We’ve No Less Days

Day 3 of the “Crazy Love” plan is about God’s love for us. In the lesson, the following verses are given as examples of God’s amazing grace for us, despite our depravity:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt 7:11

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. Matt 22:37-38

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph 2:10

 

I meditated and prayed on that scripture this morning and the song, “Amazing Grace” would return to my head over and over again. A bit annoyed that I couldn’t clear my mind like I wanted to, I gave in and listened to the hymnal version I grew up with in my Baptist church. I wanted to hear an authentic version of the song, which then led my curiosity down the path of who wrote the song. It turns out it’s a pretty great story of conversion and faith by a man named John Newton. I encourage you to read about it in these links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace and http://www.anointedlinks.com/amazing_grace.html

1.212818

I won’t go into the full story here but I do encourage you to read about the author, his life and the song itself. It’s a great trip that I think a lot of us will be familiar with…a life of sin and rejecting the truth, conversion and realization/filled with peace and joy. Something to remember as we think of God’s love for us (His children) and our love for our own children (remember rebellion, grace, patience and love I talked about earlier?).

Lastly, since I had to play the song to get it out of my head, I listened to many different versions. I hadn’t heard this version by Mahalia Jackson before but after hearing it, I believe it is my favorite rendition of this beautiful song now.

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The Time Has Come

There’s not much I can say to give my study any more meaning and praise than to share with you these verses and images that gave me life this morning…

James 4:13-17

 

13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Phillippians 4:4-7

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

1 Corinthians 10:31

31So whether you eat or drink or

whatever

you do, do it

all

for the

glory of God.

New Bible Study Plan – Crazy Love

While I can say I’ve been “reading” my bible consistently lately, I can’t say that I’ve been studying the Bible as much as I would like to admit. I can’t deny the historical evidence that bible studies, small group, etc. keeps me on track and gives me the push I need to dive in and seek wisdom more than just myself trying to pick something to explore. Hey, whatever works is the way I look at it and, now I’m confident what that looks like so, it’s what I’m going with.

I recently came across this quote that really struck a chord with me: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

I have a weird relationship with the word “success”. I say weird but, I have just never felt “successful” from any world point of view. Growing up, I thought success would look like a big house, multiple cars and of course, lots of money. Then I hit my anti-authority, punk rock, “money/greed is evil” phase (age 14) and thought I had everything figured out. I guess I was half-right…we know the love of money is the root of evil at least. Then, I graduated, always worked, always had more than enough, never really struggled with getting by but always had the question, “is this what life is about?”. All of this working, all of these hours…just to buy this…stuff? That question has really never changed but, I have a different outlook on “success” since having a relationship with God and that definitely helps give me purpose when I question where my time, energy and especially, love, goes.

I still have that weird feeling with the word “success”. We have such a worldly definition on the word and what it looks like. If you ask people from different parts of the world, especially from different eras, it is going to look like many different things. To some, it may look like survival. To others, it may look like excess. Either way, it looks different to different people. This isn’t a post about “success” and what it should look like…it should look like however you define it compared to God’s version of this in your own life.

Back to the quote’s purpose…so, reading this quote reminded me of Francis Chan. I never read any Francis Chan books, although I’ve wanted to, I just never took the time to buy one or borrow one (I know several that have his books). No reason why, I think it’s just because I had so many other books and studies “ahead” of his, I didn’t see a break far enough to see a good time to insert another book. I did really enjoy his preaching and hearing about his commitment to servitude and spreading of the gospel, making disciples, etc. so my heart was always open to hearing more from him if it happened to come my way.

I knew it was time for another anchor to help me study so I began seeking out a topic to dive in to. God’s love for us seemed like a really great topic at this moment. Being a parent, you quickly see parallels to this as you witness “sin nature” in real time! It’s actually a bit..amazing? Is that the right word? I’m not sure…I’m not sure what the right word is, I’ll go with amazing because “amazing” is supposed to catch you by surprise yet, it doesn’t always mean it’s a good thing. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ll witness a child go from a helpless infant to a greedy, selfish, manipulating mini-adult right before your eyes! And the “amazing” part is, YOU DIDN”T “TEACH” THEM THIS! There was no Sesame Street “Letter of the day is T for Theft” episode that taught them to steal toys from other 2 year olds. No “Chomp Goes The Toddler” (sung to Pop Goes The Weasel) nursery rhyme that teaches a toddler to bite someone if they don’t get their way! Nope, these things just happen and reflects the sin that is in our hearts already, even right now.

