Jude 1 – A Humble Welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observations:

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

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

Application for me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grace And The Church – Grace Part 3

Last year I was asked to help in writing a book of devotionals for our church campaign on grace. It was the first time I had been asked to write something for a book, and I really appreciated the opportunity. I have decided to post these devotionals every other day over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them and that they make you think about the wonders of the grace of God.

You can see the previous posts by clicking the links below:

scriptureongraceWhat Are We Here For?

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. – Acts 6:8

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? A support system?  A source of community benevolence?  A place for  people to worship? A place for friends to get together?  A place to learn how to be abetter person?  Well, I think it is all of those, but it is more than that.

Think about what we have been given as believers.  We are given the grace of God that has given us salvation!  We are blessed with eternal life and a source of power for living.  We have had the truth of God’s love, mercy and grace revealed to us through His Word and his people, and we have been given a direction for its use.  Are we supposed to just sit on that?

No.  Absolutely not!

Stephen was called to be a deacon in the church, and he took his job seriously as he went out to serve people. Acts 6:8 says he was “full of grace and power.”  A man like that isn’t going to sit still waiting for Sunday morning and the Adult Bible Fellowship or Sunday School class to share what he has been given.  Stephen was out talking to people, sharing the work of Christ in His life in whatever way he could.  God was giving him the ability to do amazing things, and he made sure to not let Him down.

What is different from Stephen than you and me?  Do we not know the same God?  Do we not have the same access to His power?  Does the God Stephen served not allow us to speak out boldly in our faith?  What is holding us back? We have the same Spirit of God at work in us, and we have the same grace in our lives.  Where is the power?  Is it possible that we could do amazing things in the lives of those around us if we let God work in us?

Think about the things that people are enduring every day – cancer, divorce, loss, addiction, emotional abandonment, and the list goes on.  What difference might be made in their lives if a person full of grace and power from God were to get personally involved in their lives?

There are so many opportunities in a day for us to speak of the goodness of God and His life changing work in our lives.  While the Christian faith is under more persecution here in America than at any other time, we still have the ability and freedom to show God’s grace to those around us.  How you do it is up to you and your skill set, but there is nothing stopping you or me from doing it.

We can show the grace of God by not getting irritated with person at work, by giving someone the benefit of the doubt in a moment of annoyance, by showing humility in a confrontation.  We can show sympathy and empathy to those who are struggling.  We can share out life stories and how God works in our circumstances to show us how He is always there, and in that, we can show people the ultimate grace – extending God’s offer of salvation to them!

God didn’t show us grace to have us sit in a building on Sundays.  If grace was just meant to put my body in a chair on Sunday mornings then I am doing no good for God here on earth.  He gave us grace so we can show the reality of a life changed to those who do not yet know Him.  As the church, it is our mission to reach out and show a bit of Christ everywhere we go.  Stephen understood that mission and embraced it.  How about you?

  • Who do you know that could benefit from a friendship with someone who can share God’s grace with them?
  • Who are you encouraging in the church to reach out to others?
  • What next step will you take to living a life “full of grace and power?”

Father, you gave your grace to us to save us in your mercy, but you also gave it to us so we can share it with others.  Give us your heart for the hurting that we can bring them to know you.

Over the last several years I have been slowly coming to the understanding that as part of the Church (the bride of Christ) I have been commanded to share the gospel not only in how to come to Christ, but in how Christ in me is changing me.  Relentless Growth comes from surrendering to Christ’s call through the Spirit to share what He has done.  Not every work that God has done in me is a miracle, but in giving Him the credit and the glory for what has happened, I believe He is giving me more power to speak of His gift and involvement in my life.  That is where the growth happens, and it is what every believer is called to.

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Why I Am No Longer A Regular On Facebook.

facebook-closed-march-15-2011A good defense is better than a good offense, but when someone is offended, no defense is sufficient.  There may be some exceptions to that last one, but from what I have been seeing on-line lately, there aren’t very many.  The offended are growing in number every day, and we still have nine months left before an election!  It’s only going to get worse before all sensitivity shifts because of the new players on the board.

Be it politics, sports, lifestyle choices, food choices, pictures, or language, there is always something for someone to be offended by, and there has never been a better avenue for polarizing opinions offending beliefs and hurting feelings than Facecrack.  Millions of people world-wide agree!  They must, or they wouldn’t spend so much time arguing about it there.

