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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Goal-oriented people, you are going to love this

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Those of you who are goal-oriented individuals, you know who you are, you are going to relate well to this post.  You are the type of person that will see a problem that needs attention and quickly a picture will develop in your mind so that you get a vision of bringing solutions to resolve the issue.

Once your mind sees the finish line, the bread crumbs of steps seems to materialize in your brain, so that a road map occurs that lines up what mini-goals you need to accomplish, in order to complete the end goal.   The world needs people like you to provide leadership.

In addition to receiving the vision of how to get things done, the goal-oriented individual  is energized by checking off each mini-goal along the way.  endorphins in the brain produce happy feelings.

I share this description of a goal-oriented person from personal experience. I am a goal-oriented person.   If this describes you, as well, let me give you a caution though that you will battle, as I do too, all the time.

Let me illustrate my point in all this by having you think of a couple of dancing. They are enjoying the music. They are enjoying each other. They know how to dance, so they are comfortable as they glide in unity across the dance floor.  It’s a beautiful, romantic vision of two people in the moment.

This dancing scene describes well the person bent on living with goals.  They embrace their goals.  They live with them always on their mind.  They glide through life having direction for where they will move and how they will move. Life, like the music at the dance hall has a rhythm to it and they enjoy their dance with their “having goals” partner.  Can you relate to that?  

BUT, ….. what happens when you get tapped on the shoulder, and someone says to you, “Excuse me, can I cut in with your partner for this dance?”

NOW YOUR PLANS HAVE CHANGED.  THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU EXPECTED.  WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW?  HOW SHOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  DID YOU DO SOMETHING WRONG?  IS THIS A THREAT?  WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW THAT YOUR EMBRACING YOUR GOALS HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY SET ASIDE?

Can you relate to the change in the mindset of the person whose plans were just changed without his permission?

I think this is how life is.   We have our goals in how we want to live our life.  We feel comfortable being in control of our movements and our abilities, but then, as so often happens, things change in our life.  New, unexpected things happen in our circumstances that break up the way we were dancing through life.  At least for the moment, we are asked to deal with a new circumstance.

How can you deal with that?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • recognize that this is a common experience for us all. As much as we hate to admit it, we are not in control in our lives.  We can’t control the weather or how other people will respond to us, or the unexpected health situation,  etc.   However, we can control how we will react in every circumstance in our lives.
  • I don’t know of anyone who does not like to be in control, so how do you handle that feeling of insecurity that comes when life happens to you and your plans for living life get interrupted?  Understand that God is faithful. He will not allow you to be overcome by ANYTHING that He will not help you endure through.  Count on it.  Although the way of healing or calm might not be a quick fix, He will be there with you every step of the way and give you His amazing grace to help you persevere.  There is always hope!
  • recognize the opportunities that come with being stretched.  I believe over the years, regrettably, I have missed out on many opportunities for personal growth, and the chance to help someone in need around me, but because I so firmly had my “goal-focused” glasses on, all I could think of was myself. My obsession with meeting my own goals blinded me to many missed opportunities around me.  Maybe your new circumstances might just be a good thing—embrace it!
  • So, although I totally believe having goals is vital to personal and organizational success, I am also beginning to recognize that when the unexpected happens in life  (like someone wanting to cut in and dance with my partner),  I need to ask questions like, “what can I learn from this new development?” or “how can I take advantage of this new situation to enjoy and benefit from it?”  or “Lord, what are you trying to teach me through these new circumstances in my life?”

That’s it for now.    I delayed getting some things done this morning to write this post, so now I’m back to dancing with my goals partner!  🙂

 

“Is this water going to be refreshing or bad for me”?

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Many of the posts I write about have to do with perspective.  I believe its because of the perspective we have on things that cause us to act like we do.  One of my favorite things are M&M’s.   When I see a bowl of M&M’s, I know  that as soon as I scoop up my first handful, a smile will come to my taste buds and I will feel happier.  That’s weird to say that, huh? (although I’m sure you can probably relate).

However, like eating one potato chip (I don’t think its possible), one handful of M&M’s is nearly impossible for me to do.

I think one scoop will satisfy, but it won’t. So, I take another one, and another.  Pretty soon, my happy feelings turn into a kind of yucky feeling.

I think life is like that.  We all face so many choices throughout our days and its the wisdom of our perspective that makes all the difference between having a deep feeling of contentment, or “need for more attitude that leads to yuckiness”.

