Faith… Day 189

Day 189 of the year 2016.  Most of this was written on Day 1 of this year… Yep, I never posted it – just like the other 60 posts that have never made it out of the draft file.  So, I will raise the question, how are you doing with all that you pondered, contemplated, and wanted to change back on Day 1?

Day one of a new year.  I think I began this year with a new tradition for December 31… go to bed REAL early! I slept just over 11 hours that night and woke up feeling great!! Well, with the exception of the mild sore throat and slight cough.

Just as I have with with New Years resolutions, I have wanted to avoid the sensationalism of the “WORD for the YEAR.”  However, I must confess, I have had a word for my life for years.  (Way before before it became the thing to do).  Just like everything else in the Christian life there are many books, blogs, and apps to help you discover your word for the year.  I get it. It’s a New Year and with everything being new it’s time to focus on something new.

But what if the old is still not resolved?  Do you move on?  Or do you dig down deeper?  Do you fight for that which you haven’t attained or learned?

FAITHOver the years,”my word” has been more like a “theme for the season.”  Typically the word coincides with the season of my life more so than for the year.  That season can start and end at any time throughout the year.  It is what God is wanting to build down deep in my heart.

In late Summer, 2014, “joy” became a focus for my life.  I had hoped to unpack all that God wanted for me in joy during 2015.  But as I approached the Fall of 2015 I was still wondering, searching, and reading about it.  What do I lack that is missing in my life that keeps me from experiencing real joy?

It was on my journey to New Mexico in August 2015 that allowed me get a glimpse of what is holding me back.  I got a glimpse of what is missing but I’m unclear as to where the bridge is to get me from here to there.

So, in the midst of my journey of re-discovering Joy, another theme began to arise within the past month or so.  And yes, that leads me to a “WORD for the YEAR.”  FAITH.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith and not by sight.” I re-discovered in 2015 that joy is best experienced in obedience to the will of God.  It was confirmed again this summer (2016) through obedience to go on a mission trip.

As this life of joy continues to grow through obedience by faith, I will leave you with one more verse that is impacting my life right now from another book in the Bible written by Paul,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)

So, if you started off Day 1 without a word for the year or some kind of focus you can always start on Day 189.  Don’t be discouraged.  Even though it’s not New Year’s Day, God is not done with you or me.  It may be Day 189 but it can be the start of something new and grand in your life today.

The above picture is from my journal.  It was inspired while I was taking notes from a sermon by Rick Warren sometime in 2015.

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Finish the race

When you step back to take a look at your life, what do you see? How do you evaluate your place or position?  What tool do you use to measure in order to see if you are where you need to be or want to be in life?

There are many voices and tools “out there” to give us the help and guidance in life to get us from where are to where we really want to be… or more importantly, to where God wants us to be.  For me, the greatest tool is reading the Bible.  I find direction, strength, hope, and encouragement in the words I read there.  Reading the Bible is a discipline that I must not neglect and must be a part of daily living.Run the Race

I was recently challenged to think about what my ideal life looks like.  As I began to think about my response, I thought back to the 4th grade.  I was sitting in a room in my house and I recall thinking, “I’m not going to be like that.” I can recall the voice of my dad saying he wish he had made other choices about his career.  I can recall the career path he would have preferred over the one he was on at the time.  In my pursuit of God and living in obedience, I struggle with keeping of my stride since it has been broken.

“How you see your future is more important than what has happened in your past.”  Zig Ziglar

I’m involved in quite a few really “good” things.  I visited one of those recently.  I walked out of that meeting and overwhelmed at the need in our community and the task that is set before them.  The thought kept rising in my mind that they are Jesus in their corner of our county.  They are literally being his hands and his feet.  Reaching out to those who can’t feed themselves.  I was unsure about what my experience would be as I drove onto the property.  I drove away challenged.

