Monthly Archives: February 2013

Your Soul Purpose

I heard the story of a rich man who was very ill. He was intent on taking His wealth to Heaven with him when he died. He cried out to Peter and begged him if he could bring his wealth to Heaven. Peter finally relented, but told him he could only bring what he could fit in a suitcase. The man bought the biggest suitcase he could find and converted his wealth to gold. As the time came near to his death, he loaded the suitcase with his gold.

When he died, he took the suitcase with him to the Pearly Gates. An angel saw him with the suitcase and stopped him. He was told he couldn’t bring anything to Heaven. He replied that he had spoken to Peter about it and assured the angel it was all right. The angel was curious what he could possibly have that was so valuable that he needed to bring it to Heaven. He asked the man if he could see what was in the case. When the man opened the suitcase, the puzzled angel asked, “Why did you need to bring these street paving stones to Heaven? We have plenty.”

We often put our value on things that are of no value to God. We forget that we are not of this world and allow our minds to be transformed into the thinking of this world. The world says, “Make as much money as you can as fast as you can.” Why? You can’t take it with you. It has no eternal value. The money you make here will be left behind for someone else to spend.

I’m not against making money. I’m against that being the sole purpose of our lives. Jesus said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” What was the Father’s business? Making sure that none would perish. Jesus spent His entire ministry helping the poor, the sick and the oppressed. He was concerned about the souls of men rather than getting wealthy. Winning the lost should be our soul purpose not accumulating wealth.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul says, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (NLT).” Everything else. Not some things. Everything else is worthless compared to knowing Christ. This kind of thinking doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world. In fact, I Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” It is opposite of their thinking.

We need to be about the Father’s business and increase the knowledge of Him in others. In truth, a soul lasts forever, not your bank account. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What do you treasure? Do you look at the lives and souls of others as a treasure worth investing in or do you look at the stock market and accumulating wealth as worth investing in? Do your actions show that? I’ll leave you with Romans 12:2 from the Message to think about.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (Romans 12:2a MSG)

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Loved Beyond Measure

I know that today is one of the hardest days of the year for a lot of people. It’s one more reminder that no one loves them. That they are single…. Still. It’s a difficult day emotionally. Other people are getting roses and gifts at work. They are talking about where they are going to eat tonight. They are showing off expensive gifts this morning. Then people look at those without that today, smile and say, “Don’t worry, you’ll find love someday. You just haven’t met the right one.”

Somehow words like that don’t help. They only drive the dagger deeper into the heart. Everyone has a need for love. Everyone has a need to be accepted by someone. It’s just the way God made us. Because He is love and we were made for Him, we were made with this cavern in us that can only be filled with love. Sure, being loved by a person is great and shows acceptance, but that alone doesn’t fill the cavern. God knew that we would seek out love and hoped that we would find Him.

Instead of finding Him, many find “love” in forms that are not of Him. They get desperate because their mind says, “I was supposed to be married by now” or “Im getting so old that there won’t be anyone left to love me.” I’ve been there. I’ll go a step further. My thoughts said, “All that’s left at this age are the crazies that no one wanted. I’ve got to choose from them. Oh wait, am I one of them?” The mind can play some pretty cruel tricks on you.

I can say that until you learn to love yourself, it will be hard for others to love you. The way you see yourself is the way you project yourself even though you try to mask it. If you don’t love yourself, your mind says, “No one will ever love you.” Then you fight off anyone that even tries. You find fault with them or reasons you shouldn’t be together and sabotage the relationship often unknowingly. It becomes a cycle and the norm.

The first step to loving yourself is realizing that you are already loved. You are loved beyond measure and beyond your own comprehension. I John 4:10 says, “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” God loves you no matter what. You are His child and He gave His all, His very best, for you! Yes, I’m talking to you. You are valuable. You are worthy of love. You are constantly thought of. Psalm 139: 17-18 says, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand.”

Think about that. If every time God thought about you was counted, it would be more than the grains of sand in the Sahara. More than the grains of sand on every beach in the world combined. He’s obsessed with you! He loves you more than anyone including yourself can. Accept that love and know that you are worthy of love, even your own. A person’s love, while good to have, will not fill that cavern in you. It won’t even get you to Heaven, but God’s love will and does.

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Foggy Vision

It’s often foggy when I drive to work in the mornings. It gets so thick I can hardly see very far in front of me. I know where I’m headed, but the exits and interchanges are difficult to see in the fog. I typically have to drive slower on days like that to make sure I don’t wreck or miss an exit. As the sun comes up, the fog begins to dissipate and my vision becomes clearer.

