#ENCOURAGE

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

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

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

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

Check Your Mirror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do?

build-a-pc-checklist-featured-imageSo, as of this morning I am going to be a bachelor for a long weekend.  Other than making sure none of the 4-legged beasts here at Tanner Manor go without food or water, keeping the place tidy, and putting up CHRISTmas lights, I have a pretty responsibility free time ahead of me.  I guess that is supposed to be the trade off of having those I love most being away for a short time.  Some might think it is great, but I am not looking forward to the empty house.

Old farm houses are too quiet when there are no people banging around in them.  I’m a big guy and do a fair job at making my own amount of racket, but it’s just not the same.  There is a gentle feeling of warmth and love when you know there is someone in the next room or upstairs.  (I’m not afraid my house is haunted – really!)

So, to battle the empty feeling in the house and the expanse of extra time, I am going to make a list of things to do this weekend to keep me busy and out of trouble.  It would be nice if the weather forecast this weekend was not calling for  a cold snap and snow storm, but I will have at least that window to hopefully get the lights all up before it gets too nasty outside.  Beyond that I need some indoor entertainment/activity that will be more productive than just testing the resiliency of the couch cushions.

So, at some point today I am going to make a little list and get myself organized to do some stuff I have been putting off or have not been able to have time to do.  I just want to be sure I am using my time well, not getting bored and sitting with a plate, bag, or box of food in front of the TV the whole time.

So, this blog post is going to serve as a form of accountability.  By putting this up, I am letting the ENTIRE WORLD WIDE WEB know that I have some free time that I need to be productive with.  I will welcome people who read this to ask me what I did with it next week. (That should generate at least 2’s and 3’s of comments!) If I want to be able to feel good about my answer then I better do something!

Paul said in his letter to the church at Thessalonica:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

That’s usually all I need to do the right thing.  Just a little admonishment, encouragement, help, and patience.  When I am provided with that, I tend to rise to the occasion.  I bet most of you do too.  It’s not that we set out to fail, or that we don’t care.  Sometimes we just need a nudge, or the reminder that someone is counting on us.

So today, let me encourage you!  Make a list.  Leave it out so people can see it and be willing to answer for it.  Don’t be defensive, just be accountable!

Take it a step further and encourage someone else today to do something  they have talked about.  Give them a  smile, a hand, a pat on the back. You just might change their day!

Relentless Living by definition cannot be idle.  We need to be passionate about moving forward and growing every single day!  Even the days where things seem to pull us down (talking to myself again here), we need to keep driving because we might be the encouragement for someone else.

So, I’m off to work now. Got a lot to do today and a list to make.  Have a good day!

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Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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Loving Pain

painThere are a lot of words we can use to describe heartache.  Despair, discouragement, stress, struggles, difficulties, trials, loss, hurt, and probably a few more before we even get into the actual causes of some of those heartaches.  Words like death, divorce, job loss, financial calamity, and acts of nature all bring a tug at our hearts because we all know someone that has experienced one or more of these even if we have been able to avoid them ourselves.  The one thing they all have in common is that they all bring some sort of pain into our lives.

Why?  Why are we asked to face these things?  It goes back to the old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  Why do innocent people suffer?  Why are we given these portions of pain that we must carry?

The simple, old-fashioned, answer is that we live in a fallen world. There is evil in the world that mankind introduced with his first sinful act. (Yes, I said his.  Adam failed his wife before she ever took a bite.)  Because of that, sin did enter the world and as a result, we are not living in the perfect, hazard free environment of the Garden of Eden.  The question I ask after that though is “What is the point of it then?”

I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question over the years, and I don’t want to sound cynical, but it is hard to hear them when you are in the middle of the pain.  They sound trite.  They sound too easy.  They sound insincere when the person has no idea what kind of pain you are dealing with.

A couple days ago, I stumbled across an article on Fox News that linked to an interview of Steven Colbert for GQ magazine.  Joel  Lovell interviewed Colbert about several different things, but one part of the interview really stood out to me as Colbert talked about the loss of his father and brothers when he was 10 years old.  Colbert was the youngest of eleven kids, and after the tragedy, he was the only child left at home with his mother.
Stephen-ColbertLovell asked Colbert how he could have suffered the losses in his life, but somehow still arrived where he is today, about to take over the microphone for the legend, David Letterman.  The thing that struck Lovell was not that Colbert did not exhibit anger or open woundedness, but that he appears to be “genuinely grounded and joyful.”  Colbert answered by stating that he did not want people to  think this was a pat answer, but it was because of his mom.
Colbert lost his father and two closest brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old.  He would go on later in the article to say that it was “a bomb” that went off in his life.  In the aftermath he watched his mom cope with the loss, and the thing that hit him the most was that she was not bitter.  He said, “by her example I am not bitter.  By her example.  She was not.  Broken, yes. Bitter, no.”  He said he thinks that she drew on her faith in those horrible days of grief so that she would not be swallowed by it.  He also said that her faith may have been what allowed her “to recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy…what is sorrow in the light of eternity?”  What a phenomenal example for a mother to give to her son! To be open and honest with the pain, but also showing that it need not take over your life.

