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Back from Guam: Why Doors Can Be Dangerous Things

As I’ve said elsewhere, “It is a dangerous business going out your front door.” (J. R. R. Tolkien) My journey to Guam was no different. What I found was more doors. And doors are always uncontrollable things.

Especially when God opens them.

First the boring travel news. Thanks to a chronic cold that I’ve been unable to shake, I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left. Twenty-four hours and three sleepless flights later, I arrived in Guam having been awake for the last 48 hours. (I did watch four movies that I otherwise never would have watched. And, for the record, Avatar is way over-rated.)

My theory is that God was just making it easy for me to adjust to the new time by being able to go to sleep quickly. It took a day or two, but my internal clock did adjust to the 14-hour time difference.

Though I must confess it was strange to be in tomorrow while my family was still in today — or was it yesterday?

My first full day in Guam, I connected with Frank and Lynda Hester — a wonderful, God-ordained match to complete the Equip Leadership team in Guam. Their decades of Coast Guard instruction experience combined with current church leadership efforts brought a terrific perspective to the instruction. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and hear of their own walk of faith into the unknown. Seems to be happening a lot these days. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now.

We visited St. Paul’s church which hosted the Equip event on the night of their very busy Fall Festival. One thing is sure, kids are kids no matter where you go.

We got to meet Bishops John and Eva Pineda, professional faith walkers with a deep-rooted Kingdom legacy in Guam and beyond.

L-R: Myself, Bishop John Pineda, Lynda and Frank Hester

 

Bishop Eva Pineda -- a ball of energy for Christ -- teaching children the Gospel.

We met so many awesome people and began what promise to be many rewarding Kingdom friendships including with Pastors Paul and Albert and others. Pastor Lenny and Mario Josef looked out for us the whole time. Mario gave us a bonus tour of the island. We ate a lot of excellent food — I’m told that eating good food is normal on Guam.

The leadership training exceeded all expectations. At dinner the night before — another excellent dinner with more excellent new friends — it looked as if there might be 100 in attendance. By the time things began Friday, we had more than 220 in attendance for training. The next day went continued well as we really dived into  leadership specifics. Spent a session with pastors and church representatives from around the island and concluded with an encouraging Q & A with the small group leaders of St. Paul’s Church.

Empty seats inthe gym before the conference. They filled up fast.

A great start, but only a start. I’m already making plans to extend my ministry reach to Guam churches and schools next trip. We plan now to expand as doors have opened to other countries around the Pacific Rim as God leads to support Christian schools and other ministries there.  And my wife will be going next time so that we can continue to approach His work as a family as much as possible.

We need support to do it. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation through the Center for Cultural Leadership. Just click on the “Donate” button at the bottom of that page. If you can drop me a quick e-mial to let me know for record-keeping, that would be great. If not, God will work it out.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be planning to spend a good chunk of time over the next many years on the other side of the world building God’s Kingdom, I would have politely smiled and concluded the conversation as quickly as possible. But it’s like Mark Batterson says in The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, “You can’t never always sometimes tell.”

God’s like that. I wonder where He might be calling you. If you’ll let him. One thing is sure, if you keep your hand open, you never know where you might end up.

It seems to me that we often reject the good that God offers us because, at the moment, we expected some other good. ~ C.S. Lewis
Where do you sense God tugging at your heart to step out of your comfort zone? Have you had a missions experiences overseas? Share your story or thoughts with a comment. 
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Why Some People Almost Always Get Prayer Requests Answered

I know the feeling. You pray to God for something — likely a very good thing — and it just doesn’t seem to get answered. Meanwhile, it seems that some people almost always get their prayer requests answered. What’s up with that?

photo: asenat29

Maybe it’s because you’re not investing the time and energy into your prayer to see How to Get the Greatest Return on Your Investment.

Maybe it’s something more.

