In Memoriam

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and

who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

– Theodore Roosevelt
Citizenship in a Republic
Paris, France
April 23, 1910

To all those in the arena who have stumbled; who have been marred by dust and sweat and blood; who have fought valiantly; who have come up short; who have spent themselves on behalf of others; who dared greatly; who know both defeat and victory…

The credit belongs to you.

Four Things You Can Do Today to Help You Manage Stress

Today I want to talk with you about STRESS. I don’t know everything there is to know about stress but I do know 3 things:

1) There is no such thing as a stress-free life. 

Jesus never promised us a stress-free life. In fact he promised just the opposite. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” There really is only one thing you can count on in life and that is stress. (Death and taxes being two of the biggest offenders.) That’s the bad news.

The good news is found in Jesus’ promise: “I’ve told you these things, so that in me you may have peace… But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Each of us have dealt with our own fair share of stress this year and unfortunately, as long as we draw breath on this planet, we will continue deal with stress. Jesus says that peace isn’t found when all of the stresses of life are gone. He tells us that we can have peace in Him even IN THE MIDST of the stress. The old saying is true: Know Jesus. Know Peace.

2) Even on its best day, leadership is full of stress. We can all swap stories from our most stressful days in leadership. Some days I look back on and think, “There was no classroom, book, or conversation that could have prepared me for having to deal with that particular issue.” (Ask me about the truck left in our parking lot overnight and the portrait of his beloved painted on the tailgate.) Tony Morgan’s book on leadership called, “Killing Cockroaches,” is the perfect picture of what it is like to deal with all the negative stresses in our lives and ministries. Headaches and pressure points arise from out of nowhere and we have to deal with them as fast as they come at us whether we want to or not. It’s just how it is.

There are the bad days of stress, but there are also the good days. Even on the good days, we experience stress. It is stressful to check in with our people. It can be taxing to lead and serve those whom we love and care for. People and their issues can be frustrating at every stage of life – babies, kids, teens, adults, and retirees. However, we get to share in their lives and help guide them from where they currently are to where God wants them be. We get to work side-by-side with them to build the Kingdom. It is rarely easy, but there are times when the stress pays off.

3) You’re never going to get it all done. You’re never going to get it all done. (I know I typed that twice.) One of the greatest sources of stress is our never-ending to-do list.

In Leadership: There is always going to be another problem. There is always going to be another budget issue. There is always going to be another meeting. There is always going to be another email to write.  As long as you are in leaders, there is always going to be something else to do.

In Ministry: There is always going to be somebody else to reach for Christ. There is always going to be somebody else to disciple. There is always going to be another pastoral care visit. As long as you are in ministry, there is always going to be something to do.

In Life: There is always going to be another project to complete. There is always going to be a parenting issue to handle. There will always be relationships that need nurturing, repairing, or reviving. There is always going to be mistakes made. There is always going to be times when grace must be administered wether we have the strength or not. As long as you are alive, there is always going to be something to do.

Four Things You Can Do to Help You Manage Stress Today

The question you should be asking is not, “How can I eliminate stress from my life?” Instead, ask yourself,  “How should I manage stress in my life?” You will never be able to eliminate stress but, you can minimize the consequences of stress in your life by engaging in some Stress Management Best Practices. Try these four on for size:

Be Still. Take a few minutes and simply be still. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, close your door, and just sit, breathe, and simply be present. It will be ok. The world will not stop spinning. They will call back… they always do. I use an app called Headspace to help me meditate for 10 minutes each morning before I start my day. By pausing at the very beginning of the day it helps me focus and prepare mentally, physically, and emotional for whatever may lay ahead.

Pray. I can’t think of someone in scripture who had to deal with the stresses of leadership, ministry, and life more than David. Whether he was facing down literal giants like Goliath or the giant sin in his own heart; dodging spears from King Solomon or enemies on a battle field; herding sheep or wrestling bears David turned to God in prayer.  No matter what you are facing today, God knows and would love for you to share your stresses with him. The book of Psalms is filled with prayers for every season and emotion. If you can’t find the right words to express what is on your heart, David has you covered.

