Should I Miss What I Never Had?

Alright folks, I’m gonna get a little bit personal here.  Don’t worry, the kids can still read over your shoulder.  I’m just going to share a little story because I feel like when I share my struggles and publicly set a course out of them, I get a little better and grow a little more.  Accountability works like that.  So, here goes.

It is that time of year for the annual bonus to hit.  My wife and I had decided back in June or July that we were not going to set a whole lot of expectation on what that bonus may look like because it is money that we were not going to plan for until it was in hand.  We knew that we wanted to do something good with it (read “not stupid”), but we were determined that we would just welcome it as a gift and find a good way to steward that money.

Fast forward from July to early October.  The weather is finally starting to show signs of fall, and I start getting e-mails about the upcoming “Annual Incentive Program” and the wheels begin to turn.  We started having conversations about where we could best use the money.

We knew his would not be a windfall, by any stretch, but we  were building a plan on how to maximize the gift by doing things like vehicle repairs, home repairs, & a couple of other items that we really have been wanting to get taken care of, but the extra cash was never there.  I assure you that there was never a mention of a trip to Tahiti or a big screen TV.  We were living in the realm of practicality.

The more we talked about this money we had not yet seen, the more real it became.  We began to move from the hypothetical into the tangible.  Research was done on upcoming purchases to take care of some of these issues, online shopping carts were loaded and waiting for us to push that button the day the basket of hope landed in our checking account.  We were excited and expectant.

November 3 came.

Tammi gave me a call at work and said there was a deposit in the account.  Did I know what it was?  Surely it was not the bonus?  That number is WAY too small to be the bonus.  It was nothing like what we were looking for. So, I sent an e-mail off to ask what this little gift was that I was seeing in hopes that there had been some kind of mistake.  Certainly a digit had been forgotten.

Nope.  Just like the pig says:

A kick in the gut would have been preferable.  To see a number so much smaller than what we had expected was very hard.  I expected more.  I planned for more.  I felt that I deserved more.  I worked hard, and this is what I got?  Something is wrong. I have been slighted and I want this fixed.  My wife and I had plans and they have been pretty much decimated.

It was a rough day to get through.  A lot to process, and a lot of disappointment needed to be waded through.  After work (and some talk), supper (and some talk), and some Netflix with enough popcorn to strangle a mule, we went to bed to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped into my head was the word:

BONUS

Webster’s says bonus means: an amount of money added to wages on a seasonal basis, especially as a reward for good performance.

So there it is.  I worked all year, and I got a paycheck on-time every time for the work I did.  That is all I really have to count on.  Anything else is an add-on, and I need to be grateful for it.  I may believe that I have been slighted, but at the end of the day, I got what was coming to me all year, and this was just something extra. (A little something…)

Before anyone thinks that is all it took for me to push this aside and move on with nothing but happy thoughts, I can tell you that as soon as that popped into my head this morning it prompted about 30 minutes of debate inside my skull that ended with the “ticked off” me just walking away from the argument.

He tends to do that when he knows he is going to lose.

He’ll come back later and take the lump, but for now he is avoiding that by writing to all of you who choose to read about his feelings of indignation and mistreatment at the hands of the global entity that has done him wrong.  See?  Told you.  This isn’t over yet…

I know that I am going to get to the place where I will be alright.  Though the skies are gray today, I feel a little more brightness than I did yesterday afternoon when I walked out of work in the sunshine.  I know that God was not surprised by this, that He knew how I would react, and that He is waiting to see how I will process it and grow.

So… Grow already…

I know that this is a moment where God has allowed me to be placed in a spot where I can either hang on to something I never had and mourn the loss of it, or I can take solace in the things that I do have and have joy.  I know that I can wallow in self-pity and allow bitterness to take over my heart, or I can choose to step up and see what I can do to improve my work and know that by doing hard thing – moving past this – I am doing the right thing.  Trusting God and allowing His grace, peace, and comfort to reign in me.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I really only have one choice.  I’m going to have to send that little sulker back to the table where he can take his medicine and do the right thing.  Let’s be realistic.  He can be pretty stubborn and it is probably going to take at least a couple of days.

I’m thankful for a God who loves me even when I don’t “get it” right away.  I’m thankful for a wife who believes in me even when I am not able to bring home as much bacon as we thought I would.  I’m thankful for a healthy family and two great kids in college.  I’m thankful for a good job that allows me to work in a place where I know God is using me.  I’m thankful for friends who pray for me.

I guess anything beyond those things is truly a bonus.

Thanks for reading.  Got some things to go do to start the journey.

 

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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!

