Leaving a Legacy

Today I read Deuteronomy 32-34, 1 Corinthians 2, and Love Dare day 2. I have been thinking a lot lately about what legacy I will leave behind for my boys and whether or not they will have a passion for the Lord and have a deep insight into who he is that I feel I have gotten over the years and inherited from my parents. This deep desire has been fueled not only by my love for my boys and for the Lord but also by my own guilt for not being as intentional as I think I should be. Here in Deuteronomy we read about Moses’ blessing to each of the tribes of Israel. In particular he blesses the Levites who where the pastors in many ways for being more loyal to God than they were their own relatives. These were the guys who kept true to God’s word and commands and carried out everything he commanded them to do. Being a pastor I would love to have that on my own epitaph. To have others say that I was more loyal to God than anything else would be the way I would want to be remembered, not just on the outside so people could have been fooled by my behavior but in my heart and soul as well. Those are the places that only God knows so most importantly I would want to have him say that to me on the other side of eternity. That kind of legacy to pass on to my boys so they see it and hopefully have the same passion for it would be my prayer.

Yet in so many ways I feel I fall short just like the Israelites did and even Moses himself. Moses was a man who the scriptures say no one had a relationship with God face to face like Moses. What an honor and incredible responsibility that must have been for him. Yet I have the Holy Spirit living in me so my face to face relationship with God, while not visible physically, is ongoing and intimate. I want to live according to God’s wisdom which the world says is foolish, instead of by my own wisdom or that of the world. If I can live in such a way that my boys see my passion for God not only in my words or the things I do as a pastor but in our home, in my marriage to their mom, in the way I treat them and seek to reconcile when I have blown it, and in the way I bring the Lord up in everyday conversations, I know they will be miles ahead in their pursuit of God for themselves. A legacy is not something that we decree but rather is the body of work that our lives leave behind for others to follow.

Lord, help me to leave a legacy for my boys that is easy for them to follow and instills in them a passion for You and Your Word. Keep me from being lazy and seeing my home time as my down time. Help me not to give everything I have to those who I minister to but to save the best for my family. Help me to a man like you talked about of the Levites who is more loyal to you than to my own relatives. Amen.

God is Thinking About Me Now

Today I read Deuteronomy 30-31, Psalm 40, 1 Corinthians 1, and Day 1 of the Love Dare. I have many things rolling around in my mind today. One of those is my feelings of closeness to the Lord. Right now I feel a tug of war in my soul between giving everything to the Lord and a passion for Him and the pull of daily details and relational issues. In today’s reading, Moses gives the recipe to the children of Israel on how to stay close to the Lord by reading his commands frequently and obeying them and passing them on to your kids. He also predicted through what God told him that the people would rebel and would forget to do those things, which we know from history lead them back into exile. This flopping around between commitment and “being in the zone” and being pulled to other concerns where God is not central is the defining struggle of the Christian life. Even now I can feel my heart wane and commit moment by moment and I have the Holy Spirit which the Israelites did not have.

The same issue was present in the Corinthian church where they had the Holy Spirit and the many gifts he gave the church, yet they had quarrels and disputes among them that caused all kinds of problems in the church. This is what I have seen over and over again. Even in my own life I have had problems with people that I did not handle well or talked about behind their backs to make me feel better about it. That is a completely wrong approach and the cowards way of dealing with issues. I need to be consistent in going to the person I am struggling with so we can resolve it together and be reconciled and move forward in unity which is vital in the church. Again, this is a heart waning/commitment issue.

Yet in the midst of all of this, the Psalmist states in verse 17, “As for me I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now.” That just blew my mind this morning and is something I have to continually dwell on and remember. That despite my circumstances, God is thinking about me right now. Even when I am not thinking about him and going my own way. Still God is thinking about me and loves me and is waiting for me to come back to Him. What an incredible gift God has given me! I want to be a man who lives up to this thought and stays obedient to God’s call on my life. In the Love Dare it talked about being patient instead of angry and to not lash out against your spouse when things go wrong to but be patient and process the situation. That is one way today I can live out the fact that God is thinking about me, by being like Him which is patient for sure!

Lord, help me to think of you as often as you think of me. Help me to walk in step with your Holy Spirit instead of going on and off the trail. I want to live my life to its fullest in all that you would have for me. Please help me to have your vision for my life instead of my own. Amen.

Faith Versus Sight

Today I read Deuteronomy 16-18, Psalm 38, and Galatians 2. The themes of these three passages seemed to blend together this morning. In Deuteronomy, Moses is giving the people the rules on how they should live in the land that God has given them. He talks about the sacrifices, the festivals they are to observe, etc. Then he mentions two things that I don’t remember seeing before. First, he sets them up for their own desire to eventually want a king. Even though God is to be their king, he knows that they will want one leader who is their king like the other nations and so Moses lays out how they find the king and how the king should live. The king was not to have a bunch of wives and he was to write down word for word the words of the law so he wouldn't forget it and would govern by it. I found this interesting because Solomon was said to have many wives and it did seem to take him down a bad a path at one time from what I remember. But this focus on the law and remembering it and forcing the king to remember it by writing it down is an interesting concept. Kind of like a quiet time with God on steroidsHappy.

Then Moses told them that God was going to send prophets to them who would speak for him since the children of Israel asked that they never have to deal with God directly again because of their experience on Mount Sinai which they felt almost killed them. So God honored his promise by sending a prophet to speak for him who they had to listen to and could test by seeing if what he said came true. In a day where we have people saying things like, “If God wold show himself to me I would believe,” we have people who said don’t show him to me because he scares me and they still waffled back and forth from belief to unbelief even when having God’s presence with them in a very tangible way. For all of those who say they need God to show himself to them before they will believe, There is a whole nation who saw him and didn’t continue to believe and follow him regularly. I am sure the same would be true today where people would want “on-demand” demonstrations that he is still there to hold their belief in check. I can see why God went the route of faith without seeing.

In Galatians Paul talks about how Christ fulfilled the law and that our relationship with God is finally made right through belief instead of trying to keep the law perfectly which was impossible to do from the start. So it is by grace through faith in Christ that we are finally able to have relationship with God and actually have the Holy Spirit living within us to guide and direct us. What an incredible gift especially in light of how it was before Christ came. I am not grateful enough for all this means for me especially in light of the fact that all of the prophets and those who loved God who came before us, longed to see the day in which I live.

Lord, thank you for what you did for me in the life, work, death, and resurrection of your Son. Please help me to live in such a way that I am at least displaying in some imperfect way, the love you have for others. Make me a man that others can point to and say at least he is trying. Amen.

God's Guide for Avoiding Recession

Today I read Deuteronomy 13-15 and Galatians 1. As I reflect on what I just read I am struck by the rules that God put in place to really take care of everyone. He put in place the idea of a year of jubilee, that every seven years debts where forgiven and slaves were allowed to go free. Also, people were to give the first tenth of all that they owned to God and every three years to give a portion to the Levites who had not inheritance of their own because they served God. He also commanded them to look out for the poor, even the poor in the land that were not their own to take care of them and give them what they needed. In the “rules” God was establishing, he was making sure everyone was taken care of and no one would go without and the people would be blessed in doing this as long as they continued to serve God and follow what he commanded.

