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.

How to Communicate with Difficult People

people-arguing-alberto-ruggieri

We all have people in our lives that are hard to get along with.  It may be someone you work with, live beside or even live with.  While we cannot change the other person or force them to treat you differently, you can change the way that you respond to them.  You see, many times it’s the way we respond to bad behavior that drives even more bad behavior.  This is hard to do because we all have emotions and sometimes those emotions can take over and take us down a path that causes more damage.

When we work on ourselves, we can change our attitude, our words and our non-verbal communication.  Here is a simple communication rule that may help you make progress in those difficult relationships:

People who are hard to get along with allow their anger, frustration, insecurity and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them.  The good news is that they don’t act that way all the time, even though it may seem that way.  Eventually they’ll leave the safety of their negative emotions-even it’s only for a moment.  They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer to help with something.  It is in those moments that you need to recognize their best.  Let them know the good you see in them.  Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you.  When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them to see what is possible in their lives.  You give energy to what is right about them.  Your love and attention creates an environment where they can choose to change and respond differently themselves.

It’s in those critical moments when they do something right that we can choose to be positive and re-enforce good behavior or be negative ourselves and destroy any glimmer of hope.  Every person has some good in them, even though it may be buried deep inside them.

The One Thing That Will Improve All Your Relationships

queue

Relationships can be messy, difficult and yet incredibly rewarding.

There are many things that go into a healthy, vibrant relationship like marriage.  But I believe there is one vital ingredient to a long-lasting, healthy relationship: Patience.

In Galatians 5:22 – as part of the fruit of the Spirit we find patience: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”.

Then in 1 Corinthians 13:4 – “Love is patient…”  The author Paul is talking about the true meaning of loving someone well and he starts with patience.  In Galatians he is talking about evidence in our lives that we are growing spiritually, and right in the middle is patience.

So let’s take a closer look at patience:

Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering, without getting angry or upset. 

Wow, that is impossible, but incredibly powerful.  Imagine if you could do that on a consistent basis.  Your life would be less stressful, you would be healthier and your influence with other people would go up.  So how do you do that?

  • 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. You have very little control over much in life.  You can choose to be patient though.
  • 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.  Good things may not always come to those who wait, but most good things that do come don’t happen right away.
  • Remember what matters. Not focusing on what matters most in this life fuels impatience. Being kind, generous in forgiveness of others, being grateful for what is, and taking full advantage of what matters most helps you to be more patient. In other words don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Work on having a positive outlook in life – Being positive is imperative to possessing a sense of patience. Believing the best about a person helps you be more patient and loving.  Remember that relationships are not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.  If your naturally negative it will take more work to be patient, but it can change your life.
  • 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.
  • 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 stupid decisions – but that’s never going to happen. Expecting the world to run smoothly is like beating your head against the wall. Give yourself and others 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 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.
  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 and work out our conflicts 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.  Planning, growth, evaluation and measurement all take time, and taking time takes patience. Just like a gardener has to be patient for things in the garden to grow, so we need to be patient with the people around us.

 Tips on How to Develop Patience

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Talk to God, 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?
  3. Practice delaying gratification.  Instead of escaping to your familiar thing like watching TV, working out, reading, shopping, drinking or eating, work on the real issues and resolve conflict first.
  4. 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, pause and go over what we want to say, we can avoid hurting or offending others.

None of this is possible on a consistent basis without including God.  On our own we will fall short every time, yet we can plug into the power of God.  So in those moments when you do not want to be patient, a quick prayer asking for help can change everything.

One last thing, when someone is mistreating you or abusing you, patience should only apply with how you respond.  Not responding in a way that fuels the fire.  You should never simply take abuse.  Setting boundaries and consequences is important in those situations.  If your in an abusive relationship go get help and set clear boundaries.

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.

Feeling Stuck in Your Faith?

 

 

man-stuck-in-box-no-controlOne of the promises in the Bible is found in Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Author Graham Cooke talks about this promise in his booklet called Drawing Close: See God’s Face and be Changed Forever.  He says this:

God likes to hide-in fact He invented the game Hide & Seek.  In certain seasons, He will reveal Himself to us; in others, He will hide from us.  God only hides because He wants to teach us to look for Him.  We all want Him to be manifest in our lives, all the time, but God sometimes wants to hide and draw us deeper into his presence.  If God is hiding from us-but He also promised never to leave nor forsake us-we can extrapolate one thing: God is hiding in plain sight, teaching us to look for Him in a different way.  God is unpredictable but completely consistent.  We always know where we are with God because He never changes, but we seldom know what He’s going to do next.  Go will push us into places where we are not equipped to be.  To survive and flourish there, we have but one choice: Seek God in a place of rest.  Let Him carry us forward.  God hasn’t called us to do the reasonable, the possible or the attainable.  He has called us to do the outrageously impossible.”

That challenged me in a fresh way today as I read it.  When God feels distant and we feel alone, we aren’t.  He is right there in plain site patiently waiting for us to discover Him in a different way.  He is constantly active in our lives, whether He is pushing us into a place we are not equipped to be or patiently waiting for us to open our eyes.

I love the thought that God hides so that we can seek Him and find Him in a fresh way.  To me this speaks of being active in my faith.  Not staying comfortably inside my box but pushing forward through barriers and obstacles.  I love that last line about God not calling us to the reasonable, the possible or the attainable but the outrageously impossible.  It’s only then that we can say Only God could have made that happen.  Those are the times that we grow the most and our faith is increased.

If you are feeling stuck in your faith maybe it’s time to look for God in a different way.  Start praying and asking God to show you that new way and then pay attention and be ready to get out of your box.