Monday, January 25, 2010

Here's a great question ...

Are you wanting to to go deep with your life? Ready to grow? Wanting to become all that you really can be?

It excites me when I meet people who are at that place in their lives. Whether they reached that point pro-actively, or circumstances have driven them to that point, it's exciting when someone is really ready to change and grow.

But getting the right direction to go with your life can be a challenge. The answer to that is broad-based, centered in Christ.

To help with personal direction, I've used a key question with thousands of people I've worked with as a pastor, counselor, and coach, and it's a question I use for my own life. Working out the answer to this question has had a dramatic impact on my life, and the lives of others. Here's a great question to work out for your own personal development:

"Who is the man/woman I desire to be AND God would have me become?"

The strength of that question comes from the integration of looking to God's will and understanding our own desires. God gives us free will and an incredible mind/heart that generates it's own desires. God delights in granting us the desires of our heart if they are molded to His own will for us. Psalm 37:4 tells us, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires."

Over the years, I have been able to grow in Christ and in my personal development and fulfillment by digging into this question. It has helped me see where my desires have matched God's, or where I was wanting to do my own thing. The more I meshed my own desires with what I understood God's desires for me to be, the more I grew, the more I accomplished, and the more fulfilled and content I became. Working through that question often was a process. It took some time, with a lot of prayer, Bible study, and focused thought. I've seen many others dig into this question the same way, with great results for their own lives.

So, who is the man/woman YOU desire to be AND God would have you become?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

When God does your eval ...

As an employee, I have gone through the experience of having my work evaluated by someone I reported to. Going through that process has helped me be more sensitive as to how I evaluated the many direct reports who have worked for me.

There are many people who would be more comfortable --- and would greatly prefer --- a "high altitude" evaluation. You know, the kind where you say, "Overall you're doing a good job, keep up the good work, let's do even better ..." The only problem with that kind of evaluation is that it doesn't accomplish anything.

A real evaluation can be a little more uncomfortable, or be made an opportunity to improve, no matter how good the evaluation is.

When doing an evaluation, I always started the process by spending real time and genuine discussion on what the employee excelled at and highlighted key or unique ways the employee was making a positive contribution. I think it's important not to gloss over this topic. When someone makes a positive contribution, regardless of how small, a leader should make sure there is real recognition, genuine appreciation, and appropriate reward for that contribution.

But to contribute to, and invest in your employee, the discussion must also include the not-so-positive. This is what a lot of employees dread, and often for good reason. None of us are perfect, we all have something we can work on, some area of our lives we can strengthen or grow in. How we handle this determines whether we really are contributing to the development of our team members and investing in them, or if we're simply beating them up.

Having a frank discussion about what the areas of current weaknesses are, and openly discussing why this is an area of weakness, can help your employees see where they need to improve, and gives you the leader an opportunity to partner with them about how they can become more successful. This is an opportunity to not simply identify weaknesses, but to develop and implement plausible and practical strategies for enhancing the performance of your team members.

This part of the evaluation can help an employee be able to see where they are lacking, real ways they can improve, and the assurance of support and encouragement in a process that will hold them accountable for improving through specific, measurable goals with scheduled times for assessments along the way.

You can enhance talent and develop skill through a positive evaluation process.

That kind of process has been important to me in my spiritual life. It's easier, less demanding, and much more time efficient if I simply admit to God that I'm not perfect and have room for improvement. But when I leave it like that, that simply remains my reality. It's an easy admission. But having to do something about it is a different experience altogether.

My Christian life grows when I go to God wanting an evaluation for my life as a disciple. God has a great way of blessing us with joy and fulfillment regarding the things we do right. But I have found it to be immeasurably helpful when I "get real" with God and have discussions with Him about my weaknesses. By talking these things through with Him, and using scripture as a guide for His feedback, I can develop real "strategies" for ways I can grow as a disciple. When I can do that, I can set real goals with God, and He provides assurance and support through the process. His Holy Spirit does a great job of holding me accountable as I strive to grow in the areas of my weaknesses. And this entire eval process works best when I do this process routinely with the Lord.

