Category Archives: living for today

Focus

 

    During this season of lent one of the things that God has shown me is how easy it is to have a critical spirit and not even notice it.  It is one of those sins that is not on the “big list” and it is easy for us as Christians to brush it under the rug like it is no big deal.  The truth is when we as Christians have a critical spirit it not only affects us, but it also affects our families, work environments, and our churches.

   Recently for my Ministerial Formation 2 class I have been reading a book called, “Spiritual Classics” and one of the sections of the book on Catherine Marshall (1914-1983).  Catherine was a gifted story-teller and journalist during her life.  In this section of the book it goes on to share how Catherine fasted from criticalness and how that affected her relationship with God.

Catherine shared, “My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with.  What it had done was to stifle my own creativity- in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing- ideas that He wanted to give me.”

How might a critical spirit you have had recently affected your relationship with God?  How might this spirit have affected relationships with others around you?

When you and I hold onto a spirit of criticalness we block the work of God in our lives.   so today I urge you to let God fill you with love, grace, and mercy and let God do the corrections in others that are necessary. Keep your focus on our Creator!

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Soul in Danger

At the church where I pastor we have been doing a series called, “Christ-mess: Clearing the Way for Jesus” for the Advent season.  One of the main focuses has been how many times the busyness of the season blocks out what we are really supposed to be celebrating.  However, busyness is not just a problem during the Christmas season but an issue in our everyday lives.  If you ask many people about their schedules they will say they are too busy but why?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  I think this happens to us for a variety of reasons.

1.  Being busy makes us feel important.

In the midst of our society that at times seems to worship busyness, it can make us feel important if we have a lot of things we need to do.  When someone asks what we have going on it can feel good to be able to say, “Well I have to take Jimmy to swim practice at 9:00, then I have to drop things off at the store by 9:30, go pick up Christy from ballet by 10:00, get home by 10:30 because that is when the book club I run starts, then make sure to pick Jimmy up from swim practice and then drop Chris off at soccer practice.  Oh yeah then I have to get home to bake cookies for the PTA meeting tonight, pick up Chris from soccer, and then make lunch for all the kids before 1.  That doesn’t even count the rest of my day!”  We have bought into the lie that if we can fit more into our schedule then we should be doing it.

2.  We believe that God’s affection for us is measured by our activity for Him.

The love of being busy has infiltrated our churches in many instances.  We as Christians can sometimes believe that the more we do in our church, the more Bible studies we attend, the more Sunday school classes we lead the more God will love us.  Now please understand me, I am not saying it is bad for us to be involved in our church, to attend Bible studies, or lead Sunday school classes but if our purpose in doing so is to earn God’s love we will never be satisfied because God’s love is not conditional.  God’s love for you is not based on how busy you are for Him.  God’s love for you is unconditional and in fact sometimes when we are overly busy it can be difficult for us to hear the whisper of God.

When we seek fulfillment from our busyness instead of our God we put our souls in danger.  When our lives are non-stop we end up running on fumes with no room for God to speak into our lives.  This idea of busyness is something that I am working through in my own life.  I am a husband, a father to my 16-year-old son Roma, my wife and I have a baby girl on the way who is due in March, I am a full-time pastor, and I am a full-time seminary student pursuing my Masters of Divinity degree.  As you know in our schedules there are many things we cannot shrug off like feeding our kids, going to work, paying bills, but there is plenty we can so no to.

In our lives it is important that we start practicing the art of saying “no”.  It is o.k. when someone asks you to put one more thing on your plate to say, “I will not be able to do that sorry.”  When they ask you, “Are you too busy?” You can respond by saying, “No, actually that is why I am saying no, because I don’t want too be busy.”

Don’t put your soul in danger by saying yes to everything, make the choice to leave room for God for God to speak and move in your life.

 

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Fear Not

Fear Pic

One of the things I find easy to do as a Christian is to say I have faith but not actually live it out.  It is so simple for us to sing old hymns of the faith such as “To God be the glory” or “Through it all”, or contemporary Christian songs like “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless or “Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe but not really take those steps of faith.

It is one thing to say we have faith but it is another for it to be lived out in our lives.  When we find difficulties coming our way what is our response?  Is our response to worry, to doubt, to fear, or is it to pray and trust God?  Maybe right now you are facing some tough situations in your life, maybe you don’t know how you are going to pay the electric bill this month, maybe you have just recently been laid off work and don’t know where money is going to come in next, maybe you have been stuck in a rut in your life and you just don’t know what to do next or maybe you do but you are too scared to take the next step.

I want to encourage you this day to not let fear rule your heart.  We are told in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  If you say we worship a God that is loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful than will you trust that same God with your life?  Will you and I be willing to take steps in our lives that we know only God can guide us through?  Fear not.

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After the Elephant Room…

For the handful of you who read my blog and know I usually post Monday-Thursday might have noticed that I didn’t post last Wednesday or Thursday.  On Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a simulcast of the Elephant Room in Canton, Michigan outside of Detroit.  At the conference they had pastors Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Crawford Loritts, Wayne Cordeiro, Steven Furtick, TD Jakes, and Jack Graham.  The discussed numerous topics that impact our churches and communities.  In the next week I will be sharing several things that I feel God spoke to me about during that event but today I wanted to share with you something that happened afterwards.

