Anyone who’s spent any time around me knows that I love to be outdoors. Especially when being outdoors has something to do with hunting or fishing. For my fellow hunters out there you probably know that this last week bow season for deer opened, and I had the incredible privilege of hanging out with two great guys (Ray & Rex that’s you) in the woods for a couple of days.
For you non-hunters out there who don’t fully understand the draw allow me to attempt, with mediocre words, why we/I love it so much. You usually wake up around 4am after a night of very little sleep anticipating what will happen the next day. Your alarm goes off and you rise to shower and prepare your freshly, scentless clothing. If your hunting with a couple of buddies, which I highly recommend, then you join up and drive to your location. The conversation and camaraderie is really second to none, ribbing, joking, and most of all boasting about who will get either the most or the biggest deer this year. But, this is all pre-game, the event is yet to come.
Once we arrive on location, everything goes quiet, it’s not that you can’t talk, but it just doesn’t feel right. The world around you is still in silent slumber, often even the bugs aren’t making a sound. It is an eery, yet calming feeling that washes over you as you step into nature. In absolute silence you walk to your tree stand, and with as much stealth as possible climb the 12-20′ up to your 2′ x 2′ front row seat to the awakening of the world. If you time it right, you sit in darkness for at least an hour before you feel the cold rush that proceeds first light, as it washes over you enveloping you in the wondrous show that God has prepared just for you in this moment. You take one last look around you knowing that in less than an hour everything you think you see will be gone, and what is real will be unveiled.
As the pre-dawn ignites it is almost imperceptible, the hues of black turn to grey, then blue, orange, and yellow. In this 1,800 seconds the alarm clock of nature erupts around you, as every creature in God’s marvelous creation begins to awaken. In those seconds of pre-dawn glory I have seen more amazing sights than I could probably write about in a life time. I’ve been stared at by curious squirrels, scolded by blue jays, crawled on by annoyed chipmunks, almost knocked out of a tree by a woodpecker the size of a small dog, and once had an owl fly within inches of my nose…and it was glorious!
When the sun finally breaks the horizon the morning is in full throated chorus, with every creature adding to the harmony, reminding you just how small you are, but how special you are. For all of this, this orchestra of nature was created just for us. God built this amazing world just for me. In these moments, during these mornings, I am reveling in God’s love song to me, reminding me of his incomparable power to watch over me, guide me, protect me.
If you need a fresh encounter, a revelation, a time of reflection, can I challenge you? Wake up early, and I mean early. Make some coffee grab a warm blanket, snag a front row seat, and allow your God to unfold before you the majesty of creation…and then remember, you are his crown jewel!
We all remember what we wanted to be when we were growing up, a doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, fireman, etc… We all remember because it was really our first big dream. For some of us we wanted to be that because our mom or dad was one, or someone we idolized was. Others wanted to be that because we looked up to them, felt like they were people who made a difference, who made an impact in others lives.
I remember several years ago (1999) Monster.com came out with a tremendous ad campaign with children sharing ‘their dreams’.
At that point in time I was just 5 years removed from college and although I thought the commercial was funny, the power of the commercial was somewhat lost on me. Now, fifteen plus years later, and hundreds of conversations with people just like you I realize that this commercial isn’t so much funny as it is sad. To think about all of the people in our world whose dreams have become nothing more than a cherished memory of childhood, and thought of as a naive childhood fantasy. How incredibly sad!
The Bible, however, teaches that childhood dreams are not something to simply be dismissed, but to be celebrated! A child isn’t tainted with the disease of what we call reality and therefore can see things with a clarity that escapes most adults. By the time we are ‘grown up’ we know better, we are seasoned, we are more mature…we are cynical, jaded, and realists! Our innocence and trust has eroded away as the years slipped by, leaving us with the inability to believe in anything that we cannot taste, touch, feel, or see and our imagination, dreams, and faith dissipate into the vast nothingness of adulthood.
