Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Psychological Advantage

I like to think of King David as a warrior. He’s the guy that entire armies were afraid of. When he stepped on to the battlefield, it gave his army the psychological advantage. It boosted his army’s confidence and crushed that of his enemy. But that’s not the complete picture of who David was. When you read the Psalms, you see a guy who was worried and afraid at times. You see the thoughts of that brave warrior written down in black and white saying he was terrified at times.

No one can be brave and strong all the time. No one is impervious to the words that others hurl at us. After a while, they get to us. They penetrate deep into our mind and heart. They start to cause doubt. They can cause paranoia to. That’s where David was in Psalm 31. He said, “I’m in deep, deep trouble again. I’ve cried my eyes out; I feel hollow inside… My troubles have worn me out.” Even the great warrior David had days where he felt insecure and alone.

He didn’t stay like that though. He didn’t let those thoughts dominate his mind and keep him in that state. He knew how to get out of it. Verse 1 gives us his answer to getting free of the mindset that is constantly worries. David said, “I run to you, God; I run for dear life.” He knew that God was his fortress and his cave made of granite that would protect him. In verses 14-18 he says, “Desperate, I throw myself on you: you are my God! Hour by hour I place my days in your hand, safe from the hands out to get me.”

Every time the thoughts of insecurity came into his mind, he went back to God. When fear crept in, he called out to God. “Hour by hour,” he said. It wasn’t a daily thing. It was an hourly thing. He knew not to let those thoughts linger in his mind. They’re destructive and counterproductive. They are thoughts meant to pull you away from who you are in Christ. Don’t let them rule your mind. When they pop up, run to God like David did. Call out to Him and speak to who He is.

When we speak to how great our God is, our problems don’t seem so big anymore. When we call out to Him for help, we win the psychological battle. Just like when David stepped onto the battlefield, God steps into our situation and gives us the victory before there is ever a fight. He is our strong tower. He is our defender. He gives us the victory in our hearts, minds and lives. When the enemy hears us call to Him and sees Him co ing to our defense, they know the battle is over. You know the battle is over.

I love how he ends Psalm 31 in verse 24. He says this to you, “Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect God to get here soon.” I don’t know of any better words of encouragement than that. When you call out to God, He’ll be on His way to help you. In the mean time, be brave and strong. Don’t give up or let the enemy win the psychological advantage over you before the battle begins. God is on your side today and He’s on His way!


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Fishing In The Wrong Boat

In one of the classes I teach, I have people introduce themselves and tell me a hobby they have outside of work. It provides opportunities for connection early in the class as well as information I can tie back to throughout the day. Yesterday, while training this class, a guy answered that he liked to play music. I followed up with, “What kind?” He responded with, “Worship. I’ve felt called to lead worship since I was young, but I’ve been too scared to step out and do it.” He admitted in front of our group what so many of us Christians are afraid to say.

God’s call on our life can be scary. I think it’s supposed to be. If it were anything less than scary, we’d do it without hesitation. The problem with that is we would think it was done in our own ability. We need to understand that we are simply vessels to be used by Him. It is He who performs the work, we simply provide the channel. Our inability to do whatever He called us to is His greatest opportunity to do something amazing.

God sees in us what we cannot see. Peter was just another uneducated fisherman when Jesus called Him. He didn’t posses the ability to start the Church. He didn’t have the business acumen to take twelve men, start a worldwide movement and grow it. He didn’t have the boldness to stand in front of thousands to preach. He knew what fear was and it got the better of him from time to time. He denied Jesus and his calling in the same night.

The fear of his calling to be the rock that the church would be built on caused him to go back to fishing when he should have been preaching after the resurrection. He went back to what he knew instead of stepping out in faith to be the rock he was called to be. Jesus didn’t leave him in that boat though. He went to the waters edge in John 21, but they didn’t recognize Him. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They replied, “No.” Jesus called out, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you’ll catch some.” As soon as they did, the net teemed with fish. Peter recognized the man as Jesus and swam to shore.

Jesus reaffirmed to Peter that day what his role was. He didn’t worry about his failures or inabilities. He worried about his love for Him. Jesus knew that if he truly loved Him, he would obey his calling. He didn’t leave Peter in the boat catching the wrong kind of fish. He reiterated that he was to be a fisher of men from now on. I think that call goes out to you in whatever boat you’re sitting in today. Maybe you’re reading this in the place where you can accomplish things in your own strength. It’s the boat of what is familiar and easy to you. But God has more for you. Have you really caught anything where you are?

