Psalm 101 for 2017

Note to the reader:  If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I am not posting an image here every day here anymore.  I have decided to move daily image posts to my Relentless Growth Facebook page.  You can find that page, like, and follow here.  This page will be reserved for writing moving forward.  Hope to see you in the Facebook world!

wp-1483279541415.jpgOne of the routines I have right now is reading in Psalms every morning before my feet hit the floor.  I don’t do it to be spiritual or to impress anyone.  I do it because I need it!  Since disciplining myself in this way, I find I have a little more grace to extend and a more positive outlook on the hard days as I have a bit of God’s Word rattling around in my mostly empty skull.

Last week I hit on Psalm 101, and after a couple days of looking at it, reading it, and thinking about it, I began to wonder what David’s thoughts were when he wrote it.  I know he was led by the Spirit to write it, but I wonder what the prompt for it was.

Since we were closing in on the end of 2016 and the thoughts of the New Year, goals, plans and dreams were running through my mind, I began to wonder if this was a “New Year’s Resolution” list for David. Is it possible that this was his list of things that he wanted to work on for the upcoming year?

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing more about this chapter and how I wanted to use it for myself in 2017.  Stop and think about it.  This is not a bad list!

  1. I will sing of your love and justice, lord.  I will praise you with songs. – I want to praise God more this year. I want to tell people about His love for me and how He has made changes in this life of mine that He has paid for.
  2. I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. – I want to live a life that doesn’t make people wonder if I am a fake Christian, just putting on a show.  I want people to just believe that God is real to me and that I am the same person in the workplace that I am at home or with my friends. I want to be careful to avoid the things that cause doubts.
  3. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. – I want to protect my eyes from things that are evil. I want to be sure that I am engaging in honest actions with people and avoid anything that will pull me into evil thoughts or actions.
  4. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. – I want to keep my thought life clean and focused on things that give God glory rather than things that give my flesh power.
  5. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. – I want to not only avoid negative talking about others, but also I want to be a voice that speaks up against that behavior.  I want to both be humble and promote humility in others.
  6. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.  – I want to surround myself with people I can trust for encouragement, correction, love, and joy.  I want to help people live and work with a strong moral code.
  7. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. – I want to bring truth to light in my surroundings. I want to use grace and mercy to uncover the deceptions that are around me and  bring a restoration to the circumstances and people involved.
  8. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the lord from their grip. – I want to be on the lookout for evil every day.  Evil is not usually a person, but evil actions need to be addressed for what they are and they need to be stopped.  In all things, I want God to be glorified where His people work and live.

seo-checklistI don’t know if this was David’s list for a New Year, but I do see where I can take this list and use it as an outline for how I would like to act this year.  If I can even make a little progress on it in my life, that will be a good thing!  There is nothing wrong with a single step as long as it is in the right direction!

2017 is a fresh start.  I have made my plans for this year, and in total, they are pretty big plans!  I will need to be Relentless this year in order to accomplish them.  I will need to keep a strong Focus on the goals.  I will need to be Resilient as obstacles pop up and try to pull me off track.

What do you think?  Would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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The Next Chapter Of Life Will Not Be As Sweet

sweets_2623400kLast October I had one of those moments that take your breath away. I wish I could say it was from looking at a beautiful sunset, a display of human compassion, or even the peace of watching the horses in the pasture. It wasn’t. For me, it was a flight of stairs. 10 steps and I was sucking wind like a jet engine.  I was 42 years old and stairs had become the thing I dreaded most. Whether it was the knee that gave constant pain, or the knowledge that I would not be able to talk at the top of the stairs, I had begun to avoid them at all cost.

The next morning after a shower and with  a smile I stepped gingerly on the scale (It is a glass scale, so you will understand my caution in a moment.) to see my situation. I was at the heaviest I have been in my life. Just 3 pounds short of 300. I remember the sense of dread that hit me when I realized I was about to cross over into a world where my weight began with a three. That had not happened since I was 2 years old, and something needed to change. Immediately.

I went to work on it, and started changing my diet. Not huge changes, just being a little more aware of how often I would go back for seconds (or thirds) and not allowing that. I also started eating a salad a day or two a week, and set a hard rule about eating after 9pm. Again, not huge changes, but I was huge, so any change was good!

Results started quickly with me and the first ten pounds were gone in a month or so.  The holidays came next and I got through them with only picking up a couple pounds.  After that I started to average about a pound a week with the occasional stall, but the stall never bothered me as long as it didn’t turn into an upward trend. The stall would result in another little change, and then weight would start to move again. It was going well.

