New Year’s Non-Resolution Resolutions

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It’s the last day of 2015 and a new year is just a few hours away.  Recently I asked several people if they made New Year’s Resolutions to improve their lives each year and if they did, did they keep them?  Almost everyone said they made a resolution but had never kept one!  That got me thinking.  If we always break our resolutions, why not make some Non-Resolution Resolutions?  You know, use a little reverse psychology on ourselves and make some resolutions that, when we break them (which we are likely to do), it will actually be good for us!

So here are a few of my Non-Resolution Resolutions for 2016:  

I hereby Non-Resolve Resolve to ….

Be Less Healthy –  That’s right.  I’m going to gain weight, take up heavy drinking, eat only sugar and never exercise.

Not Read My Bible Every Day — Nope.  Not me.  I’m not opening my Bible every day to hear directly from God.  Who would want to do that?

Be Mean to My Wife and Kids — I’m going to be a terrible family man and a poor spiritual leader.  I’m going to fail to provide for them or protect them.  I will never encourage them or forgive them either.  They are the ones who are lucky to have me.

Not Give Regularly to My Church or Charity — No way. I’m going to feed my greed and hoard my money (or spend it on extravagant stuff that I don’t really need).  Why not?  It’s all mine anyway.

Be an Absent Friend — Who needs friends anyway?  Why would I ever help anyone else?  I’m going off the grid of friendship.

Hold Lots of Grudges — I’m mad and I’m not going to take it anymore!  I will never forgive anyone for anything, no matter how small and no matter what it does to my relationship with them or to my own emotional and physical health.

Never Read Anything — I’m giving up on reading.  No books.  No articles.  No blogs.  I’m already smart and wise enough, why would I try to improve by reading?

Watch More Mindless T.V. Shows — I will spend every free hour I have (when I’m not spending my money on stuff for me) sitting on my couch in front of my big T.V. and endlessly watching reruns of Oprah, Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer. I might throw some binges on something with vampires or zombies too.

Never Pray — Not once will I pray.  Not for guidance or gratitude.  Not for help or forgiveness.  Not for understanding.  Nope.  Not once will I speak to God all year.

Well, those are my 2016 Non-Resolution Resolutions.  I think when I break these (which I am certain to do since I never keep my New Year’s Resolutions), I’ll have a pretty good year and so will those around me!

Happy New Year!

On My Mind and Heart: Practicing the “Presents” of God

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During a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that we often hear about practicing the “presence” of God (i.e., remembering that God is always close to us) but don’t hear as much about practicing the “presents” of God (i.e., recognizing the numerous blessings that He gives to us each day).  So, this morning as I was praying I started thanking God for the many, many “presents” He gives me all the time.  There are way too many to list here, but I wanted to share a few from my list with you:

My wife, Carrie.  She loves the Lord, is a great mom and friend, and always is trying to make my life better. I experience Christ’s love deeper through her love and forgiveness of me.

My daughters, Sara Beth and Rachel.  I thank God for them every day and am proud of the young women they have become.

My family (Dad, Jamie, Al, Judy, Mike, Kim, Madeline and many more).  God has put awesome people in my life who love me and support me no matter what.

My church family, Adventure Christian Church.  I know that as a pastor I am super blessed.  Our church reaches people for Christ, new families join our church regularly, people are involved in serving and helping one another, we have a wonderful group of staff members, elders and leaders.  It’s an honor to pastor the Adventure family.  Thank you, God!

My country and our freedom.  Too often we forget that we have been blessed by being born into a great country.  Our country guarantees the exercise of freedoms given to us by our Maker in a way never before experienced in history.  (I recognize that some of these guarantees are constantly being challenged, but I’m still very happy I live here rather than anywhere else in the world).

The Bible and the ability to read and understand it.  The Bible transformed my life.  I am grateful for this present from God.

My awesome friends.  God has blessed Carrie and I with many friends who love us not because we can do anything for them, but just because.  That’s pretty wonderful.

Food and Water.  This may sound silly, but I really don’t mean it too.  I am grateful that I always have food and water.  Not a day goes by that I don’t have access to clean, healthy food and clean water.  Many, many in this world do not.

