Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Take a moment to reflect on the elements of Easter as depicted in the video below ...

It's my prayer that each of you are blessed with a rich celebration of the risen Savior today. Happy Easter!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sharing the Gospel can be as easy as 3-2-1 ...

One of the most common reasons we fail to share the Good News of Jesus Christ is because we're afraid to. Part of that equation is buying the lie that it's simply too hard to share the Gospel.

There are many simple, concise ways we can equip ourselves to share the Good News. To encourage you that this is true, the video below will demonstrate it can be as simple as 3 - 2 - 1 ...

Now practice that a few times ... then share it with someone!


Friday, March 29, 2013

When the ugly becomes beautiful ...

Traffic is so backed up, you've barely inched a mile in the last hour. The radio reports that at the front of the traffic congestion is a serious accident.

As you make your way forward, the red lights of the ambulance comes into view. Driving by, you turn away because what you see is an ugly, tragic scene.

It's interesting how accidents themselves don't necessarily cause the significant jams to traffic, it's the people who slow down to gawk at the accident scene who slow the flow. Many people exercise their curiosity to gaze upon the tragic, only to discover there's nothing but ugliness to see when a life has been brutally harmed.

That is, until you look at the cross of Christ.

No doubt, there's an element of the horrific and ugly to it. A tortured, bloodied man hangs, dying an excruciating death.

But there's more --- much more --- to see.

The cross, a cruel Roman instrument of death, is now a platform used by the God of all creation to make the one perfect sacrifice that will redeem all of humanity from sin. God is actually at work, achieving our salvation, demonstrating His greatness, His grace, His goodness, His mercy, His love, and especially, His glory.

In this way, God makes the tragic and ugly into something remarkably beautiful and incredibly good.

"5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
    he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
    that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
    for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.
10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
    for he will bear all their sins."
Isaiah 53:5-11
Happy Good Friday!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Easter lesson learned from a possum ...

Lutheran pastor Joel Pankow once shared an insightful story that highlights one of the profound aspects of the resurrection. The story is shared below, I hope it blesses you as we move toward Easter Sunday ...

Possums are smart animals. You wouldn't think so because you hardly ever see one except when it's dead on the road. There's a joke that goes, "Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum it could be done!"

But possums, it turns out, are smart. They won't enter a hole if there's just one set of tracks going into it. That's because they know there's something in there. But if there are two sets of tracks, the possum will enter and not be afraid.

The message of Easter is that we can enter the grave, we don't have to fear death because there are tracks leading out of the tomb. The Apostle Paul preached the proclamation of Easter: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

This is the message we need to hear this Easter.

Christ is risen!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When is YOUR kingdom mission accomplished?

Well-known pastor and author, Rick Warren, is working on plans for a purpose-driven retirement.

Warren has stated he plans to retire in 2020, although his "retirement" will not really be so much a retired life as it is making a transition out of his current pastoral position and pursuing other activities. Warren won't have any problem keeping himself very busy with kingdom work throughout his retirement years.

As Christians, when do we "retire" from active service for God's kingdom? When do we say we've done enough, we've served enough, we've made our last contribution?

We see an answer to that in the example of Jesus as we move toward Easter Sunday. Jesus was born into this world for a specific purpose, and now, as He hung crucified on a crude Roman cross, He was almost finished with His mission.

But even as the life ebbed out of His tortured body, Jesus makes arrangements for the care of His mother (John 19:25-27), and when a criminal crucified next to Him calls out to Him, Jesus promises they will be together in paradise that same day (Luke 23:32-43). Jesus was serving all the way to the cross, and even from the cross, until He drew His last breath.

When it comes to our service in the kingdom of God, there is no retirement, just transitions. That's because our service to the Lord isn't a job, it's a family responsibility as children of the King.

Are you actively engaged in serving the King of kings as His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20)?


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

At life's single greatest crossroad ...

Do you remember making "blanket forts" in the living room as a kid?

It was a place you could take your rather sizable imagination, a few toys or a coloring book, and escape from the world.

Of course, at that age we weren't "escaping" from much, more like creating our own "special place" to unleash our imaginations for a while before returning to the world governed by adults.

I've noticed lately on social media sites some friends posting a picture of a blanket fort with a caption that said something like, "I no longer want to be an adult. If you need me I will be in my blanket fort ... coloring."

Life is much tougher as an adult because it comes loaded with decisions and responsibilities from which there really isn't an escape.

