Setting Things Right Again

There are a number of things about me that are weird.  Stick around and I guarantee you will find one for yourself to laugh at.  There really is no limit.  Making new ones every day, but there are some golden oldies that have been around for a few decades.  Wanna hear one?  Here goes.

Sometime around the age of 7, I took it upon myself to do a little project, and I recruited my brother and the neighbor kids in this rampant display of ridiculousness.  Looking back, I even think this was weird, but I do remember it vividly as something that meant a lot to me even though I think everyone thought I was insane.

This is not the mower, but it captures much of what I remember in its stellar good looks!

My Dad had a little push mower.  Green in color with a white Briggs & Stratton motor on top.   The mower ran well, but looked rough. The handle, once chromed, was pitted with rust.  The deck was covered in layers of “grass juice”, dried clippings, and was scratched up from years of use.  The motor was covered in dust, oil, and again, “grass juice”.  

I can’t tell you why, but I remember that I looked at it one day and I decided that it needed to be cleaned up and put back in order.  So, in what can only be described as delegation gone wild, I got 3-4 other kids to join me in cleaning up this mower.  I don’t remember if bribes were involved or how exactly I talked them into it, but they showed up.

So, there we were, armed with a bunch of rags and whatever aerosol products I could scrounge up in the garage that might have some type of solvent properties, we gathered around a 20 inch push mower with the determination to make it shine like new.

I can’t recall how much time we put into the project, but I do remember needing to talk a couple people into coming back to the job and trying to help them capture my vision despite their comments of “waste of time”, “just going to get dirty again”, and “you’re crazy”.  Who knew I was in career training…

At the end of the project I remember standing up, by myself because I had finally been abandoned by my crew, and looking at the mower expecting to be filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Before me sat the fruits of my labor and it was…

Still a scratched up, stained, rusted, and still fairly greasy mower.

There was not a lot of appreciable change to the mower’s appearance.  Yes, the “grass juice had been washed off, and the dried clippings and caked sand were no longer all over it, and there were even parts of the motor that showed the slightest glimmer of shine in the paint, but it still looked rough.  I was disappointed.  It felt like a waste of time with no discernible improvement.

Later that night, Dad asked me about the mess that I had left on the floor of the garage.  Piles of rags, empty spray cans of brake cleaner and WD-40, and the pile of dried clippings we had scraped out from under the mower deck gave evidence of my deeds.  I told him what I had done and said I would go clean up the mess.  I said it was a waste of time anyway.  He said something then that I have not forgotten.

“It might not look like you did a lot on the surface, but what you did do will make a difference.”

He then went on to tell me that in cleaning off the motor, it would run cooler which was better for the motor.  In cleaning the air filter I was protecting the engine from debris that could damage it.  In getting all of the grass clippings and junk scraped off the deck, I was removing stuff that trapped water and created rust so I was helping the deck last longer.

My restoration project did not turn out like I had hoped it would.  There was no obvious change, but it had made an impact for the future.  Because I was willing to take the time and put in the effort, the mower was going to run better and last longer.  It was, in some ways, a success.

I wonder if that was the catalyst that has given me an appreciation for making the old look new and the broken re-usable.  Since then I have been interested in auto restoration, home repair, and recently using reclaimed materials to build things.  It seems like I am always trying to figure out how i can take something broken and realize the value in it.

God saw the value in His broken people and provided a way for us to become new as well.  Through the redeeming death of His Son, we can experience life change and eternal life with God.  On the surface we might not seem that different, but changes are made, and if we submit to the process, those changes will multiply in us until they are seen by those around us.  There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.  Let me say that again,

There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.

I have reached the end of another book study in the Bible, and it is time to move on.  Colossians taught me a lot about how we are to #SERVEandGROW in life.  We serve God and we serve others.  That is how we grow.  It’s not a difficult formula.  Pretty much just those three steps.  So easy I can follow it!  I have enjoyed the study , and I hope that anyone who read along with me did too.