I think about my own day in relation to what God established in Israel and I can see why those rules were so important. People of their own natural accord will only look out for themselves and not just for what they need to survive but for everything they can get to build up some false sense of security. Even if they have tons of money there is always greed for more “just in case.” So people will forget those who are in need because they have their own survival instinct and greed that leads them to turn a blind eye to anyone around them. So God established rules in these three chapters that dealt with the people’s source of security, he gave rules for how they relied on God instead of other gods, gave their money to God and others instead of hoarding it for themselves, and forgave debts and slaves every seven years instead of lording it over people who owed them and keeping people in perpetual debt in order to build their own wealth off of their backs. Today in an economy that is going very bad and things that are sinking fast, people are in a sense of helplessness and striving for anything that has a sense of stability. This whole mess was brought on by people violating the commands God gave to the nation of Israel way back then. People have been worshiping the gods of materialism and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it was unethical and in some cases illegal. They have forgot that everything they have comes from God and began to believe that they could do anything and money would roll in. They also, exploited people and put them into mortgages and other debts that they could never afford in order to make money for themselves all the while setting those people up for a hard fall.

What God established way back then is so applicable today and was only further explained in the New Testament. I a need to make sure I have no other god that gets in the way of my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only because of him that I have life and breath in my lungs and his principles are eternal. Money and possessions need to be a distant fourth in my life compared to what God has called me to do. I know he has sustained me thus far and he will continue to do so as I seek to follow his guidelines for living.

Lord, help me to be a man who is dependent on you and you alone. Help me to avoid the trap that money and possessions can create in my life. Help me to see that everything I have and all that I am comes from you. Amen.

Faith Versus Fear

Today I read Deuteronomy 1-2 and Mark 12. Both passages this morning have to do with faith and trust. In Deuteronomy, Moses is recounting the history of the children of Israel as he delivers to them his final speech before dying. He reminds them of how God rescued them from the Egyptians and how even though he had been faithful to them, they lacked faith when it counted the most. They were too afraid to enter the land that God had told them to conquer because they were looking at it from their own strength and began to complain and look at the impossibilities instead of the possibilities. This paralyzed them and, as a result, God did not allow that entire generation to get into the promised land. Then in a fit of regret they decided to go and do what God had told them to do in the first place, this time again, against what God said they should do and they were defeated heavily.

As I think about the lack of faith of the Israelites it is interesting to note that not only did they face the huge consequences of their lack of belief by not getting to go into the land, but their children also suffered for 40 years while they literally waited for their parents to die off so they could have a permanent home that God had arranged for them. 40 years is a long time for anyone no matter how long you may live and here were kids who probably had the conversation with their parents about why they didn’t believe God.

I don’t think I have linked non belief with consequences to myself and others before. Sure I could see how I might suffer by not getting to experience all God has for me and wasting portions of my life and the talent God has given me all because I allowed my fear and the thoughts that go with it to drown out my trust in God and the possibilities that go along with serving a God for whom nothing is impossible. But when that lack of faith is translated to others and how they might suffer from my lack of faith, I find that this is even more serious than the consequence I would self inflict. How might others suffer? Well what if there were many people who needed whatever it was I felt God was calling me to do but I felt, for whatever reason, that I couldn’t make it happen? I know God could work out other arrangements but how would he respond to a conversation with him about not only letting Him and myself down, but also the others for whom my actions would have an impact?

That just weighs very heavy on my heart right now and I can see where I have lived both in faith and fear even in the recent past. I lived in fear of starting this couples ministry because I didn’t know what was the best way to do it, I didn’t want to fail, and I felt a lot of pressure to make sure this worked to prove I was the guy who could lead it. I then lived in faith when I stuck to my guns and did it the way I thought God had placed on my hear to make it happen and it has resulted in a great resource to the couples in our church and in other places. In both situations I experienced a great amount of pressure and naysayers, yet in the case of stepping out in faith, I am now able to see the results of that faith in the lives of those who are being touched. It is important that I walk by faith and not by fear and obey God when I feel him calling me to do something.

Lord, help me to be a man who hears your voice and responds in faith. Keep me from allowing my fears to keep me from doing what I know is right even if it may be an uncomfortable road to getting there. Amen.

Seeing the Possibilities Instead of the Obstacles

Today I read Numbers 32-33 and Mark 10. As I sit here reflecting on what God is saying to me in these passages, I am drawn to the idea of what a legacy is made of. In Numbers we see the legacy of the generation before which was wandering in the wilderness because of their lack of faith in God. So they wandered for 40 years until every person 20 years old and older was no longer living before they were allowed to enter the promised land. There is a long list of the places they went during that 40 year period. It must have been something to realize that you were wasting time waiting to die so the next generation could inherit the land you were too afraid to take.

I think about my own life and the things I have been either too scared to do or too lazy to try for the Lord. How much of my lack of action was due to my own fears or doubts? Are there any areas God wants me to take that I have not moved forward and claimed because I doubted my own ability or the success of the thing before I ever put the effort forward? I am a cautious person by nature so I tend to move slowly on things that I perceive as a risk. God has been working with me over the past several years in this area and I can honestly say that I am better at taking risks than I have ever been in my life previous to this. I have had both successes and failures and in each I have learned new things about God’s presence in my life and who I am as His child. I am still alive and nothing catastrophic has happened yet so I know that I am in the palm of his hand. The more I realize that I am serving his purposes and his kingdom, the more I know I can step out in faith because the outcome is up to him.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith who is ready to charge the hill instead of analyzing all the things that could go wrong. I want to be a man who sees the possibilities instead of the obstacles. Thank you for your presence in my life and calling to ministry. Amen.

Greatness & Significance

Today I read Numbers 17-18, Psalm 29, Mark 4 and the last chapter in Refuel. Several things struck me this morning as I read. The first was the way in which God set up a system to take care of the priests and Levites in Israel’s time. The people brought their gifts and offering and their tithes. The priests and Levites then took a portion of what was brought for themselves. They took the tithe that was given and gave a tithe of a tithe back to God. Very similar to how it works today being a pastor in ministry. People tithe of their income and I tithe from what I receive as a salary. Interesting stuff.

The thing that I am kicking around in my head right now is this concept of God designing us for greatness that Doug talks about in his book. As I look at the disciples who we would say today lived a great life and lived it all out for the Gospel of Jesus Christ were really pretty ordinary guys. No, they were actually below average by the worlds standards. Yet God used them and they became the founders of the Church. Each man had his own flaws and things he seemed to stumble at. Peter was impulsive, James and John sought position, Matthew was a tax collector, etc. Yet it was the miracle of God that he could use these ordinary men for greatness. I think about my own life and how God is using me. So many times I strive for more and forget to look at what God has done and is doing now. I forget the fact that he used me to start a college ministry at my home church when I was still in college. I even led a houseboat trip and did all the teaching at that retreat! I forget that he used me as a spiritual advisor and counselor of sorts at the insurance company I worked at. I forget that he called me to ministry in a series of very clear messages that I can now hang onto when times get tough. I forget that he had me help develop the care system at my former church and come on staff and do various aspects of ministry. I forget he had me be a part of an awesome online community that explored life and faith in a postmodern world, a group that really set in motion much of what young generation people doing today. I forget that he called me to Saddleback Church and had me develop materials that are being used by small groups all over the world. Or that He brought me to Trinidad to help spark some small groups there and set up a life long friendship with a pastor and his family. I forget that He helped me to develop a marriage process that is now helping couples in their marriages. Those are just the career type of things he has done in my life not to mention the miracles of my wife and I getting together, married, and fighting through conflict. Or my twin boys who were miracles as we thought we were infertile and who came through a scare that they may have had physical issues.

