The Words Coming Out of My Mouth

Here is the second piece I wrote for our church’s Daring Faith campaign.  Feel free to comment and share!

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

wp-1474424742028.jpgAre you like me? Are you a little concerned at times that sharing your faith in Christ might offend someone?  Has it kept you silent in those opportune moments when you have a person in front of you who needs to hear the truth of God’s Word?  Yeah.  Me too, and if we are honest, we all would admit to having those moments.  So how do we change it?

Growing up, I always viewed this verse as a mandate for me to share the Word of God with every unsaved person I meet in order to give them the opportunity to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but is it possible there is more there than that? I think there might be.  I see Paul’s words here in Romans 10 as a challenge to us, just like I was taught, but I also see something that should make us all pause and think for a moment.

What if this verse is talking about my faith as a believer being the catalyst for someone to come to know Christ?

I sometimes feel that sharing my faith will fall on deaf ears or that I might offend, but when I am honest with myself, I think it is more like I am not always able to show a true belief in what I am saying.  I believe in Christ, and I trust Him for my salvation, but my faith in Him is not strong enough to compel someone to ask a question or engage in a conversation.  It’s not that an unsaved person is dependent on anything I bring to the table, but am I making a strong enough case for what Christ is doing in my life that it makes them want the same thing?

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The time I spend in God’s Word has a direct effect on how well I am able to speak to the spiritual needs and concerns of those I come in contact with.  My time in the Word provides insight to situations, points our deficiencies in my character I can address with God’s help, and knowledge to know just how to do those things as God provided His wisdom and the opportunities to use it.

That time in the Word develops my faith in the living God and it keeps Him in the front of my mind.  It gives me strength for the day, and excitement to share what He is doing.  It provides instant recall to His promises and His record of provision.  Having all of this at my fingertips as a result of my time hearing the Word allows me to provide a more compelling testimony to those who are searching.  We might not realize it, but they are always listening for real faith.

That is why I want to be Relentless in my growth as a believer.  I am not going to do it right all of the time, and I will have periods of time when it seems like nothing is happening at all, but I never want to settle.  The actions I take toward knowing Christ better and the experiences I share about how He is working in me are all opportunities for someone to hear that little thing that may draw them to know Christ as well.  It’s not me.  It is Christ using me.

  • Do you have opportunities to share God’s work in your life? Are you capitalizing on them?
  • Are you spending time in the Word on a regular basis?
  • Who can you start talking to about what God did for you this week?

Father, we have a hard time believing those we don’t know, and we have your Word to show us how to know you better.  Help us to take those moments in Your Word and treasure them.  Use them to build our faith as we listen to Your Spirit speaking into our hearts and give us the opportunity and excitement to share Your good news with those who need You.

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On Time – Not Early

I have been asked again  to share some of my writing with my church family in the form of a devotional for our church’s fall campaign.  I thought I would go ahead and share them with anyone else who might be interested in reading them as well.  So, here it is!  I will share the others every other day  until I get through them all.  Hoping by then I have had an opportunity to do some more writing on some of my current thoughts!

On Time – Not Early

timing-is-everythingPhilippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Back in 2010, my job came to an abrupt end on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in April.  I had gone to work that day feeling like I was on top of the world after a very trying time showing my employer that I was the guy they needed in my position.  I had fought hard to meet every demand and had even surpassed their expectations.  I was feeling pretty good, and then I got a phone call telling me that they wanted to meet with me later in the day.

I went home that day in a cab with a little cardboard box on my lap that contained the remnants of 11 years of hard work and a pile of paperwork explaining my severance package.  When I got home to face my wife and kids, all I could say was, “I don’t have to get up in the morning!”

Over the next couple of months, we watched as our savings went away and the job offers did not come in.  Unemployment was taking forever, but the bills showed up right on time.  We managed to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid, and through the generosity of family, friends, and church family, we even had food in the fridge.  It was not looking good, but we always managed to find just enough when we really needed it.

Then the day came when I was leaving to go do some handyman work for some family members that had been paying me $100 a day.  The plan was that I would go and work for two days, but I would spend the night away since gas money was tight.  As I was leaving, my wife looked at me with fear in her eyes and told me that we needed $300 by Monday to make the mortgage payment.  What were we going to do?  I knew that I was going to make $200, but where would the extra come from?