Now I am going to take a swing at something different.  I have pretty much stuck with books of poetry or doctrine, but now I want to do a book of history.  It will change some of how I post my thoughts, but I will try to keep with the same basic format of a post a day with a verse and a  thought.  Forgive me if the text gets a little small from time to time.

We will be going through the book of Ezra.  This is the story of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish exile when Babylon took Israel captive.  The city and the temple were destroyed, the “choice” people were taken away, the walls were torn down, and only a few stragglers were left behind.  Jerusalem was in shambles.  A near wasteland.  

God wanted a #Restoration.

God began orchestrating what needed to happen to bring His people home, and He started with the #Restoration of the temple.  Later Nehemiah would follow and rebuild the wall and set the city back in order.

Ezra’s efforts might have seemed a little odd.  In rebuilding a city, would it not make more sense to build a wall first?  Many would agree, but God knew that there needed to be a more important change first.  His presence was needed.  The city would not be complete because the temple was rebuilt, but without the temple, the city might not have been built.  The restoration of Jerusalem needed God more then man.

#Restoration is needed in my life.  There are things I have let go, things I should have taken better care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Steps need to be taken to scrape out the junk that might be keeping my life from running as God intended.  I may need to wipe away some stuff that lets me see things that need repair.  All in all, I am in need of God’s redeeming, restorative work.

As I read through Ezra, I will be looking for what God has to show me in that regard and sharing my findings as I go along.  I will post them on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page, and I hope you will follow along.  If you see something that speaks to you, let me know!  I would love to talk to you about it.

Relentless Growth requires us to not only keep driving forward, but to be willing to take time to #Restore things that need work.  We have relationships around us that need God’s hand in them.  We have things in our past that we need to learn to overcome and use for God’s glory.  In His hands, there is nothing that is not salvageable.  Give your heart and life to Him and see what He can do with it!

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Next Book: Colossians

Yesterday was my last day in the book of 2 Peter for awhile. (I’ll come back to it, I don’t have it all perfected yet!)  Running through that book with #Vigilant as the running thought and theme brought a new focus to me in how I approached situations at home and at work.  So many times I think I am seeing things, but the truths Peter brought to light helped me look deeper.  No.  I have not reached perfection.  Far from it, but I have grown a little more, and that is the goal.

      So, as always, where to next?

I promote this page, poorly at times, as Relentless Growth, and that was born out of a study I did with my Mentor/Rabbi, Lou, and my best friend, Ray.  In that series, I learned a lot about who I am, but I learned a lot more about how God wants me to grow in Him.  The study is based on Colossians 2:7.  I’m going to add verse 6 to help with the context just a tad:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

As I thought about that study, I am reminded how it brought me to the place where I finally realized my need for a daily walk with God.  It took some time to get the habit REALLY locked in, but the daily verse posts I do are a result of that time of learning and the hunger for God and His Word that came out of it. I have been thinking about that time spent with those men a lot lately.  I miss those times, and I would guess that all that thinking about those sessions woke up the desire to look into Colossians.

So, here we go!  I did a little more research on the book, and one of the best overviews I have found to whet my appetite for the book is from Chuck Swindoll.  You can read his take on Collosians here at his Insight for Living web site.  He gives an overview of all of the books in the Bible. Good stuff, and he is a far better writer than I!

Chuck’s overview talks about how well Paul described the sovereignty of Christ and the importance of recognizing His Deity.  Christ was not just a good man who did some neat things.  He is God!  He created the universe, spoke us into existence, came to earth to live as a man, and He died for our salvation. He rose again, and now sits at God’s right hand waiting for the moment He will return for His people and begin an eternal reign. WOW!