But, here’s the thing. As a parent, you still love your child. Though these moments and other moments, and even moments you may not have gotten to yet, you’ll still love your child. That won’t change, just like God’s love for us. Which, as you get older and you realize how obstinate you purposely become or act or even desire to be…I’m not sure about you, but I’m just amazed (again) that God hasn’t just turned his back on us. I’m amazed that God just hasn’t tried to kick the planet into the sun like a soccer ball and choose to start over with another Adam on planet Mars or something. But that’s not who He is (thankfully), we know that. These are just thoughts I remember having as I read the Bible for the first time as a believer! Even when I read the Bible with a very skeptical mind, trying to find fault and flaw with the written word, I was amazed at the grace, the “visibility” and the love God presented to mankind.

Which brings me to the study I chose to dive into this week. “Crazy Love”…the title says it all…God’s love for us may very well seem crazy when you think about it…the grace and patience given to us when any one of us mortals would’ve easily given up a long time ago. The first verse to read is Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

That verse hits very hard for me because I think mankind enjoys using the “I didn’t know better” excuse as often as possible. But to me, this verse reminds me of everything around us created by God that we are aware of, that has consequences, that you cannot deny. Take the wind for example. Can you see it? Sort of…you can see leaves move, trees sway, etc. Can you deny it? No. Can you claim ignorance? You better not if you’re in the path of a tornado or on a cliff. I can’t recall having a personal experience of someone denying wind. E.g., no one has ever said to me on a windy day, “What is that stuff moving everything around?” I would say, “uh, wind?”. To which they would reply, “Hmm…I don’t know.” Sounds crazy right? Yeah…we all know people that do that with God ‘tho.

Same thing applies to other elements that you have to acknowledge and respect if you want to live..oxygen, gravity, etc. I’ve never known anyone (in their right mind) to question these things and try to prove otherwise..at least not without consequence. Same thing with God. He has made Himself known to you and I. For us to deny or, even worse, say “we didn’t know better” would not hold up under judgment.

Now, there is another side to this where, people may know “about” God but they don’t know what we know or know the whole truth. This is our opportunity to teach them and make sure they do know so they can accept the whole Truth into their hearts and teach others. It’s almost like electricity, especially high voltage. To someone (maybe a child or inhabitant of a remote island) that has never experienced or at least been warned about high voltage, you would do everything you could to stop them from touching that wire if you yourself knew better, right? THAT is our calling as Christians, to spread the gospel and crazy love of God to others because WE know! When you look at creation, the things you can see and also the things you can’t see but feel and know that they are there (love is one of these things), it’s so easy to show that ALL of that and ALL of this is created by a Creator, a higher power, one who loves us and wants the best for us. Have you ever done that with someone? Someone who really did.not.know.better??

Is that what success looks like? I’m not sure. I know some may look at creating disciples as a form of success and there’s definitely merit in that but, to put such boundaries on an act that we are supposed to do limits the effort of our potential. The problem I have with a word like “success” is it indicates a finish line. Do “this” and you’ll be successful. “Make disciples” and that will be a measure of success. Like I said, there is truth in that statement but don’t let it end there. Make disciples, definitely, but keep investing and keep loving and don’t give up. The only finish line I see is when God calls me home finally. Until then, I’m going to give it all I got.

VOTD – Psalm 56:4

‘In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? ‘ Psalm 56:4 https://www.bible.com/bible/111/PSA.56.4

As part of my quiet time and prayer meditation in the mornings, I am most successful when I choose to open my Bible before anything else. I know this seems like common sense but we seem to either forget or get wrapped up in everything else as we prepare for the day (see my previous 4-5 posts and large gaps in between posts, if I’m being honest).

