Don’t Give Up on Planting

A man reaps what he sows….(Gal 6:7)

Every night we sing Jesus loves me to our daughter right before we leave the room. One day, unprompted and out of nowhere, she started singing it too. Now it’s a family thing that we enjoy together.

This simple experience reminds me that what we plant into our lives and the people around us really does matter. Truth be told, I’ve been singing that song to my daughter before she was even born. But it took close to two years of singing it before she started singing it too. Now, we can see the fruit of that investment in her life. Simply due to that small, daily investment.

Friend, I want to encourage you to keep planting the things of God into your life and those around you. I know you don’t really see much fruit right now, but there will come a day when you will reap a harvest of God’s goodness. I know it doesn’t always feel that way and you wonder if you’re just moving in the wrong direction, but anything that is planted for God’s glory will always reap a good reward if you stay faithful.

This is true for any and every human relationship. As long as both parties are willing to be faithful you will see great fruit spring forth. Even if that other person isn’t willing to be faithful, you will still live a blessed life with God. He will make you fruitful. I know this to be true because I’ve seen it in my own life. So don’t get so focused on what’s not changing- keep planting, because one day you’ll see the evidence of it as it springs forth unprompted and out of nowhere.

Lord, I give you praise. I trust you. I want to keep planting and be faithful. Grow me and those around me, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Waiting is Worth It

The Lord longs to be gracious to you…..(Is 30:18)

Yesterday, Adah and I went out to lunch with Great-Grandma. We always go to the Mexican restaurant with her in town. The last couple of times I’ve ordered a cheese quesadilla for Adah off the menu and she LOVES it. Yesterday as soon as we walked into the restaurant she was begging for that cheese quesadilla. I had to explain to her multiple times that mommy had to order it and even after I ordered it we would need to wait for it to be made.

Patience isn’t really her thing. We’re still learning that, but I suppose patience isn’t really my thing either. But, when that cheese quesadilla was placed in her hands she was so happy. Waiting for it was worth it. I have to remind myself of that truth often too.

Waiting on God is worth it.

Running ahead of God will never go well.

But sometimes waiting on God means I have to go through something challenging and possibly even painful. What I have found for me is that the pain just really comes from some sort of sin issue in my life that’s being uprooted in the waiting. That never feels good, but if I’m willing to sit with it and wait for it go uproot, I grow and change into a new and different person.

So friend, there’s a cheese quesadilla the Lord is preparing for you. Don’t stuff yourself full of chips and salsa because you’re not willing to wait. Something good is coming, just believe it.

Lord, you have been so faithful. Your love is better than life. You make all things new. You restore, redeem and sanctify. Grow and change me, as I wait on you. In Jesus name, Amen.

Who Is Leading The Dance?

For we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place….(Isaiah 28:15)

The other day I incorrectly explained a ruling to a youth basketball team. I had misinterpreted the meaning of the rule because I didn’t do my due diligence to truly understand what it meant. I essentially believed something that wasn’t true because of my own apathy and shared that with someone else. Quite frankly I feel terrible for doing that. Especially with a youth team, because they are so impressionable and still learning the game.

Many of us believe things that aren’t true. I know that I do. Some things that I believe are a daily battle. I have one lie that I’ve dealt with for years. Truly, it is my greatest stumbling block the enemy tries throw me into that leads me away from rest. It encompasses two things that I love so much that I’ll dance with both of them if the dance makes me feel good. But friend, you’re not leading in that dance. Your sin is taking the lead.

You might think you’ve got this thing under control, but you don’t. You’ve misunderstood something about God and now you’ve convinced yourself that what you’re doing is OK, but it’s not and you see how it is slowly binding you up. As you look into your future you can see how this issue will only perpetuate itself, but you’re just not sure how to balance things out and stop.

I understand all of that. What I have learned to do is that I must surrender myself each day to the mercies of God. Throwing myself at His grace and asking not for my understanding, but His. Yes Lord, give us your understanding of these things! That is what we need. We need renewed hearts and right thinking. We need a fresh new way forward with God as our champion. Not held down by what we love so much, but set free by His grace that releases us from the grip of our sinful patterns and holds us close into His mercies that are new every morning.

Lord, forgive us! Are sins are many. We want to be a different people. A transformed people that honor you in all things. Lord, forgive me when I take my idols and dance with them before I dine with you. May my heart, mind and will be satisfied forever in Jesus, Amen.

No Longer Trapped in the Past

Do not let your heart envy sinners….(Proverbs 23:17)

How could God let that person go on without recourse? Why does it seem like they’re life is so blessed? How can they be so blind to how they hurt you?

If we have lived life long enough, we have been hurt by others. We have experienced things we never imagined would happen. We’ve been undercut, hurt and forgotten. It’s unfortunately a real part of life that we just cannot keep from coming to our doorstep. The only way I have found to execute it is to choose to have a heart of thankfulness instead of jealousy.

