Live The Dream

This is one of those posts for me that, even as I type this sentence, I’m not really sure what I’m going to say. This is one of those times when I am pumping away at the top of the well in order to bring what’s deep inside to the surface. There is something churning inside of me, and I’m not sure precisely what it is.

I am filled with a certain sense of anticipation. I don’t know how to describe this feeling. I am not a good golfer, but there are times when I’m standing over a putt of some significant distance where I just have this feeling it’s going to go in before I even hit the ball. That’s sort of what I’m feeling right now about where I am in life. I simply feel like I’m on the cusp of something special.

I’m finding a particular sense of purpose in the things I’m doing in my life. That’s not to say that I haven’t had purpose before. I just feel an increasing measure of purpose these days. I feel a sense of anticipation in that something that I will do today is going to bear great significance. That may be in my own life, or that of someone else. 

Perhaps, both. 

In any case, there is a palpable expectancy in my heart. I don’t know that I’m writing this thinking that it may inspire you, or if I’m writing it to mark the day that I put these thoughts into something tangible. 

Perhaps both.

I have dreams. If I am to be honest with myself, I must admit that I haven’t necessarily believed I deserved to experience my dreams in real life. But I feel a challenge in my heart that the dreams are not for self importance or attention, but because if they were to come to fruition, God would be evident and glorified exponentially beyond what I’ve personally experienced up to this point.

There is an urgency in my heart. This urgency does not mean I need to hurry, but instead, to not waste a moment. I need to put action to my dreams. I need to believe that God not only put the dreams in my heart, but He has equipped me to make them happen and live them. I need to stop believing the lie that the things I long for are out of my league. Instead, I have to accept that the dreams I have are only within my reach if I stand upon God’s word and His promises.

I would be remiss if I didn’t challenge you to look within yourself to tap into that thing that burns in your heart. That dream you have that you know would fuel your life to a new level. Maybe you’ve been afraid to pursue it. Maybe you feel unqualified. Maybe you’ve been intimidated. Maybe you listened to someone who said it wasn’t possible and you were out of your mind for thinking it.

Those thoughts need to die. What is your dream? What is that thing God planted beneath the surface that is desperately needing to burst through?

If not now, when?

It’s time.

Lie of the Tiger

Despite the title, this isn’t one of those trendy ‘bash Tiger Woods’ articles. That’s too easy, and frankly, who among us is deserving to throw stones? What I want to focus on is one very transparent paragraph Tiger shared in his worldwide apology last Friday morning. I don’t care whether you think his apology was sincere or not. What he shared was absolutely the right thing to say if one were to be completely honest with themselves, much less the entire world.
“I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”

Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous, most wealthy and most recognized human alive is powerless to temptation. As I addressed in my post last week about the alluring nature of temptation, it always comes in a harmless and attractive package. But once you open the door to it, there are disastrous consequences. Once you give in to it, you are completely at its mercy. How much money do you think Tiger Woods has paid others to keep his secrets? It’s all over the news and the subject of books the depth of deception former Presidential candidate John Edwards went to keep his ugly behavior from a public who was seriously considering making him the most powerful man in the world. The number of people involved to keep the lies away from the media and the public is astounding. The lives these men controlled, compromised and stressed to the breaking point is unconscionable.

Tiger Woods’ admission that he felt the rules didn’t apply to him was his Kryptonite. He has been forced to face that no matter how much money he has, no matter how big his house, no matter how famous, no matter how beautiful his wife, no matter how many cars he has…there is no such thing as enough. His addiction isn’t sex. He has a lust for more.

The REAL Law of Attraction

Last Monday, I wrote a post expressing my thoughts relating to the so-called “Law of Attraction”. Since then, I’ve still been thinking about this particular concept. I have a couple more thoughts I’d like to add. 

The first is in response to a reply to my original post by someone who said a particular “minister” taught that, “God wants us to have prosperity and abundance”. My immediate thought was that God is infinitely less interested in our material prosperity than He is our spiritual condition. My thoughts then deepened to consider the question, “prosperity and abundance as compared to whom?” In other words, compared to our peers in our community, or perhaps with those in third world countries who live in mud huts and have to hunt for their food?

We live in such material abundance, it’s embarrassing to complain. It’s embarrassing that people who profess to be Christian continue to teach that God wants us to have lots of money and possessions as if it’s some sort of sign of spiritual maturity. When I responded to the reply to which I referred earlier, I was immediately reminded of the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. He considered himself a morally upright man. But Jesus challenged him when He went straight to what the man truly treasured. He told the man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, then follow Jesus. The man ended up turning away because “he had great wealth.” As Jesus was sharing this story with His disciples, he said this in verses 23 and 24, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This is not because rich people are evil. This is because most people with abundance are not willing to sacrifice all they’ve acquired if it was asked of them.

