Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

As of May 25, 2017, I am officially a Certified Life Coach! It’s incredibly funny to me how so many around me have told me that I should be coaching, yet I didn’t see it. I truly love to build relationships and mentor those who desire mentoring or discipleship, but never thought of myself as a Life Coach. That all changed when I began a conversation with a good friend, let’s call her Heather (because that is her name), and she only confirmed what my wife had been saying for a while now – I am already Coaching in my everyday relationships, and this is exactly how God has decided to gift me and develop a passion in me for people and relationships. So here I am, answering that calling in my life, and praying God allows me a fruitful practice where I get to help as many people as He will lead to Three V Coaching in the coming years!

So many times when we are going through a rough patch or tough situation we are referred to a pastor or counselor for counseling, however, in many situations what we truly need is a coach helping us discover the path that will lead us to freedom. Now, coaching is not therapy, counseling, mental health care, etc., but in many cases a pastor or counselor is giving advice or spending a lot of time with people in a counseling role, when what they really need is a coach who is there in relationship to foster a healthy and focused life, helping you get on your desired path.

So now I come to you, the one who is reading this post, and ask, humbly, will you help me spread the word about Three V Coaching? As I get fully immersed into the coaching role, my hope is to network with people who share a passion for relationships and helping people get from where they are to where they, and God, wants them to be in life. That network could be with pastors and leaders who could refer those coming to them for counseling, yet they may just need a coach to help them through this stage of life. Other opportunities can be business owners and community leaders who would like to connect employees or others to a coach. Through coaching, I have a unique ability to help others discover the right steps they need to take to get where they desire to be most vocationally, personally or spiritually. Many times in life we can feel stuck, knowing we are meant for something…well, more! This is where a coach can come in and help guide your thoughts toward your goals. It is very easy for us to fall prey to the lies that bombard us on a daily basis – you know, you’re not good enough, you’re too stubborn, out of shape, not worthy, you’re almost 50 and feeling a tug in your heart to do more with your life (ok, that has been mine) and the list goes on and on. It is human nature to fall into the traps of approval addiction, people pleasing, and so on. As a coach, I can help you get your thoughts on the true path which leads you to freedom!

Three V Coaching stands for Vision, Venture, Victory. My minute-by-minute desire in forming this practice is to help people develop a Vision for their lives in which they can be proud of and truly desire, Venture together into the renewal stage of life where we form goals and habits around what is true in your life so that you can live in freedom, the Victory of a satisfied and fulfilling life you have always desired. Sounds like an ominous passion pursuit, and I even feel that way writing this, yet as we break down the lies that have guided us, develop steps and goals weekly, and begin seeing the fruit of the efforts taken, the light gets a little brighter in the tunnel we feel we are in, and life begins to be more tangibly joy-filled. Life is so much sweeter when we are on purpose and in relationship. Coaching is a relationship solely focused on trust, leading from your Vision, through Venture and on to Victory! My question now to you is, will you join me?

Please share the word, pass this post along, refer a friend or family member, or contact me yourself and let’s see how I can serve you as your new Life Coach!

Contact me at threevcoaching@gmail.com or at 765.621.6537 and let’s build a relationship!

Check out the website and new blog at Here!

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As I have navigated through many stages of life, one thing continually resonates in the lives of people I talk to, and it is such a powerful force that many sacrifice their convictions in hopes of satisfying those deep desires…Relationship!  Relationship comes in many different shapes and sizes.  Our relationship with a spouse looks different than a relationship with our kids.  Relationships with co-workers are different from family members.  Relationships with the clerk at the gas station take a different form than that of our best of friends.  Regardless of which relationship you are considering, it is apparent that we were designed to be in relationship!

When God designed us, He did so by creating us in His image.

Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

In that statement from God, something very profound occurs!  It starts by saying God said (singular) and then He said, Let us (plural) make man…woven into the very core of His creation of man was this idea of God being in relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – yet being one God.  There has been much confusion and controversy over the idea of the Trinity, and many doctrinal statements have been made that have so many people scratching their heads or totally discounting the idea of a three in one God.  But, God didn’t build His word to confuse us!  He gave it to us to liberate us!

I truly believe that this “contradiction” in verse 26 (“God” and then “us”) is really quite uncomplicated.  Simply put, God is relational and He designed us in His image to be relational as well!

His plan is to be in relationship with us as we journey through this life building our relationship with Him as well as with those God has placed in our lives.  Yet, as we develop relationships with those around us, our primary relationship with God has to take first place in our heart and soul!  When we place God in His rightful place in our lives (first place), the other relationships we are engaged in just seem to work themselves out.  Having a Kingdom worldview keeps this life in perspective and focuses our heart on relationships.  Nothing in this world matters more than our relationship with God and our relationships with others!

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Thanks to my wonderful wife for dialogue-ing with me about this topic and suggesting that I write this post!

We are living in a monologue world!  We receive messages in monologue form all day long – from News to podcasts, from TV to sermons, most information we receive is brought to us in a one-way communication stream.  What I feel has happened over the many years of this type of information overload is the erosion of the simple conversation…a dialogue with another human being!

