New Year’s Resolution? I’ve Got Something Better

•December 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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New Year’s Resolutions are not my forte.

I believe that the dawn of a new three-hundred-sixty-five is definitely a great time for reflection. I think it behooves anyone to take this time to ponder where they’ve been, where they are and where they want to go – not to mention how they want to get there.

But I believe that the ability to make change, and if you’re a Christian, God’s ability to help affect change in your life, is not a time-sensitive commodity.

There is no expiration date.

There is no statue of limitation.

Your ability to have a healthy shift in circumstances has little to do with the day on the calendar than it does the condition of your mind.

You have to think change, feel change, conceptualize and visualize change before you can walk change out.

And if your mentality is not set and your resolve is not solid, you can expect an encore performance of all the worst of your 2012.

And your 2011…2010…2009….

You get the picture.

So you say you want change? Forget about the New Year and concentrate on your New Life. It doesn’t begin tomorrow. It doesn’t begin at 12:01. It begins as soon as you embrace it.

Here are three words I want you to take, not just into another calendar month, but into each new second, each new minute and each new hour of your present life.

Mandate.

Motive.

Method.

Any place of change begins with your own personal mandate to an audience of one: Yourself.  Extend that audience only to a small circle of people who you trust enough to get in your business and hold you accountable.

A mandate gives someone authority to act in a certain way.

Guess who that someone is?

You must convince yourself – and not with mere lip service – that you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. You must charge yourself to change. You must grant yourself permission to be great.

Great doesn’t always mean “popular.” It doesn’t always give way to fame and fortune. So get that out of your head now. If it happens, let it happen naturally…as a by-product of you becoming the best you possible.

Which leads us to the next word.

Motive. I mentioned greatness earlier because I assume that if you want to change it must mean that you desire to ascend to a height higher than where you are.

That’s noble. But what makes your mandate even nobler is its motive.

Why do you want this change? Why do you want to be better? Why do you want change your relationship status from single to married, or married to single? Why do you want to make more money? Why do you want to get out of debt? Why do you want to go to church, pray more, get closer to God? Why do you want to do what you desire?

My mother often says to me that there’s always a wrong way and wrong reason to do a right thing.

If you want marriage to cure you of loneliness, I’ve got news for you:

It won’t.

If you want to be successful so you can stick it to everybody who said that you couldn’t get it, wrong reason. If that’s all that’s motivating you, you’ll lose your desire for follow-through quickly.

Atlanta area pastor and philanthropist, Dr. Crawford Lortiss recently asked this question of his Twitter followers:

“What are you willing to do for what you see?” He then followed it up with this admonition: “Your vision must be durable enough to resist discouragement.”

Usually, you’ll know if the motive of your mandate for change is solid if, at the end of your vision for a better you, you end up bettering somebody else.

If the only person who benefits from your benefits is you, then…..

Okay. So we’ve got the mandate – served ourselves notice of what the change is. We’ve seen the end of our personal vision and it’s more crowded than it began. Check.

All of the talk and thought of change in the world will never amount to anything until you have developed and employed a method of change.

You do that by answering the question: How?

How will I do what I’m mandated and motivated to do?

I’ll give you one word three times: Plan. Plan. Plan.

So you’ve heard that before, right? Okay. Let me give you a twist.

Set your goals, plan how you will meet them, and then plan for failure.

Yes, you read that right. Plan for failure. Plan for obstacles. Plan for distractions and disruptions. Make your plan not just with your strengths in mind, but also your weaknesses. Don’t plan for a seamless ride toward change. It won’t happen. If it does, be suspicious.

Often it is apparent failure that actually redirects us into success. But when we don’t plan for such obstacles, you will quickly fold from discouragement when obstacles hit.

Don’t just plan what you want to do, but how you are going to accomplish it. And how you’re going to respond to every possible snafu you can imagine.

Of course you can’t prepare for it all. But even the mindset of preparedness will keep you a step ahead when things happen that weren’t on your vision board.

Happy New Year, everybody! And remember, this doesn’t magically kick into gear for you when the ball drops (or the peach, if you’re from Atlanta).

Ready or not, our new year begins tomorrow.

But your new life starts on YOUR ready.

B+ (Be Positive) in 2013.

