What is the KEY to your faith? Have you ever really pondered that? Our faith completely hangs on one single thread. The resurrection! Look what Paul says about our faith.
And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. - 1 Cor. 15:17
If Jesus had not been brutally put to death on a cross and then raised from the dead 3 days later, our faith would be worthless. Also, our sins would not have been forgiven and we would still be dependent upon the Old Testament Law to ‘work’ for our forgiveness.
This Sunday is Easter. The day that followers of Jesus reflect and celebrate our forgiveness, salvation, and life in the loving person of Jesus Christ. He is Risen. He is the Messiah, savior of all humankind. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
Personally, I will be reflecting on what the Resurrection means to me this weekend. How it is the one single key to my faith. And gratitude to Jesus for his sacrificial love.
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(Not a political blog post, but one of personal struggle and faith)
I live in Washington State. Yesterday, our governor announced a state-wide mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccination status.
Now, I have made the personal choice to receive the vaccine. But I was against it for a very long time. It simply bothers me that government institutions are pressing heavily on people to get a vaccine injected into their body that to this day still has not been approved as safe and effective by the FDA. I chose to get it on my own timing and for my own reasons. And I completely support those who have chosen not to get it.
This entire discussion will change once the FDA fully approves it.
For now, however, we are stuck with a gigantic question. “How do we approach daily life at work and at home with positivity and hope when virtually everything we see in the news and that is being forced upon us by our elected officials points to despair and frustration?”
I have come to realize something this week. Allowing ourselves to float aimlessly down the river of societal unrest not only does not help us, but it actually causes us to get more unhealthy. Our clarity of thought, mental health, and overall outlook on our world gets flushed down a truck stop toilet when you and I allow mainstream news outlets, social media, Hollywood, and self-serving politicians to shape how we decide to live our day and treat others.
Do you agree?
I spent the entire evening last night feeling sick to my stomach. My anxiety was higher than it’s been in months. “Take slow, deep breaths. Stop looking at the news” I would try to tell myself.
I slept 9 hours last night and I still awoke feeling like I had been drug on the ground behind a running horse through the desert. After taking my wife to work I came home, took a shower, and sat down at the table with God, His word, and my journal. It was time to have a discussion.
Next, I was reminded of the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us these traits are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ These are character traits that God hopes His followers will develop for every season of life.
One of my favorite quotes over the last 30 years comes from pastor and author, Charles Swindoll. He says, “My attitude is made up of 10% my circumstances, and 90% how I react to them.”
Ouch!!! My 90% reaction last night contained none of the above-mentioned 9 Spiritual traits.
This is what led me to write this post today. I am a pastor and follower of Jesus. If that’s you as well, we are called by God to be set apart from the norms of the world. God asks us to stand out in how we love and how we posture ourselves when facing fear, frustration, and uncertain times.
May I encourage you today? Especially if you have been feeling similar to me recently, take time first thing in the morning and again right before bed to meditate on God, His goodness, His promises, and His power. I’m going to do my best to do this too.
I’ll leave you with this. Yes, I have very strong opinions on how our leaders are facilitating the COVID situation, what’s occurring in Afghanistan, racial injustices, the current labor shortage in America. But when it boils down to it, our character and public posture must be shaped by God’s word and strength, NOT by the social issues that dominate today’s news headlines.
Do you agree? What do you struggle with most today? Have you figured out how to keep yourself centered and positive in the midst of the current chaos we live in, or do you struggle like I do?
Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
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Yesterday was Monday, but it was my Friday. I lost a job yesterday. The wave of emotions was mixed. In the 30+ years that I’ve been in the workforce this is the first time I’ve actually been ‘let go.’ It was also the main (largest) source of income for our family. Pride and providence are key themes here. God would rather I not be prideful in a job or position. And providing for our family’s needs is ultimately his job, not mine. Yes, I must work. But I shouldn’t worry about if our needs will be met according to my efforts.
Now, I also co-pastor a Missional Community (a faith family) with my amazing wife in Yakima, WA. And I work very part-time at a local grocery store. So, it’s not like I’m unemployed. But it was a pretty significant loss.
