Black Friday Thought

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The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need. – Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

This morning I read this verse, and seeing it in a different translation really drove home the truth of the sufficiency of God. Especially on a day where people have been out shopping all night! I’m not saying that going out shopping is wrong. If you are able to be a good steward and do nice things for others, that is great!

I was just drawn to the deep truth of that verse that I have known for so long. I am a child of God through the salvation of His Son’s redemptive death. As a believer, what more do I need? I have eternal security and the promises of The God of Heaven!

Yesterday we focused on being thankful for the things we have. Today, as you hear about all of the stuff that is being bought out there, think about the fact that on another “Black Friday” the most important purchase in the history of the world was made:

The Purchase – Your salvation
The Price – The life blood of Christ

If you have not accepted the gift, do it today. If you need to know how, I’m glad to help!

Relentless growth happens when you are tapped in to the sustaining power of God. He is all you need!

In HIS Grip,
Tom

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Two Steps Forward…

flat,550x550,075,f“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.  They fill their hearts with God’s law so they will never slip from His path.”

Psalm 37:30-31 NLT

 Over in Empire on the Lake Michigan shore, there is this little hill that runs down to the lake.  I say little, but it is stinking huge!  I have climbed it twice in my life, and I can tell you right now that the last time I did it was just that – the last time.  It was the most difficult day at the beach I have ever had.

All the way up that hill you are sliding.  It is the literal equivalent of two steps forward and one step back.  The sand just will not support 100% of your forward movement, and you keep sliding backward.  At first it isn’t so bad, but after your first 30 minutes of climb, it starts to get a little tedious.  By the fourth 30 minutes of climb it is downright discouraging!

As you struggle up the dune, your eyes tend to focus at your feet.  This gives a very good view of what seems to be the futility of the effort.  You see that spot where your foot goes into the sand and how far it slips.  That is tough!

Other than the fact that you don’t want to die on that hill – and it feels like you will at some point – you need an encouragement to get you to the top.  That is when you need to look in a different direction.  Two of them. (Not at the same time unless you can do that weird thing with your eyes)

Look up and see the top of the hill.  You are closer than you were a few minutes ago.  Progress is being made!  It still might feel like you will never get there, but you are still moving forward. Look back and see how far you have come.  At first that will feel like nothing, but after some time, it starts to give you a lift to see how far you have gone.

I see the Christian walk as being quite similar.  I have a goal, and that is to be like Christ.  That, my friends, is a steep goal!  I have to look at it honestly and admit that while I will never be as good as Him, the more I climb, the closer I get to Him, and that is what I want.  Looking to Christ and fixing my eyes on His example gives me the desire to keep going.

If I take my eyes off Him and focus on my struggle I get discouraged.  If I allow that discouragement to build I might not even be encouraged by looking to Him anymore.  It’s too much. It’s too hard.  I’ll never make it and the struggle is not worth it.  That is when I need to look back and see how far He has brought me.  I could still be wallowing at the bottom, but by following Him, I am not what I used to be.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  Not where I want to be, but not farther away from where I don’t want to be.

I have been reading the Psalms lately, and I have been finding a lot of encouragement from the prayers of David.  I see a relentless man, committed to knowing God better through prayer.  Whether David is enjoying a good season of life or a hard time, he is always reaching out to God.  He sees the importance of the balance of looking ahead to the goal, looking down at his current state, and looking back at how far God has carried him. I think that is a defining factor in the relentless life.

As I struggle with life I must not yield to the circumstances I find myself in.  Good or bad, those circumstances can pull me from God.  If they are too good, I lose sight of my need for Him.  I gain too much pride in my own abilities.  I can get side tracked and feel like I am still moving forward, but I am not following God any more.  If things get bad I can turn inward and feel like God isn’t there at all, He left me and now I am on my own to struggle.  I might as well give up.

Only through communication with God will I stay on the path.  My feet will still slip because I will lose sight of Him from time to time, but if I am relentless in my journey, I will keep moving forward.  I will not veer off the path.