When I think back on all the things God has done in my life I am so filled with a sense of joy and purpose. I don’t reflect enough on what he has already done in my life so that I don’t move forward aimlessly but with passion. I know we will never know what actions in this world will be celebrated in heaven but I do know that my life has been full and fulfilling when I choose to follow the Lord.

Father, continue to work in my life and make me your man. Use me for ministry to the people in the church and outside. Help me to be bold in how I approach life knowing that you are guiding my steps. Help me to be sensitive to your Spirit’s leading in my life. Amen.

Faith & Focus

Today I read Numbers 14-16 and Mark 3. I found it interesting to see how the Israelites responded to the scouts intel on their new land and attempted mutiny that happened as a result. All but two of the spies came back discouraged because they could not see the potential because all they saw was the obstacles. Their lack of faith poisoned the whole community so that they even wanted to go back to the place of misery they had left in Egypt instead of taking a risk and having faith in God. As a result God would not allow any of them to enter the promise land and sentenced them to death in the wilderness (which would have been instant death had Moses and Aaron not interceded).

Then after being allowed to live despite the fact that God should have wiped them out, there was a mutiny by the Levites who wanted to be priests. So they attempted to overthrow the existing priesthood to get a better and more important job for themselves. They got 250 people to go along with their attempted overthrow. But in the end they all died because of their rebellion (the leaders were swallowed up by the earth and the others destroyed by fire).

As I think about all of this this morning I can see how powerful our perceptions and interpretations are of the things God is calling me to as a Pastor. The spies could have come back and held back their own fears and insecurities and shared only the good piece for the sake of the people. As leaders it was important that they followed God no matter how great their doubts were. Had they not shared their own fears and chosen to focus on the greatness of God, the people would have been prepared to enter whatever God brought their way. I too need to do this more in my own life and ministry. I have a tendency to process out loud with people. Now doing that does lead at times to sharing my own doubts or concerns which could cause others to lose faith if I am not careful. So I try (not always successfully) to share my own faith in God in those circumstances so people know that I am moving forward in faith not shrinking back in my own doubt. How I frame things for people is vital to their own spiritual health.

The second thing is the politics that happen in any organization, the church included. The guys who wanted to overthrow the priests and have status themselves probably believed that what they were doing was for the best. It is obvious they felt they had a good case because 250 people went along with them. Yet the problem is that many people in ministry can feel overlooked, under appreciated, and have a huge desire for impact. When you give your life to something that you feel will have great impact and you are a people person, there is a desire for affirmation that sneaks in and a sense of entitlement. Pastors can start to compare themselves to other Pastors and believe that they can do what that person can and better. Mixed up in this jealousy and desire to be recognized is a competitiveness and comparison that can creep up that leads us down the wrong path. All it takes is to ignite these two things and get buy in and support from others around us to begin to believe that we MUST take action and get others to go along with our idea. When that happens we are not in a place where we will do whatever it takes to subvert whoever is ahead of us to elevate ourselves. The difficulty in ministry is you have the same people politics mixed together with a spiritual “calling” from God.

My prayer is that I will not get caught up in the politics around me, that I would move forward in faith and concentrate on the outcome not the obstacles, and try to stay away from competition and comparison with others.

Lord, help me to step out in faith in the areas you are calling me. Help me to see the potential instead of pitfalls. Keep me from my own desires for recognition and sense of importance and help me to stay focused on your call and see that same call in the lives of others so they become friends not people to compete against. Amen.

Replacing Despair & Frustration

Today I read Numbers 3-4, Acts 25 and My Utmost for His Highest. Despair and frustration are a couple of things that I personally struggle with from time to time. In reading about Paul this morning and his circumstances, he had every reason to despair. He had the Jewish religious leaders wanting him dead, he was kept in prison even though there was no reasonable charge brought against him, and he had to appeal to Caesar just to save his own life. As I think about his situation it definitely is unfair. How is it fair that these guys could have him held hostage and kept from his mission by making false accusations that everyone in the government at the time even knew were false and not punishable by death? How did Paul keep from feeling a deep sense of frustration and despair?

The one thing that strikes me in all of this is Paul’s sense of greater purpose and direction. He was in the game for the ride. He didn’t really care where the train was headed just that he was on the train and that God was in it. He didn’t stress over the details (that we know of) or get depressed and down. We don’t see him dwelling on what he was gonna say to get back at those guys or how he would “confront” them. He just saw every step of the journey as one more thing that God had for him to go through and he would take each thing in stride and assume it was all a part of the plan.

In my own life I don’t think I trust God enough to see everything as part of His bigger plan. I see the humanness around me and the bad decisions and selfish things that I and others do and I get upset and my own sense of fairness leads me to a place of despair and frustration when I can’t seem to solve or help fix the problem. I rehearse in my head how I am going to respond to the issue or person and that sometimes drives me to a deeper place of frustration because I know at some level my conversation will not change the situation around me. Yet in the midst of all of this, as Oswald Chambers says, Jesus is there telling me to move on and not let the past keep me from doing what he has for me in the present. Even when I fail and miss an opportunity, instead of dwelling on it, I am to pick myself up and keep moving in step with His Spirit. What an encouragement it is to know that my Lord loves me that much!

Lord, help me not to be a man who dwells on the past with its hurts and failures, but rather looks to the future with hope and continues to walk with you. Because of the gift you have given me for empathy and relationships I have a tendency to want to fix things instead of rolling with them. Help me to roll with life depending on you and not my gifts. I love you Lord. Amen.

The Incredible Atonement

Today I read Leviticus 15-17 and Acts 18. It is fascinating to think about all the Jewish people had to do to approach God and to atone for their sins. Reading through all the things the priests had to do in order to go to God and to be clean and holy before him makes me so thankful right now for all that Jesus has done for me. All the blood that had to be spilled to make people clean before God is incredible. Over and over again God said that that life of any creature is in the blood and it was that blood that made people holy. Being a pastor and hearing what the priest had to do in slaughtering animals and sprinkling blood on the ark of the covenant and doing that day in and day out as your “job” in the community is a crazy think to think about. Today we have direct access to God and can talk with him anytime. Not only that but the holy of holies that only the priest could enter is now found in our hearts as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. What an incredible gift we have that those who have gone before us never had!

I also was struck by the lamb or goat on whom was placed the sin of the people who was then taken out into the wilderness and set free as an example of the people’s sins being placed far from them and literally taken away. I don’t allow my sins to be taken away like that often enough. There are times I hang onto them as some kind of remembrance of how bad I am and I sulk over them when in reality those sins are already carried away just like they were on that goat. As I shared with a friend a couple weeks ago, our sins do not define us. Sure we need to confess and stop doing them and distance ourselves from them, but they do not define who we are as we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We no longer have to carry that label but instead carry the title of children of the King. This is something that no one deserves yet because of Christ Jesus our Lord it is bestowed upon us. What a blessing that is to me this morning.

