Marriage: Finish Strong

Starting a race is easy, finishing a race is hard – Getting married is easy, staying married is hard.

So how do you stay married?  More importantly how do you stay happily married, because lots of couples can just co-exist and hang on.

Look at two passages of Scripture 1 Corinthians 13 :4-7 and Galatians 5:22

In Galatians, patience is listed as part of the “fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.

Paul talks about the fruit that should be evident in our lives if we are living for God in Galatians.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he goes into detail about the meaning of love, which is the key to staying married. in verse 4 it says that love is patient and kind. I believe that is one of the keys to finishing strong in a marriage.

The definition of Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Have self-control in difficult situations.

Increasing patience is viewed as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who has accepted the gift of salvation

In the Bible, patience is referred to in several sections. 

  • The book of Proverbs notes that “through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Proverbs 25:14-16, NIV);
  •  Ecclesiastes points out that the “end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:7-9, NIV); 
  • In the book of James, the Bible urges Christians to be patient, and ” see how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,…until it receives the early and the late rains.” (James 5:7-11, NAB). 
  •  1 Thessalonians states that we should “be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, NAB). 

So how do we practice patience in a relationship, especially the marriage relationship?

1.  Remind yourself that things take time. People who are impatient, are people who insist on getting things done now and don’t like to waste time. However, some things just can’t be rushed. 

  • Think about your happiest memories. Chances are, they were instances when your patience paid off, like when you worked steadily toward a goal that wasn’t immediately gratifying, or took a little extra time to spend leisurely with a loved one. Would you have those memories if you had been impatient? Probably not.
  • Almost anything really good in life takes time and dedication, and if you’re impatient, you’re more likely to give up on relationships, goals, and other things that are important to you. Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.

2.  Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. You can move the world toward peace, by being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most. When other less important things fuel our impatience, taking time to remember any one of these items reduces our tendency to want something different right now.

3.   Always have a positive outlook in life and about your spouse Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believe the best about your spouse. Remember that marriage is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

4.   Expect the unexpected. Yes, you have plans, but things don’t always work out as planned. Accept the twist and turns in life gracefully. Keep your expectations realistic. This applies not only to circumstances, but also the behavior of those around you. 

  • If you find yourself blowing up over your child or your spouse accidentally spilling a drink, you’re not in touch with the fact that people aren’t perfect. Even if the occasion is not an isolated incident but is instead caused by their repeated neglect and carelessness, losing your patience isn’t going to make it any better. That’s something to be addressed with discussion and self-control.
  1.  Give yourself a break.
  • Stop holding yourself and the world around you to unattainable standards. Sure, we’d all be more patient if he would always listen, she would stop complaining, traffic flowed smoothly, and people didn’t make mistakes – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself a break!

The Benefits of Developing Patience

  1. Reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person.

When you learn and practice patience you don’t get as angry, stressed or overwhelmed. You are more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise.
This promotes longevity and makes you a happier, healthier person.

  1. Results in better decision-making.

When you’re patient you take the time to assess the situation, see the big picture, and weigh any pros and cons. The chances of making a big mistake lessen because you avoid making it in haste. Taking the time to problem solve requires patience and deliberation. 

  1. Helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion.

You are automatically more understanding and compassionate with others when you yourself are patient. Patient people take the time to process what they go through and are able to determine what it takes to overcome obstacles, so they are more understanding of others. This results in better, more fulfilling relationships with spouses, friends, children and bosses. 

  1. Helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.

As mentioned earlier anything worthwhile takes time and effort to achieve. As the old saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience. 

 Tips on How to Develop Patience

  • Take a day where you make patience your goal for the entire day.

Make a concerted effort to take your time and think about everything you do, be mindful and live in the moment. At the end of the day, observe all the ways in which you’ve made smarter decisions, got along better with others and actually understood what took place. Learn to do it on a daily basis. Developing patience is much like physical exercise because it requires persistence and effort. 

  • Slow down.

If you have the tendency to rush around and try to hurry things up, want things done immediately and can’t wait for things to take their natural course, STOP. Take several deep breaths before you act or make a move. For example, if you’re in a long lineup at the grocery store or in heavy traffic, make the decision to pause and not get worked up. Do some isometrics, listen to the radio, or just enjoy the view. Getting impatient won’t make things move along any faster, so why get worked up for nothing?

