Monthly Archives: August 2013

Get Up, Don’t Give Up

For the first time in a long time, I watched the movie “Rudy”. If you’ve never seen it, it’s the story of a young kid who wants to play football for Notre Dame. His family laughs when he tells them he’s going to. His high school won’t let him go visit the campus because his grades weren’t good enough. Notre Dame refused to let him in also. None of that stopped him. He finally got accepted and made the practice squad for the football team. Every time he got hit, he got back up for the next play.

The story is really about what someone who has a lot of heart can endure and accomplish. Rudy wasn’t athletic, but he was strong willed. He wasn’t smart, but he was a hard worker. He wasn’t easily dismayed because he had determination. His coaches all wished they could take his heart and put it in someone with athletic ability. He kept pushing for his dream no matter what others said.

Where most people would have given up, he kept getting up. That’s a lesson for each of us today. It’s easy to give up when life keeps hitting us. It’s natural to want to stay down when others think you should just give up. But God put something in each one of us that makes us want to get back up. I know that after a while, that thing that God put in us can get awful quiet compared the thoughts of quitting and giving up. It can seem non-existent when you’re on your back and you have stars going around your head because you’ve just been hit so hard.

Let’s be honest. It’s easy to stay down. The fear of getting hit again tries to talk you into staying down. The embarrassment of the situation and what others think starts to convince you to just give up. It makes me think of a demotivational poster I once saw that said, “At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser.” Those are the thoughts that the enemy brings to keep you down and to convince you not to get back up. He does that because he knows that each time you get back up, you’re stronger for it.

At some point, he has to quit throwing stuff at you. He knows this is only temporary, but if he can convince you it’s permanent, you’ll stay down and quit. When that happens, he wins. For me, I can’t stand to lose, especially to the enemy. I learned what it took to motivate myself to get back up each day, take a hit and to keep moving forward. It all starts with the mind. You must learn to block the thoughts that tell you to give up. You must learn to motivate yourself with God’s Word. Understand that while you have it bad, someone else has it worse. If they could still stand, I knew I could.

You may have to take several more hits before this is over. Stand strong though. Know that this period of trials and struggles is only temporary. I know that when it keeps coming month after month it doesn’t feel that way. Get back up today, stand your ground and declare that you won’t lose any more ground. Seek God’s strength to help you when yours fails. Know that you are becoming stronger than you ever would have if these things wouldn’t have happened and God will always be able to use that in your future.

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Christianity Is A Verb

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Our Wednesday night small group wrapped up our series on “Unstuck” last night. The video portion that included commentary from several people was challenging. Each person that spoke on that video had a question or comment that got them to be the hands and feet of Jesus to others around them. They also inspired me to do more than I’ve ever done for others, so I want to share with you in hopes of it challenging you as well.

One of the first things Mark Batterson mentioned in this segment is that Christianity was never meant to be a noun. It has always been intended to be a verb. When we allow our Christianity to become a noun, it leaves a bad taste in other people’s mouth. It becomes who we are and not what we do. Jesus said, “Go into all the world. Preach the Gospel to every nation. Make disciples of all men.” Those are all verbs that command us to do something.

There was also a lady on the video who shared her story of how God has used her. She was asked the question, “Who are three people you know who don’t know Jesus and need you to be His hands and feet to?” She couldn’t answer that question. Instead of thinking it didn’t apply to her, she prayed that God would increase her circle of influence. God began opening doors for her to minister to others through washing laundry, helping with résumés and providing necessities for. All because she didn’t think her Christianity should be a noun.

The next part that really spoke to me had to do with stats. Did you know 25,000 people in the world will die today from starvation? Did you know that 5,760 children will become orphans today? Numbers are numbing. They don’t cause action usually. Names are what matters. If you want to see the names and faces of some orphans behind those numbers, click here. I dare you to click that link and move beyond a stat to the face and name of an orphan who needs your help. The real question here is, “Are you ok with this?” Can you live in the house you live in, drive the car you drive, eat at the restaurants you eat at and still be ok with the numbers above? If so, your Christianity is probably a noun.