Solomon warned us of this monologue form of communication:

Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

I was having a conversation with my wife the other night about this topic as she and I had both listened to different programs discussing communication…one from a female source (Mid Day Connection) and one from a male source (Mark Merrill).  Often times men get a bad rap because we tend to be fixers (trying to fix everything especially when it is not being requested of us)…and unfortunately we tend to monologue about how to resolve an issue more than listen to the heart behind the issue.  Yet, women can also fall into the trap of trying to get across their point more than listening in a two-way conversation.  Again, I feel this is because we have been trained by media and even many parents to communicate this way, and I think society is a prime example of why this type of communication is sucking the life out of relationships of all kinds – marriages, friendships, coworkers, family, etc.

As Solomon has said (many times in Proverbs) only fools want to hear themselves more than others in their lives.  True relationship can only happen when mutual respect and love are offered up from both people in that relationship.  Our love for God is poured out to those He places in our paths and lives, and those relationships are strengthened during conversations that include mutual respect!  Jesus made it very clear the importance for relationship in fulfilling His plan for us:

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love is the key to everything, and love cannot be expressed in a simple monologue…at least not for very long!  Simply put, Monologue is forcing my opinions on you to try to get you to like me or make you change your mind. Dialogue is expressing our opinions to one-another with the hopes of a deeper understanding and relationship! 

My challenge for you this week is to pay attention to the conversations you have and see if you are more of a monologue-r or a dialogue-r.  In doing so, you will also notice how others communicate with you.  The goal though is not to get others to change their method of communication; the goal is for us to become better communicators of the message God has given us.  Listening screams to the people around us that they are important and worthy of our attention and love – and love is the message that God is pressing into us to not only receive from Him, but to share with others!

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After listening to a sermon from Tullian Tchividjian on Grace, I confirmed what he was saying and took it a bit further in looking through all of Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  Tullian had taught that in the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he began with a phrase many of us have read countless times, and likely read it as a greeting or a formal way Paul began his letter.

Romans 1:7 – To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What I found was that in fact Paul began all his letters this way!  Why?  Have we read the opening of his letters wrong all along or was this just a simple greeting?  You know as well as I do that Paul didn’t haphazardly write fluff into his letters, so I tend to believe there was a deep purpose for the words that Paul had chosen.

Grace and Peace are the crux of this simple yet profound greeting, and the point of the entire Gospel message!  This is why I believe Paul wrote them into all of his letters:

Grace and Peace are not a simple greeting in Paul’s letters, but a summary of the Gospel…Grace is the root, Peace is the fruit!

Grace – The only reason we even have the opportunity to spend eternity with God is the amazing gift of Grace!  Grace is something we cannot earn in any way.  Grace was personified in the Lord Jesus Christ when He came to earth, lived a sinless life, and died for all the sin of mankind.  But that was not it!  He then beat death, rose from the grave affirming that He was in fact the Son of God and was completely capable of forgiving our sins to allow us access to eternity with God!  The resurrection shows the world that the living Savior came to set the captives free!  That is Good News!

Peace – Receiving the Grace of God, accepting and believing Jesus’ conquering sacrifice on our behalf, allows us to live a life that looks different from the world around us.  Our circumstances do not define who we are any longer.  We are a new creation of amazing value – we are part of God’s family and our eternity is secure!  With that kind of assurance, we can live a life of Peace while working through whatever trials come our way with an understanding that our life here is only a brief blip on the road of eternity!  Living a life of Peace focuses our thoughts on the things that really matter, the stuff that God cares most deeply about – people!  With that kind of focus, we get to join God’s plan of loving people into the Kingdom!  Peace is the fruit of our accepting God’s Grace and living that Grace out in our lives!

And that is the Gospel of Jesus!  The Gospel is summed up in two words – Grace and Peace!  Paul was simply sharing the Gospel in a nutshell while the rest of his letter was written to flow from the simple message of Grace and Peace – the root and the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  The same Gospel that radically changed Saul into Paul saves us to this very moment!

The question on the table is simply this: have you accepted His Grace so that you can live a life full of His Peace?  If not there is no time better than right now!  His followers may not be all that attractive to you (after all, we are all messed up hypocrites being transformed by the Grace of God), but He is the most amazing person you will ever meet!  He loved you so much that He died to set you free from guilt and shame, disgust and pride, addiction and fear, sin and death!  If you were the only person in the entire universe, and this still chokes me up, He would have still come to die for you to satisfy the need for death to cover sin…that’s how much He loves you!  He really is that good!  He fulfills an eternal hole in which every other religion, fame or fortune cannot even come close to fulfilling.  His Grace is enough, and His Peace is so refreshing!  It’s available to you, right now!  Will you accept?

 

 

Back to school

By now, most students in our area are back in school. It’s a time of getting back on schedule, seeing old friends and making new ones. This time of year offers some great opportunities in the area of relational discipleship as well. Whether you’re a student, parent, teacher or anyone who comes in contact with kids, teens and college students, you can make a difference in the life of someone else.

