I was in a meeting this week where the topic of change came up. This is an interesting topic, and there has been a lot written about change. You may have heard some of these quotes:
“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Niccolo Machiavelli
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John Maxwell
“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” Jim Rohn
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” Jim Rohn
“We don’t think ourselves in a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking.” Larry Bossidy
“Complacency kills growth”. John Maxwell
These are some great quotes that have inspired me over the years. As we talked about change in that meeting, I had to ask myself how open am I to change? Usually we are all for change as long as it doesn’t affect me. When we hear that change is coming, it strikes a cord of fear deep inside most of us. What does that look like for me? How will this affect me? What do I have to do differently? What will I lose?
It is easy to talk about change, but it is not easy to actually change. Change takes hard work and discipline. Change can only happen when we do something different, something radical. Whether you want to change your workplace, your marriage, your children, your church, your school, your community or the world; it starts with the individual.
If we refuse to make radical changes in our attitude, work habits, communication skills, spending habits, words, character etc. things around us won’t change either. Growth and change go hand in hand. If you want to grow your faith, your character, your leadership, your relationships – then you need to grow and change yourself. How do you do that? What does that look like?
It is different for everyone, but the first thing you need to do is make the decision that you are willing to change yourself. Once you make that decision the work can begin. Often times you will need some help along the way. You will need some people to coach you, to hold you accountable, to challenge and encourage you. Seek out a mentor or someone who is a little further along than you and spend some time with them. Ask a bunch of questions and get your brain active again. Read and listen to people talk about the things you want to change.
As we talked in that meeting I started getting excited about change! I don’t want to be the same person next year that I am right now. God wants us to be in a constant state of change, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. God wants the church to be in constant change, so that we will never become comfortable or complacent and forget about lost people. God wants our relationships to grow and change, so that we can live life to the fullest.
So what needs to change in you, in your church, in your marriage, in your finances, in your workplace? Don’t be satisfied with who you are right now, God wants you to think much bigger than that.
On Saturday morning I ran in the Swiss Festival 5k. This is only the second 5k I have run, the first was earlier this year at Tuscora Park. I started running this spring and have been enjoying the challenge of running distance. The race started at 9:00 am in downtown Sugarcreek. I am guessing we had 60-70 runners. My goal was to run in 24 minutes, my previous race I ran in 25 minutes and 4 seconds.
I started out strong over the first mile, trying to keep pace with a runner that normally runs in 22 minutes. After about a mile and a half I fell back. We ran several hills that really took the energy out of me. As I was running the last hill and kept telling myself that every second counts in a race. That thought kept me moving and going up that hill. The race finished downhill which was nice. I ran 24 minutes and 13 seconds.
You know, every second counts in our lives as well. We only have so many seconds on this earth and then we go on to eternity. How we use those seconds is very important. Every second matters with your family, on your job and at church. I happen to work at a church and this whole race thing made me think about the church and the race we are running. The church is the hope of the world. In the church every second is vital, because we are dealing with where people will spend forever.
As Christians we need to realize the race we are in and work hard at influencing the people around us. The Church needs to be the most influential, relevant, exciting place in the world.
I am much more aware of the seconds that I have each day. We have been talking about this in my men’s group and my couples group. God has given us time to grow closer to Him and to show love and compassion to other people. Each day we need to spend time developing those relationships. This simple change of perspective can lead to a fuller, more meaningful life. Most people spend their seconds thinking about themselves, their problems and their wants. I am in that boat as well. Because each second counts, I want to spend time thinking about others, thinking and acting on those important relationships in my life. Taking some risks and doing things that will make a difference long after I am gone.
Each second counts!
This past weekend I officiated at a wedding. I love doing weddings, because my wife and I get to meet so many great families. We have met some of the nicest people at the weddings we have done over the last several years. We also get to eat pretty well. Between the rehearsal dinners and receptions we get our fair share of fabulous food. Friday night after the rehearsal we had dinner at the Pro’s Table in New Philadelphia, after dinner we had homemade pie. This pie was made by the grandmother of the groom. All I can say is wow; it was the best pie I have ever eaten. I grew up in Amish country and so I got to know about good pie. My wife and I don’t eat much dessert, but we both enjoyed these wonderful pies. There was Cherry, Blackberry and Apple, which were all good (I had a piece of the cherry). But then the cream pies came out, Coconut Cream, Lemon Meringue and Regular Cream pie (I had some of each), and I must say I am still amazed at how good these pies were. My favorite was the regular cream pie.