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Getting the Most Out of God’s Word

•July 10, 2012 • 1 Comment

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Once while watching TV, I saw a preacher just completely MANHANDLE a particular piece of God’s Word. But what bothered me more than his gross mismanagement of the text was the response of the audience!

Hundreds of people in this large auditorium stood up rocking and swaying, weeping, wailing and shouting their approval back at the preacher as he moved them with his erroneous teaching. Some of them stood holding their closed Bibles and clutching them tightly to their chest.

My first thought was: “If they’d sit down and open it, they might realize that what they’re shouting about has no biblical relevance whatsoever.”

One of the biggest lies people tell on God’s Word is the “many interpretations” lie. Opponents of Scripture’s inerrancy – and even some Christians – will say, “There is more than one interpretation to God’s Word. Everybody has their own interpretation.”

And while this may be true – people do tend to interpret God’s Word with…ahem…. “variety”  — that doesn’t make it correct. When God moved through and inspired divinely called men to write Scripture, He didn’t have 1,000 different potential meanings in His mind. That would make our God confused, unstable and slightly bipolar. Only politicians can say one thing with 1,000 potential meanings. God just had ONE. And contrary to popular belief, there IS A WAY to prayerfully gain and understand that ONE correct interpretation to God’s Word.

And YES…the Bible WAS written by men. However, they were men who were INSPIRED or carried along in their writing by God. In other words, God told them how He wanted His story to be told. I often hear people say: “Well I’m not going to believe the Bible because I’m not going to believe something written by a bunch of men.” And my response to that is: “Don’t be a hypocrite.”

The men that wrote Scripture not only were carried along by God through the Holy Spirit, but they were EYEWITNESSES of what God did and who He was throughout time. Now, how is it that we read and believe every other man-made account or eyewitness report about everything else that happens in the world….even thousands of years ago, yet when it comes to God’s Word, all of our belief and normal rules of interpretation that we apply to everything else goes out the window?

We hear an “eyewitness” report on television and we run and tell somebody. Why? Because we believe it. We read something in a newspaper or a magazine or website and we copy and paste it, share the link, etc. without question because it came from our favorite news source and, by golly, it must be true.

We read books by our favorite authors and unquestionably believe in what they write because – well they’re an author and why wouldn’t they write what they intend for their reading audience to grasp?

And don’t even get me started on all of the stuff we see people post on Twitter and Facebook – urban legends about women getting eaten alive by snakes, tales about social media sites stealing our information and giving it to the government, or about Facebook charging for its services, etc. We don’t even check the facts before hurrying up to post it on our pages…only to find out later that your Facebook/Twitter friend got swindled by another hoax. (Let Snopes.com be your best friend on social media).

So what we’re saying is God can give men gifts and talents to write in order to titillate our senses and inform us civically and politically but He can’t give men gifts, ability and inspiration to sit down and write His own story? Does anybody other than me see the demonically influenced trickery and seduction involved in this?

I’ll say it again:

Scripture has just ONE ORIGINAL INTERPRETATION. But when we glean the proper interpretation, we CAN be safe to draw hundreds and even thousands of personal life APPLICATIONS from it that can bolster our spirituality by infusing us with power.

For the Word of God says: “The unfolding of Your Word gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130 (NIV). I like how the Contemporary English Version articulates it: “Understanding Your Word brings light even to the minds of ordinary people.”

So what does this mean? It means that despite how we often moan and groan about the difficulty in understanding the Word of God, the truth is God made it and intended it to be SUPER SIMPLE. To where even a child, or the most uneducated among us could grasp it and run with its power! It’s the enemy that tricks us into believing that it’s too hard to read, too difficult to practice…or that you have to be a super saint or theologian and scholar to truly get God’s Word.

When I first became genuinely interested in God’s Word for myself – that is when my parents didn’t have to try and MAKE me read it lol – I would listen to ministers and teachers mine out Scripture’s nuggets of truth and I would sit in awe. “Wow. I wonder how they got that out of there?” It was fascinating to me, and as early as age 11 I resolved in my mind that I didn’t want to just sit in awe of people who knew their way around the Word. I wanted to BE one of those people who knew his way around God’s Word!