  • Practice delaying gratification.

When you want to reach for that dessert, second drink, or buying your tenth pair of red shoes, stop and think about it first. Maybe you don’t need or want any of them that badly after all. You can save yourself some money or added calories. 

  • Practice thinking before you speak.

At times we blurt out the first thought that comes into our heads without considering the consequences. If we’re patient, and can pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others. 

A few other tips on Patience:

  • Don’t be patient with bad behavior.  Be patient with how you respond to bad behavior.
  • Praise your spouse publicly, be sincere and specific.  Brag about how great he is or how organized she is.
  • Have crucial conversations in private.  Don’t argue and fight in front of the kids or in public.  Be patient enough to work on the conflict when you both can focus and not be distracted.
  • Try to praise more than admonish – you should praise 3 times more than you admonish.  If all you do is complain about what they are not doing and never praising them there will be little motivation to make any changes.

Being Kind goes with Patience:

  • Kindness always starts with you!  When you are kind it will influence your spouse, children and anyone else around you
  • When you are kind to another person it is difficult to not be kind in turn.
  • Being kind means making their day better.  Are they better off for being around you?
  • It is how you talk to each other the words that you use.
  • Helping when you can, serving them to make their day easier.
  • It can be very simple, a smile, a hug, a kiss, paying attention and listening, giving a small gift, saying I love you, writing a note!

Kindness is intentionally creating and maintaining the right environment in your home so your spouse and children can also be kind to others. 

The goal is to make deposits in their emotional bank account, which means you have to know their love language and what is important to them.

Prayer is important:

Prayer is the last thing I want to leave with you. 

Trying to be patient and kind on our own will not work.  You can do it for a while, but it will not last long term.

Only by involving God can you be patient and kind and all those other things we read about in 1 Corinthians 13

When we pray we plug into the incredible power of God.  It activates things spiritually that we cannot see.

Prayer also changes our perspective and reminds us of what is important.

So I want you to commit to praying for your spouse everyday for the next 21 days.

If you forget, just start again the next day.

Finish Strong!

Pray Like Jesus

There is one thing can make a difference in everything… and that one thing is your prayer life! When you and I pray powerful things happen, When we pray God listens, he moves, he works, he answers. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t.

Jesus said ask and you shall receive and James wrote in the book of James you have not because you ask not. Prayer is not only powerful in your life, but in a very real sense prayer is prophetic in your life. What I mean is that what you are praying about is a real indicator of what is going to happen in your life. Where God is working and what will happen in the future. It all begins with prayer.

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Praying like Jesus is the source of a power filled life. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 ESV. I find it interesting that is what they asked Jesus to teach them. They have seen him do miracles, raise the dead, cast out demons, multiply the loaves and fish, teach with incredible wisdom and draw huge crowds. They didn’t ask him to teach them any of that. They wanted to know how to pray like him.

When Jesus was facing a big decision like who would be his 12 disciples he prayed. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12 ESV

Praying like Jesus is the key to seeing God’s will done. “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.” Luke 11:2 Jesus teaches us to not pray for our kingdom to come or our will to be done. He’s saying no, when we pray we are trusting God knows best, his will is best. God I want your way, your desire, what you think is best in my life or the people I’m praying for.

The hard part of this is that God’s timing is usually not our timing and his ways are not our ways. Often times as we pray God is also doing a work in us, he is shaping us and molding us and changing us. As we get closer to God the way we pray changes as we understand His ways better, and trust Him more.

God knows our motives, he knows our heart and when we are praying for things that are not good for us or maybe even hurtful to others, he knows he has work to do in us. It may be why he is saying no, or not answering your prayers. Keep on Asking – Keep on Seeking – Keep on Knocking! Don’t grow weary. Praying like Jesus means trusting that God will do what is best. Trust that God knows what is best for you and your situation. 

Worry vs. Prayer

Big Point:  Worry is focused negative thinking, while prayer is focused spiritual thinking.

About 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but far more suffer from mild anxiety or worry that has not yet developed into a disorder.  For many people today, worry has simply become a mental habit. Automatically thinking the worse case scenario for the events that happen in their lives.  It’s also playing the “what if” possibilities over & over in their minds.