Mark Batterson said, “When all of the rules and regulations, all of the traditions and institutions, all of the liturgies and methodologies are peeled back, what’s left is the Great Commandment: Love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is Christianity in its purest form. It’s not enough to love God with 2 or 3 out of the 4 listed. We must find ways to love with all 4. He didn’t give us a choice. He said to do this was the greatest commandment.

Finally, Mark challenged me with this phrase, “On the final day, God isn’t going to say, ‘Well thought, good and faithful servant’ or ‘Well said’. He is going to say, ‘Well done.'” It’s not enough to think of others or to say, “Have a good day; stay warm and eat well” to the cold and hungry according to James 2:16. God is looking for us to stop using Christianity as a noun and to start doing something with it. If your circle of influence of others who need Jesus is too small, I challenge you today to pray what that lady prayed. Ask God today to increase your circle of influence and to give you courage to do something for others because you aren’t ok with where you are.

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Walking Through Death Valley

Psalm 23 is probably one of the best known chapters in the Bible. It’s one of the first ones we memorize as kids. It’s in almost every funeral scene on TV and in the movies. They always quote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” When we hear it so many times or have it memorized as kids, we lose deeper meaning in it because it is in our rote memory and not in our hearts.

I recently read that chapter in the Message to see a different angle beyond my rote memory. I saw something I had never caught because I had always looked at it or thought of it in King James English. If we look at the scripture quoted above and the end of the one before it in the Message, we see, “(You) send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk by my side.”

What I see in that is the “right direction” that God sends us in can lead us through Death Valley. We like to equate good times with being in God’s will and bad times with being out of it. Here we see that the direction God sends us in can lead us through difficult times. The good news is also that we don’t have to be afraid in those times because God is by our side. He’s there walking through the valley with you.

I know I’ve shared this before, but this made me think of the promise God spoke to me as I walked through the darkest valley of my life. He said, “I have not left you, nor forsaken you. I am by your side walking through this with you. I’m not in front of you or behind you. I am by your side walking with you.” I had never seen that word from Him in connection with this scripture until now. I just knew that when He spoke it, my fear of an uncertain future left.

The Amplified version refers to Death Valley as “the deep, sunless valley.” In those dark days when there is no light, no future, no promises to hold onto; God is there walking with you. He sees the road and uses His rod to protect us and His staff to guide us. When there is no light, you learn to fully trust Him to get you through Death Valley. You rely on Him to show you where the path is that leads out of that valley. Your faith and trust in Him grows deeper than it ever could in the light on a mountain top.

If you’re in Death Valley today, don’t assume it’s because you’ve taken a wrong turn. Even Job’s friends tried to convince him that he had hidden sin that caused his time in the valley. He was one who was upright and walked through Death Valley with God at his side. You can too. God is by your side in that deep, sunless valley today. He’s there to protect you and to guide you. Don’t leave His side. He hasn’t left yours. The “right direction” will soon lead you out of this temporary time in the valleys it’s a deeper trust in Him.

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Heading For The Moon

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I went to visit my brother and his family to talk about their vacation to Cancun. One of the cool things they got to do was to watch sea turtles come to shore and lay their eggs. Not only did they get to witness that, they also got to watch baby sea turtles hatch and leave the nest. I watched a video of 140 baby turtles come out of a hole in the ground. There were so many, it looked like ants coming out of their mound. As they came out, a guardian captured them and put them in a box for release that night.

They went back down to the beach for the release of the turtles into the ocean that night. As they went to release them, a swarm of birds showed up thinking they were going to get a turtle buffet. The guardian called off the release until the next night. When they showed up the next night for the release, they asked if their son could release one. They said, “Yes, but make sure the turtle sees the moon and not the lights from the hotel. He will go toward the light and we need him to go to the right one to be safe.”

I began to think how much we are like those turtles. We need a guardian to protect us. Jesus said that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy just like those birds. Our Heavenly Father watches over us to protect us from the things in this life that would keep us from growing up spiritually. Jesus finished that sentence by saying that He came to bring life. I’m sure those turtles got excited to hear the freedom of the ocean and may have been upset when they were put back in that box instead being released. Their guardian knew their freedom would only be temporary if he had released them that night.

