Lose a little…

Lose Yourself

Scrolling through social media, I see a lot of posts and kind words meant to encourage people on their various journeys through life. A sentiment I see often is one that is encouraging to those of us who may be experiencing the loss of friends and loved ones. Not in a sense that they are departing from this realm, but that relationships with friends and family members may become strained once you decide to take the path that God has called you toward. The posts usually say something like “There are certain people who can’t come with you where God is taking you…” Or something like that.

I’ve given that statement a lot of thought over the years as I’ve experienced shifts in my social life. I’ll admit I haven’t had to sever ties with very many people but that made me consider something else. I asked myself, If I’m not losing a lot of people what else should I be willing to put aside?

In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus starts to talk to his disciples about the suffering he would eventually have to experience. Peter, in disbelief, pretty much told Jesus that would never happen to him. Jesus said,

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 16: 23-25

Peter was trying to tell Jesus that he should never have to experience what Jesus knew was his purpose. Then Jesus called Peter, or Peter’s attitude toward his calling, a stumbling block. But instead of kicking Peter to the curb and telling him “you can’t roll with me where I’m going if you’re not going to be supportive,” Jesus understood that Peter simply didn’t understand what his purpose was. So he reminded him that in order to do this whole will of God thing, we have to be completely prepared to deny parts of ourselves. The fear and anger that Peter was experiencing in regards to Jesus’ purpose, are also feelings that Jesus was feeling. But Jesus had to be willing to deny himself the luxury of letting those feelings steer him away from his calling because he knew what he was doing was bigger than himself.

That hits home for us control freaks. There are sacrifices we must make on our journey toward our purpose that require us to let go of familiar parts of ourselves. Just like everybody can’t come with us where we’re going, there are parts of our own lives and personalities that we are responsible for putting to the side.

Peter was one of Jesus’ hot headed friends. He wasn’t a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination. That encourages us that God is able and willing to use anybody to accomplish his will. However, Peter and all the other disciples had to give up their whole lives to follow Jesus and I’m sure they were constantly having to check their attitudes and behaviors so that they were representing Jesus well.

So today as you begin your week toward the end of Lent, what is it about yourself that you are unwilling to let go of that may be stalling your process toward your purpose. Is it your temper and lack of patience? Are you too used to being on your own time and can’t fully commit to the work God is calling you to do? Are you simply attached to people and places that don’t encourage your growth?

Today’s challenge is to be real with yourself, take responsibility for the thing or things about your own personality that might be holding you back, and tell yourself to let go of that.

Sometimes you have to lose a bit of yourself to level up. Everything you lose with be replace with better!

 

Wait for it: A lesson from Tino


Tino is my dog. He’s a 1-year-old beagle who is very friendly but very mischievous. The dog is so smart that it has been quite difficult for me to train him. In my attempts to teach and also understand Tino, he has unexpectedly taught me his own lesson in patience and obedience.

Tino and I have a pretty good routine going. I get home from work, take him out, we play, then I’m able to do a few things around the house. Then at some point I go take a shower and get ready for bed. While I’m in the shower, Tino is completely unsupervised in my apartment. I’ll remind you, he’s very mischievous so I used to get apprehensive about leaving him alone, even to shower. I’d leave the bathroom door open so I could hear or see him and try to shower quickly. After a little while I stopped being so nervous because Tino does the exact same thing each time I take a shower. He sits quietly by the door until I get out. This is not something I’ve trained him to do. He has all the space and opportunity to get into anything he wants while I’m not looking, and instead he sits and waits for me on his own.

Initially, I thought nothing of it. I was just happy he wasn’t ransacking my apartment. But one day I really thought about how obedient he had decided to be and it taught me something about myself. Tino has a quality in his relationship with me that I’d love to have in my relationship with God.

There are times when we ask God for guidance or permission and don’t really get an answer in the time frame that we feel is reasonable. So, because of our inclination to want things to be the way we think they should be, We get restless and anxious and panic a bit. Just like Tino, we all have the freedom to do whatever we want while God is taking his time to get back to us. However, unlike Tino, too many times, we taken that opportunity. We didn’t hear anything from God so We just started moving and doing things We thought were going to work. Things that might not have even been bad things but they didn’t necessarily have God’s blessing and subsequently end up ransacking our lives. Now, God is not too busy taking a shower to get back to us, but things work in the time he designates for them to work, so what we’re supposed to do in the meantime is trust that God has our best interest at heart and have patience. We all know how difficult it can be to sit (figuratively) by the door and wait for God the way Tino waits for me.