About 5 p.m. the event ended, I got in my car, and reached the first traffic light on my way back home to Toledo.  When I was coming to a stop my car made a sound similar to gravel being put into a garbage disposal and then my car learched forward.  I put my car in park, got out, and looked underneath and saw nothing.  So I got back in drove the car over to a gas station, called my wife to let her know what was going on.  I then drove over to an empty parking lot across the street to see how the car would drive and if I would be able to make it home….it didn’t take long to see that was not going to happen.  I also quickly realized that if I called the tow truck I had no idea how to describe where I was so I got back in the car and very carefully drove the minute or so back to the church where I knew the address.

After I arrived back at the church I noticed that the drivers side front wheel was beginning to tilt in and then it happened, I heard a clunk and the whole front left side sank down on the wheel.  When the tow truck driver arrived they quickly diagnosed that my ball bearing was broken on the car.  I rode with them in the front of the truck and got towed to a local shop where they began working on my car.  Thankfully my lovely wife was not working and was able to drive an hour to pick me up.

Before my car had broken down I was only a minute or two from getting on I-75 where in Michigan the speed limit is 70 mph.  If that part had completely broken when I was driving 70 mph instead of sitting in the church parking lot I probably would have spun out uncontrollably until I hit something which could have seriously hurt or killed myself or others.  Why do I bring this up?

I think at times it can be easy to pray for those things we see happening around us such as a test coming up, a rough relationship, a sick family member, financial problems, or a personal struggle that we see but what about those things we don’t see?  Those events in our lives that never happen that God protects us from?

When I got back to that church and as I waited the 45 minutes for the tow truck to arrive I prayed for a couple things 1. That the cost of the repairs would not be so much that I would have a heart attack and then have to go to the hospital.  2. I thanked God that He looked out for me and let my car break down when it did.

That might seem kind of strange thanking God for my car breaking down but honestly I think it is those things that God protects from that we never have to experience that we should be just as thankful for.  We can see the blessings that God has given us in our lives and the hurts that are around us but have you taken time to thank God for the ways he has looked out for you when you didn’t even know?

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One Month To Live

This Sunday in our youth ministry we are kicking off a new series called “One Month to Live”.  I am excited to be able to challenge the teens to make the most out of their lives that God has given them and the next 3 weeks are going to be an awesome opportunity to do that.   As I prepare for the series this Sunday I was reminded of a conversation that my wife and I had recently where she asked me, “What are some things you want to do before you die?”  I don’t think she was plotting on me but maybe I should take out some life insurance just in case 🙂  Dying is one of those things that most of us think is so far away that it is a difficult concept to grasp even though scriptures tell us that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

So as my wife Lindsey was driving the car and I was in the passenger seat I made a list.  Writing fast and looking deep in thought I shared my list with my wife which included riding a shark, backhanding a bear, eat a live turkey, box a kangaroo, drink a gallon of milk really fast and not throw up, surf naked, and never do another lock-in.   I couldn’t resist I love making my wife laugh but then as I thought seriously about this several things came to mind.  I want to become ordained, I want to graduate with my masters degree,  I would like to speak at a conference some day even in a small capacity, write a book, visit Italy, and see all 50 states.  Most of all if I had only one month to live I would want those around me to know about the Lord.  I would want them to know the saving grace we experience through Jesus Christ and the new life we can experience through him.  So what about you?  If you had one month to live what would you want to do?  What is stopping you?

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Finish Each Day

Are you finishing your days?

A powerful quote I recently read from Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

I don’t know about you but just that first sentence alone has so much important truth in it for me.  To finish each day and be done with it is not the easiest thing for me to do.  If truth be told many times unfortunately my sentence would say “Finish each day and dwell on it.”  But those next sentences from Ralph Waldo Emerson has significant truth in them that we have done what we could; yeah we made some mistakes, not everything went the way we might have hoped for, there were more phone calls to make, the project is only 60% done, and that one conversations did not go well but we need to let those things go at the end of the day.  Understand this is not saying we don’t learn from our mistakes and see what we can do to improve but don’t let the blunders of today hold you back from succeeding tomorrow.  Don’t let failures today keep you from taking risks tomorrow.

So as the sun starts its way down and the day begins to end remember that tomorrow is a new day.  As Emerson put it so bluntly don’t let your nonsense of today ruin your tomorrow!  As we are told in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Do you find it hard to finish each day?  How has this played out in your life?

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Where are you putting your energies?

Philippians 3:13 says, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
As I read this I could see Paul’s passion. You can see that he still has a way to go but I am challenged by how he looks at the situation. He knew he had not arrived yet but his goal was to know Christ more and to be all that Christ desired for him to be. He was not willing to take his eyes off that goal…he would not let himself be sidetracked. I guess you could say he was a man on a mission.
In that next verse it says, “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” This verse puts a great vision in my head of an athlete striving to be all he can be to win that race! Someone who is relentless in their approach, who is willing to give all they can to get that trophy or medal.
If I may go back to verse 13 something it says really sticks out to me as very important and something I remember from my own life as an athlete. The last part of verse 13 has great importance to our lives as Christians. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. When I ran cross country in high school our coaches would always tell us don’t look behind you, keep your eyes forward at that next person you are going to catch or that next goal you want to reach. I think this advice is so important to our Christian life as well. It can be easy for us to live in yesterday. It can be easy for us to dwell on mistakes we have made in the past, ways that we wish we would have done things differently, or maybe even how we wish other people would have done things differently. It can be so simple to slip into that mode of “If I only…” “I should have done this…” “I should have said this…” When we do that we are taking our eyes off the prize; when we do this we are taking our eyes off our goal. When we look back and dwell on mistakes we have made, ways that we have stumbled, or ways maybe others have hurt us we can’t move forward. We cannot move forward today while living in the past. So today I encourage to leave the past in the past and live for today as you seek to live the wonderful life that God has in store for you!

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