I came across a book by Kay Arthur when I was about 19 or 20 years old that shared what was called the “Inductive Bible Study Method.” And throughout that 200 page book, I dug out these key principles that have helped transform my understanding of God’s Word, and I believe it will help you too. I’ll share them here. Six simple steps…and later I’ll expound upon each.

Six Steps to Power Packed Personal Bible Study:

  1. Pray earnestly to God for understanding from the Holy Spirit.
  2. Select the passage or text that you want to study.

Now the next three steps will be summed up simply with one word. I’ll explain them each later, I promise:

3. OBSERVATION.

4. INTERPRETATION.

5. APPLICATION.

And, finally, always end your study just as you began:

6. Pray earnestly to God to speak further to you by His Spirit about His Word.

If you walk with me over the next few days and weeks, I’ll share with you by audio, video (if I can get my webcam to work) and by writing how these six steps will begin to transform your devotional and study time with God and His Word. Then as His Word becomes less daunting to you, you will find your desire for it increasing and the power of God that your life begins to exhibit may shock you! I promise!

A Little Pastoral Transparency….

•July 9, 2012 • 4 Comments

Are you dressed for war?

I’ve come close to giving up and throwing in the towel. Not once. Not twice. But a few times. I’ve re-evaluated every aspect of my life over the last nine months – really the last 18 months. I’ve questioned every decision. Questioned every move and even questioned my purpose and place in God’s Kingdom.

I wondered if I was just fooling myself. I wondered if I was really cut out for Kingdom Work, and even when God showed me that some of the things I was dealing with was a product of my own poor choices and bad decisions while others were due to spiritual warfare for being in the right places, I often wondered aloud: “Was the spiritual warfare and constant attacks that come with advancing God’s Kingdom worth the strain on my family, the strain on me personally or even the strain on the people and families most closely connected to me?”

I battled loneliness despite being in crowds. Frustration. Depression and despair – as well as a few other things. I rode the rollercoaster of spiritual highs and head-spinning lows. I wondered if my family was better off without me in ministry….or even without me period.

I’ve preached and taught through internal pain, wondering if anyone was really getting anything out of the ministry that I believed God had given me. And when I say that, I mean my ministry in general…not just a particular church that I’ve pastored.

Even after a spiritual victory, I couldn’t really enjoy it because I was dreading satan’s next attempt at exacting his revenge on me….his next scheme or plot against me, my family and/or my ministry.  I didn’t want to go through it. Whether it was suffering for righteousness’ sake or suffering for my own foolishness, I was tired of fighting the enemy.

But recently I’ve realized something:

I realized that it wasn’t my job to fight the enemy. My primary job is to Worship my God and find safety in His presence alone! I realized that my WORSHIP is my best WEAPON against my adversary. And when I say worship, I don’t just mean the songs we sing. I don’t just mean lifting of hands or shouting praises. I’m talking about the full scope of being in God’s presence through prayer and His Word. Meditation that involves speaking to Him but also letting Him speak to me. And then obedience. Because our obedience to God is our highest form of worship.

But I also realized that this was easier said than done…at least for me. Because there are times when even though you KNOW that you can and you must worship your way out of something, everything in your flesh wars against it. This, also, is spiritual warfare.

You know you should pray…and not just those simple ones, but truly laboring to access the presence of God. You know you should have that conversation with your spouse. You know you should make that controversial decision. You know you should deny the flesh. But you don’t …because it’s more comfortable to just stay where you are. And once again, that too is spiritual warfare.

Right at the beginning of teaching a series on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, God’s Spirit impressed something else on me. Something familiar, but something Oh so Timely. In meditation He just flat out told me:

“You’re not properly dressed for war.”

One day, in the midst of triple digit heat, I saw a guy walking the streets with an outfit on that more resembled something that should be worn for the winter months. As he walked down the street, he was donning a big towel around his neck and would use it frequently to wipe the sweat from his head and neck.  He was running the risk of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke because he was not properly dressed for the elements.

I remember a sad, sad story back in my hometown, Omaha, of a young couple in their 20s who froze to death in the middle of a blizzard, less than a few hundred feet from the warmth  and safety of their vehicle. They were tripping out on meth, but even more than that, they were found wearing clothes suitable for spring time, not a snow storm. They literally froze to death because they were ill-equipped to battle the cold.