My favorite part about Tino is that every time I get out of the shower he greets me with the same excitement. This tells me, he’s not just waiting for me because he can’t do anything until I get back, he’s waiting for me because he genuinely loves me. He could be doing other things but that’s boring when I’m not there to do them with him. This is what I want more than anything. I want to enjoy God’s presence so much that waiting on an answer from him is not me begrudgingly waiting for God to say or do something so I can have my way. I want to wait on God because that’s the homie! who else would I move forward with?

These are the three things I’m praying for myself and for you: Patience, obedience and a relationship full of love and desire for God’s presence. And I learned all that from a beagle. Go figure.

40 Days of Dust

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Today is Ash Wednesday.

In the Christian faith, this is the beginning of preparing ourselves to observe Easter as the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 days of prayer and fasting known as Lent. We fast following the example of Christ when he was lead into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted by Satan. Basically, this entire observance is a time when we reflect on the death and the resurrection of Christ and imitate the things he did leading up to his death in order to prepare himself for the HUGE task of ushering us into salvation.

So, on Ash Wednesday, people go to service to have their heads smudged with ashes, traditionally, from burned palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service which is the service before Easter. Ashes appear in the bible many times as a symbol of mourning, consecration, and even a blessing. It’s customary that those observing Ash Wednesday, receive a smudge of ashes on their foreheads accompanied by a blessing from a clergy member. Now, I’m no bible scholar so pretty much all the things I’ve learned about this holiday are mostly things I’ve read and cross referenced. While researching the actual ritual of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, a particular thing stood out to me that is very relevant to our condition as Christians who are triggered by the idea of not being in complete control of life’s happenings.

As a person receives ashes, they may hear the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” It’s in reference to the above verse. That verse helped to put my worries into perspective for two reasons:

  1. I am a fully functioning being, fully composed of what will decompose when my spirit has left my body. I’m literally made of the makings of dirt. How amazing is it that God designed a person as complex as I am and as you are from what he found lying around (figuratively speaking). That’s encouraging to me because there are so many times when I get hung up on not being able to make things happen the way I want them to happen completely overlooking the fact that God is able to make great things come from absolutely nothing.
  2. My physical body came from the Earth and will return back to it. As amazing and as great as God has created me to be, it’s inevitable that what I see looking at me in the mirror will one day be nothing again. Every time I get beside myself with how well I’m able to maintain control over the things God has given me power over, I have to remind myself to be humble. Just as quickly as someone can admire my shiny accomplishment and accolades, I can return to dust and be forgotten and reduced to nothing if I’m not doing things for God’s glory.

So while we’re observing this period of fasting, let’s be mindful of the the attitude we maintain. While we’re experiencing the discomfort of the thing we’ve removed from our daily life for the next 40 days, let’s remember to remain humble in recognition of our position as servants to God and to Each other.  In the absence of the thing or things we’re fasting, take time to remind ourselves who gives our vessels of flesh and dust purpose. For the next 40 days, let’s get our dust in check.  I pray we all end our 40 days with a new sense of submission and purpose.

#BathroomBreakChallenge

I know we’re already halfway through the month but it’s never too late to try to advance your prayer life! So I’m inviting you to join me in the #BathroomBreakChallenge. 

Each time you enter the privacy of a bathroom, spend some time talking to God. You can make your own posts about your experiences and progress using #BathroomBreakChallenge or just comment here, on Facebook, Instagram or under the Youtube video.

I’m excited to see how this helps us get through our day and ultimately alters our prayer life. Let’s Go!

More

It’s so easy to pray for increase and for God to enlarge our territory but how many times do we actually do an inventory of how much we’ve given to God?

We often have a tendency to excuse ourselves from giving our best to God. We use sayings like “Jesus says come as you are” and “God knows my heart” to relinquish ourselves the responsibility of giving God even a fraction of what he deserves. It is true that God knows our hearts, but he also knows our pockets, our schedules and our priorities. God knows how much time we devote to things that do not serve us well. God knows how much money we spend on useless things.

Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

Many times the above verse is used to warn us against doing ourselves bodily harm. However, the verse says a lot about what we should be striving toward. As long as we are living, we ought to be sacrificing something out of gratitude for God’s presence in our lives, especially as it applies to mercy and grace. As control freaks, it’s tough for us to sacrifice time and money where we do not see a need. When we feel like we’re doing fine serving in your church and giving our tithes are we really sacrificing? or are we participating in a ritualized routine that doesn’t hold much value to us in the first place?

This is a challenge for us to assess what we’re doing currently and ask what more could we be giving. Where can I sacrifice time, energy, money, etc., to improve my relationship with God and to point others to God’s presence in my life? This is not a call to irresponsibly over compensate. However, this is a call to go deeper in your relationship with God to determine something specific God wants from you and what’s keeping you from giving it.

There’s always room for more.

Be Intentional

As a type A person, we often take issue with doing things that do not yield immediate or clear cut results. We like for our actions to be meaningful and intentional. Take joy in the fact that we have this in common with God.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God’s purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Everything that God does is intentional and meaningful. Everything that God doesn’t do is intentional and meaningful. Everything that happens to us that is not of God, but that God allowed and has overseen, God has the power, ability and desire for the outcome of it to work in our favor. Nothing just happens by coincidence outside of God’s watch. God is intentional in the care of God’s children.

A personal challenge for today is to work toward being intentional in what we offer to God. Every gift, every talent, every ability you have was intentionally given to you by God. God gave them specifically to you and you have a unique way of presenting these gifts simply because you are the only you. Let’s be intentional about the way we use our gifts to honor God. Think through ways to use your gifts and talents and think about the outcome of how your efforts toward walking in God’s will and purpose for your life can be received. Let our behavior toward God and in representation of God in our lives not be coincidental, but let’s be intentional about how we behave in accordance with his will.

God is intentionally making sure that everything you encounter will eventually work in your favor for his glory. Are you making sure that everything you put out into the universe is working in God’s favor for his glory?

Grow Up

discomfort

A good sign of outgrowing something is when it becomes uncomfortable, too tight, too loose, etc.

Discomfort in your life may be a sign that you need more space to expand beyond your current location and circumstances.

“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Matthew 9:17

sometimes we, in all our control freak tendencies, linger in a particular place or circumstance with a particular person or persons simply because we aren’t finished. We haven’t quite gotten out of it what WE felt like we needed to get. That could mean anything from not getting the desired outcome from a project and wanting to repeat it in hopes of a different result, to giving something or someone everything we could possibly give and not getting the reaction we feel like we deserve.

The above verse is about wine skins. Back in bible times, people carried around and drank wine from a sack usually made out of the skin of an animal. Once stretched to fit the desired amount of wine, the wineskin was done. There was no refilling them or reusing them. You could not put new wine in an old wineskin.

In this next season of taking our hands off of what we can’t control, remember that when you ask God to take you where he wants you to go, everyone and everything can’t go with you and some things will have to be left completely as is. No cleaning up, no tying up loose ends just leave them where they are. You are growing. Growth is often uncomfortable, it’s lonely and tiresome but it is for the best. Your new outlook, habits, attitudes, your entire new self won’t fit into your old lifestyle no matter how hard you try and make the situation one that you can function within. It doesn’t mean you’re better than or above anyone in your past life but it means you are better off outside of those circumstances. It may even mean that the people in your past are better off without you as well. Trust the process and allow God to do what God does best… and that’s pretty much everything. God does all things well.

Shake off the desire to fix things that are out of your control, grow and move on.

There’s Power in Partnership with God

pick-up-your

 

Order my steps in your word and let no inequity have power over me

Psalms 119:133

You may be a brand new Christian or you may just be new to the realization that most of your issues with your faith come from a problem surrendering to an authority. Either way, we have some work to do. If you are a type A, control freak, the fact that we have to put in some work should excite you. It means you actually have a role to play in this whole thing.

It’s a common misconception that once you’ve committed yourself to a faith, that you are supposed to believe that everything is out of your control and you’re now just at the mercy of a mystical deity. This is not even a little bit true and there’s plenty of evidence in the bible to refute this misconception. There are numerous passages in the bible in which God or Jesus requires that a person who is expecting a miracle actually participate in their miracle.

