Race Is Not the Problem. It Is a Symptom.

3.-Root-causeYesterday I heard the information unfold about the shooting of police officers in Dallas.  11 injured and 5 dead at the hands of one man who felt he needed to set something right.  This act was the result of two very publicized deaths of two black men in the past week.  I have watched a lot of video and read a lot of articles, and I am emotionally battered and bruised as a result of all of it.

There are a lot of hurting hearts out there today.  I speak not only of the families of those officers, but also of the families of the men who were killed by police.  No matter which side of the law those killed were on, their families are hurting today, grieving the loss of loved ones.  In that, all are equal.  I pray for God’s peace for them.  I also pray for an end of this.

Our country is sick right now yet we continue to look for a solution to the illness my treating the symptoms of the illness.  We add laws and programs. We spout rhetoric and demands.  We speak of rights and injustice. We point fingers and call for action.  What has it done?  Have we seen improvement?  No.  We might see momentary calm, but then the sickness returns stronger than ever and seemingly immune to things that once held it at bay.

I would like to say that I am angry, but I am at that point that we come to after anger and outrage.  I am almost in a state of complete despair regarding the future of our country and its ability to maintain any type of unity.  We are divided, and as long as we stay that way, things will continue to decline until the point that there is nothing left that is good, sacred, or safe.

So, what brought this on?  How did we get here?  Is this because of economic inequality, social class, race, educational opportunities, or bigotry?  Which of these or a hundred other things have brought us here?  Honestly I don’t think it is any of them.  They are just symptoms of the bigger problem.  The sickness is evil and it has been around a long time.  We like to think that we always recognize it, but it has been growing under different guises, hiding behind symptoms, building its strength and weakening our nation.

America is still a great place to be, and I am proud to be an American.  We have freedom like no other nation in the world.  It was sought out for that freedom by the Pilgrims, and then it was fought for by the early colonists. It has been defended through wars, both here on our land to deliver freedom to those in slavery, and abroad to give a part of our freedom to other countries that were in dire need.  Freedom is a good thing.  It is important to us and is should be defended, but in it I feel that evil has been allowed to flourish.

I think that in our pursuit of happiness and protection of so many of our rights, we have given birth to the most dangerous symptom of evil in our country – moral relativism.  The belief that what is right and wrong is based on my view of the world in any given moment.  When this type of mentality gets played out, it leads to one person’s “rights” being more important than another person’s “rights”.  Then, if those two “rights” are inherently opposed to each other we get conflict.  Over time, that conflict grows and becomes something out of control.  Here we are.

How has this happened?  I think C.S. Lewis summed it up quite well in the post below:

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Saw this quote yesterday paired with an image of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  While that is a whole different discussion, I think it applies very well to a discussion on how evil has been able to thrive under the guise of freedom and the development of moral relativism.  Satan likes to see us in a state of reaction because reaction is generally done without thought.  It takes us places we might not have gone if we had spent some time contemplating the issue and searching for what we truly need – truth.

We can list all kinds of things we see around us that live in the extremes and we can react to them with a total opposite action.  There are always going to be extremes.  There is crime, but that does not mean we should have police brutality.  There has been police brutality, but that does not mean we should have open season on police.  There has been racism, but that does not mean reverse racism is an answer.  There has been gender inequality, but that does not mean we should erase gender.  Answering an extreme with an extreme does nothing more than tear down the moral fabric of our country.

I know it is easy for me to sit here and type these words as if I can solve the problems all over our country.  I am not that naive.  I also know that there will be people who may be upset by my words, thinking I am minimizing the effects of heinous acts in both directions.  I apologize if I make you feel that way.  My intent is not to belittle anyone in this.  I merely want to point out that it is time that we take a stand and stop talking about the symptoms as if they are all that matter.  We need to take the fight to the disease!

What if everyone in the country stopped their arguing for a day about who was right and who was wrong?  What if we just stopped and asked the question, “What is right and what is wrong?”  Remove the person from the equation because people will have differing views.  We must have a proper understanding of what is good and what is evil before we can agree on how to move forward.  If we aren’t all playing by the same rules then we will never play well together.

