How to Revitalize Your Life!

The other day I noticed a flowering hedge next to my house that was looking sort of sickly. My wife also noticed and took a few minutes to prune away the dead flowers and leaves that were just hanging on. It wasn’t long until that hedge was flourishing with bright, beautiful and healthy flowers. It was totally revitalized!

If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself in a season of life that seems as if you’re just standing still – making no progress – being unproductive. You could say that you’re simply not being fruitful. You don’t know how you got here, but you’re here. One minute everything was good and the next minute you suddenly realized your energy is zapped and your mind is in a fog. Two questions come to mind; how did I get here and how do I get out?

1. Practice The Principle of Pruning

First, you’ve allowed yourself to take on more than you can maintain. Like the flowering hedge, you have too many things in your life hanging around that are zapping your time and energy, but are not adding value to your life. Maybe it’s trying to please the wrong people, doing too many projects, planning too much activity, or never saying no. In order to flourish again, you need to prune (cut the unnecessary things out of your life). The principle of pruning says that when you cut away the unnecessary out of your life, your energy and passion can be redirected to those things that really matter, thereby restoring you to fruitful living!

The Bible says…

John 15:2 (ESV)
2  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

So, evaluate your life. What is necessary and fruitful and what seems to be hanging around sucking the life out of you? Keep what you need and prune away everything that is stealing substance from you.

2. Stay Connected to Jesus

The second thing that has happened, most likely as a result of number one above, is that you’ve become disconnected from Jesus, the true source of life and fruitfulness. When we allow the busy-ness of life to steal us away from time with Jesus and his word, we find ourselves being unfruitful. Here’s why…

John 15:4 (ESV)
4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

If you are a Christian and you don’t have time for prayer and reading the word of God, you simply have too much going on. Again, evaluate what needs to go and prune. Then, put Jesus back into your life consistently because apart from him you can do nothing.

I believe if you will live by these two principles, the fog will clear, you will find fresh energy and joy, and your life will suddenly be revitalized.

Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life today! Highest blessings!

Comments welcome and encouraged!

 

Navigating the Wilderness!

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 2:7 (ESV)
7  For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”’

Moses is speaking in Deuteronomy about the grace God has shown them while in the wilderness as motivation for how they are to live in the future. The hebrew word for Wilderness is used about 250 times and almost always represents a season of time where Israel’s faith is being tested and tried.

Do you often wonder where God is in your struggle? Do you question why God has left you to fight through a particular season of your life? Do you feel like you don’t have what it takes to make it through? The truth is, we all go through wilderness experiences over the course of our lives. We pray, read God’s word, and believe for God’s favor and deliverance from what seems to be a terrible season.

How should we navigate through the wilderness?

That’s a good question and everyone’s experience is different. However, from today’s verse, there are a few things that bring strength and comfort to all of us regardless of the wilderness experience you’re in.

  1. God is blessing you. I know it sounds crazy given what you’re going through, but it’s true. God blesses you even in the most difficult seasons of your life. He has blessed you with faith! Faith in Him and His word!
  2. God knows what you’re going through. This means God is not unaware of your circumstances. He is not unaware of the pain, heartache, discouragement, or even despair that you might feel. He knows. Imagine what Jesus went through during his time on earth. God knew and he knows and identifies with your pain as well.
  3. God is with you. God will never leave you nor forsake you. Never interpret the presence of hardship to mean the absence of God. His presence is with you and He is at work in you.
  4. God is providing for you. God is providing everything you need to engage your faith and trust Him during this season. You have His presence, His word, and His love. You also have people that He has positioned close to you that you can trust. Share your thoughts and your struggles. But know that you are equipped by God to go through this season, and you don’t have to go through it alone.

One thing is for sure; God will not waste a moment of your time. He cares about what you’re going through and He knows every detail of it. Take comfort in His presence and provision and know that your faith is being forged into a mighty warrior that will arise out of the wilderness into the promised land of your future! 

Keep REACHING FORWARD ‘in the wilderness’ for God’s best today!