Opportunities to Help Others.  I am grateful for opportunities to help others and the ability and resources to often help.  Sometimes it’s a physical need, sometimes emotional, sometimes professional, and often it is spiritual.  I’m grateful that God gives me the present of reaching other people for Him in practical ways.

The Ministry of the Word.  I am very grateful to be able to teach the Word and share the Gospel with others.  It’s really the most important gift He gives me because it has such a direct, eternal impact.

I could go on and on and on, but these are just a few of the things for which I am grateful to God.  How about you?  What’s on your list?

On My Mind and Heart: Second Chances

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This week I’ve been thinking about second chances, how blessed we are that God gives us second and third and fourth and many more chances, and, how we should give others a second chance (or third or fourth) a lot more often than we do.

God gives us a second chance.

Christmas is the celebration of the ultimate second chance.  In the beginning, God created a perfect world in which mankind could live, thrive and commune with God.  But, man blew it.  And because of that, man suffered by being separated from God.  But, through the birth of Jesus Christ (which we celebrate on Christmas Day every year), God gave mankind another chance – a new opportunity to commune with Him.  What a great gift!  We didn’t do anything to earn this second chance.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God gave it to us anyway.

We should give others a second chance too.

The Bible exhorts us to forgive others because in Christ Jesus God forgave us.  Because God gives us a second chance even when we don’t deserve it or earn it, we should be a lot more forgiving of the people in our lives who need a second chance for relationship with us.  I know you’ve been hurt.  I realize that someone has disappointed you, betrayed you, and fallen short of your expectations and needs.  But, guess what?  You’re no peach either.  And either am I.  That’s why we all need to be a little less bitter and lot more forgiving.  When you do that, you’ll be surprised at how much better a restored relationship feels than the broken one you are living with right now.  Try it.

Final thought.

Who do you need to give a second chance to today (just like God gave you a second chance)? 

On My Mind and Heart: 3 Things I Do Before Breakfast

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Routines are important to me.  If I can get into a routine of doing something at the same time, in the same way, every day, the chances of me continuing to do it are much greater than if I leave it to chance.  You are likely the same way.  Today when I was thinking about what to write this week, I thought I would share some of my daily routine.  Here are 3 things I do before breakfast everyday.  I’ve been doing them for a long time and I can’t hardly remember not doing them.

One: I Pray for Carrie (My Wife)

I pray for Carrie every day.  I pray that she would be blessed.  I pray that she would be protected.  I pray that I would be a good husband for her.  Men – praying for your wife is one of THE most important things you can do for your wife and marriage.  Only you can give your wife a husbandly blessing.  So, if you don’t do it, then it’s lost forever.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or long, but it absolutely should happen – every day.

Two: I Read the Bible

Most days I read at least one chapter from Proverbs (there are 31 chapters so I read whatever chapter number corresponds to the day of the month) and then something from the Old Testament and something from the New Testament.  There are some days that I wake up later than I wish or have something else going on so on those days I at least read at least one passage (or even just one verse).  When you read the Bible it is hearing directly from the Lord.  For me, it helps me get my mind “straight” before I start a day full of meetings, emails and conversations.

Three: I Read Something Else

There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  “There is no difference between the man who can’t read and the man who doesn’t read.”  It is so important to read something every day.  I know it’s a lot easier in our culture to just watch t.v. or listen to the radio, but actually reading results in things that watching or listening will not.  When we read, we are choosing what goes into our minds instead of having it chosen for us.  When we read, we comprehend differently and deeper.  Reading causes us to think much more about the topic we are reading about than if we just listen to someone else talk about it.  I read different things: magazine articles, blog posts, the newspaper and, of course, a variety of books (see my Reading List here).  Reading gets my mind “warmed up” for the day and thinking about things I would probably not think about if I just drank my coffee and headed out the door.

Those are a few of things in my daily routine.  Maybe you will choose to incorporate some of them into your daily routine too.  I’d love to hear about your daily routine, so post a comment and share what gets you off to a great start in the morning.

