You Are Wanted

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Wanted by Dara Maclean is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs. It touches my heart every time I hear it.

Our God is truly amazing—that He would love us and want us. He knows us. He doesn’t make mistakes. Oh, wonderful God!

I hope you enjoy these inspiring lyrics. God bless!

YouTube Link if you’d like to watch the music video.

Wanted

From the day you were born
And took your first breath
You opened your eyes and in came the light
He was watching you
But all of your life you couldn’t shake the lies in your head
Saying you’re a mistake
Oh but you were made
By a God who knows your name
He doesn’t make mistakes

[CHORUS:]
You are wanted
To every broken heart, He stands with open arms
You are wanted
To every searching soul, look to the rising sun
If you’re lonely, hurting, gone too far
To the outcast you come as you are
For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted
You, you are wanted, you, you are wanted

Let this be the day that joy takes the place
Of all of the years that shame tried to steal away
He is calling you
Lift your eyes to see His face
Come run into the arms of grace

[CHORUS]

You, you have been marked
You’re set apart
And He calls you His
So you don’t have to search
Don’t have to look for where you belong

You are wanted

[CHORUS]

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The Great Divorce On Stage

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My wife took me to a play on Father’s Day. Many of you are familiar with The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Well, the Fellowship for Performing Arts has taken the story to the stage.

In a nutshell, the story is about a man who dreams that he’s in Hell/Purgatory and is allowed to take a trip to the outskirts of Heaven. He realizes that he is more of a ghost while the people of Heaven are much more solid. Even the grass in Heaven won’t bend under his weight. And the people who go with him decide they’d rather go back to Hell.

You can read more about the story here. And if you’d like to attend a play, click here.

Below I’ve listed some memorable quotes from the book, but I’d highly recommend getting the book. And it’s a short read.

“No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

“Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”

“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.”

“You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God”

“There have been men before … who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist. There have been some who were so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”

“If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.”

“Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it, or else, for ever and ever, the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”

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Building Mountains – A Truth Story

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My name is Emily Harris, and I want to thank Scott for allowing me to say a few words about my truth story. I will say, he did a great job capturing the essence of my past struggles in only 13 pages. No need to stretch things out into a long novel. There’s nothing special or unique about me or my past experiences. You could say that my story just represents what many young women have faced or are facing: whether or not to go through with an unexpected–or unwanted–pregnancy.

Even now, as I watch my daughter Haley playing on the playscape, I think back on a special meeting with my Great Aunt Elizabeth who we called Aunt Lizzy. She’s gone now. We buried her many years ago. Scott describes our encounter in the story, but I won’t forget the things Aunt Lizzy said to me that hot Georgia morning.

And if you can read this, Aunt Lizzy, please know that your words had their lasting effect on me. I can’t wait until one day you meet Haley. Maybe we can find that old bus-stop bench and all three of us will watch the ants change their world.

Building Mountains – A Truth Story

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Ask It

My last post dealt with the search for better questions—what questions to ask and how to ask them. Recently, I found a teaching series from Andy Stanley called Ask It.

Just Ask It

In the series, Stanley poses a question that he believes to be life changing:

In light of my past experiences, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

Andy cites numerous scriptures, but the question seems most grounded in Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Stanley argues that asking what is wise trumps questions about what is right or wrong or what can we get by with. Even nonreligious people benefit from the guidance of this question, but I think it’s even better when we can ask this question from the perspective of a changed heart.

The question works best with areas the Bible may not specifically address. It would be silly to use it with areas the Bible speaks clearly about. For example, I would never use this question on something like theft or cold-blooded murder.

Whether you are religious or nonreligious I encourage you to watch this series. If you’re short on time, at least take a look at the first video.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the video in the comments field.

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Can Too Much Bible Study Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health?

Is there a point when too much Bible study can be hazardous to our spiritual health? The first time I heard this question, my initial thought was heresy or this is an outright attack on God’s word. Also, I recently read an author who made a statement (and I paraphrase): There are times when we should stop growing in Bible knowledge.

