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?

 

 

 

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Beyond words!…… there is always hope

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Have you ever had the experience of standing on a beach and looking out at the ocean and just… “well, just feeling overwhelmed with the sight before you and its implications.  It is beyond words”!

The same feelings could be used to describe standing in front of some majestic mountain range, or the Grand Canyon.
Its one thing to go to some scenic destination and experience these awesome sights, but what if you lived at the base of some glorious mountain range and saw those incredible mountains every day? Would you ever lose the awe of seeing those peaks, or would you become desensitized to them?  I wonder.
Again, how about if you lived on the coast and had the vast ocean before you all the time?   Would you ever stop having your mind blown away from the thoughts of how deep those waters are, or are many miles of water there are before you come to some land? or wondering about all the many sea creatures that live in those waters?
Let’s keep going with the same “beyond words” theme, but apply it differently.
How about prayer?
Because it is so familiar a topic, have you become desensitized to the “over the top” incredible experience that prayer is?  Here you are, among 7-8 billion people on this planet and you have the opportunity, 24/7 to talk to the One, True God, who created it all, and sustains it all.  You have the opportunity, if you desire, to talk to this God.    Are you doing that regularly?  If so, why wouldn’t you be?
If you are a person who has submitted your life to Him through your faith in believing that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross has made provision for you to be forgiven of ALL your sins—well, not only are your prayers being heard, but you are also getting communicated back by Him through the Bible, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit living within you.—–YEAH, that is awesome!
As our life is tuned in to doing His will and living for Him, seeking for His name and reputation to be honored and not our own, God gives us the following promises regarding our prayers being answered:
John 15:7 (esv)  – “if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish , and it will be done  for you.”
John 15:16b-(esv) -so that  whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Yet, although we have direct access to this living God and He tells us that our prayers will be answered, I still have an awful tendency to want to manage the challenges in life by myself. Unfortunately, and at the same time, foolishly, I want to act independently and control my own life.  How sad.
Well, let’s keep on this theme of “beyond words” and even go one better than the amazing truth that my prayers (when I do them- James 4:2) can be heard by God and will  be answered by Him.  In James, it says that the “prayer of a righteous  person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b  (esv).
How about this further truth: if my prayers (although I am still so caught in the snares of my own selfishness and weaknesses) can get heard and answered by God think of how effective and powerful are the prayers of the other members of the Trinity on my behalf.
* Romans 8:26b (esv) tells us that  “the Spirit himself intercedes  for us with groanings  too deep for words”
* Hebrews 7:25b (esv) tells us that “He (Jesus Christ) always lives to make intercession for them.”
WOW!
The truths that not only does Almighty God listen and respond to my prayers as I come humbly before Him based on my faith in Jesus Christ, but  incredibly I have members of the Holy Trinity itself praying for my best.  I and you are supported beyond what we can imagine.  Why would any of ever feel we are without hope.  He has and always will be there to support us and offer us hope  as He gives us of Himself  (ALL……SO UNDESERVED….JUST GRACE!)

 

a Patriotic special encounter

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I really enjoy the holidays, pretty much all of them.  I especially like the holidays where family gets together and we can all enjoy, un-hurried “hanging out” times.

Today, was one of those special times with my receiving an unexpected encounter.  My wife, daughters, and two grand kids  had just gotten to the pool for another day in the blistering sun, looking forward to being refreshed by the cool splashing water, and very precious times of playing “Marco Polo’, or “Motorboat, Motorboat” or “Airplane” .

While we were unloading all of our necessary pool supplies in a shady oasis in the pool area, we saw an older man, John, who  was finding comfort in the cool shade.  My wife made some friendly comment thanking him for his service to our country and how  “grand pa was  ready to go in and start playing with his grand kids in the pool”.

The older man commented that he was not able to go into the pool, because of some disease. He then mentioned another health problem due to “agent orange” from his time of service in the Viet Nam war.   

As I have been challenged lately by the Lord to be more respectful of all human life, I continued to show concern to this man and asked John questions about not only his health, but about his war experiences, as well as his perspective on how those experiences intersected with him having faith.

