The Why’s Man of Christmas

And the winner of this year’s Christmas song of my heart is… drum roll, please…

Such A Strange Way To Save The World!

It comes at the Christmas account from the vantage point of Joseph, and it hits at the heart of how confusing all the stuff God was doing in his life seemed to be at the time. Joseph had to be full of why’s. And the chorus of the song reflects what some of them might have been. Check these out and see if you can relate…

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the World

As I listened to that song weeks or maybe months ago for the first time this Christmas season, it resonated in my heart. I have my own list of why’s. The season of life I’m in right now brings with it a fair share of them.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening. God certainly spoke to Joseph. It’s not that Joseph wouldn’t obey God. Indeed he did every time the Lord directed him to do something. It’s just that Joseph was caught off-guard and confused by how God was working. So he had some why’s.

You probably know what that’s like, too…

– Why did your loved one pass away?

– Why did that relationship not work out?

– Why didn’t you get that job?

– Why haven’t you been able to fulfill your dream yet?

Listen, don’t give up on God. I know He may not be doing things the way you’d want or the way you think He should, but you can trust Him. Stay close to Him. Ask all the why’s you want. Then listen, and obey, as He answers and directs.

Joseph ended up fulfilling prophecies, protecting the life of the Savior, raising Him to be a godly man who knew Scripture and treated people with respect. Joseph played an incredible role in the life of the only begotten Son of God. Joseph influenced the man side of Jesus in a powerful way. Sure, he had his why’s, but his why’s didn’t stop him from listening and obeying.

And here’s the rest of the story… Your why’s won’t keep God from working powerfully in you, through you and for you. You too can be a why’s man- or woman- and still make a huge difference in this world.

So, if you’re going through a challenging season in life right now and you have a lot of why’s, put this song on repeat, and let it reassure you that it’s all going to work out.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Check Out My New Book

I am pleased to announce to this audience the release of my second book. While the first book was aimed at empowering leaders, this book is a daily devotional with 150 one-page devotions designed to help individuals have develop a consistent daily journey with the Lord. Each devotion contains a story, a spiritual truth, a passage of Scripture where the truth can be further searched out, a key verse from that passage to carry in your heart throughout the day, and a 2-3 sentence prayer starter to help kickstart your conversation with the Lord on the topic of the day.

We all face enough negative elements in life which drain us spiritually and emotionally. This book is designed to help us take a look at life from God’s perspective… The Upside.

While you may recognize some of the stories or thoughts from this blog, I believe the deeper spiritual truths which accompany them in this book will enhance your nearness to God. I encourage you to get a copy for yourself. And these would make great gifts for family or friends who want to kick off the new year keeping their resolution to grow spiritually.

The book is available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your life each week through this blog. I hope that the book will be an added blessing to you.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

You Are Making A Difference

The picture above was taken the day AFTER Alex, Austin and I had mulched all the leaves in the yard with the riding mower and blown all the leftover debris off the driveway. Yes, you read it right… the day after. We must have billions of leaves on our property.

I woke up the mowing after we had made the yard look so great to see this view. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. We wasted all our time yesterday. It looks like we didn’t do anything at all.”

But I knew better. There have been times in the past when I had the mentality of just letting all the leaves finish falling, and then trying to mulch them all. Fun story, I caught a riding mower on fire one time doing that. I had let so many leaves build up that they got caught up under the engine and ignited.

Lesson learned. Mulch anyway. Sure, the yard may only look clean for one afternoon. Sure, you may have to do it all again in a couple of days. Mulch anyway. It makes a difference. Once the leaves get soaked by a rain or build up too much, the job is incredibly difficult and takes much longer.

You know what else is crazy? Sometimes we each look at our lives and feel like I felt looking at that yard covered once more by leaves. If we’re not careful, we can begin to think that what we are doing to help others, bless others, serve others is not making a difference. Yet, it is. If we didn’t do what we had done yesterday, people’s situations would be even more difficult today.

You are making a difference in the lives of those around you. You’re making a difference at work, at church, at school, in your community. So, there are new problems today. There would be double the problems if you didn’t do what you do.

Paul told the believers in the church at Galatia not to get tired of doing because eventually they would see that their efforts were making a difference… people’s lives were being impacted.

The same is true for you. Don’t give up on doing good for others because it looks like you’re not making a dent in the problem. One day, you’ll be glad you did what you did.

As for me, I’ve got more leaves to mulch…

The Space Between The Bookends

With the upcoming release of my next book imminent within the next few weeks- as the Lord’s helps- I thought back to a time about a year and a half ago when I came home from a trip speaking somewhere to find a gift Angela had waiting for me. I pulled the tissue paper from the gift bag, peered inside, and pulled out the two dark, wooden L-shaped objects. She explained, “They’re bookends… for the books you will write and publish.”