When you realize all of that, Colossians 2:6-7 is a natural response.  If Christ is our Lord, and we really recognize Him as Lord, we are faced with a choice of serving Him or not.  As Paul tells us in the very first verse of the book, he is a servant of God’s will, and that is what I am called to be as well.  Some days I do it well, and other days…

Relentless Growth is a reminder to me that in order to grow, I must first kneel.  I must take myself off the throne of my heart and put God there, where He deserves to be, as my Creator and Sustainer.  I must die to my desires and live in the grace, mercy, and new life Christ purchased for me. If I do that, then I will grow!  Kneel -> Grow.  Submit -> Grow. Serve -> Grow.

I can’t think of a better way to grow in Christ than to take what I learn from His Word and use it to serve others.  Whether I am posting a daily verse, doing life with my wife, helping a friend with a project, helping my employees at work, or talking with my kids, I am engaging in service to God that results in personal growth.

So, for the next several weeks, I will be making my way through Colossians as slowly as possible – digging as much truth out as I can in order to use it in service to God.  I will enjoy the time I spend learning and sharing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

you like what you read and see on the Relentless Growth Facebook Page, be sure to “Like” and “Share”.  Would love to hear your comments too!

#Serve&Grow

 

Tom

 

What Are You Looking At?

This is Sydney, our Australian Shepherd.  Technically she belongs to my daughter who has raised her from a puppy and has given her more love than a dog really should be allowed to have. Sydney has been trained in agility, obedience, and the impressive (yet scarcely called upon) ability to catch slices of banana spat from the mouth of her caretakers. (I personally do not get involved in this one.  Not judging.  Personal preference.)  Sydney is a joy to have, and we marvel at her intelligence and canine personality.  She gives us lots of things to talk and laugh about. (Or write about if the time and the will permit!)

This picture was taken at a recent weekend getaway to a family cottage we were blessed to use.  There are three large windows behind the couch that give a view of the road out front, several other cottages, and a hopeful glimpse of the lake beyond them.  While the road does not have a ton of activity on it, there is enough to catch her attention, and she can often be found either at the window like this or at the sliding door that provides a slightly different scene to monitor.

No matter which observation point she takes, Sydney stands #Vigilant, ready to report what she sees whether it is the kid down the road in his little electric jeep, Bailey, the chocolate Labrador’s meanderings, or the scurrying of a squirrel or a rabbit enjoying the neighborhood’s green grass.  Sydney is on point, doing what she was bred to do.  She keeps watch over those in her charge – us.

I have reached the end of my journey through the book of 1 Peter, and it is time to move on.  The last several weeks have brought a number of special things to my mind and I have enjoyed sharing Peter’s words of #Encouragement through my daily posts.  I have been #Encouraged through what I have read, and I pray that those of you who have joined me on the journey have been as well.

While on the aforementioned weekend getaway, I took my study Bible to decide where to go after finishing 1 Peter.  I didn’t want to just “soldier on” to the next book in the sequence, as I have enjoyed moving around in my readings.  I’d been thinking about going through an Old Testament book like Joshua or 1 Samuel, or maybe even tackling one of the prophets like Jeremiah or Ezekiel.  I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping that God would give me a nudge in the right direction.

I got up on the Sunday morning we were there to enjoy the quiet cottage and sounds of the breeze in the leaves of the apple tree outside to read my Bible, post my daily picture and thought, and peruse the notes in my study bible to see what I might find.  I usually do my daily reading on my phone, but that day I decided to look into 1 Peter in the hard copy as well and finished reading through to the end of the book.  I have to admit that even though I prefer electronic media most of the time now, there is something special about the rustle of those thin pages!

When I got to the end of 1 Peter, right there across the page was the heading information and outline for 2 Peter. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)  At the top of the page beside the little synopsis of the book was a picture of a dog/wolf that was calling out a warning.  It caught my eye and I decided to read into the material there to see what it had to say.  By the time I had finished that I was already on my way to reading through the 3 chapters that make up the book of 2 Peter, and at the end of that I had made my decision – with more than an ample nudge from the Spirit.

