point in our walk with God and we spent the majority of time loving one another. Today I want to challenge each and every one of you including myself to look past the op-ed pieces and move forward to touching someone’s life.

Instructions

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
 All day long I put my hope in you.
Psalms 25:5 NLT

I walked into the store to grab something for the car. Looking up and down the aisle, I found what I thought was what I needed. You and I know that men are not known to ask for directions. As I began to walk away but felt prompted to look down at the item. Boy was I glad!  The item I bought said not to use it on certain car parts and one of those parts was one I was working on!

I got to thinking – how often do I go about my life without looking for help or looking at the directions on a product? What about in life? What about in relationships? There are so many things that I don’t know about in life. I can still hear my Granddad telling me, “Will, there are libraries full of books on things that we don’t know.” In life, we need a great reference to help us to learn, to direct us, and to show us a better way.

In a way, it almost seems cliche to say that the Bible is our instruction book. As a Christian, it is ingrained in us to know that the Bible is our instruction book and our guide.  But that is not what this post is all about.  It is about using what you have. We have been given the instructions that we need to get through life. I often have found myself wondering and asking questions only to realize that I never used what I had to find that answer. It is like needing directions to a city yet not using your GPS to get the directions. The Word of God guides us to help us to get to where we need to go.

I have, many times in my life, been guilty of not taking time to read God’s Word. The best thing that you and I can do is to take the time to read the instructions. If we don’t take the time to read the instructions, we have no idea what to do with the situations in life.

I grew up thinking that the Bible was a bunch of rules of dos and don’ts only to realize that it is vital in helping me get through the difficulties of life. Without reading the instructions, I would be lost trying to find my way.

By the way, I found the right product that I needed and it worked amazingly!

 

 

 

 

 

Persistent Prayers – The Art of Being Audacious in Your Prayers

Yesterday, I was reading about prayer and was reading in Luke 11 where Jesus was teaching the people how to pray. In this teaching, he told them a story regarding a man who was in need who went to his neighbor and asked for help. The neighbor was inconvenienced and didn’t want to get up. In verse 8, Jesus said a powerful statement; “But I tell you this though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. And so I tell you, keep on asking,, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
The phrase shameless persistence is what stuck out to me. I read the note out of my study bible and it reads “Persistence, or boldness, in prayer overcomes our insensitivity, not God’s. To practice persistence does more to change our heart and mind than his, and it helps understand and express the intensity of our need. Persistence in prayer helps us recognize God’s work.”

The question often asked is “If God honors our persistence, then why does it take so long for it to come to pass?” Daniel experienced this in Daniel 10 when he had been praying for the nation. In fact, he prayed and fasted for 21 days before an answer came. The angel of the Lord appeared to Daniel and said in verse 12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels came up to help me and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain…”

Just prior to that, the messenger told Daniel this in verse 11; “And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.’” You are so important to God and He values your prayers. In Chapter 9, Gabriel said to Daniel in verse 22, ‘Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given.” What a powerful statement! At the very moment that Daniel began praying….a command was given! It wasn’t what he did or who he was but the fact that he began praying and the command was given. That’s how much our God thinks of His kids. Just after, Gabriele said, “and now, I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God.” Again, God found that Daniel was precious to Him.

Daniel wasn’t just anyone special. As we read in Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a story of a widow woman who came to the judge and asked for justice from her enemy. The judge refused to listen to her case and ignored her. However, the widow woman didn’t give up. She went again and again to the judge asking for this justice to be made on her behalf. What was his response? “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see she gets justice because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” Jesus didn’t stop here. He went further to show how God views this type of prayer. “Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people who cry out to him day and night?”

There are many of us that are pursuing God and pressing into something that we feel in our spirit that God is going to do. The enemy will make you feel shame in asking and asking and asking and asking…do not stop pressing into what you know God wants to do in your life. Don’t give up. Keep praying. It’s effective and powerful.

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Mark Batterson’s Newest Book | Offer Enclosed

Often I am invited to review books to help a launch. I love when I get an early preview of it. But here’s the thing, you can get a preview of it too! When you pre-order Mark Batterson’s new book, Whisper, you will receive a limited edition advanced copy of the book and a bookmark. That means you get two books instead of just one and a bookmark. AND Mark will sign it!   Mark gives a tour of his office and with a special offer for YOU! (The video starts out sideways but fixes before the tour.)

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3 Ways to Wow Those Who Help You

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
Proverbs 15:1

There are plenty of articles out there about how Customer Service Representatives and those who are in the service industry should act toward their customers. Making more than half the average rate yet giving so much of their energy, they are required to be perfect at all times in the eyes of the customer. Here’s the thing, though, that I found out. Forever etched in my mind, I have to tell you this story to help you understand where I am coming from;

I had been sick for several months with multiple sinus infections that the doctors could not seem to figure out a remedy and it was costing me an arm and a leg to diagnose it. I went to the pharmacy to pick up the medication and to my horror, the bill was horrendous. I lost it. I went up that pharmacist one way and down the other with my new bride at my side who was completely horrified. She had never seen that side of me. To be honest, I hadn’t seen that side either.

