Getting Gut Honest with God

I love the story in Judges 6 where God called Gideon to save the Israelites from the land of Midian. Gideon was the weakest of his clan from the weakest clan, yet God chose to use him for a powerful leadership role for God’s people. You might read the story again HERE.

Consider a small part of Gideon’s conversation with angel of the Lord:

(I’ve embellished the story a bit to illustrate the way I view the story. My embellishment is in parenthesis.)

“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”

“Well, please sir…(I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but) if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? …

…And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us…”

Imagine the scene. An angel shows up, which was usually a pretty scary part of the story, but instead of reacting in surprise, Gideon respectfully questions where God has been lately. He’s not disrespectful, but he is gut honest with the concerns he has with God.

Do you ever wonder where God is when life seems to be falling apart?

Do you ever question God’s involvement when He seems to be nowhere around?

Do you ever think things may never improve?

Gideon had those type questions, and he didn’t cover them up with phony praise, he let his concerns be known.

Yet God’s angel didn’t curse Gideon. Instead, God used Gideon, in spite of his doubts and fears.

“The Lord said to him, but I will be with you…” Judges 6:16 God simply pointed Gideon back to the faith he originally had in Him. That was not the end of Gideon’s fear or questioning, but it was the beginning of his journey back to complete faith.

Perhaps instead of continuing in our own doubts and fears, you and I should get gut honest with God. Maybe we should tell Him how we really feel. I’m not suggesting we become flippant towards a Holy God. That’s never a good idea. I’m suggesting we be honest with the God who already knows our heart and allow Him to restore our faith and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That often begins when we become real with God with who we are, who we are not, and who He is.

God uses people who are willing to humbly surrender their insufficiencies; their doubts and fears, to His sufficiency.

By the way, He knows your heart because He made your heart.

How are you at being honest with God?

When God Tries to Speak to You

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV

Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?

Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t yet recognize the voice of God. Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport that Mom will let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity.

Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know that my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!

How about you? Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.

Why don’t we heed the advice of Eli?

First, he told Samuel got still. He laid down, in the stillness of the night and waited for God to speak.

Second, Samuel listened expectantly. He knew he was waiting, and he knew who he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice.

Third, and perhaps most important, Samuel obeyed God’s word. It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you, that is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.

God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. Are you in a position to hear?

Stop, wait, listen…and obey the word of God today!

7 Ways to Sleep Soundly each Night

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

Years ago when we were in business, Cheryl and I went through a difficult period in life. Dealing with employees, cash flow, banks and trying to increase sales made for many sleepless nights. It was distressing. I believe, unless there are health reasons why you cannot, that we should be able to rest at night. Over the years, I have learned a few secrets of sleeping better each night.

Here are 7 ways to sleep soundly each night:

Exercise during the day – Sometime during the day, make yourself physically tired. Exercise not only works the body, it frees the mind. It helps you prepare to relax. There’s a power in physical activity which cannot be ignored. I try to exercise at least 5 days per week.

Eat healthy foods in adequate quantities – I’ve learned that greasy foods don’t set as well on my stomach. You’ll have your own foods that don’t make you feel as well as you could. Also, if you eat too little you’ll wake up hungry. If you eat too much you won’t settle peacefully. Find the right quantity of food and discipline yourself to eat the right amount. That usually means eating until you are satisfied, but not stuffing your stomach.

Put your day to bed – For me, that means reviewing my day and preparing for tomorrow. I spend a few minutes reflecting on what took place, what I can change and what I can’t, and then looking over my calendar for the next day. It mentally says “This day is over. A new day is coming.”

Be consistent – Even on weekends or when I’m out of town I keep pretty much the same schedule. Occasionally I’ll need to “catch up” on some sleep, but most of the time I’m in bed and out of bed  (without ever using an alarm) at the same time each day. Once it becomes a habit it’s not that bad…even getting up early. Seriously.

Invest in good bedding – Don’t be cheap when it comes to your mattress or bedding. I’ve learned that you get what you pay for with this expense. Shop for quality, as well as price.

Write it down – Journaling can be a release from the day. Share your thoughts, concerns, fears and dreams. Get them off your chest then lay them to rest. (No rhyme intended.)

Pray – End with a release to God. Not trying to be cruel, but if worry is keeping you awake at night, you have a faith issue bigger than a sleep issue. Remember, He’s on His throne…even as you sleep. (If you fall asleep while praying…God won’t mind. Didn’t you enjoy watching your children fall asleep?)

Try some of these and let me know how they work for you. I’m praying you learn some secrets for better sleeping.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What tips do you have?

Saturday Night Prayer Chain 2, Let’s Pray for One Another

It’s been a couple months since we did a Saturday night prayer chain. Is your life still in need of prayer?