I remember looking her in the eye and saying that I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but God was going to provide it.  I think back to that moment and remember that for some reason I really believed it.  I couldn’t explain it!  After all, it was Friday morning and I was leaving for two days.  What was I thinking?

On my drive downstate I had an hour with myself and I used it talking to God.  I prayed Psalm 27:13 to Him and talked to Him about the fact that my family needed to see His goodness by Monday.  I shed tears, and I praised Him for what He was going to do.  I didn’t know how, but I knew He would take care of it.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13

I spent the next two days under the floor of a cottage crawling around in a damp crawlspace, and finally it was time to go home.  I collected my check, folding it in half and putting it in my pocket without looking at it, hugged goodbye and got in the car to head north.  I was still wondering what the next day might give me in work so I could make that mortgage payment.

wp-1474253527844.pngI got a call from my wife when I was about halfway home.  She asked me if I got paid and I said of course I did as I reached into my pocket to fish out the check.  When I opened it I saw that it had been written for $300 instead of the usual $200.  God had come through with a whole day to spare!

Since that day I’ve seen God do a lot of things “just in the nick of time.”  I have seen how He has changed my level of contentment.  I have seen Him bring me from pride in myself to a dependence on Him.  Our mortgage payment was not made because I went out and really worked hard.  God honored that, but I believe with all of my heart that my mortgage was kept current because I had faith and He held the solution.

  • Where do you need to have a moment of humility so God can work His miracles?
  • Are you willing to truly trust God with the big things and the little things?
  • Do you see worry as a sin that hinders God from working in your life?

Father, sometimes we need to know despair before we can truly know what it feels like to feel dependence on You.  Let my pride be brought low so that I may be in the position of humility before You.  Open my heart and eyes to see You at work in my life, and let my faith grow RELENTLESSLY as I praise You for the mighty things You do!

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My Take On Election Year 2016

DvELet me start off this post by saying that this year I have made a point of trying to stay out of the political arguing and banter going on out there.  I have made it a personal goal to not get into any political arguments or take off on any social media rants like so many are fond of.  I might slip a time or two, but for the most part I am trying to stay out of it for my own sanity as well as the heath of relationships.  We all have opinions and those opinions are not always held by those we call friends.

That being said, I want to make a couple of comments here and address what I feel to be a big issue in these times in which we live.  You may not agree with me, and that is your right.  I just hope that we can all take a moment and think about things like adults.  I admit to being a little handicapped in that area, but I promise to do my best.

I read an article the other day asking Christians to avoid voting in this election because there are no candidates that would be a good choice in God’s eyes.  While I do agree that the moral integrity of the candidates that are basking in the media spotlights right now is somewhat suspect, I don’t think that is a good reason for us to abstain from voting.  We need not be fearful of making a “wrong” or “flawed” choice.  We are all human, and flawed humans picking a leader from a pool of flawed humans will always succeed in selecting a flawed human as their leader.  Face the facts.

I have often walked into the voting booth picking “the lesser evil” with my vote.  Not exactly an inspiring thought when putting someone in a position of authority like that, but it really is about all I can do.  When I go into the booth I am doing my part to make a good selection, but the system does not always allow for us to have a “best choice”.  We do what we can with what we are given.  Frankly, I am not going to get that worked up about it.  I will continue to vote and be a good citizen, but I often feel that my part in the process does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

My family has been talking extensively about the candidates still available to us for next week’s primary, and we are discouraged.  There are no candidates that match our values.  We see the frontrunners as untrustworthy and dangerous to not only the dignity and safety of our country, but also to our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.  It is disheartening to sit and look at the choices available and not only feel a sense of malaise, but an actual fear.  What does all of this mean for the USA and for us?

Allowed to run unchecked, these fears can bring us into a near panic over our situation.  What will happen to us?  Isn’t there anyone that can save us in this troubled time?  What is happening with our country, and why can’t the majority truly see the truth of who these candidates are?  There must be better choices than those we are allowed to actually vote on.  What am I supposed to do as a believer?  Where does my sense of responsibility begin and end?

Basically, I have decided I can do four things:

Pray – The Bible tells me that it I should worry about nothing and pray about everything.  The thing to remember is that I need to be praying for the right things.  God’s will to be done is the first and foremost thing to remember.  He will allow the person to be elected.  That is not mine to decide.  My part in this is to ask God to show me how to rightly respond to how that person will eventually lead this country.  I might not agree with what they say, but I can still respond appropriately.  I need to pray in preparation for whatever God decides to bring into my life.