Lord, help me to be a man who sees his identity in you and lives up to that identity. Lord, I want to leave it all on the field so that I can stand before you and say I did my best for you. Please forgive me for the sins I have committed even in the last 24 hours. Help me to see more clearly the path you have laid out for me so I don’t go the wrong way. Thank you for atoning for my sins once and for all so that I no longer have to sacrifice animals to connect with you. Amen.

Method versus Message

Today I read Leviticus 13-14 and Acts 17. In reading about Paul’s journey to Athens and what he said on Mars Hill, it got me thinking about how certain Christians would have “critiqued” his sermon. In watching what happens to Rick every time he speaks and the ways in which he is type cast and criticized for every little thing he says or doesn’t say to the liking of these groups, I wondered how these same people would have critiqued and criticized Paul for not going far enough in what he said to the people of Athens. Here is what I think they would say:

First, Paul starts out by validating their religious nature without ever condemning them for worshipping the wrong God. Not only does he not condemn them, he actually says the unknown God, which was an idol or statue set up to “hedge their bets,” he basically says he knows who that God is. Doesn’t that mean that Paul would be allowing them to pray to another God? How could he do that?

Second, Paul never mentions the name of Jesus. Sure he alludes to who he is when he says that God sent someone to die who was resurrected. But he never actually says Jesus’ name. What is he ashamed of? He definitely was trying to play up the crowd in some kind of “seeker sensitive” way. The gospel was not clear so he was preaching another gospel.

Though this was a humorous post today it is actually reality when it comes to how Christians, especially in the blog world lately, critique and criticize other believers. Their own standards of judging who is true to the gospel and their obsession with exegeting what other Pastors who do not go along with their brand of Christianity have caused them to be modern day Pharisees who are more concerned with conformity to a set of rules that were never intended or set up in the scriptures. The anger and venom that are spewed in the name of “contending for the faith” looks nothing like the love and healing brought by Christ. Yes obedience is important. Yes we need to guard against false teaching. But to major on the minors and fail to see that there are times to put our faith in context so others outside the faith can begin to relate to and understand it is wrong. When did Jesus expect people to have to understand his language and come to him on his terms? Jesus used parables and other methods to help people who had no understanding of what he was saying to begin to gain understanding. He adjusted the method to fit the person. Yet this group of people will say that there needs to be no adjustment because their failure to understand shows that they really don’t want to know. That is where you have ridiculous commentary criticizing Rick for using the Muslim term “isa” for Jesus, saying he was praying to a false god. Give me a break. If these people ever got out into the mission field they would probably use the same term to say “this issa that you admire is really the messiah, the true son of God.” Why do we limit God?

Lord, help me to not be so caught up in my methods. Help me to understand that the message is what stays consistent not the method or approach to sharing it. Give me wisdom to discern when something is truly off versus my holding on to my method. Amen.

The Honor of Obedience

Today I read Leviticus 10-12, Acts 16, and chapter 4 in Refuel. There are a couple of things that stood out this morning and have me thinking. The first is the story of Aaron’s son’s who did not do all of what God asked them to do. They used a strange fire in sacrificing to God. Basically, they did their own thing and did not obey what God said they had to do as his priests. As a result, they were dragged outside the city and burned. Aaron was commanded not to mourn for them in the customary way. So these guys blew it in a huge way. Then a couple of verses later their cousins did not follow the rules of sacrificing properly. So Moses was about to punish them until Aaron stepped in and explained how they were in a tough spot based on back to back sacrifices they had to perform and Moses was ok with that.

As I look at these two circumstances it seems to me the heart was the biggest issue that was being judged. The first two were obviously doing their own thing in disregard for what God had asked them to do. They were prideful and were actually stating by their actions that they knew better than God. I know in my life I may not say this but what I fail to realize many times is my disobedience of what God has asked me to do is, in essence, saying the same thing. We don’t have recorded that these guys ever said that, but their actions were enough. I am so grateful that God has given me his grace in the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit so I don’t get the punishment I deserve. Instead I can confess and repent of my sin and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, make changes in my life that, hopefully, make me more like Christ. I am free from sacrifices and immediate death penalties and uncertainty about my eternity. I am so blessed because of what Christ has done for me. The more I reflect on that, the more I want to make sure I am obeying all that God has commanded to show His place in my life, my trust in His ways, and my gratitude for His love and grace. What a blessing that my sins no longer define me!

I had the privilege last night to go to service with my wife and 3 boys together at the Fuse (our 20-30’s service). I was so filled with joy to see my three boys worshipping God together with Cheryl and I. We sat at the very top this week because the boys really liked the idea. During Doug Field’s talk, Dylan was taking notes on his card. He was so excited to do what I was doing. He wrote down each point and kept showing me what he was doing. He would grab my paper and tilt it so he could copy it. I could see in his eyes and feel his little heart that he wanted to please me and wanted to be like me. I can’t explain the emotion that brings up in my soul. To have my son want to honor me and honor God in that way blows my mind. There are so many things I have done wrong as a parent that I don’t deserve that level of love. Yet there he was excited to be in big church. That is a moment I will always remember and hope to experience on a regular basis. I love all my boys so much and I am so proud to be their dad. Again, I am blessed beyond what I deserve!

Lord, help me to always remember your presence in my life and what you did for me on the cross. What a blessing I have in you! Give me the strength to obey and the discipline to listen to your Spirit. Guide me today. Amen.

The Power of Prayer

Today I read Exodus 39-40, Psalm 15, and Acts 12. One phrase that is sticking with me this morning was in Acts. James is killed and Peter is taken to prison to eventually be killed after the Passover. Right after these facts are laid out, the passage says, “but the believers were praying (loose paraphrase)...” This was not saying they were hoping something would happen or they prayed as a normal fact of life as a follower of Jesus Christ. It said “but” which means that even though Herod had plans he wanted to execute, prayer was there to foil his plans. Prayer is something that has impact and God works in and through prayer as a way to show his mighty power. In this passage he really showed his power by having an angel show up and walk Peter right out of prison. He goes to the house where the believers are praying and when they are told Peter is at the front door, they don’t believe it.

Several things strike me here. First that prayer has power. There are things that God chooses to do through prayer as we petition Him and seek His face. That means prayer changes things and is something we should do on a regular basis. It should be the first thing we think of when we encounter trials and issues and need wisdom to make decisions. Second, we need to believe that our prayers can actually have an impact and believe that God can and does work through our prayers.

So often I think we don’t really believe that prayer is worthwhile or that it really works. I think many people think prayer is just a way to calm us down and distract us from the thoughts and feelings that flood us when we are in trouble or need help. And even if we believe that prayer has some effect on circumstances, we don’t really believe it will happen for us and our prayers will be answered.

I struggle with prayer in my own life partly due to thinking I don’t have a lot of time and partly because I feel like prayer is about making sure I cover everyone and that can take forever. Now I know that those things are not true. I have time for prayer or more importantly I can and need to make time. I also know that I don’t have to cover everything because God already knows what is going on. But I need to make sure that I am talking with God not only to intercede for myself and others, but also to connect with Him and to hear from Him in ways that reading scripture alone won’t do. As I have said in other places, this journal is a way for me to pray and process what the Holy Spirit is doing in my heart and life. It is such a blessing to have my schedule set in such a way that spending time with God starts my day at least 4 days of my work week.