Last Thursday I went in for my annual physical and was actually excited. I had lost 25 pounds and was lighter than I had been in almost 4 years, and felt better than I had in at least that long. The Doc was pleased and we actually did a “high 5” at one point. (If you know my doctor, you would be surprised!) As I was getting ready to leave we briefly discussed the lab work I was about to have done, and how the results of those tests (cholesterol) couldn’t take away from the fact that I had done a good thing and I felt healthier as a result. We left the room with smiles on our faces.

That evening I was at a birthday party for my father-in-law when I got an e-mail to check my patient portal for my test results.  The cholesterol was not bad, but I got a shock I had not been expecting.  There were some bold lines of type with results on my blood sugar and a note from my doctor in all caps telling me I had diabetes and I needed to see him ASAP.  (That sound you heard was the sound of my good feelings being crushed.)

I am a diabetic.

To say that night was a hard night would be an understatement.  I understand now why they offer counseling groups for people who are getting news like this.  It rocked me all the way back on my heels.  I was doing a good job!  I had been losing weight and getting healthier.  Why?  What on earth is going on here?

That night as I lay in bed trying to wrap my head around this while clinging to the encouragement of my wife, I came to the conclusion that there is a reason for this.  God has allowed this into my life for a purpose, and I needed to figure out what it was.  God was good in that He didn’t make me take a long time to do it.  It was pretty obvious to me.

I love to eat.  I don’t just like food.  I love food.  I will sit and think about food I will eat in two hours, for supper tonight, for supper next week!  I will plan how to make sure I get to have the maximum amount of food when it is available even if it means short-changing someone else.  I have shared this sinful pattern before on this blog, but I have not really gotten control of it.  Food has continued to rule my life, and now something is going to need to change.

Things come into our lives for  reason.  Sometimes we get to experience really good things that cause us no pain while giving us the simple pleasure of feeling the love of God.  Sometimes God allows hard things to come into our lives in order to teach us something or to make us realize that we need to stop something or make a better choice.  No matter what is going on in your life, it is there in order for you to look at it and see where God is speaking to you in that moment.

Lying there in bed, I realized that God had allowed this to happen in order to teach me that food is a god that will leave me wanting.  In every way it is temporary, and when fully in control, it is damaging.  It is a substandard god.  It is an unworthy god.  It is a bad god. It was a god that THE God decided I needed to see in a different light.  The next morning I told Tammi that it was like God had just walked in and kicked food off the throne in my heart and said that it had been in His seat for far too long.  It was time for me to learn how good it is to have Him on the throne instead.

The last few days have been a little rough at times.  I’m on a new diet now that has me on a pretty tight leash.  I’m checking my sugar, taking my medicine, and looking at my food in a different way.  I have been very careful, and I have the support of my amazing wife and kids and some good friends and family praying for me as I walk this new path.  It’s a new chapter of my life, and while in some ways it will not be as sweet as it used to be, in others it is already tasting so good!

IMG_20160506_181517I’m still losing weight.  This is a picture of me last summer on our Wyoming vacation where I had not yet hit my peak weight along with me today being down 30 pounds.  I am committed to losing more while controlling my sugar in order to reach a healthy weight.  I’m not sure if God is going to allow me to get off the medication, but right now I believe that is a goal He has allowed in my heart, and I intend to follow it with Relentless determination.

The sugar levels are already moving in the right direction, and my prayer is that when I go to see my doctor in a month, he will tell me that I am on the right track.  It will be three months before I can get my A1C checked again to see just how much movement I have had.  I’m placing that in God’s hands.  He is writing this chapter of my life, and I am open to His direction.  My prayer is first of all to honor Him in this process.  He has placed me here for at least one reason I have already mentioned, but I believe that is going to lead to even more.

I would appreciate your prayers, and I will share my journey with anyone who wants to read or ask questions.  Please keep my wife and family in your prayers as well.  This is something we are all experiencing, not just me.  I am blessed with a family that loves me and is supporting me as we do this together, but I want to show them love and encouragement as well.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to share this with anyone you know who might be encouraged by it.

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Caleb – A Whole-Hearted Man

caleb (1)Imagine with me for a moment.  It is a dry and dusty day on the border of the Promised Land.  40 days earlier, Moses sent 12 men to look at the land of Canaan to see what  was waiting for them there.  Tension is high as everyone keeps looking to the hills to see if they can see any sign of the scouting party.