This has become the normal for many people, however there is a better way and a better normal.  This way leads to less stress, more peace and better health. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the better way “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

So, prayer is the better way.  Pray should be our normal response to anything that comes our way.  Pausing to talk to God, ask for his help, for wisdom, for courage, for patience.  Expressing our frustrations, fears and doubts to him instead of having a negative conversation with ourselves leads to peace.  It also leads to better health both physically and emotionally.

Read and Reflect:  Read these passages of Scripture several times.  Each time you read it emphasize a different word.  Then reflect and think about what you noticed.

  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
  • “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4
  • “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9
  • “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Questions to Consider:

  • What do you tend to worry about the most?
  • What benefits would you gain by praying more instead of worrying?
  • What is one thing you could do to remind yourself to pray more throughout your day?
  • When was the last time you memorized a passage of Scripture?  If it’s been awhile consider memorizing one of the verses in this devotional.

What’s Next?

  • Memorize one or more passages of Scripture this week.
  • Focus on Jesus by reading the story found in Luke 10:38-42
  • Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for
  • Build prayer into your daily schedule, with reminders until it becomes normal.

Pray:
Dear Lord,
I need you now because I am full of stress and anxiety. Reading your Word brings comfort, as I ask you to come and take my heavy burdens. I take each burden, one by one, and lay them at your feet. Please carry them for me so that I don’t have to. Replace them with your humble and gentle spirit so that I will find rest for my soul today. I receive your gift of peace of mind and heart. Thank you that I can lie down tonight in peace and sleep. I know that you, Lord, will keep me safe. I am not afraid because you are always with me. Please keep me daily, Lord, in your perfect peace.
Amen.

Five Key Spiritual Habits

habits

We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.

 

Three Life Lessons

Israel, Jerusalem, holy city, former wall around the old town near Jaffa

One of my favorite books is found in the Bible in the Old Testament.  It’s the book of Nehemiah.  It’s a story about a man that led a movement to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, a city that had been destroyed and in ruins for many years.

The reason I like this story so much is because it demonstrates how much can be done when a person works hard and involves God.

Here are three simple life lessons from the story of Nehemiah, I hope you will take the time to read his story:

  1. The first step in any venture is to pray – The first thing Nehemiah did when he heard how terrible things were back home was to pray.  He talked to God and pleaded with God to help.  He also confessed sin for himself and his people, and he asked for specific help in having favor with his boss.  Prayer was his first response, Nehemiah knew that on his own he could not accomplish what God and he could do together.  When we face a challenge in life the first thing we need to do is talk to God, confess our sin, ask for his help and be specific in our requests.
  2. People under God’s direction can accomplish impossible tasks – Nehemiah was a talented leader but he knew he could not accomplish this huge task without the help of God and other people.  He put a plan together and asked for help from many different people.  He was able to keep the people focused on the most important things and not get distracted or paralyzed by fear.  He kept encouraging the people and praying for help, wisdom, protection and courage.  When you have a big vision and you include God on everything and you stay focused, amazing things can happen.  They rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem in just 52 days.
  3. There are two parts to real service for God: talking with Him and walking with Him – Serving God means including Him in every area of our lives.  It starts by talking with Him through prayer, this builds intimacy with God, a closeness that can only come from spending time together.  It also means walking our everyday lives with God.  Walking with God is simply including Him on the good and the bad in your life.  It’s continually acknowledging that He is in control and that we are seeking to do His will and not our own.  Walking with God is also asking for help when tempted, confessing when we mess up and getting back up and continuing on after we fail.

Nehemiah’s story is amazing and well worth reading.  Read it here – Nehemiah

Examining the Condition of Your Walls

 

One of my heroes is Nehemiah.  His story is found in the Bible and it’s loaded with leadership and spiritual principles. Nehemiah was a Jewish man living in Persia after the Persian empire had taken over Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish people.  Slowly over a 90 year period the Jewish people were traveling the 800 miles back to Jerusalem and were trying to rebuild that great city.

Nehemiah had an important and prestigious job as the cup bearer to the king.  He found out that the rebuilding process in Jerusalem was not going well and they were struggling to make it.  Mainly it was because the walls around the city had been torn down and that left them vulnerable to the people around them.  Nehemiah had a great concern about the walls of his beloved city.  The rest of the story is how he went about rebuilding the walls.