As we enter into Easter week and recall Christ's journey to the cross, we're reminded of a tough decision Jesus faced, one which reflects the single greatest crossroads you and I will ever face. Jesus loved the Father, and He loved us; He wanted to please the Father and save us, but He didn't want to have to do it through the cross ...

"39 Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. 40 There he told them, 'Pray that you will not give in to temptation.' 41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 'Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.' 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood," Luke 22:39-44.

 Leaving the splendor of heaven, wrapping Himself in flesh, and coming into this world as a human being, all for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost, was an easy decision for Jesus. It was a decision made by the Trinity before anything was even created.

"4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure," Ephesians 1:4-5.

But a route through the cross?

To be beaten, spat upon, and nailed to a crude cross by His own creation? 

The holy sacrificed for sinners?

Death for those who didn't deserve life?

Going through with that plan was a tough one, even for Jesus, who now found Himself at the single greatest crossroad you and I will ever face: to do the will of the Father, or to do what we prefer.

Some have written that it wasn't nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was His love for us. That's not accurate. It was some very large nails violently pounded through His hands and feet that attached Him to the cross. His love for us was a key motivating factor for Him to face such agony. But what really brought Jesus out of the Garden and up onto that cross was His overwhelming desire to do the will of the Father. 

Nothing was more important to Jesus than doing the will of His Father. For Him, there was no cost too great to pay in order to please and obey the Father. 

That's the crossroad we all face: will we, like Jesus, opt to die to self and choose to do the will of our heavenly Father? 

What have you decided?


Monday, March 25, 2013

How do you know you're on track spiritually?

The mannerisms and expressions on the faces of the district managers as they gathered at the regional office for the monthly meeting always betrayed who was anxious and who was confident.

As Regional Director for a national company, it was my responsibility, along with my partner, to each month pour through the P&Ls for the region, an area spanning 55 locations divided into five districts led by the men taking seats around the table. Each District Manager (DM) would have their turn in the spotlight as we examined the performance of the facilities and personnel they had oversight responsibility for.

As we examined each facility by district, we would look at how we could build on successes, but also identify what the problems were, and the DM would be expected to turn in a written plan of improvement for under-performing locations within a couple days.

Gauging success as an organization and as leaders was about more than financial reports. We would also examine KPI's, or key performance indicators, for every location and district. These were items we had identified were crucial for us to be consistent in to attain our goals as a region. If we were on track with meeting or exceeding our key performance indicators, then we were usually on track with achieving our goals overall.

It's vital for a business that wants to be "successful" and maintain robust organizational health to routinely examine itself. By examining key performance indicators, a business can learn how to further exploit their strengths for continued or greater success, and how to identify and correct weaknesses before they become problems or turn into failures.

Wouldn't it be great if we had something like key performance indicators for being a Christian? Wouldn't it be valuable to us to have measures that indicate whether or not we are healthy spiritually?

We do!

The Apostle Paul supplies us with a set of spiritual "key performance indicators" in his writing to the Galatians. First, he identifies indicators of spiritual failure (sin), and then he shows us characteristics that reflect positive spiritual development: 

"19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:19-23.

When we walk with God, the Holy Spirit produces beneficial fruit in our lives. We know we are on the right track as a follower of Christ when we see these spiritual fruits produced and growing in us. 

As a child of God, you're not building a business, you're building something more important: your life! As important as that is, it's worth building into your life routine times for self-examination to help you take stock of your personal spiritual health.

What are you currently doing to gauge your personal spiritual development? How could you benefit by building into your life regular times of self-examination?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Can I have some more?

Food holds a significant place among humanity for various reasons.

In large swaths of the globe, food is vitally important because there is either a great lack of it, or resources so scarce that attaining a single meal each day is not a certainty.

In other parts of the world, food is a primary indulgence. It's not a focal point simply for its nutritional value or as sustenance for our bodies, but as a means of enjoyment and pleasure.

That's why it is so common to see people posting photos on social media sites of what they're about to eat, what they just ate, or even what they want to eat. In fact, food is one on the most commonly shared items on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

We post pictures of succulent culinary creations, favorite "comfort" foods, and decadent desserts. We share about what we hunger for.

Jesus knew hunger.

Prior to the launch of His earthly ministry, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil. He fasted during this time, and the natural result was that Jesus became very hungry (Mt. 4:2). If you've ever gone very long without eating, you know it can be easy for your mind to become consumed with thoughts of food. You dream of favorite foods and meals, and anything to eat.

Satan honed in on the hunger raging in Jesus and used it as a source of temptation:

“... If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread," Matthew 4:3b.

