Recently I ran races on back to back weekends. First it was a race called Rough & Rugged which was a 5k cross country, trail, mud kind of race. I finished but was exhausted and struggled along the way. Then the next weekend I ran a 10k on a flat course. Again I finished but struggled and had to reach deep to keep pushing myself. After I finished that second race I made the comment that these races are much harder when you don’t train properly.
You see I had been running once a twice a week in preparation for both of these races. I also did nothing between the two races and I felt it on race day. I know this because at one time I did train hard and went into similar races in much better physical condition. I ran better times and felt better after the races. The preparation I put in made a difference on race day. I was both mentally and physically ready. That was not the case with these last two races.
It is similar in our spiritual lives, when we are staying connected to God and feeding our minds the truth, it is much easier to recognize lies and deal with the difficulties of life. It’s the things we do day in and day out that prepare us for those big moments in life and those small moments that make a big difference. Those crucial conversations, the big decisions, the temptation that comes out of no where or the unexpected tragedy. When we are not training spiritually those things can knock us down and take us out.
So here are some spiritual exercises we can all do to keep fit both spiritually and emotionally.
I encourage you to pick one or two of the areas I mentioned and start incorporating it into your everyday life. If you do all of those on a regular basis you will grow and become more fit spiritually.
What if you received a letter with a return address of Christ: The Universe? We may be afraid, concerned, excited or all of the above. In any case I am sure we would be riveted to the text of this letter. We need to be riveted to the text of the letter Christ wrote through John to the church of Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22.
It is intensely personal and highly relevant to our search for intimacy. It could have been written to us. Near the end of the letter there is a compelling invitation:
“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22 (Msg.)
Although many times we have taken this passage as being about salvation, the context dictates that it’s actually about a relationship with Christ for those who have already come to know Him.
Christ is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking. The metaphor is powerful. It means that Christ is intentionally, aggressively, passionately pursuing us. There are no qualifiers here. He isn’t speaking to a few select people, but to all the Laodiceans: the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those with disabilities and those that are forgotten. Christ portrays Himself as intentionally pursuing intimacy with us.
If Christ makes Himself so accessible, why is it that we don’t open the door? There are at least three reasons for our hesitation:
The First Reason: Fear
Though God does pursue us and though Christ is there knocking, some of us may be afraid to open the door. Many of us have longed for intimacy in human relationships-with our father, mother, or someone else- only to find that our hopes for intimacy were not only dashed and broken but that as we made ourselves vulnerable, we were wounded in the process. We are afraid. We just don’t know if we can trust again.
Thomas Keating, in his book INTIMACY WITH GOD, speaks to this problem:
The Christian’s spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take that initial leap into the dark, to encounter God at deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be.
Because trust is so important, our spiritual journey may be blocked if we carry negative attitudes toward God from early childhood. If we are afraid of God or see God as an angry father-figure, a suspicious policeman, or a harsh judge, it will be hard to develop enthusiasm, or even an interest , in the journey.
We need to pray , “Lord I want to trust You, Help me to trust you. We need to grasp the truth that God will not disappoint us. He will not abuse us. He will not use us. No one who as ever trusted God and moved toward intimacy has ever ultimately been disappointed – ever.
The Second Reason: Self-Sufficiency
Some of us have the same problem that the Laodiceans had. They were neither hot nor cold, but luke-warm. They were rich and had no material needs, so they thought they didn’t need God. They relied on what they consumed from the material world in order to satisfy, sustain, and secure themselves. Many of us don’t think it is so bad to be self-sufficient, it’s not like being self-centered or self-serving. But it is a big issue to God. Christ said to the Laodiceans that though they had all the stuff, comforts, companions, commodities, they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
Wow. God wants us to be rich in the right ways. He wants to fill our lives with truly valuable treasures. He wants us to have His peace, comfort, presence, and power.
