Questions No One is Asking You

As we rolled into 2019, I read several articles about the changes we might need to make in 2019. Behind each of their suggestions and proposed resolutions was the idea that each person was honest with themselves about their life situation. This rarely seems to be true. Most people I know are not making the necessary changes in their lives because they are living with self-delusion. No one is asking them the hard questions about their life, and most of what they see is self-affirming. It appears everyone else has their life together so we must be doing okay.

I think that before you overcome obstacles in personal growth, you must first be aware of their presence. This typically requires you to ask questions about yourself that no one else is asking you. Here are a few self-evaluation questions for today and the rest of 2019.

1. How are you feeling? I am not asking what you smile and tell people at work or what you post on social media. You need to be honest with yourself about your deepest feelings. Are you sad, lonely, hurting or even apathetic? Do you genuinely feel joy, happiness, and the love of those around you? Before you can change the way you feel, you need to confront those emotions head on. Why are you feeling this way? Does anyone else know? What might you need to change to make it better?

2. How is your marriage? Do you feel closer to your spouse today than you did just one year ago? What are you doing to build this relationship? Are you privately holding onto resentment and unresolved anger? What could you do to make your marriage better for both of you?

3. How is it going as a parent? Do you feel like things are going well? Are your children growing in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man? Have you asked anyone for advice or help lately? Do you feel all alone in a sea of emotions without any clue of your next step?

4. Do you have any healthy Christian relationships? Every word of that description is important to evaluate. Do you have any real friends? Are those friends people who have a healthy relationship with their spouse, their children, and the Lord? Is it someone you can be honest with about questions 1-3?

5. How is your soul? Is your relationship with God growing, declining or stagnant? Do you have the joy of your salvation and sharing it with the people you know? Are you serving God with your whole heart? Does time in worship inspire or depress you? Are you learning more about God’s word in a way that is transforming your life?

I realize that most of these questions are very subjective. The answers might even change from week to week. The truth remains that you need to be continually asking the right questions about your life. Ancient writer Plato recalls a speech of Socrates in which he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” His words ring truer today, at a time when we are obsessed with our public image on social media. To live a life that honors God and gives you peace you must be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Would you be willing to ask these questions to yourself today?

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I Miss Him Every Day

For most people today is just an average Tuesday. It is different for me. Two years ago today I said goodbye to my father until eternity.

It is true that time has eased some of the pain, but it certainly has not erased it. Just yesterday I was listening to a song about overcoming the grave, and I immediately broke into tears. It happens less frequently these days, yet it still occurs more than I would have expected.

I cry less, but I still cry. It happens when I want to tell him something about my boys. It happens when I remember a story that only he and I knew. It happens when I need some life advice that only a father can give. It happens when I hear a corny “dad joke” that he would have loved. It sometimes happens when I just need a friend who knows me better than I know myself.

I have a simple thought for you today. (I will probably give you the same thought this day for the rest of my life). If your dad is still alive, take the time to call them, text them, or stop by and visit. You never know when they will be gone, and there will be a hole that is impossible to fill.

David Did Not Believe in Himself

I saw a sign in a shop that referred to the story of David and Goliath found in 1 Samuel chapter 17. It stated that is we have Goliath in front of us that we must believe there is a David inside of us. A quick reading made me smile, and then I began to process the real message of the words. It was another attempt to get us to “believe in ourselves” as a source of power and achievement. If we convince ourselves that we have the ability to accomplish anything inside of us, then we can make it happen.

The problem is that David did not have any faith in himself. In fact, the story found in the Bible records that David believed in something different.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (46) This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. (47) All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (NIV 2011)

Goliath, the tremendous Philistine fighter, saw the stature of David and recognized that he was nothing. David did not respond by giving himself a motivation talk and mustering all the faith in himself he could gather. No. David acknowledges his weakness, and that his strength and victory would come from God alone.

Perhaps you are struggling with some situation in life. Everyone is telling you that all you must do is “believe in yourself” and you will make it through. I want you to know that belief in yourself is misplaced faith. Only God is big enough to overcome Goliath.

True faith is about trusting that God is bigger than your circumstances and will give you victory as only he is able. David ‘s faith was in God, and he overcame Goliath with a sling and a stone.

I don’t want you to believe you have a David inside of you; I want you to believe in the God who defeated Goliath in spite of David’s inadequacies and allow him to help you in your situation.

Some Prayers Do Not Need Prayed

Let me start by saying that I am a big believer in the power of prayer. The Bible affirms over and over in places like Matthew chapter seven that we should ask, and God will respond. While I cannot explain precisely how prayer works, I have seen the power of God in response to my requests. People have received healing, doors of opportunity have opened, and events happened that were beyond explanation.

With that said, I also believe there are some prayers that we do not need to pray. Instead of prayer, the remedy is action.

Let me explain; I can sit in my house and pray all day long that God will give me the finances to pay my bills or I can get a job and work. I can ask God to provide for that family in need or I can go to the store and buy them some supplies. I can ask God to heal my marriage, or I can go to my spouse and talk with them, ask for forgiveness or offer it.