Psalm 56:4 came up in my Bible app as the “verse of the day” and it was actually just what I needed this morning. In a time of uncertainty, which has always been….the devil has just honed his skills in dishing it out to us in just the right amount to drive us to fear. If I’m being honest, I woke up this morning with several fears, first with the simple (“what time is it, did I oversleep??”) to the familiar (“what’s going on in the news/world today, are we at war, what calamity occurred now??”) to the overwhelming (“are my kids ok, let me run from room to room and check!”). I don’t think these “fears” will every subside but I can learn to not let these thoughts have the impact they have where they overwhelm my thoughts, increase my blood pressure and, ultimately, make me feel helpless (wherein the devil wins because my faith has dwindled). Instead, this verse is a great reminder that our faith can conquer fear. We know this, we have read this a thousand times and…we know this. I can’t justify our fears, not even my own, when I consider the accountability we should have with these verses.

The main thing I wanted to consider with this verse is, the assurance I find when I consider when it was written, the circumstances and the chronology it fits in within the Bible.

We live in such a “wonderful time” with information at our fingertips. God bless those that focus on that information being wholly focused on the Bible and not the other detractors that take our time and attention away. I was curious as to the story behind the verse since it was prefaced as, “For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.Title: Probably a literary or musical term When the Philistines had seized him in Gath” in my Bible. With a few clicks, I was able to discover that David likely penned this verse while in captivity in Gath, which, (from my very limited knowledge) was not as a prisoner, but as a temporary location to get away from Saul and take up with the Philistines (later) to fight against the Israelites.

This is while David was living in a town named Ziklag where he was sent to from Gath. From what I can tell, fear of man crept in with the Philistines and, not only did Saul fear the Philistines when he heard David was on their side but, the royalty/leadership feared David would betray them as well and David was sent back to Gath. Long story very short, Ziklag was conquered by the Amelakites and David was protected by God once again.

While we are able to read these verses thousands of years later in a nice chronological form, this story was being lived out in real time by David, thus displaying his faith had to be ironclad in order for his own safety but, also to be understood by everyone who would hear or read these words he penned in the Psalms. This may seem obvious but, when you consider we live in such a time where we have the entire Bible laid out before us, we read story after story of God’s protection and promises, even to the point of Jesus’s birth, death and ascension and we still struggle with belief, surrender and faith.

This is why “fear not” is so prevalent throughout the book. Why there are so many examples of God’s promises coming true. It is an overwhelming commandment that we are given to praise and trust! Praise and trust! When we do this, there is nothing left to fear! Nothing else can have a foothold on our mindset, fear will have nowhere to go, it is an amazing feeling to meditate on David’s writings and other examples of faith overcoming fear, please give it a try!

I’ll finish with this quote I stumbled upon as part of a commentary on this verse, it is simple, yet encompasses our life from birth to realization: “Faith groweth valiant in fight; albeit it began like a coward, and staggered in the first conflict, yet it groweth stout, incontinent, and pulls its adversaries under foot: In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” – David Dickson

 

No Longer A Slave

We are living in raging seas of brokenness, pain, abuse, and violence. The sad truth is, it’s nothing new. The life-changing truth is, there is a way out of this slavery of life that seems hopeless.
 
“You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone”
 
I encourage you to check out the song, the lyrics, the meaning behind it but, more importantly, the word of God that inspires moments like this and the hope that it brings. Here are a few starting points that I hope will encourage you:
 
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Gal 5:1
 
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” – Rom 8:15 https://www.bible.com/bible/111/ROM.8.15
 

Choosing Each Day: God or Self finale

By no means is this the end of the mindset to choose God first thing in the morning and throughout the day just because it’s the end of a 3 day Bible study. A few takeaways for me include:

• Write Joshua 24:15 in as many places I can, make it phone lock screen even!
• Pray, pray, pray…pray for God to clear your mind, to consume your heart and to guide your every word, thoughts and action!
• You have a choice to make with every moment of the day, pray for peace, hope, and renewal of your mind and heart!

Joshua 24:15
15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Lamentations 3:22-24
22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

SWORD
What do we learn about God?
God is sovereign but has given us free will to make a choice. We have the choice to love or hate. Would we be able to give glory if we were programmed to only love or to “automatically” love God with no choice otherwise? The ability to set our sights, hearts and minds on God is glorifying to Him who gave us life.