As God continued bringing images to me that proved His point, I began thinking. How many of us just roll out of bed, crust in the eyes, no shower, no brushing of the teeth. Just roll out of bed and go straight outside? Hopefully none of us. We go to the mirror and we get ourselves groomed and ready for the day ahead…physically speaking. And then we may also check the forecast to see if it will be hot or cool, rainy or dry, and then we dress accordingly.

I wonder how many of us who are disciples of Christ take the same diligence to dress for the day spiritually.

I know I hadn’t. Let me explain:

Did I pray? Yes. Did I read and study the Word of God? Yes. But my level of spiritual preparation was no longer what was necessary for the place that God brought me to. Right before we moved our fledging ministry into the Forest Park area that God led us to, I remember Him telling me plainly that I would begin to see an uptick in spiritual warfare in my life.

What I should’ve done was adjust my personal spiritual preparation for it. I didn’t. I underestimated what I’d experience and the intensity of it. I felt that the things I’d already been doing was enough.

In essence, I was walking into war half-naked.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul is specific in telling us how much of God’s armor we need in order to be properly dressed for the spiritual elements. He tells us to “put on the WHOLE armor of God” so that we can stand against the tactics of the enemy. (Verse 11).

The full complement of God’s armor includes:

1. The belt of TRUTH (verse 14) – knowing the Word of God keeps us balanced against the lies of satan. We are told that we should adorn God’s truth around our waists at all times.

2. The Breastplate of Righteousness (verse 14) – a breastplate covers the specific area of our bodies where our heart resides. Righteousness covers our hearts from corruptness. Righteous words, righteous attitudes, righteous thoughts. Proverbs 4:23 says this: “Guard your heart ABOVE ALL ELSE, for it is the source of life.”

3. The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace (verse 15) – a warrior’s foot gear is just as important as any other garment of combat. In order to tread on certain terrain, you must have on the right shoes. Putting on the shoes of the Gospel ensures that we will be ready to share the good news of the love of Christ wherever we go.

4. The Shield of Faith (verse 16) – one of satan’s best weapons against us is doubt. God has told you something. He’s promised you that He would fix your situation, your marriage, your health, your wayward child’s heart. He only asked us to be patient. But while we wait, satan begins to talk. And as Jesus stated, the only thing satan knows how to do is lie (John 8:44). Every time satan speaks to us, our faith should tell him to shutup.

5. The Helmet of Salvation (verse 17) – let satan talk long enough and he’ll infiltrate your mind and make you believe that you are not who God said you are. A helmet protects your head. Therefore, the Helmet of Salvation guards your mind. It keeps you in the know of God’s promises and purposes for your life.

6. The Sword of the Spirit and Prayer (verses 17 & 18) – to this point, every piece of the armor of God has been defensive. But the sword of the Spirit, which Paul calls the Word of God, along with CONSTANT prayer (in verse 18) are the ONLY offensive weapons mentioned. That’s because they are the only weapons we truly need. When a soldier wields his sword, he’s not doing it for defense. He’s doing it for OFFENSE. He’s trying to stab, cut and kill. The Word of God is what we use to stab, cut and kill the enemy’s influence over our lives. And prayer… CONSTANT prayer is the staple of it all.

After allowing God to minister this to me, I began to realize that while I couldn’t control certain aspects of spiritual warfare, I COULD control its affect on me, my life, my family and my ministry.

I was convicted because I realized that I had been walking into the frontlines of spiritual warfare through this new place of ministry, only half dressed. If we truly desire to be victorious in battle, we have to do the due diligence each day of putting on our war clothes.

And as I shared with my NewLife family yesterday, the closer we get to Christ, and the more we decide to live a life on new levels of His glory, the more diligent we must be about making sure we are properly dressed.

I challenged our folks yesterday to take this week and pray Ephesians 6:10-18 each morning as a  way of declaring ourselves spiritually dressed and prepared for whatever the enemy would throw at us for the day.

We cannot control what satan tries to throw at us. We can’t control how spiritual warfare COMES to us, but we CAN control how WE come AGAINST IT.

And if we become causalities of spiritual warfare, we can’t blame satan for doing his job. The blame falls back on us for NOT doing ours.

Are you properly dressed for battle? For now on, I’m making doubly sure that I am.