Ok, now that I have you all drooling and wanting a piece of pie, you might ask what the point is. As I heard the grandmother talk about her pies, she was very humble and did not have to fish for compliments. She just enjoyed seeing people eat the pie. I had to think about all the years she has practiced and perfected making these pies. The mistakes she made and learned from, the little things she did to make it better. The tips she picked up from friends and family. After a while it became very easy for her to make outstanding pies.
Well, it is the same way in our spiritual walk, and in our relationships with people. We make mistakes, and we hopefully learn from them and get better, but often we keep making the same relational, emotional and spiritual mistakes over and over again. We don’t get better, because we are not willing to make adjustments and changes in ourselves. Many of us are stubborn and want the other person to change or make the adjustments, or just like our pie the way it is.
If you want to make great pie relationally, and that includes your relationship with God, then you need to make improvements in yourself, your attitude and your priorities. You have to be willing to admit when you make a mistake and burn the crust. You have to be willing to ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness when you get hurt. You have to be willing to take advice and even some criticism, so that you can improve those relational pies in your life. There is nothing like a great pie and there is nothing like a great relationship. Happy baking.
When was the last time you rested in God’s glory? What I mean by that is just being in the presence of God, enjoying His goodness, His creation, His Love. Some times we forget to just be with God. It is so easy to get caught up in our lives and miss just being with Him. Distractions come every day that keep us focused on things that will fade away. Even when we do spend time with God, it is often praying about things, people, circumstances, health, relationships and more. We can do most of the talking and never just enjoy God and just be still.
So here is the deal. Next time you decide to have some “quiet time” with God, make it a quiet time and just sit in His presence. Meditation is a spiritual discipline that gets missed. Silence and solitude are also important spiritual disciplines that we need more of in today’s busy world. God is always present, always near and always with us. Spend 5, 10 or 15 minutes in silence and solitude. Fill your mind with thoughts of God, His character, His love, His mercy, grace and forgiveness.
The reason Yoga is so popular right now is that it encourages us to relax and be still. It is a way of escaping from the business of life. The big difference between meditating on God and Yoga is that in Yoga you empty yourself and in Meditation on God, you fill yourself with Him.
When you are meditating and being with God, expect Him to talk with you. Pay attention to the thoughts that come to your mind. Keep a sheet of paper close by to write down things that may be a distraction, but that you need to remember. Keep bringing your focus back to enjoying the presence and power of God. Don’t ask Him for anything, just think about how Good and perfect He is and how much He loves you. Rest in His glory!
I am reading a book about character called “Deadly Viper Character Assassins” By Mike Foster & Jud Wilhite. This little book focuses on our character and how it can creep or slip over time. So what is character? Here are some definitions of character that I found:
Character is the inward motivation to do what is right according to the highest standards of behavior in every situation.
Character consists of the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her responses, regardless of the circumstances.
Character is the wise response to the pressure of a difficult situation and what we do when we think no one is watching. It is the predictor of good behavior.
I have been thinking a lot about character lately. My own character and the character of people around me. Character really does matter, because it determines our behavior, especially when we are under stress. How many times do we cut corners or not do the little things we know are right. We think it is no big deal, but it can become a big deal. Little things like telling your secretary you are on the phone when you don’t want to talk with someone. Instead you should simply say “I am unavailable”. Honesty and integrity are important in every relationship we have. In our marriages, in our work, in our business dealings, in our personal finances. If we are cutting corners, not keeping promises and telling lies, we are on our way to a potential major character wreck.
A person of character is more than just doing the right thing, it is doing the right thing even when no one else is watching. Even when you will not get credit for doing the right thing. It is doing the right thing even if it means some personal pain.
One way to make sure you are acting with good character is to give the people around you permission to ask you some questions or to speak openly about character flaws they see. Your spouse, the people you work with every day, they are the ones that know you and know your character flaws. They can usually see the train wreck coming, but may not feel like you would listen to them. So, my question is this; do you have people that are willing to confront your bad behavior? Are you willing to be humble enough to listen to someone confront a character flaw? Most people don’t think it can happen to them. People don’t just wake up one day and just decide to embezzle money, have an affair, or cheat on their taxes. It is a hundred smaller choices that lead up to those big mistakes. Do a character exam on your self today. What areas of your life are a little shaky right now? Where have you been creeping or sliding in your character? It is never too late to start changing.