Be Thankful. Paul tells us in Eph 5:15-20, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We live is very stressful times but there is a simple antidote for feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out: Thankfulness. Instead of listening to Nirvana or Jason Aldean or Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo and the Morning Sports Crew on your way to work, turn off the radio and turn up the praise in your own heart. Simply begin each morning by listing at least 3 things you are grateful for. Keep a running list in your cleared or reminder app and refer back to it during the day when you are tempted to let stress steal your focus.

Rest. I’m giving you permission to rest. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Rest is an important component to your health and your long-term ability to lead. I don’t get sick very often but, when I do, there is usually a direct correlation to the fact that I have not been sleeping as much as I should have. We all have seasons where we don’t get enough rest but when those seasons turn into eras, you are flirting with disaster. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight. Put down your iDevice or turn off the tv. Use one of your vacation days to push pause. None of us would violate the 10 Commandments by murdering someone or building a golden calf to worship on the weekends. However, most of us have gotten way to comfortable violating the Sabbath and forgoing the rest that God has commanded for our lives. If your life has gotten out of rhythm, my bet is that you’ve for to long without getting enough rest.

Bonus: Want to find some rest “outside the box?” Studies have shown that taking a 15-20min “power nap” can have amazing results on your productivity, outlook, and overall health. Leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, has written a few compelling articles on the WHY behind taking a few minutes to rest in your day and HOW you can begin taking advantage of this powerful tool. Check out his article, 5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap Everyday or listen to his podcast on The Secret Power of Naps.

Exit Question:

What do you do to help manage the stress in your life? Leave your favorite Stress Management Best Practices in the comments and share what you do to manage the stress in leadership, ministry, and life.

Praying… Together

Prayer can sometimes seem like a lone act where it’s just you and God. Sometimes though, we need to experience prayer in community as we join together with others to share and carry one another’s burdens.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites. Moses tells Joshua to gather his fighting men to engage the enemy in battle while he went up to the top of the hill. Joshua obeyed Moses’ commands and went into battle. Moses, Aaron, and some guy named Hur went to the top of the hill and Moses raised his hands in prayer to God.

Exodus 17:11–13
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Here’s what I believe this story is telling us about praying together with and for one another:

1) The outcome of the battle was directly linked to prayer.

God tells us in His Word that raising hands is a common prayer position (Psalm 63:4; 1Tim 2:8). While it may be common, it isn’t very comfortable. (In fact, while you read the rest of this post, try doing so with your hands raised over your head. Bonus points if you are in a public place.)

When Moses became tired and his hands began to lower, the Israelites started to lose the battle. The experience and skills of Joshua’s warriors didn’t matter. The number of Amalekites were inconsequential. The power of God is what mattered here and it is what matters today.

Too often we fail to bring our battles to the Lord or we fail to continue in prayer as the battle rages on around us. Don’t give up!

2) The battle belongs to the Lord.

You may be facing a variety of battles today. Don’t let the Enemy make you believe that you have to fight in your own strength or that the battle depends on you. Understand and believe that God is in control. He knows the outcome. He hears your cries. He knows what you need. He cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

3) We get to carry each other.

Jesus said, “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:19–20 MESSAGE)

When we share with one prayers of supplication and petition (praying for our own needs) and when we pray for one another with prayers of intercession (praying for other’s needs) we grow in fellowship and increase in love for one another… right alongside with Jesus. Imagine that! Who is helping you keep your hands raised to God in prayer? Your brothers and sisters in Christ and Jesus himself!!!

There are many times, seasons, and reasons that you might need your brothers and sisters to join and help you persevere in prayer:

– seasons of intense spiritual conflict
– in the midst of a reoccurring struggle
– while we wait on God’s response
– when we are spiritually exhausted

Moses experienced physical and spiritual fatigue when he lifted his hands to the Lord as he prayed over his people. Aaron and Hur were there beside him to help him when his own strength was not enough.

Just like these men, when we experience times where we feel tired and weak, exhausted emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, we can lean on one another to help us continue in prayer until the battle is won.

Wrap-Up
What prayer burdens are weighing you down today? Who can you partner with to pray for so that you can help to carry one another’s burdens?

 

Workout Wednesday 002

Before we begin, watch this video.

If that doesn’t get you motivated I don’t know what will.

I’ve had a few people ask me, “What are you training for?”

To be honest, the answer is, “Life.”