Staying Mentally Hungry

Henry Ford was a man not only known for his ingenuity and manufacturing genius.  He was also known for his quotes.  Here are a few of my favorite “Fordisms”.

“Chop your own firewood.  It’ll warm you twice.”

“Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”

I’m sure at least one of those strikes a chord with you as they do with me.  There is something about a good quote, and Ford had one more that I like that I am hoping I can change a bit and maybe leave it as my little mark on history.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

I’d like to change it up and make it my own:

“If you think you can’t learn anything –you’re right.”

– Tom Tanner

(If you know of some famous person who has already said this and is getting a royalty or anything from its use, I beg you to forget you saw me use it and move along.  I am operating under the assumption that this was my idea!)

Recently I have been on a run of training for my position as a general manager.  Historically I have walked away from many of these training sessions feeling drained, depressed, discouraged, and basically just much more aware of what I don’t know without gaining any new applicable information.  It is hard when that next training period comes up and you know you are going to go and come home feeling behind from being gone, and more discouraged than when you left.

This last time, when signing up for this class, I remember thinking that this was waste of my time.  Maybe this time I should just push back and refuse to go since I have a mountain of projects I am involved in and the time away would just leave me feeling stressed when I returned.  I knew I needed to go, but the idea of it just left me irritated.

I looked over the course material and saw that this mandatory training had elements that I again was pretty sure I would not get much out of, but it also had a few that I have had exposure to in the past that had left me with a desire to know more.  The schedule was tight, and I was pretty sure that it would be done at break-neck speed, but I thought there was a chance.

Fast-forward to today. I got a lot out of it.  I decided before I left that I would be making a few choices to step out of my normal “student habits” and try to be 100% engaged in the class.  I thought that if this was going to be worth my time I was going to have to go all in to capitalize on the opportunity or it would just pass me by.

It worked.

I wouldn’t say that it was everything I would hope it would be.  I still cam ehome with a mountain of new stresses to greet me, and I didn’t learn all I had hoped, but I definitely learned.  The content got in my head, and I not only saw opportunities for application, I was able to come back and use most of what I HAD learned to immediately develop some new plans and practices that should make my job a little more productive and less stressful. (Praying pretty hard about that!)

So what was different?  Not a lot. I had one of the same teachers I have had in the past.  They were covering many of the same types of materials in the same high-speed way.  There was yet again too much stuff packed into too little time.  The material was so broad as to be largely difficult to apply to my specific circumstances.  What changed?

My attitude.

Almost every time I have gone to one of these things I have been pretty sure that I was not going to learn anything, and I have been correct every single time.  This time I made a change in my attitude and that made the difference.  I was able to focus more on forcing the material to serve me rather than being at the mercy of the process.  I was able to see what I needed and grab it rather than drown in the information dump of material that didn’t apply to me.

I came to learn.  That made the difference.  When we decide we have nothing to learn, then we are right.  Nothing will get past that wall of pride and self-righteous thinking.  We need to be humble in how we approach every opportunity in order to take away that nugget of information that we can apply to life moving forward.

We are never too old to learn.  I see the elderly every day at work, and those that I see still reading and trying new things are the ones that seem to have the best outlook on life.  I want to be that way.  I have not arrived. I have a long way to go!

Living a Relentless Life means that you know there are things that you don’t know, but you are not satisfied with it being that way.  It can’t be a matter of pride to be superior to those around you, but it certainly should be a matter of conviction to use what you can learn to help others.  After all, as believers we are here to serve as Christ did, and the more we know, the easier it is.

So, what are you doing today to learn?  Have you read a book?  Taken a class?  Have you taken something apart to see how it works?  Have you sat down with someone and just asked them about their life experiences?  There are opportunities around us every day where we can give learning a chance.  Go for it!  You’ll be glad you did!

Happy Birthday, Relentless Growth!

number-candles-perfect-for-any-cakeI started blogging 4 years ago today. The blog page has gone through a lot of changes since then even though you can’t see it here, but I hope the same cannot be said for me.  God has done a lot in my life over the last four years, and I am thankful that I have been able to experience that change and have had the opportunity to share some the story with you.

Click the link here to see how it all began, dig through the archives, feel free to share it with your friends, and let me know if there has been anything that has been a blessing to you.  We all like a little encouragement on our birthdays – even blogs!

Get out there and live a Relentless Life!

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Oh, Charlie…

wp-1483394087870.jpgThis is Charlie.  Charlie is my wife’s 11-year old Cocker Spaniel.  His claims to fame are:

  • He is loved by my wife
  • Has a dinner routine you can set a clock by
  • He can bark loud enough to make you consider adult briefs are a good idea for every day wear – even if you don’t have an incontinence problem
  • He can shred an entire roll of toilet paper in under 2 minutes with no warning or reason
  • He eats just about anything – I mean anything. (Your imaginations can run amok.  Feel free to write in your suggestions.  He has probably done it already.)