I used to be a pretty brutal customer. The pharmacist was no different. I promptly let her have it and walked out. No sooner I had gotten outside, I felt a tap on my shoulder. No – it wasn’t my new bride and it wasn’t the pharmacist. It was the Holy Spirit. Now, before you shut me down, you have to understand that God has to get my attention and that is one way to do it. “You need to apologize. That was not a good witness.” You have got to be kidding me. I promptly called her back and apologized. There was dead silence on the other end for a few moments. Then she spoke, “I have never had someone call back and apologize.” From then on, I have been extremely intentional on how I treat a representative whether it be a phone person or someone in person. I make it a point to be nice to them. I am not perfect. I have even told the person on the other end that I am very upset and apologize on the front end if I seem short or angry.  However, I have come a long way!

I am not tooting my own horn. What I am doing is explaining the importance of a kind word towards a representative of any company. They don’t call the shots. They don’t make the decisions. They don’t know every single answer that you have. They do not deserve to be treated with disrespect.

What I started doing where these three basic actions when I come into contact with someone with whom I am working with on a Customer Service basis.

  1. I ask them how their day is going. This is pretty obvious, however, most people do not. They just jump on the person they are talking to with their problem, concern, question, or whatever you may want to call it. When you ask someone how their day is going, you break down a barrier that is going on before it even starts. This person most likely has just gotten cursed out or called out. The last thing they need is your problem…so to speak.
  2. Joke with them. I am not talking about stand-up comedy or a 20-minute routine. But just poke at yourself or the situation. The barrier will be broken even more and will ensure a good laugh when they hang up. I typically will tell the person I am talking to something along the lines of “you are going to go home tonight and tell whoever is there, ‘there was this crazy man who came/called in today and…'” Typically, this highlights their day and makes it worth getting up for.
  3. End your conversation with grace. No matter the outcome, end your conversation with the person with grace and be kind. It doesn’t matter if they resolved the situation or if they bought the moon for you, your conversation with them may make their day great or not-so-great.

The main point is this;

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
Luke 6:31

It was a date lunch for Sara and me. We were celebrating at Olive Garden and knowing us, it was because we were pregnant. It was a tradition. Anyhow, the waitress sat us down and took our order. We already could tell that she was having an off day. A really off day. She brought our order out and put it on the table before us. Lo and behold, a black hair was staring at me. I mean several inches long. You could not miss it. I slid it back and said, “Listen, don’t make a big deal about this because I am not. Would you grab me another plate of food? I just can’t handle it.”  She had no idea and was mortified. I believe that she saw her tip go right out the door.

When she came back, I made it a point to compliment her and tell her how awesome she was. We went to leave and I took her a tip. I don’t like to leave it on the table for 2 reasons, 1) I usually leave a big tip and 2) I want the waitress to have it not someone else. Anway, I handed it to her and she started crying. “You must be Christians, aren’t you?” I told her that we were but that wasn’t why I was tipping her well. I explained that I could see that she needed it, she was having an off day, and I am not about to let some of the other tables jip her for it. We all went on our way and we will probably never see her again. But I know that in that moment, the old Will died again.

Thoughtful Tuesdays | Let Your Setback Be Your Setup

Enjoy the last video for a bit!

In His Presence – Finding Rest in the Midst

Over the past few months, you have been reading on on this blog about the change in our lives. Simply put, sometimes we have to change in order to see results. I am not satisfied with just being mediocre in life. When God has called you to do something there are times when God will call you to simply wait.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.”
-Psalms 37:7

In the changes that we have seen in our lives, we have had to learn the art of patience.  There has been a lot of work behind the scenes put into making things happen and I could completely go out tomorrow to borrow all the money that I would ever need to make these things work. I don’t think that if I went outside of the will of God that I wouldn’t see the fruit of my labor.

God will often call you to be still and wait for Him to respond to the situation. I recall a time when I passed the building that I wanted to buy to put our businesses in. I heard in my heart these words; “It must be done in a way where you cannot get the credit or the glory. People will surely say ‘Look what the Lord has done!” I have, to be honest, say that this blows my mind. If this is what the Lord is going to do then it must be awesome.

Sara and I got to a point where we just long so much for it be done that when we saw others prospering, it hurt our hearts.

“Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone.”
-Psalms 37:8-10

How much easier would it have been for us to throw up our hands and tell God just what we thought because we saw others prospering in their dream? It’s hard. Believe me, it is hard. It will probably be the hardest thing that you have ever done. But to wait upon the Lord while watching others prosper, it can become even more difficult. Don’t lose heart (Galatians 6:9). Keep focusing on what God is going to do.