I think it’s a lot like that for most of us when it comes to God’s plan and vision for our life. We might know where God has us going in this life, but we can’t see very far into the future. When we look down the road of our life, all we see is cloudiness and very few street signs. It’s hard to know which way to go, where to turn or when to brake. Others pass us as if the fog doesn’t exist. Are they being careless or is their vision somehow more clear than our own?

I know personally how difficult it is to not be able to see very far ahead. I know I’m heading in the direction that God told me to go. I don’t want to end up like the Israelites where I’m wandering in the desert for 40 years. I want to know where the Jordan river in my life is and make my way to it. I want to be camped on its banks when God says, “It’s ok to cross it now. I have dammed the river up and you can cross on dry ground.”

There are choices we can make when dealing with the inability to see very far ahead in our lives. The first choice is to be frozen by fear of the unknown and to stay where we are. I’ve always heard people say, “If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward.” The longer it takes me to move forward, the longer it will be until we get to where He wants us. What if Abraham had waited around when God said, “Go to the land that I will show you”? What would have happened if he had stayed where he was until God showed him where he wanted to go?

God simply said, “Go.” God can correct our direction and movement, but only if we’re moving. He can’t change our course if we are sitting around. That brings us to our next choice. We can move in the fog and deal with the limited sight distance. I’ve noticed that when I move forward in a fog, I can see a little further than I could from where I was. Each step forward reveals things I had not seen before. I begin to see the signs I couldn’t see before. Moving forward in faith reveals more of God’s plan.

The more time I spend with God, the more I allow His light to shine in my life. If I lift up the Son in all I do, I’ve found that my focus changes from the fog to pleasing Him. The fog is lifted because my faith has grown and my vision improves. I begin to see further down the road than I had. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans for us. They are good plans and we need to trust Him one step at a time. He will reveal those plans for us as we move closer to Him and in the direction He is sending us.

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The Masada Commitment

My pastor is currently in Israel having the trip of a lifetime for a minister. As I see the pictures he’s posted and hear the stories from his wife I’m reminded of my trips. He posted a picture from Masada the other day that reminded me of a powerful story. I hiked to the top of Masada and watched the sunrise over the Dead Sea without knowing anything about where I was. When I got to the top of this mountain, there was a deserted city there of stone. Most walls had been worn down over time, but you could easily see where everything was.

It turns out that when the Romans were conquering the world, they came to Israel. They had taken over just about every city and had brought it under Roman rule. There was one major city left to conquer. Masada. The Roman army assembled at the base of the mountain and cut off supplies to the city. They began to construct a ramp up the mountain so the army could easily get up there to battle.

As time went on the Romans had made it all the way to the city gates. The people of Masada knew that a battle would be imminent. They also knew that they were outnumbered and would lose. The night before the battle, the men of the city gathered together. They decided that they would rather die than to serve Rome.

Each man went home and killed his family then returned to the meeting place. There they drew straws and chose ten men to kill the rest. Out of those ten men, one would kill the other nine before taking his own life. Today, the Israeli Defense makes that hike after boot camp to take their oath to Israel. They vow that they would rather die than to live under another country’s rule.

This story makes me think back to the early church. The men and women of faith who gave their lives for the sake of the Message of Christ. I think of the men and women today who live in countries where being a Christian is illegal. People today still give their lives for the cause of Christ whether you know it or not. I’ve met them, worked with them and served with them. They know the risks of being a Christian in those places and choose to risk their lives daily so that one more might hear about the love of Christ.

I look at my life and my first world problems and realize they pale in comparison to the sacrifices these men and women have made and continue to make. I wonder about my own faith. Do I have what it takes to risk my life for the Kingdom? Do I believe in the cross enough to accept death rather than denial? You and I probably don’t have to face that choice today, but others do. If we were faced with it, what would we honestly do? Is salvation from God through the death of Jesus just something we hope for or do we believe it enough to risk our lives?

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The Domino Effect

Ten years ago today a friend and employee of mine died in a car crash. The crash killed her husband and daughter as well. Her two year old son survived, but was handicapped by the wreck and was in the hospital for a long time. Their deaths would be the first domino that would fall in my life and set off a chain reaction that wouldn’t stop until October of that same year.

While I would spend my spare time visiting their son in the ICU in downtown Houston, my wife would use her newly found free time to indulge deeper into a relationship she had started at work. I would then be brought into a custody battle for the son of my deceased friend and have to testify about people I had known for years. It was uncomfortable and not what I wanted. Not long after the custody battle I discovered my wife’s affair. That sent me deeper in depression.