It was so enjoyable. Such a relaxed conversation I had with his man as he spoke of his time in the war. With my curiosity peaked, and my questions flowing from them, John told me about some of his war experiences that both shocked me, and well, just disturbed me.  I will spare you the details he shared with me.

The one story he left me with that has seemed to stay with me most was this.  It wasn’t the death he saw all too frequently, ( some stories he shared with me), or the health issues that resulted from his time in the service (depression, diabetes, PTSD, uncontrolled anger), but the his experience  when he returned to the United States,.

He was on a plane loaded with servicemen at the airport and the plane was a few hundred yards away from the gate.  However,  the pilot didn’t seem to have any intention of moving the plane up to the gate, which puzzled the soldiers.  Some of the anxious servicemen were starting to get agitated looking forward to the cheers they expected to receive at the terminal, yet everything was being delayed.

After about an hour, one of the airline staff on the plane told the servicemen that they were waiting for a bus to come out to the plane to load them up and take them to a nearby army base.  There was no crowd of cheering people waiting to shower them with their gratitude, gifts, and smiles.  Instead, the airlines official told them they were having to board these military personnel on a bus because, in actuality, what awaited them in the terminal were protesters who were just looking for the opportunity to curse these soldiers, spit at them, and show in every conceivable way they could, their objections to the U.S. being in this war and these soldiers having a part in it.

The lack of gratitude and disrespect they experienced on their return “home” I can’t even begin to relate to, yet I found that even imagining what they experienced made me almost verbally gasp.

Friends, this 4th of July take a moment to show gratitude to our servicemen for their willingness to have laid down their life and for protecting the freedoms of our country.  I get it that some folks may not agree with war in general, or our involvement in a specific war, but let me encourage you to put your right to your own opinions aside for a few moments, or even hours and empathize with one of our military whose life was forever changed, fighting on your behalf and mine.

 

 

Get ready to go to bed! —“Sleep Smarter” book review

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My apologies, in advance, for the long set up on this, but I think its really important that you “get it” as to my focus in writing today’s post—its about “being ready”.

Think about the confidence you have when you have prepared for every possible scenario you can think of  for the upcoming meeting.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome at that meeting?

Think about the confidence you will have to face your opponent this weekend after an in-depth week of studying film and  multiple practices designed to take advantage of your team’s strengths, and your opponent’s weaknesses.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome for your team at this weekend’s game?

Last one, this evening, you are going to have a talk with a friend over a very troubling matter that has brought tension to your relationship for many months.  Tonight will be a time for you to hopefully work through it with this person.  How much more likely will there be a positive outcome for you if you prepare your heart and mind to what you need to say, and how you should say those things?

The common issues in all these three of these scenarios is that preparing ourselves ahead of time will increase our chances of success.  Who doesn’t want success?  We all do, but how many of us are willing to do the things we need to ahead of time (I’m talking putting in hard work, establishing good habits, and making adjustments) and then follow through with those practices to experience, over time–some kind of victory?

All these thoughts come to mind after reading the book, “Sleep Smarter” by Shawn Stevenson.  There are some books that I’ll work my way through.  The read is fairly enjoyable, enough to hold my interest, but I need to labor through.  This was not one of those books.  It ranks up there with books like “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull, Patrick Lencioni books, or “Winning” by Jack Welch.  I couldn’t wait to read this book.  I was absorbed in it.

I have heard that sleep is important, just like I understand that exercise and eating fruits and vegetables are also important.  However, this book blew me away with its thoroughness on bringing up data to support sleep’s importance.  I wasn’t aware that having a better diet affected the quality of my sleep, or putting away electronic devices can help me have a better night’s rest, that good sex can help me have a better sleep, that waking up early can help me sleep better, etc.

I also appreciated Shawn’s presentation of his content.  I never felt like I was a child being scolded and admonished about getting more sleep.  Rather, I felt like I was being coached by someone who cares for me and wants me to be successful.  Making adjustments in my life to get better sleep, I’m now convinced, will help me enjoy a better life.

Without a doubt, this is a book, I would highly recommend reading.

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As a help to being your best in the area of Personal Health, please check out my Life Management App and consider using it with a friend:

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

 

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.