Lord, help me to see prayer as having the power I need to make it through the day. Help me to have the passion and desire to pray so that I will automatically think of prayer when I am facing the various circumstances of life. Amen.

Walking in Step with the Spirit

Today I read Exodus 35-36 and Acts 10. In Exodus the people are to bring their offerings to God to build the temple of the Lord. God chooses a guy who he fills with all wisdom, knowledge and the Holy Spirit to oversee the project to make sure it meets all the requirements God has. So this guy was given skills that far exceeded his own in order to do the task. In Acts, the Holy Spirit gives Peter a vision and then, when he visits Cornelius the Holy Spirit fills he and his family as Gentiles. It is fascinating how important a role the Holy Spirit plays throughout Scripture and how often we forget about Him and/or take Him for granted.

I know in my own life the Holy Spirit speaks to me more through impressions and thoughts than verbally. I know in my call to ministry I could feel the Holy Spirit’s lead the whole time and I spent a lot of energy trying to run and negotiate so that I could stay in charge of my plan for my life. It was through a series of events, my own fleeces that I threw down that were answered, and impressions that guided me to where I am today in ministry. It is so easy to ignore or stop listening to the Holy Spirit in my life but no matter what I might try, He always seems to get my attention. I need to figure out how to better listen and obey what I know the Spirit is asking me to do and to seek guidance on a more regular basis so that I am not fooling myself into thinking I am doing what God wants me to do when I am really wasting time or doing my own agenda. Why is it so difficult to just listen?

Lord, help me to listen to your Spirit more in my life. Help me to move forward only after I have spent time in prayer and listening. Help me to develop a sensitive spirit that can sense your moving in my heart and life. I want to walk in step with you. Amen.

The Power and Importance of Prayer

Today I read Exodus 33-34, Psalm 16, Acts 9, and chapter 1 of “With Christ” by Murray. The theme this morning is prayer and the importance and power of prayer in my life. Prayer is something I struggle with a lot. I think it is because I don’t slow down enough just to focus on the Lord and also because I don’t always see immediate results to I can tend to want to act instead of seeing prayer as the act. Moses spent a lot of time talking to God. As the passage says Moses talked with God like someone would talk to a friend. He got to go into the tent of meeting, up to Mount Sinai, and he even got to see the back of God (he couldn’t see his face or he would die). In everything he did he sought the Lord’s guidance. In chapter 34 he pleaded with God to go with them when God was thinking of abandoning them and letting them figure it out on their won because they were so stubborn. Every time Moses met with God there was evidence of it because his face would glow and they would have to cover him up with a veil because the people were so afraid. Then in Acts, Peter goes into the room of a dead woman and prays and she is brought back to life. So prayer has incredible power in life that I miss by not doing it on a more consistent basis.

I have found that when I pray regularly (and when I say regularly it is like I am having a continual conversation with God throughout the day) my entire outlook and attitude changes and I have more faith in the Lord to take care of things instead of taking care of them myself. This then shows to others because of my attitude (if my face glows it is because I have a sunburn!). At the Men’s Conference this weekend I spent a lot of time in prayer for my talk on marriage and for my friend who was struggling with his worthiness to serve in light of his struggle with sin. Those prayers lead to great benefits in both areas and keep my eye on what the Lord wanted me to focus on instead of myself and my own insecurities. So I believe there is power in prayer, I just forget so often that I don’t pray nearly enough. These journal pages are in some ways a prayer time for me as I allow the Lord to speak to me as I process on this computer the things I read in scripture. I need to sit at the feet of the Master and make prayer a big piece of my life.

Lord, help me to be a man of prayer. Teach me to pray like you taught the disciples. Help me to see prayer as an important work and stay connected to you so my steps are guided by you. I want to serve you with everything I’ve got. Amen.

Seeing the Future in Light of the Past

Today I read Exodus 12-14, Acts 2, and chapter 3 in Refuel. I think this morning my mind is processing a number of things. Last night I listened to my Pastor Rick Warren do a sermon on the prayer he gave at the Presidential Inauguration. His talk was very powerful and inspiring. I love how Rick does everything for a purpose and his boldness in going where ever God wants him to. He talked about how his prayer was built around 6 steps to renewal and revival and it was challenging and energizing to think about my own life and the things I need to do in my own life to move down the path of renewal.

So with that in the back of my mind, I read about the Israelites and their exodus from Egypt and a couple of things stand out to me. The first is God’s command to practice passover forever. God knows us better than we know ourselves and he knew that the Jews would forget the impact of what he had done for them as time wore on. When God does a miracle in our lives if we don’t find some way to remember it or memorialize it on a regular basis we start to question the event and it loses the impact it once had in our lives. So He tells the Jewish people to practice passover every year the same way so their sons and daughters will ask why they are doing that and the parents will be able to explain the symbolism behind what they are doing and what that meant to them as a Jewish people when God intervened in a miraculous way. I have frequently talked about memorial markers in my own life as a way to remember places I have met God. I need to figure out a better way to display these things so I see them and then remember. My call to ministry had a number of huge God moments that I need to memorialize and reflect on frequently to keep me in the game and focused.

The other thing that struck me was the fact that even in the midst of being led out of Egypt, having the Egyptians hand them their choice treasures, being led by a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, at the first sign of problems, the people began to long for what they had before which was terrible at best. What is it about us that causes us to shy away from difficult situations and forget all that God has done in the tough times? Instead of praying to God and asking for His help or just trusting his heart and direction, we panic and look for ways that we can solve the problem or complain when things don’t go our way. We are very fickle with God and that fickleness causes us to be very inconsistent in our walks with God. I know that I can many times go with my feelings instead of what I know. So rather than trust and stay consistent I can have a tendency to panic and freak out when things seem to be going wrong. Despite all the things God has done in my life that I can point back to, I can forget and wonder if God really cares now. I’ve got to get focused on Him an what’s important realizing that He doesn’t need me to accomplish what he wants but He loves me so much, He allows me to experience the joy of ministering to others and serving Him. Just yesterday I lamented helping someone in my neighborhood who had a friend who needed counsel because it messed up my plans. Yet after going over and listening and sharing what God had given me, that person felt better about a tough situation and I too felt used by God to help someone else. I need to get beyond my feelings and plans to align with God’s no matter what comes my way!

Lord, help me to always remember what you have done for me and allow the things of the past to serve as my strength and resolve for the future. Don’t let me wallow in my own emotions or plans but help me to enjoy the journey and the surprises around the corner knowing you are there and always the same no matter what I face. Amen.

Resisting God

Today I read Exodus 3-5 and Luke 22. I was reminded today how much God chooses to work in and through our humanness instead of choosing perfect people who always respond the right way. Here is Moses who God saved from death by the Egyptians who appears to him in a talking burning bush, who then goes on to resist what God wants to do in his life. I know plenty of people today who would love to have God speak to them directly and tell them exactly what to do in their lives. But here was Moses who had all of that he still resisted God’s call on his life. He didn’t just give a weak “no” and then give in when God replied back. No, he pushed God pretty hard to choose someone else and that he was not worthy and that he could not talk well. This morning for some reason it felt even more uncomfortable reading this because of the number of times and even the way in which he told God no. Here God is doing all these miraculous signs for him (like the voice and burning bush were not enough) and still he says go find someone else. The funny thing is, God was not asking him a question. He was telling him specifically what he had to do.