The temptation was simple: do whatever it takes, and use your resources, to feed your hunger.

Jesus responded directly to the larger issue of the temptation, which was something bigger than just food: 

"But Jesus told him, 'No! The Scriptures say, "People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God",'" Matthew 4:4.

As physically hungry as Jesus was, He had a greater hunger --- to do the will of the Father. That hunger is the one Jesus fed, and as a result, He could make all other hungers subservient to meeting that primary one.

What are you hungry for? What hungers are you feeding? What are you indulging on?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making the jump to new heights ...

Take a moment to watch the video below ...

You muster all the courage you possibly can.

You're going to go for it!

You line up, make your approach, then jump!

And fail miserably!

In front of everyone!

The lady in the video thought she could make the jump but didn't come close. She was able to laugh about it when she found herself on the ground, far short of her goal.

She may have failed at her ultimate goal of jumping over the bar, but she achieved something most of the people watching her didn't: she put herself in the game.

Engaging, trying, executing an effort changed this woman; she's no longer a spectator. She might not make it over the bar on her next try, but chances are she'll come closer to the goal. As she lay rolling on the ground laughing about her initial wipe out, you can bet she was realizing what her mistakes were the first time around ...

... she didn't take it seriously enough because it looked so easy ...

... it's not quite as easy as it looks ...

... next time, build a more explosive approach ...

... explode UP and over ...

... she'll do better next time.

And, eventually, she'll clear the bar.

That is, if she continues to try.

Achieving new heights requires us to
  • take ourselves out of spectator status and engage,
  • learn from failures by assessing what went wrong and how we can fix that on the next attempt, and
  • persist until we finally achieve our objective.
You'll never reach new heights standing on the sidelines, watching others make the jump. You have to put yourself in the game.

What are you standing by watching others do that you should be engaging in yourself? What will it take for you to engage? When will you make the jump to the next step of growth in your life?


Friday, March 22, 2013

Moving to the rhythm ...

Take a moment to watch the video below ...

There's definitely some comedy in this video, but also something most of us can relate to.

The guy in the video thinks he has the beat and is in the groove, he's going to show everybody how it's done and be the star! But he doesn't have the beat right, he's not in the groove, and winds up embarrassing himself.

We've all been there.

We've all had times where we've thought, "This is my moment!" Only to mess things up in spectacular fashion and feel foolish. Sometimes it's just because our timing was off just a little; often it's because we want to be the center of attention.

Following Jesus is about joining Him in the dance of life, but He sets the Way. He invites us to jump in and it doesn't matter how foolish we look, we just need to move to the beat He sets. It's Jesus who is the center of attention, it's the Son of God who sets the rhythm for our lives. Every time we try to steal the spotlight that rightfully belongs only to Him, we look foolish.

That's because, in those moments, we are!

 "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life ..." John 14:6a.

Does Jesus set the rhythm for your life, or are you trying to dance to a different beat?


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Breaking a sweat ...

Making disciples is a supernatural work. To accomplish this task, it must be God working through us.

"18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

With that said, making disciples isn't something that falls from the sky and just happens. It requires of us work --- hard work! The Apostle Paul spoke specifically about this when he laid out his own mission statement in Colossians 1:28-29.

"28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me."

Paul's success at being a disciple maker came by pairing a dependence on the power of Christ working in him with ... hard work on his own part!

How are you working at reaching the lost for Christ? How are you laboring to be an ambassador who makes disciples?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The church needs to stop passing the buck ...

Do you know any healthy CHURCHES that are planting a new church?

Most of us know of ORGANIZATIONS that are planting new churches, but few of us know of local churches that are planting new churches.

There's something wrong with that picture!

What's wrong is that, when Jesus gave us the Great Commission to go make disciples, He was commissioning His CHURCH. He wasn't commissioning church planting organizations or mission entities or evangelism associations.

Don't get me wrong, and let me clarify: I'm not saying it is wrong for church planting organizations, mission agencies, or evangelistic associations to exist or do the often great work they do. I am saying what they do is NOT primarily their responsibility; what they are doing is primarily the responsibility of the CHURCH.

So, is your local church planting a new church? If not, why not? The most common answer is your local church is too small and lacks resources. Are you sure that's the case if you trusted God to provide?

If you're positive your local church is just too small to plant a new church, then are you partnering with other local churches so that, as the church working in unity,  you can partner together to plant new churches?


Now why not?

While we're on this kind of subject, when was the last time your local church sent someone to the mission field, instead of sending money? When was the last time anyone in your congregation was encouraged to consider whether God wanted them to go?