Until Next Time,

B+ (Be Positive)

Stop the Violence?

•March 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I want to share this revised Facebook post I made yesterday as the beginning of a series of blog articles that will explore racially charged crimes such as the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the epidemic that has become “black-on-black” crime. I’m going to discuss these topics from a variety of angles and hope to generate some feedback.

Here’s the Facebook post from yesterday:

 

 

*DISCLAIMER – The posting of this video on my page is NOT a sign of my support for this kind of “music,” language, etc. I’m only including it to make a point:

The video of this concert featuring  a rapper named, Tyga happened earlier this week in my hometown of Omaha, NE.

Here is a link that describes the aftermath: Tyga News Report

In a city that ranks third in the U.S. in violent crimes per capita, and in a city that features multiple violent (predominantly) black-on-black TEEN crimes that kill and incarcerate Omaha’s Black youth and young adult population every year, I was completely APPALLED to learn that this concert was supposedly one that was promoted for ALL AGES.

ALL AGES, REALLY? I really hope this isn’t true. I hope there is a typo or a misunderstanding on the flyer. But at the LEAST, I hope the people who promoted this concert aren’t the same ones who claim they’re so “outraged” every time a young Black man gets eliminated on the Omaha streets due to gun violence.

What a GREAT message you’re sending club promoters: On one hand, it’s “Stop the Violence. Enough Is Enough.” On the other hand it’s, “Welp, we’re going to do this concert with this rap “artist” who uses highly explicit language in his lyrics, talking about things that promote the kind of violence we say we hate, but BRING YOUR KIDS!” Are you KIDDING me?

When our community gets serious about stopping violence, giving our kids a hope for a brighter future and a better tomorrow, reducing teenage pregnancies, eliminating STD’s, saying “NO” to drugs, or whatever other “at-risk” cliche we throw around when we pretend to be concerned about the plight of our people…when we really get SERIOUS about changing the perception AND the REALITY of our inner cities, then we will see the mental and spiritual pollution that occurs when promoting this kind of foolishness, and we will also see some of this so-called music for what it is to our young people — POISON.

I’m not one of those who is about blaming the entire rap/hip hop genre for the ills of our community. But I’ve seen enough to know that it is a contributing factor. And any time a parent, a club/party promoter or an entertainer thinks that it’s okay to FREELY expose our young children to this kind of garbage, it shows me that despite what we SAY about violence and our kids futures, we’re really not ready to do what it takes to change our communities for the better.

Don’t tell me how outraged we are about white on black crimes like the Trayvon Martin tragedy when we aren’t equally, or MORE outraged when this kind of foolishness happens in our own backyards with our own people.

Give me your opinion. How much impact do certain styles and genres of music have on the crimes many inner cities and urban areas are plagued with?

 

10 Confidence Killers That Can Paralyze Your Life!

•March 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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This is a little inspirational tidbit I penned on April 13, 2011 for my devotional site: http://www.rhemawordoutreach.org (to see more like it, you can visit the site and click the “Blog” section). I’m revisiting it to expand it. But I wanted to share this with you. Even if you don’t share my beliefs in Jesus Christ, you may still find some useful LifeHelps in these words. Enjoy!

Nothing destroys our effectiveness in life FOR Christ more than our lack of confidence IN Christ! Therefore, it is satan’s major ambition to infiltrate our minds and hearts with a paralyzing poison called FEAR! Fear deletes FOCUS in a believer’s life. But FAITH cancels out FEAR. It is impossible for a believer to be FAITHFUL and FEARFUL at the same time. One always loses to the other. No greater battle exists in the life of a Christian than the battle for control of the mind. We must daily strive to “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). ”

What is the mind of Christ? In a word, it is: “CONFIDENCE!” The Confidence of Christ was not self-based, however. Even as the Son of God, He was confident only in His identity and purpose which He received from His Father. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus displays His Confidence in who His Father had made Him when He shared His divine identity and purpose through eight powerful “I AM” statements (John 6:51; 8:12; 8:58; 10:9-11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

If there were a 12-step program to living out your purpose in Christ, all 12 steps would be: “KNOW WHO YOU ARE!” Understanding who you are in Jesus grants you confidence that gives you PURPOSE POWER! But a lack of Christian Confidence is a sure-fire path toward destruction. Here are 10 things that must be avoided in order to preserve your Confidence in Christ and release your potential from the paralyzing grasp of fear:

The #10 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: PEOPLE: They can make you or break you. Hold you or Fold you. Draw you nearer or push you further from the Promise Keeper’s Plan! Make sure you seek GOD for the PEOPLE who fit your PURPOSE. Connect with KINGDOM SUPPORTERS, not CASUAL SPECTATORS!