At first glance, these thoughts might sound ludicrous or dangerous, but as I read on, I soon got the wisdom they were trying to convey.

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No, they weren’t saying the Bible was dangerous or that knowledge was a bad thing. Obviously, we need a minimum amount of knowledge to understand or believe God’s work, his intentions, and his wishes. If you observe the Apostle Paul’s writing style, you will notice that he starts his epistles with doctrine or principles, and then he progresses into practice. Naturally, application always jumps from the diving board of knowledge and wisdom.

The problem comes in though when believers begin to measure their spiritual growth by how much they know. I’ll admit that I’m the chief sinner here. I’m guilty of this in many areas, including my writing and blogging. I love to share new ideas with others–and sometimes, that is for selfish reasons. Sorry, but that’s just the truth. And how many times have I thought I was sharing a new piece of information, when often it’s just a rehashing of ideas that have visited generation upon generation. Will knowing a new piece of information really make a difference in your growth? Maybe. Or maybe it will falsely lead you to believe so.

Here are a couple of Bible versus that I believe support these thoughts.

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

John 5:39-40 (NIV)

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

1 Corinthians 8:1 (NASB)

In the first passage, Jesus was chastising the Jewish leaders because they were reading way too much into the scriptures. They thought they perfectly understood things, while the God of the Universe stared into their faces and they rejected him. And, obviously, the Jewish leaders entertained the idea that having a vast or superior knowledge of scripture somehow placed them in a higher standing with God, therefore securing their eternal destiny. They were dead wrong.

In the second passage, Paul discusses a gray area in the early church: Is it okay to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols? Paul rehashes his ideas in Romans 14. Today, especially in the Baptist Church setting, it might be a question of whether or not we can have a glass of wine with our meal? Or what’s the right kind of music a believer should listen to?

The gray areas are where we need to have the most patience and exercise the most love. Here is where our maturity will be tested the most. On the one hand, we don’t want to cause our weak brothers to stumble, and on the other we shouldn’t call something law, when it’s really just a recommended practice.

I could go on. There are other scriptures like James 1:22 or James 2:14-24, which suggest that knowing stuff can be deceiving. Here, James is trying to stress the value of doing (or being) as opposed to just knowing. I have known people who were masters of the scripture, and yet, they still struggle with pornography. Or believers who faithfully attend church, Sunday after Sunday, but have broken ties with a friend, a family member, or a neighbor. Or a community group leader who doesn’t practice what he teaches. A deacon who is trying to cause a split. A ministry leader who judges the ones he’s ministering to. You get my point.

Trying to measure our spiritual growth by how much we know can disable us with pride and lead us down the path of self-deception. On the other hand, if we measure growth by how much we love others or emulate Christ, then I think we’re making a much healthier choice.

In the end, what am I saying? Maybe we should stop being Bible bookworms. Maybe stop buying self-help book after self-help book. Maybe attend fewer sermons. Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to begin practicing all that knowledge we keep storing away? Would it really hurt us to love a little more as opposed to learning more?

Please share your thoughts. Do you have any ideas on how we can become better practitioners of God’s word, as opposed to just being scholars?

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Khan Academy

“Dad, would you show me how to take the derivative of this formula?” This was a question I recently got from my son while in his second semester at Georgia Southern. I’m proud to say my son is studying engineering and taking on the new college life experience.

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My answer to his question: “You know, it’s been 25 years since I took the derivative of anything. I’m going to need to brush up myself.”

I have a feeling that many of us parents are probably in the same boat here. Fortunately, someone at work had earlier pointed me to a great online resource: Khan Academy.

Khan Academy was developed by a guy who initially was trying to help tutor his nieces and nephews. It’s become a huge success and international phenomenon. Founded by Salman Khan, Khan Academy has become an ever-expanding educational website. The site has thousands of exercises and video tutorials. The tutorials are short and the cool thing is you can play them over and over until you’ve mastered the topic. All types of topics are covered: math, science, physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology, finance, economics, history.