Could it be the local church isn't planting churches and sending workers because it has become so comfortable in delegating these biblical responsibilities to parachurch organizations that your local congregation doesn't even see them as their responsibility?

It is.

What would it take for your church to begin work this year on planting a new church? On sending workers into the harvest? When will your church start?


Hey! Aren't you ...

What did Jesus look like?

Was He tall? Short? Athletic? Skinny?

Did He have dark hair? Or was He uncharacteristically blonde for a man in his culture? Or even a redhead?

Was His sideburns long? Did He have a funky "soul patch"? Did He wear a cool shirt when He preached?

The Bible says almost nothing about the physical appearance of Jesus, other than this:

"My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him," Isaiah 53:2.

We don't know exactly why the Bible is silent regarding a description of Jesus, but I think we can make a good guess. If we had a detailed description of Jesus, many would likely get hung up on the image of Jesus, rather than give their attention to the Person of Jesus.

That does not mean, however, that God doesn't have something very specific in mind for people to understand what Jesus is like. God's idea is for people to look at your life and see Jesus. God wants you to be the visual for others to see what Jesus is like.

"For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters," Romans 8:29.

"And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes," Galatians 3:27.

"23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy," Ephesians 4:23-24.

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God," Ephesians 5:1-2.

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had," Philippians 2:5. 

When people look at you, can they see Jesus?


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It was only driven by a little old lady on Sundays ...

Do you believe this message?

Would you buy the car pictured above (or what's left of it)?

Fortunately, some messages are so obviously false we aren't tempted to fall for them. But the truth, or lack thereof, of some messages isn't always so obvious.

We need to know the truth from what isn't true, and scripture directs us to determine the difference.
"Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here," 1 John 4:1-3.

We discover truth in its purest form in the person of Jesus Christ ("Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life ..." John 14:6a), and obedience to His teaching brings to our lives the results of truth applied.

"31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free',” John 8:21-32.

What is your source of truth?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Trusting what you know can limit you ...

Often the single biggest obstacle to receiving the rich blessings God has for us is ourselves.

The New Testament has many examples of the disciples making this error. But in John 21, we have a different example from the men who walked with Jesus.

Peter, who by trade was a professional fisherman, stated he was going fishing. The other disciples who were there decided to join him. Although they fished all night, they didn't catch anything. Let's pick up the story from there ...

"4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, 'Fellows, have you caught any fish?' 'No,' they replied.Then he said, 'Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!' So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it," John 21:4-6.

When we're confident of what we know, and especially when we actually are the "expert," we often are not very open to listening to unsolicited advice from someone else, especially if they aren't an expert. Some of these disciples had fished professionally for most of their lives. It would have been easy for them to ignore the suggestion from an unidentified man standing on the beach. But they moved past their egos enough to listen to someone else, and the result was a catch so great they couldn't haul it all in!

Knowing what you know might actually make you an expert, but it doesn't make you omniscient --- you don't know everything! Knowing that will help you be open to the advice of others, especially the voice of an omnipotent God. When you can routinely get past yourself, you will be able to haul in the blessings God has for you.

Are you open to counsel from others? Or do you limit your life to an over-confident reliance on what you know?


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Following methods of past successes can lead to failure ...

Just because God directs you to victory a certain way at a certain time doesn't mean you should always practice that specific guidance in all future, similar situations.

In fact, not seeking God's specific direction for each situation we face in life can lead to failure. The reason is we can too easily trust in past methods for victory rather than in God, who originally guided us to victory.

Here's a great example from the life of King David. When the Philistines rose up against him, David sought direction from the Lord.

"17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king of Israel, they mobilized all their forces to capture him. But David was told they were coming, so he went into the stronghold. 18 The Philistines arrived and spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 19 So David asked the Lord, 'Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?' The Lord replied to David, 'Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.' 20 So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. 'The Lord did it!' David exclaimed. 'He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!' So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means 'the Lord who bursts through')," 2 Samuel 5:17-20.

Even though David experienced a great victory over the Philistines in that situation, he didn't assume he should face all such situations the same way. That was wise thinking because the Philistines did, indeed, return. And this time, God had different instructions for David.

"22 But after a while the Philistines returned and again spread out across the valley of Rephaim. 23 And again David asked the Lord what to do. 'Do not attack them straight on,' the Lord replied. 'Instead, circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees. 24 When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, be on the alert! That will be the signal that the Lord is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistine army.' 25 So David did what the Lord commanded, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer," 2 Samuel 5:22-25.