Recently as I was praying, I said something out loud, and then I paused. At that moment I realized I was asking God to act because I was too lazy or scared (or both) to do anything myself. Then I took a few moments to reevaluate my prayer list and found a couple of items that did not require God, but me to act.

We must be careful not to use prayer to try to manipulate God into doing our work. Maybe the thing you need to do today is spending more time in prayer. Maybe the opposite is also true. Perhaps you need to get up and do or say the thing that will bring a resolution to your problems. God has already given you legs, a car, a voice, or simply a phone and you need to use those in answer to your prayers.

You need to keep praying, but you also need to keep doing the right thing.

Finding Success Amid Failure

Failure is a word I know well. As a boy, I struggled in sports, and while I was not the last picked at recess, I was certainly not the first. By High School, my dreams of playing in the NBA were abandoned after a couple of seasons of riding the bench on the “B” team. As an adult, I coached my children’s football team to a 1-win season and a basketball team to a season with no victories. Those are just a few examples of my complete lack of success.

Recently I revisited these thoughts while sitting in a tree stand deer hunting. If you are not familiar with the Midwest, people here will hunt whitetail deer for fun and food. This year I took my third son Dakota with me on my adventures, and we had high hopes of shooting a nice buck. We sat together during the 10-day gun season and were unable to complete the task of shooting a trophy for his wall. Then at Christmas, we hunted during another 10-day season with a muzzleloader. Once again, we failed to complete the mission.

On one of the final days of sitting and waiting with nothing in view, my mind began to bemoan our failure in a prayer to God. It was in that moment that I heard God speak to me in my inner spirit. The thoughts were clear and penetrating. “How do I define success? Is having a successful hunt about getting another deer, a set of antlers for the wall and a picture on my phone? If that is how I define success, then I am a failure. But if I look at it from a different angle, you might find another perspective.”

While sitting there, I started to flip my thinking about this whole experience. Over these two 10-day seasons I was able to spend numerous hours with my son. We rose early and talked on the way to the woods. We sat together and shared a few laughs. Some encounters went beyond our normal routine with various wildlife. For a few hours every day, we both put down our phones and enjoyed the world God has created for us.

My thinking continued, every time I have encountered a seeming failure, I could look at it another way and find it a huge success. I dropped out of sports in high school and spent those years with my dad hunting and fishing. Those losing sports seasons created memories my family still talks about today. The moments in life when I feel like a loser, I could also see as a success from a different vantage point.

I know the same is true for your life. Those times when life seems to beat you down, there is probably something great happening that we are missing. We get so focused on our concept of success that we miss the little joys God gives us on this journey.

So Dakota and I never did get a big deer together, and I am one hundred percent happy with it. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I could have a deer, or I could have more time with the people I love. I think the latter of the two is a more significant success.

Moving Our Church Into The Future

I am back from a much-needed break. I have spent the last nine days out of the office and largely off my computer and social media. Most of this time was spent with family, deer hunting, playing board games and generally relaxing.

For me, 2018 was a year that started well but became a struggle the last two months. Church attendance was down, I felt strong spiritual attacks, the schedule was full, and nothing really happened the way I had hoped. I ended the year spiritually, emotionally and mentally worn down. I was extremely thankful that I had planned a vacation many months ago. It was an opportunity to recharge my battery and look ahead.

Now I stand with both feet firmly planted in a new year. Honestly, I can’t believe it is 2019, and yet here we are today. Instead of focusing on last year I am trying to put all of my attention on moving into this year. Here are two areas where I am trying to focus my attention in 2019.

1. Developing Disciples.
If you were a few minutes with any pastor and you will find the same information to be true. Christians are attending the Sunday morning Church worship gathering less and less. People used to attend 3-4 Sundays every month, and now the numbers indicate that most people are attending two times or less a month. It is causing pastors everywhere to rethink their church meetings. After some reading and reflections, I am convinced that the new emphasis for the Church is going to be discipleship over attendance. Simply asked, “Are people learning and growing as believers in Jesus?” This will be a major thrust of our Church’s leadership and my ministry.

2. Moving into the Digital Future.
Recently I have realized how much of my ministry today looks the same as it did when I graduated college in 1995. I still approach my work in the Church with all the emphasis on the Sunday morning experience. Well, the times they are a changing. Now, much of what we do as a Church can be done in an online format. This has me processing all the possibilities for digital ministry this year; I hope to add more and more content to our website that can be viewed anytime. I am not exactly sure what all of this means because the possibilities seem endless. All I am know is that I am going to move myself and our Church into more fully embracing the online options for ministry.

What are you planning for this year? What would you like to see our Church or any Church do in 2019?

I am excited about this year and everything the future holds for the people of God. I am moving forward with prayer and numerous questions along with the faith that God will continue to do his mighty work if we are open to his leading.