Feel free to comment and share your heart with us.

How to live in peace when there’s no escape!

Today’s Reading: Philippians 4:4-9

Key Verse: Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

It’s interesting to me that the Apostle Paul ends the book on the joy of the Gospel by addressing anxiety among believers. Life can be hard sometimes. We can become anxious about our marriage being shaky, our kids going through growing pains, our careers being uncertain, and our finances running out. The truth is, there is no escape from the challenges of life and the effects they can have on us. Anxiety can steal your joy and peace and create unnecessary tension in your life.

Here’s the question: How do we live with joy and peace when there’s no escape from the challenges of life? 

Paul reminds us that we should always rejoice in the presence of the Lord in every circumstance. We should cultivate a praying and grateful heart by thinking about the right things. The wrong things to meditate on are the things that are negative, out of your control, weaknesses, failures and events of the past. The right things to think about are things that are of God; his abiding presence, his unconditional love, his unending strength and power in your life.

Here’s the problem: We stop doing what we know to do when life is good. 

When life is going great we pray less, read his word less, meditate on scripture less and spend less time taking care of ourselves. The result of our inconsistency is a blind-side when something goes wrong.

Here’s the solution: The thing that shapes our lives the most is what we do consistently every day. 

Paul says to keep putting these things into practice. We have to think on the right things consistently, every day. The thoughts you dwell on create your emotions and your emotions determine your actions and how you approach life. The key principle here is to shape your thinking in a way that lines up with God’s word, his character, his presence, his power, and his love for you! But it has to be done consistently – every day!

Keep REACHING FORWARD to God’s best in your life by developing a consistent habit of thinking on the right things. May the God of peace be with you today!

Feel free to share your thoughts.

How To Win Every Battle!

Reading: Psalm 59:10 “My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.”

Are you struggling with uncertainty, fear, discouragement, or just feel like the world is against you?

In the context of this Psalm, David is running for his life. King Saul is hunting him down like a criminal. At this point, Saul sent men to do a stakeout on David’s house with the intent of killing him as soon as he shows his face. Of course, David hasn’t done anything wrong. He is trusting God to make things right – to level the playing field – to defend him against his enemies that are unjustly prosecuting him.

In this moment of uncertainty, fear, and totally unfair treatment, David knows that God will meet him right there in that place. David draws on the revelation of God’s unfailing love. He taps into the steadfast love of God knowing that he’s not alone in his battle. He knows deep down that there’s a love from God that brings security, peace and justice. He knows that because he is loved by God with an unconditional and unending love, he will see victory over his enemies.

I know for sure I’m not perfect and neither are you. Sometimes we make choices that land us facing an enemy (problem, challenge, fear) with our backs against the wall. Sometimes we land there because of circumstances beyond our control. But in any case, it is possible to win every battle when you stand in faith with God! You win because God is with you. You win because God’s love for you is steadfast, immovable. You win because God always wins! 

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but I know you want to beat it. I know you feel like you’re losing the battle, but you want to win. I know you feel like it’s unfair and hopeless. But I also know this; God will grant you to look in triumph over your situation. I know this because God never loses a battle. If your faith is in him, rest assured that he is with you and you will never lose either!

Keep REACHING FORWARD today! Victory is coming to you!

 

Responding With Grace

It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us that really make a difference in our lives. Most of us encounter situations that afford great opportunities for offense, revenge, lashing out, and other expressions of anger and hurt. It happens as a husband, wife, father, mother or supervisor. It even happens simply driving down the road on a busy day. If I’m going to pursue God’s best in my life, It’s important that I learn how to respond in these situations.

Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV)
22  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
23  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

God responded to Adam and Eve’s sin with grace. He immediately made room for repentance so that they would not be forever lost in their sin. He responded with grace so that his relationship with them could one day be restored.

How do I respond when someone sins against me? Is it with grace so that they might grow and learn or is it with condemnation? Do I respond to others as if I am a sinner myself saved by the grace of God who continues to grow through my mistakes? Do I immediately leave room for repentance and restoration or am I quick to judge and condemn others?

