Will doing this one thing help you as you face your trials?

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Instead of saying trials, I was thinking about using the word “struggles”, or even “battles”.  Whatever, you get the point. We all face various times of great difficulty.  Not only can it be emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenging going through these times, but there is also an added pressure that comes from the realization in the back of our minds that if we don’t respond wisely in this difficult time, we can even make things worse. Ugh!

It is one thing to have a teenager who seems to consistently be making bad choices, but to frequently lose your temper when you are with them doesn’t help

It is one thing to have job stresses, but turning to alcohol (and not being able to control your drinking) is bound to compound your problems

It is one thing to have some marital conflict, but regularly looking at porn as an outlet for your sexual urges will only add gas to your current fires of difficulty

On and on, I could go describing battles that we all face. My guess is that if you are reading this post, there is probably a struggle that is already on your mind- some kind of trouble you are in, right now.  Although the specifics of each of our challenges varies immensely,  there is one common thing we can all do to help us as we work through our trials—–sing and worship God!

Let me give you some Biblical examples:

  • When the leaders of Israel asked God which tribe should go first in the fighting to take over the Promised Land.  God said that it should be the tribe of Judah.  Judah means praise”  (they were also commanded to lead in Numbers 10:14 and Judges 20:18)
  • in 2 Chronicles 20, the Israelites were about to be attacked by a big army and King Jehoshaphat was well aware that there was no human way they could defeat their vast opponent.  So, besides fasting and praying, vs 22 says “and when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush  against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
  • In Acts 16, Paul and Silas preached the Gospel in Philippi and while there, some responded to the life-giving message and some others were  bothered by the convicting message (a typical set of responses when the Gospel message is proclaimed).  In fact, Paul and Silas got thrown into jail because of their evangelistic efforts. So while in probably a rat-infested, cold, uncomfortable situation how did they respond?  Verse 25 (esv) says, “about midnight Paul and Silas  were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening  to them, and suddenly   there was a great earthquake , so that the foundations  of the prison were shaken.”
  • There can be no greater battle that was ever fought than the one Jesus Christ was involved in during the last week of His earthly life. To live a perfect life on earth so that His life could be accepted as a substitute for the sins of humanity AND to knowingly understand that by carrying to a cruel death, humanity’s rebellious actions and attitudes would mean carrying the weight of God’s judgement AND SEPARATION from the Father, was so intense that the Bible says in Luke 22:44 (esv), “and being in agony  he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood  falling to the ground.”   And what had Jesus done  before coming to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with His disciples?  Matthew 26, verse 30 says, they sung a hymn.

How about you, my friend?  What trials are you going through right now?  How are you preparing to deal with them?  Have you tried singing and worshiping God?

Doing so, gets your eyes off of your big problems and focuses them on a BIGGER GOD!

Doing so, helps you understand that you are not in this problem alone, you have help, BIG HELP from the Creator of the Universe!

Doing so, helps energize you from having a negative, “it will never end”, “this is overwhelming”, “there is no way out” kind of attitudes to one of expectant hope because this God you are singing to has proven over and over again that He is faithful, that He is capable, that He is loving.

Maybe its time to start singing.

“What are we going to do today?”

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“What are we going to do today?”

I’ve been asked that question by my kids on weekends, and on vacations (and you probably have as well).  It’s a great question for a number of reasons.
For one, they are looking to me to give them direction to what we’re going to do?
Another reason is that it shows they want to be with me.  They are wondering what we are going to do together.
Another reason is that there something adventurous in the question.  Its like there is something unexpected, something exciting awaits for us to discover.

“What are we going to do today?”

In kind of an interesting twist to that question, I actually found myself  being asked by the Holy Spirit that very question the other day when I woke up.
I’m aware that the Holy Spirit miraculously lives within me as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’m aware that He wants to counsel me, comfort me, advise me, convict me, re-assure me, inspire me, and so much more.  He is there all the time doing life with me  (how awesome, right!)