On Friday night my wife Vikki and I went to a High School football game for the first time ever. We had been to a Junior High game, but never a High School game. I know some of you are shocked and amazed at that. But I grew up in Holmes County and went to Hiland High School with no football. I played soccer and basketball.
I love sports and always have. I love to play sports and watch sports. I am a huge fan, but I really love to play. I can even get a little competitive, because I hate to lose. I am a little better than I used to be. Come out sometime on a Tuesday or Thursday at 12:00 pm for some friendly basketball.
But getting back to the football game. We went to the Garaway – Tusky Valley game this past Friday at Garaway. A few things I noticed were lots of penalties, lots of dropped passes and a bunch of excited people in the stands. I found the atmosphere to be similar to what I experienced at Hiland for basketball games, only we were outside in the rain. It really was a social time for friends to sit in the stands, catch up on life and talk and then enjoy a game. Some people took the opportunity to blow off steam at the referees and others never really watched the game. Some people were really into it and others were just there to be seen. Garaway won big by the way.
I guess church can be like that as well. Some people just want to be seen at church, because it makes them look good. Others go to socialize and catch up with friends. Some go to yell at the ref’s (Staff). Some are really into it and can call a play by play. Some really understand the game and can contribute to the success of the team, they are on the field playing.
But church is more than an event on Sunday, just like football is more than a game on Friday. To do it well players and coaches must practice during the week. They need to study the playbook on their own and study film. They need to go and scout the competition and know what they are going to try to do against them. As Christ followers we need to be into the game. We need to read our play book and study film and sharpen our skills. We are in a game called eternity and it matters more than anything else.
I love being part of a church that gets after it all week long. The number of people it takes every week to make things happen is amazing. It is so great to see people playing their position and being in their sweet spot. Every person that attends a church needs to eventually decide whether they will sit and watch or get in the game and play. I choose to play, how about you?
Here are some pictures of the wildlife at my house. The two cats are my boys, Winnie and Shadow. Winnie has the white on his neck.
The little tree frog has been hanging out by our back door. This morning I found him on the window sill with a preying mantis. Isn’t it amazing how detailed and creative God was in His creation?
My wife Vikki brought these caterpillar’s in to watch them transform into Monarch butterfly’s, pretty cool.
It was amazing to see how they formed their cocoon’s and began changing into a butterfly. I don’t understand all that, but it reminds me of how all of us need to keep changing. Someday we will have a new body as well. Part of the journey for them is a struggle, but it is that struggle of getting out of the cocoon that strengthens them and helps them to fly.
Part of our journey can be a struggle, but those struggles help us to get stronger, build our character and deepen our faith. The Bible is full of Scripture about our problems teaching and growing us. It all depends on your perspective.
This morning I was reading 2 Peter and came across this passage in chapter one. I just used this passage in a lesson I taught to some small group leaders. It is 2 Peter 1:5-9 “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; ands to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”
This is saying that our faith must be more than simply believing in certain facts; it must result in some action on our part. It says to make every effort, which means we need to work at it. These things don’t just come naturally and easily. However, if we work at it and grow, these character traits will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive. If all we do is sit and learn about Jesus, we will be ineffective and not very useful to God in reaching the world with His Good News.
Our faith in Jesus is what saves us and gives us eternal life. Our faith is also what begins to change us and transform us into a person with these character traits. If there is no change in our actions, then do we really understand saving faith?
So are you making EVERY EFFORT to grow in your faith through action? Would people say that you have goodness in your character? How about your knowledge of the Bible? Would those close to you say you have self-control? Do you exhibit perseverance in times of difficulty or do you give up easily? Are your actions and interactions with people like Jesus (godliness)? Are you kind even to those that are unkind? How is your love for other people?
These are some tough questions that Peter raises and that all Christ followers need to ask. When we display these qualities in our everyday relationships it shines a bright light to a dark world. It opens up endless possibilities for God to use us as an instrument in reaching and helping people.
After reading that this morning, I am really challenged to make some changes in how I live out my faith. God is more concerned about our character than our circumstances. He wants men and women that are growing, that are humble, teachable and willing to constantly be changing. I admit that I have some character flaws that need improvement. My desire is to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to be that instrument that He uses on a regular basis.