I once was a competitive long distance runner.  I recall the feeling of having someone break my stride because they cut me off.  It was a breaking of my stride physically and mentally.  I could get my physical stride back pretty easily but, at times, it was the mental portion of it I would have difficulty over coming.  I can recall dwelling on what had just happened and that becoming my focus over the race being run.

You are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you. -Rick Warren, Uncommon Courage Devotional.

I mentioned earlier there are a lot of tools to help us on our journey in life.  God’s Word is the greatest of those… His word is truth.  At times, each of us have moments when someone or something breaks into our lane and breaks our stride.  Keeping our eyes intently focused in the Word of God will help us to keep our focus.  The Holy Spirit will use those words to lead us where God wants us.

If you are in a place in life where someone has cut you off and broken your stride, now is the time to bring life back into focus.  Looking toward the goal that has been set within your heart.  “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV).  Don’t let the distractions of this world, the words of others, or the actions of others break your stride.  Keep running.

Walk Steadily on the Road

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. (Psalm 119:1, The Message).

Has God revealed something to you?  Is there something God has spoken to you that hasn’t come into being?  Do you have a desire in your heart that you can’t seem to explain to others?  Yet, you know God understands! What’s keeping you from pursuing that desire with all your heart?  Maybe you have given up on God, thinking, “That’s not what He really said for me to do.”  The Psalmist says here you are blessed if you stay the course.

Maybe there is something God called you to and circumstances blocked your path.  Where are you now?  Are you still on the road? Maybe you are still on the road but have settled for selling lemonade instead of walking steadily.  After-all, you heard once when life throws you lemons you should make lemonade.  Or have you given up altogether and decided to cut your own path?

I was listening to Steven Furtick’s message, “Don’t Stop on 6.”  It’s a message on Joshua and the people of Israel as they were headed for the Promised Land.  On the road, they encountered many obstacles and problems.  Jericho was one of those problems in their path.  God told Joshua to lead the people around Jericho.  Literally, they marched in circles around Jericho.  For 6 days they made one lap each day around the city.  What if they had given up on day 6?  What if they had given up on lap 6 of day 7?

It doesn’t matter where you are in life.  If you are a college student struggling to understand God’s plan, or if you are in your 40’s/50’s wishing you had made other choices. Blessed are those who stay the course! Don’t give up.  Don’t quit. Has God given you a dream – a passion – something you can’t let go of… yet you haven’t arrived? Don’t stop here!  Keep pressing on.  Let Him take you deeper in His Word.  Deeper with those He has put in and around your life.  God’s purposes are much greater on the road He reveals over the path either one of us could carve out on our own.

In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (NIV).

Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He behaved well before God. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to the left or right. (2 Chronicles 34:1, The Message).

Our lives aren’t meant to be a sprint to the finish line but rather a long distance endurance race.  Don’t allow the mountain in front of you to keep you from finishing the race strong!  Take it one step at a time.  Keep your focus on your footing and keep on walking steadily.

I picked up a journal recently I was writing in 2009.  The interesting thing for me is that I am still praying about the same thing today that I was then.  I’m even praying over the same passage of Scripture.  My initial reaction was, “Wow, I can’t believe that!”  I thought for a moment why continue… but that thought process quickly changed.  What if Israel had stopped on 6.  I’m not stopping either.

Day 7 is on it’s way if we keep walking steadily!

How’s your voice?

Have you ever lost your voice?  If not, I’m sure you have heard someone who has.  It’s an unusual experience and a bit painful.  You are the same person you were the day before – you just can’t communicate the way you are accustomed.

I love music.  There is no telling how much money I have spent over the years on cassettes, CDs, and now digital downloads.  I’m not a musician.  Although I own a guitar.  I only played when I didn’t have anyone else to lead worship while I was a youth pastor.  I still had to have someone else sing and be the voice to lead us where I desired for us to go.  The only time I play now is when God uses a song to speak to me.  I sit down to learn the song (if the chords are not too complicated) as I meditate on what He has been teaching me through it.

