Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category

For those of us who experienced the 90’s, you probably remember this scene from the movie “City Slickers”. The premise behind the movie was basically that these men from NY had lost their identity, so they travel out west to a cattle ranch to sort of ‘find themselves’.  In one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie, Jack Palance’s character, “Curly” the trail boss, turns to one of the men & says, “Do you know what the secret to life is? It’s this.” (and he holds up 1 finger) “Just 1 thing.” The man says, “That’s great, but what is it?” To which Curly replied, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

It’s a great question for all of us in light of a brand new year: What is your ONE THING?

As I was thinking about this, I made a note of every THING that intersects with my life in a typical week. Like most adults with kids, my schedule is pretty crowded:

  • Serve at church
  • Spend time w family
  • Get kids to school
  • Work
  • Pay bills
  • Get kids to practice
  • Physical Fitness/ Exercise
  • Social Media
  • Do stuff around the house
  • repeat

There are so many THINGS that occupy our time that if we’re not careful, we’ll allow the URGENT to replace the IMPORTANT. We’ll unintentionally CROWD OUT the most important things. We’ll get bogged down with the LITTLE things and fail to pursue our BIG dreams and GRAND adventures. Not because we don’t want to do them. They just get ‘lost’ amidst all the other things we’re doing.

Perhaps most striking: I noticed in my weekly schedule, I was doing almost nothing to realize the larger goals I had for myself. My ROUTINE wasn’t getting me any closer to my DREAMS.

This is where the book, ONE THING has been revolutionary for me. It helped me to look at my life as a series of goals I can set for myself. It coached me on how to break my large goals down into smaller steps I can take each day, each hour, etc. Here’s an example of some of the goals I have set this year:

My Personal Goals 2016

Now, I structure my week with the goal of simply ‘moving the ball forward’ in each category every day, no matter how small the progress. For example, if my goal is to save $ for a family trip to Disneyland, I may go without my morning latte and deposit that into my envelope designated for that event. Or, if it’s to run a half marathon by the end of the year, maybe I start by going on a walk around our neighborhood. In each case, I’m making progress. If I want to memorize a book of the Bible in a year, I start by memorizing two verses a month.

This gives me a sense of accomplishment each day. This gives me a series of “wins” in almost every category. It builds my confidence. It makes me happy. It gives me purpose. It is my MOTIVATION.

Even the apostle Paul knew the importance of ONE THING (singular focus) when he was writing to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

OK, I know it’s a ‘loose’ fit, but the point is that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi so that they would be reminded of their PURPOSE. So that they would not lose sight of their GOAL. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve got the most important part of my equation figured out. All the rest of my life’s pursuits come second to following Jesus. Now, the rest is fun.

Just finished another post. Just chalked up another ‘win’. Hope this has been helpful. 

My hope for you this year is for you to find your ONE THING.

How did the rock get there?

How did the rock get there?

How did the rock get there? In Death Valley, some of these “mystery rocks” have been known to weigh as much as 17 tons and travel over 300 yards per year.  How? Really not too mysterious at all: a consistent concentration of small elements (water, wind & sand) acting over time. They work together to gradually erode the surface of the rock and slowly move it across the desert floor.

How do strong marriages end?  How do successful people fail? How do great friendships go into free-fall? How do tight-knit families falter?

Erosion. Small things working in conjunction to break us down over time. Think about it: It’s usually not just one swing of the axe that fells a tree or that one crushing blow that KO’s the fighter, but rather a constant steady bombardment of hit after hit.  Sure the “quick knockdown” happens occasionally, but they are rare. They are the exceptions, not the rule.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Probably because I’m getting older and probably because the longer I’m around, I see increased “casualties of war” in the relationships & marriages among my close friends and family members.  Divorce, animosity, bitterness and revenge have infiltrated relationships I thought were steadfast and immovable. Almost without exception, the victims ask…

How did I get here?