As I read this I think about all the small ways I say no to God. It might be in times when I feel the spirit asking me to talk to someone, or do something on the spot. Times when I know I should take time out to do something He wants me to do and I procrastinate or put it off or refuse to take a risk for a number of “reasonable” excuses. When I really think about it I am no different than Moses in many ways when God is asking me to do something. I bet if someone read my story some time and saw the ways I have resisted they would be uncomfortable. What is it about human nature that causes us to resist what God has for us?

The great part of this story is that Moses did eventually follow what God asked him to do and even though he met a lot of resistance, at least he followed through. You can even see in the story how his confidence increased the more he trusted God until he eventually became one of the greatest leaders of Israel. I love the fact that God has patience with us and wants to develop us instead of just tossing us aside at the first sign of weakness. What a loving and awesome God I serve!

Lord, help me to be a man who fights through his apprehensions and insecurities to follow you where ever you may lead me. Help me not to give up or be discouraged but to keep plugging along and listening to your quiet voice. Use me however you want for your honor and glory. Amen.

Seeing God in the Wilderness

Today I read Exodus 1-2, Psalm 88, Luke 21, and Refuel. I am struck this morning by God’s hand in every detail of life. Even in the bleakest moments, God is present and working in and through the circumstances we face. The Israelites went from being taken care of in Egypt to becoming slaves. They cried out to God who heard them and he saved a baby boy from dying a the hands of the Egyptians to raise him in the very house of the people he would overthrow. Yet in the midst of all of that Moses didn’t even know God was preparing him to rescue his people. In fact he was exiled as a murderer and living in the wilderness tending sheep.

In Luke, Jesus gives his disciples a warning about the destruction of the temple and persecution they would face for their faith. The disciples wanted to know when and rather than giving a date (which I think is what they really wanted) he gave them signs to look for. Even with all of that information, they probably still did not know when it would happen and only recognized it looking back.

There is something about this whole notion of trusting God in the wilderness times and letting him prepare us in those dry tough times for what he may have for us in the future. Even though those times are very difficult, there is a peace that settles in that says God’s timing is always perfect so why fight where I am right now? Why not wait and see what he will do in the future? Instead I find I complain many times and don’t keep my focus where it should be. I figure the circumstances are useless and a waste of time and so much more could be done if things would speed up. In those times I only expose my own impatience and my tendency to skim instead of dig deep into the recesses of my heart and soul. Most of the spiritual breakthroughs in my life have come after times in the wilderness and times of waiting. In those times my character is refined to help me grow and be ready for the next plateau. Do I trust God enough to see him in those times?

Lord, help me to see you in the details of life and enjoy your work in my life. Make me your man and guide all my steps. Amen.

God's Timing, God's Plan

Today I read Genesis 47-48, Psalm 10, Luke 19, and Chapter 1 of Refuel. It is amazing how God’s timing and plan never seem to fit what we think it should be or how it is going to happen. In the life of Joseph he never would have thought that it was God’s plan for him to be sold into slavery, spend some time as a servant, get wrongfully accused of a crime, spend time in a dungeon, become the greatest person in Egypt next to the Pharaoh, save his family from the famine, and then have the wrong kid (the younger) get the best blessing from his father Jacob. What an incredible life that he never could have scripted and wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t waited on the Lord and relied on Him and His plan. Even when he tried to orchestrate the older son to get the better blessing, Jacob crosses his hands and gives it to the younger. God doing the unexpected at the unexpected time seemed to be a theme.

Then take Jesus who does the unthinkable by choosing to dine in the house of Zaccheus a known thief of a tax collector and hated by all the people because of his sins of cheating and getting rich off the backs of his fellow Jews and selling out to the Romans. Then Jesus has to teach a parable to help people to see that what they thought about the Kingdom of God was all wrong and they would actually face destruction of Israel before things would ever get better. Again the unexpected and something that did not fit the people’s timing.

Yet in all these things from simple misunderstanding to outright disaster, God brings great results in all cases. Because of Joseph’s situation, God saves his people that he promised to bless and multiply from the death they would have faced in the famine. God uses Ephraim’s line to be the line from which the Messiah comes. Zaccheus ends up changing his life and giving money back with great interest to those he had wronged. Jesus dies on a cross but through is death salvation comes to all people.

I think about my own life and God’s timing. There have been so many times when I have wanted to speed up God. He takes too long in my mind sometimes. I think about this whole marriage thing and wondering when it would be “discovered” by Rick and the rest of the leadership. Event with huge numbers of people in attendance and stories of marriages that had been helped, it seemed like it was unnoticed or seen as my “hobby.” Yet in God’s infinite wisdom, certain things needed to take place first before it was ready to be on the radar. Now to hear Rick say in a meeting of all of the pastors that I am pastor to couples and I would have a space on his new Purpose Driven website to reach out to couples around the world is staggering and beyond what I thought possible. Funny how now I am reeling a bit because that was not what I expected. I was hoping just for some recognition and maybe some pulpit push every once in a while. But now to have the potential of global influence in this area is staggering and quite frankly a little scary for me. I feel like I may not be ready now (I always do that though) at the same time I have a strange sense of God’s leading in all of this. One thing I know for sure is that I need to wait and go along for the ride. God’s timing and plan is always better than my own and my rest, trust and obedience are what I can offer as I go on this ride.

Lord, thank you for watching out for me and giving me the peace that comes from knowing you are in control. When I think of all the things you have done in my life to bring me to this place right now, no matter where it goes, I am humbled and in awe of how you work. Help me to stay dependent on you because I know I can do nothing apart from you. Help me to abide. Amen.

Managing Expectations

Today I read Genesis 33-36 and Luke 18. Jesus in talking with the Pharisees tries to get them to see how they are trapped by the their own rules and ideas on how things should go and as a result are missing what they truly long for, the Messiah’s coming, who is right in front of them. Jesus asks them if it is OK to work on the Sabbath and goes on to remind them that they would help one of their own cattle out of a ditch because it is the right thing to do. He also tells the parable of a guy who invites his friends to a wedding feast and they all have excuses for why they won’t come and so he invites everyone and anyone who will come (the poor, blind, people on the street, etc.).

As I think about this I can see where in my own life I can have certain expectations of how things should go that keep me from seeing what is right in front of me. I think about my work with couples ministry. Conventional wisdom would have said I needed to be the point person for couples stuff and I should run point with the other couples guys. That way with position comes authority. Now I always felt uncomfortable with that anyway but I remember feeling like I was on my own in making it all happen. Then when we got things off the ground, there was the feeling again that it was hidden and under the radar even when I felt it was time to be on the radar. Yet one of the things I have learned in ministry from those who I consider mentors is that you just do what you are called to do and let the Lord work out the details in His time. Well that happened yesterday for me when Rick announced some of the plans for this year which included him telling me I need to build the best ministry to couples I can and that there would be presence on the new site he is building to go along with the Purpose magazine. It was a great time of affirmation but at the same time it showed again that God’s timing is perfect. I needed to wait on him and let what I thought should happen and my sense of timing melt into His.