I was watching a live performance last night by The Choir.  It was a beautiful moment to watch and listen as these four men play their music.  (You can watch it here) They have literally been one of the best soundtracks of lyric and sound for my life than anyone else.  There are other bands who have had their place in my life that have really moved me and lead me to deep moments in Christ but The Choir has been there pretty much the entire time.  They are in the midst of embarking on their 15th studio album!  I’m excited for them as well as for me… I’m looking forward to hearing what nugget God has in store for my life through their voice.

Steve Hindalong (writer, drummer) talked about how blessed he is to have a voice like Derri Daugherty (vocalist, guitarist) to communicate the lyric Steve writes.  To hear Steve communicate that last night was touching.  I have been thinking about that very thing this week…. “My voice.”

If you think about it, we all have a voice that God intends for us to use for his purposes.  It could be on our job, in the church, at the grocery store, your blog, your small group, you name it…. where is it your voice is heard the most?  We live in a very noisy society.  Our ears tune in to certain sounds and messages that are appealing.  Just as our ears tune in to what we like… an important element in our life we can’t forsake is our own voices.  Just as I look forward to the next album by The Choir – there are people out there who need to hear your voice (my voice).  We all have a message to bring to this world.  God desires for us to surrender our wills – our hearts – to His Message and be His voice.

I don’t want to lose my voice.  I know that there are many things in life that have been crowding in to rob me of my voice.  I want to surrender and ask God to let me rise above the noisy crowd and be who He wants me to be.  No more running!  No more fear!  No more hiding!  No more being quiet!

It’s one thing to preach a sermon someone else has written.  It’s another thing to write the message from your own heart.  It’s one thing to cover someone else’s song.  It’s another thing to write it.  I guess that’s why I had much rather listen to the original artist recording over someone else performing it.  Kind of like listening to Journey without Steve Perry… why would you want to do that?

Don’t lose your voice!  There are people out there who need to hear it.  Their ears are tuned in to what you have to say.  Stay true to your heart and the Message the Holy Spirit has given you… now be His voice and deliver it however He has gifted you!

Seek Him first in your season

What season do you find yourself in today? Would you characterize your life as being in the Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?

I know where I live the season seems a bit messed up. It’s May and I’m writing on the back deck of our home wearing a sweatshirt. The Fall-like weather feels great but it’s a little unusual. I’ve read today where there are still major snowstorms going on. It seems crazy not being able to predict what to wear from day to day. It’s as if we are in the midst of a climate shift.

Just as the seasons change our lives change and go through different seasons of cold, dryness, warmth, and growth. During the springtime of life, growth happens almost flawlessly. If you are a Christian, in the springtime, the Word of God is alive and sharp in your life. The Holy Spirit seems to be speaking at every turn. There is a great sense of excitement in the air. I know during these moments of intense growth it is easy to become complacent and begin to expect this to be the “norm”. If you find yourself today in the midst of a spiritual growth spurt be alert to the unpredicted shifts in the climate. Don’t look at it as a set back – rather understand God is going to use this time to bring about more growth.

Maybe your life is characterized by being in the “dead of winter.” Don’t lose hope. Know that Spring is near. Draw close to God and don’t worry. No matter how cold your winter may feel – He is with you and He will sustain you. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness!

We aren’t to worry about what tomorrow may bring. 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. (Matthew 6:34, The Message).

I know there have been several mornings in recent days I have been surprised by the frosty-like weather. As I walked to the car with my son several mornings ago, we talked about how Fall-like it was. It reminded me of what Oswald Chambers has to say about uncertainty,

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 29).

Do you trust God and believe in Him with your entire life? Or are you holding on to what you believe about Him? As Chambers points out, there is a difference in believing in God and believing in your belief about Him. I think a lot of times we throw up a prayer of hope without faith in Him. We pray hoping what we believe about Him is true. Then when things don’t turn out the way we hoped then we get mad at Him. I think that’s one reason why Jesus teaches us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seeking Him first removes our agendas and puts our focus where it needs to be.