God’s Word used to be seen as a yardstick to hold right and wrong up against.  For me, it still is.  The Word of God is not only true, it is True.  The standard.  The thing that all should be measured against.  It is a measure of how we should treat our families, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, our employees, and how we should conduct ourselves in society.  If we could go back to holding up Truth as the standard instead of a person’s beliefs then we would finally be able to start rebuilding the damaged relationships in this country.

I am not saying we need to throw out our laws.  we need them because we will always have evil. We will always have those who will try to lift their agendas above all others.  We can’t let that stand in the way of putting things right again though.  We must stand and do the right thing.

I know I am a white guy from northern Michigan who grew up in a little town that has literally had almost no ethnic diversity for most of my life.  I also know that as I have grown up we have had crime.  We have had murders. We have had theft.  We have had violent behavior, and it has happened on both sides of the law.  I can also say that it has been committed almost solely by white people.  Does that mean that white people are the problem?  No.  Not any more than crime in a predominately black, hispanic, asian or any other ethnic area is indicative of crime being attributed solely to their color or nationality.  The problem is that we are all PEOPLE. We are people and we sin by doing evil things.  Evil is the problem, not skin tone.

My heart breaks for the fear and anxiety in the world today.  I have not said much about it, and I am not going to pick a side because the lines are so boldly drawn and far apart that there is simply too much room for ambiguity and falsehood to wreak all kinds of havoc on both sides of the issues.  I cannot choose one over the other because I think that sometimes both sides in any issue are wrong.  Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. and if we can find it, we will be free to live our lives as God so desperately wants us to live.

Jesus Christ is that Truth.  He came so we could have that life we all want. An abundant and rich life.  A life that our founding fathers really had in mind when they penned the words “pursuit of happiness”.  I am not saying this is a Christian nation, but I am saying that it was founded on biblical principles because they saw and understood the Truth in God’s Word.  They saw that following those rules would give us our best shot at the happiness and freedoms we were designed for by God to have through a relationship with Him.  They wanted us to have freedom through those principles because in the principles of God’s Word, true freedom is found.

I have been challenged in my devotional reading yesterday that it is important to realize when enough is enough and it is time to stand up and say what needs to be said.  If I am going toe Relentless in my life, then that is what I need to do.  I want to be a man of God, obedient to Him and reaching out to those around me with Truth.  Not my truth. God’s Truth. So, today I am calling out those who read this to do the same.

1 Corinthians 16:13 says:

“Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

So, how about it?  Do I stand alone, or will you stand with me to pull back the cover that shrouds evil?  Are you willing to look past the symptoms that are tearing us apart and Relentlessly seek the root cause of the decay we are experiencing around us?

Let’s stand up.  Speak Truth into the circumstances around us. Pray for our country. Pray for our families.  Pray for a return to Truth.

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Those Pastor’s Kids…

12821566_922719921179919_8072265062176788583_nI saw this picture on social media the other day. At first glance it made me laugh because I grew up in church and I have seen the extremes that often take place, and seeing the anti-hero Deadpool compared to the virtuous Captain America seemed to be an apt comparison.

As a son of a former deacon, I felt like I could laugh about this picture because of the stereotype that exists there, and even though people don’t like stereotypes, they exist because in many cases, they are true. Not always, but often enough that you can have a snicker from time to time over them. The Pastor’s kids got in trouble because the whole church was watching them The deacon’s kids probably got it the worst from the other deacons more than anyone else. We were a different group, but still in the mix.

After seeing this and thinking about it, I started to see different faces from my childhood – kids from school and church and how they “turned out”. Often they did swing to one of these extremes – “good guy” or “bad guy”. Whoa. Where am I in that mix?