This morning I didn’t need to get up at 4:30am for work. I awoke at 9:39am, focusing on my health as I head into this new season. And in my coffee time with Jesus he led me to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. Between this and other readings my wife shared with me came this encouragement and direction.
Jesus reminded me that I’m to practice all of these, not only focus on just one. Praying all the time isn’t very effective if I’m not going to listen. And spending all my time searching only goes so far if I’m not spending time with God and in his written word.
I’m in a new season. And God has blessed me with incredible peace that he is here with me and his plan will be revealed soon.
Have you ever found yourself in a season where life just sucks? And then God tosses an image like this out on your Facebook feed.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus FOR YOU.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
It’s important for us as believers to recognize these 3 ASPECTS of God’s will for us provided here in 1 Thessalonians.
Rejoice ALWAYS – Meaning, be glad. Look for the joys of life that are all around us but often difficult to notice.
Pray WITHOUT ceasing – Having a constant mind of prayer throughout the day helps to strengthen our faith. It keeps us focused on God more than our circumstances. It reminds us that we need him. Lastly, it encourages us not to give up praying for things that we’ve been asking God about for a while.
Give thanks in ALL circumstances – It’s easier for most of us to give thanks to God when life is pleasant. But when things really stink it requires a ton of effort to be actively thankful.
So, why are these 3 things such a high focus for God’s will for you and I?
As our father in heaven, he truly wants for us to be happy. Continual prayer is needed to maintain our relational connection with him. And a thankful heart keeps us grounded and hopeful.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t actually going to post anything this morning. But this image on PRAYER caught my eye as I was scrolling through FB. My wife had posted it. She’s awesome. Anyway, we’re currently in a very difficult season and walking through mental health struggles with one of our adult children.
The most frustrating part of it is that there is virtually nothing we can do to FIX their situation. Nothing we can do to take their pain away. All we can to is be present, offer a thousand hugs, and be a sense of security and safety. We also pray a TON.
While I say ‘all we can do,’ those things really are powerful. In all actuality, they really are ENOUGH. But as a parent it doesn’t feel like it.
Nevertheless, I choose to focus on these ACTIONS today…tomorrow…and the next day.
How about you? Do you wrestle with these? How can I pray for you this week?
Guys, I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now. I started in the early days with a blog I called ‘Brain Gum, spiritual thoughts to chew on.’ I miss that one. Then after some church leadership experiences, LeadRight was born. This blog had a few posts about scripture and faith, but it largely focused on healthyleadership.
As my blog needs to adequately reflect my personal season of life, it is now transitioning back to a more ‘devotional-type’ of blog.
My wife, Cailey, and I co-pastor a Missional Community in Yakima, WA. This endeavor has been completely new and invigorating for us. It’s an approach to living and spreading the Gospel, while making disciples, that we’ve never experienced before.
I’m keeping all prior posts on this blog. But as a transitional post, here are a few of the more popular leadership writings I’ve shared.
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.
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?
For the purpose of this blog post, a ‘Successful’ devotional time is one that actually happens and is intentional. It also lays the foundation for us to more easily experience something God has for us that day.
Here we go…
Eliminate distractions | I’m a little ADD, so it doesn’t take much for my attention to get hijacked. If you can relate, you might want to try some things that have worked for me. Listen to instrumental music using headphones. Use a room or space where others are not present. Mute your phone and set it face down. Or if you use your phone for your devotion time, turn all of your notifications off. Set it to ‘Do Not Disturb.’ If you’re using a laptop, close all tabs for things like email and Facebook. They alert you when a new message arrives.
Make a plan | Treat this like an appointment. Set a time and stick to it. I’ve even placed it on my calendar before. And if you plan to journal, will it be paper or online? What will you journal? Planning ahead before your devotional time helps it to occur more smoothly.
Come prepared | Determine in advance what scriptures you will be reading. What Bible translation will you use? Do you prefer using a physical Bible, or an App like Youversion? Any devotional books or podcasts? Oh, and don’t forget your favorite coffee!
Include prayer | This may sound unambivalent, but I’ve found this piece to be something that can be easily overlooked. I almost always try to open my devotional time with God in prayer. Asking him to speak clearly to me through the passages I’ll be reading and for his Spirit to guide me to the areas of scripture I need to reflect on that day. Doing this also helps me to focus my attention on the things of God and away from the issues, errands, and concerns I’ll be facing later.