I was kind of startled by that question I received from Him because it challenged me.  Was I going to be living my life that day looking to Him to be a kind of genie fulfilling every selfish desire I have (I know those requests will not get answered as I want (James 4:1-3)?

So, what did I want to do today?  Well, I think the question was a good one to lead me to the understanding that I did not want to do anything that the Holy Spirit was not directing me.  I wanted to seek to be a follower of Him, rather than me taking the lead and seeking to fulfill my desires (Romans 8:5-8, Galatians 5:16-25).

I felt very confident and contented knowing that those who come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder for those who seek Him–Hebrews 11:6.

So, “what are we going to do today?” was I turned back on God.

I want Him to give me direction.
I want to do life with Him.
I want to live my life as an adventure (believing that He is able to do far more abundantly than all I could ask for or imagine for His glory)

What are you going to do today?

I can’t believe I had been missing it

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About two years ago, our church, Harvest Bible Chapel started a new initiative, Act Like Men.

The idea was to get men to come out 3-4 times during the year, Sunday night at 9 p.m.  While at these hour and a half meetings, there would be two brief messages and then two discussion times with men in table groups.During these “connecting times”, men were encouraged to be transparent with one another, to let down their guard and be vulnerable.  As we did, it was an opportunity to find support, accountability, healing, and encouragement.

 

IF, the men attended three of the four nights, they were then able to go a men’s Summer event called Palooza.  It was designed to be an “over the top” weekend gathering in Michigan. The weekend would be packed with four messages and times of worship, and many, many activity guys would find challenging: events like softball, mud wrestling, free throw shooting, football tosses, and so much more.

I attended last year’s event. No doubt, it was a good time with many positive take-aways from it.

Then came round two during the  past nine months, I believe there were four or five late Sunday night events where attendance at four events was required to qualify to attend this past weekend’s second annual Palooza.

 

Again, there was the same format of quality worship times and intense, competitive events.

And again, for me, there were many highlights that stood out to me from over the weekend. 

But what set this apart, was that it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of this weekend that Pastor James MacDonald said something that sent fireworks off in my brain (we actually had fireworks on Saturday night too!).  He laid out a vision for what Act Like Men was all about. 

 

He mentioned that the bar was set so high (in fact, next year, we are going to have seven late Sunday evening gatherings to attend) because he wanted the church to be calling out guys to break away from our addiction to our independence and acting like we are in control of our self.  Too often, we have that “I want to do my own thing”. 

We ARE responsible for our actions, but guys especially have a habit of acting from their own selfish and independent mindsets, and prone to isolation, so that we need to go radical and be challenged to a higher calling.  Guys, we need to be involved in community.

 

I saw it!

 

I finally realized what I had been missing.  It was the importance, rather the need of guys (WITH ME BEING RIGHT THERE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST) to do life together and encouraging, supporting, praying for, and holding other guys accountable.  It was a matter of being a part of a community where we can not only receive the support and care from other guys, but also give it as well. 

I had been experiencing that throughout the weekend, but was oblivious to what I was actually experiencing.  I was missing the intentionality of it all.

 

But again, now I understood it.

 

I am so excited to be a part of a sea of voices, a band of Christian brothers intent on glorifying God by the way we live during this short time we are on this planet.

I just wanted to be transparent and let you all know what God was doing in my life and encourage each person out there, especially guys to get involved with a group like this, if you are not already.

 

Blessings.

What to do when God is silent…

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For some of you, this post today might come really close to the heart.