The #9 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: RESOURCES: When u FEEL like you don’t have enough, you ACT like you don’t have enough. Stop acting like the provision has to come from you. Remember, God is the SOURCE to every resource. Not you, so when the RESOURCE runs dry, trust the SOURCE to provide!

The #8 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: GIFTS: Discover how God has gifted you, & put yourself AND your gift in a place where you will be FRUITFUL. If there is no FRUIT (production, blessing, benefit, growth) in your current place of life or ministry, then you & your gift are out of place. A gifted person with no fruit is like an Apple Tree with nothing but leaves on it…destined to be chopped down.

The #7 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: YOUR PAST: Nothing holds you hostage from your future better than being obsessed with nursing your ugly past. 2 Cor. 5:17, Philippians 3:12-14 & Psalm 103:8-14 give the remedy. Remember, God gave the CALL before the FALL! He knew where you were messed up and planned your future with it in mind! If GOD has forgotten it, who are you to keep bringing it up???

The #6 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: BITTERNESS: Your unwillingness to let go may be keeping YOU from moving forward….but it’s not phasing the person you’re being bitter TO. Don’t let that person hurt you TWICE…once with the knife of betrayal in their hand and once with the knife of bitterness in yours! Come on…all together now… LET IT GO!

The #5 Confidence Killer  That Can Paralyze Your Life: DOUBT: The very FIRST step to ACCOMPLISHMENT is making an ATTEMPT! Stop Doubting! Don’t procrastinate! Replace the “What-If-It-Doesn’t-Work” mentality with a “What-If-It-Does-Work-But-I-Miss-My-Purpose-Because-I-Didn’t-Try” mindset. If you’re not careful, You’ll lose the battle in your MIND before you get the chance to fight it in the ring.

The #4 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: TIME: It is the one type of currency that u can spend, but never recover. Therefore, TIME is more valuable than MONEY! So Don’t pay the price of your precious TIME on things that aren’t worth it!

The #3 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: DREAMS: How so? Because dreams aren’t meant to REMAIN dreams. They must become actions at some point in order to fulfill purpose. A dream too long deferred is an opportunity denied. Show me a dreamer with no action and I’ll show you a lazy person with a vivid imagination.

The #2 Confidence Killer That Can Paralyze Your Life: INSECURITY: Everybody is NOT talking about you, hating on you or trying to destroy you. Some may be, but not all! Free your mind and go to work! If you have any haters, your constant worrying, talking and fretting about them shows that they’re right where they want to be…in your HEAD!

And last, but not least, The #1 Confidence Killer that Can Paralyze Your Life: YOU! No one can defeat, discourage, disrupt, distract, deny or delete your purpose unless YOU allow them to! Pray this prayer regularly: “Lord, please deliver ME from ME!” #Enemy In-A-Me.

Please remember, your CONFIDENCE is not COCKINESS! Cockiness says, “I’m good all by myself.” Confidence says, “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who STRENGTHENS me.” (Philippians 4:13). Whatever you do, wherever you go, no matter where life has you right now, KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE by keeping your FAITH in Christ! You are VICTORIOUS!

“This is the CONFIDENCE we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” — 1 John 5:14-15

*STAY TUNED for the Video Blog Teaching Series Later This Week* If this has been a blessing to you, leave a comment here and PLEASE pass it on!

Until Next Time,

B+ (Be Positive!)

Celebrating Life for 15 Minutes

•March 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Fifteen Minutes.

What if we got stuck in traffic for 15 minutes?

What if my wife would’ve said “Yes” when I asked if we needed to make a quick stop at the store for something to ease her pain?

Fifteen minutes.

What if we followed our first mind and waited for the obvious and traditional signs that my son was ready to come into the world before going to the hospital?