Father, forgive me for the times when I was quick to judge others in my own self-righteous attitude. Help me to respond to sin with grace and create opportunities for others to experience the love and forgiveness that you have shown me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!

Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life! Have a great 2016!

Becoming A Winning Parent!

parentTrying to raise little people to become big people in a way that is successful is quite a mystery. It is a mystery because in spite of our vast experience as a parent, grandparent or having had a parent, we still can’t figure it out. The mystery resides in the fact that every single one of these little people are unique and they do not come with user manuals or instruction booklets. Not only that, but they do not come with a return shipping label! When my oldest son was about 3 1/2 years old, he didn’t like the fact that my wife was paying attention to our youngest son who was just an infant. He had an idea: “Mommy, I don’t like that baby, send it back!” Sorry son, he didn’t come with a return shipping label.

Even though parenting is such a mystery and often leaves us feeling totally inadequate, there is one principle that is found in scripture that will greatly help us become winning parents.

A winning parent encourages the heart! 

You see, we often focus on the behavior because that is what we see right in front of us. However, a winning parent traces all behavior back to what is unseen and that is the heart. Behavior modification is important and we need to set boundaries and teach our children for sure. But more importantly, we need to encourage a child’s heart by tracing their behavior back to the heart issues that explain “why” they do what they do, good or bad.

Behavior modification will only be effective as long as the conditions that control the behavior are present. When you remove those conditions, the behavior will always give in to the heart. Jesus said…

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). (See also Mark 7:21-23)

Solomon also knew this far too well as the wisest man on earth in his time. He taught his own son with these words:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Orienting our children to a life of faith in God by tracing behavior back to the heart issues is what a winning parent learns to do. Here are some pointers to get you started.

1. Model a Faithful Heart. 

Parents must live what they teach or else your children will not take you seriously. Moses said this before he penned the instructions to teach your children:

6  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deut 6:6)

When a parent models a faithful heart, he or she does so by first tracing their own behavior back to the heart issues and letting their children see it. In other words, the power of a life of faith is revealed to your children when they see you living it. (tweet that).

Winning parents admit their mistakes to their children. Don’t be afraid to say, “I handled that wrong, I’m sorry, will you forgive me?”

2. Connect Life to Scripture. 

7  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deut 6:7)

This verse not only tells us to teach our children, but it tells us how – throughout the daily course of life.

When my children were very young I tried to teach the bible to them. I failed miserably. I learned not to teach the bible to my children. A better way is to teach your children the bible. You do that by something called “teachable moments.”

When my oldest son was about 5 years old his bike was stolen. Instead of getting angry and calling down curses on the culprit, my wife and I decided to get our son and pray with him FOR the person who stole the bike. We explained to him that that God wants us to pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. We prayed. Two days later the bike showed up on our front porch. God used that situation to teach us as parents how to connect life with scripture.

Say something like, “God made you beautiful and beautiful children don’t bite.” “You don’t have to be mean because made you loving and kind and loving people are not mean to their friends.”

You don’t have to have chapter and verse memorized. Just orient their hearts to God in language they understand.

3. Make Home Life Attractive.

9  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:9)

One of Solomon’s great words of wisdom to his son was “…turn your foot away from evil” (Prov 4:27). 

The best way to help your children turn from evil is to make your home life attractive through unconditional love and acceptance. The home should be a shelter, a refuge in times of trouble. The home should be a place where children can be vulnerable and wrestle with their fears and weaknesses without judgment. The simple truth is people generally do not run from places where they are loved and accepted. 

When your home is attractive, your kids will want to bring their friends over. They will want to hang out at your house rather than run the streets and expose themselves to the evil in the world. 

Imagine what our world would be like if parents and teachers began to encourage the heart of our children by orienting them to a life of faith in God instead of trying to manage rules, which lead to rebellion. Rules and boundaries are important but they will never be enough. 