The Third Reason: Discontentment
“More. If there is a single word that summarizes American hopes and obsessions, that’s it. More success. More luxuries and gizmos. We live for more-for our next raise, our next house; and the things we already have, however wonderful they are, tend to pale in comparison with the things we might still get.” Laurence Shames
There is that ever-present craving for all that is more, bigger, or better.
He goes on to say this:
“During the past decade, many people came to believe there didn’t have to be a purpose. The mechanism didn’t require it. Consumption kept workers working, which kept the paychecks coming, which kept the people spending, which kept inventors inventing and investors investing, which meant there was more to consume. The system, properly understood, was independent of values and needed no philosophy to prop it up. It was a perfect circle, complete in itself-and empty in the middle.
The Biblical word for satisfaction is the word contentment. We are called to be content with what we have since we have God-and He is fully sufficient. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever want something or that we don’t enjoy a purchase here and there. It means that we are not controlled by the passion to consume. Having Him, we have it all. Anything extra is a bonus.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned both how to have plenty and how to have little and in both cases to be content. Contentment is not just a reflected in our relationship to things. We can be discontent with our spouse, our job, our place in life, our education, or a long list of other things. Sometimes discontentment can motivate us to righteousness or a zealous commitment to God. This is a healthy kind of discontentment. The kind of discontentment, however, that seeks personal satisfaction and security in “just one more thing, one more experience, one more friendship.” Leads to the emptiness and aloneness.
When we hear Him knocking, it is the trusting, God-sufficient, contented heart that hurries to answer. Opening the door generates the pleasure of experiencing His promise, “I will come right in and have supper with you.”
Recently I had a conversation with some people that attend and volunteer at the church that I work at. As we talked about some of the conversations they had at work and in the community, I heard several times that many of the people they talk to about church say “Oh you go to That Church”. Now I’m guessing that the comment comes from people that are either already going to a church or grew up in church. The reason I say that is because people that are familiar with church tend to have a picture of what a church should be like. I know that I had those same thoughts when I first heard about NewPointe over 17 years ago. I questioned why they did certain things and why they didn’t do certain things. But then I tried it and was changed forever, my picture of church was wrecked in a good way.
When a church comes along that doesn’t line up with our picture of the church we grew up with or currently attend, we will question the validity of that church. Most people’s natural tendency is to poke fun or shoot holes in something they don’t understand.
I actually love that people would say you go to “That Church”. That means that we are getting noticed and people are actually talking about church, maybe in a way that they have not talked before. It leads to spiritual conversations and gets people thinking. There is no perfect church, because there are no perfect people. As a church leader I don’t claim to know it all or have the best way of doing things. I want to create a place where people can connect with God and other people.
So here are some things I love about That Church, otherwise known as NewPointe Community Church:
A Balanced Life
Are You Courting Burnout?
What do you do to keep your life balanced?
THREE STEPS TO BALANCE:
When you know your purpose it brings better focus to your life. It determines the patterns in your life and the disciplines you pursue. Finding your life purpose is a process that everyone should go through. It will take some time and effort but it’s worth the time and energy. A great place to start is to answer this question: What would I want my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to say about me at my funeral? Not what would they say now, but what would you want them to say. Think about that and start writing down some things.
When we understand our purpose better, it helps to simplify our lives. It allows us to eliminate the things that distract us and say yes to the things that further that purpose. I my own life I’ve developed a purpose statement of Leading myself and others to grow in Faith, Character & Leadership. That statement drives what I do at work, at home and in my spare time. It’s what I write about in my posts, it’s what I talk about with the people around me.
Balance in life is possible if we practice life according to a single priority, and that single priority is our purpose.
FOUR DIMENSIONS IN LIFE
Balance is achieved when we establish, build, and maintain capacity in each of the four dimensions of life. How much time and energy do we give to each of those areas of our lives? That will only happen if we are intentional about focusing on each of those areas of our lives.
Reflect and rate yourself on the four dimensions in your life:
Couch Potato ………………………………………………………………………………………………..Cross Fit Freak
Take this quiz to gauge whether or not you’re headed for burnout. (Pay attention not only to your answers, but also the way you react to the statements.)
