Don’t Ditch That Dream!

  Martin Luther King, Jr. boldly declared, “I have a dream!” And it was this dream that helped ignite a generation to transform a nation- thus, a glorious illustration to the power of dreams. Granted, some dreams can be self-serving, self-promoting and vanity based. However, there are also those dreams planted in the heart of man by God (Psalm 37:4). These are the dreams aligned with His desires, serve His purposes and build His kingdom, over our own. Yet, some of these dreams sadly face abandonment before they even have a chance to spark. For dreams require action, and we are all susceptible to setbacks, discouragements and critics. However, through Christ, there is always hope – so, don’t ditch your divine dreams. For they are the ones that empower, encourage and ignite transformations:

For Love: Who doesn’t desire love? After my parents divorced, I remember looking out the window at our neighbors, who seemed to have what my heart craved – marriage, kids and laughing faces. It was a direct reflection of the dream I longed for. Yet, I was tempted to ditch this dream as I grew. This was because I didn’t understand where true love originated. Therefore, I didn’t know how to give it, much less receive it. In time, I realized true love begins with Christ (1 John 4:7). Ironically, I later learned the family I once admired from a distance, held to a strong Christian faith; and I’m thankful that in time, I too discovered the power and blessing they shared. For Christ’s love is sacrificial, never selfish, and when shared, it transforms hearts, families and lives.

For Lost: Who cares if someone is lost? Obviously, we care when a child gets lost in a crowd. For this presents physical danger. However, is there the same sense of urgency when a person is lost spiritually? Many times, we may feel there is nothing we can do, or perhaps we have never known the despair of being separated from Christ and therefore, we can’t relate. Or, we may have loved ones, whom we desperately desire to receive Christ, but seemingly appear to only drift farther away. What can we do? Don’t ditch the dream for their salvation. Prayer is a powerful weapon, and God has the power to break any chains. As long as there is Christ and our faith in His promises, there is hope for the lost we love (2 Peter 3:9).

For Legacy: If a legacy is what is left to the generations after us, what will ours be? This question reminds me of a friend whose father was diagnosed with cancer. Every time my friend speaks of his father, his eyes swell with tears – not because of the sickness, but because of the respect, admiration and love he has for him. He speaks of the faith his father shared and the impact his father’s visible testimony has had in his life. He now aspires to pass this same Christ-centered faith to his son and continue the spiritual legacy his father passed down to him. Likewise, this is my greatest dream – to have my faith, reliance and trust in Jesus to be the primary legacy my children receive from me (Psalm 145:4). I pray my family’s faith grows stronger with each generation in order to be used by God and make a kingdom impact only He can imagine.

Application: “Daring For The Divine Dreams Psalm 126:1
Dare to dream and dream big! For when we seek God and surrender our lives fully to Him, He masterfully transforms our desires to be as His. Therefore, dreams don’t have to be self-absorbed, small, or scorched. Instead, they can be divinely designed to bring love to the lonely, rescue to the lost and Godly legacies to the countless generations that follow – and all for the glory of God.

“Running Kind”

  I appreciate various styles of music, and when it comes to country music, one of my favorite artists remains, Merle Haggard. I truly respect singer-song writers, and many of his lyrics highlight the restlessness my soul once endured. I too, felt like I was on the run with a “rambling fever” to pursue things that only faded away. Ultimately, I was lost without divine direction. For even though I knew about Jesus, I resisted surrendering my life to Him, which left me running from many of the treasures He was calling me to:

Redemption: Our spirit is restless without Christ and is damaged by sin. However, Jesus came to save us from this bondage and rescue us from its restrictive chains. Many times however, we mistakingly think freedom comes from those very things that enslave us. We want to live our own way, but this only causes us to sink deeper in despair. Christ saves and grants the true freedom we desire with a peace that surpasses all understanding – so that we can stop running and receive rest (Philippians 4:7).