Learn – We are told to be wise.  That means that we are supposed to learn about the candidates.  We shouldn’t just listen to the media sound bytes and read the stuff on social media.  What are the real facts about the candidates?  Take some time and dig in to see what is actually there.  A Christian should never vote based on what they saw on Twitter. C’mon, everyone.  We need to be smarter than that.

Vote – We have a duty as citizens of our country to vote.  God is OK with it. I promise!  Christ showed us the importance of paying our taxes and the apostles wrote of the duty we have to be subject to the authority that God has placed over us.  Why would God tell us to pay taxes and be subject to our rulers set over us if He did not also want us to be involved in the process?  It might not be a command, “Thou shalt vote/not vote for the _____________party”, but there is definitely an understanding that we have a governmental system that God intends us to work with.

Pray Some More – After the election it will be time to pray some more!  The person in office will need to be lifted up in prayer.  The leader of the USA is probably under more pressure than any other leader in the world.  Like the old saying, “Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.”, we need to be praying for wisdom, protection, and guidance for our President as they will be under a heavy burden while in office.

At the end of the day, all the talk, arguing, and shouting about politics pretty much just leads to a ton of anxiety and anger.  I’ve decided that I don’t need that.  I would rather FOCUS on living a Relentless life.  The political environment breeds fear, and emotional turmoil.  I choose to try to live in the peace that God brings to the situations around me.  Peace like God tells us about in Isaiah:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

The election is coming and there will be a President.  God already knows who that will be. He will not be surprised, and He will still be on the throne of the universe.  I’m going to rest in that.  It gives me peace no matter what happens in the arena of politics.

Pray. Do your homework. Vote. Pray some more.  In all of it, TRUST GOD!

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Serving Closer to Home

1424375067663-2My wife and I found something out about ourselves a few years ago.  We love camp ministry.  Not just camping, but camp ministry.  We knew that our kids loved camp, but it was not until we started attending Bible Baptist in TC that we were able to get more involved in camp  ministry by becoming Camp Captains at Lake Ann Camp.  It was a great opportunity to get to know the kids in our church better and to give them opportunities to go to summer camp where they could have opportunities to grow spiritually and as individuals.

For the last five years, we have been doing that, and it has been a wild ride.  We have seen kids come to Christ, new relationships formed, accountability increase in the teens, and an excitement about camp grow as well.  God blessed the kids in our church greatly through that ministry, and we give God glory for it.

We have also seen a lot of changes in the camp and the people that we worked with.  We were able to build friendships with staff that were strong even though we did not have a ton of time to spend with them unless we were at camp with the groups.  It has been hard to say goodbye to many of them, but we rejoice in the short time we spent with them.

As this year was starting up, an opportunity began to present itself that would allow us to be a part of a camp ministry closer to home.  Less than 5 miles from home!  Needless to say we were excited about the chance to do so.  As things started to come together, we came to the conclusion that we will not have the time to support two camps with our time, and we would really love to be able to spend more time at the camp just down the road.

God has brought some of our best friends to this camp to serve as well, and while it is very different from Lake Ann, we see it as a very relevant way of doing camp ministry, and we are all really excited to see what God is going to do with it over the next couple of years.

So many details are still being worked out, but I thought it was time to say publicly that I will now be a part of ministry at Starwood Ranch here in Kalkaska.  I look forward to being able to be there as much as possible to help out and be used by God however He sees fit. You can expect to hear more about it as we get further into things.

A chapter of life has come to an end, but I am excited to see what God has in store for the next one.  It’s gonna be great!

Stress Level – High

thThis past weekend my daughter graduated from high school.  Friday we rehearsed, Saturday we did pictures and graduated, and Sunday we had the Open House.  Sounds simple, right? A nice little three-day operation…

NOPE!

It was a good two weeks in the making as we painted the house, did a bunch of yard work, decorated a barn, bought a bunch of food, and took care of a lot of other details as well.  We had some much needed and appreciated help from our parents, and our friends, and without that help, we would not have been able to pull it off.  We cannot thank them enough for how they all came to our aid by making food, helping with set-up and tear down, filling bowls, running grills, and so many other things I cannot even begin to remember them all right now.  On top of all of that, things were very busy at work for both of us.