If any one of these very likely scenarios would have played out, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. I likely wouldn’t be celebrating life today. I very well may have been loathing it. If any of these things would’ve happened, I wouldn’t be able to type this next sentence:

My son, Micah was christened today.

Today, we made a public declaration of what my wife and I had already privately determined. We would do all we could to give our son’s life back to the One who gave him to us in the first place.

As a minister and pastor, I’ve christened a few babies, but this was the first time that I had the privilege of being on the other side. And as sweet as this day would’ve been under any circumstances, a certain 15 minute period made it even sweeter.

Have you ever seen the show, “ER?” I hadn’t. But on May 11th, 2011 at Dekalb Medical Center in the Atlanta, GA suburb of Decatur, I got a pretty good idea of what a trauma scene might have looked liked.

I don’t remember what they were saying. I can’t recall the medical terminology that the doctors and nurses bandied about that day. But when the floodgates of my mind are opened, there are two specific memories that come streaming out.

I remember seeing my usually brave-hearted, unflappable wife looking afraid for the first time in the six years I’d known her.

I remember the urgency of the medical staff as they pushed my wife’s hospital bed out of her room and whisked her away down the hall toward the surgery room. I remember hearing: “emergency c-section.”

The doctors and nurses were passing papers over my wife’s head for her to sign…things that normally would’ve been taken care of in a more relaxed setting. They prepped my wife for surgery as they rolled her down the hall. One person already in the operating room was bumped aside. The doctor who was scheduled to perform that routine procedure saw the seriousness of our situation and volunteered to assist.

My son’s heart rate had dropped. My wife was losing blood. I was taken to a separate waiting room. Unbeknownst to me, we were running out of time.

I sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. I can’t remember if someone told me of the worst case scenarios or not. But I remember that I prayed as if I already knew.

It felt like hours. In actuality it was just minutes — 15 to be exact. The time between my entrance into the waiting room and the entrance of the nurse who would briefly accompany me.

“Do you hear the music?” she asked. There was the lullaby song they play in hospitals when a newborn baby comes into the world. I smiled. Then I shouted. Then I cried. I immediately pulled out my phone to call my mother who lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Mom, he’s here,” I said in between sobs. “He’s here! My son. Your grandbaby!”

I left the waiting room and stood out in the hallways, pacing and crying. Jumping and expressing thanks to God as I waited for them to roll out my son. Nine pounds, six ounces and 21 inches long, my big bundle of joy was laying in a newborn’s bassinet, soundly sleeping without a care.

They took him to the NICU. Soon after, I went to find my wife. She was just starting to wake up from surgery — still groggy. I handed her the picture of our son that the NICU nurse gave me. My wife saw it and immediately began to cry.

It wasn’t until later that my wife would share this story with me:

The doctor who assisted with my wife’s surgery came to see her after she woke up. He looked at her, congratulated her, and with tears welling up in his eyes, said, “If it had been another 15 minutes….” His voice trailed off. He didn’t need to finish the sentence. My wife knew, and now I knew.

On the evening of May 11th, 2011, I walked into that hospital with my wife and a soon-coming son. If we would’ve arrived just 15 minutes later, I would have walked out of there without either.

So today wasn’t just another baby christening for me. It was a chance to celebrate life and to celebrate the God that spared the lives of the two most important people in my life.

Right now, my home is filled with the sounds of my two-year old nephew and my 10-month old son laughing at the “Chuggington” theme song on television. I’m going to end this blog and enjoy them as they enjoy their show.

It only lasts for 15 minutes. 🙂

 

Until Next Time,

B+ (Be Positive!)

My Life Rules

•March 10, 2012 • 2 Comments

  So….

I was tweeting today…this morning to be exact, and this gem of self-pity defeat ran from mind, through my two thumbs and onto my Twitter feed via my iPhone:

“#LifeRules I give myself a maximum of 10 minutes to feel bad over any mistake I’ve made. Then, I go to work at repentance and constructing a plan to move on.”

This was born out of a pitiful moment of injured pride. I was feeling sorry for myself. Something I’d been working toward for quite some time was not turning out the way I’d envisioned.

Commence self-questioning:

Why does stuff like this always happen to me?

Why does it seem like I’m always on the losing team?

How come I can’t ever do anything right?

When will I ever get ahead?