One of Charlie’s favorite things in the world to do is eat.  His number one favorite food is popcorn, but anything that you happen to be eating, dropping, or throwing in the trash is a close second.  While his kibble is his primary food (a nice lamb and rice mix that helps with his allergies), and he is fed twice a day, he will follow you around looking for any morsel as though he has not eaten in 3 years.

One time we left Charlie in the care of a person I will not name to protect their innocence, and that person was absolutely amazed at Charlie’s zeal for food, and they decided to see if Charlie could get full. They just kept filling his food dish every time he emptied it, and Charlie would just empty it again.

We are not sure how many times this cycle took place, but when we got there several hours after the last bowl was consumed, Charlie’s belly was swollen tighter than a drum head.  The scary part was that it was not that Charlie ever stopped eating.  They just finally quit because they were afraid that Charlie would eat himself to death!

Feeding time for Charlie is a pretty intense time.  There is a lot of whining, dancing around, and reluctantly sitting and waiting for the “OK” before he is allowed to dig in. The waiting is usually accompanied with a little more whining and a full-body quiver that is almost painful to watch.

After we say those two magical syllables that release Charlie from his forced restraint, he empties his dish. I say, he empties the dish, but you can’t really appreciate the speed, efficiency, and well… the volume with which he does so.  Imagine putting marbles in a bucket and then sucking them up through a shop vac.  Only with the occasional gargly, wet, choking, gagging, and wretching sound.  Yep. Something like that, but still, you just need to hear it.

Charlie’s passion for his food is more than just a passion.  It is an unhealthy drive in him to consume as much and as quickly as he can – even at the peril of his own life.  We have been shocked and amazed at some of the things he has eaten that are not food in any sense of the word,  yet Charlie deemed them as such.

Finally we wound up buying a ball to put in Charlie’s dish to give him an obstacle to eat around.  The theory was that by having something that big in his way, he would not be able to take such big bites, would eat more slowly, and would therefore chew something rather than inhaling it, thereby aiding in his digestion.

Not the success story we were hoping for.wp-1483394087867.jpg

I still keep thinking he is going to just swallow the ball whole.  Seriously.  Never slowed him down for a single second.  I guess at this point, we can safely assume there is nothing on earth this dog and his gut can’t take.

So, the other day I was reading in Jude, and I came across this verse and I instantly thought of Charlie:

“But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasonable animals, understand instinctively.” – Jude 10

If there is one thing that Charlie understands instinctively, it is that he was designed to eat.  He is ready to go at any moment, and he has no qualms about what comes his way.  It’s not the healthiest way to live, though. He needs some help to keep him safe.

I’m sure if Charlie could talk, he would tell us how wrong we are. How he has things under control. How he can stop whenever he wants! He probably would tell us to back off and let him live his life.  That we don’t care about him. That he can make his own decisions and stop telling him what he can and can’t eat.

Sounds like me before diabetes kicked in… Well, that’s another story, and things are much better for me now.  I was smart enough to make a change.

Desires are not bad things, but if we don’t understand the drive behind them, they can be damaging to us.  Charlie might not know much, but he knows he likes to eat.  Whether he is hungry or not never really enters into the picture.

Do we stop and ask ourselves why we want the things we want?  What is the drive behind the desire?

Jude is speaking here of people who have decided that they will blaspheme God by saying that God’s grace gives license to give themselves over to the pleasures of the flesh.  They are taking the gift of salvation and twisting it to become a free pass to do whatever they want with no intention of following God.  In essence, they are claiming an identity as child of God while completely ignoring His commands and sovereignty over creation.

They go through life with the illusion of some Christian rules (a big silver ball), but they act no different, and are harming themselves without abandon because all they care about is having what they want and not being restricted in any way.

A really effective way to die if nobody stops you.

Again, there is nothing wrong with having desires, but we need to take the time to analyze what we are really trying to satisfy in them.  There are a lot of things we can get wrapped up in, and not all of the things you might be thinking about are bad things, but they can become that way.  Mark Driscoll put it in very clear words (they must have been, because I understood):

“When a good thing becomes a god thing, that’s a bad thing.”

Charlie and I have food in common as our good thing that became a god thing.  It could have destroyed me if I had not been willing to make a change.  Charlie’s would destroy him if we didn’t use a measuring cup and keep his food in a place where he can’t get it.