I encourage you today to recognize the fear that is paralyzing you and keeping you from your calling. If God called you to do something, it’s His strength and ability that will accomplish it, not yours. Release the fear that sent you back into the boat of the familiar and do what God has called you to do. Faith is about trusting God to do what He said He would do. It’s not about you doing things and giving Him credit. Don’t let fear hold you back another minute. If you love Him, feed His sheep.


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The Noise of Life

This morning started like most mornings. My alarm went off and I hit the snooze button. I did that three times before getting up. I turned on the light and grabbed my phone to read the Bible. As soon as I did, I heard music. I leaned over and checked the clock radio in my hotel room. It was off, but the music was coming from right where it was. The walls in my hotel must be paper thin. The person on the other side of the wall was waking up too. I couldn’t concentrate so I turned my clock radio on too. I put it on the AM dial and turned to where there wasn’t a station so the white noise would drown out the music.

It was still hard to concentrate as I read. I managed to get through it and find a verse to think about today. Afterwards, I went on my way to getting ready and started praying. It wasn’t long before I heard an alarm going off. It was my clock radio. I went over, hit the off button and looked or a way to keep it off. I went back across the room to pray. It went off again. I turned it off and returned to praying. As I was praying, I kept hearing all the room doors opening and closing up and down the hall. So distracting.

Jesus knew we were going to face distractions when it comes to spending time with Him because He faced distractions. That’s why He went away from the group to pray so often. It wasn’t that He didn’t enjoy their company, it was so He could get some alone time with the Father. He was trying to show the disciples by example how they should be spending time with God corporately and alone. All the Gospels talk about Jesus separating Himself to pray.

Jesus even told them in Matthew 6:6, “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Part of that instruction was so that we won’t be like others who pray so others will hear them and the other part was what I’m facing today. It was to get away from the noise of life that tries to distract us from not only spending time with God, but from hearing from Him too. With all the distractions going on this morning, I had a difficult time hearing His voice. I ended up leaving the hotel to get away from all the distractions so I could have alone time with Him.

Where are you today? What distractions keep you from spending time with God? Kids? Spouse? Neighbors? Friends? Radio? TV? Your phone? Facebook? Whatever it is, find a place and time today where you can just be alone with God. Spend time talking to Him and also spend some time listening to His voice. Read His Word in the quiet so you can really understand what He is trying to say to you through it. Get away from the noise of this life so you can concentrate on God.

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Worthy of God’s Love

I’m not sure why I am constantly surprised by the goodness of God. There are times where I am just caught off guard at His faithfulness. I look at my life and I see all of my short comings and wonder why God would choose to bless me and to pour out His love on me. I know that I am unworthy of any gift that He gives, yet He still opens up the windows of Heaven and pours them out.

I think that’s one of the areas where it is hard to understand God because our minds try to rationalize Him as a human with human behaviors. We know the we are spiteful and hold grudges and we expect Him to. When He doesn’t, it blows our mind. I love how the psalmist put it in Psalm 36:5 when he said that His unfailing love is as vast as the heavens and His faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. It is so deep and so wide that we can’t begin to understand it.

I always want to rationalize it and understand it rather than to accept it and abide in it. I want to break it down and figure it out instead of just trusting in it. I think David understood it. He knew of the power that God has to forgive and forget. He relied on it and knew he was in trouble without it. You wonder how can an adulterer and murderer like David be a man after God’s own heart? Well it’s because he understood God’s ability to forgive and to forget.

It’s beyond me how God does it. I try to be a man after God’s heart and I fall short. I try to be like Him and I find I’m more like myself. I try to do what He asks and I end up doing what I want. I start off working hard to please Him, but in the end, I do what pleases me. That’s where God’s faithfulness kicks in. II Timothy 2:13 says in the Amplified version that even if we are unfaithful and untrue to Him, He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.

How is that possible? How can God remain faithful and true to us when all we seem to do is our own thing rather than His? It’s who God is. He is a God who loves us more than our doubts, our mistakes, our short comings and our fears. He is patient and kind. His love knows no end and is not conditional. He is not human and is not limited like we are. Once we remove those human characteristics of who we think He is and accept His divine nature, we can begin to get a glimpse of who He really is.