One domino after another seemed to fall. While dealing with that, the landlord where I had my business decided not to renew my lease. The places where I kept trying to sign leases kept falling through. I finally found a place, but it would take a while to renovate. When I was almost done, the city inspector came in and made me tear it all down and start over. More money was lost. Time and energy that I didn’t have were being drained.

I had to take on a partner to help get the job done. While we were redoing everything, the IRS came and wanted back taxes I couldn’t pay. They threatened to take everything. The partner took over the business, but not my debts. The creditors called, knocked and harassed like they do. I ended up filing bankruptcy and losing everything. I started making half what I was and couldn’t afford my house or car. In October, my divorce was finalized and the last domino had fallen. I was tired, depressed and hopeless.

It took me a while before I started picking up the pieces of my life and began to put it back together. There aren’t many people actively involved in my life now who were there then. Everything in my life was turned over including friends. My life is not perfect, but I can tell you I’m a long way from where I was ten years ago. God has done some amazing things in my life and has restored to me more than what I lost. Enough had happened to me that I could have spent the rest of my life bitter, angry and depressed. I had every right to.

That’s not how God wants us to respond to adversity though. Those times in our lives build endurance. They build character. They leave scars and deep wounds too. I’m ten years out and I still break down when I think about the pain I suffered. It’s still real. I also am humbled when I look back and see that God never left me during that time. Even though I couldn’t see Him or feel Him then, I see now that He was working everything out for my good.

You may be going through a lot worse today. I don’t know. What I do know is that God has not left you nor has He forsaken you. Don’t believe the lies that He left you alone to struggle as the dominos in your life fall. He is creating something beautiful in your life and is preparing you for what’s ahead. Don’t give up or quit because you think there is no end to the falling dominos. They will stop at some point and you’ll find God at the end where He is waiting to build again.


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Joy in the Struggle

How do you find joy in the middle of a struggle? When your world is caving in on all sides, is it possible to still have peace and strength? I believe it is. We often confuse joy and happiness. They are completely different. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not. It is something that lives in you and gives you strength to move forward when you don’t have the strength on your own. It is what keeps you going when everything tells you to quit.

I know what it’s like to struggle to find the will to live each day. I’ve faced things in my life that broke me. My brother would call me every hour just to make sure I was alive. I finally told him that I wasn’t going to give up or give in to everything that was coming against me. Each night as I laid in bed I would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. It says, “The joy of The Lord is your (my) strength.”

In our daily lives we have a choice to make. Are we going to let ourselves be destroyed by our circumstances or we going to endure them? None of us are exempt from having bad things happening to us. None of us are exempt from being dealt one bad thing after another until we reach our breaking point. Happiness will not help you get through them. If your strength is dependent on happiness, you will quickly crumble and fail. Depression will set in and your struggles will be compounded.

Great men of faith on the Bible endured their trials and tests because they kept in mind that the things that were coming against them were not an attack from God. They were tests to prove and strengthen their faith. Each person that endures hardships comes away with a deeper faith and is stronger for it. I found that what helped me was to keep in mind the promises that God had made to me. I think the people in the Bible did the same. They didn’t let their circumstances override what they knew about God. They hung on to the hope of better days ahead.

One of my favorite scriptures that helped me and still does when I go through struggles is Romans 5:3-5. It says, ” We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (NLT)”

Whatever you’re going through today, the struggles, the fears, the stresses, God sees you and is building you up. A person who works out doesn’t grow unless they push themselves further than they can go. You cannot get to where God wants you without being stretched. It is tiring. It is painful. It is tearful. You can rejoice and have joy as the scripture says when you are going through things because it still means God is moving you to where He wants you and He knows you can do it.


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Re:Write Conference Take Aways

I can’t believe it has been 4 months since I attended the inaugural Re:Write Conference. I had never been to a writer’s conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The truth is, I paid the money for the conference just so I could have a chance to meet Mark Batterson. I had heard of a couple of the other speakers, but wasn’t familiar with any of them. I had only one goal in mind by attending: meet Mark. That being said, I was totally unprepared for what would happen at the conference and in turn, I was blown away.

What was supposed to be a trip to meet one person and pick up a few skills to better my writing turned out to be a spiritual journey beyond my imagination as well. The speakers who attended the conference didn’t get up and give us formulas for success. They poured out their hearts into our lives. They shared their heartbeat of why they write, their insights into having a relationship with God and how to be satisfied at every level where God uses you. Where I expected clinics, I got wisdom. Where I expected reclusive authors, I got to sit by them and have personal conversations.