Lately, I’ve been able to tell some really cool stories of how God has answered our specific prayer requests as we continue this walk of faith into ministry. You know, the kind where we put our request out there and God comes through — just at the eleventh hour — with a phone call or other unexpected answer.  The kind of requests that when we pray we’re wondering if we really should be so demanding of our heavenly Father. It almost feels as if our prayer is, well, rude.

Getting Rude with God

But maybe it needs to be. Not rude, necessarily, but at least stubborn, persistent, and — yes — demanding of the promises of God.

The Bible is full of such advice for Christians to be, as the classic saints have called it, importune in our requests to see them answered. Consider this parable from Jesus Himself:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

The widow received her answer because she was rude, by our standards. She persisted in her righteous request until her prayer got answered. And that’s what Jesus told us we should do and not “lose heart.” Like Jacob, who wrestled with God, refusing to let go until he got the blessing, we must grapple with His divine promises. E.M. Bounds says our approach should be the same as Jacob’s:

Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, thrill, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from Him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make it stronger. [emphasis mine]

Three Tips to Get Your Prayer Requests Answered

Allow me to share three simple keys that I have discovered — not that I have mastered these. I offer them as a fellow student in God’s school of prayer. But I think they have a lot to do with why some people almost always get their prayer requests answered:

  1. You have to ask. Duh. “You have not because you ask not.” “Ask and it will be given.” We’ve heard it all before, but that doesn’t mean we’re actually taking the time to ask for specific answers to specific requests. Only you know if you do. Make time to ask. If not we end up like the husband who can’t figure out why his wife hasn’t prepared dinner at 6 PM like he forgot to ask her to do. Not that I’ve done that, of course. I’m just using a bizarre, imaginary example.
  2. You have to believe that God will answer. “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting… and it will be given him.” “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” Believing — deep within the core of your being — is what faith is all about. And it’s not just belief that He can, but that He will. [See my post Is What You're Attempting for God Too Big to Fail? ] If you want a soul check on this point, ask if you are acting as if God is going to answer or are you focusing on putting contingency plans in place for when he doesn’t answer your prayer requests?
  3. You have to persist in your asking. We are to pray always and not lose heart. Why do some seem to always get their prayer requests answered? They are always praying. Again. And again. It’s not that they drop their prayer package on the doorstep, ring the bell, and run for the woods. They camp out on the heavenly porch, chain themselves to the knob, and beat endlessly upon the door — until God answers their prayer requests.

Whether we like it or not asking is the rule of the Kingdom. “Ask, and you shall receive.” It is a rule that never will be altered in anybody’s case. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the elder brother of the family, but God has not relaxed the rule for Him…. If the royal and divine Son of God cannot be exempted from the rule of asking that He may have, you and I cannot expect the rule to be relaxed in our favor. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Where does that leave you? Rudely pounding on God’s door or running away embarrassed into the woods? Or is that you I see relaxing under the tree in heaven’s front yard?

What tips on persistent prayer have I missed? What stories do you have of answers to your own ”importune” prayer? Leave a comment to help us all live with abundant faith.

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Center for Cultural Leadership: Announcing a New Partnership

I am pleased to announce a new partnership — built on an old foundation – in my personal mission to equip Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

It is a privilege to join the talented, compassionate, and intellectually gifted team of cultural leaders at the Center for Cultural Leadership, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming Christians to transform cultures. I join the team in the dual role of Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development.

The new partnership builds on an old relational foundation because it reunites me with the Founder and President of CCL, my former teacher, pastor, mentor, friend, and renowned Biblical and cultural scholar, P. Andrew Sandlin.

Relational Impact

It was he who first exposed me to the value of deep-thinking, cogent writing, and the need to stretch our minds in order to grow. He challenged me with the works of Francis Schaeffer as young teen. I devoured them and subsequently spent a few of my Friday nights at his place talking about faith and culture and getting acquainted with the historical roots of Christianity. (Not exactly the normal teenage pastimes, I know.)

Perhaps more than any other, he cultivated my innate desire to question all of reality and connect it to the why at the core of everything — God.