Finally, there they are! As they draw closer to camp, you can see that they are carrying a huge cluster of grapes.  The fruit is so large it is being carried by two men!  As questions begin to fly, the men report that the story God had told them was true!  This truly is an amazing land that holds vast resources for all the people of Israel.

As excitement fills your heart, you see another man step forward waving his arms.  He begins to speak, and you are told that there are also giants there.  Formidable armies encamped in huge cities that you would never be able to overthrow.  There are enemies wherever you look.  Defeat fills your heart as you hear those words.  How can God do this to you after He promised this paradise?  Anger begins to rise.  Some of it is directed at God, some at Moses, some at these men.  Your doubts and fears are carried along with the rest of the people and soon the noise is palpable.

Wait, who is that?  Another person is stepping forward.  Is that Caleb?  He was one of the men that went to spy out the land.  He is waving his hands and getting people’s attention.  The crowd dies down and Caleb speaks,

“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

7599303_f520Caleb came from the tribe of Judah.  I have found a couple listed meanings of his name.  One meaning is “dog”, – not that flattering – but the other is “whole-hearted” or “all of the heart”.  As names in that culture usually carried great meaning in the  individual’s life, I have to wonder if the name “dog” might have had something to do with a tenacity that he showed as a very young boy.  Maybe when he set his teeth in something, he just would not let go.  I’m not sure, but if you continue to read about Caleb’s life (and we will, Dear Reader), you will see a Relentless determination in him.  He is definitely an “all-in” kind of guy.

Think about what he must have felt as he walked back into the camp with that big cluster of grapes.  The people were all looking at these 12 guys with excitement.  The Bible doesn’t say who spoke first when the scouting party returned. Caleb was the first speaker identified in Numbers 13:30, but I wonder if he and Joshua were the two carrying the grapes.  I wonder if Joshua spoke up with Caleb and told the people about all the good things that were there. What did Caleb think when another member of the scouting party gave the doom and gloom message?  “What are you doing?  Don’t you see you are going to scare them?  We don’t have anything to worry about because we are God’s people!”  Did he throw down the grapes and rush forward yelling for their silence?  All I know for sure is that when Caleb stepped up to speak, the people got quiet enough to hear him.

As we know, they didn’t listen for long.  The people turned on Moses, decided they would ask for a new leader, and it looks like Moses and Aaron appeared to be afraid for their lives as you read the beginning of chapter 14.  It says they fell to their faces in front of the congregation.  Things were looking pretty dicey, and then:

“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” – Numbers 14:6-9 (ESV)

What boldness to step out like that!  These guys knew that God had the entire thing under control.  They knew that He would lead them and that they would have everything God had promised.  They didn’t hesitate to stand up.  They did and said the right thing.

So, as you would expect, the people decided to stone them.  I’ve had days like that…  Just as it looks like they are going to die, God Himself steps in to stop the people, and He is not happy.  God is ready to wipe out the whole bunch of them, Moses ends up begging for the lives of the people, and God lets them live. He punishes the people by telling them that because of their unbelief, everyone over the age of 20 will not see the Promised Land.  Instead, they will wander around the desert for the next 40 years until every last one of them dies.  Well, almost all of them.

 “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” – Numbers 14:24

Caleb had a different spirit.  I think it was that Relentless tenacity of a pitbull that was whole-heartedly determined to follow God.  As God saw Caleb’s heart and actions, He rewarded him for the stand that he had taken for God.  Caleb may fade into the background a bit, but whenever we see him, he is still standing strong and giving it all. Eventually he did enter the Promised Land with Joshua.  He fought for God, and he claimed the promise of God for his family.  The best part is he did it with that same tenacity!

Caleb has been a hero of mine since I was a little guy.  As an adult I see the lessons in his life more clearly, and he has grown even more significant.  He showed a Relentless pursuit of the things God promised, and as he followed God, he was blessed with health and strength for the journey that took him even into his eighties.  I want to be that kind of man.  His name resonates in my heart as a man’s man.  Even more, as God’s man.  One day I would like God to say of me that I was a servant of His with a different spirit because I had followed Him fully.