For me, I strive to have a daily progress check-in with the Lord. This keeps me on track or helps me get back on track quickly when I wander off. I usually have a few times a year of extended time with the Lord to dig deeper at where I'm at in my discipleship, and once a year I spend extensive time in prayer, meditation and dreaming about my life in Christ, resulting in significant vision-casting and goal setting for the future.

It's vitally important that I fully become and live as the man God wants me to be. That means I have to be serious about being accountable before God. If I don't work this eval process proactively, I will wind up skating through life and getting the final eval that I'm unprepared for when I stand before Christ.

Let me make it clear that this entire process is not about my trying to earn anything or to please God. It's simply about a deeply sincere commitment to pursue being who I can --- and should --- be as a child of God.

That will not happen accidentally. It won't happen for me, and it won't happen without my full engagement. But by diligently applying myself to this process, I can daily strive more fully toward the goal of really following Christ and applying myself, through the empowerment of His Spirit in me, to be a faithful disciple.

"23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life."


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Boulevard of life ...

You've hit the snooze button twice already, so when the alarm goes off again you know you have to get up.

Your day, like for many others, is full. You know exactly how much time you have before you have to get out of bed, get dressed for the day, get the kids ready for school, and make a quick breakfast for the family before you must be out the door on your way to work or else you'll be late.

As you're backing the car out of the driveway, you're on schedule. It's another busy morning, but you should be able to arrive at work on time.

But then you hit the first red light on the way to work. It seems like you're sitting at the light for at least three very long minutes before it changes, and that's when you feel the first rumblings of anxiety. But it's okay, time is tight but you're still on time ...

... until you hit the second red light.

Now you're perturbed. You don't have the time to sit at another light. Now it will be chancy that you'll be at work on time. Maybe you can punch in without being late if you get a parking spot near the office entrance ... which never happens.

The light turns and you speed down the avenue, checking for police cars in your rear view mirror. As you drive you feel the anxiety really churning now.

That's when you have to come to a sudden stop at yet another red light ... which leads to you arriving late to work ... and you start your work day anxious, which gets worse after the boss warns you about being late yet again. Your day only gets worse from there.

All because you thought all the lights should be green for you.

The problem in your day wasn't red lights slowing you down. The problem was having an attitude that all the lights should be green for you. To become anxious, or have your day thrown off simply because you faced a few red lights, is an empty way to live life. But many, many people start their days this way.

Sometimes we travel along on a string of green lights. How nice that is! It's so convenient. Most days are a mix ... a green light here, slide through a yellow light there, and catch a red light along the way. But most of the time we don't catch every light when it's green.

But many people act as though every light should be green for them.

Life is not synchronized for our comfort or our needs because it's not all about us. With over six billion people sharing the planet, and several thousand --- if not a few million --- sharing the immediate area with you, life routinely will require us to navigate circumstances that come our way because of the actions, needs, or wants of others rather than from our own choices. We compound those circumstances when we don't factor in others in our lives. When we navigate life as though every light really should be green for us, we'll wind up disappointed, frustrated, in trouble, and failing.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Your earth will shake ...

In my last post ("How to help Haiti ..."), I briefly shared that I had experienced the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco bay area several years ago, and then wrote of the needs in Haiti after its recent devastating 7.0 earthquake.

In the Loma Prieta earthquake, 63 people died. It is estimated that at least 50,000 --- and possibly hundreds of thousands --- of people have lost their lives in the recent earthquake in Haiti. Both areas were impacted with about the same amount of ground-shaking energy, so why the drastic difference in the loss of life?

Building codes.

Freedom-loving people cherish having as few rules as possible, and many are proud at their efforts in breaking the rules. But rules --- or standards --- have both a place and value.

The San Francisco bay area is known to be a place that is seimically active. People living in the bay area are used to quakes registering in the 4-5 range ... they sleep right through them! The reason they can sleep well when the ground shakes is because building codes are enforced to help ensure structures are built to endure the seismic activity of the region. Standards have been put in place to protect the local citizens from a known and common danger.