A Message about Fatherhood to Dads, Moms and Children of all ages and stages

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A request was made to write a post about Fatherhood.  It’s an important topic – for dads, moms and children – of all ages and stages of life.  I hope you enjoy it …

This was a special message for fathers, children and mothers for Father’s Day 2013. Here are my sermon notes from the message on June 16, 2013.

3 THINGS CHILDREN SHOULD DO FOR THEIR FATHER

(note: Remember, we are all children, so this applies to all of us).

Honor Your Father

This is a command (the 5th) and is also mentioned several other times in the Bible (including by Jesus).

Ephesians 6:2-3 – Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

What does it mean to “honor” your father? We go through stages, that overlap. First, we honor our father by being obedient when we are younger and under their authority/household. Strive for “first time obedience” which is especially honoring of him. Second, we honor our father by showing respect, involving him in our lives, allowing him to participate with us and on behalf of us in our lives. (illust. – Sadie and Willie returning dress on Duck Dynasty). Third, as they (and we) grow older, we honor our father by caring for him.

Learn from Your Father

Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

note: this passage, written to a son from his father, encourages an active seeking of help and advice from the father. From our fathers we learn about life as well as about how to do things. We can also learn from our father’s mistakes. In any event, I believe that dads want “better” for their kids and desire for their children to learn from them – both the good and the bad.

Forgive Your Father

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Matthew 6:12

Fathers make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Forgiving them for those may be the best father’s day present you can give him. Forgiveness is about leaving the past in the past and focusing on the future.

3 THINGS MOTHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILD’S FATHER

This section is for mothers — all mothers. Even if you are not with your child’s dad any longer, you have one of the largest influences over the nature of your child’s relationship with his/her dad.

Encourage (don’t nag) Dad

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – encourage one another and build one another up, …

Try not to impose what you think is right upon the dad/child situation. This often leads to a situation where whatever dad does it’s not “good enough.” Be encouraging. Tell dad “thank you”. Compliment him.

Praise Dad in Front of Your Children

I read a blog post recently titled “Is Dad a Hero or a Bum – the Answer often Depends on what Mom Thinks.” — That is so true. Praising dad in front of your child strengthens the relationship more than you can imagine. You can do it — at one time in your life you thought at least something about this guy was pretty awesome.

Be a Partner

Don’t setup a situation where it is “mom and the kids v. dad”. Don’t hide things from dad. Don’t complain about him with the kids. Instead, do all you can to be a partner with the dad — unified in parenting the children as a team.

3 THINGS FATHER’S SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILDREN

Be a Godly Example

Like it or not, good or bad, you ARE an example. But are you a Godly example?

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Being a Godly example involves being an example in these areas:

Character – this is what you are all of the time, no matter where you are or who is around. Your kids are watching you. Are you a man of honesty, integrity, consistency?

Discipleship – this is showing your kids what it looks like to follow the Lord Jesus and grow in your faith. Do they see you going to church, studying the Word, etc.

Service – your kids need to learn from you that life is not about them (or you) but about other people. They learn this from your example in serving others who need help, serving your church, and serving your community.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is the theme of the Bible — God loves us not because of anything that we can do and in spite of anything that we have done. Your kids (especially your daughters) will come to believe that God loves them the way that you love them. Love them unconditionally, which means:

Love them for who they are, not what they do

Love them in spite of their mistakes and bad choices

Remember: love is an action not a feeling

Leave the Right Legacy

You will leave a legacy of some form. But, God has given us the power and the freedom to choose what our legacy will be. Will you leave a legacy where your children and your children’s children seek to know the Lord personally? Or will it be a legacy of absence, abuse, excuses or mediocrity?

How Can You Know God’s Will?

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Recently, I conducted Question & Answer sessions during our weekend services at Adventure Church.  People asked questions via email, text or notecards during the services and I attempted to answer as many as I could during each service.  There was a HUGE response to this activity and many suggested that I blog some of the questions and answers as well.  So, here’s the first one.

The actual Question:  “How do I really know if God wants me to move my family?”

