I am certain, these guys were not talking about…

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Its hard to believe, another Summer is nearly over. Time just seems to move along so quickly.

One of the highlights from these past few months was a men’s gathering in the beautiful woods of Michigan.  I believe about 1500 men descended on the campground for the weekend.  This church sponsored event was called “Palooza” and it was an incredible time.
I’ve thought about that gathering a lot over these past few months,  and one of the most frequent thoughts that comes to my mind is that the focus of our corporate times was not in comparing our accommodations. When we met in a large group, our discussion did not tend to be about the size of our tent, or RV, or the fanciness of our grill back at the campsite.  In other words, the focus of our weekend was not about our stuff.  We were there to enjoy meaningful fellowship with other guys, and to benefit in many different ways from time spent over the weekend worshiping the living and loving God and to be challenged, and encouraged by passionate messages inspired by God’s Word–the Bible.
Both on Saturday night watching a special fireworks display, and Sunday morning, as we gathered one last time for a time of worship and hearing a Bible-related message, I would look around and see the expressions of men, young and old who were impacted by their experience that weekend.  It was truly a special time.
So, what’s the point in all this?
I believe living our lives should be similar to the weekend I just described.  Because we are all unique and our preferences, and circumstances vary so much, we will all live with different stuff. Some people will be able to enjoy very nice, and expensive things—good for them.   Other people, who don’t have as much money or just choose to live in a more simple kind of way, will find contentment with very modest resources–good for them.
I’m not sure of all the reasons why our culture focuses so much on “STUFF’,  rather than on the much greater experiences of enjoying deep relationships with others and seeking frequent worship of God. Just to clarify this last point, “frequent worship of God”,  I don’t mean being at church a lot every time the doors open,  though regular attendance at church is important.  What I’m referring to is keeping Him top of mind throughout the day, so that you understand He is the One responsible for  your life.  He is the Creator of if and the Sustainer of it.
Rather than being freaked out by acknowledging that our lives, including our thoughts and intentions are always transparent before Him, we should take great satisfaction in knowing that He cares so much for us and loves us so much.
At this Summer’s Palooza, I met a man who actually came to the event with no housing plans at all. Understanding that, I invited him to join us on our site, and if need be, and I was ready to share my pop up tent with him.  As things turned out, he was able to get sleeping accommodations in a mini-cabin.   Would I have been a little uncomfortable sharing a kind of cramped 2 man tent–yep.   But, that feeling would have been totally compensated by knowing that I helped a person in need.
Today, as you do life, let me encourage you to examine your own life and to pursue the things that are of highest importance.  Enjoy all the things that you have, but take some time to ask yourself if you are distracted in any way from really experiencing this precious thing called life because of your focus on STUFF?  Again, it’s not a question of how quality is your stuff, or how much you have (or don’t have), but rather if you are spending more time thinking about it, than on the deeper things of relationships with others and with God.  Seek to live your life without any regrets!
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Was this man “sleep-walking” through life?

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Picture this story:

A middle-aged man, driving in his luxury car, pulls around the corner of the street where he lives.  He looks at the houses of his neighbors and thinks to himself that at some time he should probably get to know them.  Actually, he thinks to himself that in some ways it’s surprising that after 20 years in this neighborhood, he would have by now.

Down the driveway he goes admiring his beautiful landscaping and thinks to himself that he has hired a quality service to handle this tedious work.  As he gets out of his car and make the long walk to his really large house, which he never seems to tire of gawking at, he finds himself huffing and puffing a bit more than usual.  He also notices his chest puffing out as he congratulates himself pridefully, for all the efforts he has put in: the long hours worked and the many, many business trips he has taken.

As he walks in the house, the one thing that seems the most noticeable is the silence.  His wife and two children are nowhere to be seen. “Quietness”, he thinks, “is in some ways nice, but in other ways, it’s so depressing”.

 

So, what is the point to this story?  Its this perspective about success.

After reading through this story would you say this man is successful?   Some would, actually many would. Why would we say that? It’s because he drives a luxurious house, owns a large house, and uses a landscaping service.

Outwardly, this man has some very nice things. Let me be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with owning and enjoying nice things. God has given us those things to enjoy.

My point is to question this man’s perspective on their importance and what he was willing to sacrifice to get them. It’s that perspective of success that I so desperately want to keep wrestling with for myself and I would encourage you to battle along with me.

Why? Too often, we can see someone on tv that has all the wealthy merit badges of life: the nice cars, the trophy wife, the big house, etc. and something can stir in my heart: jealousy and envy. I know I have those feelings. Too quickly, I find myself trying to justify why I’m still okay with my pauper existence compared to this wealthy person I’ve just been watching and hearing about.

The issue of jealousy and envy is my own problem no one else’s. I’m needing to deal with that on a regular basis. But the focus of this post is not really about my challenges with envy, or pride, or a critique on enjoying and striving for nice things.

It’s about striving for success in one area. Whether it’s an over-emphasis on being successful at work, or at your church, or with your family, or with your personal health, my plea with you this morning is to be careful about over-emphasizing one area of your life so much that without realizing it, you inadvertently are neglecting other areas of your life.