In Haiti, however, you will find a lack of building codes or enforced standards in construction. The result of this lack of standard is tragic when the earth shakes violently, as we are now witnessing.

The difference in living and dying, in standing or falling, has to do with how the structures are built.

The same goes for life. The difference in having life or losing it, in overcoming sin and the things of this world or succumbing to them, has to do with how we build our lives. Jesus gave us a "building code" so that we might withstand the forces we will face, and make no mistake about it: at some time in your life, your "ground" will shake! Jesus put it this way, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows ..." (John 16:33a). Given that fact, Jesus gives us a way to be able to withstand those "trials and sorrows" ... those things that shake our world ... in Matthew 7:24-27:

24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

What's the difference between those who experience difficult, even tragic, "trials and sorrows" and are overwhelmed, and those who face the same experiences yet overcome and even conquer? The difference is the foundation for their lives. Like the house built on sand, those who do not have Christ as the foundation for their lives will fall to the things of this world that buffet their lives. But those who build their lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and His word will be able to withstand the storms of life because their foundation is solid.

Jesus put it this way in that same passage quoted previously from John 16:33, "
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Having a building code isn't any good if it's not enforced. It won't protect anyone unless executed in the actual construction of structures. The same with the "building code" for life. We can believe that Jesus is the only foundation for life, but our lives will not have the strength and endurance that comes from that truth unless we actually make Jesus Christ the literal foundation on which our lives are lived every single day.

What is the actual foundation on which your life as a whole is built? What is the foundation from which you live your life on a daily basis? If the storms of life have been buffeting you around, take shelter in Christ and trust Him to be the bedrock on which you can face whatever may come your way.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to help Haiti ...

If you've ever felt the earth move under your feet, you will never forget it.

In October of 1989, I was doing some work on my computer, sitting at a desk in a small cottage I lived in in the San Francisco bay area, when the earth suddenly started to shake. I immediately looked up, out the window, and saw the utility poles and wires swaying violently. It struck me that a big earthquake was hitting, and I had better get outside quickly.

Fortunately, my little cottage survived the hit, but the result of the Loma Prieta earthquake would strongly impact the bay area for quite some time to come. The 7.1 quake damaged the Bay Bridge, and a double decker portion of freeway going into Oakland had collapsed. Fires raged in San Francisco's Marina district. Sixty-three people died.

For the next couple days and nights, I assisted a bay area lumber company in hauling timbers to the site of the collapsed freeway. The timbers were being used to hold up portions of the collapsed freeway so emergency responders could search for survivors. The area looked as if it had suffered a direct hit from a bombing.

The entire bay area was dramatically impacted by the quake. Fortunately, California was richer in resources at the time, and with federal aid and assistance from other states, emergency response poured into the area to help those impacted directly by the crisis.

Remembering that experience, I can only imagine the tremendous impact now being felt in Haiti after being hit yesterday by a 7.0 earthquake that has wrecked that nation's largest city. Early estimates are as many as three million Haitians are impacted by the devastation of the quake, and sources are estimating the initial death toll could be anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It's citizens struggle for survival on a good day, so the devastation of this earthquake is tragic in its proportion, and the country lacks the resources needed to respond to the imemdiate needs of this crisis. Many lives are at risk, and Haiti needs the help of the world right now. Here are some ways you can help:

1) PRAY - Only God will truly be able to see the people of Haiti through this disaster in the fullest way needed. From those who are still trapped in the rubble, to those who have lost loved ones, and for all those who will be working diligently to provide emergency assistance, pray constantly for God's care and provision for them. The hope of the people will be hurting during this time; pray God will be the source of their hope and strength.

2) GIVE - The fastest way to provide immediate assistance is to give financially to those organizations that are already in Haiti responding to this emergency. Here is a link listing many of the charitable organizations doing work in Haiti right now

3) RALLY SUPPORT - If you don't know whether your church is responding to the needs of Haiti, call and find out. If it hasn't started a response yet, offer to help coordinate efforts on behalf of your church. Your church can organize a prayer vigil, provide members with information about how they can give financially for emergency needs, and donate needed supplies.