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your family! You don’t have to be perfect to be a winning parent. Model the way, look for teachable moments and create a refuge for your children. It’s ok to start over – but start now to encourage the heart! 

lets continue the conversation…

The Supreme Court on Marriage and Independence Day!

flagI join the ranks of many who are disappointed by the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage. Although there is no court in the land that can change the definition of marriage, they have certainly opened a door for a culture shift away from true marriage, which has served as a healthy foundation to our society for centuries. I’m amazed that such a change can come about from only five “unelected” individuals. As much as I honor the position and role of the Supreme Court, they do not speak for the majority of Americans nor should they. This decision is not about equality, I believe in equality. This decision is not about justice, I believe in justice. This decision is not about rights and benefits, I believe in both. This decision is about a fundamental shift in our culture that is revolting more and more aggressively against the moral values and beliefs our great country was founded upon.

Love Covers Sin and Reveals Truth!

In spite of the disheartening moral decline we see happening around us, we must stay true to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means we communicate and treat others with love and respect. It does not mean we zip our lips and pretend nothing is happening. At LifeBridge Tyler Church, we will have compassion and mercy for people far from God including those with whom we disagree, while living a life that represents the gospel of Christ. We will invite people to find salvation at the cross, which involves repentance and growing in relationship with Jesus. Love, in and of itself, is not enough. To come to Jesus involves repentance and we will never water down or compromise that message for the sake of love and “acceptance.” Truth is the highest form of love, because when you know the truth, the truth shall set you free (John 8:32). Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). No amount of humanistic love will ever change that truth. Love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8), but it does not cover truth, it reveals it.

Only Jesus can Transform the Human Heart!

Nevertheless, we will not judge hearts or motives, we will not throw stones of condemnation, we will not stiff arm people who need Jesus. We will not communicate our passionate beliefs through insensitive and emotional knee-jerk reactions. We will open our arms and hearts to welcome those who are seeking forgiveness, love, and eternal life. Moreover, we will continue to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that serves God’s purpose of bringing people to salvation and repentance. Only Jesus can transform the human heart and it is to that end that we live and grow together.

Why our Country is the Greatest!

Finally, as we move into the celebration of our 239th Independence Day, I want to encourage everyone to reflect on the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world. It’s great because of the values and moral integrity that have served as its foundation. Our country is great because of great people who have had the courage to stand and fight in the face of adversity and persecution. Our country is great because of people like YOU who have a heart to see our country continue in greatness for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
So I urge all people everywhere to celebrate the freedom of our independence and what we stand for while upholding the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to do so in love and truth.
Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life and help others do the same!
Scott Grizzle

The Solution is in the Room

solutionThe best solutions to problems are discovered by a team not mandated by a leader. Every team runs into problems or speed bumps that slow progress. An assessment is done to analyze the problem and determine the root cause. Often times the solution requires an outside coach or consultant, but more often than not…

The Solution is in the Room

I recently called a meeting with one of our teams to address an issue that had been created by a shortage of personnel. One very important priority was suffering because of the lack of personnel. The most obvious solution that seemed to be unanimous among the team was “we need more people.” In other words, most people on the team assumed the solution was going to have to come from outside of us (i.e. more people) rather than among us.

Our job as leaders is not to have all the answers, but to guide our teams in such a way that solutions are discovered. I want to share four things we did in that meeting that infused energy, sparked fresh ideas, and refocused the team as a whole. As a result, we all learned that the solution was right there in the room.

1. Encourage the Heart – Before getting into problems, it’s always best to celebrate successes and the hard work of the team. Encouraging the heart is about celebrating the value and importance of what it is you do. As Simon Sinek would say, “start with why.” This step should always be first because it instills purpose and meaning and sets a positive tone for the rest of the meeting.

2. Cast Vision – Once the team is encouraged and the mood is set, it’s time to calibrate the compass and ensure everyone is headed in the same direction. Remind the team of where you are headed and the future you are trying to create. Tap into their imagination and discuss specifically how their role is playing a part in moving the organization toward that future.