Had David not sought God first when the Philistines returned, but simply relied on past success, he would have struck out for a battle that God would not have been leading.

To have "success" in life through God requires seeking God every day, in every situation, rather than relying on the methods of our past successes. That's because it is God Himself who brings us victory, not the methodology He may have us employ in a given situation.

It's not uncommon for a Christian to find himself knocked down in failure, and confused by it, thinking he had done exactly what God had him do the last time he was in a similar situation. The person is bewildered, wondering why he suffered failure this time. The answer is because he was trusting a previously successful method rather than God Himself, who made the method successful the last time.

God wants us to seek Him daily so He can lead and direct us anew, and so that our trust can be fresh every day.

Are you looking to past successes for the victories you need in life? Or are you daily seeking God and trusting Him rather than methods?


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lighting the way for others ...

The pilot of a small, single engine airplane was behind schedule on his flight taking him to a small country airport. The sun had just set, which meant it was late enough that no one was on duty at the tiny, rural airport.

As the pilot approached his destination, he was alarmed that there weren't any lights on anywhere at the little airstrip, making it impossible for him to distinguish the runway from the terrain around it. Not knowing what to do, he circled the area for two hours, trying to figure out some way to safely land.

With his fuel running low, the pilot realized he could only make two more circles around the airport. If he attempted to land without any lights, he would surely crash and probably die.

A man living near the airstrip heard the continuous buzzing of the airplane around the airport and figured out why the plane continued to circle. He got into his car and rushed to the airport. The man turned on the high beams of his car headlights and drove the length of the runway a couple times, then parked his car at the end of the airstrip so his headlights illuminated the runway.

Because of the car headlights shining on the airstrip, the pilot was able to see the runway and brought his plane in for a perfect landing.

Christians understand the danger of the darkness, for we were plucked from it and provided a safe landing in the light of Christ.

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light," 1 Peter 2:9.

Now we are to provide the light others need to pierce their darkness and see God.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father," Matthew 5:14-16.

Are you living as a light to the world? Or are you leaving those in the dark to face their own peril?


Thursday, March 14, 2013

What do "reviewers" say about YOU, personally?

Yelp has become one of my favorite smartphone apps.

I recently spent a few months in the San Francisco bay area (where I used to live) after having been away for a few years. Yelp was a great way to find needed resources that came with positive recommendations.

The same was true when I first arrived here in Texas, a place that was new to me. It was helpful to read about the experiences others had before choosing places to conduct business.

So what's your Yelp review like?

Oh, you may not have a personal listing on the website, but people you have interacted with have developed a Yelp-like resource about you for others. It's called your reputation.

"Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold," Proverbs 22:1.

What kind of personal reputation have you created by how you interact with others?


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Friendship is a gracious thing ...

Once again, a posting on Facebook by a friend has stirred my thoughts. The photo and message below is what captured my attention ...

This grabbed me because I think most of us can relate to it in a couple ways.
First, you can probably relate to the direct message of having, among your circle of friends, that one who is more awkward and struggles a little more than others. They may not be naturally "cool," as talented, or as graceful as your other friends, but they are your friend.
As such, they need to be kept a little closer, encouraged a little more, occasionally protected, and clearly loved. This is the friend we are blessed to be able to serve a little more than the others. But this friend often blesses us with great loyalty, by loving us back, and keeping us humble.
Second, you may be able to relate to the image and message above because you've been that "one friend." At some point in your life, you may have been the one who was the less graceful, yet welcomed into a circle of friends who loved you and treated you as if you were the greatest person they'd ever met. You may have personally experienced what it's like to have people you admire treat you as equals and love you as a friend.
However you may relate to the picture above, we can be encouraged with either side of friendship.
"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need," Proverbs 17:17.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Watch your step!

A friend posted the message on the right on Facebook yesterday. I had to admit it made me laugh because I've tripped over flat surfaces before. More than once!

It's an odd experience ... you're walking along on a perfectly flat surface when, suddenly, your footing fails you and you "trip." Over nothing! Of course, you still do the look-back to see exactly what it was that didn't cause you to stumble.

Just as sometimes it doesn't take a foreign object to trip you up, it doesn't take the devil to make you fall spiritually. It just takes you, choosing to step where you shouldn't. Sometimes, it just takes listening to the worldly advice of "follow your heart."

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Jeremiah 17:9

"13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, 'God is tempting me.' God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death," James 1:13-15.

