You Matter

A couple of years ago, I was at the Re:Write Conference and got to met several writers like myself. One of the keynote speakers was Mark Batterson. I had read a few of his books and was excited to meet him in person. At dinner, before his keynote address, I met a guy who went to his church. He is one of several thousand who attend one of the satellite churches in the Washington, D.C. area. After dinner, he and I were talking and as Mark walked by, he stopped and said, “Hey, Nathan! How’s the conference going?” After the brief conversation, Nathan turned to me and exclaimed, “Mark Batterson knows my name!”

It was one of those moments where I was excited for him, but also a little envious. I thought, “Man, it would be cool if Mark knew my name.” It got me to thinking about how God knows my name. In Isaiah 43:1, God says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name.” There isn’t a person alive or who has ever lived who wasn’t known by God. Not only does He know our name, He knows the very number of hairs on our head (see Matthew 10:30)!

In a world of over 7 billion people, it’s easy to think you don’t matter. It easy to think your life is anonymous and unrecognized. When we feel that way, it feels like our efforts and sometimes life are worthless. We think, “What’s the point? No one cares. No one notices. No one knows me. I’m all alone.” That’s kind of how I felt at that conference. I was there by myself and several of the other writers knew each other. I felt like no one would notice if I just disappeared. I was hoping someone would know my name like Mark knew Nathan’s.

We don’t have to feel that way. Even if no one else knows us, the creator of the universe does. Even if no one else cares, you can breathe easy knowing that the King of Kings cares about you. Psalm 139:16 says, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God cares enough about you and your life that He has planned out your life. He has already recorded it from beginning to end. He not only knows your name and the hairs on your head, He knows your daily life.

When you start to feel like your life doesn’t matter, remember that it matters to the one who matters most. When your thoughts stray and tell you that no one cares, remember that God is thinking about you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God made you to specifically do what only you can do. When He formed you in your mother’s womb, He knew what your life would be like. He knew the feelings you were going to have. He knew that what you do matters because you matter to Him. He knows your name and everything about you and loves you still. Live today like someone who is known by God.

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Two Sets Of Eyes

One of my favorite stories in the Bible comes from II Kings 6. The Syrians were attacking Israel, but every time they planned an attack, Israel was two steps ahead of them. The King of Syria thought he had a traitor among his staff, but someone told him about Elisha. In verse 12, one of them told him, “The prophet Elisha tells the King of Israel what you say even in the privacy of your own room.” The king decided he wanted to capture Elisha and so he sent a large army to capture him and to bring him back by force.

They must have traveled all night because it was early the next morning when Elisha’s servant woke up and went outside. He ran back inside and exclaimed to Elisha, “We’re doomed! What will we do?” He saw that the entire city where they were staying was surrounded. He couldn’t see any way out of this situation. He forgot what God had done through Elisha in the past and focused on the present situation and he panicked. He saw no way out, but he knew who to go to.

Elisha walked outside, looked at the army calmly and said, “Don’t be afraid. We have more on our side than they have on theirs.” I’m sure his servant rubbed his eyes, looked at the army and started counting by the hundreds. Then he looked at he and Elisha and went, “One. Two. Hmmm.” Elisha patiently prayed, “Lord, open his eyes and let him see.” When the servant looked up after the prayer, he saw the hillside covered with horses and chariots of fire completely surrounding the Syrian army.

What eyes do you see your problems through? God gave the victory to them that day and He wants to give it to you today. It comes down to what eyes you’re looking at your circumstances through. The one set sees yourself surrounded by your problems with no way out. The other set sees that God is bigger than your problems and wants to give you victory. One set says, “I’m doomed.” The other says, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” One set forgets what God has done for you. The other knows God has not failed you.

Whatever problems are surrounding you today are no match for God. You may have so many things going wrong that you can’t count them, but you plus God equals a majority. You are not outnumber. You are not alone. You are not doomed. You are a child of the God of Angel Armies and the King of Kings. He will come to your rescue and stand by your side in the toughest of times. May God open your eyes today to see that there are more that are with you than there are against you. Trust in Him today and choose to look at your situation through His eyes.

