Category Archives: Life

You’re Not Your Shortcomings

At some point or another, we all feel unworthy. Of our job. Our friends or family. Someone else’s affection. Of God’s love.

I experience this whenever I let my shortcomings define me. I focus on my weaknesses–ignoring my God-given skills, talents, and blessings–and start to think “that’s all there is to me: flaws.”

The Bible calls those shortcomings something else: flesh (as in “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit”; Galatians 5:17). Which seems to confirm that we’re all just big wads of failure. After all, we’re made of flesh, right? So if flesh is weak and sinful, and flesh is what I’m made of, then I’m made of weaknesses, faults, shortcomings, and sin.

Except that’s not true: we’re not just flesh. We’re souls, made by Almighty God the Creator, who inhabit flesh while on this earth. Continue reading


He Sees The Bigger Picture

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2 ESV)

What a view! God hovered OVER the face of the waters. God is able to see things that we don’t see. He understands things that leave us scratching our heads. He sees the bigger picture. He sees our lives from above.

His perspective is vast.

Your perspective is limited.

God limits your perspective so that you will lean on him for wisdom, understanding, and peace.

I’m not sure what your circumstances are today. Maybe you have a lot on your plate at work. Maybe you have a friend or family member struggling with cancer. Maybe the odds feel stacked against your life. Maybe you feel like you can barely keep your head above the water.

Remember that God is above the water. He hovers above your life with a purpose and a plan. Not only does he hover above with the ability to see a bigger picture. He WALKS WITH YOU through the uncertainty. And he will certainly guide you all the way through. (Psalm 23:4)

P.J.


The Insider’s Defense

I call it The Insider’s Defense. It’s what we do when others criticize the decisions we make regarding the people we date, the careers we choose, or the purchases we make. We tell them: it may not make sense from out there, but from here on the inside everything looks just fine. (And we usually follow this up with a good ‘ol “none of your business, anyway!”)

As if our circumstances are so complex we’re the only ones smart enough to figure them out.

As if we’re the only one’s who’ve ever experienced anything like this before. Continue reading


Love and Carrots

I recently ran across a NY Times article from 2009 that I first read in grad school. It’s titled When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’ (it’s still available online if you want to read the whole thing). I’ve got two kiddos on the way, so I’m as keen as ever to learn vicariously and soak up parenting advice now before I’m too tired and overwhelmed to understand it. A quick re-read gave me not only food for thought regarding the value and risks of using attention, encouragement, and isolation as child-rearing tactics, but also a reminder of why God’s love is so much better than an earthly parent’s.

Here’s an excerpt:

… The talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

As a parent-to-be, and (as much as I hate comparing kids to animals) a pet-owner, I can relate to this kind of thinking. It’s pretty simple, and seems to make sense. Reward good behavior so the child will repeat it. Punish or ignore bad behavior so it won’t be repeated. Except it doesn’t actually work that way at all. Continue reading


Identify Your Wins

Are you the slightest bit competitive?  I think everyone has a bit of a competitive streak deep down inside.  I would say I’m extremely competitive.  I like to win.  I like to succeed.  I like to reach goals.

When people know they are “winning” at something, they feel good about being a part of the cause.  When people know they are losing, the stands tend to clear out.

What’s a win for you as an individual?

What’s a win for your family?

Pastor, what’s a win for your church?  Identify the wins for your people.  Because if you don’t, they will.  And what they call a win, may actually be a loss.  Keep the flock heading in ONE direction. (Just a side note)

I recently had some time to speak to the students (5th – 12th graders) at our church.  I shared with them what the wins are for our student ministry.  I have noticed them clearly setting their sights on the things that help us win.

It’s important that we identify the wins in our lives.  If we know we are winning, then we know we are heading in the right direction.  When our identified wins are not being accomplished, then we know it’s time to sit down and go back to the drawing board.

7  Wins that Lauren and I have identified for our family…

  1. Individually spend time in God’s word daily
  2. Open communication and prayer with one another
  3. Serve one another
  4. Out do one another in showing honor
  5. Attend church together regularly
  6. Give faithfully to our local church
  7. Attend a small group (provided by our local church) regularly
Do we succeed at each of these every day?  Nope.  We’re far from perfect people.  But we STRIVE to win.  Take time to identify the wins in different areas of your life.  It’s a lot easier to stay motivated when you know you’re winning.
P.J.

What Do You Think About This?

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

Last week Lauren and I went to purchase some new furniture for our living room.  We decided to bring some friends along with us to provide their opinion.  We were planning on purchasing a recliner and accent chair to go along with our sofa.   After selecting two chairs we asked our friends “What do you think about this?”  Our friends pointed out to us that the furniture looked great.  But with that selection we would have three pieces of furniture that were three different colors in our living room.  I’m glad they pointed that out to us.  Lauren and I liked the chairs.  But we weren’t thinking about the way they would affect the look of our living room after they were in there.  Our friends helped us see something that we were not seeing at the moment. 

This is an important lesson to be learned in every area of our lives.  It’s vital that we have the trusted advice and perspective of other people in our lives.  

As the leader of a business, church, or ministry you need to the perspective and input of trusted leaders around you.

As a man you need other godly husbands to give you insight.

As a woman you need godly women around you to help you be the woman God made you to be.

As a parent you need the input of other godly parents and godly people in your life as you raise your children.

As you try to steward your finances God’s way, seek the counsel of godly people that are striving for the same.

As a student you need the vision of godly people that have been where you are so that you can get where you need to be.