Answer:

This question, and a few similar ones, has to do with God’s will for our lives.  It’s a common inquiry.  And, it should be.  Of course we should all want to be within God’s will for our lives and to do our best to direct our families to be within God’s will.  So, how can  we know God’s will?  The answer comes in a few parts.

God’s Hidden Will

It is only logical, and reasonable, that there are some things about God and His will that are not now known, and will not be known presently.  At first that statement might confuse you or even anger you because we can sometimes feel that it is our “right” to know everything.  But, if you really think about it, is that your right?  And, is it even necessary?  The short answer is:  of course not!

God is God.  We are not.  He gets to decide what He reveals about Himself and His will.  We don’t get to decide.  He’s the Creator.  He’s the One in control.  He’s God.

He even reminds us of this in His Word in the book of Job where God essentially says “Who do you think you are?   Did you create the world and everything in it?  Were you there?” (see especially chapters 38-40)

But, don’t fret.  God is also perfectly just and perfectly loving.  He’s not going to hide something from us that He desires us to know.  Why would he?  Even I, an imperfect father to my children, wouldn’t hide from my children knowledge that I want them to know.  It just wouldn’t make any sense to do so.  So, whatever is within God’s hidden will should be hidden, and it will stay hidden until God decides otherwise.  And, it does not and should not affect anything about our present day living.

God’s Revealed Will

Then, there is God’s revealed will.  This is His will that can be known by us.  And, when you really search for it, you can find it.  See below.

God’s Universal Will

Part of God’s revealed will is called His “universal will.”  That simply means that whatever is within God’s universal will is God’s will for everybody.  There is a lot of God’s universal will in nature – for example – oxygen to breathe, gravity to bind us to the earth, and sunlight to provide energy.  There are also other things that are clearly God’s universal will – for example, it is His will that all would come to know Jesus as Savior for He sent Jesus to the world because “God so loved the world …”  See also, 2 Peter 3:9.

Outside of God’s Will

Then there are some things that are clearly outside of God’s will.  Sometimes these can be easy to identify.  It is outside of God’s will for me to murder someone, to steal, to cheat on my wife, or to be selfish with my possessions.   When we are outside of God’s will, we are committing sin.  God has given us the Bible so that we can know what is outside of His will.

God’s Specific Will and God’s Permissible Will

At times, God has a “specific will” for us.  And, at times God’s will is what is called “permissible will.”  This is where most of our questions about “God’s will for me” come from.  I hope that I can explain these for you to ease some pressure for you and to get you to focus on a better question for your life.

First, let me explain the difference between specific will and permissible will.

“Permissible will” choices are those choices / decisions that God allows us to make on our own, that are not outside of His will (i.e., sinful).  Most things in life (that are not sinful) fall within this category.

“Specific will” means that specific calling that God has for you at a particular time and place.  Frankly, most decisions we make are not really within or outside of God’s specific will.  I’ll explain more below.

If God has something specific for you — i.e., a decision that He desires for you to make, a choice to choose, or a path to take — we would further define that as a “calling.”  When God is calling you to something, He is going to specifically gift you to accomplish the goal or to meet the challenge.  He is going to give you passion for whatever it may be.  And, it is going to further His kingdom specifically in some way.  (That’s the kicker and is often the difference-maker between specific will and permissible will).  Some things that may be included in this are being called to the mission field, called to the pastorate, marrying a Christian if you are going to marry, etc.

However, all other choices, as long as they are not sinful, are going to be within God’s permissible will.  That simply means that God allows us to make a choice and whatever choice is made, He can bless that choice and use us within that choice.  By far, most choices that we make (that are not sinful) are permissible will choices.  Here are some examples:  who you marry, whether to take the job at company A or company B, whether to live in Louisville or New York, whether to buy a house or not, which prom dress to wear, what gift to give your wife for her birthday, etc.  Those are all permissible will decisions because no matter what we choose (as long as it’s not sinful), God can bless that choice in a special way.

Where I have seen people get hung up, and stressed out, is thinking that a permissible will choice is somehow a specific will choice.  I’ve seen someone truly fearful that she was going to be outside of God’s specific will by choosing to take a job at Starbucks instead of working at the local mall.  Believe me, God is a very big God and he can use you at Starbucks or the mall so either choice is permissible!