I pointed my kids to Khan Academy a couple of years ago, and they’ve added this to their arsenal of learning recourses. I’ve gone back myself to relearn particular subjects. And at my workplace we’ve recommended Khan to employees who might need a refresher or two.

So if you need to go back and brush up on a topic or your kids need a little extra help, check out Khan Academy.

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Seven Questions to Grow By

Have you learned something new lately? It’s amazing how learning a new skill or habit rejuvenates our lives and empowers us for greater things. I believe that God has created us each uniquely and for a greater purpose. To me the joy of living is discovering what God is doing through me, through my perspectives, through my talents, and through what I’m learning.

So, how do we learn more effectively? It begins with asking good questions. Here are seven guiding questions that will help you down the trail of discovery and learning.

Why do I need to grow in this area or topic? Have you developed a personal mission statement, along with some supporting goals? Before you take on learning something new, decide upfront if this is taking you closer to where you want to go—toward who you want to be. Hopefully you’ve discovered some higher purpose in your life, something that’s greater than you. To quote Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.”

What’s holding me back? Maybe it’s a person, an old habit, a repressive memory, a time constraint, lack of goals, discouragement, whatever. Or it may be a combination of these. Discover what they are and address them one by one. I’ve found that some things that have held me back were only imagined, barriers or wrong beliefs I created in my mind.

Who can help me? Once you’ve decided on an area of growth and realized the constraints, then decide who can come along side you and show you how to grow. You might ask this person to be a formal mentor or you may simply develop a relationship to gain their wisdom. Understand how they overcame constraints in their life. Hang out with wise people and chances are you will become wise.

How will this help me serve and bless others? It’s not just about me. I’ve learned that most successful people are outward looking. They’re not improving and growing just to satisfy their own needs. This kind of thinking spurs us on when we get discouraged. Motivation seems to work best when we’re ultimately doing something for others.

What will it cost me? It’s good to count the cost before you take on learning a new task or skill. Learning takes time and sometimes sacrifice. It will take patience and sometimes you’ll need to fork over some dough to get proper training—or to deal with your constraints. When it comes to learning and reaching your goals, don’t skimp. How bad do you want this? Think about the return it will bring you.

What resources should I use? Some may think this question the least important, but I believe the answer will determine how quickly you learn and reach your goals. Many learn from reading books, taking courses, listening to podcasts, attending webinars. Generally, most people learn best by doing. So however you like to learn, always incorporate some way to practice those newfound skills. Look for quality learning experiences. Ask other successful people about the training they invested in and did it bring them the results they wanted.

Am I seeing results? This last question is the feedback loop. Are you losing those pounds, progressing in your career, making more sales, becoming a nicer person, leading others to success? Yes, it’s nice to know stuff. Some get rewarded well for what they know, but knowledge for knowledge’s sake often fosters pride or conceit, in the end—stagnation. If you aren’t seeing results, then revisit the previous six questions. Be honest with yourself, but also be patient. Some goals may take a while to reach. Have faith that your learning will one day pay off.

I pray that God blesses you as you seek to answer these questions. Are there other questions you would add to the list?

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Family Fiction Short Story Contest

You may have noticed that the frequency of my posting has gone down the past few months. But that doesn’t mean I have stopped writing.

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On the contrary. I’m working on several new stories, and I’ve been submitting some to literary magazines and contests. Plus, I have another project I’ve been working on that I will share in a later post.

I recently passed a hurdle in the Family Fiction Contest and now they have listed my two stories on their website for the public to read and vote.

Please take a minute to read one or both stories at the links below, and if you like them, please cast your vote.

Story 1 — But It Worked For King Solomon

Story 2 —- You Are Here

Blessings,
Scott

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Seeing By God’s Light

A couple of weeks ago my wife took the picture below, a spring-break view from St. George Island. And later she read to me from C.S. Lewis’ work, Is Theology Poetry? This is where the Lewis quote comes from.

