Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You've Got To Grow No Matter How Tall Your Father Is

In my personal reading this morning there was a thought that spoke volumes to me: "Nothing in your past guarantees that you will continue growing toward your potential in the future--not positions attained degrees earned, experience gained, awards received or fortunes acquired." It echoes the old Irish proverb, "You've got to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather is." It is all too easy for us to allow our past victories or failures to define us, and to live in past pain or former glory. No matter where we come from in our journey, where we go from here is our choice.

Moving forward requires a willingness to grow and an acceptance of change. Most people fight against change, especially when it affects them personally. Tolstoy said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." The ironic thing is, change is inevitable. Everyone has to deal with change, yet the growth change offers is optional. You can chose to grow through life's changes or you can fight it. If we are unwilling to change or grow we will never reach our full potential.

My prayer for you is that God will place within you a willingness to grow and change in whatever ways necessary to reach your full potential in Christ... because He has great things in store for you.

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Just Shall Live...

It is no great secret that I am a sports fan, and this is my favorite time of year in sports. Major League baseball is rapidly approaching the playoffs, college football is in full swing, and Sunday afternoons are filled with NFL highlights... life if good. Yesterday afternoon, as I watched the Chicago Bears make a great comeback against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, I found myself pondering why some team overcome challenge and adversity while others start strong only to fade as they approach the finish.

For each of us the landscape of life is filled with the all too painful reminders of those whom we appreciated and even admired who eventually stumbled short of the finish line. There are sports heroes who have admitted cheating, government servants who have fallen from grace, and businessmen who have bilked retirees out of their life savings; each attempting to circumvent the process to insure personal victory. As painful as these personal failures are none seems to cut so deep as when one of our spiritual role models falters in the faith and compromises their testimony. We are reminded of the saddest of all scripture when it is said of Samson, "but he did not know the Lord had left him."

What causes us to falter in the race? Hebrews 11 declares that without faith it is impossible to please God, and lists a biblical hall of fame; those who understand the formula for finishing strong. The answer is found in the realization that "every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of heavenly lights." We find great comfort in the realization that it is not us, rather it is God in us that brings strength and success. The poison the enemy regularly uses to sidetrack godly people is pride. Satan loves to use the miraculous provision of God, that which should be an anchor for our faith, as the birthplace of pride. We can quickly lose sight of the hand of God in our life and begin to believe that the success we experience is a result of our wisdom, abilities, and efforts.

Let me offer this thought: If we continually live our life in such a way that God has to come through, it keeps our focus on Him. If we chose simply to function at the level of our resource and ability it become all too easy for the focus to be on us. The truth is we serve a God of the impossible. As I reflect on our ongoing facilities expansion, and ponder the next steps we must take as a church, I must confess to you that it seems like a mountain compared to our earthly resources.... it is a good thing that God offers us mountain moving faith :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Living Without Regret

I am fascinated by flight. I have logged hours in experimental airplanes, private planes, a sea plane, and countless commercial jets. Still, I always look forward to each new flight. Flying allows you to rise above the storms of the day, passing through the clouds to a beautiful sunny sky. The view from the cockpit gives a bird ’ s eye view of the incredible landscape that God has created. The time spent in the air is but a fraction of what the trip would require if we were resigned to travel by land.

Kent Couch, a 47-year old gas station owner from Bend, Oregon shares my love of flight. Quite possibly, he shares this love a bit too much! -- Last weekend, Kent Couch settled down in his lawn chair with some snacks - and a parachute. Attached to his lawn chair were 105 large helium balloons. Destination: Idaho. Nearly nine hours later, Kent came back to earth in a farmer's field near Union, Oregon; short of Idaho but about 193 miles from home. Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters - who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair. Walters paid a $1,500 penalty for violating air traffic rules

All too often we are challenged with the reality that, if we had the opportunity to relive a moment or rethink a decision we would choose a markedly different course. Life is filled with many “ it seemed like a good idea ” moments and “ what was I thinking ” evaluations. The good news is that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. When I think of a man blocking the flight plan of Los Angeles International airport in a lawn chair it makes me chuckle, yet if I were to begin the list of my decisions that lacked a little wisdom I expect it would be frighteningly long. How do we walk in wisdom in order to avoid regret? Here are five quick thoughts:

  • Lean on God ’ s Understanding – We are reminded that if we trust in God even when it seemingly does not make sense to us, that He will always keep us on the right path. While God ’ s ways are often not like our ways, they are always the best way.
  • Listen to Godly Counsel – Scripture challenges us with the truth that there is wisdom in much counsel. I am grateful for those who have walked this path before me who are willing to warn me off the pitfalls and share with me the joys I will find along the journey.
  • Learn For the Past – It is true that we will inevitably make some poor choices. There is amazing comfort in the truth that all things work together for good for those that love God… God will use those failures to refine our faith and develop our character if we give them to Him.
  • Look to the Future – Many times we find our regrettable decisions are a direct result of impatience. Be confident that God has joy and blessing for you in each step of the journey.
  • Live In The Present – We learn from our past and have faith for our future, but today is our focus.

Let the wisdom of God be the guiding force in your activities and attitudes this week. Let each situation offer a learning opportunity and each encounter provide a growth moment. Finally, if you find yourself with some free time and you notice your lawn chair….. just walk away :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The One With Experience Is Never At The Mercy Of The One With Theory

This morning I awoke to an absolutely flawless midsummer day in Chicago. My family and I are enjoying a few days away together, and my day began with devotions on the balcony in the midst of a beautiful sunrise. As I pondered the promises of God I had just read in scripture, the strong sense to call a missionary friend that serves a half a world away gripped me. A quick calculation of time zones convinced me that it was not too late to call, so I searched for the number and rang his phone.