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Challenges, Not Resolutions

January is here, and with January comes a multitude of decisions, plans, resolutions, promises, and general feelings of intention. Unfortunately, as early as this week, and as late as mid-February, many of those things have been left at the wayside. It happens so often that a lot of people joke about it. As a matter of fact, some people say that the best resolution they have ever made is to not make resolutions! I’m not immune to this tendency to look at the New Year as a blank slate, nor am I one of those that can say that they accomplished what they set out to do with a resolution. Let’s face it, 365 days is a long time!Challenges Road Sign

Over the last few years, I have been looking at life change that does not necessarily coincide with an annual agenda. A yearlong goal just doesn’t speak to me. I need to break things down a little more. In doing this I have seen a better success rate, and that is encouraging to me. Obviously, it is fun to accomplish something, so it just makes sense to set a goal that you can actually reach! Work for it, but make it attainable!

This year I have set some goals for myself that are shorter in term. My hope is that in doing that; I will experience a greater success rate. Who know? It might just work! Set shorter time limits – goals that require work, but not a complete change of life. Do things in a way that I need to do better and work harder, but make it more gradual so it is not such a shock to the system. I guess it is time for an example? I thought you might ask!

Chronological-Study-BibleChronological Bible Reading – I have mentioned this in several of my posts lately, but this is a big challenge that I am not going to tie to a calendar. I am keeping track of my start date and look forward to seeing how long it takes to get through it, but I am not tied to a timetable. The important thing in this personal challenge is that every day I read, I will take the time to journal about what God is telling me in His Word.

The whole purpose of this method of study is just for me to see the flow of the Bible and see where the prophetic pieces fit in better and thereby get a deeper insight into why they say some of the things they say. Knowing how the Bible flows will probably give me a better grasp on God’s story of redemption and that is a story that I have developed a real love for over the last few years.

Do-Over-Cover-210-Day Do-Over Challenge by John Acuff – I stumbled across this one on Facebook, and decided that I would give it a try. 10 days! How hard can that be? It asks you to devote 10 minutes a day to a personal challenge of your own choosing, whether something that you messed up in the past and you want to do over (there would be the origin of the catchy title of the challenge), or something that you have always wanted to do. You get to decide what you want to do with it based on some questions and challenges that are fairly generic, but will produce a good result if you go all in.

I am looking at this challenge as the catalyst for something I have wanted to do for the last year or so. I want to write a book. I have some ideas floating around in my head for topics, but nothing is concrete yet. This challenge has already got my mind going in several different directions, and I am excited about how it is staying very important to me. I am already talking to some people that will be mentors and encouragement for me on this journey, and my prayer is that it will happen in the next couple of years. No solid date, as I have a lot to learn, and I like a plan before I get rollin’!

30daysbmlogoThe Art of Manliness 30-Day Challenge – Okay, let’s throw out a disclaimer first off. I do not agree with everything you will find at the Art of Manliness website. However, I believe that there is some fantastic stuff there, and I see it as a very relevant source of information on some of the things that are missing in men we see around us today. They talk about honor, humility, discipline, relationships, marriage, courage, DIY topics, exercise, and politics, as well as lighter fare like personal grooming, fashion, and the art of tie-tying and choice of hats.

When I saw this challenge, I thought, “Why not?” I might learn a thing or two. Six days in, and I have been impressed. Again, not a biblical challenge, but some good stuff there all the same. One of the very first things they did in this challenge was to challenge me to come up with a personal list of core values. The fundamental things that we treasure above all else. Your values are the laws of your life, and through them you will make all your important decisions about anything and everything. This is not light thinking! I was challenged deeply by this simple act, and next week’s blog will talk about what I came up with as a result of that particular day’s challenge.

As I start this year, I am probably spending more time thinking about my life, my impact on others, and my plan for growth than I ever have before. The neat thing is that I am not feeling a great pressure of a year hanging over my head. I’ve committed myself to a life of change and growth. That is vague, and not very effective for goal setting, but when you set a goal like that, the rest is up to you in how you do it. It has given me freedom to look at things a little differently. There is a huge goal, but I am able to meet it in small steps.

A 10-day challenge has already turned into something that I might be working on for the next couple of years, but it starts with accomplishing simple 10 day goal. A 30-day challenge has already made me look at how I view the most important things in my life, and it did it on the first day. A study of the Bible is something that you can never really finish, but what an amazing change it has made in my life.

It’s a new year. I want to finish it a better man than I started it. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I know that I am committed to a Relentless Growth in Christ. These challenges are tools that I have chosen to help me in that goal. They are my tools, and the results I see will be because of what I put into them. Your tools may be different, and your results will be different too, but if you are Relentless in your pursuit of growth in Christ and as a person, I guarantee you will see a result.