Seeking Synergy

One reason I chose to partner with the CCL team is that nothing worth doing in life can be done alone. Most readers already know I’m a big fan of thinking win-win and seeking synergy. I hope to do just that by creating a win for CCL by continuing to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith. My existing partnership with Equip Leadership and my upcoming mission to Guam coincides neatly with this same vision.

As the new Director of Development, I’m also looking forward to expanding the platform from which we can together transform Christians to transform culture, one thought at a time, one person at a time, one family, one leader, one organization, and one culture at a time.

Going Forward

This expanded opportunity is an exciting one, but entirely support-driven. Your prayers are still vitally needed on this walk of faith as are financial resources to expand this Kingdom work. You can make a secure, fully tax-deductible donation to support my efforts. Just click here and then on the “Donate” button. Or send an e-mail (Bill@BillintheBlank.com) letting me know you’d like to hear more. Always happy to share and seek greater synergy for Christ.

You can read P. Andrew Sandlin’s blog on culture and theology here. Brian G. Mattson is CCL’s Senior Scholar of Public Theology. His blog is here. CCL’s Richard A. Sandlin, Junior Scholar of Philosophical Theology doesn’t have  a blog yet, most likely because he’s been rather busy teaching summer school at Harvard and working on his doctorate. We’ll work on the blog thing. Talented and godly men all, I encourage you to follow their posts, as well, for Christian thought that will put some meat on your theological bones.

 Let’s move forward together for the cause of Christ to transform culture one heart at a time.

When God Takes You through a Life Tunnel

Life’s a lot like a road trip.

It’s got straight stretches of road on which everything seems pretty normal. You can set the cruise and almost forget you’re driving. It’s got other places that come at you fast, curve in and out, and dip up and down leaving you gripping the wheel with two sets of white knuckles. It has bridges that require faith but reward you with breathtaking views as you cross them.

And then there are the tunnels.

photo: sektorkind

On a recent road trip through the mountains of Virginia, my wife and I entered one such tunnel that took us deep under a mountain. As we cruised along, trying not to get dizzy in the dark as the walls rushed past or to think about the thousands of tons of rock hovering above us, she shared that she loves tunnels.

What’s So Great about Tunnels?

After a raised eyebrow from me, she explained that she really just loved not knowing what she would find on the other side.

I had to admit she had a point. Sometimes it can be sunny on one side and snowing on the other. Sometimes clear roads on one and congested traffic at the other end. Green trees on one and barren brown on the other. One thing is certain: you just can’t know with certainty what’s at the end of the tunnel when you’re still going through the tunnel.

But you can’t stop. Well, you could. But it’s dangerous – both for you and all those around you. And there are no U-turns in tunnels. I have yet to see one with optional turnarounds for those who chicken out halfway through. Once you’re in, the only option is to keep moving forward and trust that the road will eventually emerge one the other side.

Why We Need Life-Tunnels

Life has tunnels, too. Often God takes us through them for the same reasons road builders make them – to get us to someplace faster than we otherwise could have gone. That doesn’t mean we like them. But God uses adversity as a catalyst for greater growth. When we’re in those life-tunnels, we can feel as if we’re in the dark. We can sense the weight of everything that is riding on the outcome. They can test our faith as we wait to see what’s next.

We find ourselves in one of those tunnels now as I shift career gears and head into ministry full-speed. Our pending move to Atlanta is exciting and full of possibilities — yet also unknown and completely unpredictable. Sometimes I want to slam on the brakes, flick on the hazards, and dash for the nearest emergency exit. Knowing my luck, I’d trip on the way and get squashed beneath an 18-wheeler.

Maybe you recognize some of these life-tunnels God takes us through:

  • Early childhood parenting. Man, can it get dark and dizzying at times through those days!
  • Our college years. The uncertainty of what to do next can paralyze us.
  • The first six months of marriage. Right about then we realize why everyone warned that the honeymoon would –a t some point – be over.
  • A prolonged illness with an unclear diagnosis. My baby sister is living that right now as doctors shrug and try to look as if they know what they’re doing.
  • A blended family trying to get up on it’s feet and make something new out of what had been previously broken.