King David understood, personally and painfully, that we don't need any outside source to cause us to stumble and fall. When David fed his own desire for Bathsheba, he fell hard, a fall that led to adultery and even to the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. David finally confessed and repented of his sin, and learned that even flat surfaces aren't safe when we're guiding our own steps. To help us be sure-footed, David wrote:

"23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand" Psalm 37:22-23.

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing," Psalm 143:10.

Are you walking with God, in the will of God, holding to His hand? Or are you guiding your own steps?


Monday, March 11, 2013

This will make you happy ...

The American Declaration of Independence states we are all endowed by our Creator with certain "unalienable rights," one of which is the pursuit of happiness.

It's this pursuit that we weave into just about everything we do any moment of the day. Our happiness is often the single greatest pursuit of our lives. If, at any moment, we sense we are not happy, we usually immediately begin efforts to change things so that we are, once again, happy.

There's a little "secret" to achieving and maintaining happiness.

Are you ready for it?

You're sure?

Okay, here goes: release all outcomes to the will of God.

When you learn to be happy with what God wills, you will have lasting happiness.

Even Jesus practiced this concept. With events quickly spiraling toward the cross, Jesus would have personally been happier with a different route, but He released the outcome to the will of God and found happiness in yielding to what the Father wanted.

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine,” Luke 22:42.

James helps us see our habit of thinking and speaking in declarative terms, putting a "period" at the end of our desires and designs. Doing so sets us up for disappointments and ... yep, you guessed it ... unhappiness. That's because we lock in on certain outcomes in order to be happy. When things turn out differently, we're unhappy. But if we commit our ways to the Lord, leaving the outcomes to His will, we can be happy in what He wants for us.

"13 Look here, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.' 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, 'If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that',” James 4:13-15.

Are you happy with God leading you through life? Or do you still try to determine your own outcomes for happiness?

"Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you," Psalm 37:5.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Houses and lives both come with options ...

I once owned a house. It was new, so new, in fact, that it didn't exist when I bought it.

I was able to select the lot I wanted the house to be built on, a nice corner location in a new development of Green Valley (the Fairfield, Ca. area). Over the weeks, I watched the building of the house progress, from the pouring of the foundation to, finally, the sod being rolled out to form the front yard.

In addition to selecting the lot, I was also able to make a few other choices such picking the type of carpet, tile designs, and material for the kitchen cabinets, island and counter tops. These options allowed for some of my preferences in what would be my new home.

The one thing I had no say in was the foundation of the house. I wasn't consulted on the type of concrete mix used, the home builder decided that.

Unlike the company that built my home, my Builder actually allows me to choose the foundation on which to build the life He has purchased for me.

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,” Matthew 7:24-27.

Just as the foundation is the most critical aspect of a structure, the foundation you build your life on determines whether that life will, ultimately, stand or fall. You can choose any foundation you want, but only one will support life.

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ," 1 Corinthians 3:11.

What foundation are you building your life on?


Do you have a better idea?

An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a little boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied only a little while.

The businessman then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The businessman then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full  and busy life, señor."
The businessman scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise."
The fisherman asked, "But señor, how long will this all take?" To which the businessman replied, "Fifteen to 20 years." "But what then, señor?" The businessman laughed and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions." "Millions, señor? Then what?" The businessman said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "Isn't that what I'm doing right now?"

I love that story! The fisherman had already developed a full life, but someone else with a much bigger ego thought he could improve on how this man worked and lived. He couldn't.

There are a lot of smart people in the church --- some also with big egos --- who are constantly trying to re-configure how to "do church" from the model we see demonstrated in the New Testament. They have brilliant sounding strategies and methodologies. But for the church to authentically and effectively be the church, we always wind up coming back to the original model found in scripture.

God's plan was right the first time. Instead of spending so much time, energy, and resources trying to improve on His plan, perhaps the church would benefit more by simply executing it instead of tampering with it.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

A secret to getting personal results from prayer ...

Would you like to know a "secret" for getting results from prayer?

Are you ready?

Pray for yourself FIRST.


A friend of mine highlighted this golden nugget about prayer a couple days ago when he told a story in his blog. From early morning, he had a headache; by afternoon, it was raging and causing him to feel sick.

His wife had prayed for him.

His colleagues had prayed for him.

Even several Facebook friends had prayed for him.

Then he realized something ... he had not prayed for himself!

It wasn't very long after personally spending some time in prayer that his headache subsided.

We often get so engaged in having others pray for us that we forget to start our need for prayer by being the first to pray.

For some, that comes from a misunderstanding of what prayer is. They see prayer itself as some kind of mystical power, and hope that if someone is praying for them some cosmic force will change their circumstances.