What do we learn about people?
We are a wretched, ungrateful creation. We are susceptible to the slightest distraction, the most obvious deceptions and can display 0% loyalty with the drop of a hat. What if you were to build a robot with robust AI but programmed it to love only you, no matter what you did? Would that be gratifying knowing that the robot had no other choice? Fortunately we are not programmed only one way, unfortunately, we often make the wrong choice, a poor choice that can have eternal consequences.

Is there a command to obey?
Turn your heart and set your sights on the one and only true God.

Is there a command to follow?
With every thing, every day, CHOOSE who you are going to follow.

I will continue on my journey to CHOOSE God and document my experience here.

-Brad

Choosing God Each Day – Baby Steps

Disclaimer: A lot of reading and backstory, jump all the way down to the bottom if you want, I won’t be offended.

Day 2 of my Choosing Each Day: God or Self? Bible study from you version.com started at about 1:05am for me this morning. My youngest son is sick, “likely just a viral infection” the doctor said, since flu and strep tests came back negative (THANK YOU, LORD!). Because he is not feeling well and under the weather, the recommended medicines were rest and hydration. So, we’ve been letting him sleep outside of our typical structure because sleep is the foundation to the healing process as doctors say. Which, by the way, if this is true, why do they wake you every 2-3 hours during your hospital stay? Hmm.

If you were to become ill 2,000 years ago in the empire of the Ancient Greeks, you would have sought out an Asclepian physician. The Asclepians were priestly healers and the immediate predecessors to the better-known Hippocrates (of Hippocratic oath fame). Your medical management would have included an invitation to a private coastal villa for a retreat with plenty of rest and sleep for five or six days. A subsequent interpretation of your dreams from that time of restitution would be seen as divine inspiration to guide your treatment course.

5 or 6 days of plenty of rest or sleep?? Are the Asclepians and their Grecian villas still around? Forget Disneyworld, I know where my next vacation is going to be! Oh man, I’m getting way off topic…

Back to the story, my wife is sick as well right now. We were concerned because they both were under the weather around the same time but, once again, the doctor ruled out the major bugs going around this time of year and chalked her suffering up to a pretty bad case of allergies, otherwise known as cedar fever, aka, the plague of Central Texas during this time of year.

So, how does all of THAT fit into this study and the reason for divulging too much? Well, like I said earlier, my day started at 1:05am with my bedroom door shutting from my wife, being an amazing wife and returning with a peanut butter sandwich for my son, who is sick and on an odd sleep schedule right now. I know she didn’t wake me on purpose, she was actually in and out of our room catering to my son most of the night! Whether it was a cup of water, taking him potty, another snack, more motrin, she was likely in and out about a dozen times before this last time woke me up.

During times like this, we try to strategize and prepare for the battle that is coming. You may be familiar with this battle when you have a sick child, it’s called, “being able to care for your sick loved ones without losing your mind”. As a parent, you will need to change your cycles as well which means there will be lack of sleep and sacrifices made (no, not the Isaac kind although, we do have a history of “sleep eating” in this family). Speaking of sleep deprivation, there’s a reason it’s used on prisoners around the world…it is a scary-powerful tactic that can break a person, ruin a marriage and misconfigure your face to where every small child will hear you for miles around! I’m joking of course but, if you are going to suit up for such a battle, you have to have a method to be able to fall asleep when necessary so you can wake when necessary (my method: look up “10 hours of ocean sounds on youtube, I don’t think I last more than 5 minutes).

So with our youngest asleep by 7pm, we both knew he would likely be waking up anywhere from 10pm to 1am. Well, I say, “we” as my wife and I are usually a team (team is too gracious for my contributions…she does 99% of everything and I might be able to handle the 1% she left for me to do. Not that she thinks I’m incompetent but, she is just that awesome and handles the vast majority without keeping score.) during these times and we have our process ironed out but, with her down for the count, I knew I needed to take action and do what is necessary. So, I went to bed around 8pm. “Wow! What a sacrifice!” you might be thinking but I’m not mentioning this for my own attention, just setting the stage to show you my process to rest up because I will need energy later. I realize 8pm might be perfect or even late for some of you, it’s actually a little early but not by much, I prefer to be in bed at 9 so it’s all good and, once again, I’m sharing more than you want to know.