2 Peter it is.

Peter pens this second letter as a warning to his readers.  He will soon be martyred and he takes this last opportunity to reach out to those he loves and those he hopes to help with the imperative message of being #Vigilant for things to come.  He wants to shout a warning of some things and inform them about others, and it all comes as a result of his years following Christ and serving Him in helping to start, grow, and care for the church.

Peter was a bold man, prone to putting his foot in his mouth from time to time and being impetuous in his behavior.  Probably the most transparent example of the Christian walk we have in the New Testament, he has always been a hero of mine as I struggle with many of the same tendencies he did.  Perhaps that is why I wanted to move on in a different direction rather than continuing to read his words.  He strikes too close to home!

After reading 2 Peter, I see three main things that Peter tells us to watch for:

Opportunities to Grow in Christ – In chapter 1, he shows us that as we work out our faith in our attitudes and actions, we will be presented in every circumstance to “level up” in our walk. (2 Peter 1:5-8) We will never fully “arrive”, and we need to be looking at how we handle things that take place around us and take an honest look at ourselves as well.  How do we do it?  Through the Truth of God’s Word, carefully prepared for us through the Holy Spirit working through the hands of man. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Dangers to Growing Christians – Chapter 2 is full of warnings of things to watch out for. Whether false prophets, personal desires, or the influences of others, there is no shortage of things Satan will send against us to pull us from our walk in Christ. Our spiritual health is in jeopardy and under attack on every side, but God is there for us and He knows how to rescue us from any attack (2 Peter 2:9)

The Hope to Come – There is more to come than this earth, and Peter impresses on his readers that they need to be watching for it. It is not that we will miss it, because there will be no doubt when the Lord returns. What Peter is impressing upon us is that as we watch for the return of Christ, we will also be watching our actions as we prepare for His coming.  We will talk to those we know and love about Him.  We will share His goodness, and we will try to live a life that is not in slavery to sin.

I am looking forward to this next book for my personal time, and I also look forward to sharing a little of it.  What about you?  Are you spending time in God’s Word every day?  I hope you are.  If we are going to live our lives in Relentless devotion to God, we need that time.  It draws us close to Him for comfort and strength, but it also gives us insight into the events unfolding in the world around us.

Whether it is home, work, school, church, or wherever you may happen to be, we need to be watchful like Sydney.  We need to be on guard against dangers to ourselves and those we love.  We need to be ready with a defense, but also to rescue, comfort, or be a shield to someone under attack.  We need to be determined to hold our position as leaders, husbands, mothers, teachers, and friends.  In short, we need to be #Vigilant.

Vigilant – Keeping a careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties.

Keep your eyes open, everyone.  There is a lot going on out there.

Thanks for reading and following this page.  I appreciate your comments and feedback, and would love to hear from you.  Feel free to share with your friends and don’t forget to like the Facebook Page Relentless Growth for a short daily message to challenge and encourage you.

#ENCOURAGE

We’ve all been there.  You look around and all you see is gray.  The sun can’t shine bright enough, you feel like you are under attack, there is no end in sight, and there is nobody there to help you. Yep. Been there and got the lousy t-shirt.

So, what do we do?  How do we get through?  Where will we find the strength to get out of bed, put on a smile and head out the door to meet a world that we feel is out to get us?  When will this feeling stop? What can we do for ourselves, and what can we do for those we love who feel this way?

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

Webster’s defines the word “encourage” like this:

Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

Jude 1 – A Humble Welcome

So, this is my first entry in my journey to understand (as well as I can) what God has to tell me from the book of Jude.  I’m not a pastor, nor do I hold any theological degrees.  I don’t read Greek or Hebrew, and I have not been to seminary.  So, if you are looking for a definitive understanding of Jude, then I am afraid this may leave you wanting.  I will likely make any formally educated people cringe with some of my word choice or examples, but please know that I write from a heart that seeks to glorify God in my words.

bible-jude4As I said the last time I wrote, I feel that God has brought me to this book for a journey into my own past and to better understand how He has allowed some things in my life for the purpose of helping others.  I might not be the smartest person when it comes to explaining God’s Word, but I can definitely speak of how God’s Word has worked in me through times in my life where I have dealt with some of the same issues I see Jude has experienced.