4) PROVIDE MANPOWER - The agencies providing emergency relief to Haiti, both government and non-profit, may need additional manpower with their efforts. If needed, and you are able, be willing to go and provide direct assistance. Healthcare professionals and others with special skills will be needed. Please don't be a "lone ranger" by doing your own thing, as that creates more problems during the chaos of a disaster. If you have skills that could be useful in the emergency response, follow the news disseminated by relief organizations and the government as to manpower needs. But consider going if you can, and if you're needed.

When some of the poorest and most needy among us suffer such great tragedy, today (and tomorrow, and throughout the coming months) simply cannot be "business as usual" for us. Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our love. In that case, pour out your love and compassion on Haiti today!

Today, we all need to be Haitians.

God bless all that you do for the people of Haiti.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

No such thing as a sedentary adventurer ...

When Stan hired me to be his Personal Trainer, it was because he had to, not because he wanted to.

Stan was in his mid-fifties, part owner in a successful family business, and physically falling apart. He had been battling horrible effects of Crohn's foot and had already been wearing the boot to stablize damage to his foot. He was obese, diabetic, and hadn't exercised on purpose in many years. His physician told him he had better do what he needed to do to improve his fitness, or he would die young.

So he came to see me.

Stan got the message about his health, and so he got focused. With dedication to his exercise and nutrition program, it wasn't long until we started seeing improvements.

Stan is like many people who devalue maintaining their fitness and allow themselves to be swept away by the busyness of life. Many of them adamantly insist something of great value would have to go in order for them to take the time to exercise ... until their doctor tells them it's do or die. Suddenly, they're able to make the time without it causing calamity to other aspects of their lives.

We do the same with our faith. It sits dormant until enough troubles come along that we go running to God to bail us out. We allow the dust to build on our Bibles until we need some answers we haven't come up with on our own. But neither our physical being nor our spiritual being are designed to go unexercised. To keep both healthy and strong, we're required to exercise and feed them well routinely.

The ideal recommendation for attaining and maintaining fitness is 30 minutes of activity per day, every day. In other words, just maintaining a reasonable level of activity, along with good nutrition, often is sufficient to build and maintain physical fitness. Likewise, keeping our faith active by exercising it every day keeps our spiritual health robust and strong for those times when we really need strength.

Stan didn't need to spend his life coming to the gym every day to have experienced a physically healthy life. He could have simply been active with things that he may have enjoyed ... walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, sports, gardening or some other activity that would have kept him moving. Instead, he went to work, but his management role was a fairly sedentary job. Then he went home, ate a large dinner, and then went to bed ... the perfect recipe for weight gain and muscular atrophy.

In the same manner, we don't have to go to church every day to exercise our faith. We can build it by daily Bible study, explore it in prayerful conversations with God, apply it in our relationships, and demonstrate it in our business decisions every day.

I once heard faith compared to a rope. You don't take a rope, coil it up, and throw it in a corner. You take a rope and hang off the side of a mountain with it! In other words, you purposely look for ways to use your faith by choice every day. Like the adventurer who jumps out of a plane with a parachute, or off a bridge attached to a bungee cord, or scales a vertical cliff, the spiritual adventurer looks for adventures in faith.

How fit are you ... physically and spiritually? What are you doing on a daily basis to build and maintain both physical and spiritual fitness? What adventures are available to you today that could exercise your body and your faith?


Friday, January 8, 2010

Great expectations?

If you missed the BCS Championship game last night featuring Alabama v. Texas, you missed an interesting game.

A lot of people tuned in to see what they hoped would be a great game starring Colt McCoy, the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, leading his team to a BCS Championship. It didn't turn out that way. In fact, four minutes into the game McCoy was knocked out of commission with a shoulder injury.

That's when things got interesting.