In a word, we were stressed.  I don’t mean just a little bit, I mean staring at the ceiling at 2am stressed because you are wondering if you have bought the right amount of relish to feed a couple hundred people that you think are going to show up, while you are hearing some of them say they aren’t going to be able to make it, and wondering if you have hedged your bet just right to come out okay between those that can’t come and those that you didn’t expect to come!  Throw a national holiday into the mix and that makes it even more unpredictable. See!  I’m twitching just thinking about it right now!

I hit a wall last week on Thursday and reached out for help from my friends for some prayer support.  They came through for me, and I wrote a little about that here.  Friday was a better day, but even though we were in a pretty good spot by Friday afternoon for the open house, I still went into the weekend feeling the after-effects of too much anxiety over all that we had needed to get done.

I began my day today feeling tired, wishing for a day at home.  I just wanted one day to be able to catch up on a few things that I had to let slide while we did party prep, but I had to go to work.  Not long after I got here I got a notification on my phone from my Bible app (learn more about that here) that a friend had posted an image.  I looked it up and found this:

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Verse image from my friend Mike W.

 Yes.  That was a good thing to see.  A promise of God’s peace that I can claim.  A simple statement of faith in God’s power to get us through the times that the stress dial is turned ALL THE WAY UP!  Keep your mind focused on God, and you will be able to face things around you with His perfect peace, not because the problems will necessarily go away, but because that trust in God just makes them pale in comparison.

I wish I had experienced more of that over the last couple of weeks.  I probably would have been nicer to my wife and kids, and I definitely would have been nicer to be around at work.  I might have slept better too!

You see, as wonderful as the promise of Isaiah 26:3 is, there is an unwritten opposing promise in that verse as well.  Allow me to paraphrase the verse to show what I mean:

“You will allow a stressful turmoil into the one whose mind is not stayed on you, because he does not trust in You.”

That’s kind of the spot I was allowing myself to live a lot of the last couple weeks.  My mind was not on God, but was on the stuff that I had to do.  It wasn’t necessarily that I did not trust God, but I definitely was not seeking His help in keeping my head right as I dealt with the stuff that had to be done under my power alone.  There is a word for that kind of thinking, and I think the Bible likes to use the word “foolish.”  Yep.  That word works better than any other I can think of.

Relentless Living means disciplining myself to look at my circumstances through the filter of God’s presence in my life.  There are days that I lose that perspective, but it is imperative that I don’t let my mind wander from Him, my trust in Him, and His perfect peace.

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42 – What Happens Next?

Answer_to_Life“42 was found to be the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Unfortunately, it was not known exactly what the question was, so nobody is any the wiser.”

– ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

Well, another year has come and gone, and I hope that I am a bit wiser for the last 365 days of spinning around the sun.  I know there are several people who would probably like to weigh in on that one, but they will have to do so in the comments below, and since that seems to be a fairly untrodden patch of dirt,  I feel pretty safe.

I have been trying to think of something witty to say for my 42nd birthday blog.  What type of topic would best fit such a year of significance?  Douglas Adams gave us the number 42 as the answer to everything, but as he said, if we don’t know exactly what the question is, 42 just falls kind flat.  So, that makes me ask, what has been the big question of my last 12 months?

“What happens next?”

Yep.  That has probably been the biggest question of the last year.  It has led us down roads that felt ominous, filled with worry and concern.  What is Tammi’s job going to be like?  What is my job going to be like?  What does school look like for the kids next year?  What is my Men’s Group going to look like?  What should I do about teaching? What should I be thinking about my future ministry opportunities?

Well, Tammi’s job smoothed out and things are going well.  I’ve seen a lot of change in my role at work and things have been getting steadily better there.  We are seeing the college situation for BOTH kids coming into focus.  I think the Men’s Group is in a state of change, but may very well be on the cusp of something amazing.  Teaching is still in the air, but future ministry opportunities are looking more and more interesting, even if they are on a slight pause at this time.

Monday I was reading in Joshua 1.  Joshua has just taken up the mantle of leadership for the nation of Israel, and is standing at the border of the Promised Land.  Moses is dead, and he is looking around at all these people who are looking at him expectantly.  I imagine the thought, “What happens next?” went through his mind.