The plan is to go through each verse individually to break down observations of the passage and then applications for my own life.  My prayer is that I grow and heal, and hopefully share something that can help others do the same.  If my applications work for you, great! I’d love to hear them.  If something else pops up, I would love to hear that too!  Please let me know either in the comments or by e-mail.

First, a little history of Jude: Most likely written by Jude, half-brother of Jesus and full-blooded brother of James.  There are a few other possibilities, but none as widely accepted as this.

  • Probably written after 2 Peter was written and before the fall of Jerusalem (AD 65-70).  Some have placed the time later than that, but again, this is the most commonly accepted time frame.
  • There are similarities and common themes between Jude and 2 Peter. 2 Peter gives warnings of false teachers (apostates) who will come and infiltrate the church to lead people astray.  Jude tells us that they have arrived and we need to be watching for them and be ready to stand against them.
  • Apostates are people who renounce God and His principles.  They present themselves as spiritual, but they have no allegiance to God.  They work in the body of believers as if they too know Christ. Sometimes they are thought to be a person who has walked away from Christ, but in reality, these people never knew Him.  They just learned how to deceitfully follow a script.

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” – Jude 1

Observations:

  • Jude was humble. – He was not a name dropper in the sense that we are familiar with today.  He was half-brother to the Son of God, but he referred to himself as His servant and only claimed his familial link to James (who coincidentally started his letter in much the same way).  He was definitely not trying to puff himself up just because He was also Mary’s son.
  • Jude knew his audience. – He was writing to fellow Christians.  While it might have been written to a specific church, the message applies to all churches past and present.  It was written with both a specificity and a generality that would carry past those days to ours.

He also wanted his audience to know that they are loved by God and kept for Jesus.  These were tumultuous times in the early church.  Persecution was rampant from both Rome and the Jews.  There must have been many who were living in fear and were turning to the church for help and encouragement.  Jude wanted to reassure them that God had not forgotten them.  He was still there!

Application for me:

reengage-lesson-04-humility-is-shyI struggle with humility.  For most of my life I have been looking for some type of praise or notoriety.  I know it is wrong, and it has shown itself in a number of ways:

  • Talking too much
  • Not listening to others as they share their stories
  • Looking for advantages in my relationships
  • Demanding to be right or heard
  • Selfish behavior
  • Attention seeking behavior
  • Tearing people down behind their back
  • Making sure people know about my sacrifices – real as well as perceived
  • Name dropping or claiming affiliations I may not have a solid right to claim
  • How about false humility (Ouch)

Any of these sound familiar?  I would imagine it is a list that many of us can unfortunately claim at one time or another in our lives.  It’s not a list to be proud of.

Jude chose a path of humility in his greeting where he placed Himself where he belonged – as a servant of Christ.  No bells or whistles.  No trumpets or fancy robes.  Just a guy who serves God with his brother and has a message for other servants .

We are heirs with Christ, and I think sometimes as believers we get a little too proud of that pedigree.  We like to get in our circles with other Christians and talk about how blessed we are and how sinful the world is.  When we do that, are we really reflecting the attitude of Christ?  The Son of God who gave up His heavenly throne to come down here and die in order to give us life?  No.  Not even close.

How much better would it be if we made a choice to keep it real and see that we are just people loved by God because He is good, not because we are special?  We aren’t special in and of ourselves.  We are special because of the love of God for us.  Let that sink in.  It’s pretty contradictory to everything we are fed from society today.  It’s not about you.

humility-1So, it isn’t about me.  It’s about God.  It’s about bringing others the message that God has for them.  It’s not about me.  It is about obeying him when He asks something from me.  It’s not about me.  It is about getting to know God better so I can see where He is working and join Him there.  It’s not about me.  It is about reaching out to others to help them know Him more.