God's Word reminds us that "The righteous shall live by faith." If this biblical principle is true (which I am completely convinced it is) then our missionaries are profoundly righteous. The thought of leaving family and familiar for the sole purpose of sharing the reality of Christ to a foreign culture is amazing. When one adds to the equation that the missionary makes this journey based on the faith that friends will be led by God to financially partner with them makes this proposition all the more remarkable. The reality that so many of our missionaries are in politically volatile environments with our economy presently in a tumultuous state magnifies the faith journey.

I am convinced the perpetual position of faith that our missionaries place themselves in is the fuel for the miraculous, and is the major factor in why they see God "show up" on a much more regular basis than the typical Christ follower.

My morning phone call from Chicago found a missionary who was at that moment on another phone line talking with a mutual friend. He was soliciting prayer, asking the friend to pray for God to send someone his way to help with a crisis need. My friend has experienced this scenario countless times, yet was still amazed at the profound timeliness of God.... and God's people when we are obedient.

There are some that would discount scenarios such as this as mere coincidence, as would I if they were a rare occurrence. Yet, for those who place themselves squarely in the middle of a faith journey, dependent upon God's provision through "supernatural coincidence" the reality of God's response to faith is clear. The experience of God making the impossible possible and consistently meeting the need through truly remarkable means offers up a faith building reminder that God is in the midst of our situations and always has our answer if we simply look to Him.

The life that God has called each us to is one of wonderful adventure, divine opportunity, and miracle moments if we simply choose to respond to His leading and place ourselves in a position of faith. Far too often we are content living a life where we merely theorize about faith, debating the depths of God's involvement and privately wondering if the stories are true. Be encouraged today, God is still in the miracle working business. If you need further proof, pick up the phone or send an email to one of our missionaries.... just don't be surprised when God places you right in the middle of their miracle!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Are Your Dreams Bigger Than Your Memories?!?!?

Let me ask you a profoundly personal, yet absolutely pivotal question: Are your dreams bigger than your memories? Do you find greater joy in reflecting on where you have been or in pondering the path ahead? Is the focus of your conversations the experiences of yesterday or the opportunities of tomorrow?

Allow me to make an honest confession. I have reluctantly accepted the reality that I am no longer a young man: my life have has transitioned from dunking basketballs to dunking doughnuts, I no longer notice the amount of gray in my hair. At this point in life I am just happy that I have yet to reach the age where my waistband starts to creep ever higher!!

As I fully embrace the middle years of life, it seems only natural to look back on where I've been. When it comes to the reminiscent moments I am a softy. I will make time to visit old homesteads and can talk about the days gone by with the best of them. I am convinced there is tremendous value in recognizing the foundational moments of life and am confident that one is well served by honoring the defining moments in their journey. The list of characters who have played a role in the drama that is my life are long, and a debt of gratitude is due to each. I am truly thankful for the many milestones and countless memories in my life.

That being said, I am still convinced that my greatest days lie ahead. Equipped with the wealth of knowledge that life to this point has brought, and confident of God's promises, the dream I have for the days to come is significant. God's Word tells me that I am the salt of the earth... I want my seasoning to have an impact! The Apostle Paul challenges us in Philippians 3 to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. The true value of that which lies behind will only be realized as we remain faithful to the path that God has marked out for us. This truth motivates us to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

As the movie Shawshank Redemption draws to a close, Morgan Freeman's character, "Red" reminds us of the undeniable truth that "You've gotta get busy living, or get busy dying." Jesus declared the reason he came was to provide each of us with the opportunity to live life to it's full, and Ephesians encourages us to make the most of every opportunity.

So, join me as we together enjoy those moments that provide opportunity for reflection and celebrate the loves and laughs of yesterday. Let's enjoy the smiles our memories bring... and building on the strengths of our yesterdays let's confidently, expectantly look to tommorow, trusting God for greater victories and a greater story.

"When your memories exceed your dreams the end is near."
Andy Stanley

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tilting at Windmills

He was a man on honor, committed to defending his homeland and preserving his good name. He was quick to come to the aid of any in distress, offer assistance to all who were in need. Chivalry should have been his hallmark.... and would have been if not for those windmills!

A quick look at the current Dow Jones Index and even the most casual glance at today's headlines reveal a troublesome scenario. The greatest concern is not the global economic instability or a dwindling 401k, history is replete with seasons of financial downturns and market volatility. There may be some argument on the timeline for an economic turnaround, but the consensus is that the market will recover and the economy will once again expand. In fact, our greatest danger has very little to do with dollars and cents, but much to do with dollars and SENSE.

Ecclesiastes 7:12 reminds us that "Wisdom is a shelter" and Proverbs 24 declares that "by wisdom a house is built." Jesus challenged us with the truth that "whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to the wise man who builds his house upon the rock: and the rains descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house but it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock." Our current season of uncertainty has many, unfortunately including many in leadership, searching for an easy answer to turn back the floods and calm the winds. The inevitable result is that in fear and/or confusion we begin to fight unnecessary battles and in the end are doing nothing more that "tilting at windmills." Their motivation is much like that of the beloved literary character Don Quixote, admirable yet horribly misguided. The solutions offered are little more than building a house on shifting sand.

So, what is the answer? A quick review of Cervantes' story of the man from LaMancha reminds us that perspective is a valuable tool. With our larger view we understand that Quixote's giants are mere windmills and the mythical mambrinos helmet is nothing more than a barber's washbowl. Moreover, a review of the promises of God reminds us that the way to weather a stormy season is to align ourselves with biblical truth.

Time will reveal that the answers for our current situation will have very little to with what is done in the White House and will fail to find the solution amidst all of talk radio. It will have everything to do with the level to which we commit ourselves to the principles of Scripture, understanding that God sees those "windmill giants" from his Heavenly perspective and He is not the slightest bit scared!