For the last few months I have been thinking that my time on Facebook is going to come to an end, and I think it happened today. I have stated as recently as last week that I am probably going to shuffle off for reasons of my own, and today it just became apparent to me that it is time.  I don’t know that anyone will really care if I am gone, or why I left, but I thought I would at least give my reasons so people won’t be offended by my not providing a reason. So, here they are in no particular order:

I get offended too. – When I read through some of the stuff I see written out there it makes me angry that people can actually think that way.  It make some want to set them straight and shake them out of their misbegotten ways.  If they blatantly attack me for my beliefs I want to lash out at them in return.  How dare they, right?  Right?  Anyone out there?  Am I the only one that feels this way?

I want to defend people. – Sometimes I see someone getting ganged up on by people who are offended by something that might have been said in a completely benign manner.  Poor guy could just be making a comment about something that just brought him a moment of joy, but here come the naysayers.  It crosses my mind that this guy can use a little help, and I like to help an underdog, so I should wade in and help him out, right? Right?  Am I the only one on this too?

I get misunderstood. – I gotta own a part in this.  I’m a weird guy sometimes, and I might say something that only a few people in my audience will understand, and I do that without thinking.  I’ve had a few Facecrack flare-ups from stuff just like that.  A simple joke in front of the wrong audience can be very offensive.  I’m not blaming the audience.  When I post without thinking about who I could offend, that is my fault.

It is getting harder to do the right thing. – Today I was ready to make a rebuttal that could have been hurtful.  I had it all written and just before I hit send, I realized I was doing this for the wrong reasons.  My goal was not to clarify anything, or to help someone see my side of things, I just wanted to take  minute and rub someone’s nose in something.  Just before I hit send, I heard the rabbi Lou asking me, “Is this being right or doing right?”  I deleted it instead.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

I don’t want to hurt people. – It seems that in today’s social networking, skin has gotten pretty thin.  Some of that might be due to the increased time people are spending in an environment that frankly, is toxic!  So much negativity exists on timelines and walls, and while it was intended to bring people together, it seems to drive people further apart.  I’ve been involved in a few of those little battles, and I have unintentionally hurt some people, and I want to avoid that in the future.

I want to be a positive person. – I gave up talk radio a few years ago because of how it always left me feeling like it was time for an argument.  So much doom and gloom, tragedy, muck-raking and mud-slinging takes place on talk radio, and Facecrack isn’t really much better. Actually it is worse.

I am just offended by how much Facecrack offends me. – I guess the main thing I want people to understand is the that I am not stepping out of Facecrack because I am offended by anyone.  It’s not the posts, it is the effect Facecrack has on me.  It’s not the people, it is the way it hurts relationships.  It’s not the time wasted, it is my desire to be a better steward with my time.  I’m not ignoring friends, I’m trying to avoid a lot of cross-posted negativity.

So, this is what I am planning to have as my Facecrack presence:

  • I will no longer be checking into Facecrack several times every day.  I will check in two nights per week.
  • I’ll still post my blog on Facecrack if anyone is still interested in reading it.  While comments to the blog can be done on the bottom of any of the posts, I know some will feel more comfortable commenting on the Facecrack feed, and that is the main reason I will be checking a couple days per week.
  • As far as social media goes, I will be on Instagram, and possibly Twitter.
  • I plan to write more, and about more things.  Maybe even start working on that book I want to put together.

I’ve seen people drop off Facecrack without telling anyone why, and since this idea started to form in my mind, I have been hoping that I would be able to share in a respectful way, the reasons I am pulling back.  I pray I have not offended anyone with this post, as I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted it to be heard.  I hope that was clear in my words.

This has been a hard choice, but a choice to be Relentless in my pursuit of building and maintaining right relationships with God, my family, my friends, and everyone else.  I want to put the things that cause me to stumble away as I try to live a Relentless Life for God.  I hope to hear from you all from time to time.

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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Sometimes You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

card-catalog-drawers-jeremy-woodhouseIf I’d Only Known… #2

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, – Proverbs 1:5

I’m going to date myself a little bit here. How many people even know what this is a picture of? Here’s a hint: You used to find them in a public building that housed shelves and shelves of books. Answer: A card catalog. They held all the information you needed to find any book in the library on any given topic by any given author. There were variations in how they were structured, but in the end they were all the same in one respect. The card catalog was a simple system that helped millions of kids write term papers. I should know. I was one of them.