Today I turn 35. 2 months ago I dodged a bullet. I should have been in a coma or suffering a stroke or shuffling off this mortal coil. Instead I got a huge wake-up call. No more pressing the snooze button on my health. Something had to give. Something had to change. Not tomorrow. Today. Immediately. Now.

Thing is, you’re headed upstream. And when you make that choice, when you decide to turn your back on what’s comfortable and what’s safe and what some would call “common sense”, well that’s day 1. From there it only gets tougher.

So just make sure this is something you want. Because the easy way out will always be there, ready to wash you away, all you have to do is pick up your feet.

If you are going to get healthy, then don’t wait. Do something, anything. Get moving. Eat better. Rest more. Just start.

We will talk about the reasons WHY later. We’ll nail down the details of WHAT you want to accomplish at another time. We’ll plan HOW you’ll get there down the road.

Today is about starting. One foot in front of the other. No more excuses. Don’t wait another day.

Rise and Shine, Baby!

Workout Wednesday 001

Last week I shared with you how I was recently diagnosed with diabetes T2 and that through exercise and diet I have been able to get a handle on the disease and see some success when it comes to my physical health. I shared my story because I also want to help and motivate others who may be struggling with their health – physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Each Wednesday I want to post something related to getting healthy in a weekly feature called Workout Wednesday.

To kick it off, I wanted to write a fun post about some of the things that I am currently using to help me at the gym. From equipment to workouts to gear check out these 5 Things That I Use to Workout and then tell me what you are using to get healthy in the comments before you leave.

Have a great day and get healthy!

5 Things That I Use to Work Out

1) The Machine
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Last week I felt like I was in high school again. I lifted weights MWF and then ran/conditioned on TTh.

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…

Sorry, I’m back. I am in love with this machine. As you can see all of the weights are mounted to the side of the machine so no walking around trying to find the right plate. I can do all of my barbell exercises (squat, deadlift, clean, bench, overhead press) at this rack, Love, love, love it. So far when I’ve gone up to the gym to work out this corner has been empty so I proclaim this machine for me and my people. I need a flag.

2) The Tunes
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You can’t work out with out music.

Well, you can… but at what cost? I believe in living.

3) The Chute
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I’m a chugger. I don’t take sips. I’m not a bird. I’m a sashquatch except, despite what you may believe about me, I have a small mouth. In my zeal to remain hydrated more water can get on my shirt than in my body. That’s why I love my Camelbak Chute. Not only does the bottle fit in my car cupholder but the spigot on the lid is the perfect size for gulping down larger amounts of water fast.

Get you one: Camelbak Chute

 

4) The App
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I haven’t lifted weights in over a decade. I knew that I wanted to add strength training to my running but I had know idea where to start. I was reading an article about training for an event I was interested in and I came across StrongLifts.com and the 5×5  workout. The site claims that this program is “the simplest workout to gain strength.” While it is too early to gage the truth of that entire statement I will say that this is a simple strength workout that puts you through the paces, is fun, engaging, and challenging. The idea is simple 3 workouts every other day, 5 sets or 5 reps. That’s it. The app helps you keep tabs on your progress, lets you watch training videos, and even gives you an audible prompt when it is time to quit resting between sets and get after it. In a few weeks, I should know if this program works but until then I am enjoying get back under the bar and pumping some iron.

Check out StrongLifts.com

The 5×5 Workout Plan

5) The Beard
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I’m growing my beard out until I hit a particular weight goal I’ve set for myself. Now, I have no intention to become the TX cousin of Duck Dynasty. I will trim and taper and take care of the beard but I am keeping it until (at least) until I hit my goal. That means that I have to endure my little girl grabbing fistfuls of beard and yanking as hard as she can. I’ll have to tough out the heat in the coming months. I’ll also have to answer questions as to wether or not I dye it this color red (Thank You St Paddy’s Day). But you know what… I don’t mind any of it. Beards are sweet. Achievements are even sweeter.

What motivates you to workout or what are you currently using that has helped you stay in the game, break a sweat, or stay motivated?

I Once Was Blind…

But now I see.

On Saturday, January 31, I brought my kids with me up to the building so that I could get some last minute things prepared for Sunday services. I put a movie on for them in the auditorium and noticed that the image wasn’t very clear. It was fuzzy, out of focus.

I didn’t really give it much thought. Maybe my allergies were acting up? Perhaps I had moved the projector out of focus?