As individuals it’s easy to get tunnel vision.  With the perspective and direction of a trusted few you can make decisions that will reap lasting benefits.  

Don’t be afraid to ask godly people you trust and respect “What do you think about this?”

P.J.


Falling Off The Bike

This post was inspired by a recent conversation with my good friend Derek Wingfield.  Thanks for sharing your struggles with me and being some one I can share my struggles with. 

Did you ever fall off of your bike as a kid?  

I know I  did.  I still have scars from some pretty bad bicycle accidents growing up.  I may have had more accidents on my bike than most kids because I was constantly trying to find the next best hill to ride my bike down or the largest drop off I could ride my bike off of.  I was a bicycle risk taker.

I remember after many crashes not wanting to get back on my bike.  But usually after an hour of licking my wounds, I realized I needed to get back on my bike and get back to doing my thing.  I needed to get back to being a boy seeking adventure.

I think a lot of times we fall off  of the bike in our lives.  I personally have fallen off the bike a few times lately.

We may go for weeks, months, or years with consistent disciplines in our lives.  But then out of no where something happens that throws us completely off track.

A few examples of falling off the bike in our lives….

Healthy eating habits turn into big bowls of ice cream.

Consistent and meaningful bible studies become inconsistent and pushed off until later.

Routine exercise gets traded in for extra time on the couch.

Wise stewardship of money gives way to instant gratification.

Make sense?

We all have areas in our lives where we fall off the bike.  These are critical moments.  Because when we are off of the bike chances are we are not moving in the direction God is trying to move us.  Get back on the bike and keep peddling into the direction God desires for your life. 

P.J.


An Opportune Time

“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”  Luke 4:13

As we strive to obediently follow Christ we are in a battle with our enemy (Ephesians 6:12).   Our enemy is out to still, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  He prowls like a lion seeking to devour our lives (1 Peter 5:8).

He knows that you’ve been gifted to make a positive difference in the world.  He knows that once you catch God’s vision for your life, he has one more person battling against him as you point others to the life, hope, healing, purpose, and freedom that is available through Jesus Christ.

He also knows your weakness.  He knows where to attack you.  He waits strategically for the opportune time to bring you down.  Satan is a very effective leader.  Take a look at the world around you.  He knows exactly what he’s doing.  He’s not a great leader.  Great leaders give glory to God.  But he is a very effective leader.

I’m not encouraging you to live life looking for Satan around every corner and in every situation.  I am encouraging you to be aware of your weaknesses.  Because the enemy is looking for an opportune time.  And all it takes is one opportune time for all the influence and trust you have built with your church, co-workers, spouse, kids, and friends to be tarnished.  What takes years to build, can fall apart in seconds.  Yes, grace and mercy are necessary and biblical when one falls.  But grace and mercy do not erase the consequences and fall out of sin.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:12-15


Toleration, compromise, and grace

Of the dozens – probably more like hundreds – of people I’ve met who’ve broken up with God (they don’t take His calls, they neither love Him nor accept His love, etc.), a vast majority have done so because of experiences in church. They became so appalled by the actions of Christians that they felt they could no longer call themselves one, which meant no longer following Christ.

A lot of those Christians’ actions – the ones that drove former believers to disbelief – are rooted in the best of intentions. Few followers of Christ would ever intentionally do anything to run anyone away from the church. I really believe that. But just as few are the Christians who can effectively navigate the narrow channel between judgment and grace. Our problem is that we don’t know how to deal with people who don’t see things our way.

This predicament isn’t exclusive to the church. It’s the same reason Democrats and Republicans would let the U.S. default on its debt before conceding to the other party’s approach to debt management. The same reason otherwise-rational adults get into fistfights over affiliation with a football team. The same reason employees within a department, departments within an organization, and organizations within an affiliation undermine one another and compete – rather than collaborate – for resources.  The same reason, fundamentally, people all over the world, since the beginning of civilization, have participated in wars, revolutions, riots, crusades, protests, and other conflicts. Continue reading


Take Your Time

We live in a fast paced world.  We want things instantly.  We can’t stand to wait in long lines.  It drives us crazy to wait very long for a meal.  We microwave instead of cook.  We text message instead of call.  We believe the faster things can happen for us the better they are.

God has been teaching me a lesson over the course of the past few months.  Actually over the course of the past few years.

Anything that’s going to be worth something, carry value, or have depth, is going to take a lot of time.  

Meaningful friendships do not happen over one meal.  They deepen over the course of many conversations.

A ministry that makes a deep impact doesn’t just sprout up over night.  It’s impact follows much prayer, thought, surrender, faith, some failure, and more faith.

A marriage isn’t everything God dreams for it to be in one year.  He deepens the love in a marriage over the course of many years.

Noah built the ark.  But the rain didn’t come until over 100 years later.

Joshua was a great leader.  But he was mentored by and assisted Moses for 40 years before the Lord made him the lead man.

Jesus walked the earth for many years before he actually began his public ministry.

The great things the Lord wants to do in your life will not happen over night, in a day, or in one time of bible study and prayer.  They happen over many days, months, and years of consistent obedience, is his word, in prayer, and in close community with other believers.

God has a purpose, plan, and vision for your life.  You may know that, but may be completely frustrated with the way things seem to be going.  Stand firm.  Lean on him.  Dig into his word.  Take your time.  It will be worth it.

“It happens in a moment, but the story unfolds over time.” Steven Furtick

P.J.


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