Looking at the two extremes is just a part of the story. You also need to look at where a kid is in the process. They don’t just become Deadpool or Captain America. It’s a process. Some of it takes a long time, and sometimes, time is the best way to help us see where that person might land. I’m not saying I’m Captain America now, but I can say that there was a time that a fairly decent crowd might have considered me well on my way to being a Deadpool! Time was a good thing as it allowed God to work in me. Time is working in a lot of kids right now.

Since time is working on them, we might be better not to judge those kids we see out there. They might be dealing with some issues we don’t know about. They might have more on the ball than we give them credit for. We may have an unrealistic expectation for that kid, or we might just think they should be a little more mature than they really are.

At the end of the day, I don’t see this as a good person or as a bad person. I see them as two very different attitudes. In a way that is a little reassuring, but at the same time, it is a little scary. If it is an attitude, then it can be changed. It is not a defining thing unless you decide to leave it that way. Once you have slipped down a slope, it is harder to get back up. Doesn’t mean quit, but it will be hard.

Anyway, back to the attitudes. Here is how I see them:

Deadpool – “This is who I am. I’m not changing for you or anyone else. My reasons? Why should I try? Nobody expects anything better out of me, and being better than I am is more work than I am prepared to give. It will never be enough to satisfy those people. I know I could do better, but this is how they see me. So, I am just going to embrace it. This is all there is.”

There is so much potential in a Deadpool. So many things that could be done, but self is chosen over others or even a goal. Opportunities are missed, Potential is unrealized, relationships are hurt and sometime destroyed. There are glimpses of heroism from time to time, but they are tempered by a fear form those closest that they will soon decline again.

Captain America – “I might not be the best person for the job, but the job needs to be done, so I am here to do it. I’m willing to go the distance to help another person. I want people to live free and happy. I can follow directions, but I am willing to lead as well. I make mistakes, and I am trying to be better. I’m not satisfied at just being who I am, I want to be better in order to help those who need it”

There is a humility in a Captain America. They may be as gifted or even less gifted than a Deadpool, but they are not focused on themselves. They are focused on others. They are not settling for who they are, they want to grow and develop new skills. They have down times where they feel like they have failed, but they do not let those moments define them. They get back up and keep going because they see the goal is worth the effort even if those around them do not.

The pastor’s kids really aren’t any different than the rest of us; they just live under the microscope. Take any cross section out there and if you just want to take a snapshot of that moment in time, you will see the extremes, but the reality is that there is a near constant swing in kids as they are figuring out who they will be. Personally I see a lot more Captain Americas start showing up around the late twenties and early thirties. Life has a way of helping you see things in a different way.

There were a lot of comments and a lot of Scripture being taken out of context where I saw this pic. I saw a ton of legalistic talk, and I felt ashamed by that. It’s easy to draw lines sometimes when you don’t really know what you are talking about. I’ve never been a PK. Never felt the stress of living up to an expectation that I didn’t ask to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be held to a higher standard though…

I see that photo now as a warning to me. How do I look at people around me? We all have an internal struggle, and we will choose whether to take that struggle and use it as an opportunity to serve ourselves or to serve God. I hope that people see me as a guy who is Relentless in his drive to grow and make the right choice. I hope they see my failures as pivotal moments for me to stand up smarter, and stronger for the struggle rather than weak for failing. I hope I see the same in those around me.

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Looking Back

no-looking-back1We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20.  Choices and actions, once played out, dispense wisdom that would have proven useful at the time!  Even things planned with great care and thought can turn into major disasters when we leave some “minor” or “impossible” factor out of our thought process.

Case in point – the Titanic. In 1907 the White Star Line was watching their fleet begin to age, they began to plan for their next ships.  They wanted the new ships to be larger, faster, and more luxurious for their passengers. After a year of planning, the ship’s designs were approved.  After that, it was almost 4 years before the Titanic was ready to make her maiden journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Deemed “unsinkable”, she was a testament to man’s ability to create wondrous things.