So, relax.  Spend your time in prayer, studying the Word, and seeking advice from other Christians on the important question in all of this “will” stuff:  is this decision outside of God’s will or not?  In other words, if I make this decision (this choice) will I be sinning?  If we all spent more time on that question, the rest of our decisions would be a lot easier, and, frankly our lives would be a lot less complicated and a lot more holy.

 

A 3:3:3 Father’s Day (sermon notes)

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A special message for fathers, children and mothers for Father’s Day 2013. Here are my sermon notes from the message on June 16, 2013.  You can hear the online sermon at the Adventure Church website.

3 THINGS CHILDREN SHOULD DO FOR THEIR FATHER

(note: Remember, we are all children, so this applies to all of us).

Honor Your Father

This is a command (the 5th) and is also mentioned several other times in the Bible (including by Jesus).

Ephesians 6:2-3 – Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

What does it mean to “honor” your father?  We go through stages, that overlap.  First, we honor our father by being obedient when we are younger and under their authority/household.  Strive for “first time obedience” which is especially honoring of him.  Second, we honor our father by showing respect, involving him in our lives, allowing him to participate with us and on behalf of us in our lives.  (illust. – Sadie and Willie returning dress on Duck Dynasty). Third, as they (and we) grow older, we honor our father by caring for him.

Learn from Your Father

Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

note:  this passage, written to a son from his father, encourages an active seeking of help and advice from the father.  From our fathers we learn about life as well as about how to do things.  We can also learn from our father’s mistakes.  In any event, I believe that dads want “better” for their kids and desire for their children to learn from them – both the good and the bad.

Forgive Your Father

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Matthew 6:12

Fathers make mistakes.  Sometimes big ones.  Forgiving them for those may be the best father’s day present you can give him.  Forgiveness is about leaving the past in the past and focusing on the future.

3 THINGS MOTHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILD’S FATHER

This section is for mothers — all mothers.  Even if you are not with your child’s dad any longer, you have one of the largest influences over the nature of your child’s relationship with his/her dad.

Encourage (don’t nag) Dad

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – encourage one another and build one another up, …

Try not to impose what you think is right upon the dad/child situation.  This often leads to a situation where whatever dad does it’s not “good enough.”  Be encouraging.  Tell dad “thank you”.  Compliment him.

Praise Dad in Front of Your Children 

I read a blog post recently titled “Is Dad a Hero or a Bum – the Answer often Depends on what Mom Things.” — That is so true.  Praising dad in front of your child strengthens the relationship more than you can imagine.  You can do it — at one time in your life you thought at least something about this guy was pretty awesome.

Be a Partner

Don’t setup a situation where it is “mom and the kids v. dad”.  Don’t hide things from dad.  Don’t complain about him with the kids.  Instead, do all you can to be a partner with the dad — unified in parenting the children as a team.

3 THINGS FATHER’S SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILDREN

Be a Godly Example

Like it or not, good or bad, you ARE an example.  But are you a Godly example?

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Being a Godly example involves being an example in these areas:

Character – this is what you are all of the time, no matter where you are or who is around.  Your kids are watching you.  Are you a man of honesty, integrity, consistency?

Discipleship – this is showing your kids what it looks like to follow the Lord Jesus and grow in your faith.  Do they see you going to church, studying the Word, etc.

Service – your kids need to learn from you that life is not about them (or you) but about other people.  They learn this from your example in serving others who need help, serving your church, and serving your community.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is the theme of the Bible — God loves us not because of anything that we can do and in spite of anything that we have done.  Your kids (especially your daughters) will come to believe that God loves them the way that you love them.  Love them unconditionally, which means:

Love them for who they are, not what they do

Love them in spite of their mistakes and bad choices

Remember: love is an action not a feeling

Leave the Right Legacy

You will leave a legacy of some form.  But, God has given us the power and the freedom to choose what our legacy will be.  Will you leave a legacy where your children and your children’s children seek to know the Lord personally?  Or will it be a legacy of absence, abuse, excuses or mediocrity?