Now Texas had to look not to their star quarterback, but to a true "freshman" backup QB, 18-year-old Garrett Gilbert. Just the previous year Gilbert was playing football in high school. Last night, he was thrust, unprepared, in front of more than 90,000 fans in the stands, millions tuning in via television, and in front of his team with the demand to perform beyond his experience or preparation.

Imagine the pressure!

Initially, the phrase "the Freshman" was bandied about multiple times by the game announcers, and Twitter lit up with dismay that "the Freshman" just couldn't pull this off. To say the least, expectations of Gilbert were quite low. But Gilbert quickly calmed down and started performing like a more seasoned QB as he led his team to a touchdown and two-point conversion, putting his team back into the game. While Gilbert was able to bring his team back in contention, he wasn't able to lead them to a win, as 'Bama finally rolled to victory.

In spite of the outcome of the game, Gilbert did an admirable job of stepping up when he was called on.

Believe it or not, and quite to the contrary of what we think about young people today, history --- and the Bible --- are replete with great stories of outstanding accomplishments by teenagers.

From Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to David facing Goliath, Jeremiah called to be a prophet while still a teen, or even Mary and Joseph becoming the earthly parents of Jesus, God has used teenagers to do great things for Him and this world we live in.

Yet today, American culture has vastly dummied down expectations of youth. Today we expect more trouble and challenges from teens than great feats and accomplishments. But it wasn't always that way. Up until the end of the 19th century, older children were routinely working in family businesses and by their teens they often were beginning to marry and start their careers. Because of very real, serious abuses to employing children, labor laws were passed in our country that began the change of how we view --- and what we expect --- from young people. We changed from demanding too much labor from children to expecting very little from teens. The outcome is a culture that thinks it's normal for young people to largely play away their early years, leaving the "more serious things of life" for later years.

The result hasn't been good for teens or our country.

Fortunately, there are a couple young guys leading a "rebelution" against low expectations for teenagers. Alex and Brett Harris are twin brothers who are the founders of The Rebelution, an organization dedicated to inspiring teens and young adults to have a positive impact on the culture. The Harris brothers speak at The Rebelution Tour conferences and are co-authors of the book Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. In addition to writing and speaking, the twins are currently attending Patrick Henry College in Virginia.

What kind of expectations does your church have for teens? Is the focus on building a big attendance on game night, but never considering how teens can impact the world for the kingdom of God? What do you challenge your teens to do? What do you think they are capable of?

Let me encourage you to become familiar with "The Rebelution" and consider joining in a revolution to rebel against low expectations of teens. Consider what you can do as a person, a parent, a church leader, to help teens become all they can be in Christ, for Christ.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knocking out a story ...

A little girl was diligently pounding away on her grandfather's word processor. She told him she was writing a story. "What's it about?" he asked. "I don't know," she replied, "I can't read."

Many of us can relate to that story. We're busy pounding away, writing the story of our lives. But sometimes we're so busy with the activity of it we don't have any idea what we're writing. Some of us can't even read.

What is the story of your life about? Do you have it clearly pictured in your mind? Are you focused on developing the character, carefully laying in the details, and taking the plot to a specific end? Are you writing an adventure, a thriller, a comedy, a romance, or a horror story? Are you compiling a story of fiction, or lining out a compelling non-fiction?

Or are you just pounding away?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is your service actually selfishness?

During this time in my life, I'm in one of the most uncomfortable situations I could find myself in: I'm forced to have to give more attention to myself than I would like.

Usually that's an easy thing for any of us, and I do my share of looking to my own needs. But in this transitional period I find myself in, I'm having to address personal needs more than I would like.

One of my favorite things in life is helping others grow, fully develop their potential, and achieve the fullest life they can. That is immensely rewarding to me. Because my current situation limits how much of that I can do right now, I have to be careful to not be selfish about wanting to be more able to serve others!

Even in serving the needs of others we can find seeds of selfishness if we don't look closely at why we do what we do. Is it entirely for the sake of the other person, or is it for our own fulfillment we get from what we do? It can be possible to completely miss the people served in the process of getting that "servant fix."