Some call it a “slow fade”: a series of small poor choices that eventually take you way off course.  If a pilot is only .2 degrees off, the longer he travels, he can end up thousands of miles away from his destination. In relationships, I call this “erosion”.  Erosion happens when a relationship tumbles through life with small points of tension. These “tension points” cause bits of friction over time and are caused by a number of things: patterns of sin, petty arguments, sarcasm, unresolved conflict, outbursts of destructive anger, and even differing views of parenting, financial management, Throw in other ingredients like: stress, lack of margin and hectic lives and you’ve got a “perfect storm”: a series of concentrated elements that erode your spirit and move you way off course.

You see, friction causes a callous over time.  Of course, a callous causes lack of sensitivity. You become insensitive to the needs of others. You trade Christ’s mission for your agenda. Your mind is controlled by the sinful nature. You become selfish, rude, short-tempered, brittle, cold, defensive, argumentative. You lack warmth, joy, laughter, compassion, integrity & praise. This is why the Bible warns against “hardening your heart” and encourages us to set our minds on the Spirit.

Romans 8:5-6 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

What are the small things that erode your spirit?

What are the little detours that take you off course?

What are the small decisions you can make to bring things back on track?

In life? In marriage? In faith? In finances?

It’s time to identify those tension points. Eliminate the areas that cause friction. It’s time to have a conversation, an intervention, a redirection to bring us “back to center”.

When we set the desires of our heart and mind on Christ, when we align our decisions with Jesus, we won’t ask, “How did I get here?” We will not fall victim to EROSION.

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An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
”Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
”The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die”, she said.
”But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.” 
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves,
saying, “It made a difference for that one. The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”  The Star Thrower; Loren C. Eiseley 1969.

In his book, the ONE Thing, Gary Keller asks the question, “What’s the ONE THING I can do this week, that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

If you really break it down: Life is a series of singular decisions. Some large. Some small.

You’ve heard the saying, “Yard by yard; life is hard. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”

Don’t think of the many tasks you have to finish or the daunting goal you’ve set. Don’t think about the total amount of weight you have to lose or how many classes to pass before achieving your PhD. Start with one thing. One purpose. One direction. One focus.

One thing can make a difference.

Key Question: Are you doing TOO MANY THINGS?

See, the problem with multitasking is that it gives you MORE OPPORTUNITIES to FAIL QUICKER.  When we have several things spinning, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel defeated.  But there’s a psychological advantage when you knock one thing down at a time. I call it call it the importance of “achieving wins”.  Winning is contagious. It starts healthy habits of success in your life. It’s time to start winning. What is one thing you can do to WIN right now?  In any category. Start with ONE thing. One step. One victory.

The power of ONE.

One deal you can close from your list of prospectives.

One bill you can pay against a debt.

One load of laundry you can finish against the pile.

One email you can close from your inbox.

One call you can return.

One person you can connect with.

One commitment you can make.

One uninterrupted block of time to spend with someone.

One intervention to have.

One conversation to start.

One goal you can set.

The Bible has a lot to say about this. Philippians 4:13,14 says, “Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But ONE THING I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” 

Paul told the church in Philippi, the ONE THING matters. If you’re ONE THING is motivated by a GOD THING, it is unstoppable. 

And Jesus says in Matthew, if your FIRST THING is a GOD THING, everything else FITS.  There’s POWER in PRIORITIES in life.

So, what is your ONE THING?

One cause you can join. 

One passage you can study.

One person you can invite.

One neighbor you can meet.

One attitude you can correct.

One addiction you can break.

One life you can change for all eternity.

Start now. You can do this.  Refuse to see the vastness of the task in front of you. Just pick up a starfish and start slinging.  Decide to make a difference for that one. Your action will be contagious. Soon others will join. Goals will be realized. Results will be achieved. Movements will be started. Lives will be changed. Causes will be ignited.

Never underestimate the power of one.

Chilean mining disaster

On Thursday, August 5th 2010, 33 miners at the San Jose mine in Chile became trapped under several tons of rubble when the mine caved in. They were over 2000 feet beneath the surface.