So much planning and work went into getting the Titanic from being an idea, to putting it on paper, and finally getting her into the water.  The result?  1500 people died.  In hindsight, a few things could have been done a little differently:

  • The number of lifeboats should not have been reduced
  • The crew should have been better trained in evacuation procedures as some of the boats were launched barely half full
  • Warnings about ice in the area were ignored
  • The ship ran at full-steam even though visual conditions were poor

1,500 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, but if these things had been carried out, who knows how many might have lived?  Even if the iceberg had still been struck, any of those four things would likely have reduced the loss of life.

It’s easy to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback – especially with the mistakes that other people make, but how often do we sit down and do it with ourselves? It’s not fun to drag up our own mess and pick through it to find things we should have done better.  It brings feelings of guilt or shame, and none of us want that.  If we’re really lucky we might get that occasional treat and blame someone else though! Dig a little deeper and we will always see that the blame we put on others will most often still lead to a missed opportunity to make a better decision.

I don’t want to go through my life pretending that my mistakes didn’t happen, and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people that refuses to learn from them. It has been said that experience is the best teacher, but I can say that somebody else’s experience can be just as good if we are paying attention – and it hurts a lot less.

Relentless Living is taking the time to look into your past, see the things that you did, and pull the lessons from them.  Leave the guilt, the blame, and the shame in the past, but bring out the wisdom from the experience and use it for the things you currently face, store it away for the things you will face in the future.  Make right what needs to be made right and then get back to living!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this blog lately.  How often do I post?  How often should I post? Is anyone really interested in what I post?  How long should a post be? (I know I have given some long ones lately – sorry about that…)  I decided that I want to start doing something differently.

My new goal is to write something small once or twice a week that is a reflection on a mistake made, or a lesson learned.  I want to take the time to ask myself the questions, “What would I do differently if I could go back and do it over again?” or “What do I wish someone had told me about that before I messed up?”  It should be fun.  Then I will try for one post a week that is more like what I have been doing.

I don’t want to say that the tragedy of the Titanic was a good thing, but it did change how the shipping industry did things after that.  Lessons were learned, and behaviors changed.  That is what I am hoping to do here.  I want to change for the better, and I want that for anyone reading this too.  More importantly, God wants it for us!  That is why He sent His Son to die for us and gives us the Holy Spirit to reside in us.  He wants to help us sort through our decisions, both good and bad, and grow.

So, I hope to see you back here in a day or two!

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Core Value #1 – God

GodIn going through the process of determining my core values, I had a lot of things cross my mind.  There are so many thing that are out there vying of my attention, and many of them are really good things!  How am I supposed to settle down and figure out what the most important things in my life are going to be?  If only there was a place that could tell me how I should look at the different responsibilities, opportunities, and amusements that cross my path.

Well…

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Okay, so that clears that up!  Christ tells His followers that the most important thing they can look for in life is to find ways to grow closer to God and do work for His kingdom.  That is where things should start.  Anything else goes somewhere else.  (That’s kinda what “first” means – at least as I read it…)

So, what does it look like to seek the kingdom of God first?  This kingdom of God is not here.  It is something we are not going to see in our lifetime. (I will wait a second for that joke to settle in…that should be enough.)  The kingdom of God comes later, and right now we are in the middle of our now!  And righteousness?  Isn’t that what a lot of religious people claim to have when they are really just looking down on other people?  Frankly, no.  The kingdom and the righteousness of God we are supposed to be seeking are found in how we live our lives, and that probably means that something needs to change.  More than likely more than one thing!

1.  Start thinking differently.  – Our natural way of thinking is to seek first the kingdom of “insert your name here.”  I want what matters to me, and if all goes well, that might not bring you any harm or discomfort, but if it does, I can probably live with that.  After all, I got mine, right?  That would be fine, but that is the way of man, and that path will lead to an empty end. Instead we need to live as if we are standing before the face of God.  That is different thinking!

In thinking differently we start to look at the things in our lives that are taking the place of God.  They might be some good things like a nice house, a green lawn, a nice car,a wife and 2.3 kids.  It could be a college education, a football game with friends, or a family vacation.  All good things, but when they take the place of God as first in our lives, they become bad things.  The Bible has a name for that – IDOLS.  As I have borrowed from Mark Driscoll before, and yes, I think he understands this more than ever now, “When a good thing becomes a god thing, that’s a bad thing.”  Anything that takes the place of God is bad.  It’s not debatable.

