“Wag The Dog”

imageDoes the dog wag the tail, or the tail wag the dog? The answer should be obvious. However, for many of us, how often do other components of life begin to control our life? For example, when we’re young, we’re often asked what we want to be when we grow up, rather than who we want to be – and isn’t that a much different question? Thankfully, life doesn’t have to be defined by what we do, or what we have. Instead, when Christ is properly prioritized first, these things resume their place as tools and platforms He can use to compliment the more abundant life He has called each of us to:

Career: I was once faced with a major career decision. I could stay with a company and pursue a job that required more travel and stress. Or, I could start with a new company and move my family to a new town, away from loved ones, friends and deep relationships. Or, there were a variety of jobs that didn’t require a move, but also didn’t inspire, or empower me to invest the skills God gave me. Now don’t misunderstand, we have to work, and no job can always be perfect, but should a career be the primary driver to our major life decisions? Consider how often someone has sacrificed their family, fellowships, health and/or their dreams for jobs that went away, or laid them off? Then, after the job is gone, they look around and have nothing to show for it. This doesn’t have to be the case. For Christians, our calling is from God and He will direct us in all our ways – even in our careers, as we seek and wait for His guidance (Psalm 90:17). He did it for me. Granted, my career transition was a struggle against pride, flesh and worldly desires; but as I sought God’s direction for my life, He created a career that allowed my family to stay in the town we love, utilize my skills and passions like never before, enjoy opportunities to serve my community more, and work with people I respect and adore. Sounds too good to be true? I have thankfully realized that when God is my lead, and not my career, He gets to integrate what I do with who He designed me to be.

Cash: Another obvious need we have in life is money. However, how often do we allow the size of a paycheck to drive our decisions rather than God? As mentioned earlier, I am grateful for the career God led me to, but it came with a smaller paycheck than the other opportunities offered. This is part of the reason my struggle was so great. Afterall, who doesn’t want more money – but more than money, I wanted God’s direction. His way, not my way. For much money can also lead to much misery, when it is allowed to be the primary driver in one’s life (Proverbs 23:4).

Concerns: If allowed, distractions and worries can begin to redirect our divine direction in life. For example, during my transition, my intellect reminded me to the benefits more money offers, as well as how staying with a larger company presents greater promotional opportunities. Yet, if I had allowed these concerns, although valid, to persuade my decision more than my prayers, I would have ignored a clear conviction I knew God was speaking to my heart. For me, it came down to obeying selfish logic, or faith (1 Corinthians 2:5).

Application: “A Kingdom Calling” – Luke 5:11
Christ is calling and when we head His call, we gain our greater calling. As a result, He reprioritizes our careers, cash and concerns so that they no longer rule our life, but become a tool He can use through our life. Jobs, money and worries come and go; but Christ is rock solid, and so is our Kingdom calling, when directed by Him.

What’s In It For Me?

imageEffective communication is supported by demonstrating the benefits, need and/or value of the message being delivered to the ones being communicated to. This is also known as delivering the WIFM, or What’s In It For Me point. Likewise, the gospel shares many benefits available to Christians. However, these benefits are not meant solely for us, but are designed to be shared with others and for God’s purposes over our own:

Rescue: A friend of mine raises cattle and recently shared how a calf in his herd tangled its hind leg in wire that had cut to the bone. My friend took the calf, cut the wire and cleaned the wound. Thanks to his care, the calf was rescued from certain death. Similarly, Christ rescues us from the entanglements of sin and death. Sometimes, it’s painful to be untangled, but the benefits are numerous. Thus, how do we repay such a gift? God simply encourages us to share our testimonies, knowledge and experiences gained from Him so that others may come to know His truth and receive the same divine rescue (Proverbs 24:11).

Relief: Once saved by grace, we receive relief from the infective curses of sin. This does not mean we are free from danger and the consequences of poor decisions, but it does mean we receive the provisions necessary to help us through any hardship and pain (Psalm 23:4). As a result, we are better equipped to respond to the hurts of others and in sharing how Christ can help them too.

Reason: Having a reason for living and knowing our purpose in life is a powerful benefit of being a Christian. However, even Christians can sometimes struggle knowing their divine calling. For we can mistakingly assume it’s our family, our careers and/or our happiness. Although none of these are bad, it’s important to realize they are not our primary reasons for living. Rather, we are to be made more like Christ (Romans 8:29). As a result, we learn to live like Christ – obedient to God, sacrificial to self and serving to others. All this then empowers us to live our life in a way that lovingly leads others to Christ.

Application: “Go DeepPsalm 119:36
Treasures rest at the bottom of the sea, waiting to be found. However, they are passed over either because we don’t know they’re there, don’t care, or because we neglect to go deep enough to recover them. Similarly, we pass on vast treasures of God when we remain in the shallow and skim the surface of our faith by not pursuing Him deeply. However, for those daring to go deep, there is a bounty of truth to be found. Then, as we share in faith, we, like the boy who shared what little he had with Jesus, get to participate in His plans and purposes in reaching the multitudes.