1) Despite getting adequate sleep each night, I wake up tired.
2) Lately, I’d define myself as moody.
3) Increasingly, I see the negative, or what needs to be fixed, with my work and others’. Positive comments and thoughts are rare.
4) My vision or purpose is becoming blurry, or harder to focus on, despite being clear in the past.
5) If I were totally honest with myself, I’d say I’m going through the motions at work or home, rather than contributing everything I can.
6) I shorten (or wish I could do so) my workday just to leave work or get away.
7) I lengthen many workdays to get the job done, instead of delegating or managing my time or mindset more effectively.
8) I cut down or stop other activities (such as hobbies or other rejuvenating activities) in order to keep up with work responsibilities.
9) I don’t have time to reach out to connect with colleagues,mentors or friends on a regular basis.
10) Relationships within and outside of my work are not as strong as they were.
1-4 “True” answers: You should be in the normal ebb and flow of business ownership, or work. Continue to find ways to improve.
5-7 “True” answers: Burnout is rearing its ugly head. Within the next week, schedule two days away from work to reconnect and clarify your vision or purpose, and identify at least 5 action items that you can do to change the course and refuel your engines.
8-10 “True” answers: Stop, your in trouble. Stop everything and take a deep breath. In the next week get away for awhile to revisit your vision and purpose. Reconnect with colleagues and mentors. Write out your vision and an action agenda to get you back on track in doing what is important.
TEN TIPS FOR AVOIDING BURNOUT AND INVITING BALANCE:
Where do you need to focus more and be more balanced?
Summer is a great time of the year. For many families it’s when you take vacation and spend a bit more time together. It’s easier to have social functions with friends, cooking outs, camp fires, camping, outdoor sports and more. I’m on a softball team and love to get away and have fun with some other people.
I remember summer as a kid, not having to go to school and spending long days out exploring my grandpa’s farm. I spent hours looking for arrow heads and flint after the fields where plowed and was even known to go skinny dipping in the creek from time to time.
Summer for me has become a time of building. I try to approach each summer as a time to sharpen myself as a follower of Christ, a husband, a leader and a friend. It’s a time to work on relationships, read good books, plan for the rest of the year and relax and have a little fun.
I try to read a lot, because that is one of the ways I learn and keep my mind sharp. Each summer I try to put together a reading list that I try to knock out over the months of June, July and August. Here is my list for this year:
Have a great summer but remember to include some reading. Even if you are not a reader, try to read one book this summer. Reading helps you to focus, use your brain and relieve stress. Reading also feeds you spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. If you want to change, grow or just get better as a person, then start reading. If your into sports you read all the article about your favorite teams, so you can do this – Give it a try this summer.
This time of the year is an exciting time as new life springs up with the warmer weather, at least in Ohio. Easter is also an exciting time for Christians as we celebrate Jesus Christ. As we prepare for Easter 2014 I thought I would share some thoughts on the significance of what Jesus did that causes us to be celebrating over 2,000 years later.
So there you have it, that is what Jesus Christ did for us. That is why we celebrate so big during Easter, because all of this is amazing, unbelievable, undeserved and completely free. Salvation is not by works but by grace, it’s not initiated by us but by God and its not an afterthought with God, it is his eternal plan.
In 2 Chronicles chapter 7 God appears to Solomon. Solomon has just finished building this magnificent temple of the Lord. He has had tremendous success all along the way. His father David had prepared the way for this to happen and now Solomon has accomplished this huge project for God. They have been celebrating for 7 days and people are coming form all over the world to see this amazing temple and to worship God. Solomon and others have been praying and preparing and then Solomon hears from God.
In verse 12 it says “The Lord appeared to him at night and said: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” God goes on to say “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people.” This is interesting because God is saying that hardship has and will come our way. He says when things go badly, when sickness strikes, when hard times come, I am going to tell you what to do. This is verse 14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
So no matter what happens to us, if we are in God’s family, whether success, failure, sickness, heart break, tragedy or loss. If we humble ourselves, pray and seek God and turn from our wicked ways, God will hear us and forgive us and heal us.