Mark 12:30-31 (ESV)

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

This is a passage that typically rolls right off the tongue. So the big question is, “Who is your neighbor?” Yes, we are to build into lives in our actual neighborhood, but God’s definition of neighbor is so much larger than ours. I believe, and I feel scripture backs it up in the story of the good Samaritan, that God’s definition of neighbor is anyone He places in our daily path. The person in line at the checkout, the cashier, the police officer, your server, your students, friends, etc…they are all our neighbors if God has somehow placed them into our lives.

I know this is not rocket science and may not be at all new to you, but I’d like to throw out a challenge to you this year, right now. Find a way to implement relational discipleship into your life as the new school year begins. Here are just a few short examples of how we can make a difference:

If you are a teacher, find ways to engage kids at a personal and maybe even spiritual level.  You can teach in a way that shares biblical principles, and when asked, share where those ideas come from.  Open up the conversation for your students to ask questions, even if only one-on-one.

As a parent, you have many opportunities to share the love of God with different “neighbors”.  Your child’s teacher can really use a partner in you as a parent, not only in helping in the classroom and volunteering for parties and field trips, but in encouraging her or him throughout the year and maybe even being there for them in a time of need.

As a student, live out your life in Christ in such a way that shouts you are different…in a good way!  Remember, people are always watching us to see if we will live out what we say, so living out your faith means the simple things like:

Don’t lie, at all!

Do all school work and chores to the best of your ability.

Show compassion to those around you.

Look out for those being bullied or just ignored, and show them you care by getting to know them.

Respect your teachers and their authority.

And for any adult at all, keep your eyes open for any kid that needs someone to come alongside them and care about them.  There are far too many kids out there who need an adult to show them they are valuable.  If a fraction of the adults in any community would simply mentor one kid, each community would be completely transformed.  Bullying would reduce.  Suicide rates would drop drastically.  Childhood depression and anxiety would be rare instead of completely normal in our schools today.

Simply put, and as the famous quote goes, you were created for such a time as this. Making disciples begins with a relationship, and relationships begin when one person steps out of their little world and enters into someone else’s world. Heading back to school presents a fresh start in our lives as disciple makers. As you dig in, keep your eyes open to those around you and keep your heart open to anyone God prompts you to connect with…it’s an amazing thing feeling a prompting from God to make a connection, and actually going through with it by starting a conversation. Who knows, that person may become a life-long friend and/or better yet, you may have the joy of introducing them to our amazing Savior! Sharing the Good News always begins with a conversation, and conversations happen best when relationship has been established. Take relational discipleship back to school this Fall…you will be blessed beyond measure, and those blessings, when shared, become contagious!

 

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Bear with me, this is a little long, but it is an important topic for us to discern as we navigate this life and invite others into relationship with our Savior!

Answer this question for me – Is gluttony a sin?  There are a plethora of scriptural references you can look up to back the claim that gluttony is sinful!  So, having this interpretation in your head, and fully believing that God agrees with you, do you go out and find the first overweight person and tell them they are fat and need to repent of their wicked ways and get their eating under control?

How about this one – Is getting drunk a sin?  Again, many references to support the notion that getting drunk is sinful; however, if you go up to someone who is drunk or even later when they are sober and tell them they are a sinful drunkard and need to repent or they are going to hell, odds are that they will shut you out and label you a hate-filled Christian.

In a world where The Church congregates in thousands of different denominations, locations and interpretive belief systems, it is sometimes difficult for someone far from God to navigate what is True and how it applies to their life.  And, if we are all honest, when we were first seeking we were drawn to people who didn’t judge us and repulsed by people who were self-righteous.  This, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons Jesus was loved so deeply by those who were marginalized by society and the religious elite due to their sinful natures.  It is also the same reason those being shunned for their sin despised the religious people of the day.  Same holds true in our day!

Unfortunately, scripture has been twisted and interpreted in many different ways to agree with those following specific belief systems.  For example, alcohol by many denominations is strictly forbidden, and many even go as far to interpret the scriptural references to wine as simply grape juice.  However, in many other denominations, alcohol is fine as long as it is taken in moderation – which again is up for interpretation.

You see what I am saying here?  Regardless of what we may believe to be true (based on our beliefs, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s revelation), how can someone who may be seeking to know the meaning of life, and possibly even wondering if there is a God, begin to navigate what is true and what is heresy when the “religious” systems of the world cannot agree on interpretation of scripture?  Why wouldn’t those who are searching look for a group of people who will love and accept them for who they are, and subsequently, seek to find out more about the God they follow?  As followers of Jesus we may have differing beliefs and differing interpretations of scripture, many of which may be true while others may be very twisted, but we cannot condemn people for their behaviors and beliefs then expect them to even consider following the God we follow.  The one non-negotiable Truth that we must all hold is that faith in Jesus is the only way to spend eternity with God – yet, many people who do not follow Jesus think there are many ways to God (sadly, many people who claim to follow Jesus are confused on this topic as well)!  This post is not about what is right or wrong or to start a theological debate, it is simply something that needs to be said if we ever want to lead lost people to Jesus!  Lost people (people who do not have a relationship with Jesus) will never respond to a message that focuses on their behavior instead of Jesus’ message of grace and love!  And truth is typically irrelevant to the lost until they begin a relationship with Jesus – then He, not us, will be the One who guides and convicts as He sees fit!

