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!

 

Only ONE thing will guarantee your success in 2014!

Right about now multiple blogs and articles are being written about how to better your life in 2014. We all know that the beginning of a new year is a great opportunity for change. Most of us desire to change in one way or another. Perhaps the change is to lose weight or become more fit and lead a healthier lifestyle. Maybe the change is to master that hobby or new skill that you’ve taken up. Whatever the change that you’re desiring, there are as many methods and processes for achieving that change as there are writers giving us advice. I don’t know about you, but here’s where I am with the changes I desire to see in my own life:

I DON’T NEED ANYMORE ADVICE! I don’t need another three-step, four-step, or five-step program to help me achieve my goals for 2014. While I appreciate the advice and pointers that are freely given by well-meaning people, I simply don’t need another prescription. What I do need is something that no one else can give me. What I need and what you need to achieve those 2014 goals is something that resides deep in our hearts. The ONE thing that will guarantee your success in achieving your goals in 2014 is to…

Submit to the Process!

All change, ALL change requires a process. Whether you want to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthier, learn more, build more, or relate better to others, there is a process involved. You can I can learn all the steps that it takes, write it down and post it on the fridge and put it on our calendars; but if we do not submit our will to the process it will never happen. My problem in achieving positive change in my life is not information, it’s submission. If you are at all like me, allow me to share a few tips that might encourage you to look past all the methods and steps to the ONE thing that just might empower you to reach those goals!

1. Start with WHY!

If you’re not convinced in your heart of why you should achieve the goal, you will never be committed to seeing it through. A good idea is only a good idea until it becomes painful or inconvenient; then it becomes not such a good idea. Search deep within your heart and find a reason that’s worth fighting for. Ask yourself this question: “What’s at stake if I don’t submit to this process?”

2. Catch the VISION!

Once you’ve settled the WHY in your heart and you are 100% convinced that this is a “must do” for you, the next thing you want to do is imagine yourself being there already. What does life look like having achieved that goal? How is your life different now that you have finally accomplished this goal? What is the impact on the people around you now that you’ve made this change? Ask yourself this question: “What does my life look like if I don’t submit to this process?”

3. Commit to SUBMIT!

If you and I are going to see positive change in our lives, we must make a commitment to ourselves to submit to the process that’s going to be involved in the change we desire. Do not commit to the plan, do not commit to follow your calendar, do not commit to phone a friend or be accountable. All of those things are good, but the only commitment that will take you to the finish line is the commitment to submit to the process.

If you’ll discover a compelling reason from your heart to achieve your goal, imagine yourself living it, and require your flesh to submit to the process, you will achieve your goals for positive change in your life. The empowerment to accomplish lies not in more information, but within the convictions of your heart and the ability to envision it as a reality.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to positive change in your life! You can do this! Submit to the process and watch it happen!

Comments welcome!

How do I Give “IT” to God?

ImageEarly in my life as a Christian I would hear people say “you just have to give it to God!” I often wondered what it meant to “give it to God” and exactly how I should go about it. I can’t blame others since I’m guilty of telling people the same thing. Most people are sincere when they give us advice such as this with a heart that’s saying “only God can resolve your situation.” However, our sincerity doesn’t change the fact that we often give people advice using our “christianese” without ensuring that they really understand what that means.

As a pastor, I often talk to people who say they have tried to give “it” to God, but they just don’t know how. What we’re ultimately talking about is surrendering something to God that we have allowed to take his place. That could be anything from blatant sin to trying to control our circumstances and outcomes without trusting God as we should. Before we can know how to give “IT” to God, we first have to define what “IT” is that we need to give up.

Just What Exactly is “IT?”

Most people are trying to give their struggle, their heartache, their problems, or their pain over to God. The problem with this humanistic viewpoint is that we are still the ones in control. In order for us to obtain the power to give “IT” over to God, we have to relinquish control and embrace God’s grace. We have to first give up the need to control whatever “IT” is and allow God’s grace to enter our hearts. In other words, the “IT” that we need to give to God is not the “IT” that’s bothering us; rather, the “IT” we need to surrender to God is our own efforts to control “IT.” The problem with humanity from the beginning has been our own ideas and efforts of how to control everything in our lives. In other words, we make ourselves God. Therefore, in order to give “IT” to God, we have to relinquish control and do it God’s way.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel. ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

1. Repent

First we must repent and return to the Lord. Repent means to turn from our way of thinking and turn to the Lord’s way. The Lord’s way always begins with repentance. We repent (turn from) our attempt to control everything in our lives. We repent (turn from) doing things our way and allow God’s grace to fill our hearts. When we are struggling the most, repentance is the one thing that God promises will bring his presence and times of refreshing (see Acts 3:19-20).

2. Trust

Once we have repented and relinquished our attempts to control our circumstances, then we can trust God to catch us! We can trust God to catch us when we let go and venture into the unknown. Once we repent and experience His grace, we can freely trust His timing, provision, and direction for our lives. The one thing we can completely trust God with is our future because He wrote it!

If you need to give “IT” to God today, I encourage you to start with repentance and allow Him to fill you and empower you by His grace! You will experience the presence of the Lord, a time of refreshing and the ability to trust Him with your life!

Keep REACHING FORWARD in your journey and allow Him to be in the driver’s seat! Trust Him! You’ll never regret it!

Feel free to share!

How generosity increases effectiveness in the Church.

ImageIf there is one thing that most of us want to achieve in life, it is to be effective in all that we do. We want to be more effective in leadership, in our jobs, in customer service, with our families, in building relationships, and certainly more effective is making disciples in our churches. I am learning that one of the keys to overall effectiveness is found in one word; generosity.

What does it really mean to be generous? Most people immediately associate generosity with the giving of money. Although generosity can certainly include money, it is much more than that. We are in the process of planting a church and recently discussed generosity at one of our launch team meetings. As an organizational value, we define generosity like this: “We give generously of our time, talent and resources.” The question is, what does that really mean and how does it inform our decision-making? One of our team members and phenomenal leader, David McDaniels (find him on twitter @DJMcDaniels), described generosity as giving more than the minimum required. As we unpacked this idea of giving more than the minimum as it relates to our church, we discovered that generosity is ultimately the determining factor in our overall effectiveness. Here are a few ways that giving more than the minimum of your time, talent and resources will increase your overall effectiveness.

Being generous with your time:

1. Give of your time to genuinely connect with a person through conversation.

2. Give of your time to walk a guest to the child check-in station rather than pointing the way.

3. Give of your time to stop and pray with someone who looks troubled.

4. Give of your time to walk slowly through the crowd and be a friend.

5. Give of your time to help the single mother with her children.

Being generous with your talent:

1. Give of your talent to serve others according to “their” need.

2. Give of your talent by going one step further because you can.

3. Give of your talent by cross-serving in other areas where you’re gifted.

4. Give of your talent by teaching others the knowledge or skill that you possess.

5. Give of your talent by serving with the “it’s my pleasure” attitude.

Being generous with your resources:

1. Give to the community without expecting anything in return.

2. Give more than the minimum financially to bless a landlord or vendor.

3. Give money more frequently to missions and those in need.

4. Give resources that are sitting idle to a smaller church that could use them.

5. Give gifts that bless others unexpectedly.

These are just a few examples of how to be generous with your time, talent, and resources. The bottom line in developing a heart of generosity it simple: give more than the minimum required. The result will be on overall increase in effectiveness in every area.

Keep REACHING FORWARD for a heart of generosity! It will lead to God’s best in your life.

What are some ways you have learned to be generous by giving more than the minimum?