You can likely think of more. Life tunnels are seasons in which we know change is coming, but we can’t really see the end. Not yet.

Why Courage Is Needed

Truth be told, sometimes we want it all to come to a complete stop. Or make a U-turn. But it ain’t happening. Not without a lot of people getting hurt in a traffic pile-up scene worthy of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Tunnels require courage. At the recent Catalyst Atlanta event, I heard Bryan Stevenson say that he did not pray for our comfort or convenience, but for our courage. I don’t know about you, but I could use that prayer.

Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do in life when God takes us through tunnels is to just keep moving. To those outside the tunnel, it doesn’t sound like much to simply stay the course. But the rest of us get it.

Pressing through the fear, pushing through the darkness and uncertainty is the only — and quickest — way out. It’s also the safest. Most wouldn’t think so. But most aren’t driving – or walking – by faith in the One who created the mountain, designed the tunnel, and empowered you to make the trip.

Guess it’s a good thing we are, huh?

What life-tunnels has God brought you through and what wisdom have you learned from them? Share your story with a comment to help us all walk – or drive – with more abundant faith today.

Get a Free Copy of Embracing Obscurity with a Comment at Patheos!

Just an FYI – you  have a shot at a free book just by leaving a comment on my review at Patheos of  Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything by Anonymous.

Click here read it and to share your thoughts.

And speaking of free books, my new e-book Finding the Curve: The Secret to Explosive Personal Growth is due out soon! It’ll be yours free as a subscriber to this blog. Because I like you. And I’m glad you’re here.

Headed to Catalyst East today in Atlanta thanks to my generous friends at EQUIP Leadership, Inc. and the John Maxwell Co. Going with my lovely wife. Talk about the ultimate leadership date! What woman wouldn’t want — you’re right. I have a wonderful wife.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts at Patheos.

When His Ways Are Not Our Ways

My last post made a bold statement: “If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.” I meant it. In fact, I think we should all always be attempting something that is too big for God to let fail.

But maybe it needs a slight correction.

But Jen, one of the wonderful readers in this faith-walker community, shared these thoughts with a pithy comment:

“But the reality of our situation is this: If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.”

Is this really true?  Will you truly be stuck with no place to go and no power to move in any direction?

So much of how we experience life is determined by our thinking about the situations we find ourselves in.  I’ve been extremely poor and happy at the same time.  I’ve been blessed by learning that poverty and failed plans are not the end of the physical or spiritual World.

It might be more true to state: “If God comes through, we’re screwed.”  You will miss the opportunity to experience life in its bare bones form.  You will not need to learn to accept the help you truly need from others in your community.  Your children will not need to truly internalize that their lives are not worthless just because they have no monetary worth – even when they are looked down on by many of those who “have it made” and can wear new clothing and own cell phones.  You won’t experience the true joy of a Thanksgiving feast after months of eating woody green beans for dinner several times a week.  You won’t know deep in your bones that failure is not the end, but can often be a transformational beginning. You won’t know what your safety net feels like until you’ve bounced on it.

Thanks to Jen for her courage to speak up.  I needed the reminder that God’s version of  ”coming through” might look different from my own version of it. If God does provide as I want Him too, will I miss out on a greater blessing? I can pray vigorously and expect confidently yet still keep the understanding that He may have a better plan beyond what I can imagine.

Hear, O my people, and I will warn you — if you would but listen to me…. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen to me…. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.   (Ps. 81:8-12)

What do you think of her comment? I think she may be on to something. Share your thoughts with a click here.

Is What You Are Attempting for God Too Big to Fail?

If what you are attempting for God failed, would anyone notice?

photo: saruwine

A few years ago, much political hay was made about the massive bailouts of financial institutions and various members of the auto industry. The argument then was that they were too big to fail. Whether or not we agree with those decisions, that thinking has left me wondering, what am I doing for God that is too big to fail?