Here are some of my takeaways:

Wall rebuilding then…. Wall rebuilding now:

Ancient walls served many purposes. They offered Protection, Security, and reflected the strength of the people.

Likewise, today the walls of spiritual disciplines that we build around our lives are vital for our Protection and for building our relationship with God.

We need to examine the condition of our walls.

Are some gates open for the enemy to slip in?
Has neglect allowed a loose piece of stone or mortar to become a hole or a gap?
Have weeds of compromise overrun certain sections until those toppled walls have become a main entrance for sin?

If your walls are in need of repair lets take a look at some principles from Nehemiah.

First: Develop a genuine concern for the condition of the walls.

Is it a burden on your heart? We must have a genuine concern for the condition of our spiritual lives.  If spiritual growth is not important it will take a back seat to all the more important stuff in our lives.  The spiritual walls we have in our lives keep us focused on the best things and growing in our trust of God.

Second: Express direct prayer for guidance and protection.

Nehemiah started 800 miles away in prayer before the Lord. Prayer tends to be an afterthought many times. It should be the first thing we do. Get into the habit of acting on your burdens only after you have given them a firm foundation in prayer.  Prayer is a privilege and God is available at all times.  We have access to the only one that controls everything.

Third: Face the situation honestly and with determination until the task is finished.

If we are upfront and honest about a problem we usually can get more of a commitment from the people around us. An honest appraisal of your own spiritual walls will help you stay determined to fill the gaps.  We all know were we tend to struggle and where we are allowing things to influence us in a negative way.  If your unsure then ask the people that are closest to you for honest feedback.

Fourth: Recognize that we cannot correct the condition alone.

No amount of experience can overcome sin’s power to crumble our walls. It is only when we are willing to live in dependence on God that we have the power to fix and build the spiritual walls we need for survival.  If we are serious about making changes in our spiritual lives then allowing other people to speak into our lives is vital.  Pray for someone that can hold you accountable by asking tough questions and then pray for courage to be open and honest.

Breezes instead of wind gusts usually knock us down. We get lulled into neglecting our walls.  We drift from God and allow other things to take priority in our lives.  Slowly we stray away and can find ourselves lost, stuck or alone.

Pray for God’s help in recognizing those subtle breezes in your life that are causing you to drift into moral compromises.

What area of your spiritual wall needs repairs or strengthened?

Are you faithful in all areas of your life? At work, At home, At play?

Take some time soon to think about the condition of your own walls and then follow Nehemiahs example and rebuild them as needed.

Surprised & Inspired

 

IMG_0832

God has a way of surprising and inspiring us in the most unexpected ways.  I am on a weekend retreat for men that run Radical Mentoring Groups.  I’ve done three of these groups and love it each time I do a group.  I’m meeting up with over 100 other men that are doing these types of groups across the country.  We are gathering in Cleveland GA, which is north of Atlanta near the mountains.

When I arrived I discovered that I had some extra time before the retreat started, so I decided to drive up into the mountains and do some sight seeing.  I found a park area and decided to do a little hiking.  The weather was sunny and near 50 degree’s.  For people in GA that’s really cold but for me it was perfect.  I was the only one at the park and had the trails to myself.

I decided to do some running and got my heart rate up as I climbed up to an amazing waterfall.  I then turned around and headed back another way and found a second waterfall.  As I was there I started talking to God and asked him why I was here and had this extra time.  Then it hit me hard – God was telling me he loved me!  As I stood in the middle of this amazing wooded area I was struck by God’s goodness and was humbled at the gift he gave me of free time to just enjoy his creation and talk with him.  The sense of how much he loved me stopped me in my tracks.

I asked him what else he wanted to tell me and I heard some simple things, here they are:

  • Love your wife and treat her well – You can do better
  • Mentor and invest more time in the young men you have influence with
  • Talk to me more often and find time to listen

So that’s the start of this retreat, I can’t wait for the rest of the weekend.  I am anticipating that God has something more for me this weekend.