Now we are all 3 asleep so waking up whenever our youngest wakes up and needs attention or necessities, I should be in good form at least. But, I must be a heavy sleeper because I could tell from the cups and the crust on a paper plate and the fact the bathroom light was on that she instinctively did what a mother does and catered to our son while I slept. Once I was awakened, I assured her, “I have it from here” and…sorry, no joke, quick diversion…it’s now 3:05am and he was asleep about 20 minutes ago so I came out to the living room to dive into my study but I heard the pitter patter running in the hallway and he came out here asking for a bean burrito lol! Of all things…oh well, maybe that means he’s feeling better and the bean burrito should be filling and help him get back to sleep. Bean burrito delivered and he’s laying down with that sleepy look in his eye again, we’ll see if it holds. Meanwhile, mom is sleeping through all of this thankfully. I will probably want to crash again around 8pm tonight so I’m doing what I can, when I can, with what I have. Napping won’t be an option today (busy work schedule) so I pray that it works out a bit similarly tonight with a bit more sleep and then everyone heals quickly. Not that I mind trying to laughably fill her shoes in any way. Believe me, my wife is Mrs. Amazing and when I try to fill in and serve the way she serves, it is nowhere close!

Ok, let’s get back on track with the study and how it’s going, shall we? Today’s devotional really hit home this morning, I immediately went into the posture and prayer I should have defaulted to much earlier in the “day” but even more so, in my life.

Remembering from the day before in the study, Joshua 24:15 reminded us, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Today’s devotional included these words: “How might this choice play itself out, especially first thing in the morning? It seems that most people usually spend a few minutes gathering their thoughts for the day before they get out of bed in the morning. In these moments it can be a temptation to choose to think first about our day, our schedule, what we need to do, who needs to be where, etc. Before we know it, we can fall prey to the lies of the enemy and begin dreading our day or feeling overwhelmed by it, and then try to tackle it as soon as our feet hit the floor.

What if, instead, we were to choose the Lord? What if, by God’s grace, we would choose to fight our sinful flesh, put it to death as God’s Word instructs us, and set our minds on His way instead of allowing our thoughts to run amok? Practically, what would this look like?

We would begin by thanking the Lord for the gift of a new day and acknowledge that He alone is sovereign, that He alone is in control—not us. And then by His grace we would put aside our thoughts, our concerns, and our agendas and draw near to God by spending time in His Word and in prayer.”

After reading that far into the devotional and feeling hit upside the head with the reminder, I immediately went into prayer and did just that. It felt great, it felt natural and it made me think, “why don’t I do this already?” I know I have done this in the past but not only did it forcefully come about once I was reminded like this or convicted but it was also very short-lived I hate to admit. I am praying for God’s intervention to wash my selfish heart and help me assume this posture naturally. To make it my natural state when I wake and at all times in between.

My pastor recently preached on a “Journey To Freedom”, a very encouraging and refreshing journey through the steps of salvation and ability to grow in your faith that will only come when you have freedom. I’m paraphrasing and simplifying it more than it should be, it’s an incredible multi-part study that I encourage you to check out, it will likely be the best use of your time! – Journey To Freedom

There was something very impactful that was said, more of a challenge to me, that went along the lines of, “Fall in love with your Bible.” Psalm 119:97-100 was referenced:

97Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.

This particular scripture hit me hard in a number of ways. First of all, these verses were already highlighted in my Bible…BY ME! I don’t remember doing it, not sure why I did it, maybe for the same reasons I went to do it again when I saw the words up on the projector! I thought to myself, “Oh! I want to remember this and read it later!” but come to find out, I must’ve had that same revelation at some point years ago too!

Another way this scripture shook me was, I thought to myself, “You know, I used to read my Bible a LOT more than I do now…why is that??” That was a scary question but a wake up call that I was thankful to be alive and breathing to realize, therefore, that’s why I’m here writing about it, digging in to make the changes! Thank you, Pastor Peter for shaking me awake once again and giving me that nudge I needed (or as you say, “spur along” but that just sounds PAINFUL lol)!

Side note…it’s now 4:19am and the youngest just came out here to be on the couch with me so I’m going to try to wrap this up now so I can love on him and pray that the day is filled with restoration for mother and son.