Initially, the outlook wasn’t good. Even if they had lived through the collapse, they would most likely starve to death before being found.  So bleak were the circumstances, that when other miners heard about their plight, they came to the site and hammered 33 crosses into the ground, fearing the mine had become their tomb.  (after all, they 8 people had died in the mine years prior to this accident)

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On the slim chance that they could locate the miners, crews drilled 9 holes into the ground in hopes of finding any evidence of their survival.  Miraculously, 17 days later, one of the drill bits hit a hollow spot deep below the earth where the miners had gathered. As the tiny drill bit retracted from the chasm, attached was the message “We’re great down here in the refuge—the 33”.

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What ensued was one of the largest search and rescue operations in world history.  Chile would enlist the help and expertise from countries around the world. They would combine their resources. They would coordinate their efforts. Their plan was radical: drill down to them and build an escape capsule large enough to hoist them out. NASA would design the capsule. The process took over two months.  It cost tens of millions of dollars.

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But finally, 69 days later, with 1700 journalists from 39 countries assembled,  all 33 of them were pulled to safety one by one.  And when they reached the surface, who do you think was more excited?  The ones who had found life again?  Or the rescuers who had given it to them?  The answer is: BOTH of THEM!

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This remains the single most-watched event in human history, captivating a worldwide viewing audience of over 1 billion people. Why?

Because the world loves a great rescue story!

John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

What’s your response?  Have you “staked a cross in the ground” and given up on reaching your lost friends & neighbors? Is it easier to “stay on the surface”?

Let’s be a part of God’s great rescue.

What will it take?  The largest coordinated effort in history.

What if EACH ONE REACHED ONE?

This was Jesus’ plan.  He started with a FEW and he’s counting on YOU.

Eternity is worth the effort!

Recently, I challenged my church to take the 30-Day Sex Challenge.

OK, I’m not that “cool”. I stole the idea from another pastor who tried this years ago at his church in FL.  See the article 

In a nutshell, the challenge is:  If you’re married, work on PLEASING YOUR SPOUSE physically and emotionally over the next 30 days. If you’re single, COMMIT to ABSTINENCE.

The reasons?  1) Singles are deceived. 2) Marriages are falling victim to all kinds of temptations and bombardments.

First, singles believe that “playing the field” or living together before you’re married is the answer to a more fulfilling sex life. Actually, it isn’t.  See article This unbiased sociological study says that cohabiters are MORE LIKELY to never marry, to get d ivorced (if they get married), to have extramarital affairs, and be less satisfied sexually.  No thanks.  I love this article because it doesn’t come from a Christian source, yet it upholds the values outlined in the Bible for saving sex for marriage. It contradicts the lie that most singles pursue on a regular basis.

Second, marriages are losing battles on several fronts. Well-meaning married couples aren’t being intentional about PLEASING each other anymore.  They are stressed and overwhelmed. Their energy is sapped.  Some haven’t been intimate in months. Some have lost their romance all together.  There HAS to be a SOLUTION. There has to be something BETTER THAN THIS.

The rescue?  SEX.  Sex was created by God for the mutual enjoyment of a couple in the wondrous bond of marriage. It was the literal ACT that defined marriage in the Bible. It was the one thing that differentiated a marriage relationship from others.  What if a husband and wife had such a strong bond relationally, emotionally and physically, that they could easily repel any temptation?  What if all their needs were met by their SPOUSE?  What if they were so SATISFIED with each other that they didn’t need to seek fulfillment elsewhere.  That’s why the challenge is important!

Proverbs 5:18-20 (MSG) 18 …Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! 19 Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose— don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted! 20 Why would you trade enduring intimacies for cheap thrills with a [prostitute]? for dalliance with a promiscuous stranger?

Isn’t the Bible great?  Enjoying your spouse is ENCOURAGED in the BIBLE!  This weekend, we honored some couples who had been married the longest. We had two couples in our church who’d been married over 50 years!  The secret to their success?  They have never stopped dating each other. They enjoy each moment with each other and they see each day as a  new adventure.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 (MSG) 9 Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! 