But prayer is talking to God. When we leave our needs, desires, etc., for others to communicate to God on our behalf, we lose out on the rich purpose of relationship with God.

By not praying first, we fail to commune with God about our lives, to place our trust in Him, or exercise our faith. We leave that to others when we have them do the praying for us as we place our hope in their prayers.

But when we start by praying first, we're turning our face and hearts toward God and communing with Him; we're personally sharing our need for Him, expressing our reliance on Him, and demonstrating our faith in Him. To have others join in that exercise can bring powerful results!

"6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus," Philippians 4:6-7.

Are you the first to pray for yourself? Or are you farming out that personal responsibility to others?


Friday, March 8, 2013

A little milestone for the "Extraordinary Living" blog ...

Life is made up of milestones. Whether big or little, there are things that mark our progress along life's journey.

This post is a simple milestone for "Extraordinary Living" --- it marks the 1,000th post to this blog.

Even though the topics vary, most of the content on this blog has a Christian message to it. Posts may vary in length, and sometimes I'll write about five steps to accomplish x, three steps to achieve y, or ten reasons why z is or isn't a good idea. But most of the time the posts focus on a single thought to spark your thinking and challenge you. Hopefully, by grasping one good thought, taking on a single challenge and letting it move you forward, is just one way of contributing to you living an extraordinary life.

What is an "extraordinary life"?

The popular Pentecostal preacher, Smith Wigglesworth, once said, "To be saved by the power of God is to be brought from the ordinary to the extraordinary ..."

The Apostle Paul described that event in Colossians 1:13 this way, "For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son."

It is an extraordinary thing to live this life as a child of God. The "Extraordinary Living" blog exists to encourage you in that extraordinary life. If you have enjoyed the posts thus far, I hope you not only continue reading but invite others you know to check out the site, and we'll all continue on this extraordinary journey together.

Thank you so much for reading and sharing, may God bless each one of you!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beware imitations with limitations ...

Two longstanding church members were in a boat fishing with a new Christian. Fishing is a great time for conversation and both of the seasoned saints were sharing his fervent faith and devotion to God. As they were discussing their faith, the hat of one man blew into the water. So he stood up, calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat.

The new Christian was amazed how this Christian could seemingly walk on water. As the new Christian was pondering this, the other church member’s hat blew into the water. He also very calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat.

The new Christian was overwhelmed at how spiritual these men must be to have walked on the water as they did. Then the new Christian thought to himself, "Well, if these guys can do it, so can I," and he "helped" his hat blow into the water. He very calmly stepped out of the boat and was inhaling water instantly. As he fought his way to the surface, gasping for breath, the two long-standing church members turned to each other and said, "I think we should have told him about the sand bar on this side of the boat."

Imitation without sound knowledge can quickly sink you!

It can be easy to want to imitate the apparent success of some people, but what may appear to be something worth imitating isn't always the case.

The Apostle Paul actually encouraged others to imitate him, "And you should imitate me ..." 1 Corinthians 11:1a. Paul could say that because he knew who he was imitating, "... just as I imitate Christ," 1 Corinthians 11:1b.

All of us who call ourselves children of God are called to live just like Jesus:

"Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did," 1 John 2:6.

If someone were to imitate you, would they be imitating Christ?


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Do you solemnly swear to the tell the truth, the whole truth ...

One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother wash the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in striking contrast to her otherwise brunette head.
"Mom, why are some of your hairs white?" she asked.

"Well," replied the mother, "every time you do something wrong and make me cry or feel unhappy, one of my hairs turns white."

The little girl thought for a moment about what her mother said, then suddenly asked, "So how come ALL of Grandma’s hairs are white?"

Many adults are guilty of doing what this mother did: taking license with the truth to manipulate others under the guise of acting in their best interests. But tweaking the truth is never in the best interests of anyone and such behavior will always come back to bite you.

Even many who profess to be Christian have a daily practice of bending and twisting the truth as their way of trying to manipulate outcomes. It's a practice that has been around since the creation of humanity, when the father of lies tweaked God's instructions to Adam and Eve to manipulate outcomes for evil intent.

"For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies," John 8:44.

A practice of lying --- or any kind of distortion of the truth --- cannot be a part of those who actually take on the character of Christ. For Jesus, speaking the truth was a simple concept:

"Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one," Matthew 5:37.

When it comes to speaking and living the truth, whose character do you reflect: the Father of light (God), or the father of lies?


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stopping for directions ...