What desires do you have?  Are you looking at what the motivation behind the desire?  Are you taking that desire and holding it up to the Word of God and what it says to see how it holds up?  If it can’t, then it needs to either go or at a very minimum, you might need to get the equivalent of a big silver ball!

Be Relentless in your life by constantly looking at your life and evaluating what needs to go or be guarded.  We need to do it in our lives, and we need to ask some friends to come alongside us and help with it too.  Sometimes their eyes see things we can’t.  It might hurt, and you might feel like it is unfair, but you’ll be alright.  After all, you’re also working on being Resilient!

Would love to hear from you, Dear Reader!  Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.  Me?  Well, I gotta go feed the dogs…

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The Gift

wp-1482595236595.jpgI was sitting in my living room this morning, enjoying the peaceful sounds of a home not yet awake.  I looked over at our Christmas tree in the corner of the room.  It is covered with lights and ornaments that were made by our kids over the years, or were purchased as souvenirs while we were on vacation in different places.  Underneath the tree are the presents.  They are all wrapped up, names attached, and ready for Christmas Day festivities.

The rest of the house has been decorated as well.  Christmas is my wife’s favorite time of the year, and she goes all out in the decorating and the preparation.  As I write, she will soon be getting started on what will likely be a day of baking goodies to share with family and friends.  She loves to do that kind of thing.  A great hostess, a great baker, and an all around sweet lady

wp-1482595126219.jpgThe kids are happy to be together as my daughter is home from college. Wow.  That is a sentence I have never written out before.  Hard to believe how fast this time came!  Anyway, those two are such good friends, and we have enjoyed listening to them catch up and laugh together.  It blesses our hearts to see the friendship they have, and we are confident that it will stand as they step into adulthood.
This is my second day off for this vacation at the end of the year that will extend into next.  I’m very thankful to have a boss that values my efforts and allows me these opportunities.  I won’t be completely shut out from work and will probably handle some things while off, but I have the ability to be with my family rather than spend my day in the building.  That is a gift that has not lost its shine over the last 6
years.

wp-1482595329988.jpgThis morning I have a hot cup of coffee beside me, a furnace that is rumbling away, and slippers on my feet.  I have my family under my roof, and a roof that keeps the outside out.  I have food in my cupboards, and clothes on my back.  I have friends who mean the world to me, and I am a healthier man than I was a year ago.

All in all, I would say I have been given many great gifts.  Some of the gifts I have are tangible or visible, but others are feelings. While I can’t always bring all of it to mind, I have a contentment and an understanding that I have been given much in this world.  There are so many things I have that others do not. Family, friends, food, shelter, clothes, a job, children, and the ever present “stuff” that fills closets, drawers, and cubbies.  All of that is around me, but there is something more.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

wp-1482595236596.jpgA little over 2,000 years ago, a child was born in a tiny little town in Israel.  There was no fanfare.  No parades.  No posts, tweets, snaps, or “stories”.  Just a man and his wife, maybe a few animals, and eventually some shepherds were there to witness the night that God came to earth as a baby in the body of Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the one who would bring salvation as a gift to all mankind.

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given.  With it comes a relationship with God and adoption into His family.  We receive the Holy Spirit as a guide and helper for the decisions we must make in life. We receive Christ as an example of how we should live and act with others.  We receive eternal life and a home in the presence of God for all eternity.  What an amazing gift!

The gifts under our tree were purchased with care and thought of the one’s that will receive them. The giver is waiting expectantly to see the receiver open that gift so they can see the joy that they felt when they purchased it.  When you love someone and do something for them, you can’t wait for them to experience it.

That is how God feels every day.  He has given us the greatest of gifts.  It fits right, is the right color, and it will never wear out.  It is even better than a 5 star rating on Amazon with free shipping!  God knows that this is the perfect gift for all of us and He is dying to see us open it and claim it as our own.  He wants to see us use that gift for living our lives and He wants us to share the goodness of that gift with everyone we come across.

wp-1482595126223.jpgI am happy to have the gift, and I am happy to share that He has made great changes in my life.  It’s not a perfect life, but it is a Relentless Life, devoted to knowing Him better.  There is nothing that would make me happier than knowing that anyone around me is experiencing that as well.

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!  Accept the gift. Use the gift. Share the gift.

As always, I welcome you to share, comment and ask questions.  Thanks to those who follow and like.  I appreciate the time you take to go through life with me!

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Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Peer Pressure Takes You Into Deeper Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christ Arose

21123This morning is Easter  – Resurrection Sunday.  Today many are celebrating with chocolate rabbits and hunts for colored eggs as well as remembering what happened that day some 2,000 years ago when Christ rose from the grave that briefly held him.  This morning many will be in church to hear the story and to sing the songs we all know and love that tell us about the victory that took place that morning.