Funny thing is I am kind of intimidated by the whole thing. I never started out doing this to be on the radar or anything. I really wanted to help couples and was asked to take a role in making that happen. I have mixed emotions about running something with this big of a potential but I also know that God has been with me so far and he will continue to guide my steps as long as I am faithful to Him. This is another lesson in His timing and I just have to wait on Him to see what will happen in the future.

Lord, help me to live up to the calling you have placed on my life. Help me to stay in place of wonder, awe, and grounding that I would remind myself that this is all your doing and I am just along for the ride. Amen.

Growth in Tough Circumstances

Today I read Genesis 31-33. Here is Jacob who goes to a foreign land, works for his uncle for 7 years for one wife, is tricked into marrying the wrong woman, works another 7 years for the one he intended on marrying the first time, then works another 6 years to get a flock for himself. All the while his own uncle is trying to double cross him and take the best possessions for himself, his wives are fighting over who is having more kids, they each have him marry their servants to have more kids, and when he tries to leave his uncle is upset and calls him a thief. There was enough in those 20 years to make many people give up or want to escape all the drama. I can’t imagine the problems he faced and the mental anguish he must have gone through all the while staying honest and faithful to his uncle, his wives, and God.

Yet in the midst of those 20 or so years, God blessed everything he did, growing his flock despite his uncle’s sabotage, growing his family despite his wives arguments, and preparing him for the day he would leave to go back to Canaan. He even had a wrestling match with God who messed up his hip and was able to reconcile with both his uncle and his brother Esau. Despite what seemed to be a messed up situation, God was using it to grow and prepare Jacob for all that he had for him. Jacob’s character and faithfulness are a testament to his character and having gone through all of that, he was ready for what God wanted to bring his way.

Reflecting on my own life it makes the problems and situations I face seem so small in comparison. I don’t have the uncle problem, the brother rift, or wife problems that he had. I have problems with ministry situations not going the way I want them to, waiting for decisions to be made and even having to go along with one’s I don’t agree with. I have issues with my boys and their medical issues and the other challenges that come with raising children. But those are nothing compared to what Jacob faced. Yet I find that I complain about these things from time to time instead of seeing them as challenges to face and character builders that will continue to refine and prepare me for all that God has for me. I need to move beyond cynicism and complaining to staying faithful and displaying character in those situations. I may not agree with everything and even feel stifled by decisions made or directions taken by the team but that does not mean I have to complain or check out. I need to engage and work as hard as if I had put the strategies in place myself. Sure it is difficult to go with certain decisions when I am not passionate with the direction or outcomes, but there are times when I lead and times when I follow and in these cases I am the one who needs to follow.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith and character. Help me to see situations that don’t go my way as opportunities to grow in my faith and character, knowing you are continually preparing me for what you have ahead of me. Help me to move forward in all I do with passion knowing that I am serving you not other people. Amen.

Risk and Growth

Today I read Genesis 29-31, Luke 12, and chapter 11 in the book Integrity. Growth and risk are two themes that keep recurring to me this morning. Jacob took a risk working for Laban because he had the goal of marrying his daughter Rachel. He worked 7 years for the right to marry her. He was focused and motivated and because of that motivation the scriptures say it only felt like a short period of time. He was driven by the outcome and his view of the future. Even when he was tricked into marrying Leah instead, he still committed to working another 7 years for the right to marry Rachel. He loved her so much that he would give his time and efforts to be with her. Sounds like the makings of a great love story!

Now the story is not without its problems. He gets caught in a child bearing competition between the two sisters that ends in him having 13 kids and 4 wives (each sister had him marry their servants so they could have kids through them). As we see later in scripture this caused some problems between the children which eventually ends up in Joseph getting sold into slavery to Egypt. So we have a guy who was not successful in everything he tried but he still ventured out and took some risks and had faith that God would sustain him. When it came to getting some compensation from Laban, he asked for the sheep that were blemished (spotted) and even though Laban tried to trick him again by taking those sheep and hiding them. Still Jacob was able to breed sheep that were stronger than Laban’s and increased his wealth.

This story combined with what I read in the Integrity book has me thinking about my own growth and willingness to risk. I have learned a lot about risk over the past couple of years and what risk does to shape my faith and help me to grow as a person and follower of Christ. But I really need to think through how I am growing and developing so I don’t just sit back and cruise. I want to continue to grow and develop and what I find is there are times that I wait for others to catch up or to give the ok before I try new things or stretch myself. I want to be the kind of person who has great faith in the Lord and is only worried about what God thinks about me. That way I can move forward with passion instead of waiting for approval to “know” that something is good or moving in the right direction. I need to trust my convictions and intuition more. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to wise counsel or seek others out, but it does mean that I don’t use others or my need for approval as an excuse for not moving ahead and growing.

I want to give this idea more thought and look for ways to further develop the passions God has placed in my heart.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith who takes risks for you. Help me not to get too comfortable or too rigid to make the changes that need to happen in life and ministry. Amen.

Don't Let Failures Define You

Today I read Genesis 20-22, Luke 8, and finished chapter 10 in Integrity. As I reflect on the things I read today I am realizing how important it is to separate who I am as a person from the failures I might have in life. Too often I will want others to like me or I will fear failure so I will beat myself up when I do something wrong or make a mistake. When I do that I am saying that who I am as a person is based on what I do in life. Now of course some of who I am is reflected in what I do, but I am not the sum of all my actions or otherwise I would be a failure one minute and a success the next. That kind of roller coaster is not something I want to be on.

As I look at the life of Abraham I am relieved to see a guy who was not perfect and made mistakes. In my reading this morning the guy went and made the same mistake he had made earlier in the book of Genesis by lying to king Abimilech about his wife Sarah by again saying she was his sister. He did this before and got caught and kicked out and the same thing happens here. It is so close to what happened before it almost looks like the author of Genesis forgot he already told that story and ended up telling it again! So that king takes Sarah as his wife and would have slept with her if God had not intervened and told the king in a dream the truth. Besides all the other marital issues I am sure this situation caused, it was major failure that could have caused Abraham to beat himself up mentally. He could have said to himself things like, “what an idiot I am! I can’t believe I made the same mistake again. Lot never seems to make any mistakes. I guess I will always be a loser.” This could have paralyzed him and kept him from being a leader of his household and family.

What happens instead is he moves on and continues to listen and follow God and in fact has his son Isaac and then has one of his greatest faith moments right after this major failure (his obedience to sacrifice Isaac). I wonder what happened in between the time of his failure and his success. Obviously Abraham did not dwell on it for too long. I wonder if he owned his mistake and apologized to this wife and did what it took to make it right with God and then moved on. Moving on is such an important thing to do after a failure. You need to clean up the mess and seek reconciliation but you also need to move beyond it or that failure will begin to consume your life. There have been times in life where I have dwelled on my own failures too long and others where I didn’t take responsibility for my own failures and moved on too quickly. Integrity is the ability to admit failure, make amends, and once the issue is settled move on instead of letting it define you. In all of this is a big faith in a great God of grace that allows me to know that no matter how bad I fail he loves me just the same and there to help pick me up and take the next step in my spiritual growth. What an incredible God I serve!

