Comfort zones

Our son, JT, found himself in an interesting spot last week.  He was one of several hundred participants in a local cross country competition.  Soon after the race began, one of the other runners accidentally stepped on the back of JT’s running shoe- causing it to slip off.  The shoe disappeared in a heap of competitors.  JT had a decision to make. Would he quit running and look for his shoe or would he keep competing?  He quickly slipped off his other shoe and finished the 2 mile course barefoot.  He ran over rocks and asphalt but kept going.  I snapped this photo of him as he crossed the finish line…with one of his best times of the year.

Life presents us with many opportunities, but to take advantage of them we need to get out of our comfort zones.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27

Opportunities to witness for Christ are often uncomfortable.  It causes us to engage with others who have different backgrounds, interests and lifestyles.  But discipleship demands action and encourages us to approach others when presented with opportunity.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

We are asked to be a light to the world.  Don’t hide your talent or your excitement for Christ.  Witness to others and don’t wait until the “perfect” opportunity.  Get out of your comfort zone and get on the field of play.  Who knows?  You might run your best race of a lifetime.

God bless you.

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Walking off

I’m not a huge Yankees fan, but I have enjoyed watching Derek Jeter play during his final year as a major league professional.  On the field, Jeter has done things the right way.  Five World Series Championships.  20 seasons in the majors and 3,463 hits (and counting)…sixth all time.  But it’s how Jeter finished in his final home game in Yankee Stadium that caught the eye of America last week.

In the 9th inning of a tie game, Jeter- in what would be his last at bat of his home career- slapped a single into right field for the game-winning run.  On baseball’s biggest stage- with millions of viewers across the world watching- Jeter delivered a dramatic walk-off hit.  What a way to exit your professional career.

Don’t we all dream of such moments?  Finishing strong and going out a winner.  Wouldn’t we love to finish our earthly life in such a dramatic way?

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Luke 14:28-30

Jeter worked hard daily in his quest to become the ultimate shortstop.  Our goal should be to live a life that reflects Christ. It’s a task that deserves daily preparation, work and refinement.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Phillipians 1:6

This isn’t easy. The world wants us to fail. We are filled with self-doubt, but we can be confident that God has supplied us with everything we need to finish strong.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

We can never be too spiritually mature.  Nor should we ever seek to be finished in our effort to spread God’s word.

Jeter retired from baseball on a glorious note.  While we should never retire from doing the Lord’s work, we know that we will have the same opportunity to walk off the field to glory.

God bless.

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Running on empty

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I love this picture of our youngest child, B.  It was captured at one of his flag football games a couple of years ago.  He was running down the field as fast as he could- trying to make something happen.  B was trying to set a block for his teammate, but ended up plowing into his friend and knocking him down!  Hollianne caught the moment perfectly…eyes shut, teeth clinched and hitting his buddy with reckless abandon!

Ever feel like this?  I do.  Work projects, deadlines and daily life have us often scurrying around at breakneck speed.  Many times our projects or priorities change so quickly that we slow down just enough to change direction- and then hit the treadmill again.  Full speed ahead.  Eyes shut.  Teeth clinched.

It isn’t enough to just run.  We need to pursue a true purpose.  If seeking God is our goal, then we can’t afford to run with reckless abandon and a lack of focus.  We need focus and fuel to provide power and direction for our lives.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and all your soul.  Deuteronomy 4:29

Our lives should include daily time with our Lord.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!  1 Chronicles 16:11

Continually.  Intentionally.  Each day should include time in prayer, meditation on God’s inspired word through the Bible and reflection on our true purpose- seeking the will of the Lord our God for our lives…and fueling this search with all of our being.

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.  Proverbs 8:17

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments.  Psalm 119:10

Let’s pledge to spend more time on focusing on our Lord.  Let our study, prayer and meditation be our fuel.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

My prayer at this moment is this…

Dear Father- may we take time from our busy lives to reflect on Your goodness and mercy.  May we intentionally and continually seek Your guidance for our lives while on this earth.  There are distractions, but we ask for moments of clarity when tempted to lose our focus on You.  May we have the presence of mind to run toward You- and to realize that You will sustain us and provide for our every need.  It is through Christ Jesus we pray- Amen.

God bless you.  Let me know if I can pray for you- and as always, please pray for me.

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Winners and losers

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Ever notice how society paints us into two categories?  You are either a winner or a loser.

As a parent I see this illustrated often in the world of youth sports.  Hollianne and I spend quite a bit of time at fields or courts watching our children compete in a variety of activities.  The thrill of seeing them push themselves and improve is often diminished by the actions of other kids- but more often their parents.

It extends into our work lives too.  Office competitiveness often takes the place of teamwork and collaboration.  People need to “win” in order to succeed at a task- and in the process you will have to lose.  It might be taking sole credit for an idea or a project’s success, or it might be something more devious- as belittling a colleague behind their back to make themselves look better.

I win.  You lose.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

We are fortunate to have a presence in our lives that has leveled the playing field for us.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

We can take comfort that Jesus came to earth and achieved victory over this world.  Sin and worldly strife are all around us in our daily lives, but we have peace and comfort through the One who has the ultimate power over darkness.

One of my favorite visuals in the Bible comes from Deuteronomy:

When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.  Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Can you imagine how the Israelites  must have felt upon hearing these words?  Do not fear- the Lord your God is with you….and will give you victory.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  I Corinthians 15:57

We are winners through Jesus.  He has fought the battle for us.  Let us take comfort in His love and protection.

God bless.  Pray for me- and let me know if I may pray for you.

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Weeds

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Weeds.