You thought you knew where you were going, but the direction you took didn't get you to where you wanted to go. So you do the manly thing ... stop and ask for directions.

You walk into the gas station and start to ask, "Hey could you tell ..."

"Hi, how's your day going?" comes the sudden interjection from a smiling clerk behind the counter.

"Okay ... hey, could you ..." you begin again.

"Sure is a beautiful day out, hope you're getting a chance to enjoy it!" says the clerk with the same persistent smile.

A few more attempts, with a few more friendly interruptions, and you finally get the directions you wanted and leave.

While driving away, you feel the tension between receiving friendly service and someone trying to be friendly when all you wanted was unattached, impersonal directions.

We often feel a little uncomfortable when someone steps uninvited (even just a little) into our lives. But we rationalize that sometimes you have to "go along to get along" and interact with others to accomplish what we really want.

We take that same selfish relational approach with God. We want and need God's direction for our lives, but all too often we really don't want the friendly banter and relational interaction that comes from approaching Him for guidance. We just information and assistance, then thanks, we'll be on our way now

But God doesn't like to point.

God isn't the clerk behind the counter, He's our Maker who is sovereign over all persons and things. While God is not there to be used for our whims or needs, He delights in pouring out the richest of blessings, mercy, and grace upon those who accept His offer to become His adopted children ... and treat Him like their Father.

Not like a gas station clerk.

How do you treat Him?


Monday, March 4, 2013

Is this relevant to you?

When queried, I've always clicked "No." I've never clicked "Yes."

I'm referring to the question that appears on the upper right screen when watching a program on hulu. Like many websites, hulu exposes its users to a lot of advertising to make its money. When a commercial comes on, the viewer will see a question on the corner of their screen:

"Is this ad relevant to you?" followed by a button for "yes" and another for "no."

I don't remember a single time, whether watching this site or viewing any kind of advertising, when I was suddenly struck with the overwhelming relevance and value of an advertisement. I've found some to be interesting, some to be entertaining, a few to be informative, many to be ignorant, but I don't recall a single advertising message that held any specific relevance to my life.

That's because most of the thousands of messages we are bombarded with each day in the form of advertisements are not "relevant" or essential for our lives. Few messages are.

But some messages are important.

For example, what your tired or frustrated spouse has been trying unsuccessfully to communicate to you might be fairly important for you to tune in to. Or what your children try to say when you're only half listening.

Or --- especially --- what God is saying to you, if only you would hear. Now there is a message that has true relevance!

Who are you giving your attention to? Are you tuned in to God or the world? Are the loud messages from the world turning the Word of God into background noise? Or is what God has to say relevant to you?


Sunday, March 3, 2013

This kind of thing shouldn't be an accident ...

Take the 41 seconds needed to watch the video below ...

I laughed when I watched this, but I also immediately thought of how many people would probably feel frustrated, even angry about making the kind of error depicted in the video.

But consider this for a moment: this kind of act shouldn't be what our errors look like, it should be a reflection of our the purposeful choices we make.

"9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith," Galatians 6:9-10.

When was the last time you did something like the guy in the video --- on purpose?


Saturday, March 2, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Better than a basic biography of Jesus ...

Usually when someone is looking for a good book on the life of Jesus Christ, they either select one written from a historical position, or one from a theological perspective.

Now you have a new option: a "theography."

"Jesus - A Theography" is the latest book by co-authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (published by Thomas Nelson) which examines the life of Christ from both historical and theological perspectives.

Many biographies of Jesus open with that familiar setting of a stable in Bethlehem. From a theological perspective, some start in the pristine Garden described in Genesis. But the true biography of Jesus must begin before there was a beginning, which is where Sweet and Viola take us as a starting point.

From pre-creation, this talented writing duo begin in earnest to show how Jesus Christ is the center of all scripture, not just the New Testament. Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (John 5:39 NLT), and the writers do a scholarly job of showing how all of scripture does, indeed, point to Jesus.

The scholarship of this book isn't just for scholars, although serious students of the Bible will enjoy this edition that comes replete with a sizeable notes section. Readers who are younger in the faith and newer to the Bible can find this book readable, understandable, and insightful; however, the content will sometimes require a little slower reading for processing and digesting than the simplistic topical books that are so common today.

"Jesus - A Theography" does a masterful job of revealing to us Christ in all of scripture, thus deepening our view and understanding of Jesus. If you want a deeper knowledge of Christ from a significant study from scripture as a whole, this volume by Sweet and Viola could be the perfect pairing with several cups of coffee and an open Bible.


I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”