One of the songs I hope to sing this morning is one of my favorites.  It was written over 100 years ago by Dr. Robert Lowry, a Baptist Pastor, college chancellor, and composer.  Lowry was known for many hymns that he had written, including, “Shall We Gather at the River” and “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.”  He said in his later years that he wished he was better known as a pastor than a composer, but I think he was not aware of the impact of his music that would continue to echo beyond his life.  The theology and doctrine in his music is strong, and his words are vivid.

The hymn he wrote that I hope to sing this morning is “Christ Arose.”

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior.Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Easter is not about the candy, the rabbits, or the eggs.  It is about the victory Christ had over death.  When He died on the cross He paid for our sins, and what a miraculous sacrifice that was, but the death was nothing without the resurrection that took place three days later!  Without the resurrection of Christ there would be no victory over death.  We who trust in His name now have freedom to live!

The gifts I have been given through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ are the driving forces in a Relentless Life.  I have been given so much, and it is now my response to bring Him honor and glory for what He did for me!

Hallelujah!  Christ Arose!

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Open Bar At The Wedding

Jesus Turns Water Into Wine ClipartI’ve started a new devotional book and it is taking me through the book of John over a 40 day period.  I loved that when I hit that first couple of lessons I was met with the instruction to put the book away if I was going to use it to simply go through the motions.  The author was very clear that his words were not important.  What he wanted to see is for the reader to FOCUS on the daily scripture passages and really let God’s Word sink in.

Today the passage I read was John 2:1-12.  Here we get the story of Jesus’ first and probably most controversial (at least among some of the “Old Guard” Baptists I know and love) miracles – the turning of water into wine. (Yes, I believe it was wine and not grape juice. Sorry if I have let anyone down.. Nah.  Never mind.  It’s good!)  I read the passage this morning and kinda let it run around in my head the rest of the day. (There was nothing in there to really keep it from enjoying the space!)

By the time I sat down to go through the devotional reading I had kinda cut my focus to a couple of things.  First, Mary had some pull.  She tells Jesus there is no wine left at the wedding.  Jesus tells her His time has not yet come, and she just turns to the servants:

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” – John 2:5

I don’t know exactly why Jesus changed His mind after His response to Mary, but I wonder if it might have been related to her words immediately after His apparent refusal to help.  His time had not come, but she turned and said to the help that He was in control and something was about to happen.  Whether she intended for Him to go and get some wine at the local 7-11 or what, I am not at liberty to say.  She just took a step of faith and asked some others to do the same.

Right after that, Jesus puts these guys to work:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. – John 2:7,8

Who were these guys?  Did they know anything of Jesus?  Were they there at His Baptism?  Had they heard Him teach?  What did they know about Him that made them just step into immediate obedience like that?  I wish I had an answer. Put yourself in their position.  There is no wine, this woman tells you to do what this guy says, He tells you to go and fill some pots with water and then take some of the water to the guy in charge so he can taste it.

And. They. Did. It.  Think about that.  They did it.  They just did it! and Voila! Wine!

We read that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.  Well, I see here that the obedience of a waiter/bartender can result in taking tap water and turning it into a fine Chardonnay.  If they had not done as they were told, do you think this story would have gone the same way?  I think not.

Here is the neat thing about obedience to Christ.  When you step out and do something that Jesus tells you to do, you have positioned yourself to be in the perfect position to see Christ do something amazing!  Sometimes the crazier the act of obedience, the bigger the “payoff”.  These guys jumped to action when asked and they were soon partaking in the finest wine ever to be served.  What do you think that did in their lives?  Do you wonder of they followed Jesus after that?  I do.

The devotional asked me a question I am going to ask you.  I came up with an answer, and I challenge you to do the same.

“What do you believe God has been asking you to do that you have been sidestepping?”

Ouch.  That was a big step on the toes.  I know I have something that I have been making excuses over for a while now.  I keep looking for that perfect excuse, and I have been pretty good at coming up with one every time I feel that little “push” the Holy Spirit gives me.  That needs to stop.

If I am going to live a Relentless Life for Christ, I need to go ahead and do what He asks me to do.  He knows best, and He will pour into me and then unlock whatever He put inside me that is necessary to accomplish the task.  If it is His plan and goal, it will get done, and I will be blessed to be involved!

I have some work to do, and I’m not sure how it is going to shake out and look like at the end of it all, but I believe it is time to get myself out of God’s way and just do what He asks.  I don’t think it is going to result in an open bar or anything, but all that matters is that God’s best is poured freely into those around me!

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