When I think about some of the things I want to do, I need to stop and ask myself if doing it is going to keep me from or hurt my relationship with God.  If it does, then it is a bad thing.  When I want to say something to someone that I think they really need to hear, I need to ask myself if this is going to bring them closer to understanding their need for a relationship with God.  If it doesn’t, it could be a bad thing.  When I allow something to take up my time I need to ask myself if it is going to help myself or someone else know God and understand His Word better.  If it doesn’t, it might be a bad thing.

Not all things are bad things, but when they are running my life, they are not good things.  They have become little “g” gods that pull me from doing the things I should be doing as a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, a friend, an employee and so on.  I need to examine the things in my life that I think about and figure out how they impact kingdom work.  When I start thinking about the kingdom the next step comes in.

2. Start acting differently. – When I am looking at my actions with God in mind, I start to see changes that need to be made.  that requires me to make a decision.  Do I do the right thing, or do I decide to just do what I want?  The easy thing to do is to just keep going along.  You have a groove and you stay in it.  That is a guaranteed way to fail.  The thinking that got us where we were is not going to take us to a better place.  It is not going to take us to the kingdom, and it is not going to lead us toward righteous living.

Righteous living is just living in the presence of God and following His direction.  It is not perfection, and it is not judgement of others.  It is an honest assessment of the things that I am doing in light of the example of Christ, and giving them up in favor of acting more like Him!  I fail!  I mess up!  I sin!  I don’t get things right, but still I am in a Relentless pursuit of His righteousness.  I am looking at the way I treat people at work, the people I am friends with, the people I am not friends with!  What do my actions in front of them say about the God that I serve? Sometime they say what I want them to say, but other times…

coram“Coram Deo” means to stand before the face of God.  That’s what we are talking about here.  Living with a mindset that is in constant acknowledgment that we are living in the presence of God.  He sees everything, hears everything, and knows everything. This should not make us live in guilt, shame or fear, but it should encourage us to do well. To experience His grace as we extend it to others.  It should comfort when we are in pain or are scared.  It should strengthen when we feel weak.  God  is here!  Are we looking for Him?

I’d like to day that I have this down.  Nope.  Working on it though.  Relentless Growth means that you can look at your weaknesses in the presence of God and seek His help.  He carries us through the struggles, trials, and temptations.  God must be my number one value, because without Him, my attempts to do well in the other areas I value will be a pale comparison to what they can be through Him.

Thanks for reading.

Tom

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Core Values

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I promised you last week that I would tell you about one of the things I learned from a challenge I have taken this month.  The first day of the challenge I was asked to define my core values.  I thought I had them in hand, but as I sat and really thought about them, I realized that I needed to look at this a little more closely.  The challenge had some good reasons to do this that I wanted to share with you.

Core Values are the things in your life that act as your compass when the way seems unclear.  You might not know what is right or wrong in a situation, but if you have your bedrock values, you can hold your situation up to them and see a more definitive path.  When we make determinations that way, we are better able to remove some of the fickle attitudes or desires that come and go in our lives.

Defining our values gives us purpose. – If you don’t have a destination in mind then you will just go anywhere.  The Bible backs that up quite well in The book of Proverbs:

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I do not want to live a life of turmoil.  The path of my life may have some rough spots in it, but it is a lot easier to endure a difficult day of travel when you have a destination mapped out.

Defining our values prevents us from making bad choices – Don’t get me wrong.  we will still make mistakes, but this should keep us from making any really BIG ones.  Knowing exactly what is important to you and breaking it down to its details will allow you to make decisions more easily when things are a little fuzzy because you have your values to all back on. If you are about to take action in something that conflicts with your values it will give you an unhappy feeling, and that should help you stop!