3. Set Priorities – Everything that’s worth doing is important, so priorities based on values must be established. This is the leader’s job. Others can buy into the vision and run with it, but if priorities are not established circumstances will cause subtle shifts in progress and cause the team to deviate off course. The priorities that need to be discussed in this particular meeting are the ones that need focus. Keep it to one or no more than two in order to be productive. After all, your goal is to find a solution to a priority that is suffering.

4. Empower the Team – Empower the team by asking a question that invokes thought, participation and action. The question I asked in our case was, “How can we as a team meet this priority with the resources we have?” As ideas began to flow, I simply bounced them off of other people to create discussion and communicate that they were empowered to act. Suddenly I was no longer the focus of the meeting – the solution to the problem became the focus. In fact, I left the room at one point and no one hardly noticed. The power to solve the problem shifted from me to the other leaders and team members in the room. In record time, we had a solution.

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your vision and dreams while maximizing the dreams and passions of those around you. When you run into issues, know that more often than not the solution is in the room.

What else can be done to rally a team toward a solution?

Beyond Failure

Failure. We’ve all been there. We hate it when it happens and we never want to go back. But then it happens again. We find ourselves facing some of our worst enemies; shame, guilt, embarrassment, frustration, low self-worth and so on. In the face of failure, most of us ask questions like, who have I failed, how did I fail and why did I fail. However, the most important question we can ask is “how will I respond?” This question is the one that will affect your future.

I read somewhere recently (forgive me for not recalling the source) that when Australia was being formed the leaders gathered to design a crest that would resemble who they wanted to become as a people. They chose two animals, a kangaroo and an emu, that would face on another on the crest. These two animals have something unique in common. Both are able to glance backwards briefly to get their bearing but they keep moving forward. In fact, it’s said they can run up to 30mph but can’t even walk backwards. Australia wanted to become a people who continues moving forward.

Failure can often keep us living in the past beating ourselves up for our mistakes. If we’re not careful, we can begin to define ourselves through the lens of our failures rather than through the lens of our potential. Here’s what I know that’s true for me and you…

You’re bigger and better than your last failure!

Consider the kangaroo and do these two things to get beyond failure.

1. Glance backward to learn from the experience. 

You have to know in your heart that failure is not about your worth or value as a person. Failure is most often about a decision, action and/or circumstance. We all make mistakes because mistakes are part of the process of growing our faith and increasing our potential. Glance back and ask God to show you what to take with you and what to leave behind, but don’t stop.

2. Keep moving forward. 

Don’t stop moving forward. Failure is not the enemy unless you stop moving forward. Allow failure to propel you forward into a fresh momentum that is now better informed, equipped and prepared for new opportunities. You have to live your life forward not backward.

Philippians 3:13 (NASB)
13  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your failures and see them as part of growing your potential for great things to come.

Consider the kangaroo!

When Doubts Are Many

Doubts. We all have them and they are many. Doubt is nothing more than to be uncertain about something. It’s like standing on a frozen pond when you’re uncertain about the depth or strength of the ice. Will it hold me up? Will it collapse under the weight? What idoubtsf…? How will I…? Have you been there?

We are haunted by uncertainties because we live in such an uncertain and ever-changing world. We’re surrounded by injustice, betrayal, wickedness and disappointment. We question the solidarity of our relationships, jobs, health and future. What we know to be true one day proves to be false the next. Doubts. We all have them and they are many.

The longer you focus on the potential failure of the ice the greater the fear and doubt will become.

Followers of Christ have a different focus. We know that God never changes. He is always true and faithful and never effected by our circumstances. No matter who betrays us, God will never leave us. No matter what fails us, God will remain faithful. When we are weak, He gives us strength. When we are sad, He gives us joy.

When we have doubts, though they are many, He comforts our soul and brings us good cheer from the promises of His word and the faithfulness of His character.

Keep REACHING FORWARD today knowing that God is there when you have doubts. Take comfort in knowing He changes not.