The God Factor

As I was reading in the book of Zechariah, I came across this passage that really jumped out at me.  It is in Chapter 4 verse 6:  “So he said to me. ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Zerubbabel had a huge job as a leader.  He was in charge of the group that was returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the city after it was destroyed by the Babylonians.  The task ahead of him was huge and looked nearly impossible.  The prophet Zechariah shared these words from God to him and they still apply to us today.  God’s word to him is everlasting and universally true:  Work hard and smart.  But if God doesn’t look favorably on your work, it will result in nothing significant.

God is reminding us that our success is not because of our own power and might, but because of His Spirit.  He will be the source of our victory.  We are partners with God in everything that we do. Great works are done by God’s divine hand.  The Lord works through people, so it is our responsibility to work hard and smart and seek God’s guidance and blessing.  We are responsible to manage our resources well and lead the people around us as best we can.  But prayer to God and dependance on Him is essential.  Great works are done by God’s Spirit, through us, to glorify Him.

What’s You’re Vineyard?

I was speaking to a group of about 30 men Saturday night.  My talk was about Christian men and being a Real Servant.  One of the points I made was from Mathew 21:28-31.  This is the story of the two sons Jesus shared with some of the religious people of his day.  Here is the Message version of that story:

“Tell me what you think of this story:  A man had two sons.  He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’  “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’  Later on he thought better of it and went.  “The father gave the same command to the second son.  He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’  But he never went.  “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”  They said, “The first.”

This is a simple story about talking and doing.  It’s about listening and being obedient.  The first son was honest and said he did not want to go work, but later felt conviction and changed his mind.  The second son was probably not being honest.  Maybe he just wanted to look better than his brother.  However he never followed through on his promise to go and do the work.

Our vineyard is whatever God is calling us to do.  No matter how good your intentions, if you don’t do it or go, it’s all wasted.  Just because I feel good when I hear or see a story of someone making a difference doesn’t make me a servant with compassion.  Just because my heart breaks for the starving homeless children and families in this world doesn’t make me a person with compassion.  I can think about giving more, going on a mission trip, leading a small group, praying more for the people in my life, shining brighter in my workplace, helping a friend that is hurting, but just thinking about it or even saying I want to do something is not enough.  I need to actually do it.  I need to make that step and go to the vineyard to do the work God is calling me to do.

We don’t have to go and do some huge, great thing for God.  We just need to go do our work in the vineyard.  There will always be more people willing to do great things for God than there are people willing to do little things.  But those little things can help God accomplish great things.  Instead of waiting to do something big, be faithful in the little everyday things He is calling you to do.  The small meaningless things you are doing everyday is preparing you for the plan God has for you.  Loving God means obeying God by doing what He says.

Which son are you?

Summer Reading List

I love to read, and every year I try to plan out some of the books I want to read.  Of course there are always those books that others recommend or that I come across that interest me and I will add those during the year.  This past year I was a part of a group that read one book a month.  We would read it, write a one page summary of personal take-away’s.  I also was reading other books during that time and continued to read my Bible.  You might ask how I have time to read.  I have to make time for it.  I sometimes will actually schedule time to read, and I will often take an extended time to read on my days off.  Reading is one of the best ways that I know of to grow and learn.  I want to encourage you to read.  If you don’t like to read, start slowly and make it a goal to get through at least one book this year.  Then keep building on it.  It will help you to read with a group of people, maybe your small group, to keep you accountable.  So here is my summer reading list, I hope to get most of these books read over the next 3-4 months:

  • I Quit by Geri Scazzero – Our entire staff is reading this book over the summer and will be discussing it in August
  • Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone – by Mark Goulston – I have had this book for almost a year and am looking forward to learning how to listen better.
  • The Confession – by John Grisham – the only fiction book on my list
  • Out Live Your Life – by Max Lucado – Got a autographed copy from the author.
  • Change Your Brain, Change Your Body – by Daniel Amen – love reading about the brain, God created us to use it.

I also have a handful of books on my Kindle that I plan on reading as well.  Here are the ones I plan on trying to read:

  • Absolute Surrender – By Andrew Murray – This is the second book I am reading by Murray.  Old book, but great principles and helpful tool to grow spiritually.
  • Every Day for Every Man – Daily Devotional by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stocker
  • Leading at a Higher Level – by Ken Blanchard – Blanchard is an amazing leader and author.  I’ve learned a lot from him.
  • Helping People Win at Work – by Ken Blanchard
  • Fearless – by Max Lucado – Fear hold so many of us back from all God wants us to be.

I am sure there will be a few other books thrown in there as I come across things that will help me grow.  I want to encourage you to plan out what you will be reading this summer and get started.

4 Principles for Healing Wounded Relationships

Healthy relationships are hard work.  In working with people as a pastor, I have found that one of the biggest contributors to emotional problems, financial problems, marriage problems, work problems and most any problem is broken damaged relationships.  A broken relationship will not heal automatically.  Healing a relationship requires care and investment, just like our physical bodies need care and investment in order to heal a wound.  When we take the time to treat a wound, it minimizes the potential of infection and prolonged pain.  Similarly an investment made to restore a relationship will yield dividends for you in the future.

Here are four principles that illustrate the importance of forgiveness in healing broken relationships:

  1. A Wound Must Be Cleaned – All the impurities need to be removed from the wound.  In a broken relationship all wrong-doing must be confessed and addressed.  Each person needs to put all the cards on the table and admit their part in the brokenness.  Hiding things and only confessing what is already known is like leaving the rust of a nail in the wound and only brushing off the surface.  Healing starts by making a full and complete confession if the fault is yours, and be willing to cancel the debt of the other person.  This should be done as quickly as possible, because infection can set in quickly.
  2. A Wound Must Be Rejoined – If the two sides of a cut are not stitched back together, scar tissue will fill in the gap.  Once scar tissue covers the wound it is no longer possible to rejoin the healthy flesh.  Scar tissue limits movement and can hinder the proper function of body parts.  When people separate and do not communicate, scar tissue begins to form.  It makes it much more difficult to function properly and to grow in a healthy way.  When two people come together and begin to dialog about the real issues, healing can begin and scar tissue is minimized.
  3. A Wound Must Be Nourished – When someone is injured the body sends extra blood flow to the injured area.  That blood flow is needed to provide the nutrients and vitamins necessary to promote healing.  Similarly, healing a broken relationship requires deliberate attention and investment.  A commitment to forgive is a commitment to invest.  Forgiveness is the nutrients our bodies need to heal.
  4. A Wound Must Be Protected – When a wound is healing it is sensitive and needs protection.  The deeper the wound the longer it takes to heal and the more sensitive it is.  In a relationship, just because an offense has been forgiven does not mean trust has been completely restored or that additional stress or pressure can be taken.  a healthy relationship needs to be nurtured delicately.  The wound needs to be cleaned out several times and new bandages applied along the way.

The human bodies ability to heal is an amazing thing.  God created us with this ability to heal when treated properly.  Our wounded emotions can also be healed if treated properly.  True forgiveness is one of the most powerful healing agents for damaged emotions that exists.  Forgiveness is a commitment to put the past behind, to leave it there, and to move on.

So what broken relationships need attention in your life?  What wounds need to be cleaned, rejoined, nourished and protected?  Ask God to help you commit to invest in the relationships that you have whether they are broken or not.  Healthy, vibrant relationships are so important for our overall health.  God made us for relationships and we need to do our part to invest in them and nurture them.