A relentless life for God.  That is my desire.  I want to grow in His grace and reach out to others to show them what He can do for them as well.  Through all of it I want to give God the glory.

How about you?  Are you finding yourself on the side of a dune?  Slipping and sliding and feeling like there is nothing that you can do?  We all do at times.  I hope this has been an encouragement to someone out there.  If so, I would love to hear from you!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

One of the Best Days of My Life

My Grandfather - Milo Tanner
My Grandfather – Milo Tanner

The other day I was talking with someone and we hit on the topic of fond memories with people who are not here anymore.  It was fun to share some memories about someone that we each knew, and a he said that one day he had spent with my Grandpa’s brother was one of the best days he could remember.

Over the time since, that phrase “best days” has been popping into my mind over and over again.  We all have “best days” that we can remember.  How many of them can a person have? Well, I guess that is up to the kind of person that you are.  If you have a mega catalog brain and are willing to categorize and weigh each of them accurately according to some scale, then I guess you could have a bunch.  Me, I think I would be willing to come up with a top 5-10.

As a believer, I would place the day of my salvation as #1. (Don’t worry folks, we aren’t going to go through all 10)  After that would come the day I got married, the days my kids were born, a couple of special trips that we have taken as a family… You know, the things you would expect.  But this conversation with my friend brought back a memory of a day that was definitely one of the best I have ever had.

I was about 12-13 years old when my Grandpa – the handsome fella at the top – called and asked me if I would like to take a trip the next day.  His brother, Thad, had a job as a driver for the local car dealer, and he was going to be taking a car from Kalkaska down to the Detroit area and swap it with another vehicle.  He said it was just going to be a down and back and I was welcome to come if I wanted to.  I was in.

The next morning they picked me up and we headed into town.  When we got to the car lot I was impressed to see that we would be taking a Camaro on our trip.  Obviously I had to sit in the back, but this was actually the best seat in the car for this ride because I had the opportunity to watch and enjoy the ride.

Both men were in their mid to late 60’s at the time, retired, and in my young eyes, well… old.  As I write this I am smacked with the fact that my Dad is about the same age now as my Grandpa was then.  He doesn’t seem that old.  I don’t think this means I am getting old or anything like that. (My friend Ray is working on a snide comment right now about my age.)  Anyway, back to the story.  These were a couple of guys that I had never seen outside of a certain realm.  They were family patriarchs.  Serious.  Determined. Not given to foolishness or immaturity.

I had never seen them in a Camaro.

As we headed south they just talked about the stuff of life.  Before long I could tell that I had kind of faded into the background.  Not in a bad way, but they were engaged in quality relationship with each other.  Looking back now, I would say it was less sibling and more friendship.  They talked about life as retirees, health issues, financial concerns, and a lot of other stuff.  As the miles rolled on, I saw them less as a pair of old men, and more as a couple of guys that I wanted to be around.

That just grew after we stopped for gas at one point.  Uncle Thad was getting ready to pull out into traffic and the traffic was heavy.  Grandpa commented on the small holes in traffic and said something along the lines of, “If you’re ever going to get out of here you’re going to have to stop driving like an old man.”  I’ll never forget what happened next.

Uncle Thad looked over at him, smirked, looked back at me and said, “Might want to grab somethin’.”  Then he gave a quick look left and right and punched it.  That Camaro jumped out of that driveway like it was on fire.  We shot across the first two lanes and when the front bumper hit the left turn lane he finally spun the wheel left.  That threw the car into a four-wheel drift that slid us through the left turn lane , across the first lane and into the outer lane and then we were gone.

As I picked myself up off the floor of the car – I hadn’t listened to Uncle Thad’s advice – I heard them both hooting and laughing like a couple of crazy kids.  From that point on, the day changed.  These two retired grandfathers not only spent the rest of the day goofing with each other, they also brought me into the goofing as well.  I had never seen these men laugh that much and seem so at ease.