Sound familiar? For me, it had been a way of life. For most of my 32 years, despite being gifted, talented and full of potential, I’ve also been low on self esteem and high on insecurity.

And any time something went wrong in my life, I immediately began sending out invitations to my “Woe-Is-Me” bash.

Needless to say, I’m usually the only one who shows up.

 It’s taken me the better part of 32 years to realize how much of a colossal waste of time feeling sorry for myself is.

So, this morning, I sat and stewed and sulked, asking those aforementioned questions for exactly 10 minutes, before I sent this revolutionary gem of text-message wisdom to my wife:

“Oh well. It is what it is. Back to the drawing board.”

I called a meeting with me and myself and we all agreed that 10 minutes — rather than 10 days — was more than enough time for us to grieve over a gaffe or goof-up.

We voted unanimously to adopt the 10-Minute Mourning rule as a way to deal with every mistake and mess-up in a timely fashion, in order to make ready for the fix.

Then, someone took a key and unlocked a hidden door in my brain called, “Lessons Life Has Taught You,” and out spilled a few more nuggets of new perspective that help divert pity parties.

Let me share them with you:

LifeRule #2.) I don’t treat anybody in my life higher than Jesus Christ. And I don’t regard anyone else to be better or worse than me. Sure, there are those more skilled than me in areas, and I can learn from them. But better than me? Nah. The same God that’s in them resides with me as well!

LifeRule #3.) I won’t beg anyone to do anything for me. I operate on a “two-time asking quotient.” If it’s not done or if there is major attitude involved, I’ll simply smile and say, “It’s okay. I’ve got it.”

I’ve found that often a person’s “NO” gives me permission to say, “YES” I can do this for myself. I’ve discovered quite a few new skills this way!

LifeRule #4.) I have learned to guard my prayer life more than my work or my ministry itself. Life has taught me that the best and most effecient work I can do — despite the task — is prayer.

LifeRule #5.) When a conversation takes a negative or messy turn, I will either shut up and cease all communication clues, or leave the conversation altogether.

My mother often says: “It’s hard for people to be messy and almost impossible for them to gossip alone.” I choose not to provide gossip assistance.

LifeRule #6). I realize some of you may not share my Christian worldview, or my desire to follow Jesus Christ. However, each of you have, no doubt, experienced moments of life-maturation where you discovered the high-value trade-in for substituting “good” for “bad.”

So here’s the rule:

Since I went hard and gave it my best in sin before my relationship with God increased, I might as well go doubly hard for God.

I’ve learned that it’s not prudent to present leftovers to the One who wakes me and grants me life each day.

LifeRule #7.) I respect ME foremost and to the utmost. Why? Because people will never respect you until they see that YOU respect you.

If I value ME, it sets the tone for you and others to follow suit.

LifeRule #8.) I’ve learned to guard my heart, my dreams and my treasured connections. All of these can be broken if placed into the wrong hands.

LifeRule #9.) I’ve learned to guard my body, my intimacy (both sexually and spiritually) and my kindness. All of these can become used and abused if placed into the wrong hands.

LifeRule #10.) I’ve learned to guard my time, my talents and my treasures (money/resources). All of these can be wasted if placed into the wrong hands.

LifeRule #11.) I love this one: Know when it’s time to QUIT!

Stop.

Desist. 

Let Go.

Stop trying to resurrect stuff that God Himself is trying to crucify in your life. Learn the value of being DONE!

And last, but certainly not least…

LifeRule #12.) For every one thing I can potentially complain about, I’ve learned to find two gems of gratefulness in my life. Everything isn’t bad, no matter how bad everything seems.

When I try to extract weeds in my yard, I find that I must do so very carefully. Because even in the midst of a field full of weeds, there are often at least one or two flowers worth salvaging. If I treat the entire lawn as 100% weeds, I’ll end up killing some flowers that don’t deserve to die.

As you survey the weeds in your life, be careful to also notice and appreciate the flowers!

I pray that this has blessed you, and can perhaps serve as a timely distraction, next time you’re in the mood to throw a pity party.

Remember, no one else is likely to come. 🙂

Please feel free to leave a comment if this has helped you, or if you think I’m a nutbucket! I’m a big boy. I can handle it. 🙂

Until Next Time,

B+ (Be Positive)