There were several in the Bible like David and Paul who got a glimpse of that. I don’t think it is reserved just for them though. God wants to open Himself up to you and me and to give us a glimpse of who He is. We fight and push back because we think we are unworthy. It’s when we finally realize how unworthy we really are that He has us right where He wants us to show His faithfulness and love. Don’t push back away from it. Swim in that river of his love that is as high as the clouds and is as vast as the heavens. His love for you doesn’t depend on whether you think you’re worthy. He thinks you are and that’s what matters.


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Get out of the Gutter


As I was praying this morning, I began to think back to my teenage years and my early twenties. I saw places where God corrected my path and even prevented me from making decisions that could have affected the rest of my life. At the time, I didn’t see what was happening or know how close I was to making life altering decisions. As I began to thank God for helping me to stay on the right path, I saw this image of a bowling ball bouncing between gutter guards.

I see now that those guards where there keeping me in the lane. My life hasn’t gone down the center of the lane headed for a perfect strike. Instead, it has bounced from one guard to the other. I’ve gotten course corrections all throughout my life. The further down the lane I go, the less I’m hitting the guards. I’m glad they’re still there though. I know I still need them from time to time.

Just like in the game of bowling, the guards don’t always prevent the ball from rolling into the gutter. It happens. It happened. My life did roll down that gutter for a while. I went past the guards that God had in place to keep me in the lane. Thankfully, even in the gutter, God put a course correction for my life. I had the opportunity to bounce out of the gutter and back into where He wanted me.

When life rolls into the gutter, it’s easy to forget that you can get back into the lane God has for you. It’s easy to think that you’ve somehow messed up so bad that God can’t fix it. Your mind tells you that you should just stay there and keep rolling all the way to the end. It’s a hopeless place because so very few exit the gutter. But even in the gutter, God is still ready to put us back in right standing with Him. He knows that even when He rescues us from it, our lives will still bounce back and forth.

What I have found is that God is patient, kind and forgiving. He never stops loving us even if we go past the guards He set up in our lives. He’s constantly waiting for us to call out to Him for help. He’s looking down that lane to see if we’re ready for a course correction. I think He delights in getting us out of the gutter and putting us back into the lane where He wants us. There’s nothing that you or I could ever do to keep Him from loving us and wanting to put us back where we belong. All we have to do is ask for forgiveness.

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Praise in Prison

Our associate pastor was talking this past Sunday and brought up Paul and Silas. He was referencing the time when they were in prison and were shackled down. At midnight they began to praise God and to sing. During that time of praise that all the other prisoners could hear, an earthquake hit under the prison and freed all the prisoners from their shackles. Instead of leaving, every prisoner stayed put. The pastor then said, “Sometimes God will free you from your chains, but leave you in the prison in order to minister.”

That has stuck with me this week. We’ve all heard sermon after sermon about praising God in your midnight, but I never heard anyone talk about what he mentioned. We’re so eager to get the chains off that when they do fall off, we run out of the place God had us. We never stop to think that just because we’re free of the chains it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily free from the prison. There may still be work to do there.

The prison guard heard the chains fall off. He knew the prisoners were free and that he was no match for them. He assumed they had gotten away or were going to. If that was to occur, he would be killed. As his mind raced through every negative scenario, he decided to take his own life. As he drew his sword and held it up to kill himself, the very men that were set free called out to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We’re all here!”

The guard called for lights and went down into the dungeon where Paul and Silas were, fell on his face before them and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The quake that night wasn’t about freeing the prisoners, it was about saving a soul. Paul and Silas were in tune with God enough that they knew not to run in their freedom. Instead, they used their freedom in that dungeon to minister to someone who wouldn’t have listened to the Gospel any other way.

The guard got his family so they could hear the message. They too were saved. Then he took Paul and Silas into his home, cleaned their wounds and fed them. The next morning they were freed from the jail by the city. Even though the chains that bound them had been released, they were still prisoners until the night was over. Had they fled when the shackles fell off, they would not have been legally free and would have been considered fugitives. The story would have had a different ending.

How is your story going to end? We’re all prisoners to something. When we’ve learned to praise in our prison and we’ve been set free, we shouldn’t be so quick to run out of the prison. There may be others who need to be set free as well while you’re there. God can set us free from the things that bind us in order to minister in the place He has us. Where does God have you now? Are you so concerned with getting your chains off that you haven’t noticed others who need your help? Ask God to teach you to open your eyes in the prison you’re in and then start to praise.