On Sunday (Feb 1) though, the images on the screen remained blurry during our worship time. I asked a half dozen people if the screen looked ok to them. I was the only one who thought it was hazy. I could still read my notes from my iPad and I was able to read from my Bible though. I just figured that I was tired or my eyes were dry. Little did I know that that was the last time I would be able to see much of anything for at least another 3 weeks.

My vision started to deteriorate day by day. By the following Thursday, I couldn’t see faces clearly beyond about 4 feet. I went to my eye doctor that day and he changed my prescription and ordered me some new glasses.

That night I decided that I should no longer drive at night. On Saturday, I gave my keys to my wife and decided that I could no longer drive during the day.

Sunday (Feb 8), I delivered the hardest sermon of my life. I couldn’t see the faces of the congregation. I could (sort of) read from my notes but anything beyond my stand was completely unrecognizable. I tried to watch the Grammys that night but I couldn’t tell who was singing what. In a matter of about 6 hours I had lost most of my vision and I was trapped in a world of blur. That’s when a panic began to flood over me.

What was happening? What was wrong with me? 

On the following Tuesday (Feb 10) I was able to see an ophthalmologist. After looking at my vision, he sent me to get some blood work done. The results would not come back for another couple of days. In the meantime, I was able to get into my doctor’s office (an even longer story) to see his PA and get some other tests run.

On Friday morning (Feb 13), the ophthalmologist called me with the results of the test. It was not good.

“You’re blood sugar levels are 698. You need to see your doctor immediately!”

Wait… what!?! 698?! How can that even be possible? 

I should have been in a coma… or worse. Thankfully, I was able to see my doctor that afternoon where he told me the news… “You have type-2 Diabetes.”

They gave me a glucose monitor and some medication and sent me home.

I was devastated but determined. 

Devastated that I had let this happen. Determined to do something about it. 

Over the next week I was able, through diet changes, exercise, and medication, to bring my sugars back into normal ranges. My eyesight slowly returned  as everything in my body turned back to normal.

In fact, in the last 2 two weeks my eyesight has been completely restored. I am no longer taking any medications and my blood sugar numbers remain in the normal ranges.

I’m eating better, have lost a little weight, and I am working out every single day. I’m still processing what happened and thankful that God was watching over me, providing me with love and support, and guiding me to the right people who could help.

Here’s what I’m learning through this:

1) Health is Wholistic.  It was’t enough that I was running if my diet was in the toilet. If your ignoring your emotional health it will have an impact on your spiritual and physical health. You have to fight for health in every area of your life.

2) I am loved. I had so many people praying for me, checking up on me, caring for me, and helping me. On the days I could drive, friends and family drove me to work or to the doctor. Even though I couldn’t read them 9at the time), I was blessed by every message and text. When you are going through a difficult time, knowing you are loved can make all the difference.

3) The Power of Small Change. While it may seem that I have had to completely overhaul my lifestyle in a matter of a few weeks, the truth is that I have leveraged small changes for big results. In stead of working out every other day or so, I’ve added one workout a day. Instead of drinking sodas, I’ve changed to water. Instead of junk food, I’ve eaten more vegtables (which I loved more than sweets even before this). Don’t be overwhelmed by everything that you may have to change. Just change something… now.

So this is my new normal. I’ll eat a salad for lunch. I’ll see a dietician today to get some more insight into how I can better take care of myself. I’ll hit the treadmill later tonight.

I just wanted to bring everyone up to date with what’s been happening. Kicking at the Darkness has always been about helping me share and process what’s going on inside and around my life. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share this with you today.

 

Catalyst Dallas Highlights

I had a full weekend.

I had the opportunity to attend both The Catalyst Conference in Dallas with some of my team and than a Men’s Conference with some great dudes from our church. I am exhausted, inspired, spent, fired up, sleepy, and wide-awake. Many of you in ministry and leadership know exactly the kind of tension I am feeling right now. These events are often like trying drink from a firehose. With so much information and inspiration coming at you you grab what you can, take some notes, sing loud and proud, and then find some time over the next few days to ruminate on and incorporate what you’ve learned into your real world.

The theme of Catalyst this year was A Community of Change Makers. I attend the Atlanta event back in October and was excited to take a handful of our ministry leaders to the event at Gateway Church here in the metroplex. The major emphasis from every speaker was that to truly lead others effectively, a leader must lead him or herself first.