Recently, I was reminded of this “perspective in our choices” kind of issue after reading  Brad Bigney’s excellent book, “Gospel Treason”.  Here are a few notes from it that I took:

-God doesn’t just give you satisfaction. Rather than merely giving you water, He establishes IN  YOU a fountain of living water
its as though we’re in a boat surrounded by what looks like refreshing , thirst-quenching water, but its full of salt. Everything outside of God in Christ is saltwater, and it only leaves you thirstier  than you were before.
-enjoy the stuff of this world, but don’t live for them.. They cannot sustain you. You were made for something bigger, better, fuller.   You were made for an appetite for God, and nothing else will satisfy. .   
-1 Tim. 6:17c (ESV) , says “God richly provides us with everything to enjoy. “
-So, if you have them (the material stuff in this world), enjoy them. Thank God for them. Just don’t get lost in the gift and forget the Giver . Only God Himself can satisfy.
-Idolatry is a threat to your soul.
Although there is so much around you that would seem to bring you an immediate sense of enjoyment, take the time my friend to evaluate the bigger picture.   Are you, in actuality believing that some  thing or person will bring you a lasting satisfaction and fulfillment, when only a personal relationship with the living and loving God can do that?    As good as this “obvious choice” looks, will my yielding to it be good for me, or something harmful?

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?

 

Are you focusing on building sand castles?

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Looking out at the ocean, my mind was filled with wonder.  So much water.  It just went on and on until the horizon–such an incredible a sight.  On top of the awe I felt in looking out over this marvel of creation, I found myself also basking in the warmth of the sun, and the almost perfect temperature balance of the cool water on my toes.

Suddenly, my dreamlike experience was interrupted by some commotion further down on the beach.  “What was going on?” I wondered.  As I got closer, I could see that a crowd had built up around a bunch of kids playing at a sandcastle.  Their laughing, smiling, and energy was bringing joy to everyone admiring them.   

But, just to be clear, this was no ordinary sandcastle.   This thing was so big, there were rooms in it. The kids also built some tunnels that they were able to pass some of their toys through. Wow!  One of the fathers was also playing with the kids because I believe it was his idea that had conceived the suctioning of water from the ocean through some kind of contraption that the kids could then use to soak each other (and imaginary armies attacking their castle).  It was an incredible sight to behold.

Now here’s the point to me telling you this story—-it’s just a story.

Actually, I’ve  been thinking about this story for the past couple of weeks because I think that’s how life is.  Stay with me on this.

In this story, the kids (and the father), as well as the onlookers were having fun.  They were enjoying themselves and that is a good thing. Life should be like that. I hope you are enjoying your life because whether it’s with amazing sights of creation to behold, or amazing foods that dazzle your taste buds,  or fragrances that make your nose come alive, or any other experience in life that invigorate our senses, all of us should find pleasure in living life.

But, with that said, there is a need for balance to just  enjoying the individual moments of life and that is perspective.  The reality is that when the tide rises, the sandcastle in this story will be destroyed and be no more.  Just like that, the dream will be over.

Life is like that too. How much longer will you live before the high tide of life comes in?  40 years, 20 years, 5 more years, 1 more year; 30 more minutes?—none of us know, but the certainty is there.   Then, what?

My friend, I apologize if you were looking for a fun, little post about kids on beaches, and then got whiplash to thinking about “deep things”.

To be honest though, my heart seems pretty heavy these days as I’ve perceived people getting overly focused BUILDING SAND CASTLES.  In what they talk about, what I see their time being spent on, etc., it all seems to be focused on the here and now.   Just to be overly communicative,  I believe life should be enjoyed.   Personally,  I am finding greater and greater appreciation for every day I have and the sights and sounds that make up my days.

But, something inside of me, blares out through posts like this one to encourage others not only seek to enjoy life now, but to prepare yourself for the eventual day when this life is over for you and the next life begins.

Have you given that any thought lately?

For some, they have never  thought about life beyond their time now on the beach building bigger, and cooler sand castles,     If that is you, let me encourage you to pause from your beach building and consider your unworthiness to stand before the holy God who created the vast ocean next to your little project.  Before Him, you, like I am, are unworthy. The Bible says we are all sinners, and all we deserve is separation, death, and judgement. Instead, this gracious, and loving God offers us forgiveness and mercy.  What He offers to all who will accept this free gift is His kindness.  Have you accepted His generous gift made possible by the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection?

For others, you accepted His gift a while ago, but you have gotten so distracted by building sand castles that you have lost perspective. You have been so captivated by building the coolest sandcastle that you have made this the priority in your life.  You spend extra resources on your project. You talk with others about their sand castles to get ideas on how to improve yours.  You tend to do a lot of looking at others to judge your own to improve your feelings of importance.

If that describes you, you need to look beyond your sand castle to the ocean behind it.  Let me encourage you to once again consider the awesomeness of the One who created that vast ocean in front of you and Who has made a provision for you to come to know Him (as you once did). You need to get perspective to remember this bigger picture of life.  Yes, we are to enjoy each and every day, but we are also to live with eternity in mind and prioritize our behaviors now based on that eternal perspective.

How are you living your life, my friend?  Are you able to not only enjoy your sandcastle, but the Creator of the ocean behind it?