Relationships: The rambling man who lives alone, leaving a trail of malnourished relationships is a common theme in life. Yet, rather than being a trait to be admired, it’s a lonely and agonizing life many choose. Sadly, I know, for I once pursued it. Why do many of us run from relationships and commitments? For me it was due to my own insecurities and selfishness. Too vulnerable to get too close, for fear of rejection and too self-centered to think of giving more than I took. In the end, only God can heal such self-centered lifestyles and restore them to be Christ-centered (Ezekiel 36:26).

Responsibilities: Clearly, if one is running from redemption so that they can have life “their way” and restricting authentic relationships in order to avoid commitments, such a person naturally desires to reduce their overall responsibilities. The calling to serve, protect, provide and care for others is simply too high of a demand – for it requires sacrifice from self. Yet, Christ transforms such hearts, making them instead, reflections of His own heart and guardians for those in need. This fuels the servants of God, for we become busy doing His work, which is far more rewarding than pursuing solely our own (Nehemiah 6:3).

Application: “Free Birds Set Free” – Luke 15:24
The descriptions of those running from responsibilities, relationships and redemptions sound harsh and none of us would rationally want to align, or associate ourselves with such mindsets and behaviors. However, when God isn’t our top priority and pursuit, these encroachments begin to creep in. For they are the traits of our flesh and the world’s deceptions. Although I still enjoy listening to a classic Merle song, or a soaring rendition of Free Bird, they now remind me to the hope Jesus provides us all and how true freedom comes to those who allow their hearts to be freed by His pursuing love – and released to love others.

Marriage On Mission

imageWhen I initially married, I had no idea as to the spiritual significance it held to God. Nor did I fully understand my role as a Godly husband. Although we exchanged traditional vows in a church, neither of us fully appreciated how our marriage was symbolic to Christ’s relationship with His church and as such, we were commissioned to be on mission for Him:

To Confirm: Marriage was an event Jesus confirmed and celebrated as demonstrated by the fact He attended at least one as a guest. He was even willing to ensure the wedding was a success when He was called upon for help (John 2:9). Similarly, do we do all we can to help confirm the importance of our marriage? This is demonstrated through our commitment to our vows and our Godly priorities to ensure we’re doing all we can to make it as successful as possible in reflecting Christ.

To Care: When we’re married, we posses the opportunity to express compassion with double potency. For we are now a team that ideally works together to not only care for the needs of each other and the family, but for others as well. Thus, marriage is a partnership unified under God’s power to do even greater good; and how much Christian care is active inside our home propels our care outside its doors (Psalm 112:2).

To Contribute: When a marriage places Christ first and is unified under God, it serves as a powerful catalyst to building Kingdom families. As a result, Kingdom contributions are multiplied throughout the church, communities, cultures and countries (Psalm 127). In short, how deep is our desire to give in comparison to how much we seek to get out of life?

Application: “Love Lesson” – 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Marriage is a lesson in love. For love is sacrificial and seeks to heal hurts, rather than focusing on how we feel. In marriage, we proclaim for “better, or worse”, but how many marriages survive and thrive during the worst of times? When we learn how to love in marriage, by confirming Christ as our first love, we become better stewards in caring and sharing His love for the eternal contribution of others.

“Breaking Bad”

 We all know the story of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Where a predator strives to blend in with the herd, in order to prey on the unguarded to satisfy its own insatiable appetites. However, as bad as this is, it’s even worse when the shepherd, the one appointed as guardian and responsible to ensure safety turns on his own. Thus, this once noble protector is transformed into a predator. It’s hard to believe this can even happen, and yet, how often have we experienced, or seen it within leadership circles and even among loved ones. Scandals, seductions, schemes, squandering and scams seem to flood the headlines.

However, there is hope amidst such chaos – and it begins with each of us. We don’t have to be the wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to hide selfish intentions; and we definitely don’t have the be the shepherd betraying the trust of his/her flock. Yet, I submit this cannot be done apart from our complete surrender to Jesus Christ. For only He can transform our predatory hearts. It doesn’t mean selfish tendencies and temptations suddenly vanish, but it does mean, we don’t have to rely on our own abilities and self-controls to defeat them.

