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Permissions > Restrictions

Here in WA State we are undergoing more restrictions as COVID numbers are on the rise. Though these are arguably necessary, they are negatively affecting small businesses, grocery shopping, church gatherings, medical treatment, and much more.

My wife and I co-lead our missional faith community and we also work at a very busy grocery store in town. The latest restrictions are causing many in our community to go back into the ‘panic shopping’ that we witnessed last Spring. So, we are feeling all the craziness first-hand.

Thankfully, I was able to spend some significant time reflecting on life and scripture this morning (admittedly for the first time in over a week). And as is always the case with God, he kindly gave me a powerful reminder.

Whatever I speak, write, and post becomes my reality. Those actions (choices) define what is truth in my life. Like it or not, I can’t argue with that.

Let me share with you part of a reflection I wrote in my journal today.

Focus: Acknowledge the circumstances around you without adding to the negativity. Speak optimism & hope whenever possible.

This was big for me. It’s so easy to fall in line with the copious amount of pessimism and chaos in our world today. Allowing myself to simply blend in with the norm of that noise around us doesn’t lead to anything helpful. I don’t know if it’s possible to add white noise to white noise, but this is not what I want to be about.

Hence the title of this post, ‘Permissions > Restrictions.’ We don’t really have many choices in our daily lives when new COVID restrictions are placed on us. But we do have unlimited PERMISSIONS available to us. What do I mean?

You and I have an incredible opportunity to stand out, to be a loud sounding ‘gong’ in all this negative white noise. And it’s so rare right now that people will absolutely notice when we choose to react to negative circumstances differently than the vast majority of our surrounding society.

This does not mean that we ignore facts or act like COVID, politics, social unrest, and financial stress don’t exist. These things are very real and affect real lives. But another very real truth is that we have a loving God in Heaven who offers us wisdom, power, direction, and comfort for the times we live in. And God has given us each other. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my faith, family, and community.

So….I’m making a declaration on my own personal attitude, my own behavior. For the remainder of November and all through December I will be making a conscious (imperfect) attempt at inserting optimism into conversations with others. The same goes for the thoughts that go on in my mind.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please drop me a comment below.  

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3 Things Every Believer Must Practice Regularly

Great pastors and authors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have taught about the subject of Spiritual Disciplines for years. Now, there isn’t a complete list like the Ten Commandments in the Bible that groups all of the disciplines together for us (although that might have been handy). The Bible doesn’t even refer to them as Spiritual Disciplines. Yet, these are spiritual practices Christ followers can observe so that they are able to grow and mature in their faith and their understanding of God.

3 things

While disciplines like solitude, fasting, and tithing are among well over a dozen others, below are three spiritual practices I believe to be absolutely critical if a believer wants to experience life fulfillment, have joy, and grow closer to Jesus.

Bible Intake |  The Bible holds all that we need to know about God’s character and his heart toward us. If we never read the Scriptures and only pray and spend time with other believers, all we will have is a highly personalized philosophy of God. Very little truth or foundation.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) And of course we know that all scripture is inspired/breathed by God. It’s not an option. We were created for God’s word to fuel us, to give us life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s word guides our choices and directs us on our life journey. He’s our GPS! And here’s the great thing. We you and I take a wrong turn in life, he simply says, ‘re-routing.’

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) A couple of those ‘wondrous things’ would be learning about God’s will for us and making new discoveries of his character and personality.

Prayer | When we take time to pray we are making an investment in our relationship with God. I’ve often said that prayer is like taking God to coffee. You hopefully enjoy each other’s company, learn something new about each other, and openly share what’s on your hearts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God already knows what you want and need. So why pray? Because God actually wants us coming to him, talking to him, and acknowledging the relationship. God is not a deadbeat dad who is disconnected and merely sends a child support check in the mail each month.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) God both hears and acts. He’s accessible 24/7. And he works on our behalf.