So how does that translate for today. Jesus came and was the final sacrifice for our sins, so we don’t need a temple to make sacrifices anymore. Jesus paid for all our sins and gave us a clear path to heaven. If we believe in Jesus Christ and follow him, we are now the temple that God can live in. This verse in 2 Chronicles still applies today though for God’s people. I believe this is about God being more concerned about our spiritual & emotional health than our happiness or even our physical well being.
So here is the principle: If our daily focus is to remain humble and not be filled with pride and ego. Thinking less about ourselves and more about God and others. If our tendency or habit is to pray and seek God in any and every situation. If we routinely repent or turn away from our sins, bad attitudes, negative thinking and the things that pollute our minds and hearts. God promises to forgive us continually and immediately and take our burdens and worries from us. And this leads to healing and wholeness.
The bottom line is that God wants us to trust him and depend on him for everything. He wants us to turn away from the things that pull us down and turn to him who lifts us up. It’s about becoming more like Jesus Christ who trusted God fully and completely and turned to him throughout his life here on earth.
So God is still in the healing business. He wants us to be healthy and whole in every way and he wants to be the main focus in our lives, he wants us to worship him alone. No matter what comes our way he is with us, for us and in us and he wants to forgive us and heal us. God wants to free us from the hurts and damaging emotions that fill us up and tear us down. He wants to free us from the lies and deception and fears that keep us locked up and in bondage. He wants to heal our land, which is every part of us, not just our bodies.
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:
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.
I’ve been thinking and studying this idea of love. I have to say that I need to work on this area of my life. I think most people would say they can do a better job of loving others. But for most of us we don’t know what that looks like. I work at a church so what I look to in order to learn and grow is God’s Word. I was reading this today and it really struck me and challenged me. I hope it does the same for you. This is found in Romans 12:9-21 in the New Century Version of the Bible:
9 Your love must be real. Hate what is evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves. 11 Do not be lazy but work hard, serving the Lord with all your heart. 12 Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. 13 Share with God’s people who need help. Bring strangers in need into your homes.
14 Wish good for those who harm you; wish them well and do not curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and be sad with those who are sad. 16 Live in peace with each other. Do not be proud, but make friends with those who seem unimportant. Do not think how smart you are.
17 If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. 18 Do your best to live in peace with everyone. 19 My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: “I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,”[a] says the Lord. 20 But you should do this:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink.
Doing this will be like pouring burning coals on his head.” Proverbs 25:21–22
21 Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.
Just that first sentence, your love must be real is enough for me today. You can’t fake love.
Love is all about doing and taking action. It’s about how we think about ourselves, others and God. The best way we can worship God is by loving others well.
I’ve been thinking about grace lately. What does it mean to give someone grace? If your a follower of Christ, you’ve heard of God’s grace. Grace is giving someone something that they don’t deserve.
When the grace of God shapes our relationships, we respond to the sin and weakness of others with grace. So here are some questions to consider:
A grace mindset enables us to serve others out of a heart of compassion, gentleness, patience, kindness and love. The closer we get to people the more these attitudes are needed because the closer we get the more we experience their weaknesses and sins.
When grace is shaping our relationships it means we are ready, willing and able to forgive. Forgiveness starts with a transaction between God and us. It’s talking to him about the offense and entrusting that person and the offense to God. That prepares us for the interaction with the person that hurt us. On our own it is very difficult to truly forgive and let go of the hurt.
Grace also enables us to humbly ask for forgiveness as well. The truth is that we all hurt others from time to time and need to take responsibility for those actions or words. When we ask for forgiveness, we are admitting our responsibility for sin against others, without justification, excuse or blame. Being able to say something like this brings great healing: “I was wrong for saying __________. Please forgive me. I am sorry for the pain I caused you.”
Ask God to help you have more grace in your life, it can transform all your relationships and change your circumstances.