Regular readers know of our journey away from the perception of safety and security as a Christian school leader to expand on God’s call to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

It’s ironic, really, that God would call us to extreme steps of faith in order to help others live faith with faith beyond their imagination. But the reality of our situation is this:

If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.

Pardon the blunt vernacular. I’ll understand if you unsubscribe now. But that’s real life. And real life requires, not just prefers, real faith.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. ~ Francis Chan Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

In a post not long ago, I asked the question, what if God wants me to fail? It’s possible that He might be planning to get greater glory from my failure than from my success. I wonder if Peter asked the same thing as he flung one leg over the side of that heaving boat on the turbulent sea and felt the chilly water first splash his toes. Or if it flashed through his mind as lightning ripped across the roiling Gallilean sky.

In that post, I concluded that we had to be OK with whatever result God chose — because He’s God. He can do that. Or not. His call. I should should quit trying to do His job.

After much reflection and counsel, however, I think we should add two more thoughts when facing this fear about doing something for God that’s too big to fail.

Two Key Thoughts

  1. It’s none of my business. “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” His plan, whatever it is, is His plan and not my own. It’s known only by Him. In case you hadn’t noticed, God functions on a need-to-know basis. And we usually don’t need to know. In fact, He often gets more glory when we obey without fully knowing what He’s up to. His decretive will — what He has chosen to happen — will happen for His glory. My worrying about it is really a subtle attempt to take some of God’s authority as my own. No wonder it’s such a crushing burden!
  2. My Father delights to give me every good gift. Though I may not know God’s decretive will, He has made one thing sure: He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. My Father loves me and gave His own Son for me. He has promised that if I seek first His Kingom, He’ll take care of the rest. As any decent father would:

If a son asks for bread  from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11: 10-13)

So why am I not — usually — concerned about whether what I am attempting for God is too big to fail?

Because it’s not my problem. It’s my Father’s problem. And He is too big to fail.

I trust Him more than I trust myself.

And isn’t that what walking by faith is all about?

What are you doing that will fail if God doesn’t come through? How has He come through for you in the past? Leave a comment to share your story so we can all grow.

5 Key Resources to Help You Discover Your Life Strengths

As most regular readers know, I’ve been on a journey — call it a quest – to discover my life strengths for the last five years. I’ve made quite a bit of progress, I think. The journey has caused my to take some pretty dramatic steps of faith into the unknown.

But I haven’t stepped completely into the unknown, thanks to five key resources that helped me discover my life strengths. On a recent stay with friends, I shared some of these resources with their sons. It reminded me that I have been sharing this list often of late and others might be helped by my sharing it here.

“First, know thyself.” Aristotle’s words ring more true today than ever when the wide array of options before us in Western culture can be paralyzing. For many years, I stood transfixed by the plethora of dishes at life’s buffet. Sure, I occasionally nibbled at leftovers on others’ plates while promising myself that someday I too would step up. Someday.

Uncertain of my own strengths, I waited, afraid I’d mess it up if I tried to figure out the direction my life should take. Maybe you can relate. Eventually I realized that I’m going to die whether I ever figure it out or not — so I’d best get busy.

The 5 resources I share below helped me to discover this as my life calling:

To write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

I just wish I had discovered them earlier in life. If you know any teens or twenty-somethings, do them a favor. Pass on this list.