It’s so easy to think, “Look at their life! It’s so blessed! How is that fair? What about me?”

Friend, don’t go there with it. Choose instead to dwell on your blessings, big or small. Because if someone else is looking in on your life they most likely think you live a pretty blessed life.

What we must learn to do is not see life through our hurt, but instead, experience life in victory. What belongs to us in Christ is a daily gift that is meant to be received in our hearts and shared with those around us. How can we share that gift if all we want is something else or some sort of justice from a past situation that we just can’t seem to let go?

I have met a number of people hardened by life and I have met others who have taken their pain and let it serve as fuel to feed their passion in ways that are healthy, redemptive, and life-giving. It’s really up to us what story we will tell ourselves. That story always informs how we live. Because if I think God owes me something because of someone else’s actions I’ll be holding my hand out to Him instead of letting Him show me all the wonderful blessings I have for today. Walking with Him in the freedom for today, not in the trappings of the past.

Lord, you are so wonderful. Your love endures forever. Your grace is always sufficient. Be that hope in my life today, I pray, that I might not dwell on the things of old, but live in the grace that is mine for today. In Jesus name, Amen.

I Know You Want Them to Change….

know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ….(Gal 2:16)

I know you want to see that person’s behavior change. I really do. That family member, friend, co-worker or church member. You pray continually that God would just change them! I understand, because I’ve been there too.

I think that’s the wrong way to pray. Behavior modification will only get us so far. What that person needs is a deeper understanding of the gospel, not by “being better,” but by embracing Christ and all that He is and has for them.

So instead of praying wholeheartedly for new behavior, pray instead to be the love of God to them through Christ. At least, what I have found for me is that when I pray for their behavior to change I get annoyed and impatient with them when it doesn’t. What I need along this journey is a deeper sense of the gospel too and the patience to wait with them as God slowly changes their heart. This will take a new sense of belief and a different kind of prayer life as we watch God awaken something in them that starts first in the heart and bleeds out into their behavior.

It will take a kind of grace and patience that we just don’t have apart from Christ.

Lord, help me to be patient, loving and kind to everyone that I meet. Forgive me when I become discouraged by the behavior of others. Help me to be the love of God to them, so that your love changes their hearts. That’s what they need most and it’s what I need most too. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Like Heavy Baggage

If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ….(Gal 1:10)

Insecure people carry a band of others with them into their calling. Here’s what I mean. I have found, at least for me, that when I’m operating out of an unhealthy place of insecurity I’ll take all sorts of people that I’m seeking some sort of approval from into my life and ministry. I’ll hope they’re watching or noticing. I’ll pray that they’ll finally see what I’ve been wanting them to see. I’ll forget that the best of me isn’t found when I’ve got a band of people following me, but when I’ve learned the value of living not in past or too far ahead in the future, but in the mundane moments of today.

Yes, the best of me is transformed in little moments. Moments when I chose to listen instead of be in a hurry. Moments when I didn’t seek the approval of people while serving the Lord. Moments when I really did make myself super small, so that Jesus could truly become the most profound thing in my life.

What I have found for me, is that the people I carry with me the most when seeking approval are the ones that I have been hurt by. Those I felt passed me over, didn’t love of care for me like I had hoped, or didn’t grant me the opportunities I was hoping for in ministry. Those are the ones I take with me, as if I had something to prove to them.

All of those people serve as heavy baggage. Baggage that makes you “perform” instead of simply be a person. That kind of baggage will sweep you away into a land made only for people who seek the approval of others and who get caught up on doing so much for God that they forget to be a person first. Maybe all of this running in your life is really about you trying to prove something, but friend, you already have His approval. That’s hard for me to truly grasp sometimes. I’m still learning that as I embrace the value of being still and being the Lord’s only, forever.

Lord, I want your approval. I don’t need the approval of the world. I just need you. Transform me in mundane moments, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Minister By Doing This

So I will gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well…..(2 Cor 12:15)

The other day, after officiating a basketball game in Mercer County I ran into some teens from my former ministry in Aledo. This brought back very fond memories to me, of being part of their lives, pouring myself out as best as possible to create a place where they felt deeply loved, invited and welcomed.

As much as I miss those days, if I could go back and do them again, I would do them quite differently. It’s in this season now in my life where I’m learning much more about ministry while being still than I was when doing it.

The Lord is teaching me that people don’t want you to do things for them in ministry the most. Sure, you can do something by offering a great message, singing a wonderful song, writing a great blog post or offering a great service. What they really need and want is not for you to do something for them, but for you to pour yourself and gladly receive them.

There’s a stark difference between those who minister by doing and those who minister by pouring themselves out. Whenever we pour ourselves out we give not just our talent to people, but human connection as we entrust our hearts with theirs.