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During my teenage years, I attended a popular Christian seminar held in downtown Atlanta. The leader of that seminar had a simple definition for the word wisdom which I like to this day.

Wisdom: Seeing things from God’s perspective.

Lewis splits the arrow with his quote. I’ve experienced it in my own spiritual journey. Not only has God filled my life with His light, but He is also shining it on everything around me.

I’m finally beginning to see.

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Who I Am In Christ

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading the materials of Dr. Neil Anderson, namely his book, Victory Over The Darkness. You might know of his more popular work, The Bondage Breaker. Neil’s main premise concerns spiritual maturity and how a Christian’s growth really takes off when he/she realizes who they are in Christ.

According to Neil, spiritual growth is not something we work towards, an exasperating, self-improvement approach. Rather, spiritual growth springs from a knowledge of Christ in us, and the transformation He has made, and is making, in every believer.

You and I are children of the living God, the Creator of the Universe.

We are saints.

Knowing who we are in Christ keeps us from asking questions like “can I do this?” or “should I not do that?” Instead, we shift to questions like, “why in the world would I do this?” or “why in the world am I not doing that?” See the difference?

We have to understand and then remember who we are in Christ.

To help us grow into maturity in Christ, Dr. Anderson created the following list, that helps remind us of who we are:

I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:1)
I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I have been adopted as God’s child (Ephesians 1:5)
I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18)
I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
I am a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)
I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s temple (1 Corinthians 5:17-21)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I am enslaved to God (Romans 6:18)
I am a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
I am righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24)
I am an enemy of the Devil (1 Peter 5:8)
I am what I am—by grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10)

I encourage you to read the list above out loud to yourself, to your spouse, and to your kids. Drink deeply of these truths.

God bless!

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Bring On The Heat

You may be thinking the post title alludes to baseball or a romantic story. In a way, it is about my love affair with this time of year—spring and the approaching summertime.

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Ah yes, summertime, way overdue here in the South. And as Johnny rosins up his bow, we are preparing a consolation prize for the Devil himself—a year’s supply of Head & Shoulders. You know, the whole dandruff thing.

We southerners got laughed at this past winter, and maybe rightly so. But I think southerners are, frankly, freakin’ brilliant. And I’m not just saying that because I am one. Perhaps one mystery has been solved: why people of the South hold the general reputation of hospitality and friendliness. I think it’s because we don’t have to put up with ice, snow, cold weather, power outages, and cabin fever for very long—or very frequently.

The rednecks, you see, made a decision to live in a place where there’s not a lot of the white stuff or polar vortex temperatures (with the exception of this past year). So this may leave some testimony of our intelligence. Most of us have never seen a snow drift or owned a snow shovel or built a snowman. Our best snow angels leave us filthy and less than entertained. If it does snow here, a few of us have been known to save some of it in the freezer—right next to our ice cube trays.

On a brighter note, we enjoy fewer taxes that might otherwise support things like road salt and snow plows. However, our local governments still find plenty of ways to spend our money, like repainting interstate lanes so they match the width of our vehicles. Or activating the national guard to protect stranded motorists stuck on I285 during Snowmageddon. Or help with relocating football and baseball stadiums every few years.

But finally I arrive at this article’s main thesis: Why I enjoy summer in the South. Hold on just a minute while I take a sip of my ice tea, sweet ice tea, that is. Now—where was I? Ah, yes, here are a few reasons why I say—bring on the heat:

Short sleeves, shorts and sandals.
Fishing and swimming.
Goodbye dry itchy skin.
Getting outside more.
Trips to the beach.
Picnics, pig pickins and cold watermelons.
Sweating and losing a few pounds.
Pleasant—and sorely missed—night sounds.
Expensive gas bills be gone.
Green colors return.
Planting tomatoes and bell peppers.
Cutting grass (ok–maybe this one not so much).
More grilling and BBQs.
Atlanta Braves.