Unexpected Words From God

don't_eat

Last week I attended a Night of Worship at the Dover campus of NewPointe Community Church.  I am a pastor at one of the other campuses, so it was nice for me to just be a regular guy attending and worshiping.  I have to admit I went to see if I could get some ideas on how to make our worship event better the following week.  As I got there and walked in I connected with a few people I know, but was pretty anonymous and slipped into a seat about a third of the way up.  As the music started I sang, prayed and even raised my hands throughout the evening.  I was also critiquing some of what was happening, making note of things I would do differently and things that I liked.

Then God did something unexpected.  I don’t remember the exact time during the service or what song we were singing, but I heard God say “Don’t Eat!”  I have to admit I was a little startled and confused.  I asked God if that was from Him and if I heard him right.  I heard it again “Don’t Eat!”  That same morning in the church service I sat in on at my campus our senior pastor had mentioned the idea of Fasting as a spiritual discipline.  I have fasted before with other people and by myself.  I have given up TV, sports, coffee, food, meat and movies.  Yet this time was different because God was telling me not to eat.

So I didn’t eat any food for the next three days.  Each day I talked to God and when I asked if I could eat I heard “not yet”.  During those three days, I was hungry and even felt some hunger pains.  Yet each time I thought about being hungry I immediately connected with God and talked to Him.  I felt such an inner peace and strength that seemed to get stronger each day.  This three day fast reminded me how much I take food for granted.  I don’t have to wonder where or when my next meal will come from.  I can eat anytime I want and eat anything I want.  Yet I am not all that grateful for what I have.

It’s the same way spiritually.  God is with us all the time, we can talk to him anytime and ask for anything.  Yet too often we take that for granted and only turn to him when things go wrong or we need something.  Those three days of eating reminded me that I need God 24/7.  That when I am connected to him the temptations are less powerful, the way I respond to things is much better and I make better decisions.

Psalm 63:1 says “God you are my God.  I search for you.  I thirst for you like someone in a dry, empty land where there is no water.”  When I read that I had to admit that I do not pursue God like I would pursue water if I had none.  Am I really hungry for God, desperate to know him more and more?

Jesus said this in Mathew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

When push comes to shove, what is most important to me?  What takes priority?

God doesn’t need people to evangelize the earth, do missions projects or give away millions of dollars.  He looks for people who will worship him in spirit and truth.  Not just on Sunday mornings or whenever our day of rest is.  God wants people who will worship him in the way they live.  God made us to worship and every day we worship something.

When I hunger and thirst for God and seek him with all my heart, I get a glimpse of how much he loves me.  As I grow, I understand a little bit better the depth of that love.  God’s love for me never changes, yet as I change and grow, I get a clearer perspective of God, the world around me and the people in it.

That all came as a result of hearing two words from God and then obeying him.  What would happen if we would listen to God all the time and really trust him with everything?  What would happen if we did what he told us to do?  What if we would follow his commands and live our lives fully surrendered to him?

On Thursday morning I woke up and knew I could eat again.  The granola with Almond milk tasted better than ever before.  I was grateful for the food I had in the house and once again my mind turned to God and his provision and care for me.   I had a good day with my wife and got some time to rest and relax.

Then on Saturday something happened that I almost missed.  It’s easy to just write things off as weird or a coincidence. I was bored and was flipping through the television, looking to escape into a movie or something entertaining before the Buckeyes came on that evening.  We all know that there are lots of unwholesome things on television and I can get drawn into movies or shows that have too much sex, violence and bad language in them them.  As I was searching, the smoke detector in the room beside be would beep from time to time.  I thought that was odd, but dismissed it because I figured it just needed new batteries.  I ended up watching a movie that was not the best choice.

I told my wife afterward about the smoke detector and as I was telling her I realized the smoke detector is hard wired and does not use batteries.  It has not beeped since then.  Then it hit me, was God warning me, trying to get my attention and help me avoid temptations.  Then this verse came to my mind in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 

I wish I had that power I felt when I was fasting all the time.  If only I had paid closer attention to that warning, I could have fed my mind with something much better.  I don’t always turn to God even when he is right in front of me.  I guess that is the human side of us, yet God’s love never changes and he sees me as his beloved son even when I miss the way he gives me to escape temptations.