I’d love to hear what you are doing this year to grow. I don’t have all the answers, and once my initial challenges are over, I will be ready for another one! Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below, or e-mail them to myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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Just Call Me “Stretch”

stretchStretching is a good thing. It allows muscles and joints to work better. It can alleviate pain, and improve mobility. It is a necessary thing for growth in other aspects of our lives. Think about your education, your relationships, and your work. Stretching is a good thing!

Unless you take it too far. Stretching can also tear things. Stretching without proper understanding of limitations and abilities can cause harm. Think about a time when you went out and stretched yourself and got hurt in a relationship, a work experience. Stretching without understanding can be a very bad thing.

Recently God has been stretching me in some new ways. Work has been a very stretchy experience, and at times I think it is not all good, but I can say that I am learning how to better adapt to that stress, and I have gotten better at saying an unpopular word, “No!” I can’t, nor should I, say it all the time, but I am getting a little bit better at it.

God has been stretching my leadership as well. Not only at work, but at home, church, and with my group of guys. It has been great to see so much change lately in those areas, and it seems like it is all happening at once, but I know that it is just the results of little change that has been happening for a while.

I think the area that God has been stretching the most lately has been in my willingness. Yes. I stopped at willingness. Not a willingness to do something in particular, but just in my ability to be willing. Ask my wife. She’ll tell you that I have been a very unwilling person in some pretty significant areas in my life. Just in the last year or so, I have been willing to let go of some things in order to have an open hand that can receive or grab on to something new.

Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it is a control issue that I am known for. I like to be in control and that is just pretty much all that needs to be said about it. If I am in control then I get to be the one that decides how, when, and where something should be done. The downside of that is that I don’t have anyone to blame if something goes south, but I still get to control the timetable so I can say I will get back to that.

But I have had a lot of things happen in the last 4-5 years that have been completely out of my control. (Or at least my illusion of control, but that is a whole ‘nuther topic!) Over this last half decade I have been at times thrust into a stretch that I had not intended. Ever did the splits on ice? That hurts! Those stretches have been difficult, but I am starting to understand that there was a value in them.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Those painful stretches I have had are actually a part of God’s plan for my life. They have made me over (in some capacity) to be a person that can handle a little more than the guy I used to be. I’m not Superman or anything, and you will not see me doing a Jean Claude VanDamme split in any sense of the image, but I am now a more willing man.

Why do I bring this up? What would be the purpose of telling you about stretching? Well, it looks like God might be asking me to stretch again. I’m not sure, and I am praying hard about it, but God has put something in my path that I need to think about, pray about, and do some digging into in order to see if it is something I need to just step around, or if He put it there for me to go over.

Going around is always easy, and it doesn’t require much of a stretch. Going over can be problematic as it is difficult, requires stretching and trust, and to top it off, I am afraid of heights! I tell my kids that the hard choice is usually the right choice, and that is true, but sometimes the right choice, teh wise choice,  is backing away and stepping around something that could hurt you.

I don’t know what choice will take place. There is a lot I need to know. It will take some investigating to see what God might have to say about it. One thing I do know is that I want to be that willing man that is Relentless is his pursuit of God, and is Relentless about being where God wants him to be. You see, going over or around is not the most important thing. Stretching me is a good thing if I am smack dab in the middle of the plan God has for me. Taking the hard route over or the easy route around makes no difference if I am not in God’s will.

So, pray for me and my wife as we are praying. We want to be, as our friends Joe and Traci say, “Extraordinary” people. (I call it Relentless, but the thoughts are pretty much the same) God is good, and I know He wants what is best for me as I grow in Him.

He wants the same for you too. If you would like to know more about how to know Him and begin your own journey of Relentless living, I would love to talk to you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Valor: Sometimes Getting You To Step Up Requires A Push

468758345_640One of the stories from the Bible that I have always loved is the story of Gideon.  It is the ultimate story of God reaching down and taking a guy who appears to be the least likely of leaders and turning him into a warrior with the honor of leading the original 300.  I’ve heard and read the story a hundred times, but like so many times lately when I read God’s Word I am seeing something new.