I believe there are some, maybe many who are deeply concerned about something. Maybe its a financial matter, maybe a damaged relationship (or no relationship at all), maybe it’s a health issue, maybe its an aging parent issue.  You get the point. These are all matters of the heart and some times trying to understand how to deal with the issue gets painful and exhausting.
Besides the weighty concern that this issue is, what can seem to add to the frustration is that God is so silent.  You may feel all alone and wondering how much longer this exasperating experience will go on.
Let me encourage you if you are in this situation–nothing is hidden from the eyes of God. He sees all. He hears all. He knows all.
“So,” you wonder, “where is this living and  loving God when I need Him most?”
I once heard a story about a bunch of guys swimming in a pond. One of them was an expert swimmer.  As the day went on, one of the guys started to drown.  His friends noticed what was happening and looked to the expert swimmer, who was on the shore, to save their friend who was going underwater.  However, although he heard everyone screaming for his help, he didn’t move.
This only frustrated  all the guys all the more, who with panic in their voices, yelled even louder for their friend to rescue their other friend, but the expert swimmer  remained silent and did not move.
At that moment, the guy who was bobbing up and down, did not come up again. The water became calm…..for just a moment.
Because instantly, there was a splash, then waves, then two bodies surfaced.
Upon seeing the one man go under for the last moment, the expert swimmer got his green light to break his silence, go in, and with sheer precision, save his friend.
When they two men reached the shore, the expert swimmer was literally attacked for his cold-hearted, lack of response.
Seeing the anger of his friends, the expert swimmer quieted the crowd and confidently said that the way he acted was calculated.  He mentioned that if he had sought to rescue his friend when he first went under water, they probably both would have drowned.  The adrenalin of the one would have taken them both down..  So the expert swimmer said, he had to wait until his friend stopped trying and basically gave up.  Then, he could save him without there being any resistance.
Friend, that story illustrates what might be happening to some of you.
The expert swimmer on the shore in your life is God. He is watching all that you are struggling with, but truth be told, you might not yet be ready for His help because you are trying so hard to do it yourself. Your actions and attitudes may reveal that you don’t want or are unwilling to receive God’s help.  Maybe you are still holding on to so much bitterness or unforgiveness that you are not willing to part with it. Maybe you just can’t bear being out of control and admitting you need help. Maybe you are scared.
Whatever it might be, understand that God is watching.  His silence does not mean He does not care, or is unable to help.  Maybe His silence is really what’s best for you, giving you time to understand the true condition of your heart and your need for His help.
So, God just waits on the shore in silence.
Is He capable of helping–definitely!
Does He care about you- definitely (Jesus died for you on a cross because of His love for you so much)!
Will He stay silent forever-doubtful–just maybe its time to stop trying!

Have you ever been told…

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Has anyone ever said to you, “relax, you are over-thinking this?”

When someone says that to you, or even, if you heard that being said, the issue is that someone is making something more complicated than it ought to be.  With over-thinking comes more stress and less enjoyment, and less of a quality performance.    Earlier today, I felt like I was being told by God you are making this faith thing with me more complicated than you ought.  It was that “Power of a Whisper” idea that Bill Hybels of Willow Creek has written about.

The impressions that came to me were almost like bullet points:

*Keep in mind, your faith in Me is about relationship, not religious-activity checklists, or do’s and don’t’s, etc.

*Keep in mind that I am the God of all grace.  In 1 Peter 5:10a, the Bible says that He is “the God of all grace”.  Other verses mentioning that He is a God of grace would be Ps. 116:5, 2 Cor. 9:14, Nehemiah 9:31 and so many more verses could be listed–okay, I  see that–He is a God of grace.

*Keep in mind that I am a God of mercy, for instance, as in Luke 1:78, Romans 9:18, Daniel 9:9, Ps. 59:17, and again, so many more verses could be listed.

So, what’s a simple explanation of the difference between His being a God of grace, and a God of mercy.

I’ve heard many explanations about these two words over the years, but the NON – over-thinking, simple explanation was this:

When you come to God in a needy, humble, dependent kind of way, He is the God of all grace.  He is there to help.  He loves to come to the aid of those who are “poor in spirit”. He loves to make Himself and the wisdom of His ways clear to those who can recognize they don’t have it all figured out.  Sometimes He will help in ways we don’t or can’t understand at the moment, but He will be there to help.  Why? Because He loves you and I.