I like to wonder if God saw these doubts in Joshua’s mind.  It makes sense that He did since He immediately came to Him to have a chat:

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. – Joshua 1:5-6

Imagine that. God Himself speaking to you and saying, “No man can beat you for the rest of your life. I am with you. Always. Get ready to be strong and show courage because I am going to use you to fulfill MY promise to these people!” Got any goosebumps yet? I do! God goes on to tell Joshua two more times to be strong and courageous; reinforcing His promise to Joshua and the people of Israel.

I would think that after that, Joshua had to be feeling a bit better. He had been reassured by God and had been given a promise of protection and victory! The next step was to address the people. He told them to prepare for battle. He reminded them of promises made by God to them, and of promises made by the people to God. Things are looking pretty good, and then the people answer him:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” – Joshua 1:16-18

What a coincidence!  These people, who I do not believe heard God talking to Joshua, tell him the exact same thing that God did!  Why it almost makes you think that God might have used them to reinforce what He had just told Joshua!  That would probably be because that is exactly what He did!  God used this interaction with the men that he led to speak truth into Joshua at a time and in a place that he would know God was at work.

I have had a lot of these moments over the past year. “Coincidences” that just seem to come out of nowhere as someone tells me something “out of the blue” that I had just read that morning in the Bible.  I have had people walk up and make offers to do things that were direct answers to prayers that I had just prayed about that morning!  Some people would call it coincidence, luck, karma…  I call it God, and when it happens I find myself asking an old question in a new way – with expectancy!

“What happens next?”

I don’t know. I am on the cusp of a new year. I have never been closer to God than I am right now. My relationship with my wife and kids is better than ever. God has brought four men into my life that are the closest friends I have ever had. They speak truth into me and are often telling me in their own ways to be strong and courageous. I am looking at the future of what God is going to do with my life in regards to ministry, and I see His hand has been moving me toward a change for some time. Now I see it just over the horizon as I look at the opportunity to join in the work at Starwood Ranch and Overboard Ministries.

What happens next? I don’t really know, but I know that the Relentless Life I have been pursuing in my relationship with God has brought me here. It is taking me into new territories where I will need to trust Him not only for wisdom and strength, but for the courage to go the distance with Him.

This is going to be a big year for me. I’m going after it with my God, my family, and my friends. I’ll let you know what happened in 365 days!

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My Dog Clyde. What A Wise Dog.

DSC02920This is my dog Clyde.  I got him on November 15, 1994 from the Kalkaska Animal Shelter.  When I got him he was just a cute little guy with a very big stink.  When I got him home and cleaned him up I was very pleased with the little fuzz ball I had before me.  I distinctly remember the conversation I had with Tammi regarding naming him:

Tammi: What are we going to name him?

Me: (Holding him up and looking in his eyes) His name is Clyde.

Tammi: No. That’s not a good name for such a cute puppy!

Me: (Visions of Clint Eastwood and an orangutan riding around in a pickup flashing in my mind, “Right turn, Clyde.”) Yes.  His name is Clyde.  He will grow into his name and it will fit him well, as he will be my buddy.

Not sure if my wife realizes that I named our first pet after an orangutan, but she will soon!  He did grow into the name, and it really did fit him well.  He was a great dog, and in a lot of ways still reminds me of the orangutan.  Loyal, a great companion, a source of dismay and amusement.  He’s been gone for about 8 years now.  A good dog.  One of the best.  So, why am I writing to you about my old yeller dog?  Well, settle in and we’ll get there.

Let’s talk about hope for minute first.  Why do we hope?  What does hope feel like?  Why do we need it?  Is it really that valuable?  I think it is.  We hope because deep down we know our own limitations. We have an innate knowledge that we are not able to do all things.  We come up against challenges and struggles that bring us pain, hold us down, and we don’t know what to do about them, how we are going to get through them or why we are in them.  That is where hope comes in.

Hope gives us that little bit to do one more day.  It tells us we can handle it one more time.  It is that little push in the back of the mind that says, “I’m going to make it.”  So important when you feel you are at the end of your strength, abilities, understanding.  We recently lost an icon in Robin Williams.  At the end of it all, he had no more hope. I am not discounting the reality of depression as an illness.  It really is, and while medication can be used to combat it, at the end of the day the medication allows people to deal with their depression well enough that they can hang on to that all important thing.  Hope. Hope is a very powerful thing, and we need it for life, but we also need it for beyond.