How about you? What are your favorite things about summer?

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Let’s Go Home

A few weeks ago, I took this picture of my beagle, Chevy, while walking down a trail in Chattahoochee Bend Park. It was our turnaround point.

I know this leash drives her crazy. It would drive me bonkers too.

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Here’s a dog bred to chase and run until her heart beats out of her chest. As soon as I take the leash off, I know what will happen. The instinctive drive will take over and the scent of rabbits, squirrels, or deer will lure her to the world’s end–well, maybe the next county.

My calls will fade away like a dream and the ground becomes her gritty, new reality. The sight of her will soon turn to sound, bays that vanish into the night.

Or will it? You know–I don’t know. Truth is–I don’t want to know. Truth is–I don’t want to lose her.

Am I holding her back? Or am I keeping her safe?

Is this free will? A controlled destiny? Perhaps, something else?

She sure looks happy most the time. Looks healthy. Looks alive. What would she do though, if I let go?

No, I can’t. Can’t do it.

I stoop to the ground, hailing her name. She turns to my voice and sees my face. The oscillating body and wagging tail run full force into my arms. Her slimy saliva coats my chin, and I smile.

Surprise, surprise: the leash has disappeared. You know, I don’t think it was ever really there.

The bond between us is strong, woven with something transcendent, something more than hemp or nylon fibers. More than commands, rewards, and obligations.

Just try breaking the cords of faith, hope, and love.

Chevy, lets go home.

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Wait To Worry

I love the materials that the Walk the Talk group continues to churn out. This past week I received an email notice from them about a book called Attitude is Everything by Vicki Hitzges. Below is an excerpt from the book that highlights Vicki’s #1 rule for staying positive. I hope you enjoy and please pass this on to others.

Rule #1 “Wait to Worry”

I used to worry. A lot. The more I fretted, the more proficient I became at it. Anxiety begets anxiety. I even worried that I worried too much! Ulcers might develop. My health could fail. My finances could deplete to pay the hospital bills. A comedian once said, “I tried to drown my worries with gin, but my worries are equipped with flotation devices.” While not a drinker, I certainly could identify! My worries could swim, jump and pole vault!

To get some perspective, I visited a well known Dallas businessman, Fred Smith. Fred mentored such luminaries as motivational whiz Zig Ziglar, business guru Ken Blanchard and leadership expert John Maxwell. Fred listened as I poured out my concerns and then said, “Vicki, you need to learn to wait to worry.” As the words sank in, I asked Fred if he ever spent time fretting. (I was quite certain he wouldn’t admit it if he did. He was pretty full of testosterone — even at age 90.) To my surprise, he confessed that in years gone by he had been a top-notch worrier!

“I decided that I would wait to worry!” he explained. “I decided that I’d wait until I actually had a reason to worry — something that was happening, not just something that might happen before I worried.” “When I’m tempted to get alarmed,” he confided, “I tell myself, ‘Fred, you’ve got to wait to worry! Until you know differently, don’t worry.’ And I don’t. Waiting to worry helps me develop the habit of not worrying and that helps me not be tempted to worry.”

Fred possessed a quick mind and a gift for gab. As such, he became a captivating public speaker. “I frequently ask audiences what they were worried about this time last year. I get a lot of laughs,” he said, “because most people can’t remember. Then I ask if they have a current worry — you see nods from everybody. Then I remind them that the average worrier is 92% inefficient — only 8% of what we worry about ever comes true.”

Charles Spurgeon said it best. “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”

How about you? How do you overcome worry or cope with worry in your life?

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Eagles, The Outdoors, and Family Fun

Last weekend my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to see eagles in Guntersville, Alabama. Everyone had such a fun time. What a pleasant break from the icy weather thats been visiting the south this winter. I felt like God was shining down on us and the eagles, thawing the earth and our spirits.