Community with other believers | We were not created to do life alone, nor to thrive or struggle on our own. Not only do we see the importance of community in the Creation story back in Genesis, but it was also fully lived out by Jesus with his disciples.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Believers should lovingly encourage each other to do good for others and to love in ways like Jesus did.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Walking 100 yards with a 500 pound weight on your back is MUCH EASIER if you have a large number of like-minded friends near you to help carry it.

So, would YOU add anything to my list? Have you experienced these three things in your own life?

And possibly more important, do you struggle with one of these more that others?

 

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What To Run To And From

run
A quote by Erwin McManus from the final day reading of The Way of the Warrior devotion on Youversion.
Sometimes we need to run. Toward or away, but running is action. Away from fear, negativity, and unhealthy influences. And toward hope, love, and real community.
Now, regarding people we need in our lives…let’s define ‘need.’ Need isn’t the same as want, or even demand. The people we really need in our lives can be defined this way. We need those who honestly care about what’s best for us and who will journey with us.

 

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4 Healthy Steps For Your Current Season

I have found that we are constantly in one of four very distinct seasons of life.  And these four seasons tend to cycle.  I’m sure you can relate.

4 seasons

Mountain top | This seems to be the shortest season.  But it also tends to be the time in life when we don’t seek after God as aggressively.  This makes sense, right?  When everything is going great, marriage is solid, and the car is running well…we often find ourselves not NEEDING GOD as much.

Heading into a valley | You know this season.  It is inevitable and you can virtually sense things rolling down hill with increasing momentum.  It’s Monday morning.  You receive a disturbing phone call on your way to work.  The car breaks down on the highway.  Maybe uncomfortable changes are on the horizon at work or in your church.  This season is not horrible, but it’s an indication of things getting harder.  And they’re usually just around the corner.

In the Valley | This one…..well, it’s just terrible.  It’s the polar opposite of the Mountain Top season and lasts quite a while (or at least appears to).  Crying ourselves to sleep at night and waking up with a sarcastic outlook on each new day is pretty common.  This season is so bad and so difficult to maneuver through, believers can actually experience a deeper and richer intimacy with Jesus.  We tend to search harder, pray more often,  and look for evidence of His activity in our lives with more detail than every before.

Heading to the mountain top | Relief!!!  It’s here.  Can’t you feel it?  Subtle signs of hope begin popping up in areas where pain and discouragement were just the other day.  This fuels us with new energy for life and a positive look forward into tomorrow.

So, what can we do when we’re in the two most challenging seasons of life?  Here are four practices I have personally learned to be life-saving for me over the years.

1. Stay in God’s Word |Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)  The Bible is packed full of encouraging, insightful, and knowledgable passages like this.  More than this, though, it is God’s Word.  He uses the Holy Spirit to speak and reveal things from His heart to ours through reading the Bible.  In the dark seasons it’s less about how much we read, and more about reading anything in God’s Word every day.    

2. Get out of the house | Surround yourself with others.  People who genuinely love you and have your best interests in mind are going to be encouragers to you.  They can also be a powerful sounding board in you situation.  God chooses to speak to us through other healthy believers quite regularly.  Seek them out.  Take a risk and let others into your life.  This rarely ends badly.

3. Read | Find a book or blog that deals with your season of life.  Something that you find helpful and encouraging or challenging.  Ask a friend or pastor for names of good Christian authors they read.  Reading helps redirect our attention away from our own stress and worry.  It provides positive food for our mental energies.  Find something today and dig in!

4. Pray for the difficult things | It’s one thing to pray for help, strength, or simply the need for the next ‘feel good’ season to come quickly.  To accept the season we are in, however, and ask the Lord to teach us something new is a whole new approach.  It’s hard, but take intentional moments to set aside your pain and dismay in order to ask God to grow your understanding of Him and His will.

What season are you in today?  What did you learn, or how did you grow, from your previous season?

Leave a comment below.  Let’s grow in this life together.

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.ryankapp.com