I also thought of the two lights that the turtles had to choose between. The true light of the moon that would lead to life and freedom and the manufactured lights that would lead to captivity and possibly death. Im reminded that Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” Jesus is like the moon, His light is the true life that leads to our freedom. We get easily distracted by the manufactured lights of this world and want to turn to follow them.

We have to be careful what light we follow. The light this world offers is temporary and leads us away from the one who gives life. I’ve been distracted by them on my life and started heading towards them. The birds of prey were flying overhead circling me, waiting for me to get just far enough away from the Guardian of my soul. Thankfully, He saw me going the wrong way, captured me and pointed me in the right direction. I know He’s looking for you too if you’re headed to the wrong light. Let Him capture you with His love and point you in the right direction today.

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Content With Discontentment

Yesterday morning I was meeting with my accountability partner. I was sharing some areas of discontentment in my life with him where I thought I would have been further along by now. A year ago, things were moving rapidly in my life towards my goals. Now, they seem to have slowed to a crawl. It’s frustrating to be moving so quickly towards a God-given dream and then have it screech to a halt with no explanation.

As I was talking, the stories of Saul’s and David’s ascension to the throne came to mind. For Saul, he had no idea the leaders of Israel were asking Samuel to tell God they wanted a king instead of a prophet. He was out looking for some lost donkeys. After several days of looking and running out of food, his servant remembered there was a prophet in a nearby town. Maybe he could tell them where the donkeys were.

When they arrived, Samuel immediately knew that Saul was the man chosen by God to be king. He invited him to dinner with the elders and also let him know the donkeys had been found. The next day, Samuel told him he would be king and to go wait for him in another town. There Samuel anointed him king in front of everyone, but not everyone thought he was a good pick. A month later, he led Israel into battle and was victorious. The doubters went away.

David, on the other hand, was watching sheep when Samuel anointed him to be king. He didn’t become king a month later either. In fact, it was around 15 years that he had to wait. During that time, God was preparing him for the throne. He still had to watch sheep and do his daily duties. He still had to serve his brothers when they went off to war. Even though he and his family knew he was destined to be king, he still held his position and did his job faithfully while waiting.

I imagine he had to go through times of discontentment too. He had to wonder if the prophet was right. He had to think, “What am I doing out here watching sheep in this kind of weather?” He didn’t let those things get in the way of what God was doing in him as he was being prepared for the throne. He didn’t think he was above the menial job of watching the sheep which had been assigned to him because he was the youngest. He used that time to grow closer to God and to learn how to care for God’s sheep.

It was at this point that my accountability partner looked me square in the eyes and said, “You know, discipline is doing what you don’t want to do right now because you know what results it will bring in the future.” Those words went straight to my heart and challenged me. David was disciplined enough to watch sheep even though he was supposed to be king. The discipline God created in him during that time helped him to be the greatest king he could have been. Whereas Saul lacked the discipline required to be king and that cost him the throne.

If having discipline were easy, everyone would have it. Instead, few of us are able to endure the menial things in our life right now to have the strength needed in the future. We’d rather be given a great future without having to do the work in the present. We want the throne without the waiting. I’ve resolved to watch sheep as long as God sees fit. I’d rather He build the discipline in me now so I don’t fall later. I’m willing to put in the work now, so I can be effective when God says, “It’s time.”

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Moonwalking Jesus

A friend showed me a video this week of two teams of guys doing a drill of passing basketballs. The video asked how many times a certain group passed the ball. I watched intently and counted in my head as they passed the ball. At the end of the video it asked, “How many did you count?” My answer was right. I took a deep breath, held my chin up a little bit and bowed out my chest as if I was something. Then the video asked, “Did you see the moonwalking bear?”

What bear? There were two teams of guys passing balls. There was no bear. Then the video rewinds and highlights a guy in a bear costume start from the right side of the screen and moon-walked through the players to the left side of the screen. The guys pad to move to pass around him, but I never saw him when I initially watched it. I also replayed the video from the beginning just to make sure they didn’t try to pull a fast one on me. He was there the whole time.

