Quit Using the Bible As Your Excuse

The Bible spans thousands of years and speaks to different seasons, circumstances, government systems, etc, etc. It is a vast piece of literature. Because it is so vast, you can isolate a scripture to prove just about any point you want.

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I can find scriptures that point to needing to work harder and scriptures that say rest.

I can find scripture that tell me to save money, and scriptures that say give it all away.

I can find scripture that tells me to forgive someone who has sinned and scriptures that tell me to kick the sinner out of the church.

Sometimes as a reader, I can get confused. Am I suppose to work harder or Abide? The resolve of the tension of all these seemingly different perspectives are found in your heart.

There are times when I need to work harder because my heart is lazy. There are times when I need to rest because my heart is stressed.

There are times I need to save because I have not been a good steward, however, there are times when I need to sacrificially give.

You get the point.

There is plenty of room for both things to be true in scripture. And the place this works out is in my heart.

Can we be honest for just a second?

I have found in my own life, I look for the passage that fits what I desire and then use it as an excuse to do what I want.

Yes, I just admitted it in writing.

But guess what, you do too.

If you know how to use google at a elementary level you can find a passage that will support what you want to do.

Stop it.

Deal with the brokenness of your heart and quit using scripture as an excuse to do what you want.

Trust me, it’s better this way.

What To Do When You Are So Busy You Can’t Think

Because some days it does not go the way you want it to.

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In the world I dream up in my head, I go to the office. Have 30 minutes or so to think, reflect and plan a strategic day. I schedule all the time I need to get the tasks done. I also spend time with our team helping everyone accomplish their goals.

But this is not the real world.

The real world is that there are 47 email in my inbox that need to be dealt with. Twenty of those are left from yesterday because someone came into my office to ask a question in my scheduled time to get to inbox zero the last 30 minutes of the day.

I should be able to find peace by looking at my to-do list, but it has been over 2 weeks since I have gone through all my lists and projects.

I am barely surviving.

The biggest problem with this scenario is not that it happens every once in a while, but for so many of us, it is life. A life of constantly reacting to the thousands of demands that beg for our attention.

I’m not always the best at rising above this tyranny of the urgent, but I have had some victories over time, learned some hard lessons, and read a lot from people a lot smarter than me.

But first… what does this have to do with God.

Everything.

When your life is spinning out of control, you make no room for God. Period.

Sure, when you throw up, “help me God” prayers along the way, or when you finally realize you can’t take it anymore, you will sit down and beg God for grace. But in the midst of busyness of the day when your day is controlling you, unless you have superpowers I don’t have, you don’t give any attention to God.

So what do you do?

1. Prioritize Sleep.

Vince Lambardi was correct. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” If you are tired and worn out, do everything in your power to get 8 hours of sleep. If you can’t do it, buy Tylenol PM to help. I promise if you go to bed early and get 8 hours of sleep, you will wake up with a different perspective.

2. Gain Perspective Through Scripture.

After you have slept 8 hours, spend time in the word. Feel free to use EXAMEN.me. There is actually a topical reading plan, “7 days on facing trials and suffering.” Let the truth of scripture root out anxiousness and worry and instill trust and dependence.

3. Make a list in the presence of God.

After you have let the word wash over your anxiousness and change your perspective, make a list. My suggestion is to pray and ask God to reveal tasks and projects that are stressing you out. Write them down. If you soul is quiet, I promise you will feel the things that are stressing you out rise to the top.

4. Do it.

Block out a time. Say no to other things. Show some discipline and get to work.

5. Rinse and Repeat.

Do it all over again.

Life is crazy, but God has given you priorities. Stay in the fight and keep living the adventure he has you on.

Surviving God’s Waiting Room

Waiting. Not my favorite subject.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Days, months, even years go by and you are still waiting.

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All the while, there is a desperate need, a heartache, a thorn that is wedged so deep in your soul it keeps you up at night. You pray, you seek counsel, you pray more, you confess, you cry out for help, you subconsciously start to withdraw from people and things, you snap at those you love because the stress of waiting. So… you pray more, seek more counsel, and on and on.

I get why people leave God’s waiting room embittered and disillusioned by God. The most difficult times in my life have been when I feel like I will never get to leave the confines of the dreaded waiting room. Does God even listen?

I don’t know how he uses it in your life, but God uses his waiting room in my life to make me come to the end of myself. He uses it to show me that his ways are much better than mine. He uses it to force me to deal with my wicked heart and trust him.

The greatest joys of my life have come from tasting the fruit I was seeking while waiting in that lonely place.

I hate it while I am there, but it is a grace. A grace that grows me in maturity and dependence on God.

If you are waiting on God for something, will you do me a favor?

Please, don’t give up.

Don’t let the hard days of waiting overshadow the joy of the fruit you are waiting on. And by all means, don’t get embittered when you don’t get the answer you want right away.

We don’t need more people who prayed once, got impatient, and walked away from God believing he doesn’t care.

We need more people who are willing to learn to trust God, believe his promises, and learn to live by his timing.