As Colbert continues, he shares that we need to remember that acceptance of a terrible thing is not the same as being defeated by it.  We need to be real and accept that a bad thing happened.  The “bomb” went off, and it caused a huge explosion, but he said that he learned to love the bomb because of what he learned through it from his mother.  He said. “That is why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons on-stage.  It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

Tolkien believed that death was not a punishment from God, but that it was a gift. God’s desire to give us a way back to Him makes that true!  Colbert echoes that belief today when he asks, “What punishments from God are not gifts?”  I believe that he really understands the crux of this through this last quote, “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude.  It doesn’t mean you want it.  I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

Let’s face it, we all have faced, are facing, or will face something terrible in our lives at some point.  It isn’t that God hates us, or that He has given up on us.  He has simply allowed it into our lives for the purpose of telling the story of His redemptive work in His most prized creation – us.  We go through things so we can help people go through things so they can help people go through things too, and it is all because God is working in hearts and minds for His glory and to help us grow.  That’s it.

I’m personally watching some people go through some of these things right now.  Some are near the point of coming out of the bad time, others have been in it for awhile now, and one in particular has just entered it.  I have also been able to see them all reaching out to each other for help or to give prayer support, and even to thank God for allowing them to suffer a similar situation so they could fully understand the hurt of another!  That is the answer to the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  It gives us the opportunity to be the hands of Christ in the life of another.

fogging-bombRelentless people living Relentless lives.  People who can see the importance of hurt, not to be a martyr or to gain sympathy, but for the expressed purpose of using it to help another.  I can say I have been on both sides of it, and it brings back all the pain when you enter into it with someone else, but I know the power of the love that flows from that person into me when I see that pain in their eyes as they share their hurt not to show me how they have gotten through it, but to show me that I can get through it.

So, the next time a “bomb” drops in your life, remember Steve Colbert’s words, “You gotta love the bomb.”  Remember these words too:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (ESV)

He has a purpose for each of us. Sometimes it will involve pain.  Embrace it. You will never know who God is planning for you to help one day.

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Hands and Heart – Part 2

unnamedI guess when I posted the first part of this blog, most people would have rightly assumed that the second part would come next.  Sorry about that, but as a loyal reader, you are now being rewarded for your patience with me!

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have probably seen a few posts from your friends using the Timehop app.  Timehop is an app that accesses your Facebook and Twitter feeds to bring up the things that you posted on the present day in history.  It is a nice little window into what you may have been thinking about, sharing with others, or in the case of many, the pictures of what you ate.

A couple of days ago my Timehop hit on a post from 5 years ago.  It was a Facebook post where I mentioned a trip I had to take down to Big Rapids to meet with my District Manager and Zone Manager with Kellogg’s.  It was not a good meeting.  In that meeting I was cut apart, had my character questioned, and was told that I was not a good employee.  They had all kinds of papers and charts to show how their numbers proved it, but many of those numbers were twisted and out of context to the point that they were terribly untrue.  The problem was, I was not in the position to make the rules.  I left that meeting on probation.

On my drive home that day I remember battling feelings of depression, anger, doubt, and fear.  I needed this job.  It was a good job, and if I had been allowed to run it the way that my customers were asking me to do things, I could have been very successful at it for them, the company and for myself.  The problem was, I didn’t make the rules, and I was not honest enough with myself to admit that I felt miserable in that job.  By the time I got home I had closed my fist as tightly as possible around the false security of that job though.  I refused to let go.

I went to work with a renewed vigor and did whatever it took to meet the demands that had been placed on me.  They were unrealistic and required me to work as many as 16 hours a day at times.  I decided it was worth it though.  It was something I refused to let go of.  I put myself in a position where I was unwilling to look at anything other than what I wanted, and that was to hold that job.

Over the next several weeks I will probably share some more of how God took me through the process of His opening my hand.  It will be a bittersweet journey for me.  I don’t like to remember the pain, but I do enjoy looking back and seeing how God worked things out and brought me to a better place.

The journey taught me the importance of letting God have access to what is in my hands.  I could close them like a fist and keep things, or I could open them to His purposes and see what He wanted to do.  It sounds easier than it is.  I felt like after God opened my hands through losing that job I was pretty much all set.  When you have had your hands opened up like I did, you are reluctant to hold tight again any time soon.

