#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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Where Did the Joy Go?

Erosion.  Webster’s defines it as “the gradual destruction or diminution of something.”  Some of the more common uses of the word revolve around water and wind erosion of the soil.  Often a natural event, but there are times when erosion takes place due to the actions of mankind.

hqdefaultI would imagine that when the house in this picture was completed, there was no thought given to it eventually ending up like this.  Most likely they were filled with joy at having a new home with a beautiful ocean view and promises of sunsets and enjoyment for years to come.  The thought of it falling into the ocean could not have been further from their mind.

I am reading a devotional right now by Tim Walter called Proceeding On: Discovering the Gospel in the Corps of Discovery.  It follows the expedition of Lewis and Clark – their pursuit to find the source of the Missouri River and their hope that it would lead to a connection to the Pacific Ocean.  That was not to be, but they did make the journey across the country experiencing hardship after hardship in the pursuit of their quest.

At times the expedition was under such great duress that they must have thought they would never make it.  The joy of the adventure was gone.  They were now simply enduring the next day as they trudged forward.  Hope kept them moving, but sometimes hope is only enough to keep the feet moving, not enough to keep a spring in the step.

Finally, they made it to the Pacific.  I can only imagine the joy that must have flooded back into their hearts and minds after such a long and hard trip.  William Clark recounted it in his journals using these words:

“Ocean in view! Oh the Joy!  That great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to see!” – William Clark, 1805

The journey was hard not because of any singular obstacle they faced, but because of the many they faced one after another.  No single event could have robbed them of their desire to move forward.  No single event could have eroded their spirits.  It was the repeated difficulties of the journey that took it away much like the crashing waves and blowing wind took away the sand that held that house up.  It never happens all at once, and there are opportunities to set things right before all is lost.

The devotional talks about how I could be experiencing the joy that I felt in the day I accepted Christ as my Savior.  He asks me to reflect on that and ask myself if I am remembering the feeling of the Holy Spirit working in me and asking God to restore that feeling in me as I go through life.  It got me thinking pretty hard about it and taking stock of where I am right now versus where I have been in the past.

As far as remembering the joy of the day I accepted Christ, I was about 4 years old, and I mainly remember a feeling of relief that I would be avoiding Hell!  Sure I was happy about it, but at that age, I would say that I was pretty sure that I was more relieved at getting out of the biggest punishment I could imagine at that time.  Obviously, as I grew up, the enormity of that decision became clear, and it means so much more to me that I have gained something so much greater than anything I have avoided!

So, as a Follower of Christ for almost 40 years, I can sadly look back on my life now and see the ebb and flow of experiencing joy in my salvation. The joy in my salvation has experienced some rough storms, had the foundations of it battered and beaten, and at times I have wondered if it would hold.

While I can look back and see times that things were bad, I can always see that the foundation held.  The troubles, doubts, and fears of life worked as hard as they could to undermine it and take away my hopes of holding on.  The sand around that foundation might have been friends, family, finances, work, or health, and there have been times that they all felt like they had been washed away, but the foundation held because it was built of something stronger – Christ.

Being a Christian is not an easy life.  Jesus didn’t promise to save me from trouble.  If He was about avoiding trouble, He probably would not have died in such a horrific manner.  He promised to be with me during the hard times, to help me hang on when I feel like I am about to go over the edge.

No matter how bad things may have felt, I had my Bible and the words of The Living God to give me stability and protection.  The storms raged, and it felt like more things were washing away, my joy seemed to be gone or at least diminished to the point it was hard to see or feel, but the reason for joy was still there, and it held until the storm stopped and things could be set right again.

I love how Tim put it in his devotional:

“There is no greater tragedy in the Christian walk than the loss of joy in our salvation.  This tragedy does not occur at a special time, but it comes slowly, over the daily battles we fight as we follow Jesus.”

It is in the minutia of our daily walk where we can win or lose the battle to keep our joy.  Allowing the stress of work to build, allowing a relationship to fade, or to let fear reign over safety or finances.  These are the places where the battle takes place – the subtle moments that are all easily defeated by the knowledge that God keeps His promises to us.  They only have power against us when they are not dealt with one at a time and are allowed to claw away at our joy a small piece at a time.

Tim used this verse from Psalms to encourage me today:

“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12

It should be the prayer of every believer.  Calling out to God to keep the joy of our salvation alive is a necessity in Relentless Living.  It can’t be something that waits until things get bad, we need to be aware and focused on that daily as our safeguard against despair and fear.

So, how about you?  How is your joy?  Do you remember what it was like to be joyful in your salvation?  If you are like me, you struggle from time to time, but that is okay.  I’m in one of those moments right now, and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is sustaining me as I get through this, and that I am able to see today that I can experience that joy on a daily basis.

I feel a bit like Clark today as I have been reminded that I have reached that shore!  Salvation is mine, and I am so thankful for the gift, and for the experience of the hard times that make that gift even more precious!

51nsihkrf8lIf you would like to enjoy this devotional like I am, here is the link on Amazon.  I have not met Tim, but I hope to meet him one day and thank him personally for the encouragement I have been receiving from his insights into God’s Word and the glimpse into history as well.  I feel like Lewis and Clark were a little bit Relentless, and I want to be the same in my Christian walk, and this book is a great tool for it!  A big thanks to my friend Joe from Overboard Ministries for putting it in my my hand!

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Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

jco_richard-petty-motorsports43_1043.  I am 43.  Today I am 43 years old.  The geek in me wants to say that I am over 43 due to the leap year factor, but for sake of argument, we will just simplify this and say that today is the day.  Ready to start a new year with some new perspective.