I want to live a Relentless Life.  I don’t want it so people can look at me and tell me how wonderful I am.  While that may feel good, it can’t be the goal.  I want to live relentlessly for God because while I can never repay Him for what He has done in my life, I want Him to know I don’t take it for granted.  I want Him to be lifted up.

How about you?  What areas of pride are alive and well in your life?  I mentioned some that I have and sometimes still struggle with, but what is your list like?  What steps do you need to take to get your perspective back where it belongs?  We need to do it, and we can do it together.

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Time to Study

This weekend I have been rattling around the house by myself while my wife and son are in Ohio at Cedarville University.  My son Zach had an audition for a spot in the worship program at the college (Which he got! Way to go, Zach!) and then they are spending the weekend there before bringing my daughter home for Thanksgiving break.  I posted the other day that I was going to make a list of things to do in order to keep me accountable for my time while they were gone, and I would say that things have gone well.

I had the bulk of my list done on Friday with the longer items held for Saturday and today.  The CHRISTmas lights are up, the house has been kept tidy, the garage is clean, the chest in our room has been reconditioned, and while not on the list, I have shoveled a ton of snow this morning!  There is only one thing left to do:8446-shhhhh-quiet-everyone-study-wallpaper

STUDY

Life has been pretty busy lately.  While that seems to be the norm, the intensity of life lately has made it difficult to have any real time to put into studying God’s Word.  I have my daily verse I post, and I get in the occasional Quiet Time, but there has not been any real opportunity for me to just sit down and really dig into anything.  Well, at least not any opportunities I have been willing to recognize in the moment.

So, this weekend I have been trying to use the extra time here at home alone to allow my mind to FOCUS on what I should do.  I started thinking about using this time when I realized I would have it a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to put some serious thought into what God wanted me to get out of it.

As I thought about it, I remembered something I had heard somewhere and then heard it again when my wife also mentioned it several months ago:

Every Christian should determine to become an authority on at least one book of the Bible.

That little thought has been niggling around in the back of my mind for a while.  I tell people that I want Relentless Growth in Christ, and what better way to do that than to really dig in and learn about a book of the Bible so well that through time spent in it I can apply it into every aspect of my life?  The Bible is the avenue to a closer relationship with God, and knowing His Word that well is a life-changing endeavor.

So, while puttering around, completing my list of chores this weekend I have been thinking about where God may be leading me to spend my time studying.  What book of the Bible would be the launchpad for me?  What does He want me to learn?  What does He want me to overcome?  What does He want me to share with others?  Where is He leading this Relentless journey of mine?

As I thought and prayed over it this weekend, I have felt a desire to look into two books.  The reason I chose these books just seemed to become more and more clear as I thought about my life and how God has worked in it over the last 10 years in particular. In some ways, I feel like I have a kinship to the authors as a result of my life.

I have mentioned in the past that I was saved as a young kid, and as a result I have struggled with the feeling that I wasted an opportunity to grow closer to God because my Christian life was basically all I ever knew. I don’t have a real “turn from sin to God” moment.  No radical life change where I left an old me and became a new me.  It was not fully appreciated until after I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class and I finally started to really read and seek to understand the Bible.  Then I realized what I had!

So, as a good old-fashioned Baptist, fully indoctrinated to feel guilt and shame over things I had done wrong and unwilling to forgive myself for past sins, I began to try to learn how God actually wants me to live my life.  It was time to move on past the feelings of missed opportunity to get to know God better as a teenager and young adult, and just get down to the business of knowing Him!  God doesn’t close the window of opportunity to know Him better to His children.

Thinking about that this weekend I began to think about people in the Bible who might have felt the same way.  Eventually (I am slow sometimes), two names came to mind.  They were both men who had similar opportunities to mine to know God REALLY well when they were young, but didn’t take advantage of it in those days.  It wasn’t until later that they fully realized the opportunity they had been given, and then they made the best of it, being willing to be used by God to the point of being the instruments the Holy Spirit used to write two books of the Bible!  Talk about getting it together!