The trip home had its own adventures  as we drove back in a standard cab truck.  We were all scrunched in the cab together.  Elbows were thrown back and forth, and with me being the (barely) smallest I was riding the hump so I had them talking to me and over me the whole trip back.  We also nearly ran out of gas.  The truck had dual tanks and they had told Uncle Thad it was full when we left, but apparently that meant one tank – the smaller tank.  When he hit the switch to the other tank it was bone dry.  We made it in on fumes.

A few short years later our family lost both of those men in a very short period of time.  Grandpa died of a heart attack and Uncle Thad from liver cancer.  It was a tough year that started with the loss of my Grandmother as well.  I’m so thankful for the memories I have of all of them.  They were great people, and they taught me so much.

I’m getting older now (Ray! Let it go!), and I am starting to look at some of the things I do a little differently.  While I like to be alone, I am starting to want to spend more time with people – especially one-on-one or two. I think it is because that is where life happens the best.  It is the most real because when you have few people, there is just less junk in the way.  You get to see more of who a person is, see their heart, and connect.

This is another of those areas I want to be relentless in.  It is not always easy for me to make new friends, or to open myself up to people I don’t know.  I relate well, but I tend to back off and maybe miss out on a good relationship because the other person has walls that I either can’t see a way around or don’t have the energy to scale.  I’m working on that.

So, Dear Reader.  I have two challenges for you.

  1. Find someone to share a bit of your life with.  Take a step and do it.  I’ll admit, my Grandpa taking the time to ask me to go for a ride was not a huge step for him, but it might be for you!  The point is, DO SOMETHING!  Make an investment – especially in someone younger than you.  We all sit around and talk about how today’s youth doesn’t seem to understand how things used to be and they don’t act the way we would like them to.  Well, take some time with them and see what you can both learn and teach – try to learn at least as much as you teach.
  2. This is a request for me. I like stories, and I would love to hear what one of your best days was.  If you would like to share a best day, please do so in the comments below.

Thanks again for reading.  I am just sharing a bit of me.  Take all you want!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

Relentless Determination

327I will thank You, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.  I will be filled with joy because of You.  I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.  – Psalm 9:1-2

I like movies.  Of course, we like to watch the really good movies, but sometimes it’s fun to watch a movie that is known for some really good cheese too.  I think that Independence Day was one of those movies.  It had some amazing special effects, but there was a lot of cheesy scenes in it too with corny dialogue and over the top theatrics.

One scene in the movie was different though.  When the President gives his speech just before the world goes out on an attack against the aliens, he gives a speech that actually roused the spirit.  I’ve never thought of Bill Pullman as an actor that could pull off that kind of clout, but in this scene he did.  When he stood in front of those pilots he gave them a challenge.  They faced a seemingly undefeatable foe, but even in the face impending destruction, he was encouraging something in them:

A relentless spirit.

They would not go quietly into that dark night.  They would fight, and they would keep fighting as long as there was breath in their bodies.  There was a spirit of unyielding desire for victory in that speech, and I know that even though the movie was far-fetched, that speech spoke to the heart of every man that watched it.

Several thousand years ago another speech was made by a young man in the face of an unbeatable opponent.  A giant of a man whose size, voice, and reputation made the entire army of Israel tremble before him.  There was no one willing to go out against him.  Then a young boy named David came to the battlefield to bring supplies to his brothers.  When he saw Goliath mocking the people of Israel he spoke out and asked why they were not fighting.  Eventually he was brought before King Saul:

David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine. Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”

– 1 Samuel 17:32-37

David stood in complete and total confidence in the God of Israel.  There was no option other than forward.  There was no thought of defeat.  That is a relentless attitude.  That is an attitude born out of dependence on God’s ability rather than his own.

I am sure that over the years as David watched his father’s sheep he lost sheep to bears and lions.  It would be foolish to think that it never happened, but that did not change the fact that David knew His God had put an opportunity to show the glory of God working through one of His own, and he was going to do it.

Some say that David took extra stones in case he missed with the first one.  Others say that it was because Goliath had brothers that would possible come to his aid.  I wonder if David had wondered if he would have the chance to get a few more after he dropped Goliath.