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This year we found additional nests, all filled with baby eagles. The eagle nest is such an impressive structure. Did you know that eagles’ nests are roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle cut in half?

The trip to Guntersville Lodge is always a spiritual and mental growth experience. I learned some new things about eagles, owls, and hawks. I received plans on how to build a screech owl box. And I sat through a short seminar on outdoor photography. Lots of things to learn at Eagle Awareness Weekends in Guntersville, Alabama.

If you want to watch an eagle from the convenience of your living room, here is a link to an eagle cam on the Berry College campus. This is the only eagle cam currently available in Georgia. This eagle is incubating a couple of eggs.

Below, I’ve posted a few shots my daughter took with a lower-end camera. I’m impressed with how well these photos turned out.

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Please share your family adventures in the comments below.

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Face to Face

Do you ever wonder if your writing is making a difference?

I found a nice reminder today in the Epistles of John—relationships trump message. In an age of ebooks, blogs, the creation of tribes and followers it’s easy to think our message means everything—especially, if that message promotes us rather than something greater than us. Don’t get me wrong—the message is still important. Just don’t forget the face-to-face.

I love to write, and will continue to to so, but my writing has it’s limitations. And I sometimes wonder if my writing—or the intent of my writing—is getting through.

John must have realized this too as evidenced by 2 John 1:12.

12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

He goes on to repeat this idea in 3 John 1: 13,14.

13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

So did this mean that John stopped writing or became disillusioned with his writing. I don’t think so. Perhaps, his attitude of putting relationships first, made him a stronger writer. Maybe his people-oriented approach encouraged others to read his writing more.

Joy seems to be the end goal for John. Not just for him, but also for his audience.

How well do you understand the people you write for? Does your writing produce joy in your readers? I’ve often heard the advice to write for the one—the one person you know the best. Or the person who relates the most to you.

Who is that person for you? Maybe it’s time to put down the pen or fold up the key board and do a face-to-face.

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Hanging Out In James

Are you tired of making foolish decisions? Tired of saying stupid stuff? Are you tired of struggling with your sins and fostering a long-distance relationship with God? Want God to answer your prayers?

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If you said yes to those questions, then you’re, well, pretty much like the rest of us. This week, I’ve been hanging out in the book of James. I’m always reminded and impressed by how much wisdom and truth comes packed in this short book of the Bible. In this post, I want to share a few key scriptures from James that will encourage you to grow spiritually and relationally.

God generously offers us His wisdom, but it does seem to come with a condition, that we ask for it with a heart devoted to Him and that believes in Him. See the passage below:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1: 5-8 (NIV)

Perhaps the only place I see God use the word religion in a positive light is this next verse. Pure and undefiled religion makes a difference in peoples’ lives. It meets practical needs. It animates the love of God throughout the world. Check this out:

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1: 26-27 (NIV)

The next passage has met controversy over the years, and I’m not sure why. If you read this within the greater context of the Bible, it’s simply saying that those who have been transformed by God are going to show it. A true and loving relationship with God inevitably affects our passions, our decisions, our deeds.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2: 18-19 (NIV)

More than ever I’m realizing how much I need to control what I say. What I say can lift people up or crush their spirits. How I say something can draw people to me or push them away. With my words, I can invite success or create failure.

5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:5-6 (NIV)

I need look no further than the mirror for the source of my marital squabbles, dysfunctional friendships, and relationships grown cold. How often I try to get something with the wrong motives.

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4: 1-3 (NIV)

We often find ourselves distanced from God. But it’s not God Who has moved. What a wonderful promise lies in this next passage:

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4: 7-8 (NIV)

I often greet the day by thinking about my goals—what am I going to do today, how can I prosper or thrive, how can I make a buck. However, the wise man takes an attitude that always seeks God’s will first.

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

James 4: 15-16 (NIV)

And finally: Never underestimate the power of prayer.

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5: 13-16 (NIV)

How about you? What other verses in James reach out and grab you?