Here is a fundamental truth that is so important for us to learn and live out:

Who we are as leaders is more important that what we do.

For today, I just want to share a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend – with a couple of Don Miller & Bob Goff quotes from the Men’s Conference. I hope that these thoughts give you some motivation for your week ahead. Be sure to comment on the exit question at the bottom.

Whatever you have to do today, Love. Everybody. Always.

Andy Stanley

  • 2 questions every leader must ask: 1) Who am I? 2) What breaks my heart?
  • Great leaders make things better for their people.
  • You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart.
  • Many years from now, what would you like people to line up to thank you for?

Lisa TerKeurst

  • External Change requires Internal Shifts.
  • The 1st Five – give the first five minutes of your day to the Lord.
  • God is good and God is good at being God.

Dr Caroline Leaf

  • Your brain is nothing compared to your mind.
  • Change you mind and you can change your brain.
  • You can listen to God or Google and Gossip. (Non-toxic thoughts vs. Toxic Thoughts)

Eugene Cho

  • God doesn’t want to change the world. He wants to change us.
  • Act upon the thing that God puts on your hearts.
  • Don’t be more in love with the IDEA of change. Actually Change.
  • Don’t quit. Persevere. (Note: Apparently Cho had been ill and traveled from Seattle to Dallas. He had to stop part way through to take a breath and recover.)

Robert Morris

  • We may be born selfish but we are re-born generous.
  • Do not GIVE in order to GET. Wrong motivation.
  • Mammon promises us things only God can give. Life. Peace. Joy.
  • People don’t need money. They need God.
  • Abel gave of his first fruits. Cain gave what he wanted, when he wanted, in the way he wanted.
  • We are the most like God when we GIVE.

Robert Madu

  • When you encounter Jesus you always walk away with more than you expected.
  • Fatherhood is the best ‘hood.
  • There is a vast difference between knowing Church and knowing Jesus.
  • Jesus wasn’t just a good man but a God-Man.
  • When someone is lowered through the roof… you should probably shut that sermon down.
  • When your EXPERIENCE doesn’t line up with your EXPECTATIONS God is probably giving you a REVELATION. Pay attention to what he is telling you.

Danielle Strickland (The Highlight of Catalyst for me)

  • Everyone wants to change the world. Not everyone is willing to get up (early) to do it.
  • You know which surfer catches the wave? The one in the water.
  • Posture yourself/Posture your life in such a way that when the wave comes, you can catch it.

Rich Wilkenson Jr

  • God hasn’t called us to hard things. God has called us to do IMPOSSIBLE things.
  • Don’t let your past failures or your fear of future failures keep you from following where Jesus is calling you.
  • Don’t take a fragment of failure with you to the next place.
  • Criticism can get on you but don’t let it get IN YOU.

Bob Goff

  • You are not defined by your worst day or your greatest success. You are defined by LOVE.
  • When we live under the banner of Christ it doesn’t just change some things, it changes EVERYTHING.
  • I’m just trying to be the next humblest version of myself.
  • Love. Everybody. Always.
  • People turn into who others say they are.
  • You get the green lights you get.
  • God wants us to live right on the edge of YIKES.
  • It’s not about MANNING UP. It’s about SHOWING UP!

Don Miller

  • Tie your dreams with the dreams of others. Good stories involve other people.
  • Think of Joker’s face and Vader’s limbs. They didn’t do the hard work needed to bring about real healing.
  • We are in the middle of Act II. It’s difficult. There is no resolution. In the midst of conflict.
  • Look at the people God calls into LEADERSHIP. You have not done worse than them.
  • Heroes are in it for the sake of others.

Exit Question:

What is the most important leadership lesson you are currently try to live out in your leadership context?

The Fifteenth Year

15 years ago I had just returned from a semester overseas studying abroad in Athens, Greece. My small Christian college seemed even smaller after exploring the world but I was ready to get back to classes and earn my degree in Youth and Family Ministry.

That’s when I got the call.

A graduate student had recommended me to a small church just outside of Little Rock to serve as their part-time youth minister. He told me about the church and all that the job entailed. I would teach classes on Sunday, Sunday Night, and Wednesday night. I would also occasionally lead singing and participate in the life of the church.