Defining our values give us confidence – When we really think about something and take the time to internalize what it means to us, we become more confident in what we are going to do about it.  We gain a courage to take the next step because we have thought it out, and we can make the choice with commitment.  Writing them down helps us with that!

Defining our values makes life more simple – If you know what you value, then you can make difficult choices more easily.  You just ask, “Is this a conflict?”  If the answer is no, then you go for it.  If it is, then find another way.  It sounds too simple, but some of the simplest things in life are the best. Much of the confusion in our lives is there simply because we haven’t sat down and really thought about what we want.

So, how do I do this?  What steps are necessary to make a list of core values?  Well, it is going to take some work, but when you take the time to do it, you will see the world a little more clearly.  Some of the fog begins to lift where things have been undefined or have lacked priorities. In the end, you see a framework of what really matters to you, and you can then begin to build on that.  Dress it up to reflect who you want to be, and then you will have the clear boundaries to help you be that person.  So, here we go!

  1. Get relaxed. – This should take some time, and unless you have some type of martyr-like mentality, you should be comfortable as you sit down and think things through.  Do whatever works for you, but get your stress level down before you begin. It will help you think more clearly.  Take a walk, a nap, read a book, do whatever you need to do to minimize the mental noise.
  2. Have your tools. – WRITE IT DOWN!  Paper and pen/pencil are necessary for this.  You need to scribble things out and have a visual cue of decisions being made as you whittle this down to the things that really matter.  There is an element of sorting here that cannot truly be appreciated with a “backspace” button. (I say that and I am a guy that would rather use a keyboard for almost anything!)  Also, there is something about the activity of pen on paper that just feels more binding.  Can’t explain it, but that’s the way it is!
  3. Ask, “What is truly important to me?” – This is not a question to be asked lightly.  It takes guts.  Think about the things that make you happiest, most satisfied.  Maybe you will need to think about the things that make you the most angry or currently cause you the most frustration or confusion.  Answers maybe in there that you will need to sort through to make a solid list.
  4. Write down EVERYTHING that pops is your head. – As you get the words out on paper it allows others ideas to take shape.  There is nothing wrong with a big list.  The more you have there to work with, the more likely you will find the things that matter to you the most.
  5. If you have more than five values, you have too many! –  I know, you just did a bunch of work and went all the way to the back of your brain for ideas, and now I am asking you to cut it back to five.  Make it the five that really speak to your heart.  It needs to be the five things that you know you could not live without.  When you can’t decide, just put two of them against each other and ask which one matters most.  Eventually you will work the number down.  Trust me. Five is enough!
  6. Make the biggest deal the biggest deal! – You have got to prioritize them.  Rank them from most important to 5th least important.  We can even have conflict within the five things that matter most to us.  If we consciously put an order to our top five, then we can look again to our values when we are having a conflict of priority.

This type of exercise is being presented to us every day – particularly in the business world.  We need our values to guide our actions and our attitudes in order to be better in our careers.  Is that the only reason to do it?  Is this a recent idea?  I don’t think so.

Christ spoke in the book of Luke about what it takes to be a disciple.  He was actually warning them that being His disciple was not just showing up for church or sitting and reading the Bible.  It requires work, sacrifice, a Relentless desire to be made over in His image and lead others to the same!  It is going to cost us:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

– Luke 14:28

One of the ways we count the cost is to determine what we hold dearest to us.  What are we willing to fight for, and what are we willing to let go?  Do we put enough value in certain areas of our lives that we can give over to Christ?  Are we willing to look hard at ourselves and see our deficiencies and give them to Christ so He can make us strong in them?

Your values can and will change over time.  This is a great exercise for a person committed to Relentless Growth, and one that I will be doing every couple of years form now on.  Call it a “recalibration.”  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my top five and why I chose them, as well as how I hope to see them work themselves out in my life.

How about you?  Are you up to the challenge of picking your values?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to comment or message me privately at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com.