One of my commentaries says that the verses at the beginning of this post were written after David defeated Goliath.  He wrote them in praise to God for giving him that victory.  The commentary goes on to say that he was also speaking of his resolve to continue in that spirit of following God and ultimately praising God for Christ’s victory over Satan.  Both are possible.  David was not only a king and song writer, he also spoke prophecy in several of his Psalms.

When I look at these verses I see something else.  An affirmation.

If you’re my age, just hearing the word “affirmation” takes you back to Saturday Night Live and Stuart Smalley as he sat in front of his mirror saying, “I’m smart enough, I’m good enough. And doggone it, people like me!”  (Anybody else remember those pastel sweaters?) Just about the only thing Al Franken ever did that made me laugh.  Anyway, I digress.

I’m trying to live my life in relentless pursuit of God.  I want to grow closer to Him, to know more about Him, to see others come to know Him!  I want His teaching to permeate my marriage, my parenting, and my relationships!  At the end of my life, I want people to remember not me, but the things that God did through me.  I want to leave a legacy that resulted in others adopting the same pursuit of a relentless desire for God.

Just as I am sure that David walked home dejected a time or two after losing a lamb, I am going to have moments where I feel like a failure.  I’m only human, born to make mistakes. (Two thousand points to those who got that.)  What made the difference for David is that the next day; David got up and went back out with the sheep again.  I will need to go back to the point of my failure and face it with God’s help.  Be honest. Learn from the mistake. Reject the lie that Satan will use to try to keep me there. Press on, wiser, and stronger with God’s grace strengthening me.  That is a relentless attitude.

There is an old Japanese proverb that says, “Fall seven times. Get up eight times.”  With God’s help that is possible.

So, back to the affirmation.  (Yes, I rabbit trail sometimes.  Stick with me. I get back to the topic.) This morning I made a little poster and put it beside my desk where I will see it every day at work.  I took those two verses (Psalm 9:1-2) and changed them just a little.  I want to read these verses every day, not as a little mantra to make myself feel good, but as a battle cry.  Every day of my life brings spiritual warfare, and some days I do better than others.  I see that many of the days that I fail are the days that I am not focused on God.

So, this is my battle cry:

  • This day, I will thank You, Lord, with all my heart for what You have done for me.
  • This day, I will tell of all the marvelous things You have done.
  • This day, I will be filled with joy because of You.
  • This day, I will sing praises to Your name, O Most High.

My focus is not on tomorrow.  His grace is for today.  My strength is not a factor. I can do all things through Him.  My emotions will not control me. God has put joy in my heart.

There will always be obstacles and challenges in our paths, but we do not have to admit defeat.  Be relentless in life! Live a life of purpose that brings glory to God.  Commit yourself to growth in Him.  I won’t promise it will be easy, but I will promise that you will never be alone!

I welcome your thoughts!  Feel free to comment below and let me know if this was an encouragement to you.

In HIS Grip,

Tom

What’s In A Name?

hello_my_name_isSome of you might have noticed that this site has had a few name changes since I started it up.  Maybe you haven’t, and that is fine, just ignore this first paragraph and all will be well!  I have been trying to find a name for this blog, and I think I might have finally settled on one. Maybe. We will see.

I have chosen the site name Relentless Purpose & Growth to reflect what I want my life to be for God.  I have been reading a book that uses the word “Relentless” in the title, and that word has just been pounding in my mind.  What does it mean to be relentless?

re·lent·less  (r-lntls)

adj.

1. Unyielding in severity or strictness; unrelenting
2. Steady and persistent; unremitting

This is a character trait I want to weave into my life.  To have a determination that cannot accept sitting back and giving up.  It can be applied in every area of my life, and it should be.

Will I fail? Yes.  Will there be days I phone it in? Yes. Will I want to chuck it all? Yes.  But I won’t stay there.  The focus of my life is to live my purpose for God, and that is to  bring Him glory.  It is a process.  It takes time. It leads to growth.

I want a relentless life.  I hope that as I write these blog posts, people will see that and be encouraged to do the same.  Thanks for reading, and as always I welcome your feedback.

In HIS Grip,

Tom