SWORD

There were 3 passages today and I’ll try to verbalize what I got out of each one through this method.
Romans 8:1-14 (not a light topic by any means)
  • Because of our depravity and failure to live in the Law, we were doomed for eternity.  Through Christ Jesus, God has set us free.
  • The Law was weakened by the flesh so He sent His Son for our salvation.
  • To live in the flesh is death but to live in the Spirit is life!
  • To live in the Spirit is to be a Child of God!
  • Our natural, sinful state is to follow the flesh and obey what the flesh wants.
  • We are set free and no longer under this law, we know what the fruits of the flesh and the Spirit look like, pursue the latter!
  • If you belong to Christ Jesus, you have crucified the flesh!
  • Since you have been raised with Christ, set your mind and heard on things above, not on earthly things put these things to death or they will put you to death!
  • Clothe yourself with the virtues of the Spirit with the binding of Love, which holds it all together.
  • And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Well, there you have it…what seemed to be an inconvenience to me (waking at 1:05am for the day) has turned into a rich time to spend in the Word, prayer and service to my family. If I would have followed my flesh, stayed up late serving myself, therefore, waking up late to only serve myself more (and very shabbily as usual), I wouldn’t have this opportunity to write down my thoughts. Thank you, Lord for this day for it is pregnant with opportunity to serve and be your vessel to help guide others to You!

Accountability

Just a reminder for myself and maybe something for you to ask me about if you see me and want to make me fess up if I’ve actually been sticking to this or not.

You know those “This day in history” Facebook reminders? Well, one popped up from 2010(!) with this tidbit:

“Total miles ran for 2009: 321.54 @ 9.24/mile pace. 2010 goal is 500 miles @ 8.5. Heading out for a 5k before work, first run of the year!”

So just to be honest with you, I fell short of the 2010 goal but it was my best running year yet and probably the best I’ve felt. I miss running and I aim to get back into it this year as well as better shape. For transparency, here’s how the past few years broke down for running miles:

2009: 321.5 miles (1st year running)
2010: 382.3
2011: 209.6
2012: 259.3
2013: 231.0
2014: 120.4
2015: 102.4

My cycling app only seems to keep last year’s history. I emailed them to see if I can get all of my history so we’ll see but here’s what I have:

2014: 58.65 miles
2015: 402.61 miles (what a difference)

Definitely SLACKED on the past few years with running and STACKED on quite a few pounds but there were lots of changes during those years. New baby, promotion at work and my Dad.

Watching my Dad suffer and my Mom’s heart break right in front of me the past few years took a lot out of us all both physically and emotionally. I know that he would want me to be healthy and able to provide for my family like he did ours and he did not have a lazy bone in his body so this will be a year of rebound and rebirth in honor of him.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Something I forgot that helped me in my walk with God is the ability to meditate and pray while I run/bike/workout! This was so beneficial to me to clear my head and something I’ve been missing but couldn’t quite figure out why my head has been so cloudy in recent times! Looking forward to getting back in my groove so I’m back to firing on all cylinders, hope this inspires you to do the same or at least hold me accountable.

God isn’t going to fix this

Eden Restored

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

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Good news, it’s already been fixed (John 3:16).

I would also like to take this opportunity to quote my friend, Brian Sumner, who summed it up and saved me a ton of typing:

“If only as many people who commented about God, actually knew what they were talking about. Praying does not mean God does what we say. It doesn’t mean every time a sports star points to God, or a wealthy business man tells people he’s blessed because he prayed for wealth, that God is actually in those prayers. We pray asking God to lead and direct, help us grow and show us what He is doing, according to His Word, while He leads us.

The tragedy of San Bernardino and the purpose of people praying is not to raise the dead, or a stop to violence by calling upon some heavenly genie. No, it is to ask God to help in difficult times, give people the “peace that surpasses all understanding” and to give Him Glory.

People look for evidence of God in His stopping hunger, bringing world peace, and often times adding to us financially. The evidence for God is that He did the most loving thing of all.

To all of you reading this, of whom 100% will die, of whom 100% have sinned, the evidence being we will die, God, when He did not need to, sent His Son to die on the cross, taking up our sins, and putting Himself in our place. “In this is love, that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us”.

And as you have heard, “for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son Jesus”. When I pray, I pray that people would come to faith, as they hear the Gospel, and so heaven will be populated with saints who are currently sinners.

God is perfect, did not need to reach down and die for you, rising again, but He did.