My top 5 resources to help you discover your life strengths

  1. In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World by Hugh Hewitt. No, I’m not just listing this one because I wrote the Forward, Study Guide, and Group Leader’s Guide. I did those things because it is that good. Loaded with proven practical advice, my friend Hugh’s book started me thinking in a very intentional manner about how to use my gifts to get and use influence for Christ.
  2. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Although not the most scientifically reliable tool out there, it is a great starting point to help you identify your strength themes. After reading the first 80 pages or so, take the on-line assessment to identify your areas of natural giftedness. Mine were ideation, intellection, input, responsibility, and belief. Out of that came my preliminary purpose of creatively questioning, connecting, and communicating in the context of my beliefs.
  3. The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success also by Marcus Buckingham. Especially targeting the twenty-something demographic, Buckingham included a DVD and exercises for drilling down into your strength themes. I found when I did the work of drilling down, I quickly identified both my strengths — those things I did well which energize me — and my weaknesses — those things that sucked the life out of me no matter how good I was at them.
  4. StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution I know. Again with the Marcus Buckingham! But his British accent is so cool! Sorry, can’t help it. He’s done some outstanding work. This latest one gets far more scientific in its results – and it is uncannily accurate in assessing what role you play when part of a team. The on-line assessment solidified much of what I had uncovered already, but gave me even clearer vocabulary with which I could talk about my contribution. By the way, I am what Stand Out describes as “The Hub at the Center.” Provider and Connector led the way on my results with Pioneer not far behind. In short, I am a catalyst who gets things moving and cares deeply about making everyone around me better.
  5. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will My most recent entry onto the list is from Kevin DeYoung. It is the straightforward antidote to that life direction paralysis that keeps so many of us standing still. His practical yet theologically sound advice speaks candidly to young and old alike but is especially targeted toward the young adult demographic.

I know I’ve left a lot of resources off the list, including a lot of books by John Maxwell that have dramatically influenced my life: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and  Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It.

Start with these five as a gift pack for any young person in your life — or for yourself. It’s never too late to discover who you were made to be and begin to walk in that direction by faith.

What other resources have you discovered have discovered to help you find your life direction? Share your suggestions with a comment here so we can all grow.

Are You Quick to Forgive — Like God?

You know you should. Forgive, that is. You know you should do it. And quick. You even know you should ask God to forgive you. Like, now.

Yet somehow sinful pride so often holds us back, making our lives even more of a complicated mess.

photo: seantoyer

My son models this call of being quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness — for any perceived offense. Sometimes he’s too zealous in his request, even asking others to forgive him for thoughts he had about them but never shared with them. Awkward. But good.

I’d rather he be too quick to forgive and request forgiveness than become hardened to sin like most of the rest of us.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:32 NKJV)

We are called by God to imitate his lead on this forgiveness thing. As we look at His example, what do we see that might give us a plan for being quick to forgive?

  • God is eager to forgive. First, the facts: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Ps. 103:8 NKJV) It’s as if it’s overflowing out of Him. So often we visualize God as a grudge-holding manipulator whose happy to finally have us at a disadvantage when we stumble — can you say “Projecting!” That’s what we do. But not God. In truth, He is always poised to pounce at the slightest opening to forgive all who ask. Is that the ready-and-waiting condition of your heart today?
  • God forgives quickly. “If we confess our sins…he will forgive our sins….” (1 John 1:9 NKJV) There’s no time-delay with God. There’s no committee to review the request. There’s no standing in line. No weighing of the leverage He has over us. Forgiveness is instant — like that powdered stuff they call coffee in a jar — only without the stirring. We ask. It’s gone. I wonder if we give it out as quickly as it’s given to us.
  • God takes offenses seriously but holds them loosely. As the just Judge of all men, He doesn’t look the other way or pretend it didn’t happen. He confronted Peter in a powerful way for his cowardly denial. Once forgiven though, Jesus never mentioned it again. We would do everyone around us a tremendous service if we would do take the same approach with those who wrong us.
  • We must be quick to ask. Instead of rationalizing away our failures in defense of our foolish pride, let’s treat them with the urgency they deserve. We wouldn’t hang around with radioactive waste arguing about just how radioactive it might be. Well, most of us wouldn’t. Why dilly-dally while a far more pernicious but equally invisible evil eats away at our soul? Note the priority Jesus places on it:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.   (Matt. 5:23-24 NKJV)

Not even worship comes before our urgent need to forgive and seek forgiveness. Maybe it’s time we started un-complicating our lives by being like God — at least when it comes to forgiveness.

The rest of the mess might take us all a little time.

Do you find it easier to forgive those who offend you? What other truths have you found helpful to to ask for forgiveness before sin erodes our soul? Leave a comment here to share the growth.