Something God has really been hammering home in my heart is the debates going around in the “church-world” regarding same-sex union, gay priests, gender assignment, and homosexuality – “Can you be gay and be a Christian?”.  Let alone the identities of transsexual, pan-sexual, asexual, etc.  Again, some of the mainline denominations have affirmed gay priests, conducted gay marriages regularly, and interpreted the scriptures in ways that do not condemn or condone homosexuality.  Other groups completely, and vehemently, condemn the gay lifestyle and anyone in it, around it or even talking about it – trust me; I am talking with and about this group a lot and I feel the push back from the “religious”.  Regardless of where you fall on this lifestyle, there is still a group of people that are deeply loved by God and in need of the same Savior that saved us from our sinful behaviors.  As we fight over who is right and who is wrong, and I have my belief as well, we are driving this marginalized group of people far away from our God…”Why follow a God that these crazy people are following, He probably would condemn me too!  Why bother?”  By the way, they are being marginalized by the religious, not by God – and there is an eternal difference between the two!  Religious focus on law, God focuses on grace!

The Law in the Bible was manipulated by the Pharisees (religious) to condemn people who didn’t fit their constructed religious mold.  Yet the Law was given to show us that we are not capable of attaining the perfection of God on our own; by the way, perfection is a pre-requisite for spending eternity with Him, so none of us can measure up on our own accord.  The Law always points us to the Gospel because our inability to be perfect was nullified by Jesus’ ability and willingness to be the perfect sacrifice…He died as a perfect substitution for us while we were all still sinners!  The Law is there to show us we need the Gospel, and the Gospel tells us that we need Jesus!  It is never our job to point out what we deem to be sin in others; the Bible is to be read as a mirror, helping the reader become more like Christ.  When we use the Bible as a hammer, it loses its intended purpose given by the Author!  Judgment comes from above, not from someone walking alongside!

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Bottom line here is this – I care less about where you fall in your beliefs regarding human behavior than I do about the people who have been turned away from local churches and individuals simply because most are too afraid to enter a relationship with someone who thinks or acts differently than they do.  It’s OK to believe that homosexuality is a sin as long as you don’t condemn someone else because you hold what you deem to be their sin up in the light while you hide your sin in the dark.  I believe Navy Blue is Black because when I look at Navy Blue it appears to be Black to me; but just because I cannot distinguish between the two colors doesn’t give me the right to tell my wife she is wrong when the real issue is my own vision!  How’s your vision?  I personally have some great relationships with people who do not believe being gay is a sin.  We are still the best of friends even after they ask what I believe and I share that I believe being gay is a sin based on what I read in God’s word – actually, since we have been completely honest with each other in these conversations, I can say that my relationship with each person has become a deep friendship that is based on mutual love and respect.  Why?  I feel it is because my goal is not to change someone or tell them they are wrong or sinful; my goal is to develop a relationship with the people God places in my path in hopes that they may fall in love with the Jesus, the One I wholly love!  You might say, “Sounds like you have an agenda to me!”; yet it’s not an agenda when you place Jesus in the center of your entire life – it’s actually who you are in Christ!  To hide your faith is actually contrary to who you truly are!  People in general are OK with us having our own opinions and convictions (regardless if it is based on scripture or not) as long as they are not being condemned for their own or shut down for sharing their beliefs.  Differing opinions, convictions and beliefs make for incredible conversations!  If you are truly open to loving God and loving people you may blessed in building some incredible relationships with people who are very different from you – the same way Jesus did when He walked this Earth calling sinners like us to trust in Him!  With relationship comes opportunity to share your heart with others…and with your heart surrendered to Jesus, sharing Him becomes easy even when the “tough” topics of our day seem to cloud our judgment!  So let me ask you, are you seeing people through the eyes of Jesus?  How is your vision?

il_fullxfull-320700222 Check all self-righteousness at the door!

In society today, there are a plethora of social issues that are bombarding our local communities, and are even more directly becoming a big part of our daily conversations with people who may or may not follow Jesus.  Some of these social conversations form around government, abortion, human rights, same-sex marriage, bigotry, profiling, racism, gun control, and the list goes on and on!  As followers of Jesus, we need not exclude ourselves from these conversations; in fact, we have a high standard to uphold and entering the conversations is the only way for us to be a beacon of light to an otherwise darkened world!

Many of you may be reading this and saying something like, “yeah, we need to stand up and fight for what is right and against what is wrong in this world!”  While others are thinking, “great, another article bashing people with differing beliefs and convictions.”  Well, both thoughts couldn’t be further from the Truth…and by Truth I am referring to God’s Truth, not just my opinion or the opinion of some religious group!