All 4 of these keys have the makings for a strong, successful daily habit of spending some valuable time with God. Now, this list is obviously not comprehensive, it won’t guarantee your salvation, and it’s not going to ensure a euphoric connection with God every day!
But here’s what it does do! It provides a basic foundation for us to grow in our relationship with Jesus that otherwise becomes virtually impossible.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. – Psalm 119:15
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. – Romans 8:5
What KEYS would you add? Has this been helpful to you? Feel free to leave a comment or DM me.
Have you ever experienced God in a completely opposite way than you were expecting?
Recently, my wife, daughter and I were relocating to Yakima, WA from Colorado Springs. As with any significant road trip involving three full days of travel and a 26 ft. moving truck, day 1 plagued me with anxiousness. I prefer not to travel after dark (which we were), and once we crossed over into Wyoming the weather turned on us. Not with snow and ice as you might assume in this region in November. No, mother nature decided to expose us to a bit of WIND. Specifically, 65+ MPH sustained winds!
Here’s a picture of the exact message we encountered as we approached the first town in Wyoming…
At first, I was drawn to the ’65+MPH wind’ part of the sign. Soon thereafter, I experienced the frightening reality that I was indeed traveling in a ‘light high profile vehicle.’ I wanted to stop for the night, but the forecast for the next day predicted even worse winds. I had no real choice in the situation. We had to just push through. So, I continued on…one mile at a time at just 45 MPH. Any faster and the wind would have flipped the truck on it’s side!
Needless to say, we managed to get through Wyoming safely. But not on our own ability. During the worst 3 hours of the trip I prayed. It started off with me pleading with God to protect myself, all of our belongings, and my wife and daughter traveling behind me in the car.
What happened next was simply incredible!
God transformed my heart. I was still white-knuckled and concerned the whole way, but He gave me the ability and heart to start praying for others. That’s right, I was praying over dozens of other people I know in the midst of my own fearful moments. Let me clarify, this is NOT a pat on the back for me. This was entirely a supernatural intervention.
This quote sums up my time with God nicely.
More specifically, God was keeping company with me on this journey. As we neared our stopping point that night I felt as if God was saying to me “This was good. Let’s do this more often.” Personally, I have come a long way in my practice of prayer and general pursuit of God in the past 5 years. But I have so much more to learn and grow toward.
“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11
If you’re anything like me, when I have trouble or stress in my life all I want to do is eat, complain, and remain as inactive as possible. Hey, I’m just being honest. Can you relate?
Lately, God has been leading me into a particular season of prayer. It’s been one of seeking his heart and hearing his voice. Life hasn’t necessarily been full of trouble or difficulty recently, but it has presented a lot of busyness. And if you’re like me, busyness has the tendency to distract. Auto-pilot becomes a natural and sub-conscious state of being.
When we come to realize that we are in this ‘funk,’ three key actions will aid to reset our priorities and improve our spiritual mental capacity.
Romans 12:12 reminds you and I to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Here’s what we can take away from this one powerful verse.
Rejoice in hope – That’s right, we have real hope in the promises of God. His word is reliable. And whether we can feel him actively involved in our circumstances or not, we can be reassured in the hope that we really do ‘know’ that he is.
Be patient in tribulation – In our pain, misery, and distress we can easily allow ourselves to become anxious. But God’s word instructs us to be patient. For me, this is a kind reminder that life comes in seasons. They all come and go. Sure, some last longer than others. But patience allows us to chill out while God is doing his thing. He’s not oblivious to your current state of life. Release your stress to him and trust.
Be constant in prayer – ‘Constant’…meditation is what comes to mind here. Prayer doesn’t always have to be kneeling in a dark closet (I’m not sure I’ve ever even done this). I would suggest that ‘constant in prayer’ simply means to remain in a state of continual awareness of God’s involvement in our lives throughout the day. My prayer life totally changed once I learned how to remain mindful of God’s presence around me throughout my entire day…AND once I learned the habit of talking with him in the midst of that presence.
So, try this today. Write it down. Ask a friend or spouse to join in this quest with you. Claim your joy in the hope we have in God, move patiently through the season you are in, and saturate your days in prayer.
Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.