Will YOU take the 30-day Sex challenge? 

I get asked this question all the time.

How far can I go without “going all the way”? How much can I do without doing too much?  How far to the edge can I get without falling off?

God’s picture is much different.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Out of all the sins mentioned in the Bible, sexual sin is the only one God says to RUN FROM. It’s like a tractor beam. It appeals and entices. God says DON’T stand and fight, FLEE!  Why? I believe that while every sin is equal in terms of how it separates us from God,  no sin has a greater earthly consequence.  Sexual sin ruins families, breaks trust, destroys marriages, taints ideals, creates false identities, manipulates and deceives.

The real question should be:  How far away can I get from something that can kill me?

Ephesians 5:3 (NIV) 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

What does “not even a hint” insinuate? Are you encroaching on that line or as far from it as possible?

What are your boundaries?  Maybe it’s time to redraw your lines.  Where are you tempted the most to sin sexually?  Movies? Pornography? Second glances? Prolonged hugs? Putting yourself in compromising dating situations? Clothing?  I read this week about a Victoria’s secret model who quit her job for her faith.  (don’t worry–very tasteful article) She felt her job was crossing her boundaries.  Now THAT’s drawing a LINE!

Our boundaries: My wife and I have exchanged passwords on our emails and facebook accounts.  We allow each other to view our txt conversations whenever.  We can check browser histories & have software to monitor sites we visit. We will NOT be alone with someone of the opposite sex.  Those are some of our boundaries. We don’t BREACH them because we care about TRUST in our marriage.  Sound a little drastic? Maybe. But it works for us.  What are some of your boundaries?

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:27-30 (NIV) 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off & throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

He was talking about how to deal drastically with sin in your life.  What are some drastic measures you need to take?

What do you need to “gouge out” or “throw away”?  Stop going to the gym, Quit your jobCancel your internet, Don’t return a txt msg, Drop internet coverage, Change your Cell phone number, Remove them from Facebook, Don’t meet for lunch

Sound over-the-top? Ya maybe. But I’d rather be extreme than lukewarm.  I’d rather leave no doubt on honoring God and pleasing my wife.  I think I read that somewhere once.

How far is too far?

Is it bad to show weakness?

I read recently the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.  The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.

“Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.  Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament.  Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches.  The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match.  Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.  This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced.  For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched.  Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out.  He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened.  “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”  Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard.  Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him.  The boy had won the match and the tournament.  He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match.  Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: “Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered.  “First you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo.  And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his greatest strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Allow your weakness to become God’s strength.  Allow your mediocrity to make way for God’s miracle. Consider this: Maybe God hasn’t intervened because you’re trying to do it all on your own.  Maybe God hasn’t demonstrated his power in your life because you’ve relied too much on your own strength. I mean, you CAN’T make it to heaven on your own!  God gave you help through his son Jesus Christ.  In our weakness, he becomes strong!

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Gideon in Judges 7: He was asked to deliver Israel from the Midianite army (as numerous as the sand on the seashore) who had impoverished and persecuted them for years. Gideon knew he’d have to amass quite an army to be victorious. Through all his efforts, he mustered only 32,000 men. They were totally outmatched and outnumbered, but here’s what God said:

Judges 7:2 (NIV) 2 The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her,

So God narrowed the “field” to 300 fighting men!  That’s right, an army of only 300 vs. an army more “numerous than the sand on the seashore”!  I think God was saying, “OK, now watch this!”

It’s been said that Chester Puller, a marine in Vietnam, when completely surrounded by the enemy closing in from all sides said, “Finally, we’ve got them exactly where we want them.”  That’s the fighting spirit!

I wonder how many times God’s been waiting to jump in, but I’ve relied too much on my talents. My resources. My finances. My wisdom.  I wonder if God is just waiting for me to shut up, slow up, or stop up so he can say “look up…now watch this!”