I know many affluent Christians. Here’s the thing. God isn’t against us having wealth. But not all of us can be trusted with it. Tomorrow I’ll go into this point further, so for now, I’ll just leave it at that.

In closing this post, I want to leave you with the REAL law of attraction. Nothing more needs to be said beyond what I’m about to share with you. It is the definitive answer to this concept of life.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. 
~James 4:8 

Words In Season

Yesterday morning, I was having a bit of a tough day personally. Some words were directed to me which hurt. I have to admit, I can be a sensitive guy when it comes to wanting to please people. I know it’s impossible to please everyone all the time. But if there is a way to do it, I’m going to try and find it. Don’t get me wrong. There have been plenty of times I’ve had to make unpopular decisions, but in those times, the strength of my convictions means standing by those decisions.

God knows when we need encouragement. Yesterday, I received a phone call in the late morning which couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. I was in my car, moon roof open as I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and breeze. I felt a little wounded, but I was in the process of putting that behind me. Suddenly, my phone rang. My caller ID told me who it was, but I don’t recall ever getting a call from them before. The call was from a person who wanted to compliment me on the worship in the Man Cave Wednesday night. The call took all of two or three minutes, but it meant the world to me. It was just a simple story about a man who was there the other night and had a special enough experience that they felt I should know about it. 

There is something very profound about a word in season. In other words, when someone shares with you the right message at the right time. It can be words of encouragement, affirmation, words of correction, words of advice…you name it. This seasoned word encouraged me that, A) I’m not entirely messed up, and B) God is touching the hearts of men through me. 

I needed that.

Today, maybe you’re the messenger God wants to use to encourage someone who needs it. Don’t ignore that still small voice that spoke someone’s name into your heart. Even if they’re not going through a crisis, you will bless them greatly just knowing you notice their effort, and that you appreciate them.

Living With An ‘All In’ Faith

Last night, within the span of about 30 minutes, I had conversations with two different people who used the phrase “all in”. These were completely different conversations, and completely different topics. This phrase has become particularly popular in recent years as television poker has become so prevalent. The phrase ‘all in’ means that you push every chip you have accumulated to the center of the table as your bet. It’s all or nothing. If you win, you stay alive. If you lose, you’re done.

These words just rang in my head when I heard them come from these different people. It’s not that they’re so profound, but because I felt that the phrase best described the attitude we need to have as Christians if we expect to grow in our faith. I know that in my life, I have to have the attitude of ‘all in’. There is no half way. There is no sense holding anything back. I can’t expect the full benefit of what God has for me if I don’t give Him everything, keeping some of it for myself.

I have to take inventory and look at the elements in my life where I am only partly in. Maybe in some cases, I’m not in at all. All in for me means giving it all to God. I need to trust Him with everything. He knows my heart. He knows my desires. He knows the gifts He has given me. He knows what fuels my passion. He knows the plans He has for my future.

No matter what happens around me, I know that I’ve got the Creator of the ends of the earth on my side.

That is an unbeatable hand!

Breaking the Law of Attraction

This might be a bit of a controversial topic, but my passion is stirred, and this is one of the ways I express my passion. This post isn’t meant to exclude anyone, but it is especially pointed to those who consider themselves Christian. 

Since sin was introduced to man in Genesis 3, we humans have been preyed upon with deception. The hook isn’t baited with something that won’t attract us. The serpent lured Eve by appealing to her instinct to have more than she was given by God. 

Temptation is never ugly when we look at it initially. I remember when I stepped into mainland China for the first time. As I walked out of the train station and down the street, I saw these beautiful, brightly colored signs which inspired a happy feeling. But in the gaps between the signs, you could look to see that behind them were dilapidated buildings. The signs were there to hide and distract from the ugly truth which stood behind them. Just like these signs, temptation inspires good feelings, but behind them is a world of ugliness. 

Sometimes deception comes disguised as some form of godliness. That’s what it looks like from the outside, anyway. There have been various forms of the current philosophy of the “Laws of Attraction”. This crept into the church long ago in the so-called “Positive Confession” movement. It’s also been known as the “Word of Faith”, “Prosperity Doctrine”, “Name It and Claim It”, and the ever popular, “Blab It and Grab It”. In any form, it is about the idea that if we really want something, and we believe that it is ours, it is! Even if it hasn’t yet come to pass, it’s a done deal. Now we have self-help gurus making fortunes off the “Eves” of this age with the so-called Law of Attraction.

Let me just say that any theology or “secret” that puts man at the center isn’t of God. Christianity and all its benefits aren’t about us, it’s about God. Sure, we benefit in ways that can’t be measured, but even so, it’s not about us. As humans, we have a very selfish instinct. We seek out formulas which will make our lives more comfortable. Just as bubblewrap is cushy and fun, we want our lives to be insulated by a nice, comfortable concept for living. We convince ourselves that we should be able to will ourselves to more good events in life, while shrouding ourselves from things ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic.