I remember going into the library with an idea in my head on what I wanted to write about and no idea where to get the information I needed. A librarian would come over and take me to that huge cabinet of drawers filled with thousands of cards and before too long I had a list of books, authors, and shelf locations that would take me the second stage of the library visit – the hunt for books.

Often when I was looking for my resources I would only have a general idea of what I was writing about, and usually that idea gave me more than enough of the information I thought I needed on the topic, but when I would start digging through the catalog, something happened. I found out that there were things I didn’t know that I didn’t know! The longer I spent in the topical cards, the more books I found that would help me write a paper far more informative than anything I would have been able to do on my own. The card catalog and the librarian acted as facilitators to get me to the understanding that I was looking for.

About 10 years ago, I started to realize that I had some things I needed to learn regarding my walk with Christ. I went to some people that should have been able to help me, but they had their own idea of what I was looking for and decided to try and take me down a similar, but different road. I wasn’t precisely sure what I was looking for, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was “looking in the wrong card catalog.”

Over the next couple of years, I bounced through several books, listened to a lot of teaching on the radio, and began to develop a dependence on the Bible for finding things out. I was finding a ton of information, more than I knew what to do with, and before long I came to the conclusion that I knew a lot of stuff, but what I really needed to understand was that there were things I didn’t know that I needed to know.

Through a series of events, I met a man that I would soon call my pastor, then my mentor or “rabbi”, and now my friend. Through his kind, but probing questions, he brought me to the conclusion that while I did know a lot, what I didn’t know was what to do with what I knew. It was that point of application that would eventually bring some real life change out in me.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of Relentless Living for me. By being willing to realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I was able to learn so much more. It taught me to listen to people, enter their pain, and encourage them through hard times. It has allowed me to make better friends, and see growth in my personal life.

If you want to avoid having a lot of “If I only…” moments, start living a Relentless Life! Look for people who can help you with the things you are trying to learn. Find that person that seems to be so proficient in your area of interest and start a relationship with them. You will find that when a person is passionate about something, they are happy to teach it – especially to someone they see shares that passion!

The only way I will ever be able to repay my “rabbi” for all the help he has given me is to take his passion for growing believers that he fanned to a flame in my life and do the same with others. The best part of it is that as I do it, I am always learning something that I didn’t know I didn’t know! It is a mutually beneficial relationship, and as the “rabbi” is so fond of saying, “Tomas, my boy, it is all about relationships!”

I know that now!

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Why I Don’t Celebrate Father’s Day

no-happy-fathersdayTo most Americans, today is Father’s Day.  I’m not sure what the origin is other than another day for Hallmark to  make a few bucks, the clothing industry to unload some hideous neckwear, and for us to have a cookout.  Honestly I see the most value in the last one, but that is another story.

We hear a lot on the news today about how kids need to have the presence of a father in their lives.  That male presence is supposed to be the defining thing between a well-adjusted kid and a complete degenerate.  I’m not sure if having a male figure in the house makes a better kid anymore than having a Chevy in the driveway is going to make me be able to drive like Earnhardt.  There is more to the picture, in my humble opinion, than just being a father.

You see, I didn’t have a “father”.  I had a male presence in my life, and he did “father” me, but he was not a “father”.  (Sorry kids, go ask your parents to explain that last sentence to you.)  I had something better than a “father.”  I had a Dad.  I had a man’s man who was not just punching the time card and going through the motions that would allow him to meet some minimum criteria of “fatherhood.”  I had a guy that put in the long hours at work and then came home to put in more hours with his family.  That’s not a “father”.  That’s a Dad.

I don’t think you need to be a father to be a Dad.  I have met some great men who never had kids of their own, but they either through adoption, re-marriage, or even deep mentorship have taken up the role of Dad in the lives of kids and made a huge difference in their lives by committing themselves to those kids through unconditional love and care.  Those men aren’t fathers.  They are Dads!

You may have noticed that I am not a big fan of the word  “father”.  It’s not because of a problem in my childhood.  I have just watched that word used over the last twenty years or so in a context that almost makes me see it as the weakest, most minimal standard of parenting.  Men father children and leave.  Men father children and don’t grow up.  Men father children, but just ignore them.  I sad that “men” do these things, but again, a better word might just be “males.”