When you enter a conversation with someone regarding – let’s pick an easy one to start with (tongue in cheek) – the government, what words flow from your lips?  Do your words build others up or do they pull them down to the negativity you are spewing?  We may not agree with the government, but as believers in Jesus Christ our words and behaviors speak a lot about the One we are following, especially to those who do not know Him!  We may have a legitimate concern, but the way we voice that concern says a lot about Who we follow, or maybe that we don’t follow His example at all!

How about the issues many are dealing with regarding same-sex marriage – an extremely polarizing topic of our day?  Do you shy away from the LGBT community because you are uncomfortable or worse, self-righteous?  Do you think God loves people who are living in the gay lifestyle and seeking marriage with their partner?  He absolutely and emphatically does!  God’s desire is for every one of us to truly know, love and trust Him – His grace and love is sufficient for everyone, and He extends an invitation of relationship to everyone regardless of sexual orientation…and even to the bigoted person spewing hatred toward the LGBT community!

Romans 1:18-32 discusses the fact that we are ALL sinners deserving His righteous judgment; every single one of us from Stephen Hawking to Billy Graham!  But remember, Romans is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Rome, not chapters to be read out of context or alone!  Romans 2:1-11 continues on to say that we have no excuse in judging others regarding their sin because we are deeply rooted in sin as well…in doing so, we are not only condemning others, we are condemning ourselves!  What Paul is saying is that we are all in this together, and without Jesus’ sacrifice, life would be futile and hell would be in all our futures! When reading the scriptures, remember…when we use them to beat someone else up we are using them wrong!  As followers of Jesus, in which the Holy Spirit resides, our words and behaviors, if coming from God, will exhibit the fruit that Paul speaks of in Galatians:

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When we read the scriptures properly (as a mirror, not a hammer), we learn to become more like Jesus – loving, compassionate, grace-filled people who are attractive to be around; people who are seeking relationships so that someone who does not know Jesus may be introduced to the only One that really matters!  Relationships are the measuring stick in God’s economy – with Him first, then with others…especially with those who have been deemed unworthy by society or by self-righteous people who take it upon themselves to extend God’s judgment in error.  By passing on His judgment, we ultimately drive the people God loves further away from Him.  I believe this wrecks God’s heart!  I believe we are to love people enough to get into their lives and potentially introduce them to Jesus.  We introduce and He will do whatever convicting He sees fit and proper!

When Jesus said to love God and love others, He meant it!  That old familiar song states, “they will know we are Christians by our love”; however, by extending judgment we forfeit the opportunity God has given us to not only love others by extending grace (the same grace God has extended to us) but also to build a relationship with them built on love and trust as well as grace and Truth.  This is one of the main reasons why the label “Christian” has taken on a negative tone in society – you know, judging others in the Name of God.  How repulsive!  However, as followers of Jesus, we take on His nature and extend the grace that He first showed us…that is a love worth following!  Grace is something Jesus offers us all, and if we are following Jesus’ example, extending grace to those around us is not an option, it’s a requirement and it’s the best way to build relationships!  So, are you representing Jesus well to those around you?

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God has led me to Romans 12 a lot lately and it never ceases to amaze me how much He can squeeze into a passage of His divinely inspired Word.

Romans 12:6-8 – 6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

In this section of scripture, Paul is explaining to us the reason God has given us His gifts by His grace.  He gives us these gifts to share generously with others!  These are the gifts described above, but are just a sampling of the gifts that God gives to us:

Gift of Prophecy (foreshadowing something to come) – Share only as much as your faith allows.

Gift of Service – Get out and serve others!

Teaching Gift – Be ready to teach, and do it!

Gift of Exhortation (encouraging someone to take action) – Encourage others to do something for the glory of God!

Gift of Giving – Give generously!

Leadership – Lead well and with boldness!

Gift of Mercy – Show mercy to those you come into contact and do it with joy and kindness!

God never gives us a gift or blessing to hoard for ourselves.  When we keep His blessing for our own desires, our minds tend to run with a self-centered vigor that will creep into every area of our lives.  One of the biggest lies Satan uses to sidetrack followers of Jesus is the lie that “you deserve it.”  You know what I am talking about:

God has blessed you with a great income, so you buy yourself a nice, new truck; after all, you deserve it for all your hard work!  Then a friend calls and needs help moving…what do you do?  You can offer your help, and drive that new truck to his house and help a friend in need.  Or you can ignore your friend because you don’t want to scratch your new truck.

Or,

A single mom from across the street comes home with 2 little ones wrapped around her ankles, unloading several bags of groceries, all while your favorite TV show or sporting event is at its climax.  You can say that you have had an exhausting day and need this down time; you deserve this downtime due to your pressing schedule!  Or, you can take a few minutes and help this young mom, who more than likely had a much more stressful day than you could ever imagine!

Or,

Say you are out to eat with your spouse, and your server is having a bad day…you can tell she or he is struggling with keeping up or just keeping it together.  The service may not be real good…how do you respond?  Do you give them a small tip because their service wasn’t what you expected?  You might think, “They don’t deserve a good tip!” or do you bless them generously because they are human, make mistakes, and could really use a little encouragement – maybe the first encouragement they have received in a very long time!