The past year has brought a lot of change with it.  A year ago I was not the father of a college student.  I was seeing more transition in my job duties.  My son wasn’t sporting a beard.  Areas of life had less stress.  Areas of life had more stress!  People have come into and gone out of my life.  Relationships have grown stronger.  My thoughts have become heavier.  Then, to top it off, as I posted last week, I now have diabetes to consider.

Much has changed, and that is a good thing.  Change is a necessary part of life, and it is an integral part of a Relentless Life.  Without change, things grow stagnant, sour, weak, and irrelevant.  I don’t want that.  There are still things to do, things to see, things to experience and share.

I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about my life.  Specifically, about how my actions affect the future for myself and others.  Obviously I am experiencing some of what my passion for food has done to my body, and how I must make change in order to correct as much of that as I can, but there have been other actions that are having affects on me and those around me as well. Some of them need to be changed in some way or another if there is to be growth.  The FOCUS needs to shift if there is going to be growth.

Whether you are interested in them or not, here are some of my thoughts on things I would like to have a better grip on before I hit the “double 4”.

My Family – Things are changing in our home as our daughter leaves for college in the fall and our son is going to finish high school and has entered the work force before he leaves for college next year.  Tammi and I are going to be spending more time as we started – just the two of us.  There are going to be new ways I will need to adapt to the needs of my family in these new circumstances.  I want them to see that I love and care for them not in the way that is convenient for me, but in the way that they need it.

My Health – As of today I am down 32.5 pounds with a goal of another 34.5.  My blood pressure is dropping with the weight, and I am hoping to get off that medication by next year.  Praying to see the blood sugar straighten out with the changes in diet as well.  So odd that in the middle of feeling so good and healthy from losing weight I find I have a whole different problem, but like I said here, I think it is more of a spiritual issue than a a health issue.

My Friendships – The last year or so has bought me into closer relationships with a group of good and godly men.  I want to work harder at making those friendships grow deeper and stronger.  There are things I had done that I need to get back to doing, and there are thing I need to start doing that I never have done!  A good friend is not something to be ignored.

My Work – God has put a task before me, and I want to honor Him in that.  There is an aspect of worship to God in my work that I cannot ignore.  I need to remember that I am always serving Him in the things that I do, and hopefully that will make the rough times better.  I also will be more intentional about how I can provide for my family outside of my main job.

My Faith – Over the last year I have been more intentional about my time with God, and I don’t want that to change.  I need that time with Him to keep my heart right and my head clear.  The time I spend in God’s Word gives me purpose and courage to take hard steps in all aspects of life.  God gets the glory for what He is doing, and I get the joy of being able to have a front row seat in His plan.

grumpy-old-man-list-card-19I get a lot of ribbing from a buddy of mine about being old.  That’s OK.  I’m finally at an age where I am starting to see how my decisions can play out. I have enough life experience that before I do a stupid thing I get that feeling that I have been here before! Sometimes it even stops me from doing it!!!  I guess that is the benefit of age though, and I hope my mistakes, experiences, and thoughts are a help to someone else.

What are you going to do with your next trip around the sun?  Be Relentless in it.  Feel free to share this post and I would be happy to hear your comments either below or e-mail at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com!

 

 

Peer Pressure Takes You Into Deeper Water

6eb331d6f9d0cd92b16c97d232202e10a558612a7c73382d025a538efc98e2a8_1Just wanted to share a quick thought from my Bible Study this morning.  Reading about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ I read the passage where Pilate has Christ standing before him and he is caught between what he believes to be the right thing to do and the will of the people.

“From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” – John 19:12

The devotional goes on to tell a story of a mother who sits her son down to give him some advice:

“If you are running with the wrong crowd, then you are the wrong crowd. Don’t expect to stay out of trouble if you are putting yourself in places where trouble can be found.”

Pilate was a man with power, but it was limited power.  He had attained a position that brought benefits as long as he kept Caesar happy, but part of keeping Caesar happy required that he keep the Jews happy-ish.  There was an inherent struggle there that made that aspect of the job quite difficult, and then Jesus enters the scene and brings all kinds of upheaval to the Jewish leaders.

All the people following Jesus caused the Jewish leaders to feel threatened which made them start looking for a way to take Jesus down.  They were stuck, so they used the only real tool they had – Pilate and the Roman Empire.  As we know, eventually Pilate caves in and order Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate is the perfect example of a guy who knew the right thing to do, but let the external influences dictate his decision.  He was a smart guy, able to see exactly what was happening, but he feared for his standing in the eyes of Caesar and the Jewish people.  He caved in.

I’m not looking down on him for that though.  Not my position to judge, and who knows what I might have done in the same situation?  What I am saying is that in looking at him I can see a warning against the damaging effects of peer pressure.  It can take you to a place where you KNOW you are doing the wrong thing just because of the pressure from those around you.

If I want to have a Relentless Life, I need to make sure that when I am in a tough spot, I take the time to:

  1. Pray – I need wisdom, strength, and protection to make a good choice
  2. Remember – What does God say about the situation?  What guidelines are in the Word to help me make a right choice?
  3. Pray again – For the words to say that will rightly articulate my decision to do the right thing without bringing pain to the situation.
  4. Speak/Act – Do what needs to be done in obedience to God
  5. Pray again – That God will get praise and glory for my right actions, and that He will forgive me where I may have allowed my own agenda to take control.

Peer Pressure is something we all face, but if we take the time to pray and think before we act, we will see Relentless Growth come out of it!

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