I am excited about what God is doing in me and who he wants me to become.  The more I seek him and hunger after him the more he can use me to impact and influence other people.  The more I listen and pay attention and then obey what he is telling me the more fruitful my life will become.  We are all in process and when we allow God to drive and we trust him amazing things can happen.

Four Ways to Devlop Your Character & Succeed in Life

Character-Development-C

 

Here are four ways develop your character:

  1. Never let life’s difficulties surprise you – hardship, disappointments and struggles are inevitable.  Bad things happen because this is not heaven.  However, they are the rule, not the exceptions of life.  So the important thing is to make sure your expectations are realistic and not idealistic.  When hardships come you will be better prepared to respond in a way that helps instead of hurts.
  2. Keep a positive perspective – Your perspective depends on what your focus is on.  When you focus on problems and your current situation you will tend to be more negative, fearful and hurt.  When you focus on your faith, character, integrity, loving God and other people, you will tend to be much more positive and joyful no matter what is happening around you.
  3. When you face challenges, pray first – Pray for help, pray for protection, pray for wisdom, pray for strength, pray for God to intervene.  Keep your prayers short, specific and spontaneous.  Pray throughout the day, before you have the conversation, before you walk in the door and before you let your emotions take over.
  4. Be humble enough to allow accountability in your life – None of us is totally self-sufficient.  You will grow more when you allow some people to get close enough to you to really know you, not just on the surface.  Pride will keep you from admitting your weaknesses, asking for help and making changes in your life.  A humble person is a strong person, a self-aware person, and a person others want to be around.  If you don’t have anyone you can open up to start asking God to help make that happen.

Developing your character takes courage to face your strongholds, habits and hang-ups.  It’s hard to do but the rewards are huge.  Lead on.

4 Ways To Growing Your Faith

This week I met with my older brother Brian for lunch.  We don’t get to spend much time together anymore so it was nice to meet with him and talk about what is going on in his life.  He is facing some big life-changing things like starting his own business, being an empty nester and getting involved in ministry at his church.

As we talked, I could see and hear how much God has been working in his life.  He has grown more in the last two months than he had for the last several years.  God really has gotten a hold of him and he is following God with all his heart.  As I heard him talk about how close he felt to God I got to thinking about how many people aren’t experiencing that kind of relationship with God.  Brian includes God in every decision and won’t make a move without hearing from God.  He works hard at what he knows he should be doing and waits on God for things he is unsure of.

So here are a few keys I learned from Brian to growing our faith:

  • Listen – Most people are busy and we run from one thing to the other.  We can fill our lives with all kinds of activities that distract us from listening to God.  Brian’s new journey started while on vacation away from the distractions of life.  Say no to some things so you can slow down and listen more and run less.  Maybe its time for a short retreat to listen to God.
  • Read – Even if your not much of a reader, this is a key to growing spiritually.  Most people don’t use much of the brain God gave them.  I know I don’t.  Reading the Bible and books about God, christian living, relationships and even leadership will stretch your mind and help you to grow.  Brian told me he has read more in the last two months than he had in the last 10 years.  He said his mind has been opened up and he is able to learn and grow like never before.  Make a goal of reading a book of the Bible and another book on faith within the next two months.  Reading feeds your mind and is one way to hear from God.
  • Pray – That may sound simple, yet many of us don’t take the time to pray.  When we do its a quick thought or running through a list of items we need help with.  What I am talking about is having a real conversation with God.  Pouring out your heart and opening yourself up to what God wants to do in you.  Start to pray out loud even when you are alone.  Brian has gone on prayer walks and spends time throughout the day in conversation with God.  Make it a practice to praise and thank God every day, confess anything that needs confessed, pray for people that God brings to your mind.  Also pray for God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and for wisdom, courage and strength to do His will.  You might even consider fasting and praying.  Maybe you should get on your knees or even bow down on your face and pray & listen.
  • Do – It is great to read, study, learn and pray, yet if you don’t do something you will not change.  Brian got involved in his church.  He volunteered for the prayer ministry and quickly began leading that ministry.  This helped him put into practice what God started in private.  He started praying for people and God started using him to impact peoples lives.  He did some things that made him uncomfortable and stretched him, and God used it to change him and the people around him.  When you listen, read and pray God directs you in what to do.  God will give you opportunities to influence other people, serve other people, encourage other people and even heal other people.

Lead On