I think it’s time for us to rekindle our dreams and passions to pursue all that God has for us. Jesus said;
I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. – Luke18:17 NLT
The Bible tells us that God has incredible plans for your life (Jer 29:11; 1 Cor 2:9) but those plans, although promised to you, will never become reality until you are willing to reach out, take them, and pursue them. Much like needing to have the faith of a child is necessary for salvation, believing that our Heavenly Father wants good and not evil for us takes a child like trust of our divine parent. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, the world will tell you that it’s unrealistic. Yes, it may take longer than you planned. BUT, Yes, God can be trusted!
So, what did you want to be when you grew up…it’s not too late!
I am old enough to remember the anti-drug and alcohol campaign that touted and launched this iconic saying. Even as I watched these commercials as a preteen and teen I realized that even though the commercials themselves were more than ‘lame’ (80’s throwback reference) the power of the statement really did make an impact. I mean I started saying no to my teachers, my coaches, my parents…I may have taken that out of context, and it most definitely got me in trouble!
As I’ve grown older, gained more experience, and grown a touch more mature, I’ve realized there is incredible power in that little two-letter word. I’ve also learned that if I’m going to be able to say ‘yes’ to the things in my life that are really important, I’m going to need to learn how to say ‘no’ to the things that are less important. Now, this isn’t to say that things others are asking me to do are bad, in fact, many if not all of them are very good, but it’s not what is best for me.
Over the years I’ve gleaned from some masters in the art of saying no, and I’ve taken some of the best ‘no’s’ I’ve received over the years and incorporated them into my own personal repertoire, but for the sake of time and space I’ve boiled down some of the best, so without further ado:
Dave’s Top Five Ways To Say No With A Smile!
- I would love to, however, my schedule simply doesn’t allow me the time to do that.
- Thanks so much for thinking of me, as awesome as it may be, I cannot do that.
- I am so sorry, but that is just not something that I can do at this point.
- Unfortunately, do to my other commitments, I must decline. However, (so-and-so) might be a perfect fit.
- Thank you so much for the offer, but in an effort to honor my time with my family, I cannot take you up on it.
I’d love to hear some of your great ‘no’s’ in the comments, just maybe I’ll steal one for my own personal collection!
And hey, don’t feel bad about saying ‘no’, they won’t have to give an account for how you used the time God gave you…but you will!
This coming Sunday, March 8th, 2015, I’ll begin teaching a series that has been 20+ years in the making. I have had the privilege of being a pastor for just over 20 years and during that time I’ve counseled hundreds, if not thousands of people. If there is one common thread among them all, it’s that they all, in fact, we all are looking for satisfaction, fulfillment, and peace in this life. For most of humanity this search seems endless, we look for it in every person we meet, in every job we take, in every day that we live, and the majority of us walk away, unfulfilled.
It wasn’t always this way; in the beginning things were perfect, and then sin came in and destroyed it all. But, what if there was a way to experience that fullness, that peace, that joy once again? What if, say our Creator, actually had a plan in place to connect us to those things that would fill our hearts with peace, our lives with meaning, and our relationships with joy? Jesus, in fact, promises as much when he says in John 10:10:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
The process isn’t some 10 step program, or a list of rules or regulations. No, it’s something far more profound, you see our souls are out of alignment with the purposes and plan of God for our life. And, because of this, just like when a car is out of alignment, there is all sorts of vibration, chaos, and unsettledness in our soul. It doesn’t matter how much we have, how many relationships we engage in, or how much accomplishment we can find, there will always be something that’s “off” and we feel it. But, when our souls become aligned with Him, the world around us can be spinning out of control and we will be in absolute peace.
If you want to discover how you can get your soul back in line with God’s, I’d like to invite you to come to Friendship Church this weekend, or listen online at experiencefriendship.com.
I’ll see you then!
Having been a ‘victim’ of exaggeration and outright lies about things I’ve said, preached, or written I always try to err on the side of grace, and when I feel it’s necessary to speak to a subject, make sure I’ve done my research.