You see what I mean?  God gives each one of us opportunities every day to be generous with the gifts and abilities He gives so that we will love others.  You cannot love God and hate (or ignore) those who were created in His image!  It is impossible to fully love God and seek His will yet not care deeply about those around us…it is not in His nature and cannot be in ours if we want to call ourselves followers of Jesus!  Remember, He died for all of us, not just you!  As God’s Image Bearers, we must extend His love to those who are in need, whether they follow the One we follow or not!  This can be the beginning of an amazing relationship that has eternal consequences!

#ImageBearers

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Gossip, can be, and is, a sin that most completely kills a community, interferes in our communion with God, and stunts the growth of those involved in it and those witnessing that sinful behavior.  Gossip is really defined by motive; is the conversation edifying (building up) the person you are speaking to about?  If not, it is gossip!  I have recently been hearing rumblings of this sort within the local church community as well as our own community of believers…believers talking about other believers…not going directly to the person as the Scriptures direct.  It’s self-centered and arrogant!  Can it really make a person feel good about themselves knowing they are talking down about someone else instead of gently walking alongside them and loving them and God enough to take the plank out of their own eyes (sin) and help a sister or brother in their walk with God?  In a twisted answer, yes…but it’s a false feeling based on corruption and arrogant pride!  Satan always gives us a false sense of joy when we belittle another person in conversation.  Gossip, plain and simple, is from Satan and should never be uttered from the lips of a believer. Period!

Why is my statement above so harsh?  There are many reasons, but the one that is percolating within me lately, and is really the reason for this post, is this – the quickest way to kill community is to gossip!  And the quickest way for non-believers or people early in their faith to run away from church is for believers to engage in gossip…this is one of the main reasons the Church has been labeled hypocritical for so long.  Satan uses believers all the time to destroy intimacy and community within the Church, but we have a higher power in charge of our lives…The Holy Spirit!  We cannot give Satan free reign to rule our lives and behaviors!

Bottom line is that we, as a community, cannot live in a sinful and gossiping environment and expect God to bless us individually or as a community.  God will not work within the context or outpouring of sin!  Remember those caught up in that self-righteous behavior in the New Testament?  Jesus continually condemned and rebuked the Pharisees for the some of this unwholesome talk and behavior.  He always holds seasoned believers to a high standard, especially when conversing to or about someone else younger in their faith.  How in the world can a younger believer (or a casual believer) ever become mature (committed) if those who should be mature are behaving in sinful ways?  How can one become mature if others won’t come along side them and walk with them as they become more mature in their faith and beliefs?  Relational Discipleship really does encompass every area of our lives as we become mature and then begin making disciples of all those around us!

God’s greatest gift to mankind was grace extended through Jesus Christ.  In accepting His grace He then asks us to extend that grace to one another.  So next time someone comes up to you and wants to talk about someone else’s behaviors, do not be a listening ear that allows the sin to fester.  Simply say to that person, “have you spoken directly with the person you are referring to?”…and when they say no, and they will, direct them to that person and simply let God convict their hearts.  Being on the listening end of gossip is as bad as being the one who is speaking!

If you want to be a mature follower of Christ, gossip must not be part of your life.  Your life and relationships matter more to the Kingdom than any sinful desires that Satan throws at you.  Seek God’s path and flee from sin!  Remember, our large group (Sunday morning) gatherings, Small Groups and one-on-one times are meant for building each other up, not tearing others down!

Why are so many topics highly polarizing in today’s world, regardless of belief in God or not?  I believe it is deliberate (training in a way); not because God is deceiving but because He knows how authentic relationships are built.  They are built by working through disagreements and misunderstandings yet still loving one another.   Jesus never said relationship would be easy.  Loving one-another may be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things we will ever do while here on Earth.  Authentic relationships can be (and if we are all honest, will be) messy; you won’t always agree, but how boring would life be if everyone agreed?  Hard conversations can and should be a catalyst to build trust and love; they should not burn a bridge in a relationship or worse yet, drive someone away from our Savior!

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Something God has been teaching me, but I still fail at far too often, is this: never go into a disagreement with the attitude of making a point or winning an argument.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such actions!  Having that attitude more often than not results in broken relationship, not conviction of Spirit!  “Seek first to understand”, should be our first priority when discussing any disagreement or misunderstanding with others.  Working through conflict, addressing differences of opinion, and loving one another are crucial steps to take in relationship if we are truly seeking to be like Jesus!  He never shied away from hard topics, yet those on the other end of that hard conversation always went away feeling loved and accepted (except the religious folks (Pharisees) since their desire was more about keeping rules not building relationships).   Accepting someone for who they are is in no way approving of any action on their part.  Accepting someone simply shows them that they are loved and are valuable to me and to God.

Regardless of disagreements, misunderstandings, or flat out disobedience to God, there is no sin (past, present or future) that has more power than the power of the cross!  Sin does not define you, Christ’s forgiveness defines you!  And that forgiveness is met with grace and mercy as we begin following Jesus.

“Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.” ~ Alexander Whyte

gracemercy

Until I heard the A Cappella version of The Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix (thanks Keith Wooden for sharing it on Facebook) I had never really “heard” the message from the song.  I have now listened to that version dozens of times and my eyes flood over with tears every time now as I have discovered something…I am the little drummer boy!

Pentatonix

Click Here to watch Pentatonix The Little Drummer Boy

Can you imagine?  A baby has been born to be King to usher His people into freedom.  Rumor has it that He will be born in a little town called Bethlehem, and there is a bright star shining above the place He will make His arrival.  Something is definitely different about this birth.  Curiosity sets in…then someone asks you, a little boy, “come and see this new born King.”  They add, “You can bring your drum along as well if you want to!”

You think to yourself, this is Awesome!  I get to see this new King and witness the beginning of His reign.  But wait, people are bringing gifts…I am poor and have nothing to bring Him as a gift.  Maybe no-one will notice since I am a young kid.  They wouldn’t expect a kid to bring a gift, so I will just hang back and see what this new born King is all about.

So you walk with the others, lightly playing your little drum as you walk along…after all, that is the one thing you really enjoy and you are not too bad either!  At least that is what your mom tells you.  Some of the adults tell you to knock it off or stay back and play quietly, but your joy in this moment can only be played out on your drum.  So you quietly continue, maybe even playing in your head.

Then you see above all the adults this animal stable, when all of the sudden everyone stops and are gasping in amazement.  They have no words, only awe.  But you can’t see…so you slip your way through the crowd to the front and you see people offering gifts to this little baby.  He seems so fragile yet there is power in this moment.  Could He really be the One everyone is thinking He is?  I sure wish I had something I could give to Him as a gift.

Your heart jumps out of your chest as your joy bursts out.  All along the way you had been playing your drum ever so lightly with an increasing joy in your heart as you made your way to this moment, this place.  You didn’t even think twice…you look to His mother and ask, “Shall I play for you…on my drum?”  She nods yes…the whole place stands and watches what is to come.  The animals seem to be swaying with the beat.  You are playing your very best and are completely lost in the moment!  You look down and realize that Jesus is taking in every note and then something amazing happens…He looks you in the eyes and smiles at you in the most kind and loving way you could ever imagine!  Wow, this new born King, Jesus, has accepted my gift, and you realize that the best gift you could have given Him was to play your drum for Him…your very best talent is your very best gift!

You look around and everyone is in tears as they have just witnessed a small child offering the greatest gift to this child King.  They all worship along with you as you pound away on your drum.  You lead them to a greater understanding of how we best honor Jesus by using our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities in worship of Him, the King and Savior of us all!  This moment will be etched in your soul for the rest of your life and you will retell the story until the day you die…the story of the day a little boy offered up his very best gift to the King of the World!  The day the Savior looked at you and smiled as He watched you share your joy with Him!

So, what is your drum?  What do you do well that you can bring to the King to honor Him?  Your drum may be a musical instrument or it may be the ability to sit down with someone and extent the love of Jesus to them.  Your drum may be playing basketball or acting in a play.  Your drum may be the very work you do on a daily basis.  Whatever your drum is, use it to honor and glorify Jesus…and when you do, close your eyes and imagine what it will be like to see Jesus looking directly in your eyes and smiling at you, saying, “Well done!”

ldrum

The Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see
Pa rum pum pum pum

Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the kIng
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

So to honor Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
When we come

Little baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Shall I play for you
Pa rum pum pum pum
On my drum

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum

Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum

Matthew 6:22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Eyes on Jesus

It’s been said that the eye is the lamp into our soul.  What we see, gaze upon, or linger on will mold our very nature and character.  In the same way, what we listen to shapes the way we think and behave.

Close to 15 years ago, I realized how listening to Sports Talk radio and watching Sports News was shaping my life – If I was to get on the path that God was drawing me to, I needed a change!  The negativity and sarcasm was so rampant that it had infiltrated my personality and very nature.  Sarcasm can still rear its ugly head in my life when I am not focusing on relationship with God and those around me.  It’s easy to see how sarcasm is killing intimacy in marriage and families all around us.

For me, I had to go cold turkey for an entire year – no sports talk radio or news.  God laid Romans 12:2 on my heart and showed me the way to beat the negativity and sarcasm out of my life.  He brought this Scripture to life for me: Do not conform to the patterns of this world (negativity and sarcasm for me) but be transformed (slowly into the image of His Son, Jesus) BY renewing your mind (focusing on the Truth of Scripture and not allowing Satan to bombard with his lies).  After that year, the desire for Sports Talk is no longer in me!

Do I still struggle with sarcasm?  Yes!  But now when I get caught up in it, God easily reminds me of the Scripture he laid deeply in my heart and I have a choice whether to continue in the behavior (which will damage the relationships I am engaged in) or take that thought captive and renew my mind on the Truth of Scripture (which strengthens my relationship with God as well as those around me).  I’ve found that even intermittent sarcasm wounds as much as consistent sarcasm.  We must build each other up, not tear each other down!