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Learn On, Lead On

Last week I stumbled upon this quote by Ken Blanchard. I can certainly identify with these words in my own life. One of the keys to growing as a leader—whether as a manager, father, mother, teacher—is to never stop learning. Great or small, we all lead someone. And there’s always something new to learn.

So how do you keep learning and growing?

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Your God My God – The Story of Ruth

Before Christmas my pastor did a series called Chick Flick–the story of Ruth. This Old Testament story is, no doubt, one of the best “chick flicks” found in the Bible. Only four chapters long, Ruth doesn’t take long to read, and I encourage you to check it out. Faithfulness is a major theme of the book and the main characters are Ruth, Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law), and Boaz (the kinsman redeemer). God’s love and grace shine clearly in the relationships between these three characters.

As I read the book, the verse that kept popping out the most was Ruth 1:16.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

We who are married all possess mother-in-law stories. I have come to love and respect my mother-in-law, and clearly Ruth and Naomi shared a special bond. I wonder how many of us–God forbid if our spouse should die–would stay as committed to our mother-in-law as Ruth did. That’s exactly what happened in the story. Ruth’s husband died and Ruth had an opportunity to return to her people. She chose to stay with Naomi and endure some bleak circumstances. Ruth and Naomi’s relationship speaks volumes to us today, and I believe there’s a cool lesson here on evangelism and discipleship.

What if we could build a few close bonds with those around us to where they would start calling our God their God? I’m not saying that we can do this with everyone who comes across our path, but surely there are a few God will bring into our lives. Evangelistic plans and scripts have their place, but I’ve never felt very genuine just parroting a script. That is a shotgun approach, I think, but couldn’t we also be just as effective by intentionally focusing on a few people.

So think about your family members, small group friends, coworkers. Do you love and care for them to the point where they want to know the source of your love and hope? Do they see God as the engine that makes your life run? Will they eventually want to say: your God my God?

God bless and please share a comment. I would love to hear how you are finding ways to build relationships with other believers and nonbelievers.

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Don’t Die From Something Stupid In 2014

Recently, I had a conversation with a colleague who went to the doctor for a routine procedure. He told me something the doctor said that continues to resonate in my mind: Don’t die from something stupid!

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Yes, we all must meet our Maker one of these days, but hopefully it’s not because we did something stupid. I realize many of you, like me, are people of faith, so I’m not minimizing God’s overall plan for or knowledge about our destiny. But I’m not a fatalist either. I believe that God teaches that our destiny can rest solidly on our wise (or unwise) decisions and choices.

Of course, there are some things about our future we can’t control. Still, there are many more we can control.

I encourage you (and myself included) to make some wise choices in 2014. So why not take action and do some things you might be putting off, or reestablish those habits you may have left behind:

Go get that test, annual check-up, prostrate exam, etc.
Change those worn tires with new ones.
Exercise more and eat healthier.
Test those smoke alarms around your house & review your safety plan.
Check your fire extinguisher.
Buy a weather radio.
Safety off that ladder, and wear the necessary safety gear.
Secure your weapons and make sure they are safely stored.
Don’t allow substances to impair your judgement.
Look before you back.
Turn off the cell phone while driving.
Use the buddy system—don’t go it alone.
Learn how to administer help—CPR, first aid, etc.
Put on the sunscreen.

So how about you? What else would you suggest we add to the list? Stay safe and healthy, my friends!

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Be Strong And Courageous

I don’t think I could find any more appropriate verses (Joshua 1:6-9) to start 2014. Joshua faced a new challenge in his life, a challenge that would require a lot more courage and faith in God. Imagine being in Joshua’s shoes after the death of Moses. But God reassured Joshua that He was still with him through the journey. God is faithful in His promises, and there’s always a greater mission to complete.

Thank you God for these words you gave to Joshua, words that speak to each of us even now as we enter a new year. God bless you and happy new year!

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6, Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What challenges are you facing in 2014? How can we pray for you in your journey?

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