Several years ago Rob Bell wrote a book entitled Love Wins, a book which ended up costing him his pastorate. It felt like every evangelical/orthodox pastor with a social media account was bashing him even before the book had been released! Knowing the world we live in and Satan’s great desire to divide those of us who claim the name of Christ I actually went out and read the book, go figure! The book wasn’t as evil as everyone said, but Mr. Bell’s conclusions were simply made because of his emotions about the subject rather than his research of the truth on the subject from Scripture. The biggest problem that developed from his book was not the discussion on Heaven and Hell, that was good, instead it was the increasingly embraced idea that maybe, just maybe, placing your faith in Jesus Christ in this life isn’t the only way for salvation. Now, for fairness sake, Mr. Bell doesn’t come right out and say this verbatim, but he leads you right to the doorstep, knocks on the door, looks at you with a smile and says, ‘So, whatcha think?’.
Again, Mr. Bell and now along with his wife, have come out with a new book on marriage called The Zimzum of Love. Now, I will readily confess that I have not read the book, nor do I plan to, but Mr. Bell and his wife gave an interview with Oprah, which I watched in it’s entirety. It is this interview and the words that he and his wife chose that I now have to address. I could address the fact that they include homosexuality as a viable option for humanity, but I’ve done that before. Suffice to say that I believe like all sins, homosexuality is a cheap imitation of God’s relational design, that will leave all those who participate in it more broken, more wounded, and less fulfilled. Satan is the ultimate deceiver and he’s garnering more and more of professed believers into accepting the lie that God is keeping something from you, when in reality it’s that God is wanting to protect you, because He’s got something better for you!
Here are my previous posts on the subject:
- Extreme “Christian” Views on Homosexuality
- A Biblical Response to Homosexuality
- What about Gay Marriage?
However, that is not why I write this post. I write this because of a statement that Mr. Bell makes while trying to defend his position on homosexuality. Here is the quote verbatim:
“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life.”
And here is the salient clip, just in case you think I might be taking it out of context:
For clarity sake, what Mr. Bell has just said is that the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it makes it’s best defense the Bible. Allow that to sink in for a moment… He has just said that ‘flesh-and-blood people’ not a holy, sovereign God should determine what is right for them. He has just implicated that the Bible is in fact, irrelevant in our world today, it cannot be relied upon, it cannot be trusted as truth. He has finally hypothesized that if the church keeps as it’s focus the truth found in the Word of God, they will cease to be an influence on the world around them.
I am most certain that Mr. Bell will not read my small, inconsequential blog, but hopefully people who listen to him will. Hopefully, my friends who have read some of his previous writings, which for the most part were solid, will veer away from this new iteration of his faith. My friends, I beg of you to consider the implications if indeed the Bible is irrelevant:
- The mission of the church is founded in those 2,000 year old letters. I have often stated that I believe that the local church, as the messenger of Jesus Christ, is the hope of the world. If the Bible is irrelevant, our world is without hope.
- The message of the gospel is found in those 2,000 year old letters. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man can come to the Father except through me.” If this truth cannot change culture, than culture cannot be changed!
- The key to genuine fulfillment is found in those 2,000 year old letters. Jesus says that He came to give us life in all of it’s fullness! If His words are irrelevant than we as a human race are living empty lives, void of fulfillment, and without the possibility of real enjoyment.
My friends, those 2,000 year old letters are precious to me, not because I am some stuck in the mud, fundamental, traditionalist who still believes that a fat adulterous King was the only one who could authenticate Scripture (King James if you’re wondering), but because I have tried them, tested them, and applied them to my life year after year, and they have proven faithful! Those 2,000 year old letters change lives, saves marriages, and alters eternal destinies, they are far from irrelevant, they are essential!
Think about it,
I shared with you the first Positive Habit with this post: Part 1. Today, I’d like to share with you the second Positive Habit, the habit of Prayer.
Prayer is often seen as a mysterious, even mystical thing that somehow must be mastered over a lifetime of practice. The other night I was bored and the movie Gravity was on…did I mention that I was bored? During one scene Sandra Bullock’s character makes this interesting statement, “Would you pray for me…no one ever taught me how to pray.” I find that very interesting, and telling of our culture. We have this ingrained belief that prayer and praying is difficult, tricky, and that there is some special protocol that must be followed, or else!
Whenever I teach about prayer, I usually go back to what I like to call the discovery of prayer. It’s found in the book of Genesis, chapter 4, verse 26:
Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.