So what is your Sports Talk?  What do you see or hear that takes you in an undesirable (sinful) direction?  Gossip?  Porn?  Games?  Music?  TV?   Ask God to reveal to you your sin, and if He is too easy to ignore…ask your family!  Then seek out the Truth that God lays out in Scripture and dwell upon His Word as you renew your mind…your transformation from darkness to light will be apparent not only to you and to God, but those around you as well.  A wandering eye or mind is a breeding ground for sin…eagle-eye focus on Jesus is the cure!

 

This Heart

A thought has been driven into my soul today, even though God has placed this desire and calling in me for quite some time.  It’s not a new thought, but one that has been etched in my mind today as I have been going about my day. Here it is:

” I need to stop dying and start living!”

  How much time daily do I waste on things that just aren’t that important?  How often do I put things in me that are killing me: physically, emotionally and spiritually?  

 Anyone out there feel this way?

 Relationship – first with God, and then my wife, kids and those around me that He has blessed into my life – is the key to a fulfilled life in Christ! Our God is a relational God and He made us after His image!

  My prayer and earnest desire is this:

  God, grant me the will to only desire your life in me….to seek after you whole-heartedly in all I think, say, write and do!  Create a God-shaped heart in me and guide my path to fulfill all You ask of me…this is my one true desire!

“Sorry I am late; the traffic was horrible!”

“It wasn’t me, she did it!”

“I cannot tell a lie, I cut down the cherry tree.” (This is actually not true and was never uttered by Washington – it was a lie made up to show George Washington’s honesty…odd way to show his honesty, isn’t it?)

 

liar

         

Proverbs 12:22 – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

If we often find ourselves saying things like, “to be honest with you”, we might want to check to see how “honest” we are truly being with others and ourselves!  Small deceptions give birth to larger ones that will destroy you and those around you!  And, calling them little white lies are just a way Satan tries to convince us they really aren’t that big a deal.

A kid grows up and is a really honest kid and then one day he tells a lie and gets caught by his parents or by a teacher.  That lie has now created a level of distrust and second guessing in whatever that child is saying, or possibly will say.  Here’s an even tougher one; a husband is trustworthy, works hard and spends time with his wife and kids. Then one day he gets caught lying about an affair he is having with a girl at his office.  Trust may have been built for decades up to that point, but that lie and deception has now driven a wedge between man and wife that has completely emptied her trust bank!  Yes being unfaithful is a sin; however, being dishonest to cover up one sin is just another layer of sin!  Confession may hurt but it leads to healing.  Lying always kills the relationship!

Bottom line, any type of lie is completely disgusting to a great and perfect God!  Why is that?  Because lies are the fastest way to destroy relationship!

Relationship was God’s idea from the very beginning!  Lying is Satan’s attempt to thwart the amazing gift of relationship that God invented!  As we strive to be more like Jesus in our everyday lives, let us build relationships as we love one-another and God, and resist the enemy’s attempt to break down the very nature of who God is…He, as well as we, are built for honest relationship!

As many of you know, my oldest daughter Kayla married her High School sweetheart, Andrew, this month.  As we were all making preparations for the celebration, I reminisced about the time spent with Kayla talking about faith and love, as well as praying together for that perfect someone to come into her life.   But as I looked back at how everything unfolded over the years, I discovered a huge truth that I’d like to share this month!

I have often prayed for and with my girls in regards to their future husbands, and still do as Haley and Chloe grow up, but I realized this past week a subtle shift I had made in that prayer that I hadn’t even fully realized.

Like many parents, we pray for our kids to find the “right” person for them.  I have prayed for someone to come into their life that would share their convictions and faith and would complement their personalities.  My hope is always that faith will drive all of their relationships.

Sounds good, right?  We all want our kids to find the right person and live happily ever after, whatever that means, right?

During the time Lisa and I have been raising our girls, we have always tried to instill in them a love for God and a love for people.  We’ve consistently taught that loving and serving others is a privilege that God desires for His people.  It is a natural progression in each of our faith journeys to first develop a love for God, and then develop a love for the things that He loves—people!  In the progression of discipleship, we not only love God and people, we serve them as we grow in our faith and put our actions where God’s heart is as He shapes our hearts!  That is not only true in each of us as mature followers of Christ, it is crucial that we teach this to our kids as we are raising them to be a generation that has the potential to change the world for Christ!

In this growing period, I realized that we had also been preparing our girls to BE the “right” person for the kind of guy that we hope they will all meet—you know, the “right” guy.  So my prayer for us all is that we will be parents and grandparents that will raise up a generation of young people that will not only seek to find the “right” one, but will become the “right” one that will be discovered in God’s time!  And for those who are single, vow today to become the “right” person so that when God shows you your “right” person, you will recognize one another by the fruits of your faith and love!  Romans 12:1 & 2 will guide you!

right person

Andy Stanley puts it this way—”Are you who the person you are looking for is looking for?”  For more discipleship from Andy on this topic, visit  this link:  “Love, Sex and Dating”.