What conference can you go to that has people like Paul Young author of The Shack (20,000,000 copies sold), George Barna the authority on church statistics, Ken Blanchard who wrote the book on business leadership, Peter Strople who is the most connected man in the world and so many more authors who won’t go hide in a green room after they speak, but will sit at a table with you while you learn? These authors were the opposite of reclusive. They sat at our tables during the conference and at breakfast. When I was at the airport leaving, I ran into Jim Henderson. He initiated a conversation with me. Later I walked past Paul Young. He called out to me, came over, gave me a hug and said goodbye.

This conference instilled in me the importance of relationships in the writing community. None of us have all the answers or the market cornered. It is through relationships that we build our platforms. We are not competitors against each other fighting for readers. We are co-workers in the Kingdom trying to spread His message, not ours. From that lesson learned, I began to meet other bloggers, published authors, speakers and other incredible people from all walks of life and levels of writing at this conference. I still stay in touch with several.

Another big take away was that I needed to focus my attention on one thing. If I want to write better, I need to ask better questions and narrow down my target. I need to give practical advice, not pie in the sky stuff. I need to keep my audience in mind at all times and I shouldn’t have just a vague picture of who they are. Lisa TerKeurst said at the conference that our readers don’t need another preacher. They need a friend who has struggled or is struggling with them. I have changed how I write thanks to speakers like her.

The relationships, the information and the spiritual growth that I came away with from that conference are invaluable. This year, the conference is going to be in Austin, Texas. My wife wants to go with me this time. She is not a writer, but saw what a change this conference made in my life aside from my writing. She wants to experience what I and so many others did in San Diego. If you do too, check out their website for information. It’s a small investment compared to the eternal changes you will experience.


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A Big Mistake

I was reading Genesis 38 this morning. It’s tucked right in the middle of the story of Joseph. Honestly, it feels like it’s out of place when you read all the chapters around it. It’s not about Joseph at all. It’s about his brother Judah. The chapter tells us that Judah had three sons. He found a wife for his oldest son, but he died before being able to marry her. He then had his next son marry her as the custom was. He wanted them to produce an heir for his oldest son, but his second son was unwilling to do that. After he died, Judah told her to wait for his third son to grow up and that he would marry her.

Years later, she realized that Judah probably wasn’t going to fulfill his promise. When she heard he was coming to her city, she covered her face and sat at the city gate. Judah mistakenly thought she was a prostitute. He offered her payment and she accepted. She ends up getting pregnant and they threaten to kill her until she reveals who the father is. She named her son Perez which means a break out, a breach or a gap.

If you fast forward to Matthew chapter one, you know the one we always skip because it has a bunch of this person begat that person phrases in it, you’ll find Judah and Perez in the lineage of Jesus. Think about that for a second. A man sleeps with his son’s wife, she gets pregnant and God uses that as part of the family line to have His only begotten through. Judah made a mistake. An uncorrectable mistake. A mistake like that will haunt you forever, but God didn’t hold it against him forever.

In fact, if you look at the entire lineage of Jesus in Matthew one, you’ll see another glaring “mistake” in the line. You’ll notice that David and Solomon are in there. You’ll say that’s not a “mistake” and I agree. It’s the parenthetical statement in verse 6 that stands out. It says that the mother of Solomon was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah. If you don’t know, David was out on his roof one night and saw a woman bathing. He liked what he saw, called for her, found out she was married, slept with her anyway and she became pregnant.

He decided to quietly conceal the matter by having her husband murdered. After he was murdered, David married her. The baby died shortly after birth. She got pregnant again and gave birth to Solomon. Crazy huh? What’s more crazy is that God used a murderer and the son birthed from an affair in the line of Christ. The line to Jesus wasn’t filled with perfect people. It was filled with humans who made huge mistakes that they couldn’t recover from.

We all make mistakes in our lives. We all have things we’ve done that we wish we had never done. Some of those mistakes we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives. The amazing thing about God is that when you ask for forgiveness, He doesn’t hold those mistakes over our head. In fact, He can use them to bring about great things in our lives and in our future. Even when you think it’s a mistake that is so bad, you’ll never recover from it, He can turn it around.

Think for a minute today about the mistakes you’ve made. If its big enough, I’m sure it haunts you day and night. Have you asked God to forgive it? Have you asked Him to heal or repair that breach or gap (Perez) in your life? If you’ve asked Him, He’s forgiven you and you should forgive yourself too. God wants to fill in that gap and use it for good in your life and future, but you have to allow Him to, by forgiving yourself and moving forward. You can’t change it, but He can change the outcome of it.