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The problem was that I didn’t open up all the way.  I had a couple fingers that were still closed.  They couldn’t hold much, but in my heart I was still hanging onto things that I didn’t want God to have.  Some of them were just things I was unwilling to trust Him to handle.  Did I think He couldn’t? No.  I just wanted that feeling of control in an environment where I had almost none.  I had so much taken from me in a short period of time, and I had such a tenuous grip on the rest that I was living in fear.

I was blessed to have a supportive wife who built into me and was also an example for me as we went through that time.  Through her, I saw an openhanded example, and while it took me a lot longer to grasp it, I believe that she was the one that planted that seed.

I also had a mentor and some friends who showed me how they lived an openhanded life, and as I spent more time with them and in my Bible I began to come face to face with the fact that I was still living a selfish life.  I didn’t have as many things to be selfish about, but I was clinging to what I had left!   Funny to think that I was hanging on to things so hard even then.

Over the last year I have learned that the key to joy in the Christian life is in the simple phrase “Thy will be done.”  When I give myself  over to what God wants, open my hands to whatever He deems right to put there, allow Him to remove the things that should be gone, I will be a happier person.  It might be painful at times, but the result has always proven to be better for me.

Relentless Growth is living in the pursuit of a relationship with God. The way to do that is to approach Him with a humble, open spirit, willing to accept what He has for your life.  It is a willingness to ask God to give me the desires of my heart that are in line with what He wants for me.  A willingness to accept what might feel hard for a time in order to receive a blessing over time.

Relentless Living requires open hands and an open heart.  I know I still stumble in this, but I have some great people that help me in it, and God keeps showing me opportunities to grow.

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Support Systems: Men Need Them Too

Aaron-and-HurToday I read in my Bible the story of Israel fighting the nation of Amalek in Exodus 17.  The children of Israel had not been long out of the land of Egypt, and the journey was starting to feel a little rough on some of them.  They had been hungry and God provided Manna for them to eat, they were thirsty and God had Moses whack a rock so they could have water.  Moses has already had one talk with God about these people he was leading to Canaan, and frankly, Moses was ready to hand them over.  Now they were going to face a battle too!

In verses 8 and following we read about this battle.  The army of Amalek came out to fight.  We see no real reason other than Israel was walking through their land, and when about a million people walk through your yard, you feel like fighting.  So, Moses gives the battle plan to Joshua that he should go out and fight Amalek the next day.  Moses’ part in the battle will be to stand on the hillside and hold up the staff of God.

The next day, the battle began.  Joshua went to the valley with his army while Moses, his brother Aaron and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill where they could watch the battle below.  Whenever Moses held the staff up Israel would gain the upper hand in the battle, but when he dropped his hands, the battle would quickly go in favor of Amalek.  Moses was getting tired, and things were starting to look very bad for Israel.  Then, in verse 12 we read:

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

– Exodus 17:12

At the end of the day, Israel prevailed over Amalek.  As I thought about this passage I began thinking about how this battle was won.  Obviously God brought about the victory, but to me it was the way that He did it, and the lessons I can take from this battle and how God’s men were used in it.

Nobody doubts that Moses was God’s guy.  He was the one with the special staff, the one that talked to Pharaoh, the one that was leading the people and the conduit God used whenever He spoke to His people, but this was a time that Moses needed help.  If he had not had help then it would have simply been a story of God sweeping in and just blasting the enemy.  I think God wants us to see the importance of the men that were in it with Moses.  He was not alone. Sometimes we need people to come alongside us to give us specific support.  Moses had that. He had men that showed three very important attributes we need in those we do life with.

A Warrior – Joshua was Moses’ guy when it came to battle, and eventually he became God’s guy to use to conquer the Promised Land.  He was the guy that could see the obstacle, but also had the gifts necessary to overcome them.  We need people like that in our lives too.  They need to take care to not take up a battle they should not, but we should have that person we can count on when things get really bad.  We need someone who will just look us in the eye and echo Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday and say, “I’m your Huckleberry.”  (Go watch the movie Tombstone if you didn’t get that reference. Best line of the flick.)

A Comforter – Moses was tired and needed to sit down or the battle would be lost.  Aaron and Hur hauled up a rock and gave him a place to sit in order for the battle to continue.  We need to have a friend in our life that is there to offer that comfort we need from time to time when we are just flat wore out. Maybe finances are rough and they drop a bag of groceries off or take you out to eat.  Maybe they just show up with a pizza and watch movie with you.  They don’t do anything really big, but they are there when the battle is raging to do something that gives you just that little bit of “normal” needed to keep you in the fight.