What moves me deeply is knowing the very reason for Jesus Christ's physical existence was entirely for our best interests. Jesus stated it best when He said "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Talk about true selflessness! Jesus lived His earthly life for our benefit alone. And that is the example we should follow when serving others.

Who can forget Jesus' literal example and teaching of selfless service when He washed the feet of His disciples: "1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him" (John 13:1-5) then Jesus clarifies His example with instruction in John 13:12-17, "12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, 'Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them'."

If your opportunity to serve others was removed, would you miss it? Why? Do you serve people whose success won't bring any kind of reward to you or your organization? Do you think "What's in it for me?" when considering opportunities to serve?

When the underlying motive of our service is to achieve a personal objective or reward, then our service isn't service at all. It's selfishness.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting over false advertising ...

"Six pack abs in threes minutes a day ..."

"Change your professional life in five minutes a day ..."

"Transform your relationships in just 10 minutes per day ..."

" ... and get total fitness in just 20 minutes a day, only three days a week!"

And so go the advertisements boasting all kinds of sweeping changes we can have in our lives in just a matter of minutes per day.


Real, from the inside-out life transformation doesn't happen by tinkering with your issues or interests just a few minutes a day. But when we're sitting on the couch, wishing things were different, the ads sound good, especially if answers can be purchased with a credit card plus an extra 10 percent off if you simply call within the next 10 minutes.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the ads are not true!

More than a majority of Americans made New Year resolutions. Most of these resolutions have something to do with changing who they are as a person. It's estimated only eight percent of the people will achieve their resolutions. Why? People quickly discover the promises for quick, easy change aren't true.

Neither are the claims from many church leaders that if you give God just a few minutes a day, your spiritual life will be transformed into "Super Christian."

The truth is, if you want to be someone you currently are not, you will have to do every ounce of work to make the change.

If you want to get physically fit, you will have to do the work in the areas of nutrition, exercise (both cardio and muscular conditioning), and rest, or you will not achieve lasting results that are healthy for you.

If you want to fix and improve relationships, you're going to have to put in the time and effort, on a consistent basis, to create change.

And if you want to be a genuine disciple of Christ, you will have to give up your selfish ways, take up your own cross on a daily basis, and follow Jesus every single day (Luke 9:23).

The truth is far different from the advertising!

The first step is deciding what you really want. That's why most people remain on the couch, or jump at the claims for shortcuts ... because they know what they wish, but they know even better they aren't willing to work for it.

That's the second step. Change only happens when you're willing to pay the price and do the work for it. In fact, there's not a lot that cannot be accomplished if you truly commit yourself to doing what it takes. This is highlighted in a fascinating story in the Bible, found in Genesis 11:

"1 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. 2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3 They began saying to each other, 'Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.' (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) 4 Then they said, 'Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.' 5 But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 'Look!' he said. 'The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.' 8 In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world."

Notice when the Babylonians were focused and intent on what they wanted to do, were willing to do the hard work involved, and were willing to work together for it, they would be unstoppable! Unfortunately, their efforts were toward self-glorification, which is why God intervened and put a stop to what could have been a "success" of their efforts.

Becoming that man or woman of God is not about a few minutes in the Bible on a daily basis, or a few extra minutes for prayer. In fact, it's not about making God a part of your life. It's about making God your life! Genuine Christian faith doesn't "include" God, it's walking with God throughout your day, it's God being a part of everything you think, every relationship you have, everything you do. Instead of including God into your day, real Christianity is about including all the things of your day into your life with God!

Being just a little different takes just a little work. Changing your life ... developing your talent, building skills, deepening relationships, developing character, expanding knowledge, growing in wisdom, giving and receiving love ... all take a commitment of your whole self. That takes time and effort, but worth every minute spent and every drop of sweat.

Like most people, you've probably identified changes you would like in your life in the new year. What's your plan for making those changes happen? Are you going to tinker at them, or do what takes to turn dreams into reality?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Checking the fence line ...

Some of the hardest work I've done has been building fence lines in some roughed territory.