I promise the wait will be worth it. It is not easy in the waiting, but I can’t think of a single person who has remorse for waiting on God. However, I can think of a lot of people who have serious regrets because they didn’t wait and forged their own way.

Wait. Trust. Seek.

You’ll be glad you did.

2 Simple Steps to Crush Fear

When I grew up, I was fearless. There was nothing I wouldn’t say, do, or try. Just ask my family…and my principals. But as I have gotten older, I have realized fear places a bigger role in my life than I would like to admit.

fear-man

I can understand why; I have a lot more responsibility. If I make a mistake it affects my family, ministry, finances, etc. But sometimes I just wish for the days when I didn’t have a care in the world.

I am sure I am not alone in this. As you grew up, you dreamed, had fun, always hoped for something great and rarely even acknowledged fear. But I bet if you analyzed it, just like me, you would see fear permeate your actions, from parenting, to your work environment, even the way you walk with God.

So what are we to do?

Growing up as a little brother insured one thing at my house. You were going to get beat up. Where I grew up, it is a rite of passage for every younger brother.

But rolling over and taking a beating without a fight was never a part of my DNA. I had to get even.

I had a two step formula for success.

  1.  Hit him when he wasn’t looking.
  2.  Run like crazy.

I think this strategy works for fear as well.  God clearly doesn’t want us to live in fear. In fact, “Do not fear” is the most frequent command in the Bible.

Just like an older brother, fear walks around wanting to dominate us. To scare us from doing all God has called us to do.

Two simple steps to crush fear.

1. Start Moving

2. Keep Running

When fear begins to paralyze you, take it as a cue to go for it. Start moving by hitting it in the face and then run like crazy and don’t look back.

So, what fears do you feel in your life right now?

Do you have a dream that you have put on the back burner? It won’t be perfect, but start. Then don’t give up. Keep running; it may take months or years to see it realized.

Do you need to have a hard conversation with a friend? Pick up your phone and text them right now and ask them to lunch or coffee. Then keep running and have the conversation.

Are you scared to take a hard look at your finances and start paying off debt. Start. It will get hard, but keep running.

One Final Thing.

Fear does not exist in areas that don’t matter. The enemy only uses fear to keep you from doing what should be done.

Remember, you have the Holy Spirit of God inside of you. If you listen, he is always saying, “Do not be afraid”. If you start to feel a little fear, hit it as hard as you can, start running and never look back!

How Ordinary Things Make a Great Marriage

I have never met a couple on their wedding day who did not want to have a great marriage. The twinkle in their eye is made of the hope of a great life together.

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Fast forward months, years, or even decades and for a vast number of couples, the twinkle in their eye is replaced with a weary or even bitter heart towards their spouse.

I have done everything in my life not to end up there. But I have seen it happen to the best of people.

So where is the hope that this won’t be you?

I take my advice from John, a gentle and godly man. He was the father of a friend in college. I don’t know how to explain it, but when you walked into their house, it was different. You could tangibly feel the love and respect in the home.

I ran into John a number of years later. He was the speaker at a marriage conference, and I was the worship leader. Because I had seen the magic of his marriage and home, I was on the edge of my seat with wide open ears.

I don’t remember anything he said that weekend but this:

“The best way to have an extraordinary marriage is by doing ordinary things, every day.”

I felt let down. That was the sum of his wisdom? I was expecting a mind-blowing nugget of wisdom or truth. To be honest, I didn’t understand the statement at first.

But as he began to unpack the statement, I realized how brilliant it was. We all want great marriages, but we are often unwilling to do the everyday work to have it.

What he was saying is focus on the small things everyday and they will add up to a great marriage.

So what does it mean to do the ordinary, the small things?

It means opening the car door, listening intently, and not reacting to annoyances with anger, but with patience. It is choosing to help with the dishes and holding hands while walking in the parking lot.

The greatness of your marriage is the sum of all the small and seemingly insignificant things you do… everyday.

If you are frustrated in your marriage relationship and have lost the twinkle in your eye, give yourself to the small things… everyday. Don’t worry about planning a perfect date night. Start with the small and slowly build a culture of love and respect. Then date nights will be incredible.

If you still have the twinkle, find even more small ways to honor, love, and respect your spouse to keep growing.

But whatever you do, don’t give up!

So what about you? What are some of the small things you do that really matter to your spouse? Help us all out and let us know what works for you in the comments.

Slow Down the Busyness In Your Life

I can easily spend an afternoon in my office working like a crazy man yet walk away not feeling like I accomplished anything significant. There is never a lack of distractions to woo me away from important work.

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I am ashamed at how I can look back on a day off with my family and realize I have not made one heart-level connection with my kids or my wife. We may have spent the day together, but the busyness of getting in and out of the car, putting away shoes, and getting snacks for everyone has kept me busy… but it has kept me from the work that matters. Connecting with my family

Busy, busy, busy… And I don’t think it is ever going to stop.

So what am I to do? Give up? Be busy and be miserable?

No.

I feel like I am a rookie in this area, but here is a phrase that is helping me to grow.

Slow down in the things of life that don’t matter. Speed up in the things that do.