So, back to Clyde.  He was a good dog that spent most of his time around the house, but like any animal that is allowed to run free (we live in a very rural area), he would wander out from time to time to see what he could see.  Sometimes he would come home with a treasure of some sort: a chunk of a dead deer, a dead bird, and unrecognizable piece of dead something, or just an overwhelming stench from the dead something he had found to roll around in.  It never mattered to him.  He had been out experiencing life, and he was happy.

One day, he came home with something different.  He had found a porcupine, and you guessed it, he had a muzzle full of quills.  Not a happy dog.  It was weird that when I first saw him he looked so ashamed of himself.  He was whining and definitely felt miserable.  He came to me, full of pain and his eyes were pleading for help.porcupine_668_600x450

So, we did the only thing you can do.  We went to the garage and got the pliers and I went to work on him.  I don’t remember how may quills we had to pull, but I do remember that near the end, he was losing his patience with the entire operation.  He never bit or growled at me, but he was whining louder and definitely was showing that he wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

What I remember the most though was his eyes.  He just kept looking at me with those big brown eyes.  I am not a person that looks at animals as human beings.  They are not humans.  I don’t believe they are capable of emotions in the way that humans are.  I say that, but at the same time, I can say that in his eyes there was a mixture of fear and pain that was combined with a love, trust, and resignation to the process.  It was like he knew that with every quill I pulled, as painful as it was; he was getting closer to feeling good again. As I talked to him and stroked his head, he trusted me in the process.

I recently finished a devotional series by Oswald Chambers on hope.  In that study he said something that reminded me of this moment with my old yeller dog.  He said,

“Have you ever had to do something to a pet dog in order to get it well, something that hurt it very much – pulled a thorn out of its foot, or washed a wound, or anything of that sort?  If so, you will remember the expression of dumb eloquence in the eyes of the dog as he looked at you; what you were doing hurt him tremendously and yet there seemed to speak from his eyes such a trust of you as if he would say, ‘I don’t in the least understand what you are doing, what you are doings hurts, but go on with it.’”  That is an apt illustration of “suffering according to the will of God.”

Clyde looked at me with eyes that were in pain and not understanding the why of the situation.  He knew he had done something that seemed right, then not so much, but the thing he had done wrong was gone, why was he still hurting?  All he really knew was who to turn to.

I’ve had trials in the last several years, and there have been times I have felt the same way.  Hurt from my actions, from the actions of others, and sometimes hurt that I couldn’t even understand where it was coming from.  I would try to take care of it myself, but that didn’t work, and eventually I would go to the One who could help me. God.

Sometimes those conversations went well, but other times I could not understand what He wanted me to do.  I would whine and I would thrash, but in the end, I knew that what I needed was in Him.  Staying close to Him was my way out.  Only by staying close to Him would I hear His calming words, be reassured by His people, have the sins in my life revealed and forgiven.  It wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it always brought the result that I needed… HOPE!

The hope that I have as a result of my relationship with Christ is two-fold.

1.  I have a hope for life.

 “I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

This is that hope that Clyde demonstrated in me.  This is the hope that we experience from knowing God will be there for us.  We can trust His Word and the promises in it that tell us we will be okay.  This is talking about the struggles we face and how as we stay close to God we will see our perspective of things come closer to His and we can see His hand at work.  Sometimes we see it in hindsight, but He is always faithful to do His work.

2.  I have a hope for eternity.

“For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

We need a hope that takes us past life too.  If all there is in life is what we see, then we are in dire straights indeed.  God sent His Son to help us reach an eternal destination where we can have our relationship with Him be what it was intended to be.  He sent His Son to die for us so we could have that hope.  Real Hope!  A Hope that is Relentless is the life of the Christian.  A Hope that rages against Satan’s lies that will pull us down and make us ineffective or feeling empty.

Do you have that Hope today?  I want that for you.  God wants that for you.  I don’t know how you can go through life without it.  I know you don’t want to go through eternity without it.

Relentless Living is being willing to do the hard thing when it hurts because you have the hope that God is doing something good through the pain.  That He sees farther than you see, and that His methods will work for your good.  Those promises are in His Word, and they are vital to the life of a believer.