My fence building experiences happened while living on a ranch in Arizona, and during a stint on an uncle's hog farm in Arkansas. Both were very different experiences.

In the West, the ground is hard as a rock because its full of rock! On an Arizona ranch, you construct barbed wire fencing. That means you first dig a hole in which to place your fence post. Therein lies the challenge. To dig a hole in the rugged Arizona terrain requires post hole diggers, a shovel, a good pick, but most importantly, a long iron bar to pound and pry from the earth the rock that defies you to dig a hole. It's back-breaking work that is a fight for every post hole.

In the South, where the soil has a greater clay consistency, the earth is a little more pliable. Being used to building fence in Arizona, I was shocked to see how it was done in Arkansas. My uncle pulled his old farm pickup truck alongside where he wanted to place a fence post. He then took a fence post that was about eight foot long and pointed at one end (somewhat resembling a giant pencil) and then stood in the bed of the truck for height and pounded the fence post into the ground with a post maul, which is an over-sized sledge hammer. Although the southern soil was more pliable, it was still a physical challenge to drive the fence post nearly halfway into the ground.

In either location, to build an entire fence, or a corral, was a real physical challenge. It was tough work. But to keep in what you needed to keep in --- or keep out what you needed to keep out --- you did the tough work.

The same with our lives.

There are things in our lives that are important to us that need to be protected ... things that need to be kept in our lives, and things that need to be kept out. We need fences, hedges, barriers, forms of protection to maintain what needs to be held onto, and what needs to be kept out.

How hard do we work to protect our relationship with Jesus Christ? With our spouses or children or significant others in our lives? How hard do we work to keep our faith in and our doubts out? To keep a holy life in Christ protected and keep sin out? How much labor and sweat and toil do we put into those important things?

The start of a new year is a good time to do a check of the fence lines in our lives. What needs mending, and what needs building? How are you going to make sure you keep in your life what needs protecting, and keep out what is harmful to you during this new year?


Friday, January 1, 2010

Why I cannot sleep ...

Men, here's a great challenge to start your New Year with. Thanks to Randy Farren for bringing this video to my attention on Facebook.

"... I cannot sleep. There is a place He is not worshipped." Powerful words! Powerful attitude! Will it be yours this year?


Welcome to 2010 ...

Today many people flipped a page in their calendars, like they do every day. The difference was the new page highlighted a new year, and even the start of a new decade.

It's fun to celebrate the coming of a new year. A lot of attention --- and partying --- is put into the changing of one year to another, as if we are grateful for the blessings of the past year, or happy to be rid of it for a better one! Many people strain their brains to come up with resolutions for the new year. Some will be accomplished, most won't.

Ultimately, the only real change between yesterday and today is the page on the calendar.

Just because one year, and one decade, comes to a conclusion and another begins doesn't mean there's any magical means to change. Everything isn't suddenly different. The blessings you enjoyed yesterday are likely still yours today, along with the problems that were plaguing you. The hoopla around New Year's Eve and Day is mostly just that.

That's not to say that points of time aren't good tools for measurement. The end of a year can be used to measure what was, and wasn't accomplished; what blessings were received, and what troubles were overcome. It is a good point to look forward from, to dream and plan, etc. But when all is said and done, the only point of time you actually have is today, the day God has given you now.

It doesn't take a new year to change course and pursue new things. It doesn't take a new year to get serious about doing things differently, doing things better, or bringing an end to some things. It just takes a new day!

God makes things new every day with a new day. So we should be changing every single day! Life is lived best when we make ourselves take time each day for personal reflection. And if you're about to say you're too busy to do that, then you're too busy and need to make something change so that you can look at yourself on a daily basis. Failure to do so will mean you will stack up your weaknesses, failings and troubles until you "finally get the time" for them. By then, you will have made a mountain out of a mole hill and will regret not having made the time for daily introspection.

Life is meant to be lived, and measured, one day at a time.

I hope each day of 2010 brings you fresh introspection, and God's richest blessings!