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Into the Pain

sad-manToday I was brought face-to-face with the pain of another person. They had just moments before experienced a great loss. As I listened I came to the realization that I had no words that could even begin to match the pain in that moment. More than anything I did not want to sound trite, or portray a sympathy that was not up to the pain they were feeling.

 
My world lately has had a lot of struggle in it. I have been facing some things in my life I need to change, and facing how to manage some of the things I cannot change. Stress has been high, and I have often felt lately that it would be easier to not care as much about things or people. If I didn’t care, then I wouldn’t have stress or pain. How sad. I’m not proud of that.

 
So, how does God react to these feelings I have had lately? He puts me right in the middle of a moment where I am forced to make a choice between caring and not. A choice between serving myself or serving others. A choice to be like Him or to be like me. I would be lying if I said I was happy for the opportunity.

 
As I knelt there before a breaking heart, all I could do was ask how Jesus would enter into this room and handle this. So many thoughts and words flooded my mind as I thought of His wisdom, His insight, His training. Then it hit me. I don’t think He would have given a statement of belief, a course of action, or a “word of encouragement”. He would have just joined them in their pain.

 
Casting Crowns has a fantastic song that speaks to this type of thing. There aren’t always words that need to be said. Answers are not clear, or it might be too early for them. What do you do then? You just love them like Jesus does. Take a moment and listen to the song.

John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

 
The single most defining characteristic by which a believer should be known is their love for others. Their ability to enter into another person’s pain willingly just to show that God is there for them in that moment, and we are His ambassador when all looks so dark.

 
I’ve had the opportunity to do this in the past and I have failed. I did not fail because I did it wrong. I failed because I chose not to do it. I decided someone else would be better, smarter, more compelling or understood. The only thing someone else was “more” of than me was loving. They didn’t think of what it might cost them, they just reacted as Christ would. Open arms and an open heart.

 
Today, I chose to enter into pain. It hurt. My heart is absolutely broken for them. I shared tears, and I continue to do so. I don’t pretend to feel what they feel, but I know I feel a genuine pain for them. I am praying for their situation and for God to bring comfort and peace, and to use me where He sees fit in it.

 
Relentless living means not taking that easy way out. It means entering into the pain with another to help hold them up. To show them that even while answers may be hard to see, the love of Christ can be evident in us, and to paraphrase the Beatles, “HIS love is all you need.”

 
Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep – > Grow Strong

Who Are You? Really?

I’ve been talking in my last couple posts about identity.  It seems like it has been coming up everywhere I look.  When I saw this video today I had to watch it, and I wanted to share it.  I’m not saying I have had all of the same thoughts that they so cleverly portray in the clip, but they do a great job of showing some of the things that many of us struggle with.

I have been getting some great insights about my identity from the book I have been reading,  but I have been getting more out of the reading I have been doing in my Bible.

Reading through Ephesians paragraph by paragraph has been challenging me to look at my identity in Christ in a way I never have before. I find myself asking the question, “Who are you?” many times through the day before I make a choice.  I think that is starting to force me to think about my decisions a little more.

I think the second question hits me even harder though.  After I ask the question, I allow an answer and then I pause…  After a couple of heartbeats I then ask, “Really?”  That is the harder question to answer. (I know you are thinking, “He talks to himself too much.  Probably needs some mental help.” You are probably right.)

I am rightReally?

I am hungryReally?

I am in chargeReally?

I am too tiredReally?

I am giving it all I can – Really?

Asking who I am is not always going to be fun.  It gives me a snapshot of where I am in that moment, and frankly, even on my best days it can be like lipstick on a pig.

What I am is redeemed.  What I am is valued.  What I am is growing. What I am is learning.  What I am is FORGIVEN.  What I am is a child of God.

Stopping and thinking about that gives me the strength to make a good choice. The choice may be something that benefits me in some way, or it might benefit someone else.  The important thing is that I take the time to think about it.

My choice is not always easy, but when I really think about it, there is only one choice I have to make.  Do I want to be relentless in my desire to grow in Christ? There is the filter that everything must pass through.

Who am I?    Really?

How about you?

In HIS Grip,

Tom