In the 2nd chapter of Judges, there is an account of how the people of Israel conducted themselves after taking the Promised Land.  It says that after Joshua and all of the men of Joshua’s generation died, the people of Israel forgot about God.  Judges 2:10 even goes so far as to say that the generation that came up not only did not know God (have a relationship with Him), but they didn’t even know about the things He had done for them!  According to the account, this happened in a generation!

The men that entered the Promised Land to conquer it were the children of those who had refused to enter it.  These people had been forced to walk the desert for 40 years watching their adults die before they had an opportunity to go into the land and take it for themselves.  During that time they saw God do miracles in the wilderness and even more as they took the land.  How did their kids not know the things God did for them?  How did they not know?

My opinion is that there were a lot of male figures that just didn’t put focus on that kind of thing.  They might have been too busy talking about their conquests, busy putting together new homes, building cities, or ordering around servants.  Who really knows?  I think it is safe to say that they didn’t put a high priority on things that matter long-term.

I celebrate Dad’s Day instead of Father’s Day.  To me, it is more about the relationship between a Dad and his children than a biological certification of progeny.  Dad’s Day is a time to really focus on praising the Dads that give their kids the things that really matter.  I want to think about the things that I need to accomplish to make sure that I am leaving my kids in better shape than I am.   I want to be a Relentless Dad that will not end up with kids that are going to forget the important work of God in our lives.

Here are a few things thatI have been trying to focus on.  Feel free to steal them and use them for yourself.  It’s all free information!

1. Be in the moment – It really doesn’t matter if it is a good moment or a bad moment, as long as you are in the moment with your kids.  In the moment is where life happens.  In the moment is where failures are evident and grace can be delivered.  In the moment is the place where you praise God for the great things He has done for you, and where you lean on Him for strength when things are hard.  Your kids need to see and hear both of them.  They need to see that God is in EVERY moment, not just the fun moments.

2. Be intentional – Proper parenting doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a willingness to get intentional in the lives of your kids.  A real Dad has an agenda for the development of his kids.  He looks for opportunities to advance that agenda through the daily ebb and flow of life.  He will be relentless in that pursuit.

3. Be real – If you are going to be an effective Dad, you need to be willing to show who you really are.  Share your failures, your embarassments, and your pains just as you would show you victories and strengths.  Kids can spot a fake a mile away, and it is really hard to get them to believe you when they pick up on that. When you are real, you give them hope! They can see that their failures are no longer a reason to stop trying.

Please don’t consider this a comprehensive list.  There’s more to being a Dad than this.  Consider this a place to start!  Relentless living as a Dad has got to start somewhere!

To all you Dads out there, Happy Dad’s Day!  You’re doing a great job!  To you fathers…well… enjoy the recognition.

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To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.

Zach,

I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

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Can I Have a Moment?

a-moment-in-timeWhat is a moment? Well, here are a few definitions to chew on:

  • Little while
  • Short time
  • A bit
  • Instant
  • Second, Split second, Minute, Hour
  • Point in time

What can happen in a moment?  Admittedly, sometimes nothing, but other times we see matters of importance, significance, consequence, note, weight, concern, and interest.  The world can, and has, changed in a moment.

Man has crossed the oceans, flown like birds, set foot on the moon, and built skyscrapers.  Man has harnessed the power of the atom, transplanted hearts, and has changed the courses of rivers.  We have also seen a beautiful September day change the way we look at our nation’s security.

Those things all happened in a moment.  We remember the moments, but we forget all the preparation that went into those moments that made them stick in our heads.  Why is that?  What is it about the preparation for a moment that leaves us feeling flat until the MOMENT occurs?  Is it because they are boring?  They don’t have that little flare of “Wow”?  Is it because they sometimes feel a little like failure?

In a word – Probably.

The thing is, those moments of preparation take us to the MOMENT!  In the goal to put a man on the moon, there were a lot of failures.  There were a lot of steps that in hindsight probably seemed pretty insignificant, but they were integral to the MOMENT. If they had not taken place, we would still be looking up in the sky at the moon and wondering if it were made of cheese!