How can we pray for you?

This is simple. You leave a comment on this post, my faithful prayer warrior readers read it, and we pray. You can join the praying as well as the listing of requests too. Let’s pray for one another.

This time I’m praying:

  • For God to reveal Himself to people tonight…and tomorrow.
  • For our churches to be packed this weekend.
  • For a man to come to his senses and return to his family.
  • For a teenage girl who needs to make the right choices going forward.
  • For a couple people I know looking for work.
  • For several people battling cancer.
  • For a single parent who is lonely.
  • For a church that’s launching tomorrow.

What are you praying for?

How can we pray for you?

Go!

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today. Lately, however, I’ve not felt as disciplined in each area of my life. I would excel in one area, but not in another. I’ve shared some of this here previously, but I went through a couple stressful years. That, coupled with an extremely busy period, distracted me from some of the disciplines I had done for so many years.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit…part of the DNA of my daily life. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat. (The LoseIt app helps with that. Read about it HERE.)

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to bs, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I’ve written about this before HERE. I know well this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to run 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 or 3 days per week.

Sleep – I don’t need much sleep. If I’m not careful I’ll stay up too late at night working on projects. I never sleep late, so I end up getting too little sleep. My goal here is lights out by 10:30 and to take short power naps as needed…and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days? (You’ll be finished before Christmas.) You can change the details of each discipline…you may need more calories or less…you may choose a different exercise…etc… The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

Nascar Prayer…Boogity Boogity Boogity

Chances are good by now you’ve seen this. It happened down the road from me. I don’t know this pastor, but I may need to invite him to lunch sometime.

Just so you know, this is not a typical Tennessee prayer. It certainly brings attention to the fact that we do pray! :)

What thoughts come to your mind with this prayer?

Scripture Memorization, Week 20

Jehoshaphat was a great king, because he followed the ways of God. In an incredible example of humility, Jehoshaphat was willing to admit, in front of the people he was leading, that he didn’t have all the answers.

When facing a powerful rival nation, Jehoshaphat prayed a prayer. This week’s memory verse comes from that prayer.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

Do you ever feel overwhelmed, not knowing what step to take next? If you do, and if you want to join me this week in learning this short, simple prayer, simply comment on this post with the word “Amen!”

Together, this week, we’ll look to God for answers we do not have.

A Special Message to Stressed Out Church Planters (and others)

Dear church planter (and others)…

In the growth phase, everything is changing, life moves at rocket pace…

Somedays you don’t know whether you are coming or going…

It’s a bit overwhelming, stressful, even a bit scary at times…

I hear this often from new church plants and fast growing churches…

I feel (and identify with) your pain…

I see part of my calling to help church leaders during this time…

I pray you protect your heart and your family…

But…

Let’s hope things never change…

Oh, don’t misunderstand, I hope you get better…

I hope you increase structure as needed…

I hope you can soon afford more staff…

I hope more volunteers are recruited…

I hope more people start financially contributing to the vision…

I hope you gain wisdom from others who have gone before you…

But I hope you never stop feeling somewhat overwhelmed…

I hope that the sense of facing the unknown never completely leaves you…

You see…

If you ever get to the point where you always know what to do next…

You’ve probably reached your threshold for growth…

You’ll no longer need to walk by faith…

You’ll soon become bored, perhaps even complacent…

And, that’s not the dream God called you to…

Growth and change is always uncomfortable, because it’s taking you into the unknown…

Dear church planter (and others), if the stress is from things going right…God is bringing new people…He’s stretching your leadership skills…He’s allowing you to encounter the messiness of extending love and grace to hurting people…He’s accomplishing His will through you…

Praise God…stay on your knees…and rejoice that He is displaying His glory!

Do you need to be reminded to enjoy the journey today?

 

A Parent’s Greatest Prayer

I love the story of Manoah and his wife. They had been unable to give birth until one day an angel of God brings them news of a child to be born. As Manoah’s wife came to him with the good news, Manoah immediately did what happens to many men and wome when they discover they are about to be parents…he prayed!

In that moment, realizing they were about to be blessed with one of life’s greatest blessings, Manoah prayed the most important prayer a parent can pray:

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” (Judges 13:8)

Parenting is hard work. All of us have seasons we could use more prayer for our children.

What are the current prayers you have for your children?  What specifically do they need the most?

What are you presntly praying about for your parenting skills?  What specifically do you need the most?

I always tried to focus my greatest prayers on the character of my children.   What character issues are your children needing to mature in these days? Try asking God to help you know how to parent your children to develop in these areas.

(BTW, if you are interested or need this, I have written two previous posts about dealing with childlessness. You can read those posts HERE and HERE.)