My favorite example is that of the Israelites crossing the Jordan river (Joshua 3). To sum up the story, the Israelites were freed from slavery and had been through all kinds of crazy stuff. At this point, they are wandering around in the wilderness and they come to the Jordan river. They needed to get across it but it was too deep and too dangerous to just walk through it. Nobody had enough boats for all those people, so Joshua, their new leader since Moses had died, asked God to make crossing the Jordan possible for them. Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time they’ve had to cross a body of water, they had been there and done that at the Red Sea back in Exodus. But God didn’t just roll the water back for them this time. Instead, they had to participate in their miracle. God’s words to them, as written in the bible, were “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s river, go stand in the water.” No explanation or anything. But he gave them a task, they had to get their things together and be prepared to move and then just go stand in the water. No telling what God was going to do.

Long story short, once their feet touched the water, it stopped flowing and became safe for them to cross. But the blessing for us control freaks is not even in the actual miracle. It’s in the fact that though the river was out of their control, their ability to receive their miracle was totally up to them. They had to get prepared, to pack up their things in anticipation that God was going to work it out for them, to PLAN. Thats our favorite thing right? Essentially, God told them to plan to receive their blessing and then take literal steps toward it.

This story, among the many others in the bible, are proof that God is only seeking to have a working partnership with you. Yes, God has authority because God is most powerful, but he’s not looking to exert full power over you using force to subtract your agency. We may not be in full control but we are in partnership with God to reach our Goals. You have part to play. Ask God to guide you, but you have to actually MOVE.

The opening verse is our prayer for our daily lives.

Pray this with me:

Dear God,

Give me the vision you have for me, the passion to press forward and the strength to see it to the end. Let every step I take be closer to you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Measure Up

measure-success

How do you define success? What do you have to do and how much do you have to accomplish to feel successful? What is your measuring stick?

Commit to the LORD Whatever you do and he will establish your plans

Proverbs 16:3

Have you asked God today what he wants from you?

This is an important question for us. Knowing what God wants is essential for knowing exactly what we should be doing. As type A people, we like to do. We like for things to go the way we planned for them to happen. In order for us to do this Christianity thing with the personalities we have, we have to also want things to go the way God wants them to go.

Figure out what God wants for you, then want that too.

It sounds simple enough but it will prove to be very difficult when what God wants doesn’t make sense and trust me it will not always make sense. Instructing us to do things and go places that don’t make sense to us will be a common occurrence the stronger your faith gets. This is the nature of faith. It’s believing in spite of not knowing everything.

To help deal with not knowing everything, which is a problem for folks like us, it’s important to remember the following about God:

“I know the plans I have for you,” Says the LORD. “Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

God always wants what is best for you. God WANTS you to have hope and a bright future. Know that and be encouraged that whatever you’re doing, regardless of how it appears to others,  is successful if it is toward your purpose in the vision God will give you. So ask God, what is the vision? What do you want from me? God will be so excited that you want to know and will show you over and over again that letting him lead will always take you in a direction that is beneficial to you.

Stay the course!

 

 

 

A Shiny New Year

to-god-be-the-glory

It’s a brand new year! You made it!

In this new year, let’s all be mindful of the role we play in God’s master plan.

 

In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

In our constant struggle for balance between feeling stable and successful and submitting our will to God’s, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget why we’re doing it. Let’s be real, appearances are important to us. A lot of the satisfaction we get from feeling “in control” is appearing to others that we have a handle on things and that we’re doing well. It is not wrong to feel like others should see you doing well. The above verse is proof of such. However, be mindful of why the gaze of others is important to you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I seeking the approval of others before God’s?
  2. Am I too excited about the way I appear to others?
  3. Is my reputation pointing others to God’s presence in my life?

In this new year, every goal you set, every milestone you reach, every win you publicize, should be a testament to God’s faithfulness in your life. None of us achieve anything of our own strength, courage, guidance etc. By committing ourselves to God, we draw those things from God’s power.

Be sure that all of your actions are rooted in a love for others that mirrors God’s love for you. it is that love that will direct them toward your love for God and the availability of God’s love for anyone open to it. Put forth the work but the glory is not our own. It is God’s.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!