The way we live our lives can feel the same way.  We might struggle for years to attain something with what seems like nothing more than a pathetic result, but if we have been Relentless in that struggle, we have probably had some progress.  We might not be where we want to be, but we are not where we were.  We have had little moments that are building up until such a point that they can be released into the MOMENT we are looking for.  Well, if we are looking for one.

passing-time-2-51854c91a8333_hiresI think back over my life, and if I were honest, I would have to tell you that for a large chunk of it I was not looking for a MOMENT.  I was just biding my time.  In hindsight I was comfortable to let life happen to me, and I saw surviving it as a pretty good goal to have.  Yeah, that’s living!  It’s not that I didn’t have little moments that were happening all around me, I was just not looking for a MOMENT, so the preparatory moments never got my attention.

I don’t want to live that way anymore.  I have my eyes on some MOMENTS now.  God has done a work and is showing me that He has plans to put a MOMENT or two in my life, and as I look forward to those MOMENTS, I am much more aware of the little moments that are happening around me every day.  I don’t know if I need them all, and I don’t know which one might be the one that takes a moment and turns it into a MOMENT, but I’m afraid if I don’t give those moments my attention then I might not get a chance to experience the MOMENT.

I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and my relationship with Him.  That mindset has been a fairly recent discovery when you consider that it only came about in the last 6 or 7 years of my life.  Realizing my need to be closer to God has created hundreds of moments where I have had an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  I’ve blown more than I care to think about, but I can look back and see that this desire has brought about change through the moments.  It has put me in new positions to see the next moment, and how it might all one day fit together.

I’m experiencing another one of those moments now.  Tammi and I have had a dream of one day running a retreat for pastors and missionaries.  We have talked about it a lot, but it has always been one of those MOMENTS that we hope will happen, but have not had any real opportunity to do anything about it. We have always considered it to be something that we would start on when we retire.

Well, that is changing.  I now have an opportunity to get involved with a small retreat center right here in Kalkaska where I can learn more about that step.  Through some relationships both new and old, we have been presented with a preparatory moment that will, Lord willing, lead to a MOMENT for us!  We are excited for the opportunity to learn things both spiritual and practical that will allow us to embrace the MOMENT when God decides it is time.

I look forward to sharing more as the moments unfold.  For now, I would just like to challenge you to look at life. Are you looking for a MOMENT or just trying to get through life.  I don’t think there is a due date that you have to start by either.  If you can still fog  mirror then you are still able to look. When you find what God is showing you that grabs your attention, the start looking around you for the moments that will prepare you for the MOMENT!  That is Relentless Living!

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Core Value #3 – Friends

FriendsAccording to Facebook, I have a couple hundred “friends.”  I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but in all honesty, most of us are what would more accurately be called “acquaintances.”  It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate everyone who reads my Facebook feed, it’s just that we are probably not truly as close as a real friend would be.  (I’ll let you all figure out where you are in that… If you reach out to me for a clear decision…well, be careful what you wish for!)

When I was a teenager I had a good number of people I would call friends, but after going to college, starting work, starting family, and buying a home, I found myself having a little less time for friends, and before long, that time turned out to be enough because I found myself pretty much having no friends!  Life just got hectic, and there was not time for hanging out and talking.  Most of what happened was a simple, “Hey!  How have you been?” when we would run into each other at the mall, the store, or that great annual Kalkaska attraction, the Trout Festival.

Before too long, I had developed a pretty thick skin regarding friends.  I had been burned by some, I probably had burned others myself, and the ability to let people in close to me had pretty much evaporated.  I decided that I only needed my wife and my kids, and I would be just fine.  I lived that way for about 10 years.  There were people I would enjoy hanging out with from time to time, but I kept them at arm’s length.  It felt safer that way.

Around 2010, I started attending a Men’s Group on how to be a better all around man for God.  In that group I met a guy that God had apparently been hanging on to for me, and we hit it off really well. It was almost like we had known each other for years, and conversation flowed freely and smoothly between us.  For the first time in my life, I believe I had found a true friend.

550627_10150946965344859_1322469398_nRay and I have spent a lot of time talking over the last few years.  We have laughed together and we have cried together.  We have challenged each other, and we have picked each other up.  We have shared weaknesses, sought accountability, and we have even had to lovingly encourage each other. (Read that as  “thump one another about the head and shoulders”)  It was a good friendship, and it has been a growing friendship.