However, when you come to God after you’ve tried doing things your way, He will give you mercy. Why? Because again, He loves you and I.  He understands that we are prone to being selfish, and independent, and prideful and that every once in a while (or more), we slip up.  He anticipated that and sent His Son to cover your sins and mine and to extend forgiveness to us.  We just need to ask. Thank God for Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

Well, that listening session with Him made me see things in a simplified kind of way.  It’s all about relationship with Him. That’s the bottom line.  I need to:

  • put no confidence in the flesh
  • be way of thinking of myself more highly than I ought
  • realize that apart from Him, I can do nothing
  • and whether I realize all this right up front and call out to Him for His grace (His help and power), or I realize it all after I’ve first tried doing it my way (which never ends well) and then come to Him after I’ve blown it (first for forgiveness, and then for His grace), either way, in relationship, I need to keep things simple, and be as one dependent on Him all the time, inseparable if you will–kind of like a branch abiding in the vine. (ref. John 15).

Wise words from YODA

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I won’t embarrass or frustrate any one I personally know on this one, but there are some individuals, I can see their faces now that if they say they will do something, I know it will be done. I can just count on them. Their word is gold.

Unfortunately, I also know some others that if they tell me they will do something, I have a great uncertainty it will get done (if ever). These individuals are so frustrating because they are so unfaithful. It drives me crazy.

“Do, or do not.  There is no “try”.    a quote from Yoda to Luke Skywalker.

I love these words from the fictional character, YODA (he is fictional, right?) because they speak of resolve and commitment.  It’s an “all-in” mindset that if I say I will do something, it will get done.

How well does this describe you?

Does your word matter?

Maybe it’s because I’m a goal-oriented person, but I love this saying from Yoda because it conveys to me the idea of vision and priorities.  It challenges me to set my mind on accomplishing something to experience some desired result.

But it takes it one step further.  What Yoda’s quote suggests to me is even something more than just wanting to see a completed goal because any one can wish for good things to happen in their life.  Can’t you?  If you were to take just a few minutes to look at all the things going on in your life, can’t you just imagine improvements or desirable things to make your life better?

Of course you can.  I can too.  But what Yoda’s quote says to me is that besides seeing a vision of good things, it conveys to me the issue of setting priorities and being intentional.  It means moving beyond vision and mere talking about accomplishing some desired result one day (just “trying” in a “whatever” kind of attitude”) to the idea of commitment –I’m going to make adjustments in my life to make this happen.  I love that resolve.

So, my friend, are you willing right now to listen to the advice of a little, green person and stop saying “I’ll try….” to “I will …” ?

Are you willing to start getting very purposeful about accomplishing the things that are most dear to your heart?

“Do, or do not.  There is no “try”.

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As a further help to you in striving for excellence and being intentional about meeting your goals in life,  please check out my Foundations Life Management app (and do it with a friend):

(If you have downloaded the app and are using it, I would so appreciate you telling a friend (s) about it.)

You can visit either the App Store (for IPhones) Foundations Life Management app for IPhone devices

https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

or go to the Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en

 

Is there a danger in focusing on results?

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Being a goal-oriented person, I understand that performance matters.  What benefit does it bring to a situation if all that is really going on is mere talk?   In most situations where a committee is involved, my experience has shown that there is too much discussion and not enough getting things done.

However, try telling your boss, or those who follow your leadership,  or your investors when you missed your organization’s goals that results don’t really matter.  You might as well turn in your 2 – week notice at the same time.

Achieving results is about initially having a vision and then with laser-like focus working to meet that goal. It’s a destination you want to reach and work for.

But two  key questions are “Do we have the right focus in mind?”  and “What is our response when we achieve our goals?”