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Focus On Today

Do you ever find yourself letting your mind wander through all the possible outcomes of a situation? Before you know it, you can lose a couple of hours or even a day. I’ve been known to lose sleep just thinking about all the “what if’s”. When I was at a dead end in life and was forced to file bankruptcy, I couldn’t find an outcome that was positive. I was worried sick over how hard the next seven years were going to be. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the implications of it, not to mention the embarrassment. I got caught up in an endless cycle of thoughts that were detrimental to my well being.

God knows all too well how our minds work. I think that’s why Jesus dealt with those of us who are constantly living in the future of “what if’s” instead of in the present what is. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (MSG)” He was very plain in that verse and His words hit home with someone like me.

When I give my attention to the “what if’s”, I take away from what God is doing in this very moment. I lose sight of the reality that He is creating in my life today. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I have no clue how my current situation will end, but God does. He knows all too well what tomorrow will bring and what I need to do today in order to prepare for it. When I worry about the possibilities, I miss out on what He’s showing me today in order to help me tomorrow. That’s why He wants me to give my entire attention to what He’s doing right now, not what He’s going to do.

In the second part of that verse, Jesus assures us that God will help us with what comes next. He’s not going to let you walk into a trap and then abandon you. He’s not going to hang you out to dry when times get tough. People may do that, but God never will. Jesus said that He will help you with whatever hard things come up and will be there for you when the time comes. Deuteronomy 3:18 says, “The Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can testify that He is true to His word. He did not abandon me when I needed Him most and He won’t abandon you when you need Him most.

He is merely a prayer away. When the hard times come, simply say, “God, I can’t do this without you. In my own strength, this is impossible, but with you, all things are possible.” Don’t worry about all the worst possible outcome of what could happen. Find God in the middle of today’s mess instead. Look for Him in the midst of what you’re walking through today. He will be your fortress of refuge, your rock and your shield. Give your mind a rest from the worry. God knows the outcome and whatever it is, He will give you the grace and strength you need to make it through.

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10 Scriptures On Faith

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1. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 NLT)

2. So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself). (Romans 10:17 AMP)

3. For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says, “The person who is put right with God through faith shall live.” (Romans 1:17 GNB)

4. But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]. (Hebrews 11:6 AMP)

5. (for we walk by faith, not by sight); (2 Corinthians 5:7 ASV)

6. So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead). (James 2:17 AMP)

7. Your faith, then, does not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:5 GNB)

8. Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. ” (Matthew 17:20 NLT)

9. For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands. (Romans 3:28 GNB)

10. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. (Ephesians 6:16 GNB)

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Making A Difference

When I get to speak to new employees, one of the things I like to tell them is that their location or workgroup should be different because they are there. I want them to understand that wherever they go, things should change because they are there. I then explain that they have the ability to affect things positively around them or negatively. Ultimately it’s their choice on what kind of impact they’re going to make.

You and I should live our Christian lives with the same philosophy. Our church should be different because we are their. They should be more vibrant and welcoming because we set the time for others to follow. Our work place should be different because of the spiritual influence we carry with us. Our coworkers shouldn’t know we are Christians because we are always preaching at them, but because of our actions. They should see Jesus in us.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he spoke to them about the effect their conduct had on others and their perception of Christianity. In chapter 1 verse 27 he said, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ (MSG).” He knew that how we live in our day to day lives can either add to people’s perception of Christ or detract from it. He wanted our attitude, our actions to be a credit to the Message. He wanted our lives to lead others to Christ.

Think about the world you live in. Who are the people you come into contact with daily? Do they hear one thing coming out of your mouth and see something totally different in how you live? We’ve all heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s time we applied that to spiritual things. It’s time our behaviors reflected the mind and attitude of Christ. Paul put it this way in Philippians 2:12-13, “Live in responsive obedience… Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation… That energy is God’s energy (MSG).”

If we think we’re living in responsive obedience, try harder. Be energetic in your life. Let God’s energy flow through you today. Don’t be a person who is always negative and sees the worst in every situation. Be the person who sees the best in situations and creates a positive atmosphere. People want to be around that person. People notice when someone is that way. When they ask what makes you different, you have an open door to share a faith that your actions have backed up. Go out today and make a difference wherever life leads you.