Don’t mock God, repent, it’s life changing.” #‎God #‎Jesus #‎Jesuschrist #‎sanbernardino #‎pray #‎prayer #‎dailynews

Might I add that, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ (Romans 14:11). This will either be done with your will or against your will. The good new is, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

Nehemiah: Lessons in Leadership (Chapters 1-5)

My pastor outlined a challenge this week, read the first 5 chapters of Nehemiah and find the leadership lessons, here’s what I found in Chapter 1.
First, I ask, what is leadership? I don’t think this is rocket science, especially when seeking wisdom from the bible.
I sum leadership up as: A person, involved in a process, of influencing and developing a group of people, in order to accomplish a purpose.
Are you a leader? Am I a leader? Fact is, we are all leaders! We are all people, we all make decisions and our decisions ultimately have impact.
Ok, so we know what leadership is, we know we are all leaders, what can Nehemiah teach us (I had to read up on “who” Nehemiah was a bit because, I’ll confess, I hardly knew about the guy besides having an Old Testament book named after him)…here’s what I found after much research and looking through notes, here’s what I found through the help of others:
Nehemiah is both an insider and an outsider. He is a humble slave who is ALSO the cupbearer to the king. But like Nehemiah, we can find the path for ourselves within this disparity between who we are and what we do. It’s about maximizing the capacity that God has instilled in us.
Ok cool, I can relate to that! I serve in some places, I am served in some places and I have thoughts, prayers and potential just like you all!
God’s description of WHO you are makes man’s opinion irrelevant.
If the world defines you, it OWNS you. Find your path in God because you are in the world but not of it. Your identity in Christ matters far more than your role in this world.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
Freedom, confidence, success…everything is internal to external. If you are missing something in your inner world, your external world will always feel incomplete.
Do you know who you are? Do you know why you are alive?
All of this is because we have put our faith in Jesus and we have been transformed and redefined in that relationship with him. We have a new identity. We just have to embrace it.
More lessons from Nehemiah:
Passion propels pursuits.
When you are passionate about things, you pursue them.
Sometimes we can be too comfortable, and we end up missing what God has in store.
Do you care what people think or what heaven thinks?
Nehemiah saw the need for walls to be rebuilt in the city. He was a cupbearer to the king. What qualifications did he have to build a wall?
The success of our pursuit necessitates faithfulness in our present season.
Where are you serving today?
Be the best cupbearer that you can be, so that God can work through it.
Search for your passion.
Too often people go for a passion but settle for a paycheck. They are so busy making a living, that they don’t have a life (ouch, Nehemiah, you’re killing me)!
Ok ok, so what do I do now, what do I start applying to be an effective leader??
I haven’t learned much having only read the first chapter, but here’s my takeaway – Pray without ceasing: Nehemiah prays and prays all the time. Along with prayer you will find courage! Courage is an essential leadership trait, cool!
How can I be a casual Christian when Jesus is coming soon? I must have passion, courage, a thirst and willingness to pray bold prayers, this is what Chapter 1 has taught me, more to come with Chapter 2!
Nehemiah 2
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before,2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
**Ok, so I had no idea what the “month of Nisan” was so I looked it up…Judaism 101…Chapter 1 took place in the month of Kislev, November–December. Nisan is March–April. So if I’m reading this correctly, Nehemiah has been praying for roughly 3-4 months!
• Ok, lesson number 1, pray persistently and faithfully…it may take a while!
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
• Ok, lesson number 2, have the courage to “manage up”. Nehemiah was just a cupbearer but he’s asking the big boss man to go and REBUILD A CITY! Bold!
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
• Lesson number 3, be specific, calibrate on expectations and get permission on your project for full support!
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
• Lesson number 4, know how to deal with opposition because you will have haterz, I mean, doubters!
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate,examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool,but there was not enough room for my mount to get through;
15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
• Lesson number 5, INSPECT WHAT YOU CAN’T EXPECT! Research, study, plan, prioritize and keep your strategy secret until it is time to reveal!
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
• Lesson number 6, MOTIVATE! As a leader in any capacity, you will get different results when people join in on your work. You will have those that do the work simply because they’re told to and you will have some that do the work because they believe in your cause because you believe IN THEM! Value your employees, crew, familia, whoever you depend on. Investments in appreciation are not to be taken lightly and, most of the time, this is FREE! But the repercussions for ignoring this simple task are demotivating and devastating!
