Bright Lights

My son is learning to drive with his learners permit in his pocket.  A piece of plastic that gives him the right to drive on the road with an adult in the car with him.  I have always believed that permit was to learn to drive.  Now I’m seeing that it is there for his protection by forcing an adult to be in the car with him to teach him how to deal with impatient adults on the road.  (He is now the 4th child I’ve ridden with.  I don’t recall seeing so many impatient adults with the previous 3 children).

What have we become as a society?  It’s hurry here and there.  It’s hurry, hurry, hurry!  But, you know, mistakes occur when we hurry.  When you think of a hurried time in your life what comes to mind?

  • A scheduled appointment you are late for?
  • Impatient about finding a job?
  • Someone breathing down your neck to get something done… a deadline?
  • Finding that perfect relationship you will spend the rest of your life with?

We get in a hurry over a lot of things.  These four points are just from observations in life. (I could have written more…. but I’m in a hurry. Ha!… Sorry!) At some time in life we have all been in a hurry for one of those reasons or something else.  I can just about bet you that when life-decisions get hurried mistakes are made and accidents happen.

While riding down the road with my son, there was this car with bright lights on his tail.  He was going just over the speed limit.  He kept referring to the lights in his mirror and getting frustrated.  I encouraged him to focus on the road ahead and let the person deal with whatever they have going on by themselves.  We can’t control what they have going on. We can only focus on what we can see ahead of us.

Sometimes when others are in a hurry it can affect our own performance.

This conversation lead to more talk about the past.  We can’t do anything about the past in our lives.  Just like those bright lights, if we focus on the bright lights of the past we will be blinded and lose sight of what is up ahead.  Sometimes you have to reposition yourself, while in the driver seat, so that those things behind you don’t interfere with your future.

Who is sitting in your drivers seat?  Are you letting the guy behind you push you into a hurried state?  Are you getting your eyes off of the road in front of you all because you are focused on what’s behind you?

In Hebrews 12 we read,

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed- that exhilarating finish in and with God- he could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. (The Message).

If you are wanting to look back, then look back to the life of Jesus.  See how he dealt with life.  The encouragement for the day is to look to Jesus… keep your eyes on him.  As we approach the final days leading up the celebration of his birth, look back over his story.  See how his story from the past can lead you on into a great future.

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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.

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).