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Take A Break

Do you ever have those days where you are just drained? You know, the days where the alarm clock goes off and you wonder if you even slept. You don’t want five more minutes, you want five more hours! It seems like being tired is more and more the norm for people. As technology improves, we have become more efficient in our work. That efficiency has translated to having to do more work, not less. Our minds consume more information in a shorter amount of time than in any other point in history.

It’s no wonder our bodies and our minds are tired. We are exhausted, but are too afraid to take off work because the amount of work that will pile up while we are out. I know people who take a vacation, but work remotely while on it. The vacation is just really working away from the office. So many of us have put work above our own health and our families. I understand needing to make a living, but don’t forget to make a life while you’re at it. Every once in a while you need a break from all the mental and physical stresses you put on your body.

I’m reminded that Creation was hard work. God out all He had into and still took a break. He took a day to rejuvenate and to rest. He has encouraged us to do the same since then. One of the Ten Commandments was, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” The root word for Sabbath means to rest from labor according to the Blue Letter Bible. God wanted us to just breathe and relax one day a week. He didn’t design our bodies to run 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

When our bodies have had enough, it’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to put down the technology that keeps you connected and the information flowing. I’ve found that when I take a break, the world keeps on moving without me, work still gets done and the world won’t fall apart. It’s an humbling reminder that it doesn’t need me in order to keep going. Life will continue after you and I are gone. The world will go on. There’s no use in burning ourselves out. We have to think about the long haul.

When I get tired and worn out, I remember Psalms 73:26. It says, “My mind and my body may grow weak, but God is my strength; He is all I ever need.” It requires me ask why I’m weak. Is it because I’m doing eternal things or because I’m doing temporary things? Either way, I need to take sabbatical and rest every now and then. When I’m recharged I’m able to make a bigger difference at work and for the Kingdom. It’s ok to take a break. In fact, God requires it. Schedule it and make it happen.

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Reflections On Rebuilding

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My wife and I recently visited the World Trade Center Memorial and Freedom Tower. We stood around the cavernous memorial listening to the water fall and then drain into the hole in the middle. We read names of those who were killed on 9/11 and prayed for the families still grieving. It was an humbling experience to stand in the place where so much destruction and devastation took place. I remembered how I wanted to be near a TV at all times right after it happened so I could hear if they had found any survivors.

As I stared silently into the pool, I saw the reflection of Freedom Tower in the water. I did my best to take a photo of it (seen above). I flipped the picture to show the hole where the water drained as the foundation for the new building. The loss that once was so deep, so great can become the foundation to build again. It can be what drives us to move forward. So many times though, when we experience a great loss or destruction on our life, we do the opposite.

I was thinking about all the twisted metal that was once in that spot. I saw video on TV, photos on the internet and heard first hand accounts of the mess that was created when those two building fell. I’m sure there were days where people thought, “This will never get cleaned up. There’s just too much here.” For months and years, dump truck after dump truck left the site with the rubble. It wasn’t a quick process to clean it up, but it happened with consistent effort.

Once it was all cleaned up, the task of rebuilding came into question. Should we rebuild? How should we rebuild? What should we build? Now, when I see Freedom Tower standing tall in that iconic skyline, I’m reminded that we are to clean up the mess after a destruction happens in our lives. We are to rebuild bigger and better than before. Quitting is the simple solution. Letting the debris of destruction stay where it fell doesn’t require hard work. But that’s not what God says we are to do.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “No matter how often honest (righteous) people fall, they always get up again; but disaster destroys the wicked.” How we react after a major destruction happens in our life says a lot about our spirituality. Are we content to let it destroy us or are we willing to get back up no matter how often we fall? Disaster will happen in each of our lives. It’s part of life. Each time it happens, God wants us to get back up and rebuild. He doesn’t want us to stay down and take the easy road. He wants us to clean ourselves up, dust off and start to build again. What was once a big hole will now be your foundation for going forward.

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