The context of this post today comes from my recent reading in 1 Chronicles 21 where I read that King David gave way to Satan’s temptation to carry out a census of the people.  It appears that the root of this temptation for David was pride.   After defeating many opposing nations, David seemed invincible and his wealth and fame continued to skyrocket.    This is where the problem of success happened for David.   Similar to the pride demonstrated by a foreign king, years later, King Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel, chapter 4 as he reflected on his kingdom,  (“30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’), David too, took pride in all his success.

Hear me out on this:  while David, earlier in his life,  was concentrating on the process of his obedience to God, depending on Him for all his decisions and looking to honor Him in everything he did, things went well.   However, when David paused to reflect on all his success, it was though he got off on a highway exit that  brought judgment from God.  When David camped out on thinking about all his success,  he succumbed to Satan’s deception and rather than acknowledging all of God’s favor and praising Him for it,  David patted himself on the back and thought about what a great king he was.  For David to request that a census be taken was just a further effort to puff himself up for seeing tangible numbers on how vast his kingdom had become.

We too, can do that — can’t we?

Pastor and church leader, have you ever just stopped and looked at the number of people in your congregation and patted yourself on the back for your great leadership?

Business owner, have you ever walked through your office and patted yourself on the back for how many employees you have and how successful your bottom line is?

Individual, have you ever stopped to look at your latest 401K balance and marveled at how much money you have and patted yourself on the back for what a wise investor you are?

Friends, let us be careful with this very subject of results and drive.  Again, I get it that results matter.  I am not naïve in thinking they don’t.  But what I’m getting at is that I think there is a better way to get and handle results than we see demonstrated by King David in this particular situation.   I believe this better way is for us to concentrate on our efforts, the process, if you will,  and then leave the results  and recognition to God.

For example, take an issue like getting a driver’s license–that is, the goal.  But what gets us to accomplish that result is not wishful thinking or mere talk– it’s doing certain things like reading and understanding the rules of the road.  Getting a license also requires having a certain amount of supervised  hours behind the wheel and getting actual experience.  In that process, it means being focused on doing things well.  It means reducing distractions while you are driving and completing the practice hours so you LEARN how to drive well.

After you do all these things, you should accomplish the goal of getting your license. But, at the risk of getting into a future accident, don’t ever lose sight of what helped you initially get your license in the first place; it was having an opportunity to do so in the first place,  it was getting instruction from others, it was learning to excel in the process of being a good driver.

Besides this example of getting our license, I could have also mentioned other examples, like getting a certain job position,  reaching a financial retirement number, getting to a certain weight goal, or achieving certain sales goals.   The result or goal gives us a vision for where we are needing to head, but I believe our focus should be on excelling at our responsibilities in the process of accomplishing these things.

And when that time comes when we reach a destination point, how should we handle meeting that goal?   I believe our first attitude and action should be that of being grateful to God and others for their contributions in our life.  Towards God, we should be thankful for His goodness in helping us have the opportunity to be involved in reaching this goal. We should be grateful for our health, the physical and mental abilities to work at the task.   We should also be appreciative for the help and contributions from others in supporting us in numerous ways.

With all that said, where does personal pride come in?  Displaying personal pride is a distasteful thing to others, and an offensive thing to God.  Patting our self on the back and telling our self we are great is the last place we want to go to.  As the Bible so clearly tells us: “don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought”

Meeting a goal and accomplishing a certain result is not though a destination, but merely a rest stop to see where you are, and then to chart out what more needs to be done.  As  1 Thessalonians 4:1 and verse 10 tell us, “excel still more”.  You can always learn more and do things better.   That is the process.  That should be our focus.  Let’s be faithful in doing our part, and leaving the results (and honor) to God.

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As a further help to you in striving for excellence in all your own individual areas of responsibility, please check out my Foundations Life Management app (and do it with a friend):

(If you have downloaded the app and are using it, I would so appreciate you telling a friend (s) about it.)

You can visit either the App Store (for IPhones) Foundations Life Management app for IPhone devices

https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

or go to the Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en