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
• Lesson number 7, remember what I said about doubters? They will be watching, waiting for you to fail. BELIEVE IN YOUR MISSION! If you believe in your mission, your work and your purpose and this is something you can proudly stand on as you and your employees know that this is the right thing to do, you will succeed in that mission! There’s a famous guy out there that founded a computer company, was fired from the company he started and went on to do great things he believed in and proved the doubters wrong! Sound familiar?
**So in summary, pray unceasingly, listen to God and be ready to act when he calls in His timing. Be ready to obey, communicate and work in faith! Like I said, this was a fun chapter, I included it here so you could read it too, let me know what you get out of it as well and see you for Chapter 3 tomorrow!
Leadership lessons in chapter 3. I found three main themes throughout this chapter: People, Purpose and Participation.
This chapter illustrates all of the people from different walks of life and skill sets to help rebuild the city walls. It took great talent and planning to put these teams together and outline your vision so everyone could understand it. Identifying and utilizing the right talent helped rebuild the city in record time. In fact if you read throughout the chapter the people in surrounding cities were amazed at how quickly they completed this project (when God is on your side, watch out)!
Incorporating the right people, building the right teams and getting full participation out of everyone are essential traits to leadership. Nehemiah wasn’t looking for glory or fame with this project, but he knew it had a higher purpose, His purpose.
This is the “surface” takeaway from this chapter, you can glean further if you read studies on this chapter, the people’s backgrounds, rebuilding the walls of your life, etc. I encourage you to check it out!
Day 4, Chapter 4, lessons in leadership with Nehemiah: Types of people:
Be prepared and expect an attack. Build a defence. Rally your supporters. If you listen to the critics, you won’t accomplish anything. We have a tendency to feel alone. That’s when you need to seek out those that support you. Reach out and ask for prayer. When the opposition comes, remember that you aren’t alone.
Never tire of doing what is right. From the passage: “Our God will fight for us!”
Lessons in Leadership – Nehemiah Chapter 5
Throughout the past 4 chapters, we saw bold and courageous Nehemiah…successful Nehemiah…prosperous Nehemiah! And he was still all of these things but, as it inevitable, your success will come crashing down one day, how do you deal with it? Let’s take a look at what Nehemiah did:
Verses 1-5
“And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.” There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards.”
Ok, the people have been working for a while now and it seems there are some problems with resources (food and money). People had money problems because they worked hard on the walls and did not spend the same time on providing for the needs of their household. If you want to spend much time directly ministering to the needs of God’s people and in spreading the gospel, in most cases it will affect your ability to provide. Ministry takes time, and time spent on ministry is time you aren’t making money. If one gets to the place where the ministry is your way of making a living, one should be used to not making a lot of money – or the transition will be rather difficult.
Nehemiah’s reaction? Anger.
Verses 7-11: “After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.”
I love that first phrase, “after serious thought”. Nehemiah had the makings of an experienced leader to not act on his reaction but rather to listen and think before acting. He confronted some and told them they were wrong and he told the truth. Essential leadership traits. He faced these problems head on, made everyone own up and make things right!
Verses 12-13: “So they said, “We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.”
Nehemiah did the right thing, he set the example so now what do his followers do? The same thing! Influential, impactful leadership!
Verses 14-16: “Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor’s provisions. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God. Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work.”
Nehemiah did was right. Not from fear of man or for the world but for a higher calling.
Verses 17-19: “And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us. Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.”
Hmm…struggled with this one for way too long…I was reading it as Nehemiah sure lost his humility and is trying to get to heaven by his own works but I’m not seeing it that way any longer. After researching where this book came from, it is Nehemiah’s diary. This is personal. I don’t believe he meant for this to be published when he was writing it. Coupled with the fact he was not looking for favor from man but from God gives me comfort with these actions (not 100% but I’m still seeking). Regardless, if your diary were to be made public without your intent, how would it paint you in the light of man? I think this is incredible that the author of the bible made it so to include Nehemiah’s personal diary and here we receive amazing, transcendental examples of leadership from a lowly cupbearer!!