A by-product of this friendship with Ray was a new awareness of the need that God had put into my heart to both have friends and to be a friend.  Before too long I started reaching out to some other guys to try and rebuild this ability to be a friend, and God blessed it.  God brought some other men into my life that became better than “acquaintances” to me, but I wasn’t sure if I would call them “friends” just yet.  I still felt a little untrusting, like I needed to hold my cards a little close to the chest and be careful.

Then back in early 2013, I met this guy named Joe Castaneda, and we started to get to know each other a little bit at a time.  We didn’t live in the same town, and only had real contact through Lake Ann Camp, but we developed an easy friendship that I enjoyed.  Joe worked at the camp at that time, and while I had not had the opportunity to hear him speak, I had heard a lot of good things.

So, last year I was at Lake Ann with a group of teens for Freezeout, and Joe was the speaker.  I was just sitting there, doing the crowd control thing, and not really thinking too much about “getting anything” from the message (sorry, Joe!), but I was paying attention.  About halfway through the message Joe hit on a point for the teens as he was talking about being a good friend.  He asked the question:

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I felt like I had been between the eyes with an ax handle. (I have been hit in the head with a shovel handle, so I can speak to the relative feeling this phrase describes, but that is another story…)  What was I doing for the men I called “Friend?”  Other than standing around the church talking to them it was pretty much nothing.  Joe then challenged us to do something to bless the friends in our lives spiritually.

Well, I sat there and thought about it, and decided that I would start something new.  I identified 5 men I would pray for on a daily basis, but I wanted to take it one step further.  These were men I wanted to get to know better, and to really pray for God to work in their lives and help them to grow.  So, I started praying, and Monday through Friday, I would send each of them a message, e-mail, or a phone call to let them know that I had been praying for them this week.

I’d like to say that I have not missed a day of praying or of contacting, but that wouldn’t be true.  I’m human, and I have not always done this as well as I should.  Some weeks I might be a bit short, like I am going through the motions.  But I haven’t stopped.  These guys are important to me.  God put them on my heart for a reason, and I am praying that He will bless them.

As I have prayed for them, I have seen our relationships grow.  We are busy, and schedules make it difficult to spend the time that we might want to spend talking about what is going on in our lives, but in praying for these guys I have been able to experience deeper, stronger friendships than I have ever had in my life.  They are not as important to me as God or my family, (nor should they be) but they are very important to me, and we are knit together through the time we spend together as well as through the God we all serve.

We are told in the Bible that we have a need for good friends:

Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12

They are there to lift us up when we fall, to watch our backs in troubled times.  They are there to challenge us to bigger and better things.  We need friends!

I knew I needed them, but it wasn’t until I grasped the truth of this verse that I actually found out why I didn’t have any:

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly -Proverbs 18:24a

It takes work on my part, and I had not been willing to do it.  I was too caught up in myself to make the effort to get involved with others.  It’s not that nobody wanted to be my friend, it was that I never wanted to really have one.  An honest look at my values 7 years ago would not have put “having friends” in the top 5.  Probably not even in the top 10.  I’m thankful that things have changed, and that through a closer relationship with God I have been shown just how important they are.

736877_10201194671819918_541274006_oRelentless Living requires us to put in the effort at making our relationships all that they can be.  Whether it is our relationship with God, with our family, or with our friends, if we want to get anything good out of them, we need to be willing to put aside ourselves and do what is necessary to grow in those relationships.  It’s a good thing!

I’m very thankful for the impact that Joe’s message has had on my life.  That message that Joe brought to the teens was exactly what God knew I needed.  I am so thankful of the impact that he has had on my kids through the camp ministry, and in my life as we have become good friends as well.  I’d appreciate prayers for him as well.  You can read more about what God is doing in his life and how he is responding to it by clicking here.

There is one Friend we need above all others, and that is Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know Him as your Savior, I can promise you that you will never know just how good these other relationships can be.  He makes them all the richer through the work that He did to save us from our sins.  If you want to know more, please message or e-mail me. I would love to share His story with you.

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2015 – “Whatcha Doin’?”

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.

 – Exodus 33:13-18 (ESV) Emphasis mine

Many years ago, and by the date in the pic it was in the neighborhood of 14 years ago, I was sitting at the computer one night and Zach came over and asked a question.  He had a very good vocabulary for a little guy less than two years old, and I’m not sure why I did it, but I got the microphone down close to him and recorded the audio in the clip below:

He loved anything and everything about the computer and was always hopping up into my chair and grabbing the mouse.  He was a natural.  I don’t know how many times I would come back to the computer and find all the icons rearranged – or gone.  Some of it was his natural bent toward tech.  Some of it was he wanted to be like Dad, and Dad worked on the computer.