He said that the job was mine if I wanted it.

I said, “Yes!”

With that invitation and with my agreement to work and serve that little church, I officially began as a full-time minister following God’s calling in my life.

So much has happened over the last 15 years. 

We have moved from AR to AL and back to TX. I have taught hundreds of classes, led thousands of songs, read countless commentaries, and attended numerous conferences. I’ve held new born babies, prayed over men and women going into surgery, spent late nights in the ER, and stood by those who have lost loved ones. I’ve welcomed new families in the church and said goodbye to others. I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve trudged through the dark valleys. I have seen God work wonders and I have seen Him transform myself and those around me.

My focus for this year is Fitness.

I want to be Spiritually Fit.

I want to be Physically Fit.

I want to be Emotionally Fit.

I want to be Intellectually Fit.

As I think about what it means to be fit in ministry and in life I remember the challenge Paul shares with the church on Corinth:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

Over the last few weeks I have been praying over and planning some pretty ambitious goals for this year. I feel God is calling me to abandon the average life and ministry in order to go deeper into His Story and His Kingdom. No one stumbles into fitness. No one wanders around the track and crosses the finish line. To run the race and finish well takes training, focus, passion, and faith in the One who provides the strength needed to endure.

I live a great life.

I get to live out my calling doing the thing that I love with people that I love for a Savior that I love.

As I begin my 15th year in full-time ministry I have never been more excited about what God may have in store. I’m ready to dig deeper, reach higher, abandon average, and run the race full out.

Here’s to the start of another 15 years in ministry.

 

Living in Anticipation

The birth of a baby brings a whole host of emotions with it. There are all these different emotions but the greatest of these is the growing sense of Anticipation.

The birth of a baby is always accompanied by Anticipation.

From the moment it is known that a baby is on the way, Anticipation builds and sets into motion all other emotions and behaviors.

Anticipation brings Excitement and Joy.

Anticipation is accompanied by Anxiety.

Anticipation builds Hope.

Anticipation causes us to act in accordance with this Hope.

For most of us, 9 months of Anticipation is more than enough for our hearts and minds to handle.

Now imagine waiting not 9 months or one year or even a decade. Imagine anticipating the birth of a baby for hundreds, even a few thousand years.

That’s what happened to God’s people.

Ever since the Fall of Man all the way back in the Garden of Eden, God’s people have been waiting with Anticipation for God to fulfill His promise and send a Savior to rescue them from sin and bring them back into unbroken fellowship with their Heavenly Father.

Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

They had been waiting in Anticipation since the day God called Abraham and blessed him so that through his family, God would bless the entire world.

They waited in Anticipation for 400 years as slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

In Anticipation they waited for salvation as they entered the land God promised their ancestors generations before.

Even while God’s people moved in and out of faithfulness some continued to live in Anticipation. It seemed for every good king who led the people to righteousness there were 5 kings who led the people further away from God. When the people were scattered and taken captive because of their sin, Anticipation of God’s promised Messiah continued to breed hope in the lives of God’s faithful people.

There were leaders who continued to hold out this hope and to remind the people of God’s promise of salvation and life. The Prophets were bold men who spoke words of comfort and discomfort:

Comfort to those who longed to see God’s promised Messiah bring healing and restoration back to their world and discomfort to those who had forgotten God’s words, who had failed to live in Anticipation that God would fulfill his promises.

As time when on many of God’s people lost their sense of Anticipation. Although the people had returned from exile God had not overturned the pagan empires who defamed his name and God’s Presence had not come into His temple in power and majesty and glory. Losing their sense of Anticipation was their first step in doubting God’s love, no longer trusting in His ways, and losing hope that God would fulfill His promises at all.

The prophet Malachi, a messenger of God’s promised Savior, ended his message with this:

Malachi 4:1–6 – “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi’s words reminded the people that a great King was on his way and that when he arrived he would not only judge the wicked but that he would bring justice, blessing, and restoration.

However, the people had to continue to wait. For another 400 years, God was silent. The people found themselves in a place where they had been many times before. A place of decision: Would they waver and forget all that God had promised or would they live lives marked by Anticipation?

This is the place we find ourselves tonight. 

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

Are you eagerly awaiting to see God’s promised Messiah, The great King who brings justice, blessing, hope, and salvation? 

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State