We had heard that we should keep something in front of us to remind us of the dreams we are working toward, and she knew that I had hit a point in the process where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get finished. So, she made me those two simple bookends to remind me that one day my books would sit between them.

A day before my birthday several months later, my author copy of my first book arrived, and- after flipping through it, taking some pictures, and basking in the glow of the completed project- I had a spiritual moment as I placed the completed dream in the space between the bookends.

At first, I kept the bookends tight up against either side of that first book, but then something happened. I remembered that I have other books in my heart. As I began to write what I thought would be my second book, I looked at the first book sitting in the space between the bookends and realized that I needed to scoot them apart to make room for more of the books I plan to write.

Interestingly, I hit writer’s block on that book, and moved on to the next book when I couldn’t seem to break through. All along, I stared at the space between the bookends, and I determined that I would fill it.

It took me a little longer than I had originally planned. I wanted to release the book this weekend. I have faced challenges and setbacks, but throughout the entire process, there has been that space between the bookends- no longer completely empty- which reminded me to stay at it so that my dream of filling it would actually become reality.

One day a decade from now, I plan to have at least ten books I have written sitting in what used to be an empty space between the bookends. And here’s what I know… God has given me the dream and desire to write, the ideas for the books, the mind to conceptualize thoughts, the resources I need to capture those thoughts in print, and the team I need to make each book its best.

But I have to do my part if I am going to honor Him and His blessings by writing those books. I have to actually sit at the desk and put my fingers on the keyboard. I have to do the work of writing if I am going to fill the space between the bookends.

I give thanks to God for helping me complete this most recent book. It makes the broader dream of being an author more of a reality. I give thanks to those who have helped me make my writing better. I give thanks to Angela for showing me the space between the bookends.

I don’t know what you’re dream is, but I hope you have some visual to help keep it in front of you. I hope you have someone cheering you on. (I believe in you, in case no one has told you that.) And I hope that you will take that with which God has blessed you, put it together with your hard work, and see your dream become reality!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Alive!

Have you ever felt so alive that you wonder how you could call what you thought was living before actually alive? Lately, I feel like I have come into an epiphany as it relates to my faith. It’s as if I’m reading and hearing Scriptures for the first time which I’ve read and heard my entire life. When I talk with the Lord, it is with more confidence in Him… in His love… in who He has created me to be and in who He has made me into by adopting me as His son.

But to feel this alive comes at a price. It means facing challenges you never foresaw. It means being willing to look at life through a new set of lenses. It means having to… painfully… admit that I had not achieved the fullness God has for me.

This kind of newness of life comes from the passionate, and maybe sometimes even desperate, pursuit of knowing God even more closely, loving Him even more deeply, and serving Him even more sincerely. I may have more answers than I did before, but those answers have opened up a whole new world of questions. And with those questions, I find myself digging deeper into Scripture… making sure I find quality and quantity time to talk with the Lord so I can ask Him about the answers to these new questions… and more quickly moved to shower Him with thanks, gratitude, acknowledgment and adoration.

The result? I am alive!

No, all my challenges have not been overcome. All my problems have not been solved. All my issues have not been resolved. But most of those things are external. What is happening inside of me is overpowering all of that. And soon, if it hasn’t already begun to, it will impact and invade all of that external stuff.

I don’t know what kind of challenges or crises you are facing today, but you don’t have to face them with dullness and lifelessness inside you. Bring your real problems… those authentic questions you’ve been afraid to ask… your frustrations and limitations… bring them all to God. Ask Him to get involved, and you’ll find that He will. As He does, you will begin to experience life seeping back into you. That seeping will turn into a trickle… that turns into a flow… that turns into a flood! You’ll be more alive than you could have imagined before.

Jesus said that He came to give us a full life, an abundant life. Let’s not settle for less!

Finally

It broke. It finally broke. The stifling, smothering, suffocating oppression of summer heat finally broke yesterday. At least where I live.

Now, if you’re not from the Deep South, then perhaps you may struggle to understand the significance of this deliverance. We basically have two seasons here… summer, and not summer. It begins getting hot by March or April and doesn’t stop until October or November. By June, I’m tired of the heat. By July, I’m used to it, and doing whatever I can to stay cool. By August, it’s miserable. By September, I’m begging God to take the heat away. And yet it lingers.

But there is that day each fall, usually in the middle of October, when the the first hint of a cool front passes through, and you wake up to walk outside, realizing that long sleeves would actually feel nice. Friday night lights and pumpkin spice lattes suddenly sound reasonable and enjoyable. It’s the day the strength of summer’s hold is first weakened, and hope springs alive in your soul.