How to Know When It’s Time to Go

I’m privileged to have a guest post appear today on the blog of church planter and leader Ron Edmondsen. I admire his leadership insights and recommend following his blog for a steady dose of wisdom. The advice I share there comes from my six months of intensive wrestling with the question:

How do I know that it’s time to step away from a good calling to pursue what I believe could be great one?

Click here to read the post: 5 Questions to Discern a Life Change 

For the intriguing back-story of my faith journey, click here to read: I Will Take the Ring: Why I’m Leaving Rivendell

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You Too Can Choose to Live by Faith. Let Me Help.

I do some of my best thinking when I’m cutting the grass. I don’t know why. There’s something about taking the John Deere for a few turns around a few acres of green stuff that helps me put my thoughts into neat rows.

Tonight was no exception. As I rounded one corner near the rear of the turf course, I looked towards our house and saw it glowing, framed by the golden sun dipping low on the horizon behind it.

It wasn’t long ago that same house glowed for a different reason. It had a shine to it somewhere within my soul.

Not because it’s a grand palace. It’s not. Oh, it’s a great house. Surrounded by a “prettyish sort of wilderness” and some pretty cool gardens that I’ve nearly killed myself to plant. We love living here. I truly appreciate it.  

But it’s just a house.

My house had come to represent comfort, security, and confidence. But that was before God stirred my heart to truly live by faith. It began with — well, a feeling;

It started out as a feeling

Which then grew into a hope

Which then turned into a quiet thought

 Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder

‘Til it was a battle cry (lyrics from “The Call” by Regina Spektor)

In my case, the feeling turned into a book proposal on what it truly means to live each moment of life with real faith. Which then turned into an unshakeable desire to enter the story myself, to find out what would happen if I chose to live by what I believed to be true instead of by what I saw around me. And then that call grew louder and louder to put my confidence where it belonged instead of in stuff that won’t survive this century.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…. (Ps. 46:1-2)

Sounds like a battle cry to me. Now I have to rewrite the book proposal with my own story currently in progress.

God is my confidence. And fear is a choice.

I can choose to fear or not to fear. If I believe the truth claim (God is our refuge), I will act as if that claim is true. If I don’t believe it – deep in my soul — I will not act as if it is true. It’s that simple.

Occasionally in life, we get rare moments when we can recognize significant shifts in our own thinking. I had one  about six months ago when I chose to get out of the boat and follow God’s call to use my strengths no matter the cost.

I think I’ve had another one tonight as I cut the grass – a clarifying vision of my calling.

In short, I want to help you choose to live by faith. I want to teach you how to do it, equip you to act on it, and encourage you to keep moving forward on this exhilarating faith journey. (Come to think of it, I might want to cut this post out and put it in a scrapbook.) Most importantly, I want to lead the way by my own example.

I choose to put my confidence in God, to live by faith no matter if I have a house that glows in the fading sunlight or not. But I don’t want to go alone.  I’ll take the ring, but I’d prefer a fellowship. I’d much rather encourage others to come along on this walk of faith. Starting with you. 

It’s time to change the world. It’s time to live by faith. Houses may get left behind. Shadow callings might be abandoned. No doubt we’ll face more than a few fears along the way.

Anyone else shaking yet? Just checking. I’m hoping I’m not the only one.

What does it mean to you to walk by faith? Do you act on what you say you believe? Go ahead. Leave whatever comment God is nudging you to share with a click here.

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photo by: AdamKR

New Guest Post at Godly Writers

My guest post is up at Godly Writers today asking this question:

Deadly Writing Mistakes: Do You Make This One?

I’m betting we all do — and not just as writers. See what it is and how to avoid it by clicking here now.

If you’re stopping by today for the first time, don’t forget to subscribe in the upper right for practical posts to help you grow by connecting real life with real faith.

Oh, and I’m giving away five free copies of Jeff Goins new book Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life to new subscribers who join the Bill in the Blank community by midnight this Saturday!

Just in case you’re tempted by free stuff.

Enjoy!

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