So, who are these guys?  They are half brothers of Christ, James and Judas (Jude).  They grew up alongside the God-man, Jesus, but didn’t fully realize who He was, what He was here to do, and what it really meant for them until later in life.  See the connection?

I have spent time studying James before, but I have never spent any time in Jude other than a quick read.  In truth, I have avoided it because I connect it with a very hard time in my teenage years.  A former pastor used one of the verses in Jude as his “life verse” and  after how he spiritually abused me and many others I have not been willing to give the book much of a look since.  Funny how we blame God for how people mess up…

bible-jude4So, after looking at these two books, reading some commentary about them, and praying about it even more, I feel God is leading me to dig into the book of Jude.  It’s a short book, but I think it is going to be more than just a book to learn.  I think it is going to be an opportunity to dig into some stuff that might be hiding in me over past hurts.  Some bitterness that still needs to be dealt with.  Some confession of anger and forgiveness that needs to occur.

I don’t know exactly what will come of this at this point, but that is the joy of it!  I am open to what God wants me to get, and I am excited to take the journey.

My goal for the rest of the day today is to begin breaking some things down for a framework of study.  Not sure what I will find, but I am excited about it.  I look forward to sharing thing I learn with those interested or those who happen across the blog in days to come.  I’ll to make promises about timetables or schedules, but I do plan on sharing as time permits.

So, time for me to get to work.  I hope in some small way this is an encouragement to others to dig into the Word as well.  We have so much to learn, and are blessed with a God who is so willing to teach.  Dig in.  Be Relentless!

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The Words Coming Out of My Mouth

Here is the second piece I wrote for our church’s Daring Faith campaign.  Feel free to comment and share!

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

wp-1474424742028.jpgAre you like me? Are you a little concerned at times that sharing your faith in Christ might offend someone?  Has it kept you silent in those opportune moments when you have a person in front of you who needs to hear the truth of God’s Word?  Yeah.  Me too, and if we are honest, we all would admit to having those moments.  So how do we change it?

Growing up, I always viewed this verse as a mandate for me to share the Word of God with every unsaved person I meet in order to give them the opportunity to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but is it possible there is more there than that? I think there might be.  I see Paul’s words here in Romans 10 as a challenge to us, just like I was taught, but I also see something that should make us all pause and think for a moment.

What if this verse is talking about my faith as a believer being the catalyst for someone to come to know Christ?

I sometimes feel that sharing my faith will fall on deaf ears or that I might offend, but when I am honest with myself, I think it is more like I am not always able to show a true belief in what I am saying.  I believe in Christ, and I trust Him for my salvation, but my faith in Him is not strong enough to compel someone to ask a question or engage in a conversation.  It’s not that an unsaved person is dependent on anything I bring to the table, but am I making a strong enough case for what Christ is doing in my life that it makes them want the same thing?

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The time I spend in God’s Word has a direct effect on how well I am able to speak to the spiritual needs and concerns of those I come in contact with.  My time in the Word provides insight to situations, points our deficiencies in my character I can address with God’s help, and knowledge to know just how to do those things as God provided His wisdom and the opportunities to use it.

That time in the Word develops my faith in the living God and it keeps Him in the front of my mind.  It gives me strength for the day, and excitement to share what He is doing.  It provides instant recall to His promises and His record of provision.  Having all of this at my fingertips as a result of my time hearing the Word allows me to provide a more compelling testimony to those who are searching.  We might not realize it, but they are always listening for real faith.

That is why I want to be Relentless in my growth as a believer.  I am not going to do it right all of the time, and I will have periods of time when it seems like nothing is happening at all, but I never want to settle.  The actions I take toward knowing Christ better and the experiences I share about how He is working in me are all opportunities for someone to hear that little thing that may draw them to know Christ as well.  It’s not me.  It is Christ using me.