Life will never slow down long enough for you to get a grasp on it. If you are going to slow down the unimportant and speed up the important, you need a plan. Here is a starting point.

Identify what is important and what is not.

What do you value? Be brave enough to wrestle with this. Is it administrative perfection, or relational depth? Do you value mindless and passive entertainment on your phone and TV, or growing with Christ, learning, creating, and connecting with others? Wrestling with this question takes honesty and guts, but it pays in spades.

Put the brakes on the unimportant.

We all have pet unimportant, habitual, and time sucking habits. Most of them seem mundane and safe. They are not. They are robbing you of fulfilling what you really want to do in life. A good place to start to look for your pet habit is in media – including social, perfectionism, and time commitments you made without considering point 1.

Pour fuel on the important

Is it important to you? Kick people out of your office. Put it on your calendar and do not relent. Guard it. If you have to, get out of bed early to do it or go to bed late. Don’t be a jerk to others, just do it. If you feed the important, you will find a surge of energy that will be a breath of fresh air.

Our lives are so full; I am confident you will struggle with busyness until you are very late in life. But whatever you do, don’t let it overwhelm you. You can keep it in check! Start today.

 

So, what needs important things needs to speed up in your life?

Let me know in the comments below!

The Truth About Idols In Your Life

The longer you follow Christ, the more sophisticated, nuanced, and less noticeable the idols you treasure become. But do not fool yourself, they are still there.

truth-idolsWhen you first started walking with Christ, your idols (and mine) were obvious: extreme pride, self sufficiency, materialism, selfishness, etc.

Fast forward to today.

I am sure you still battle materialism, but now you probably call it buying nice things.

You still have pride; now you just call it your reputation or sharing your life with others on social media.

Self-sufficiency is still very present; now you just call it working hard.

Selfishness still runs through you veins; it is just easier to call it creating boundaries so you can have some time left for yourself.

There is nothing wrong with buying nice things, having a good reputation, working hard, or creating boundaries. Most of the time these are good ideas. But if your heart is as wicked as mine, there is a good chance there is a sophisticated idol lying in some of your desires.

When you first started walking with Christ, the idols you struggled with were obvious. Ten years later it is ___________.

Get Unstuck in Your Devotional Life

Like most activities in life, your devotional life can get stuck. As humans we always strive for predictability and security. But with your devotional life, doing the same thing over and over can lead you into a religious rut instead of giving spiritual life.

 

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Without realizing it, you do the same thing over and over again. You are trained by the habit. For me the alarm rings, I make coffee, log into EXAMEN.me and start doing my thing. The same thing I did yesterday. And because of my personality and theological training, I tend to approach the scripture in a similar way.

Part of this is good. It is what gets you into the healthy habit of engaging and reflecting on scripture for spiritual transformation. But after months or years it can become a dull routine with no life.

So how do you get unstuck in your devotional life?

Renew Your Mind

It is so easy to do things and not remind ourselves why we do them. Before you begin your devotional time, reset you vision. Remember that personal devotional time is not just a habit; it is an opportunity to commune with the living God, read his very words, and engage in conversation with him. Much more than a habit, it is a intimate opportunity to commune with the living God.

Change Things Up

If you usually use your laptop or mobile device to read scripture, start using a printed bible. If you usually pray at the end of the scripture reading, start praying before. If you read 3–5 chapters a day, force yourself to only read and meditate on 3–5 verses. If you usually look at the study notes in your bible, use a bible with no study notes. Change it up, change it up, change it up. It will help you seek the same subject, Christ, but lets you travel down a unfamiliar road with new and beautiful scenery.

Don’t Give Up

If your time with Christ is dry, please do not give up. We all have desert times, but there is no price you can pay for the growth that happens over a long period of time when we have been trained by the discipline of personally worshiping and communing with God.

So how do you get unstuck? I want to hear your suggestions in the comment section below.

 

Do You Really Know God?

I have 4 Bible apps, 2 Scripture memorization apps, and 2 devotional apps on my phone. At the drop of a hat, Google can point me to a passage if I remember at least one key word. It has taken the place of even the best concordance.

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We have never had more access to the scripture and the tools we need to incorporate it into our lives. I even own EXAMEN.me, a web app, to help people interact with the scripture.

Yet, I bet if you ask the average church attender, this increase of access to biblical information and tools has not increased the impact the bible has in his/her life.

Sure, some are using these tools and are growing in their walk with God. But Christians are not immune to the challenges of the informational age. Namely, access to information does not automatically turn into knowledge or transformation.

TS Elliot once said,

“Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.”

My fear is that for a lot of Christ followers, the scripture is more information than knowledge.

But let me be clear. I am not talking about knowledge, as in I went to seminary and can give you a rundown of the differences in the theories of  the atonement.

I’m talking about deep in your heart knowledge. Where you go beyond quoting a passage on Facebook to where you have held on to a passage through a season to know that God’s word is true.

The bible has never been easier to read. There has never been more resources to help us understand it. But please, don’t let the easy access to it make you lazy in the way you approach it.