If you want to know how to have that hope, I would love to talk to you about it.  There is nothing better than having that hope.

Thanks for reading.  Please share this on your social media with as many people as you like using the links below.  Comment below if you have questions. I would love to hear from you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

“I’m In Hot Pursuit!”

rosco_2x11_33Every time I hear the word “pursuit”, as a child of the 80’s I am reminded of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. There were not a lot of things about Roscoe I would like to add to my life, but you have to admit, Roscoe never gave up a pursuit…

Continuing my study of Gideon, I am in chapter 8 of Judges and verse 4 is a challenge to my daily walk:

And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. (emphasis mine)

Gideon’s battle itself was not an overly difficult one, but when you look back in the story, it would appear that he has had a prolonged period of time without much sleep.  Gideon did a lot of work at night – taking down an idol, infiltrating a camp, and then his trumpet and light show that turned the enemy on themselves.  Follow all of that up with a pursuit of two fellas and their straggling soldiers, a confrontation with some of his cousins, and I am sure he was exhausted.

But he kept pursuing.  Why?

I think it is simply because the job wasn’t done.  God told him He would use Gideon to defeat the armies of Midian, and these two generals were still converting oxygen to CO2.  It was not time to rest.  And in the verses to follow, we will see that there was more to overcome.  I encourage you to read it for yourself and see how Gideon pressed on and took care of the job. Even when people denied him help, he did not let up.

Lately, I have been very tired.  I know God is blessing and there are a lot of really neat things going on – continuing to grow closer to my wife, the amazing number of kids from BBC at Lake Ann Camp this year, the relationship that has been getting stronger with my son, the time I have been spending in the Word, trying my hand at writing, working to be a godly husband, father, and friend.  I am so excited about it, as I am sure that Gideon was excited about the victory he had been promised.  I know that God is working.  I know that He is working on me.

I’m tired.

I’m tired, and I see other big things and opportunities ahead.  It scares me to think I am already tired!  To think that I could one day look back on this and think, “You only THOUGHT you were tired!”

I’m not going to let it stop me though.  There are things happening that I have been longing to see, just as Gideon wanted to see his people free.  The dreams I have had are fuel that allow me to keep going.  God is working, and I see it.  He is telling me that He is sufficient for me.  I know that there will be people along the way that will help me – you all are doing it already in your prayers.  I also know there will be people who can, but will not.  Not sure if I get to beat them with blackberry thorns… That might take a little more Bible Study to see if that is an option…

I talked with a friend last night who is in a pursuit of his own. He is stepping out of what many would call a great job, at a place he loves, where he is surrounded by friends and a great culture, to follow God in a different way. He has about 40 days and he will even need to be out of his home, and he doesn’t know where he is going yet! He has some ideas, some thoughts on what he is praying and hoping for, but he has nothing tangible at this point. As he was telling me all about it, HE COULD NOT STOP SMILING! He is relentlessly pursuing what God has put in his heart and he is thrilled, even in the face of the unknown. What an encouragement to me!

Keep pursuing!  We all get tired, but Gideon was not alone.  He had his trusted men with him as I do.  He had the words of God to stand on, as I do.  He was the man God wanted in the battle.  I believe that at least at this period of my life, I am where He wants me to be – Relentless in pursuit of the mission set before me.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

 

 

What Scares Me

halloween-scary-houseI used to really like watching horror movies. I hate to admit that out loud, but it’s the truth. It was never to see the blood or gore or anything like that, I liked it for the suspense and the fear. Instead of sitting there dreading the moment that the bad guy would jump out, I was eager for it. I liked the adrenalin rush that fear would bring.

Over the years I began to lose interest in those movies. Some of it was because the filmmakers were adding so much blood to the movies. It got to the point that it was just ridiculous and in a way, comical. The real reason that I stopped was that it got to be predictable. I knew who the bad guy was, who was next, when it would happen, and often the bad pun that would come with the death of the unsuspecting victim.  It just got boring. No fear = No fun.

I believe God gave me the gift of an analytical mind. It comes in handy most of the time. I look at a problem and see the options, the possibilities, and somehow I can usually put together the outcome.  As a result, I have really come to depend on that ability as I go through the “routine” of life.  Problem comes up, weigh options, formulate and apply solution, move on. Most of the time it works. My life has a lot of routine, so the formula works for me. Even when things are crazy, the things I face are part of a period of routine craziness.