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Leaving the Desert

I’ve read all of my life about the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years after they left Egypt. The group that lacked faith and trust in God to do what He promised never got to see the Promised Land. I think that’s indicative of many Christians today. We wander in the desert of life never receiving what God has promised us because we lack the faith to do what He called us to do so He can fulfill that promise. We get scared of the dream He placed in us and are paralyzed when we see the giants and obstacles in the way. In turn, we live our lives just outside of the full blessings God intended for us.

Just because you are wandering in the desert, it doesn’t mean God is not with you. God lead the Israelites every day while they were there. He even provided for them daily, but that was just a taste of what He wanted to do. You may see God’s hand in your life and know that He is leading you, but if you don’t trust Him to fulfill the vision He gave you, the desert is all you will know. The sad truth is that most if us are satisfied living in the desert.

In order to leave the desert, the Israelites had to leave Moses behind. They got a new God-appointed leader and followed him into the Promised Land. In order to move out of wandering and into conquering, you often have to remove the things in your life that have held you back. Some times that’s a person, sometimes that’s a habit and other times it’s a way of thinking. You cannot move forward until you remove what is holding you back. Figure out what it is and cut yourself loose. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to cast off every weight that besets us so we can run the race we were called to run.

The next thing you have to do is prepare for what God will do. In the book of Joshua 1:11, he told the Israelites to get their provisions ready for crossing the Jordan. Just as they had to pack their bags and sharpen their swords, We must prepare to take the promised land. Many times we think God is just going to do what He promised with no work on our part. That isn’t the case. We have to prepare and get ourselves in place for Him to do what He said. Preparing often means praying more than you have. It also means going to the border of your Egypt and the Promised Land. You can’t cross over unless you’re standing near the border.

The last thing they did was sent out the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them. The priests carried it to the river and as soon as their feet touched the water, the river stood up like a wall. We cannot get ahead of God in going where He called us and in doing what He said. We have to let Him go ahead of us to part the waters and to prepare the way. Our job is to follow Him where He leads, not to lead and hope He follows. To receive His full blessings and the fulfillment of His promise, you must be willing to change what’s holding you back, to prepare to move forward and to follow Him through the perilous rivers of life. Leave the desert of safety and enter into the Promised Land ready to conquer today.

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Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

I’m traveling today so I am reposting one of my previous posts that’s relevant today.

In my yard I have several crape myrtle trees. Every year I watch around town for when I’m supposed to prune them. It’s usually in the winter just before spring. When it’s time, I take my clippers and start cutting back on them. If there are dead branches, I cut them off at the tree. For all the others, I trim back to a few inches from where they split off. When the spring time comes, they blossom and bloom even more than the year before.

In John 15, Jesus said that God does the same to us. He said that the branches that don’t produce fruit are cut off and thrown away. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit we are to produce in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. When I read that, I began to think about the fruit in my life. Am I producing that fruit? How much of it am I producing? What do I need to do to produce it?

In the same passage in John, Jesus says that everyone who does produce fruit is then pruned so that they will produce more fruit. Ouch. So even if I am producing fruit, I am going to be pruned. Jesus wants us to produce more fruit all the time. He recognizes that the only way to produce more is to provide an opportunity for growth. That’s what pruning does. It trims us back so we can have a greater opportunity for growth.

Most of us don’t like or want to be pruned. When it happens, we ask God why are bad things happening to me when I’m doing everything right. We’ve all heard the question asked “Why do bad things happen to good people”. Well it happens to give you an opportunity to grow. If things aren’t happening in your life that are pruning you, that’s when you should be concerned.

If you aren’t being pruned throughout the seasons of your life, you need to find a way to start producing fruit. You need to take a hard look at your life and see what fruit you are producing. Chances are, it’s not the fruit listed above. If it were, you be getting pruned so that you would produce more. We all produce fruit in our lives. Our actions produce results. Our results show God, others and ourselves what’s important to us. There is a law of sowing and reaping.

If you sow time I to other’s lives, you will reap love. If you sow forgiveness, you will reap joy. If you sow understanding, you will reap peace. On the other hand if you sow selfishness, you will reap loneliness. If you sow bitterness, you will reap hate. What you do matters and will come back as fruit in your life. God wants us to produce good fruit in our lives so that others will be able to see Him through us.

God recognizes and knows that to produce more of the good fruit in your life, He will have to prune you. Yes, even if you ate a good producer, He knows that you can always produce more. Without pruning, we can only produce so much of each fruit. When He does prune us, He creates more opportunity to produce than ever before.

So why do bad things happen to good people? To give them the opportunity to grow and to produce more than ever before. If you are being pruned right now, stop and thank God instead of questioning Him. It means that He thinks you are producing good fruit and He has bigger plans for you. Trust in Him and in His plan for you. Handle the pruning with grace and look forward to the next time of harvest in your life.

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