An Encourager – Moses was ready to drop. his arms felt like lead, and he had nothing more to give.  I imagine he was in pain, but Aaron and Hur stepped in and said, “We’re here.  You have to finish this, we can’t do it for you, but we are here to see you through it. We’ve got ya.”  These are the guys that allow us to experience victory.  These are the guys that help us conquer addictions, depression, and so much more.  They know the battle is not theirs but they just refuse to walk away and let you flounder.  They want the win for you as much or more than you do!

God has blessed me with men like this in my life.  One of those men challenged me to invest in the spiritual lives of those I call friend.  You could say he called on me to fight for the friends that I have.  Another of those men is a grand encourager to me.  I would call him a cheerleader, but nobody wants to see those legs in a skirt!  He is always telling me that I can do it through God’s help and he draws my eyes back to His battle plan.  Some of the others are guys that always seem to know when I am feeling the weight of battle and they just wander by and let me know they care.  Not a big, flashy role, but vital for victory.

I hope I am doing the same for those guys.  In a Relentless life, we all have our own battles, but we share the struggles with each other and lift each other up.  We provide a rest for each other when we just need a chance to relax.  We are willing to gear up to fight when necessary.

So, how about you?  Are you in the battle now?  Do you know someone who is?  Start looking at who is there for you an dhow you can be there for them.  You’ll be glad you did.

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The Chase

Why Is Everyone Chasing MoneyMy church is doing a church-wide campaign using a well-known pastor’s material as a common focus through our small groups and several classes.  This week the main topic is that of our finances.  Each day we are given a passage to read in the Word along with a small devotional; then we journal our thoughts on what we read.  A simple, but effective method of spending a quiet time each day in the Word, and it is the best one that I have ever found for myself.

A couple of days ago I read the passage below:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

-Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)

The thrust of these verses is simple.  Don’t be caught up in the things around you, even the important things like food.  People who do not know God are always looking out for those things, chasing after them.  Instead, look to the kingdom of God, and chase after righteousness.  If you do that, then you will have the things that you need.  Pretty simple.  I have heard it all my life.  Makes sense.

Something popped in there for me the other day though.  the phrase “run after” was not in the version of the Bible that I had used as a kid.  We had the word “seek”. So I looked at another version, the Amplified Version, and they used words that paint the picture of the word “seek” in a different light. They use the words, “wish for and crave and diligently seek“.  Now that gives a picture of a chase or a hunt.  It has an imperative sense of urgency.

So, when I read the passage again with that thought in my mind of chasing after food, shelter, clothing – basically all the things that money can buy – the Bible says that is something that the pagans do.  Pagan meaning people who do not worship God.  Hmmm.  Not a crowd I want to be associated with.

So, what are we supposed to do? “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  The way that is phrased, I am led to believe that we are still supposed to be on a chase.  We are still supposed to “run after” something.  Still supposed to “wish for and crave and diligently seek” something.  We are supposed to have the same intensity for the chasing down and hunting the kingdom and a righteous life that a person would be expected to hunt and chase down food when hungry or clothing when naked.  I have been known to feverishly hunt for a Chik-fil-a or a Five Guys Burger and Fries, so I think I understand what Jesus is saying here.

So, if that is the intensity that we are  supposed to have for the things of God, it is pretty easy to draw a comparison in my life and see where I stand in that level of desire.  Pretty easy for all of us to do.  When we compare our desire for the things of life that we need every day to taking the time to read our Bibles, pray, encourage a friend, help someone in need, share the Gospel with someone, we come face to face with what we really want.  How much time do we spend preparing and eating meals in a week compared to the time we spend doing anything for God? *Ouch*

Christ doesn’t stop there though.  He gives us a promise.  If we do this, then all the things we need we will get.  All of it.  Huh.  So, let’s see if I am understanding this right.  Be Relentless in living a life that is in constant pursuit of God, the kingdom, and the good things He has gifted me to do, and all the things that the world tells me to chase will just be given to me?  You have my attention.

A Relentless life looks at a job not as a way to make money, but as a way to impact the kingdom through earning money to give to God’s work in the local church, through missions, or even personally impacting another person in need.  They see their job as a way that they can share what God means to them with the people they work with so they can have the same hope and strength of God at work in their lives.  They can look at the difficulties of a job as a way to let God teach them a lesson in humility or patience.  When a job is looked at in that way, the “work” of the job turns into something else.  It becomes a ministry.  God loves His people to have a ministry, and He rewards it in many different ways.  Employers see you as a person that has a purpose, a passion, a desire to succeed and help others.  They kinda like that sort of stuff in their employees and tend to reward that behavior too!

This passage has always been an encouragement to me, but I had never noticed how it is a great example of Relentless Growth in the Christian life.  It really encouraged me, and I hope it did you as well.  Let me know your thoughts.  Feel free to comment below and share it with your friends.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

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

 

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