Making Preparations

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a church in the Daytona Beach area. At the front of the meeting room they had the four candles of advent. Advent means “coming” and each week reflects on and builds anticipation for the one those who follow Jesus are waiting for. Together we lit the candle for the second week – the week that focuses on preparation. Christmas is the perfect season for evaluating our lives in Christ. As the world bustles along putting their hope in external things such as gifts and family and parties, we can gauge if we are hoping in anything different or not. So in this week of preparation, here are some questions to consider… For whom are you preparing? Isaiah 9:6 gives all of us a picture of the One we are preparing for… For to us a child is born,     to us a son is given,     and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Our tendency is to focus on the child being born. Baby Jesus in the manger. This is important, of course, and is the physical sign of God’s love for us and the vulnerability and humility He demonstrated in the great lengths gone to in order to come to us. But that is not where Jesus remained. This child is also a son – a term tapping into his royalty. This baby is meant to be king. The clear picture of this son is given by his throne names: Wonderful Counselor – this king is going to be a...

Our Forgetful Self

We have been created in the image of God. We are also to live in that image, keeping our eyes turned toward HIm for renewal and reminder of what our true identity is. But, we are forgetful creatures. Our identity leaks, and so often we are lead astray by a world that focuses on “what have you done for me lately” as proof of loyalty. As a result, our eyes look elsewhere for our sense of identity to be filled; looking to roles, results, and relationships to define who we are and why we matter. God knows about our propensity toward pride; it is not a mystery to Him. That is why in the Bible, there are repeated commands to ‘remember’. If we are going to take captive our thoughts and create a narrative of truth about who God is and who we are, we must commit to remembrance. This is an intentional discipline and requires repeated practice. In order to deny our self, we have to affirm God. Here are some suggestions to practice the discipline of remembrance: Recall what God has done. Take time to reflect. Maybe this becomes a daily occurrence of examen, noting how you noticed God working in that day. Or maybe it is a time of quiet meditation on your history. God is at work in all our lives. You are following Jesus for a reason, put yourself back in that time and remember why. On those days when your circumstances are trying to drive a wedge between you and God, remember Jesus. His life was given for you. It all starts there....

Do You Sabbath?

Do you take the time to enjoy a Sabbath? I am going to guess that you don’t. Even among those who follow Christ, taking the time to rest, be still, and be quiet is approached with a stigma. Those who do not keep busy are seen as: Lazy Wasting time Letting the world get ahead Not being productive Old fashioned Legalistic If I truly believe that my identity is not tied to the things I accomplish, then I’d be willing to stop accomplishing for Sabbath. When identity is confused with productivity, it is difficult to trust that God is pleased with you when you rest. Through this lens, Sabbath is seen as an inconvenience. Here are Jesus’ words on intentionally pausing: Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28 In order to justify our busy lifestyles, the tendency in looking at these verses is to focus on “not man for the Sabbath.” These are Jesus’ words to the religious leaders about finding one’s worth in legalistically following rules rather than the good things of God. Let’s not overlook the beginning of that statement – “The Sabbath was made for man.” Our ability to intentionally stop is a gift. It is necessary for us to function as we were designed. Slaves don’t get a chance to rest. Sabbath is an expression of our freedom. Sabbath is not a time of nothingness, but a time of connection. It is a time for us to be reminded that God’s love is not based on the world’s...

Prepare to WIN in 2017

At the end of every year, I take some time to look back at the previous year and look forward to the next. It is an exercise that is not uncommon, and I use the time to evaluate and make a plan in several areas of my life. So, in the couple weeks after Christmas and to start the new year, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting and planning. When working with coaching clients, I find that many people are attracted to the thought of doing this, but lack a framework that allows them to safely evaluate. Hence, for many, such an exercise becomes one of comparison, shame and making a commitment to try harder. What I wanted to do in this first blog of the year is give you a simple framework that you can add to or subtract from as is appropriate for the context of your life. It is a great tool to examine yourself spiritually, relationally, physically, financially, professionally, as a parent, or in numerous other areas. The acronym is simple: W. I. N. Click here to get 33 clarifying questions to help you make a discipleship plan. W is a prompt to look at what you did well in the area you are examining. Too often our tendency is to start an examination with where we fell short. My own tendency is to want to press on before celebrating what has been done. Here are a few sample questions: What did I do well in the area being examined? How have I celebrated these milestones? How will what I did well impact...

I’ll Be Happy When…

I will admit to you that for a long time I had a problem being present in my life. What I mean is that I was always looking to the next thing, feeling like I would be fully satisfied at the next milestone. For example, when I knew I wanted to pursue vocational ministry, my mindset became “I’ll be happy when I work in a church.” Then I worked part-time, so the mindset became “I’ll be happy when I can work in the church full time.” When that happened, the mindset changed to “I’ll be satisfied when I’m a top tier leader.” On and on it goes. Always hoping for the next thing. Not celebrating, not being grateful, but continually longing. I see this all around me: The church leader that will feel settled when their church crosses that elusive attendance barrier. The woman who will feel content when she has her first (or another child). The person who claims satisfaction will be found in earning just a few thousand dollars more per year. Continually looking to the horizon for a sense of significance and identity will cause you to stray from the narrow path. When you are not present, you will… suffer from insecurity (what if the next milestone never happens?) live in scarcity (what happens if I lose what I do have?) create division (why did someone else get what I deserve?) After I burned out and subsequently began to develop my identity in Christ, I began to understand that the inability to be present – to be always longing for something else – was a symptom...

Developing Presence

Driving on a Florida two-lane road recently, I got behind someone behaving erratically. The car was swerving from one side of the lane to the other. Not maintaining the speed limit, a line of traffic had build up behind this car. Every once in awhile there would be a tap of the brakes for no perceptible reason. At long last when I got to pass this car, the problem became apparent. The driver was on the phone, working the screen with sliding and tapping of the thumb. The driver was distracted and not fully present for the main task. When I got ahead, after I got over my sense of righteousness because my phone was on the seat next to me (comparison does that, right?), I realized, this is exactly how we treat God. All of us are distracted by the busyness and the noise of the world around us, so God rarely gets our full attention. Not developing awareness of the presence of God causes us to miss the main what is going on around us. With focus elsewhere, we are not attentive to the needs of others. With the inability to slow down, we miss opportunities to reflect the love of Jesus to others. With a drive to meet our own needs, we have an inability to be thankful. But worst of all, we miss out on knowing God and being known by Him. It takes intention to slow down our thoughts and be present before God. It takes discipline to be still and hear His small whisper. It takes desire to want to live in His truth rather than captive...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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