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The Performance Paradox

I work for a company who pays for performance, but serve a God who doesn’t. It’s difficult not to let my work mentality slip into my spiritual life. I try to tie my value to God based on what I do, not on who He created me to be. I think that the more I do for Him, the more He will love me or reward me, but that’s not true. That’s not how God sees me or values me. He loved me sufficiently before I could ever do anything for Him and did what needed to be done for my salvation.

I got a glimpse of that when my son was born. Before he was even born, I loved him. Before he could take me by the hand and say, “Come on, Dada. Let’s go play,” I loved him. My love for him is not based on what he does, but on who he is. It’s the same with God. Before we were born or had any knowledge of Him, He loved us deeper than we could ever know. He paid a price for us higher than anyone should have to pay.

So why do I tie my value to Him based on my performance? Like I mentioned earlier, I think it has to do with letting my worldly mentality interfere with my spiritual mentality. It’s hard to separate the two. For so much of what I do in life, I’m rewarded based on how much I put into it. There is a value placed on what I do and a monetary reward that supplies needs and wants for my family. The more I do, the more I’m valued.

In God’s kingdom, my value is not based on what I do. Ephesians 2:9 says, “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (NLT).” No matter how much “good” I do, it’s not good enough to pay the price He had to pay for my salvation. I don’t have to do “good things” to get to Heaven. I simply have to receive what He’s already paid for.

Because I have received that gift, I now show my appreciation by doing “good things.” The difference is that I have to change my mentality from thinking I’m doing them to earn something He gave to me freely into an expression of love. My performance is not to increase my value to God, but to increase His value in someone else’s life who doesn’t know Him. Once I understand that, the “good things” I do are done out of love and not out of obligation. They are done to give and not to receive.

Have you been in that same place where you thought your value to God was based on what you did? Have you let your worldly mentality infect your spiritual mentality? It’s not too late to change course. God values you and loves you more than you can imagine. Even if you feel there is nothing you can do for God, He still places a high value on you. His love for you and your value to Him are not tied to what you have done or will do. He values you simply because you were created by Him. Hold your head high today and don’t let anyone who didn’t create you tell you what you’re worth. God determines your worth based on what He did, not on what you’ve done.


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What Are Your Priorities?

In order to teach people to prioritize their time, I do a little demonstration with them. I have them hold a paper plate and then ask them what all they are involved in or have going on in their lives. Each time they name something, I place an object on the plate they are holding. Sooner or later one of two things happen. Either the plate slips out of their grasp or it buckles and everything ends up on the floor.

It’s a great demonstration of what happens when we’re involved in more things than we have time for. We either need a bigger plate, fewer things on our plate or to find a way to prioritize the things on our plate better. Each one of us lead busy lives. We have more demands on us than ever before. The question is, “What falls off your plate first when life gets crazy?”

For too many of us the answer is God. We get so caught up in making a living that we forget why we are living and what we were created for. Our goal is not retirement. I’m not saying don’t save up for retirement. I’m saying it shouldn’t be such a priority that you fail to give God your time. I know what it’s like to work so hard that on your only day off you want to sleep in instead of going to church. It’s also easier to hit the snooze button than to wake up and pray.

The problem is that we’ve not made God a priority. I heard someone recently say, “We’ve made God a luxury and not a necessity.” When that happens and things need to be cut in our lives, He’s one of the first things to go. God must become a priority in each of our lives or the balancing act with the plate is all for nothing. Job 1:21 reminds us that we were naked when we came into this world and we’ll be naked when we leave. If we can’t take it with us, why have we made it such a priority in our lives?

What we do take with us is our soul. Romans 14:12 says that each one of us will give a personal account to God for what we’ve done and how we’ve lived. What we do on earth for God will echo in eternity. He should be our number one priority in life followed by doing the things that matter for eternity. We still have to provide for our families and to do the things necessary to live. It’s finding the right priority that is the key to living the way God intended us to live. There is a way to balance the things in your life without having them fall on the floor.

It starts with having God at the center of your life. When you make Him your number one priority in your life, you begin to see what matters and what doesn’t. You learn what matters for eternity and what doesn’t. You begin to see where things belong in your life. You find the balance He wants you to have. You may have to let go of some things you have as a high priority right now. You may find you’ve been focusing on the wrong things and need to put different things on your plate.

To help you determine how you prioritize things in your life, I ask again, “What falls off your plate first when life gets crazy? What falls off last?” The answer to these questions is where you currently have your priorities. What order do you want or need your priorities to be in? What changes can you make today to begin to put them in the right order? Putting God in the center will help you to find the balance you’re looking for.