  • Do you have opportunities to share God’s work in your life? Are you capitalizing on them?
  • Are you spending time in the Word on a regular basis?
  • Who can you start talking to about what God did for you this week?

Father, we have a hard time believing those we don’t know, and we have your Word to show us how to know you better.  Help us to take those moments in Your Word and treasure them.  Use them to build our faith as we listen to Your Spirit speaking into our hearts and give us the opportunity and excitement to share Your good news with those who need You.

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On Time – Not Early

I have been asked again  to share some of my writing with my church family in the form of a devotional for our church’s fall campaign.  I thought I would go ahead and share them with anyone else who might be interested in reading them as well.  So, here it is!  I will share the others every other day  until I get through them all.  Hoping by then I have had an opportunity to do some more writing on some of my current thoughts!

On Time – Not Early

timing-is-everythingPhilippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Back in 2010, my job came to an abrupt end on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in April.  I had gone to work that day feeling like I was on top of the world after a very trying time showing my employer that I was the guy they needed in my position.  I had fought hard to meet every demand and had even surpassed their expectations.  I was feeling pretty good, and then I got a phone call telling me that they wanted to meet with me later in the day.

I went home that day in a cab with a little cardboard box on my lap that contained the remnants of 11 years of hard work and a pile of paperwork explaining my severance package.  When I got home to face my wife and kids, all I could say was, “I don’t have to get up in the morning!”

Over the next couple of months, we watched as our savings went away and the job offers did not come in.  Unemployment was taking forever, but the bills showed up right on time.  We managed to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid, and through the generosity of family, friends, and church family, we even had food in the fridge.  It was not looking good, but we always managed to find just enough when we really needed it.

Then the day came when I was leaving to go do some handyman work for some family members that had been paying me $100 a day.  The plan was that I would go and work for two days, but I would spend the night away since gas money was tight.  As I was leaving, my wife looked at me with fear in her eyes and told me that we needed $300 by Monday to make the mortgage payment.  What were we going to do?  I knew that I was going to make $200, but where would the extra come from?

I remember looking her in the eye and saying that I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but God was going to provide it.  I think back to that moment and remember that for some reason I really believed it.  I couldn’t explain it!  After all, it was Friday morning and I was leaving for two days.  What was I thinking?

On my drive downstate I had an hour with myself and I used it talking to God.  I prayed Psalm 27:13 to Him and talked to Him about the fact that my family needed to see His goodness by Monday.  I shed tears, and I praised Him for what He was going to do.  I didn’t know how, but I knew He would take care of it.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13

I spent the next two days under the floor of a cottage crawling around in a damp crawlspace, and finally it was time to go home.  I collected my check, folding it in half and putting it in my pocket without looking at it, hugged goodbye and got in the car to head north.  I was still wondering what the next day might give me in work so I could make that mortgage payment.

wp-1474253527844.pngI got a call from my wife when I was about halfway home.  She asked me if I got paid and I said of course I did as I reached into my pocket to fish out the check.  When I opened it I saw that it had been written for $300 instead of the usual $200.  God had come through with a whole day to spare!

Since that day I’ve seen God do a lot of things “just in the nick of time.”  I have seen how He has changed my level of contentment.  I have seen Him bring me from pride in myself to a dependence on Him.  Our mortgage payment was not made because I went out and really worked hard.  God honored that, but I believe with all of my heart that my mortgage was kept current because I had faith and He held the solution.

  • Where do you need to have a moment of humility so God can work His miracles?
  • Are you willing to truly trust God with the big things and the little things?
  • Do you see worry as a sin that hinders God from working in your life?

Father, sometimes we need to know despair before we can truly know what it feels like to feel dependence on You.  Let my pride be brought low so that I may be in the position of humility before You.  Open my heart and eyes to see You at work in my life, and let my faith grow RELENTLESSLY as I praise You for the mighty things You do!

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