Hollianne and I spent several days doing some landscaping last spring. We added some annuals and perennials to our existing plants around our house. It was fun to be out digging in the earth with the kids- beautifying our yard in the process.

Last weekend the boys and I decided to do some touch up yard work. Jack T. mowed while Britton and I cleaned up some of the areas that needed additional mulch.

There is one landscaped area in the far back corner of our yard that we rarely visit. Oh- you can see it from the patio and the pool, but we rarely get up close to that area. It’s a beautiful spot, with sunflowers, begonias and some knock-out rose bushes.

Once inspecting this area up close, however, we discovered that it was overrun with weeds. They weren’t detected from far away, but a closer look showed that these weeds had overtaken the once beautiful flower bed. It took us 20 minutes to eliminate all the weeds from this very small patch of ground.

Isn’t my life the same way? I have an appearance that I want my friends and family to see, but closer examination of my own life reveals my own set of weeds- a human tendency for sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1: 8-10

We often keep these sinful areas of our life hidden…not wanting others to see. We maintain strong exteriors while our inner thoughts and behaviors are flawed.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. James 1: 14

Just like that area in the very back of my yard, sin left unaddressed can cover our hearts like the weeds that cover beautiful flowers and plants.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5: 19-21

But there is hope for all, including me. While we are sinners, Jesus paid a sacrifice for us- so that we do not have to remain slaves to sin.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3: 16-17

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. II Corinthians 5: 21

Don’t let the weeds of sin cover your heart.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” II Timothy 2: 19

Accept the saving promise of our Lord and Savior.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23

Let’s all commit to an examination of our hearts for unwanted weeds. I need your prayers- and let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Mentors

I had the great opportunity to spend some time with a good friend over the weekend.  My friend Danny and his daughter, Candy, made the trek over from West Tennessee to visit my family for a couple of days.

Danny is one of those folks that immediately makes you feel comfortable.  I might not see him but once or twice a year, but the conversation picks right back up as if we just visited yesterday.

I met Danny at church several years ago.  He invited me to go with him on Thursday evenings to visit the sick, former church members who had quit coming, and other people in the community that had the need for Christ.  We traveled the back roads and byways of Weakley County for the better part of a year.  While Danny talked and ministered to those in need, I listened and soaked it all in.  I can honestly say that I learned and benefited more than any of those good folks we visited.  Danny changed my life.

Danny is a true spiritual mentor for me and countless others.  What makes a good spiritual mentor?

Spiritual mentors hold you accountable.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.  Ephesians 6:7

Danny not only sets a great Christian example, but he gently challenges me to do more.  He encourages me to be a better husband, father, employee and servant.  He asks about my daily walk and provides encouragement when I need a spiritual boost (or a prod).  He reminds me that it’s important to continually grow my faith…and that I need to give back to others as I have benefited from them.

Spiritual mentors are transparent.

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  I Thessalonians 5:14

Danny is one of the most encouraging and authentic men I’ve ever met.  He is quick to point out his own struggles, which makes him that much more approachable.  When you talk with him about your obstacles, you know that Danny is actively listening and cares deeply about your situation.  He’s an incredible example of what it means to have a healthy, growing faith walk.  He lives his faith, and he works daily to have a better understanding of the Bible and its teachings.

Spiritual mentors pray for you.

The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  James 5:15

Danny is an incredible prayer warrior.  When you ask Danny to pray for you- you can rest assured that your request will be lifted up.  His prayers are thoughtful and concise…and always seem to lift your burden.  Danny and I prayed together three times over the weekend- and I wish that we had prayed even more.  Over the years Danny has built and maintained a healthy prayer life.  His confidence and sincerity during his daily prayers are a comfort to all who hear.

Accountability.  Transparency.  Willingness to pray.  Simple concepts that take great discipline, practice and time to master.

I’m grateful for good mentors and teachers that enter our lives.  I hope that you will take the time to reach out to your spiritual mentor and thank them for their investment in you.

And maybe someday, hopefully….we can be a mentor to someone too.

God bless.

 

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Be a rebel

Our high school football team, the West High Rebels, hosted the Maryville Rebels in a Thursday night match up. It was a festive sight, as Maryville is a perennial state championship contender and winner.  We aren’t too shabby ourselves.  All that being said, it was a colorful mixture of fans- students and adults dressed in blue, red and black.  All fans.  All Rebels.

Our daughter Carson is a sophomore at West High.  Because of her athletic involvement in soccer and basketball, we find ourselves at many of the West High athletic events.  My boys are especially fond of the football games.  So there we were last night- decked in our red and blue gear- watching our team try and upset the visiting Rebels from Maryville.

My youngest son, Britton, was talking about the Rebel mascots for both schools.  “What does it mean?”, he asked as we rode to the game.  I explained that rebels are generally known as people that go against the established order.  They are fighters, often in opposition to the government or other rules and established guidelines.  He asked if that was a good thing…as it sounded a bit devious to him.  I explained that- in the case of our West High Rebels- he could be assured that it meant our student athletes are strong and fierce…not afraid of anything.

It caused me to think about the approach to our fight against what’s wrong on this earth.  God calls us to be rebels….nonconformists.  We are to resist the pleasures and delights of this world.  I struggle with this concept, even though the message is clear.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”  We are to not settle on what the world offers.  It’s temporary fulfillment.  God asks us to transform ourselves to focus on delights of a spiritual nature.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.   I John 2:15-17

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  James 4:4

Being a christian rebel can cause trouble.  Be prepared.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  John 15:18-19

What should you fear?  Nothing.  We’ve been given the promise of eternal protection and the hope of a heavenly reward.

Don’t be afraid to be a rebel.  God expects it from us.

God bless you.

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