The Call of Gideon

 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

– Judges 6:11-16

Valor is defined as “boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle.”  Not exactly the words you would think of using when describing a guy who is hiding in a winepress thrashing some wheat where he won’t be seen.  Nevertheless, that is what the angel of the Lord called him.  That just really stood out to me when I read it.  “Man of valor?”  Why would Gideon be described that way? I used to think it was God speaking through the angel with a little sarcastic tone in His voice. (We do tend to make God into our own image…)  As I thought about it more, I began to think more about the people involved here and what they were doing.

Gideon – Hiding from his enemies, but still working.  I don’t know if he was thrashing this grain for himself, his family, or for someone else, but in the middle of this oppression from the Midianites, he was still doing something rather than just sitting around and crying for help.

The Angel – Sent on a mission to deliver a message.  Was the angel of the Lord actually Christ?  Not sure. Doesn’t really matter for the sake of the account.  The angel was there to do as it had been told, speak truth to Gideon.

God – The Creator of all mankind, the Jehovah God of the Israelite nation.  All powerful, and all knowing.

The more I thought about it, I realized that when the angel spoke God’s words to Gideon, he was not speaking of the Gideon that stood before him.  He was speaking of the warrior inside him.  Even in the act of grinding out wheat in a secret place, he was acting with a determination to do something.  I believe God had been looking at the nation of Israel to find the one who would lead His people into battle, and Gideon was just the guy He was looking for.

When the angel spoke, Gideon’s fear and frustration came out.  “With us?  What do you mean God is with us?  Look around!  I’m scraping together a little wheat for bread, and who knows when I will get caught? I’ve heard all the stories of how great God is, but where is He now?  He is the one who put us in this mess with Midian.”  Bold words.  Possibly foolish words, but God saw the heart.  He could see the determination in Gideon, and He wanted to draw that out.

Telling Gideon to go fight Midian on his own was God’s way to help Gideon understand that not only did God know the abilities of Gideon, but He also wanted Gideon to know that He knew Gideon understood his own limitations.  “Fight on your own, Gideon, and you will fall, but I am not sending you out alone.  Go with ME, and the entire army of Midian will fall as if it was a single man.”

Time and again in God’s Word we see Him use the lowly, the weak, the unassuming to do great things.  God does this to bring the glory where it belongs – to Him!  That is what we are created to do, and when we surrender our desires and our fears to allow ourselves to be used by God, He will do great things with us.  It is our opportunity to join Him in His plan, His will, and sometimes, His miracles.  Sometimes He just needs to come along and give us a little push.

I believe God used Gideon because he was doing something.  It wasn’t a big thing, but it was something.  That heart, that attitude is what God is looking for.  He wants to see us determined. He wants to see us being Relentless about something.  If we are moving and wanting to be used, God will use us!

I’ve had some very hard times over the years that have shaken my faith.  At times I have wondered about God much like Gideon did.  I just wanted to find a place to curl up and give up.  It is just too hard.  I quit… I never could completely quit though.  Call it faith, stubbornness, habit, or whatever you want, but I kept trying to at least do something.  I wish I could always say that I had nothing but God’s glory in mind, but it was usually not much more than maintaining the status quo as much as possible.  Just keep on truckin’.

Whenever those moments would come, God would send someone along to say something though.  It would be just the right thing to spark that determination in me again.  The words would be there to give me hope, and in that hope I would dig into God and His Word, see His truth, His power, His promises, and I would be able to do something through Him that I could never accomplish on my own.

Valor is a word we don’t hear much anymore, but maybe we need to resurrect it.  A life of Relentless Growth should be a life of valor. I know it is what I want in my life, and I want it for my son and my brothers in Christ.  I’m not sure what God is going to do with me through the rest of my life, and there will be times that He will need to give me a push to get it rolling, but I hope that God will look on me as a man of valor.  I hope I can influence others to that as well.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Press On!