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Fighting God for Freedom

Last weekend we took my son’s crib and converted it into a bed for him. He was happy and jumped up and down on it. When we went Into his room the next morning, he was asleep on the floor. We put up a bumper for him, but he still ended up on the floor. As the week went on, taking him to bed became a chore. He didn’t want to sleep in his bed. He cried when we put him in there. So last night, we turned it back into a crib. He wasn’t 100% happy, but bed time was easier.

I think that’s how we are with God sometimes. We ask for more freedom or for walls in our lives to be removed. When He gives us what we want, we jump for joy. We’re excited about the newly found freedom and want to celebrate. It’s not long though before we find ourselves face down on the floor. With freedom comes more responsibility and a greater need for self control.

It isn’t always what we thought it’d be. God has walls up and boundaries in our lives for a reason. They’re for our protection and our own good. We fight against them and try to push the boundaries back. We think we can handle more responsibility and more freedom, but God knows better where the boundaries in our lives need to be. He knows us better than we know ourselves and how we’ll react to changes in our lives. He knows what is best for us, but is still willing to give us what we ask for at times.

It reminds me of the lyrics to an old Rich Mullins’ song “Hold Me, Jesus”. He says, “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than to take what you give that I need.” We spend so much time asking for things rather than taking what He gives us. We think we know what we need better than He does. There is a purpose for the walls He has up in our lives. There is a reason for the boundaries that He sets for us. There is also freedom and protection in them as well.

If we get caught up looking at the boundaries God has set up in our lives, we miss the opportunities of freedom within them. Instead of trying to push them further out, why not do what we can for others within the limits He has set for us? We should spend less time worrying about where the lines are and more time wondering how we can serve Him better with in them. There is freedom, security and peace within the borders God has set up.

What walls and boundaries have you been trying to get God to move? What things has He given you to help others with where you are? How can you use the freedoms you already enjoy to be a blessing to others? We as Christians miss so many opportunities to be blessings to others because we’re fighting over where the lines are. Why not turn around and operate within the ones you know about? Like my son, you’ll find the rest you’re looking for there.


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In The Waiting

I was thinking about the story of David this morning. He was tending sheep when The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him king of Israel. He was doing a menial task that was assigned to him because he was the youngest of his brothers. When the prophet told Jesse to bring his sons to a sacrifice, he didn’t even bother to invite David. As Samuel looked at Jessie’s sons, he looked at them, saw one and according to I Samuel 16:6 thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

When all of Jessie’s sons had passed in front of Samuel, he was confused. God had rejected all of them. When Samuel asked Jesse if these were all his sons, Jesse said, “There’s still the youngest, but he’s out in the fields watching the sheep.” After he was anointed, David went back to tending sheep. He didn’t go to Jerusalem and proclaim himself king. Instead he waited for God’s timing for the call to be fulfilled.

To me, the waiting is the hardest part. How do you go back to tending sheep when you’re anointed to be king? How do you go back to sleeping on a hillside under the stars when you know there’s a palace waiting for you? David was able to trust God’s timing even though he knew where he was going in the future. He continued to be faithful to where God had called him for the present while waiting for the future calling to be fulfilled.

I think that has to be the hardest part. If God has called you to do something in the future, you don’t have the right to slack where He has you in the present. There are lessons to be learned still. There are responsibilities that must be tended to in the waiting. When David was told by his father to go to the battlefront to check on his brothers, he left his sheep with another shepherd. He didn’t neglect his present responsibilities for his future calling.

We all can learn from his example. You may have been called by God to be a missionary, preacher, evangelist, writer or something else. In the waiting time, you still have to take care of the responsibilities He’s given you. You have to continue be faithful in the “little” things. They may seem menial like watching sheep, but there is a purpose behind keeping you where you are until the right time arrives. David’s path to the throne was not an easy one. Just because God called you to something, it doesn’t mean the heavens will open, angels will sing and you’ll have a clear path to it. You may endure some difficult times getting there.

God has your steps ordered. It’s up to you to take those steps and to walk in the path that He has laid before you to get to where you’re going. Continue to trust in God’s plan even when it isn’t happening in the timing you thought it would. He’s still lining things up. He’s still preparing you. He hasn’t forgotten you or what He called you to. Do the things necessary to be ready when He says it’s time. Above all, be patient in the waiting.


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