Friend, did you ever stop and think that the person in your small group Bible study doesn’t need your exegesis on Luke 18, but someone to simply sit and listen to their pain? Before we can ever reach the pinnacle of ministry, we must open wide our hearts first. First unto the Lord, as we learn the power and value of rest and secondly unto the people whom God has given us to Shepherd.

So instead of becoming so consumed by doing, pour yourself out instead and watch as God increases your capacity for ministry because you’ve found that being His grace unto others is better than being some kind of talent for Him.

Lord, forgive us when we forget what ministry means. Help us to be like Jesus. I long to be like Him. Use my life for your glory and namesake, each day, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

Share About Where You’ve Been

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness….(1 Cor 11:30)

Last night I shared something deeply personal at youth with my girl’s small group. I have learned that over the years that what teenagers need are not adults who have it all together, but ones who share their trials, struggles and hardships. This gives the opportunity for you to put God on display as you make Him shine in the dark areas of your life.

Whenever we share our deepest darkest moments with others, it always creates a deeper bond of trust with those who will listen. If you receive some sort of push back from others, it’s probably because they don’t like being vulnerable and you doing so makes them scared. Simply because they don’t want to go there in their life.

But each time we open our hearts to share, it prepares people for the struggles they will one day face too. This is why I do this so often, especially with teenagers. Not only does it create a deeper bond of trust, but grants them an open door to know that I’m someone they can talk to when the darkness hits and now they’re walking a similar path as mine. What they’ll need most is a friend who can listen, love and share God’s victory in the darkness.

So if you’re wondering if you should share that part of your life or not, consider sharing it with someone today. You never know who might need to hear it, because someday they’ll be walking it too.

Lord, you use every moment. Each step along our journey if we’re willing to walk by faith. Lord, I surrender myself to you. Do a good work of grace in my life as I share the dark moments and your victory through them, in Jesus name, Amen.

Win This Battle First

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.…(2 Cor 10:5)

The battles in life we must win are not first won in arguments with other people. If I have tension with others and disagreements that come about from that tension I haven’t won when I have won the argument. Before I enter into any hard conversations with others I must first win the argument I have with myself. Because if I don’t, that argument that I am not winning in my own heart and mind will infect the relationships around me.

As I tell myself all the wrong things, those infectious words will leap out like venom upon the ones I should be seeing with Christ-like eyes. Instead of eyes that are filled with negative thoughts about them.

This is by far one of my greatest challenges. As I daily die to wrong thinking I can find a greater sense of joy with those around me, but when I focus on all the negative things, I became ensnared by them so that when I do indeed face that person in conversation what comes out is not hope and belief, but criticism and unbelief.

On this journey of life, what I am learning is that the thoughts of the enemy will always be easy to entertain, but what must come first in life is my willingness to take those thoughts captive so that those thoughts don’t turn around and trap me first.

If you wonder why your relationships in life aren’t thriving I would suggest to say that you have a problem in your own heart. An unwillingness to think right thoughts coupled with a misunderstanding on how to have hard, growing and kind conversation always leads to disconnection. So before you open your mouth, clean out your heart so that you can come before every person with the eyes, heart and mind of the Lord Jesus. Not conversing with them through your pain, but uplifting them in light of love, mercy and grace.

Lord, I come to you today seeking you for more grace in my life. I need that. I take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. You are my source of true satisfaction in this life. Help me to be satisfied daily by you, in Jesus name, Amen.

Sometimes I Work Too Hard

his eyes were not content with his wealth….(Ecc 4:8)

I started working too hard again. I do that from time to time when I’m trying to fix things or make things happen. I’ve not always been the best at resting and waiting for God to work. I’ve always been a go-getter and a doer. I’ve spent very little time, spending very little time doing something. I honestly can’t say that I’ve arrived in this area of my life where I choose rest over work. My default is to always choose work over rest. That tends to leave me feeling a bit drained at times. Where my creative energy feels zapped, yet I still feel this internal pressure to create, more and more and more.

Contentment is a hard journey for me. I’ve never had a desire to want lots of things in life. Contentment in material things has always come fairly easily for me. The area where God is growing me, is finding contentment in rest.

So maybe, dear friend, if you’re much like me, what you need most in life is not more energy to create, but more submission in your life to rest. After all, that bank account, job, or future goals are not where your security is found. What should be your passion is learning how to find enjoyment not in what you have, but in the one who holds it all together. In recent years I have made myself take one day of rest. A day where I don’t strive or toil, exercise or push myself to do more. A day where I can simply be still with God. Truly, this day has continued to hold me together because in it, I feel God holding me.

Once we learn that value of living not in things, but in Him, we can truly enjoy what we have before us instead of striving and toiling for what we think we need to have true joy and security in life.

Lord, I want to be found faithful in you. To enjoy rest and be immersed in Jesus through it. Whenever I start running too hard, pull me back, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.