Lord, help me to be a man of character who owns his mistakes, takes care of the fall out, and then moves on. Don’t let me define myself by what I do but by who I am in you. help me to be a man of deep integrity who represents you to world in a way that honors you and compels them to seek you. Amen.

Don't Hurry God

Today I read Genesis 15-17 and Luke 6. I love reading about the biblical characters in the Old Testament and seeing how they lived their lives in the face of all the challenges they faced and with God interacting with them directly. Watching how Abraham responds to God’s covenant and telling Abraham that he will be the father of many nations and that he will have children who will produce a nation at his advanced age is fascinating. I wonder how I might have responded if God told me that kind of news. The thing that really struck me this morning was his wife Sarah’s reaction. She thought she would help the process along by having Abraham marry and sleep with her servant Hagar. It is always easy to play arm chair quarterback and judge how poor a decision she made by not waiting on God and believing that he could and would do what he promised. But I know in my own life there are plenty of times I have tried to speed up God’s plan in the name of ministry or doing what I think is God’s will. I have this problem of not liking to wait. I want to take on a project or task and get it done right away. I am the type of person who needs to keep moving to feel like I am being productive and to keep myself focused and in the game. Because of this, I have the tendency to want to speed up the process and not spend a lot of time waiting. After all if it makes logical sense why not give it a try?

Yet what I have learned over and over again is that God’s timing is perfect. If He truly is in control and believe he is God, then he really doesn’t need my help to make it happen. He sees the whole picture while I only see a small part. It is usually when I try to speed things up or get ahead of God that things don’t go well. I know this and have experienced this yet old habits die hard and I find that I still get impatient or worked up if things don’t proceed on my timetable. As a result I will make mistakes or cause stress to other people I am serving with or dump my frustration on them which then colors their perception of how things are going. I so wish I could be more content and less restless on things like this. I am learning but I know I have a long way to go.

Lord, help me to develop the discipline of waiting on you more. I want to make sure I act when you want me to act and wait when you want me to wait. I want my faith to extend beyond my salvation into the very details of life. Help me to be ok with waiting on you. Amen.

New Back Up Strategy

I have been wrestling for a while with how to back up my stuff. I never seem to have enough hard drive space to do incremental back ups on Time Machine. I have over 1 TB in hard drive space in my MacPro and I only had a 500GB and 250GB external drives I could use to back up. I was using the 500GB for Time Machine and would frequently run out of space and have to restart the process of delete files from being backed up which of course would ruin the reason for backing up. So rather than playing roulette with my data I decided to do 2 things that I believe have helped me do better back ups on the cheap.

Online Back Ups
I had always heard a lot about online back ups but usually heard negative things. They are too slow to do with large amounts of data. Or, it is a pain because you have to remember to initiate it. Or, the bandwidth limitations by many online providers make it almost impossible to do. I did a little research on this and I think I have found the perfect solution from a company called BackBlaze. BackBlaze is an automated, set it and forget about it, unlimited data for $5 a month plan that, so far, has actually been painless. You download a system preference pane that backs up in the background and you hardly notice it is there. It is a back up everything solution that allows you to exclude files you don’t need backed up and even allows you to throttle the bandwidth is it using so your system does not get bogged down. The initial back up takes quite a while. My almost 500GB of data I want to back up is taking around 15 days to get online but after that, it is will incrementally back up any changes and save old data like Time Machine does for 30 days. Now I am protected against a fire or other event that would wipe out all my data at home.

Local Back Ups

Having online back ups is great but it is really slow if you have to recover all that data or expensive if you need it fast (BackBlaze will give you a DVD at $ a pop, or a 160GB hard drive for $) so local back ups are still a must. Since I didn’t want to spring for new drives just yet and I didn’t want to invest $499 for a Drobo unit that I would still have to get drives to fill (this is overkill for me at this point but I do like the concept), I decided to use a program called SuperDuper! to handle my local back ups. SuperDuper! will not only do incremental backups on any schedule you like, it also can make a bootable back up of your main drive so you can boot from the external drive if your main drive fails or if you need to recover your data all your settings are in place so it puts you right back to where you left off. I decided to use my 250GB drive as the bootable back up for my main drive and the 500GB for 2 of my internal drives (the other drive is long term storage that I wouldn’t need in a hurry so I am just letting BackBlaze handle that drive). In the settings of SuperDuper! I scheduled the bootable backup of my main drive to run every night and the other drive to run once a week. Now I don’t have to think about that either since it will run on its own as long as the computer and drives are powered on.

So that is my new backup strategy. I will write an update at some point to let you know how I like it but for right now I have a better back up strategy than I have ever had. My MacPro is handled and my laptop backs up wirelessly to an Aiport drive I have hooked up to my Airport Extreme. Now I can start the new year with confidence that I at least can get to my data if I need it. Next on the list is a ultra portable drive to do a clone of my laptop drive!


Struggle and Faith

Today I read Genesis 12-14, Luke 5, and part of chapter 10 in Integrity. In Genesis we have Abram a man that God chose because of his great faith and trust in God. God tells him that he is going to bless him and make him the father of many nations. He has him look around at all the land as far as he can see and that he will give it all to him. Abram builds an altar to God and has this great moment of vision as God lays out the future for him. Later on he has great integrity in allowing his nephew to pick the best land for himself, and even rescues his nephew from invaders and refuses to take the plunder because he doesn’t want anyone to say they made him rich. All because he had faith in God. If that was all I read this morning it would almost make Abram untouchable or mythical in some way because of his seeming perfection in how he responded to life’s circumstances. Now Abram did have great faith but he was human as well. Right in the middle of these great things he has an incident in Egypt that shows he was human. He basically tells his wife Sarai to put herself at risk to save his neck. He asks her to pretend to be his sister because he knows they will want to take her for themselves because of her beauty. She most likely would be taken into a harem and who knows what else. So this great man of faith had his own faith fail him right in the middle of these passages.

The fact that Abram was human and struggled with his faith is refreshing to me because there are times I struggle with trusting God myself. In one breath I say I trust him and have faith in his leading in my life. In the next breath I am upset with things not going my way and I have anger and fear over what might happen or the timing of things. It can be so frustrating sometimes to not have things go my way or to have to wait on God. Yet I have found over and over again that his timing is perfect and if things has happened my way in my time that they would not have gone well. I don’t know why I do this and why I keep learning the same thing over and over again, but it is refreshing to see a great man of faith’s own struggle to let me know that I am not a hopeless case.

In the integrity book he uses a phrase he saw at a company he worked with: No problems, No profit. That really speaks to me today as I look at facing the new year with all the challenges I know are in front of me. I will struggle with my faith, but I know that struggle is what strengthens my faith. I will struggle with the direction of things not always going my way, but I know that struggle always leads to better solutions. I will struggle to be a good parent and make mistakes, but I know that being real and honest about my struggles with my kids will shows them what real life if like. I will struggle a husband to Cheryl, but I know that working through that struggle will only lead to deeper intimacy. Faith and struggle or problems seem to go hand in hand and have the effect, if I work through the struggle to strengthen my faith in the Lord.

Lord, help me to have the integrity to work through the problems and issues in life and not shrink away from them. Please help the inevitable problems I will face to further strengthen my faith and character so I can be more like Christ. Give me your eyes to see the issues in life. Amen.