keep-pressing-onWow. It’s been a whole year since I put up this post about turning 40. I turned 41 today. Again, wow! I am constantly surprised at the way time seems to speed up as the years go by. I look in the mirror and see so much gray hair on my head (at least I still have hair) and in my beard. I look at my little kids and see a young lady that will graduate a year from now and a young man that just keeps getting bigger and stronger. Where did those little toothless cuties go?
I said last year that I wanted to finish well. I still do. There are a lot of things that I have been thinking about, dreaming about, and working on. This last year seems to have been fairly pivotal in that regard. I’m not saying that I have made all the necessary changes or that the work here is complete, but there seems to be much more going on, and the directions are becoming a little clearer.
This year has been a year of growth in a lot of aspects, and I am seeing some of the stuff that I have been working toward (and have been frustrated by) start to make forward progress. The work has felt substantial, the time involved has been immense, the prayer regarding has been huge, and the progress had seemed to be right on the cusp of nothing.
Then something started to happen. Things that I have been trying to accomplish in my relationships started to fall into place. Things I have been working on with my family and relating to them have started to improve. The relationships I have with people at work are starting to grow.
The things I have been getting out of God’s Word have been deeper, richer, and have satisfied my heart in ways that they never have before. I’ve been able to partner with people on spiritual matters that are difficult to navigate. I’ve had a stronger desire to pray for people and see God work in their lives.
So, what has changed that would make that possible? Not much. Honestly, I can’t say that I have really changed much of anything I have done over the last year. I had plans to do more, to reach farther, to do bigger things, but I never did them. So, what has happened?
In April Tammi and I had the opportunity to go to a couple’s retreat taught by my friend Joe and his wife Traci. (You can read more about them here and here) They presented a great seminar on how the little things we do that seem insignificant will eventually add up to something huge. They talked about how it happens in our marriages, how investing the time it takes to give her a look, or to ask her about her day, or unrolling your shirtsleeves and putting your socks in the hamper right side out really matter toward growth in your marriage.
The principles apply in the other aspects of our lives too. The little things we do that seem to be insignificant really do add up. The problem is we keep getting caught up in the big things. We feel like if we are putting in major time on something we should see a major return for it, but often the important things just take time. They don’t come together fast.
There is one thing I have been focusing on for the past four years, and those closest to me know what that is. I’m not going to go into those details here, but over the last four years I have been frustrated more often than not in regards to this “project”. It has been heavy on my heart and mind, and there has been no progress. Until about a month ago.
About a month ago things started to percolate a bit, and I was noticing it, but not really seeing it. (Not sure if that makes sense, but it works in my head, so roll with me here.) The other day I was talking about this with my wife and I was a little excited and she looked at me and said, “Don’t you see it is finally happening? You are finally seeing the result of all of the work you put into it. You are just getting something different than you were originally thinking it would be.” She’s a smart lady.
As I thought about it, I realized just how right she was. God has been blessing the work that I was doing even when I thought that nothing was happening. Something is becoming visible as a result of the work that was not visible. And I didn’t even see it. Maybe that is a good thing.
I say a good thing because I tend to worry, doubt, and need to be in control. Now that I see something is happening I am very concerned that Satan will attack it. It’s a real fear, but I need to step back and not let it take control. You see, God did something while I wasn’t looking, and I believe that if I just keep doing the things He has asked me to do in this, He will continue to bless it and make it grow. I need to keep going and not get distracted by things – even success.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 3:13-14

This thing that has happened is not mine. It belongs to God. If God wants to make it a success, then it will be. I am not a factor in that success, but I believe God has allowed me to be a part of His work, and I am thankful for the opportunity to give Him the glory for it.
Relentless Growth is just “keeping on keeping on”. Paul called it pressing on toward the goal. Sometimes it seems like the horizon on our journey never gets any closer, but one small step at a time we get there. We just gotta keep pressing on.
What are you pressing toward? What do you want to see happen for God? Stay in His Word. Stay close to His people. Be Relentless!

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Blank Slates and Buried Hatchets

etchASketchYou are my king and my God.  You command the victories for your people.  Only by Your power can we push back our enemies; only in Your name can we trample our foes.  I do not trust my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.

Psalm 44:4-6

2014 is here!  Are we all excited?  I’m not sure why, but I always feel a little bit of excitement when the new year hits.  It could be that “clean slate” feeling of a year that is unmarred by mistakes.  Possibilities are there that are just waiting for me to grab and enjoy.  The date of January 1 just makes me feel like I did as a kid and I gave my Etch-a Sketch a really good shaking – Everything is reset! what can I do with this?

I think reality hits somewhere around the 5th of January.  I am finally getting back into the groove after the holidays, vacations are too far away to start getting excited, and I am locked in my house for the winter.  It gives me a chance to think a little more about the year behind as well as the year ahead.

I started a little early this year in my look back. 2013 was a very busy year.  We had a ton of fun on some trips that we took over the summer.  We saw some pretty radical changes in our jobs.  We watched our kids take some big steps as young adults.  God saw fit to bless us in some big ways too.