The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.
-Psalms 37:11

God is faithful. He will complete what He has started. He will provide a way where there seems to be no way. Friend, when you are going through the valley, trust in Him and rest in His presence. Once we do that, we will find that God is our ultimate Father who has the best in store for us and can’t wait to pour out His blessings on our lives.

You Have The Right – and Responsibility to be Silent

Have you ever had one of those days that you felt that nothing was going right? No matter what you do, the world seems to crumble beneath your feet? It is so easy to let go and have the whole world hear your problems. God really has been speaking to me lately about “the right to remain silent.” It’s pretty easy to complain and murmur about the issues that you are going through, I know it is for me. Something that really has been hitting home for me is that it doesn’t change. You know what I mean? You scream at the kids, you yell at your wife or husband, you throw a temper tantrum, you have a total meltdown, yet the bills are still there on the table or the car is still in the shop etc. Often, it is better to say nothing.

We look at the life of Jesus when He was beaten, cursed, flogged, and betrayed. Not once did Jesus speak a word. When asked questions, He answered by the Word. In the desert with Satan, Jesus didn’t give into temptation because the only words He spoke was the Word. He didn’t say, “Gee, some bread would sound nice. Maybe just once.” No, He spoke the words “Man can not live by bread alone” and that was the end of it. God didn’t give us a tongue to use it to curse our situation. By cursing the situation, I mean speaking negatively. There are life altering words that you speak each and every day. The way you use your words will affect the outcome. The most common verse we use is Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) which says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” I love how the New Living Translation puts it, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

Jesus used His words in Matthew 21:18-19 to prove a point, “In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.” I am amazed at how we think that it couldn’t happen to us. There, of course, is the balance. In James 5, James spoke of the Lord’s will, and we should do the same. You aren’t going to speak a million dollars and it comes if you are not a faithful steward of what God has given to you already (See Matthew 25:21-30). What are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? This message is not just for you but for me too.

I believe that God is calling His children into a moment of silence. I believe that He is calling us to “Be still.” What a profound change it would have on our lives and on the lives of those around us if we would simply zip it. People who wouldn’t dare step into a church because of the hypocrisy of the church would arrive with hearts wide open. People who have seen the change in your life would see what a mighty God we serve. People who have hurt you will come to repentance because God will work on their hearts. There’s an old saying about taking the higher road. This is your higher road. I challenge you this week to ask the Holy Spirit to help you with your tongue, as I will for myself. Use your tongue to uplift someone and encourage someone.

Four Career Killing Clues That It Is Time To Flee

Who hasn’t at one point or another said that they wish they could just quit their job? Or do we have an Office Space moment where we want to take the printer out to the field and beat it with a bat? It isn’t a secret that most people are unhappy about their jobs and wish that they could be doing something else. We read statistically that 80% of employees are unhappy about their jobs(1). That’s 80%, folks! It leads me to wonder, why would a person who spends an average of 90,000 hours in their lifetime doing jobs that they hate 80% of the time?

When do we decide that it is time to pull the plug? When do you need to make that decision? Over time, I have seen these four things happen that were a red flag for an employee to pull that very plug and move on.

1) There is no room to advance you here. There are only so many positions to fill and we can’t just give them to everyone.

If your boss or employer gives you this statement – it is time to prepare for a departure. Why? You are not only going to feel frustrated and become irritated with the corporate politics, but you are going to feel like a failure after so long. Am I advocating that every employee is worthy of getting the corner office or becoming a leader in the company? Absolutely not! I am, however, speaking to the ones who time and time again ask their boss or leader what they can do to advance their career with that company and find themselves with the above statement.

2) You are not the right fit for what we are looking for in this position.

This is an indication that you are on the wrong bus or in the wrong seat on the right bus. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, wrote “In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”(1) Sometimes we have to come to the point where we ask the question, is this the right bus for me? Am I in the right seat?

3) You are given conflicting criticism about your job performance.

Have you ever had a leader tell you one thing and another contradicts it? I remember having this happen time and time again with a former employer. There are very few things that frustrate an employee more than giving conflicting critiques on their performance.

4) There are constant threats given from your leader or boss about job loss, reductions, and the like.

This is pretty much a given in my book. I am blown away at a number of people that I have heard who decided to stay at a job to “weather it out” only to find out that they were left in the carnage. If you are finding yourself constantly berated by an employer or leader with threats – it may be time to give your own ultimatum and leave.

The list could go on with other scenarios to tell if it is time to break the chains that hold us back, but what is important is this; if you want to live a fulfilling life – don’t spend 80% of your life hating what you do for a living!

(1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thrive/201102/finding-happiness-work

(2) https://www.kinesisinc.com/first-who-then-what/