Over the years, we switched out computers a few times, but I have never gotten rid of that sound file.  It brings a smile to my face every time I hear it because it takes me back to the days when he was so little and interested in everything that I did.  “Whatcha doin’?” was a very common phrase in our house as he would toddle along behind me.  Whether outside, in the garage, at the computer, in the basement, or just coming in the house, it was almost a greeting, but I see now it was more than that.

That little guy’s query was a constant reminder of his desire to be a part of what was going on in my life.  He wanted to know everything!  Sometimes the answer would be enough in itself and off he would go to do his own thing, but other times it would prompt second questions or a request to help – to be involved.

wpid-2014-12-30-10.14.06.png.pngThis little guy will be 16 in five months.  Hard to believe how fast time flies.  He still asks the question from time to time, but the voice is a bit deeper now.  The hair on his head is a little darker, and there is a definite shadow of a beard on his face.  He doesn’t look up at me to ask the question like he did back then because he can just about look me in the eye now.  So much has changed, and it seems like a blink or two ago.

When Zach would ask me that question as a little boy, he was in pursuit of something.  I was too thick to notice it all the time, and really only picked it up as I started writing this post, but he was looking for a way to be a part of what I was doing.  I was focused on a task, an obstacle, a schedule, or a demand, but he was focused as much on getting to know me as he was on the work I was involved in.  Like I said earlier, sometimes the knowledge of what I was doing was enough, but other times he would join me in what I was doing.  In hindsight, I probably too often  turned him aside with excuses ranging from, “I don’t have time to let him help. It’s not safe for him. I want it done right.” I could have done better.

2015 is here.  Just like every year, people are thinking about the future.  What will this year hold?  Where will we be in twelve months?  We always get this way in late December and early January as we think about the unknown.  How will we get to the goals we have set?  Who will help?  Will I be happy?  Those questions have something in common.  As well-intentioned as they may be, they are about ourselves.  They’re not bad, but could we possible find a better option? Could we focus on our new year in a more Relentless way?

There are things I want to see happen this year, but there is something that I want to start doing particularly in my Quiet Times with God.  As I look at this new year, I am taking lesson from my son. I am going to take more time to ask God, “Whatcha doin’?”  In my life, my family, my job, my friends, my church – God, Whatcha doin’?

Three reasons I want to do this:

1. I want keep a daily focus on God. Keeping  daily focus on God by reading His Word and talking to Him about my life, the lives of those I love, and the  things that cross my path will keep my heart soft toward His direction.

2. I want to join Him.  If I am looking to God and asking Him to tell me what He is doing, I will see opportunities to join Him in things that He wants me to join Him in.  I won’t join Him in everything He is doing because I might not be the person He wants involved in it, but I will never join Him in anything if I am not asking what He is doing.

3. I need His help. I can do things on my own, but I need Him to show me the things that I am doing poorly.  I want Him to grow me, and if I am left to myself, then I will never be anything like what I can be with God.

When my son was little, I so very much enjoyed watching him trying to be like me.  Now that he is older, the feeling is more of a satisfaction.  I am pleased when his interests are in tune with mine and he wants to join me in the things I do.  I take joy in his individuality and in watching him pursue his passions, and I take joy in those times he wants to be like me.

I think God is the same way.  He made us all to be different, but He made us all to seek relationship with Him.  He made us all to have a free will, and He made us all have a desire to be a part of something bigger.  He has great joy in watching us use the gifts and talents He gave us that have no “real spiritual value”, and He loves it when we engage in activities that draw our hearts closer to His.Slide1

So, this year, this is my challenge to you.  Ask God, “Whatcha Doin’?” Look for Him in His Word. Get to know Him better.  See how He worked in the lives of His people in the Bible.  Seek out those around you that are showing Him at work in their lives.  Look inside yourself and see if there is anything holding you back from getting involved in something big for God, and let me say this.  If it is with God, it is big.  He is a big God, even in the little things.