The Gospel of Jesus is anything but comfortable. There is nothing simple and easy about the Christian life. If it were as simple as some Jedi mind trick to the cosmos that if we simply send out positive energy, good things will be drawn to us like static cling, that would completely nullify what Jesus did with His life, death and His resurrection. God did not send His son so that life would be easy for us. He is not a genie in a lamp. The Christian life is not for the faint of heart.

The fact that the world has devised a “secret” that shadows a miracle of God as promised to His people is nothing new. In Exodus 7, Moses and his brother Aaron were standing before Pharaoh trying to convince him to do as the Lord commanded in letting the Israelites free from slavery. In order to get Pharaoh’s attention, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to do something. 

Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.”  

Mimicking God’s miracles is nothing new. However, as this example clearly demonstrates, the real thing, the truth will swallow up the imitation every time.

For those who call themselves Christians, it is about denying ourselves and living for the purpose of glorifying God. It is about submitting ourselves to His will. Jesus Himself uttered the words, “not my will, but Yours be done”. Pretty bad things happened to Jesus following those words. Were they the result of negative vibrations?

They were the result of our sin, and God loved us so much that He endured horrific atrocities. 

If you’re a parent, you don’t give your children everything they want, even when they’re being sweet and obedient. You probably reward them for their good behavior, but that’s what they’re supposed to do in the first place. If you gave them whatever they wanted, they’d have ice cream for dinner. You’d be broke buying them everything they want. They’d never be home because they’d abuse the independence given to them in being able to do what they want, when they want. Sometimes God says no to us. When you say no to your kids, you don’t want them to pitch a fit like spoiled brats. You want them to respect your authority and accept your decision because you see the big picture of what is best for them and their development.

We must submit our will to God’s. When the bible says in Psalm 37:4 that we should delight in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart, it doesn’t mean that if we are happy Christians with a positive attitude that we’re going to get nothing but green lights and great parking spots. It means that when we are in proper fellowship with God, His desires for us will become ours. He will birth His desires in our hearts which will please Him, and it will also bring us great fulfillment. God loves to lavish us with great gifts, but He knows what is truly in our best interest. He knows what we can handle and be trusted with.

Many Christians like to quote Psalm 37:4 and use it as an argument for material prosperity. However, they tend to overlook verses 5-7 which says:

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
       trust in him and he will do this:

 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
       the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
       do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
       when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Commit, trust and wait. Not in your “vibrations”, but in God. When you do, it doesn’t say you’ll have good things and good times. It says your righteousness will shine. Lots of bad things happened to Job, but He trusted in God. He never turned his back on God, even when his wife and friends suggested he should. In remaining faithful and devoted to God, his righteousness shined, and he was validated by God.
Verse 7 tells us to submit ourselves to God’s timing and not to covet what others have as they go about their schemes and formulas. Their rewards are temporal. 
Ours are eternal. 

Tough Memories

This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of the official word of my mom’s cancer and its severity. I wasn’t trying to remember it. In fact, I had to go back and look to confirm it because I thought to myself it was around this time last year. Turned out it was exactly this time last year. 

I found myself feeling pretty melancholy this weekend. I didn’t expect it, but I was. Memories are really powerful. They’re not only mental, but emotional. I was transported back to my mom’s hospital room when the word came. I could picture her. I could remember the awful feeling in my gut when the news was delivered. I remember all the thoughts that rolled through my mind as what I’ve only seen happen to others was now happening in my family. 

My mom lived another five weeks after we received word. I expect that the next month or so will be flooded with bittersweet memories. I may not see some of them coming. Others will be as predictable as the sunrise.

Today is Monday. It’s a new week, and life moves on. 

I’m looking forward to what God has in store. I don’t know what it is, but I’m confident that I am not alone. There are times when I sure feel alone, but God is faithful to remind me that I’m anything but. I had a special time with very dear friends last Thursday. Yesterday was a fantastic day at church. I received words of comfort and care during the weekend. Wednesday night is Man Cave where I’ll get to lead worship before hundreds of men, doing what I love doing. This week, I’ll spend time right here sharing my life lessons.

Life moves forward. Memories can paralyze us when we dwell on them. They can also propel us through the present and into the future. I spent a day this weekend in solitude thinking about things. Now it’s time to move forward. Tough days are ahead, but dotting the road are gifts from God. It would be easy to dwell on what I don’t have, but I will fight the urge and choose instead to focus on the fact that I am a friend of God, and He calls me friend!

I do not expect that I’m the only one with a heavy heart. There is a time for solemnity. There is an appropriate time to sit in quiet remembrance. But it’s important to continue to live. It’s important to use this day of life which has been gracefully extended to us. 

This is the day the LORD has made;
       let us rejoice and be glad in it.  

~Psalm 118:24