Are you ready… Are you prepared for what tomorrow may bring? I believe you are ready if your focus today is on what God is doing right now. Pray and seek Him first.

Who is your god?

I haven’t asked the question in awhile:  How are you doing with your Read through the Bible for 2009?  Are you on task with your goal for the year?  Have you begun to develop a healthy habit in reading the Bible?  I hope so!

The past several weeks have been tough for me.  My routine and schedule has been turned upside down.  I have been feeling a bit guilty for not staying on track with where I wanted to be.  Everyday I think, “I need to read the Bible.” 

Has reading the Bible become all about checking a box?  Or is reading the Bible drawing us closer and deeper in a relationship with Jesus? 

Of course, Oswald Chambers would have something to say on this!

Your god may be your little Christian habit— the habit of prayer or Bible reading at certain times of your day. Watch how your Father will upset your schedule if you begin to worship your habit instead of what the habit symbolizes. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 12).

This was a great reality check for me.  Reading God’s Word should never be about getting through it – like some book.  God’s Word is His voice to us…  Providing truth, life, freedom, and correction.  The focus of our everyday reading should never be about just being able to say, “I read the Bible for the day.”  It needs to be about, “What does God want to say to me today?”

As you continue reading through the Bible this year, make sure you are spending time to draw closer to Him as you read.  Don’t trade God in for the Christian habit (god).

Love means that there are no visible habits— that your habits are so immersed in the Lord that you practice them without realizing it. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 12).

Can you see what God is doing?

Have you ever ridden the log ride at Six Flags or at some other park? 

Lately my life has seemed much like I am riding a log ride (just not as fun).  My life is in motion bumping up against the parameters (or shall I say the principles) of life.  All the while, I know there is a destination out there that I will arrive at.  As Oswald Chambers puts it, I’m living my life based on principles rather than vision.

There is a difference between holding on to a principle and having a vision. A principle does not come from moral inspiration, but a vision does.

Our own idealistic principles may actually lull us into ruin. Examine yourself spiritually to see if you have vision, or only principles. (My Utmost for His Highest, May 9).

How do you live your life?  Do you get up everyday and hop onto the log ride of the expected routine in life or do you live it a bit more dangerously with a spiritual vision?  I know it seems like I have settled into the log ride and today am being challenged to get off of the ride and jump into a raft and conquor an uncharted river.  The Holy Spirit will be the guide and he will provide the vision.

Many years ago I went white water rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.  I was nervous and stressed the entire time.  The water was freezing, the rapids were rough, and I had to trust the guide.  At times, I even got angry with the guide because I thought he was intentionally sending us through rougher water when it wasn’t necessary.

I realize in life I do the same thing.  At times, I get upset and angry with where this course is taking me.  I want to point a finger at the Holy Spirit and say, “Why didn’t you tell me to dig earlier?”  I’m quick to forget that He is teaching me as I go.  He allows the rough waters in my life and I need to learn from them. 

I have come to know when He is telling me to do something.  I have learned His voice.  But I haven’t overcome my fear of taking risks in following Him.  I like the log ride.  I know what I will experience in the log.  As for the the raft, there’s a risk and I will have to trust the Guide.

Have you lost the excitement for living?  Your job? Ministry? Family?  Read Proverbs 29:18,

  If people can’t see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed. (The Message)

I know the following quote is from a message on marriage.  But it is applicable to any aspect of life that pertains to personal passion.  Job. Family. Ministry.  Whatever!  We all get involved in doing something based on how it makes us feel but to keep it going and alive there must be a plan… a vision.  It’s the plan that will keep you moving forward.

“Falling in love requires a pulse, staying in love requires a plan.” (Andy Stanley).

Are you following the vision for your life?  Or have you decided to remain comfortable with where you are?