TEA Time

imageI can’t remember the day it started, or exactly how long it has been taking place, but it’s now difficult to remember a time it hasn’t happened. This mysterious event is the piping hot cup of green tea I always have waiting on me each morning – even when on vacation! How does this tea get there? Believe it, or not, my wife does this gracious deed and never speaks a word about it. However, the impact on me has been transformational and enlightening to say the least. I call it her T.E.A. power:

Tough Love: I don’t deserve this tea and haven’t earned it. Interestingly, even those times I have aggravated my wife the most, that tea is still waiting on me each morning. Nothing said. Nothing asked. Clearly, this makes it tough to hold onto any pride, or resentment towards her. In fact, I appreciate the fact she can deliver a good kick in the rump, when I need it, but still possess the love to deliver such a kind gesture as making me tea the very next day. Ironically, God loves us in much the same way. He cares enough to deliver tough love when necessary, but He never holds a grudge (Hebrews 3:13). Instead, He continues to pour His grace upon us each day.

Encouraging Love: Then of course, there are those days I’m tired, perhaps discouraged and simply feeling beaten down. We all get this way from time to time, but how nice it is to wake up and find that cup of tea waiting on me. I know someone is there who loves me, is thinking of me and is cheering for me, but better yet, praying for me (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Again, this is much like our loving Savior, who never kicks us when we’re down. Rather, He encourages us onward with His love, mercy and grace.

Attractive Love: Needless to say, how can anyone resist being attracted to someone who willingly, lovingly, generously and sincerely considers them each morning? This simple action, along with my deeper walk with God, has completely transformed my prayers for my wife (Matthew 5:16). I literally plead with God to help me love her as He designed her to be loved. To love her as He loves her. To love her sacrifically, as He has called me to. I possess a passion to love her righteously; and not because she brings me tea, but because I know, despite my imperfections, she loves me, prays for me, desires God’s best for me and believes in me. For there is so much said, without a word, through her actions and that tea.

Application: “Tipping Point” – Psalm 86:12-13
As I’ve shared many times, I have stumbled plenty in my role as a husband, and my marriage has not always been “peachy”. We have had our share of rough and rocky times over our sixteen years of marriage, but I can truly say, God rescued it. As soon as we placed Him first in our life and first in our marriage, He went to work in restoring and improving our life and marriage. His prioritization was the tipping point that changed everything. It was around this same time my wife’s “tea” ministry began. How can I repay God for such a gift? Only by praising Him continuously and loving her as He has called me to, each and everyday.

“Scarred But Smarter”

imageWe all have scars. The scar on my knee reminds me of the painful experience I had as a child when I was pretending to be in a knight in a medieval joust. As I raced full speed down a hill, the tree limb I was using as a makeshift spear got stuck in the spokes of my front bike tire. Thus, I was sent hurling over the top of my bicycle and crashing into the rocky asphalt. Needless to say, I never tried that again.

Similarly, we are all likely to make foolish decisions that may result in causing more than just physical damage. The good news however is we can learn from these experiences and benefit by not repeating them:

Mind: Many times we can get so focused on striving, we neglect our time for simply abiding. We stress and worry about our careers, aspirations, goals and tasks, that our time with the Lord is put on the back-burner. The result is mental atrophy and exhaustion. For we cannot expect to remain mentally charged and acute when we neglect the necessary time and components necessary to recharge. What are these? Rest, prayer, reading God’s word and worshipping with fellow believers. Why? Because they help us maintain our primary priorities and responsibilities in God’s kingdom over our own (Psalm 46:10).

Body: How easy it is to neglect and/or idolize our bodies when we fail to recognize them as not our own. However, once we realize how profound and gracious good health is, we are less likely to take it for granted. As a result, our motivation to do all we can to maintain and sustain it for God’s glory grows (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Soul: A scarred soul may not be outwardly visible like a physical one, but that doesn’t diminish its reality. Sometimes our inner scars are self-inflicted and other times not, but like the mind and body, they too can be turned for good when given to God. There is no pain, or stain too great for God to handle, or too ugly for God to love. The question is have we turned our deepest regrets, shames, wounds and injuries over to Him? For He is the Master Healer and has the power to transform all our pains into gains (Psalm 23:3).

Application: “Working Sharper” – Proverbs 16:3
There is a story that tells of two lumber jacks in a race to cut down the most trees in a day. Both had the same type ax, the same amount of time and the same opportunity. However, they approached the work very differently. The first man never took a break. He chopped relentlessly all day. His opponent however took periodic breaks throughout the day. When the race was over, many were surprised by the winner. When asked how someone could possibly cut down more trees when they took so many breaks, the man simply responded that during his times of rest, he was sharpening his ax. The loser who never took time to sharpen his ax had to work harder and cut less because his ax dulled. Thus, it’s not always working harder that’s smarter. Likewise, are we wise enough to learn from our mistakes and begin working “sharper” by prioritizing God in all we do – mind, body and soul?