Life is difficult. It’s really hard. You don’t need to be reminded of that, but you may need to be reminded that there are seven areas of responsibility in your life. How are you doing in each of them?  When is the last time you took the time to evaluate how you’re doing? 

I would like to encourage you this weekend to take just a few minutes and review these seven areas of responsibility in your life and ask two questions: “How am I doing in each specific area?”   and “In what ways can I do just a little bit better?”

Oh, one last thing—you might be wondering why do this personal inventory?  The simple reason is that your life impacts others in every one of these seven areas. Do you know that?

Like a person who is a sleepwalker, taking actual steps, but not even recognizing where they are going, some times, I can be living my life (and maybe you do too) where I’m doing life in certain, dazed kind of way, not even recognizing those areas of responsibility that I am tuned out of, totally neglecting….and that will cause regrets, painful ones.  I want to help you avoid those.

As a way to further help you strive for excellence in all areas of your life so that you live a life without regrets, I’d like to encourage you to consider the content of this post, but also to consider downloading the Foundations Life Management app in I-Tunes, (Android calls it Foundations Life Coach) that has the red, yellow, green dashboard like above.   For the price of a cup of coffee (and more significant and lasting positive consequences) from it, I believe you will be pleased that you took this minimal risk:


You can visit  either the App Store (for IPhones)     https://appsto.re/us/ejC7fb.I

Google Play Store- https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FoundationsLifeCoach.Foundations&hl=en ;
www.foundationslifecoach.com

Is there a way of hope in my terrible circumstances?

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Are you going through a tough time and tired of going through it alone?

Are you desperate for some guidance to help you find hope in your present difficult circumstances?

Are you open to receiving encouragement and support from others?

If so, I would like to invite you to join us this Fall for a life-changing 13 week ministry called HOPE GROUP.

We’ll meet Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m., starting September 13th, at Harvest Bible Chapel on Randall Road in Elgin.

Let me encourage you to take a step of faith to finding hope. THINGS CAN CHANGE!

For more information, about Harvest Bible Chapel’s Hope Group ministry at their Elgin campus, please check out the link!

http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/event/summerhopegroupselgin/    (as an fyi,  our Fall registration link is not up quite yet, but will be shortly—bookmark this link).

Harvest Bible Chapel- Love without condition …Forgive without limit >>>>>>>This is what we do!

Look closely…. do you see a stop sign?

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Check out this picture—do you see a STOP  sign?

Well, let me come back to that in just a minute.  This post is meant for “born again” Christians. You know who you are.

It is meant for those people who one day recognized that they were distant from God and that God, in His graciousness and mercy made a way for us to be reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ as He gave His life as a substitute for us.  Approximately 2000 years ago, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved because of our selfishness, and rebelliousness towards God and in the Great Exchange offered us forgiveness and peace with God, as our relationship with Him was restored.   I hope you never get tired of hearing this gospel message.

Backing up just a minute as a way of explanation —before a person is saved, a person finds them self alienated from God.  They are led by their own selfish desires. In addition to their bondage to their fleshly instincts, an unsaved person comes under the slavery to the evil influences of the Devil and his demonic cohorts, as well as slavery to this world system that seeks independence from Almighty God. Habits of sinful behaviors and selfish motives and attitudes become ingrained.  Without doubt, the word “darkness” characterizes so well the life, and future potential of an unsaved person.

But, one day, as a believer in Jesus Christ can testify to, God brings in light.  Through no doing of our own, a saved person recognizes that they are alienated from God due to their sinful, selfish, and rebellious ways and they repent.  They change their ways and in humility they seek out a relationship with God.

With the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God now living in the person, an awareness of the power and wisdom of the Living Word (the Bible), and the support and training of the church community, a new believer grows in their understanding of the faith.

One of the key principles of our faith that every believer needs to understand is that the mandatory bondage to sinful habits of your former life are gone.  The Bible says, “we are new creations in Christ”.

The Bible says in Romans 6:6 (nasb) that “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away (or another version says, “rendered powerless) with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”

In other words, as the New Testament speaks of so often, “it is for freedom that Christ has set you free”.

HANG IN THERE WITH ME —THIS IS GOOD STUFF!

Let’s go back now to the picture of the STOP sign. For probably 30 years, I have been driving down this street and I’ve come to a STOP sign.  Its been right outside a big hospital.  But the hospital has been taken down with the exception of just a few doctors’ offices and the city recently decided to remove the STOP sign.

What I found interesting is that over the past week or so, I have stopped numerous times at that intersection, but the truth is there is no STOP sign there.  In other words, although I am free to just keep on driving, a habit has been formed in my mind and every time I go that intersection, these habits  of the mind tell my will how to behave.

Can you follow the spiritual application that this STOP sign illustration is to our spiritual walks?

When I get tempted to take a second look at a pretty woman (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

When I get tempted to  get angry at a person who I feel didn’t respect me for some reason, (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

When I get tempted to covet the nice things that a friend might have that I can’t afford, (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

Just writing these words is exciting for me and I hope they are for you, as well.   If you are a Christian, the new you is not the old you.

God’s best for you is that you not only believe that, but that you act like it.

Why stop along the road of life when you are free to just keep on driving?

 

“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!