We also had to deal with some tough stuff.  We had some friends that moved away. We had some pretty significant vehicle problems.  We had friends that had to deal with the loss of a loved one.  We experienced some rough spots with some friends.  Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.

“Things are not always “fun” in life, but nobody ever promised it would be.”

One of the tough things about life is relationships.  Sometimes they are a lot of fun, but other times… You know what I mean.  We all have people in our lives that can cause us some discomfort, irritation, or annoyance, but it is not very often that we would put someone squarely in the category of “enemy”.  Over the last few years, I have been dealing with a person I would put in that category.  Dealing with this person has shown me a real area of character development that I have needed, and while I would not begin to call it a strength, it is getting stronger.

My enemy seemed to do whatever they could to set me up in order to tear me down.  It seemed like every time I would be around them, I would have to keep my eyes open for that bus that I would inevitably be thrown under.  It made things very hard.  Not only was it hard to deal with that person, but with anyone associated with that person.  Every word that came out of my mouth needed to be tempered, filtered, sanitized, and clarified so that it would HOPEFULLY not come back to cut me at the ankles.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not overcome this bad relationship.  No matter what I did, I could not win over this enemy.  I would plan, act, assess, adapt, and act again.  I would confront and then retreat to lick my wounds.  I would avoid in hopes of not being forced into an argument.  Everything I did blew up in my face.  I finally gave up, accepted that I could do nothing, and did the only thing that was left for me to do.

I prayed.  I prayed a lot.  I’m not talking about lofty King James Version type prayers that are meant for inspiration and comfort.  These were gritty King David prayers where I was almost asking for bones to be broken and the blood of my enemies to run cold at the sound of God’s voice coming to my defense.  Were they selfish prayers?  Maybe a little at first.

“I prayed.  I prayed a lot.”

As time went on the prayers changed as I changed.  The prayers started as a childish whine, begging God to step in and fix this because I didn’t like how it made me feel.  I was being mistreated, and I hated it.  I was angry that I was in the situation with this person, and I saw the entire thing as unfair.  As time went on, I began to see things in a different light. I was not angry anymore.  I was just tired.  I had given my all, and I had come up short.  It was a hard pill to swallow.  I didn’t want justice anymore, I was just praying for God to show me the way out.  I wanted peace, and I wanted Him to take me away.  He had another plan.

As the months went by, I just kept praying that I would do the things that God has asked me to do.  I would not look for trouble.  I would not antagonize, I would turn the other cheek, I would not avoid or give reason to doubt me.  I was honest, kind, and supportive to this person.  It was not because I was trying an angle.  I was just trying to be as Christ like as I could with my enemy.  I figured Christ was perfect, and was crucified, and since I am not perfect, anything less than an actual crucifixion would be okay.

This past year, something finally changed.  My enemy changed.  While they still may not be a close friend, I can honestly say that I no longer see them as someone who is out to bring me harm.  I have enjoyed some great conversations with them that have given me a reassurance that they now see me in a different light as well.  I have a peace with them that did not come through me.

You might argue that I did the right things, and that is why things worked out, but I don’t believe that.  I had used my bow. I had used my sword.  I had used all the strength I had in me, and I came up short.  The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God.  He gave me the victory.

“The only thing I did right was that I stayed under the load and gave the fight to God.”

I’m not saying there aren’t times to fight.  There are.  As I look ahead to this “blank slate” of a year, I already see some looming battles on the horizon.  Most of them will be battles that will be waged privately with my own selfish desires, but there are more coming.  I can’t say I see enemies, but I see opportunities to stand and do the right thing.  I see chances to speak the truth in love where it may not be wanted.  I see struggle, and I have a choice to make.

I have a weakness in me that demands my voice to be heard and my rights to be upheld.  I seek justice for myself and the conviction of those who have brought things against me.  That is not the man I want to be.  That is not Christ.

I want to be relentless in my growth in Christ.  I want to go after the things He has for my life with all the power I have.  But I also need to remember that there are battles that I will be involved in where my role is to endure as God does the work around me even while I am hurting.  It will take discipline, hard work, sweat, and probably some tears. I’m not going to give up though.  I have had the taste of a victory.

In HIS Grip,

Tom

 

Relentless Determination

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

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

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

A relentless spirit.

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

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

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

– 1 Samuel 17:32-37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, this is my battle cry:

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

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

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

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

In HIS Grip,

Tom

What’s In A Name?

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

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

re·lent·less  (r-lntls)

adj.

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

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

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

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

In HIS Grip,

Tom