Sometimes though, things break from the routine. The thing that does that the most is the future. It is unpredictable. Too many variables when you start looking out more than a few weeks. Too much could happen. Too many people might be involved. Too much of it ends up out of my control or my sight. Then it happens. The fear sets in.

What I used to seek out and enjoy now unsettles me. It steals my sleep, clouds my mind, and isolates me from others. It takes up my time in thinking, planning, protecting, strategizing, and evaluating.  I will look at what I want, what I need, what I can do, what I need others to do, what the effect could be for myself and others, who I will anger, who I will hurt, who I will disappoint. I see so many possibilities for good and for things to go wrong, and I feel terrified.

There are things I am working on in my career right now that are full of variables. There are choices that we are looking at regarding where we might live in the future. There are decisions to be made on our finances that are the result of past mistakes. Then there is the thing that really unsettled me. I am the leader of my home. I have a wife and two teens that I am responsible for, and those kids are getting uncomfortably close to getting ready to fly. Are they ready? Did I do enough? Have I hurt them?

These are things that are much more terrifying than a crazed, knife-wielding maniac. This stuff is important! These things matter in ways that affect future generations and kingdom work as well. They cannot be ignored, but they also can’t just be figured out.

So, there I am. Walking down the gravel road in the middle of the moonlit night. I’m looking around. I’m checking for escape routes. I’m taking inventory. What have I got? What is at my disposal? In a word, what I have to bring to the table is nothing.

Paralysis starts to set in, the sweats take over, and I get that clench in the gut that just makes me feel sick.  I think that if someone were to look at me at that moment they would see that same wild-eyed look that a horse gets when it has been spooked.  Then I hear the words in my heart:

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

God brings this verse to my mind now whenever I feel that fear.  Fear is the first step to despair when it comes to a lot of the matters I am talking about here.  It is fear unchecked that takes us to the place that we enter into despair.  We can’t see a way out in spite of all of our plans and we feel that we flounder in this place until we lose hope.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  – Proverbs 3:5-6

Here is the hard part – trusting God.  The struggle with faith in the face of an overwhelming feeling of fear.  God tells is that He will lead us, but it takes trusting Him.  It takes saying to Him, “I’m scared!  I don’t know what is going to happen with the finances!  I’m not sure if I am doing a good job as a husband or as a Dad!  I’m scared about the lack of momentum I am seeing in those who are in charge of parts of my career!  God! Where is this going? Please, I’m asking You to show me!  I need to know that You are there and that You care!”

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

God wants good things for me.  I know He does.  He tells me over and over again that He cares for me and that He will meet my needs.  He sent His Son for me and anyone else to receive the gift of salvation.  God is a loving Father who wants to give His children the things they ask for, to see us blessed so we can tell others about how great He is.  He just wants our focus to be on Him.  That is where I fail – where many of us fail.  We see inside and horizontally, but we are not looking up to God the way we should.  It’s hard.  I want what I know about, the things I see.  I fear the things that are crowding around me, the unknown, and the unreachable dreams.

“Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.” – Psalm 38:9

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

And there it is.  The thing I want to do, but the thing I struggle so much with.  My desires are known to God.  He hears my sighs and my frustrated cries.  He knows every thought in my head even better than I do.

He wants me to put Him ahead of it all.

He wants me to be fulfilled in Him.  He wants me to want nothing but Him. He wants me to be so close to Him that the things around me that bring me the fears and the frustrations fall so far away in comparison that they cannot touch my spirit with their power.  There is the place that I will find the desires of my heart – as mine grows closer to His.  It is there that I will see His hand at work in the things that have brought me fear as He works them out for His glory.  It is there that I may see my desires change to bring Him glory.  It is there that I may see Him bless me so I can give Him glory.

Then, after I think about all of these things, I feel the fear recede.  I wish I could say it goes away.  Some people might look at me sometimes and think it has, but I can assure you it hasn’t.  It just lessens as I learn to trust Him more.  It is a process, and it must be done on purpose, for a purpose.

The purpose is to believe the goodness of the Lord will be seen!

I hope sharing this little insight into my struggles with fear and despair will help someone else.  If it has, I would love to hear from you.

In His Grip,

Tom