Undoubtedly, the world is in desperate need of sacrificial heroes, but before that can happen, we must first understand what makes a H.E.R.O. and what a true one looks like – Jesus Christ:

Honorable: Protectors do not defile, deceive and/or distort the relationships they’ve been entrusted with. They are there to serve the needs of others and guard their best interests, even over their own (Philippians 2:3-4).

Encouraging: Discouragement is a tool of the deceiver, not God. Therefore, we also are to encourage others in their pain and share the hope we have through Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Reliance: Temptations can not be avoided, but we do not have to give into them. Additionally, selfishness may always tug at our devotions, but as we learn to surrender our lives daily to Christ, He provides us the restraint and rescue from those things bent to our destruction (Proverbs 25:28).

Obedience: Jesus says we are blessed when we do those things we know to do (John 13:17). But in order to know what to do, we must know His commands. Therefore, it all begins with making Jesus priority, above all things, so that we know Him, know his directives and possess His power to act on them.

Application: “Heroes Wanted” – Acts 20:28
We have enough people blending in. What we need are more heroes. Heroes bold enough to stand out from the crowd – to honor relationships, not use, abuse and discard them. We need families restored. We need encouragers rather than intimidators. We need those with Godly convictions and are committed to restrain themselves from those things that will lead them and others to fall. We need obedience to a higher authority rather than our cravings – and thankfully, all these things flow freely from Christ. For He demonstrated them in His life and will help us live them out in ours. The question is, will we head the call?

Enthusiastically Engaging Excellence

imageI’m sometimes asked if I get nervous when invited to speak at public events; and naturally, I do get nervous. However, the thought of allowing my nerves to cause me to stumble in giving my best for His glorify propels my motivation to maximize the opportunities He sends my way.

For regardless of our feelings, when we consider the spiritual bounty of God’s love, rescue, mercy and grace, along with all the talents and testimonies He has given us to share, how could any of us resolve to waste any platform, or opportunity with self-induced mediocrity? For nervousness, although real, is caused by our own insecurity and doubt. It has nothing to do with Him. Rather, in Him is where confidence is found. Thus, as the old saying goes, “May we always pursue excellence in all things and all things be for the glory of God“!

Excellence In Our Composition: Our composition is what our character is made of. What we truly are and aspire to be are components of the heart. However, the Bible reminds us our hearts are naturally deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). So, what hope do we have for improvement? Quite simply, excellence in our character can only be achieved by a miracle, and miracles of such magnitude can only be achieved by God. Thus, if we desire excellence in our integrity and character, our deepest desire must be for Christ.

Excellence In Our Conversation: How is our language? Does it fluctuate based on who’s around? Additionally, is it shocking, or convicting to hear people of “faith” cuss, gossip and/or criticize? Whether we like to believe it or not, our words are direct reflections of our heart, and as we discussed earlier, the only thing that can correct a heart is our continual connection with Christ (Matthew 15:18).

Excellence In Our Contribution: As we pursue excellence in our character and words, we must also examine our works. Are we the ones that can be counted on to always give our best, or are we the late, lazy and lethargic ones with our deeds? Mediocrity only muddies our testimonies (1 Peter 2:15). We may be shy, but we can speak up. We may be insecure, but we can step out and we may be doubtful, but we can be courageous. How? The good news is the secret is already out – Christ reliance is always greater than self reliance (Philippians 4:13)!

Application: “Soli Deo Gloria”Colossians 3:17
Bach and some other composers were known to sign their compositions with the letters SDG, which stood for Soli Deo Gloria, or Glory to God alone. Why would these master composures work tirelessly to get every note just right and then dedicate it to God? Same reason we should enthusiastically pursue excellence in all we do – beginning right where we are and with what little we may have. For we are God’s children, and possess tremendous opportunities to promote, reflect and glorify His name in all we do. Therefore, may no doubts, demons, or distractions be allowed to keep us from delivering our own divine demonstrations – always dependent upon and dedicated to His glory.