I was reading John chapter one this morning and came across verse 10. Speaking about Jesus, it says, “He came into the world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.” You’re thinking, “I recognize Him”, but really we have the advantage of the tape rewind like I did later in that video. Would we have recognized Him in that time when He came in the flesh? Would we have readily received Him? Or would we have been so busy counting the laws we were supposed to be obeying that we missed Jesus moonwalking through our world.

What about today’s world? Do you see Jesus in your world today? He’s there all around us. He’s the homeless person on the corner who’s hungry. He’s the single mother who doesn’t have enough money to pay the bills. He’s the person who has been beat down by this world and doesn’t think they can go on another day. He’s the child who has been orphaned and is in need of love. He’s in the cubicle next to you. In the house next door. Standing in front of you in line. He’s moonwalking through our lives and we don’t see Him most if the time because we aren’t really looking for Him.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me.” How many times have I overlooked someone or ignored them? It wasn’t intentional. I was just busy going about my day doing what I do. I wasn’t looking for those opportunities. According to verse 45, that won’t be an acceptable excuse. Jesus said, “Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me – you failed to do it to me.”

I don’t want to miss Jesus moonwalking through my life today. I pray that God opens my eyes so I can see Him where I didn’t expect Him. I pray that God gives me the courage to help the people that are overlooked and ignored when I see them. I’m hoping today that you’ll make that your prayer too. Jesus is all around us everyday, but we don’t see Him because we aren’t looking for Him that way. Yet, He told us in His Word that’s what He’d look like in our world. Keep your eyes open today and let me know where you see Him moonwalking.

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Dress Code Violation

Earlier this week, a man came to a business meeting in shorts and a t-shirt. I at first thought he was a hotel guest who walked into the banquet room we were in. I went over and asked where he worked. He named the company and a location. It was just odd that he would know our normal work attire is at minimum a shirt and tie, yet he was willing to show up to a work event dressed that way. As I thought about it all day, I was reminded of a parable Jesus taught in Matthew 22.

The king had prepared a feast for the wedding of his son. He invited friends, family and dignitaries to come to the event. They all refused the invitation. On the day of the event, he sent word to them again saying, “Look, everything is on the table. Come to the feast!” Many shrugged their shoulders and went back to what they were doing. Some beat up the servants and others killed them. Finally the king sent the remaining servants out to invite anyone they came across on the streets.

When the king entered the feast, he looked around and saw someone who wasn’t dressed for the wedding. They refused to put on the garments provided. In verse 12 of the Message, the king approached him and said, “How dare you come in here looking like that! Get him out of here – fast.” He was upset that he wanted the benefits of being at the feast, but wanted to do it his own way. He didn’t want to accept what the king provided. He wanted to provide his own covering.

Just like at the king’s feast, the guy in my meeting stood out. In a room full of shirts, ties and suits, he walked in wearing shorts and t-shirts. I think we do the same thing and look the same way to God when we try to enter His presence with self righteousness on. When we think we’re fine, we can do it on our own and earn our way to heaven without going through the cross, we appear to God, the king, like this person at the feast. We dress ourselves instead of wearing the garment provided by God.

Isaiah 61:10 says, “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with a robe of righteousness.” Those garments are provided by God and are required to be worn at the great feast. It’s His righteousness that clothes us, not ours. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Our good deeds don’t get us to heaven. We think they’re good enough, but when compared to the righteousness that God provides, they look like filthy rags.

God’s righteousness and salvation are a free gift through the work that Jesus did on the cross. They cannot be earned through righteous acts or good deeds. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace that you are saved, through faith…not by works, so that no one can boast.” The garment of salvation and entrance to heaven is only given to us through our faith in Jesus. If you’re trying to earn your way to heaven, you can stop trying today. You’ll stand out like the guy in my meeting or the person at the feast. Rely on God’s grace, accept what Jesus did through His resurrection and wear the robe of righteousness that He provides.

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