You see when God created the world prayer was non-essential, because God and man communicated face to face. The Bible says that Adam and Eve walked with God together in the Garden of Eden. But, when man sinned that intimate connection was broken, or it would probably be better to say, it was significantly altered. Because of the sinfulness in man, God had to remove his ‘physical’ presence from man or else his holiness would have destroyed them, even if He is/was/always will be ever present. From that point on, however, God’s presence was not as obvious, and men’s relationship with God took a radical turn for the worse. The first man born, Cain, actually killed the second man born Abel, in a fit of rage and jealousy! Wow, it didn’t take long for that to go bad! However, when the next son was born, Seth, his attitude in regards to God was completely different. For some unknown reason, maybe a child was sick or the crops failed, Seth called out to God…and God answered him, and thus began what we now call prayer.
From that seminal moment forward men have realize that whenever they call out to God that He will answer them. Prayer, in it’s most basic and fundamental form, is simply calling out to God, nothing more and nothing less. You can call on God to praise His name, to thank Him for something He’s done, pleading for Him to intervene, to give direction, really whatever you need to say or ask of God, prayer is our mode of communication.
Okay, so let’s get into the specifics:
- Is there a particular place to pray from? Nope! Moses prayed on a Mountainside, David prayed in battle, Daniel prayed from inside the lion’s pit, Enoch prayed in the forest, Joseph prayed in prison, Abraham prayed in the desert…well I think you get the point. Your location isn’t relevant to the delivery success of your prayer.
- Is there a particular verbiage to prayer? Nope! Recorded prayers in the Bible are as short as a couple of words all the way up to an entire chapter in the Bible. It doesn’t have to have thee’s and thou’s, and probably shouldn’t since it’s the 21st century, and there isn’t a particular format. The words you use in prayer are as specific to you as the words you use in regular conversation with others. Trust me, God’s not judging you on your grammar or your use of language. You’ll never here him correct your usage of ‘their’ ‘there’ or ‘they’re’!
- Is there a limit to what I can pray for? Well, lets see: Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and then later that it would. Isaac prayed for a wife. Joshua prayed for mercy. Solomon prayed for wisdom. Elisha prayed for a boy to come back to life. Jacob prayed that his brother wouldn’t kill him, and then wrestled…literally…with God. The point is, as long as you are praying from your heart, about what’s going on in your life, then there really isn’t a limit, other than of course things that are sinful…yeah, don’t pray for those!
- Is there a prescribed format for prayer? That is a great question, and many people will point you to Jesus model prayer that he gave to the Disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 but even that wasn’t intended to be the ‘be all, end all’ of prayers. But, there are certainly elements that Jesus points are are good and valuable for us to pray to God about.
Jesus says that as we pray we should be reminded of how awesome God is (name be kept holy); we should pray to know, understand, and see His will become reality in our life (your kingdom come, your will be done); we should pray for any needs we might have (our daily bread); to give us wisdom for making decisions (lead us not into temptation); for safety (deliver us from evil); and for forgiveness of our sins (forgive us our sins). Basically, what Jesus is doing here is giving us a list of all of the things that we can come to God for, take a look at that list again in a little more simplified format:
- Who God is
- Know God more
- Know God’s will
- God would provide our needs
- God would give us direction
- God would protect us
- God would forgive us
You see, once you get past all of the years of thee’s and thou’s, God just wants you to talk with Him. He is your Father and He wants you to let Him know what you want, what you need; He wants you to ask questions, to seek direction. Prayer is simply your sharing your heart with God! Don’t make it complicated, don’t make it too formal, and don’t avoid it like it’s difficult.
Whatever you are doing, just stop for a minute. Pause and say hello to God, He’s there, I promise you. Tell Him about your day, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, just talk…and then listen. It is often after we have poured our heart out to God that He pours Himself into us. God’s most direct form of communication is through His Word, the Bible (I talked about this is Pt 1) but He loves to talk to us when we are still, silent, and listening. It is often in those moments I can almost ‘feel’ God right there. I’m no ‘spooky Christian’, but I do believe what the Bible teaches, so I’ll leave you with this.
Be still and know that I am God! – Psalm 46:10
Until next time!