So, can you do me a favor?  If you are reading this, could you share it with your friends and then do one more thing for me? I’d love to know something.  This year, “Whatcha doin'” to know God better?  “Whatcha doin'” to be Relentless in your growth in Christ?  “Whatcha doin'” to build relationships with others?  Message me or comment below.  I’d love to pray for your year too!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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Honor: Who Are You Talking To?

restaurar-honor-mexico-compatriotasNoah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

– Genesis 9:20-25 ESV

This passage always felt a little extreme to me.  Noah plants some vines, grows some grapes, makes a little wine and proceeds to get himself drunk and naked.  Ham steps into Noah’s tent for whatever reason and sees the state of Noah.  He slips out and tells his brothers what he saw, the brothers take a blanket in and cover Dad up, and then Ham and his descendants get cursed.

I remember having this story told to me when I was younger and it was presented to me that Ham had mocked his father in front of his brothers completely showing disrespect to him, and that this was a sin against God Himself.  Well, I don’t see all of that here.  I see that he saw Dad and told his brothers and Dad cursed Him. That is what the plain English in front of me says, and I even checked it against the KJV, so we know we can’t argue with the facts presented as they are!

So, I’ve put some thought into this today to figure out why Ham was punished.  I see no mocking in the account, so, sorry flannel graph board, that was not the reason.  I see no overt sin against God either, but I am not going to say that is out of the question since Noah was God’s man at this time in history, and one thing you never want to do is mess with God’s man.  I think it all comes down to one simple thing – Honor.

We often hear about how we are supposed to give someone honor in the things that we do and say publicly.  Words of respect or actions that show people how much we esteem someone are common ways we express honor, but is that the only way?  I don’t think so.  Honor can also be shown in what we do behind the scenes.  We can honor people in authority by giving them honor publicly, and we can also honor them by not talking about something done privately.  I’m playing in an area here that needs to be worked out, so bear with me.

In no way am I suggesting glossing over the sin of those in authority over us.  That needs to be addressed, but out in front of everyone is not the most constructive way to do it.  It shows no honor to the person you are working with.  At the very least it shows your lack of respect, and in reality, it is just gossip.  It brings no help to the situation, and will lead to a painful result for those involved.Slide1

Let’s play this out a different way.  Noah gets drunk, Ham stops by to see how Dad is doing and sees his Dad passed out and in an embarrassing state.  He grabs a blanket and covers him up and waits outside for Dad to wake up.  Shem and Japheth swing by and ask what he’s doing and he says, “Just waiting to talk to Dad.  He’s taking nap.”  Noah wakes up and steps outside to see Ham waiting for him. “Dad, can we talk?”  I’m betting there would not be a curse there.  Ham probably would have just taken a big step in Dad’s eyes.

Sin is sin.  Whether it comes from me or from someone in authority over me, it is sin.  My response to that sin will say a lot about where I am in my journey.  I have a choice to reach out privately and show honor to a person who has done wrong, or I can just take it to anyone around with an ear that is not preoccupied.  While gossip is a culturally accepted norm, it is not a Relentless way to live.

Relentless Growth demands a higher standard of honor.  It demands that the matter be addressed in a way that allows the offender to maintain dignity and take ownership of their behavior.  Honor is given.  A relationship is allowed to strengthen. Forgiveness and restoration can take place.  Here’s the clincher – nobody else needs to know about it.  Granted there are always going to be things that happen that do need to be disclosed, but following this allows the offender to do it with honor by admitting they were wrong and being accountable for what they did.

I’ve been on both sides of this issue in the past.  I’ve handled both sides of it well at times, and terribly at times.  If we are honest we all would have to say the same thing.  Nice thing is, that is all behind us now.  When we wake up tomorrow, we will have a new opportunity to do the right thing.  Feels good, doesn’t it?

So, think about that person who has done you wrong.  What are you doing about it?  Have you gone to them to talk?  Have you gone to someone else?  What do you need to do to make it right?  What are you waiting for? You’ve got a great chance to grow through this, and you might even help someone else grow too!

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This is the last post of 2014.  If I have done my math correctly my next post will be my 100th post, and the beginning of my third year writing this blog.  Hard to believe that I have been doing this for two years now!  I appreciate all of you who have been reading, and I hope that I have made it worth the time.

I’m excited to see where God takes me over this next year.  He has been doing some things in my life that have had my head spinning, and I am constantly amazed at how His hand is working day in and day out.  I want to continue to share that with you all, and I hope it encourages you to be Relentless in your growth in Christ.

Thanks for reading!

Tom