I’m sure the folks who live up North would challenge my “suffering” with their own version of winter arriving in September and not breaking until April, but the concept is the same. There is that moment when the crushing weight of waiting in the struggle begins to lose its grip.

Some of us know what it feels like when we go through seasons of life that are very much like an oppressive summer or a brutal winter. We know what it is like to long for the strangle-hold to be loosened. When that first break in its grip comes, so does hope. Hope that we can make. Hope that we will come out of this season and into the next. Hope that brings with it a breath of fresh air.

If you’re going through one of those seasons right now, just know that “not summer” will soon overpower “summer” in your life. The heat will break. The cool will come and refresh your soul. God’s Word says that, in the natural, seasons would come and go. It applies to the rest of your life as well. Hang in there. Keep walking outside every morning and hoping. One morning soon, you will open the door, and that first briskness will waft over your warm cup of coffee, letting you know that your new season is almost here!

Trek Or Tent

Note: Straight-Up Spiritual Post

Last night, standing in a church service where I was about to speak, the person leading worship said something about following God as He leads us like the Israelites did when God led them through the wilderness using a pillar of cloud during the daytime and a pillar of fire at night.

Looking into Scripture for the reference point, the cloud/fire pillar was where God would be as He led His people to the Promised Land after delivering them out of slavery in Egypt. When it was time for the people to move and go in a particular direction, God would lead them using this cloud/fire pillar. It was tall enough for the millions of them to see and follow. As long as God moved, they moved.

But there would be points along the journey when God knew they needed to stop and rest. So, the pillar would stop moving. When it did, everyone stopped, and they would set up camp there. They would erect the Tabernacle… the place of worship where man connected with God… right underneath that cloud/fire pillar. Then they would all set up their tents, and they would camp their till the pillar lifted from the Tabernacle and started moving again. As soon as it lifted, they broke camp and followed again.

Now I don’t think God has ever chosen to lead me with a pillar of cloud or fire. I sometimes wish life was that simple. But He does lead and guide us in definite ways. If we are playing attention to Him, He will help us know when it is time for us to get moving. He’ll lead the way so we know which direction to move. He will shield our eyes from what would blind us from our path, or He light the path in the dark so we know where to walk. And He will also help us know when to take a break.

Sometimes, however, when it’s time to move, we procrastinate because we hate to leave our campsite. We’ve gotten used to the lay of the land. It’s familiar and comfortable to us. Other times, when it is time for us to stop, set up camp and rest, we want to keep moving. We think we are strong enough. We think we are prepared for the challenges ahead.

The thing is, we need to learn to recognize when it is time to move and when it is time to camp. To do that, we have to keep our spiritual eyes trained on God for His prompts. He knows better than we do what is up ahead. He knows better than we do when we need to rest up and gain strength.

Let me ask you… Is it time to trek or tent in your life right now? If you’re not sure, why not take a few moments right here, right now, and just ask God to show you whether He’s moving or stopping. Then whatever He’s doing, do that, and you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

Trust The Dot-Placer

Remember those dot-to-dot picture puzzles we used to do as kids? PR31 and I were just talking about those. I loved doing those things. It seemed so simple. Sometimes, you could just look at all the dots and actually see the object in your mind before a single line was drawn. Others, however, were not as simple. You might think the line needed to go a certain way, but there was no dot there, or it was definitely not the next number in order. So what did you do? You looked for the next dot, and you drew your line to it.

Maybe today, your life feels like one of those dot-to-dot puzzles. Mine certainly does sometimes. Just about the time I think I see where I think the line is going… or should go… there is no dot there. So what do I do? I stop, look for the next dot, and draw my line there. Then I may have to stay on that dot for awhile as I search for the next one.

Why? I trust the Dot-Placer. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we should trust the Lord with all our heart and not depend on our own understanding… that we should acknowledge God as the Dot-Placer, and in doing so He would direct us to the next dot to which we need to draw our life’s line.

It’s not always easy. At some points along life’s dot-to-dot, we think we have it all figured out. We think we know what the shape is going to turn out to be. We think we know where the next dot should be and where we should draw our line. But God has a magnificent, intricate plan laid out with all the dots in the right places. And if we will just draw our line to His next dot, we will end up in the right place… at the right time… in the right way.

If your life feels like a crazy dot-to-dot puzzle today, hang in there. Don’t draw your own line or add your own dots. Stop on the dot where you are, and look for the next dot God has laid out for you… even if it takes a little while to find it. Trust the Dot-Placer. The picture is there, and it is coming into focus a little bit at a time. One day, you’ll look back and see why He directed you along those dots in the way He did.

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