I try to do what’s right. Sometimes I mess up, and sometimes I mess up even worse. However, I generally tend to strive towards doing what’s right.
I’m not the only one.
Everyone is trying to be good. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s commendable, but how we measure our performance is off. We do not often ask ourselves what is excellent to do, but rather what is “okay” to do.
Is sex before marriage “okay”? Is social drinking “okay”? Is foul language “okay”? Is gossip “okay”? Is crude humor “okay”? Why do we wonder what is “okay” or “socially acceptable” when we are called as Christians to be “excellent” and “morally commendable”?
We know from the Bible that mediocrity is not God’s standard. Jesus says in Revelation, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16 NKJV). Jesus leaves no room for “okay.”
At the end of things, the question we ask ourselves shouldn’t be “Was I good enough?” The question should be “Was I great enough?” Fortunately, we have Jesus to intercede for our mediocrity, but we should always strive to “run the race as to win the prize. (1 Cor. 9:24b)”
We also have to be careful not to change our standards just because our culture changes. In James 1:17, God is called “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” As Creator, God does not follow His creation. If He did, He wouldn’t be much of a master, would He? If God doesn’t change, why should we, those made in His image change?
Excellence is not what saves us. Jesus saves us, but excellence sets us apart as being the followers He desires us to be.
The biggest things come from the smallest things. Think about it. The smallest functional unit of the body is the cell. The smallest unit of a society is the family, and a kingdom is only as strong as the loyalty of the subjects. Likewise, the success of the most elaborate strategy depends on attention given to the most basic details.
It makes sense, then, that the health of the greater is determined by the health of the smaller. This is true in the life of a believer and in the work of the church. As individuals, we have to pay attention to the small things to see results on a larger scale, things like daily devotion, continued obedience, and intentional life on life relationships of accountability, encouragement, and influence with the rough, messed up, strange, and imperfect people inside and outside the church.
As the church, we must do good work at the smallest levels to accomplish our greater goals. If we are going to make vital connections to Jesus, His truth, His community, and His mission in the world, then we have to connect with others in meaningful, Christ-centered and Christ-centered relationships. This is most effectively accomplished through Sunday school or small group ministry.
If we neglect the work to be done at the foundational level of life and ministry, we will end up with a shell that, while strong in appearance, is actually fragile, not able to bear the weight of life and Truth. Doing so is like settling for one of those cheap, hollow bunnies made out of the gross chocolate at Easter.
But, let’s be honest. We do take shortcuts. Sacrificing actual for artificial health, we often skirt the hard work that would give us the most lasting results. We settle and suffer for it.
Don’t sacrifice substance for surface. Hammer down on the fundamentals. Commit to feed the four vital connections, understanding that most of us are products of small group ministry. Take advantage of systems and structures in place in the church to grow personally and as a body so that God can accomplish His work in and through you.
Want to be healthy? Think small.
It was freezing outside, and the rain was picking up, turning the gravel road into a sloppy mess, so I started into a sloppy jog. As I got closer to my car, I heard some footsteps behind me and quickly turned around to see a young man following me. As I turned, I gave him the once-over: ripped jeans, worn hands, hood pulled over his head.
My eyes went immediately to his, and I could tell he was on the brink of breaking down. I stopped, and as he inched closer towards me, he stuck out his hand and pushed a crumpled-up wad of cash into my hand. He looked me in the eyes and said, “This is the last four dollars I have. Can I get one of your books?”
Let me back up. I had just given a talk here in Oklahoma at a local treatment center. I’d shared my story, and then shared about dreams. How while I was in treatment I began to dream of a new life. A life full of hope and freedom. My dream consisted of real friendships and honest relationships. No more shame or guilt but rather a passion-filled, inspiring life that left me smiling at the end of every day. It was a purpose-driven dream.
I talked about how dreams motivate us, encourage us and inspire us to keep pushing ahead. I tried to speak to their hearts and tell them it’s okay to dream. I explained that, even if your dreams in the past have failed or flopped, it doesn’t mean your dreams have to stop.
When I finished, a few of the guys stuck around to shake my hand and visit. I sold a few books, gave out some business cards in case they ever needed to talk to someone, packed up my stuff and started walking to my car.
And that’s when this guy stopped me.
So there we were, rain falling on us and around us, soaking the wad of cash and bouncing off my head. I looked back and forth between these crumpled bills and the man’s rumpled exterior—my stomach dropped. Stunned, I stepped back and muttered, “Sure, but you keep your money.”
He refused and said, “No, I want to pay you for it.” He went on to tell me he hadn’t dreamed in years and that what I had said really moved him. By this point, he was crying and I was trying not to. I attempted to muster up something to say, but nothing really hit me so I just gave the guy a hug and told him today was the day he could start dreaming again.
This guy didn’t know me from Adam. He may never remember me again. But by simply giving him permission to dream, his life could be changed forever.
Maybe now he is dreaming of a world where….
- His family is reunited
- He has a new job
- He lives a life free from the insanity of addiction
- He’s the dad he always wanted to be
- His parents are proud of him again
- He is successful, appreciated, and respected by his peers
- He has friends and is valued
- He is married to the woman of his dreams…
Wherever you are today, whatever you are up against—whether you’re stuck in a disappointing relationship, struggling to believe you’ll ever get clean, or trying to understand what it is your supposed to be doing with your life—today is the day it can all change.
I give you permission to dream again.
Because dreams change everything…
Emotions and passions that used to lay doormat inside you spring up to life with a dream.
Impossible thoughts begin to become possible again with a dream.
Journeys and experiences that you thought could never be obtained become conceivable with a dream.
Depressed, lonely nights grow to echoes of laughter and the chatter of friendship with a dream.
Hopeless situations and relationships blossom into rewarding and satisfying connections with a dream.
Ideas tossed aside for years transform into world-changing solutions with a dream.
Your story begins to change people’s lives with a dream.
Take a moment and think of the life you’ve always wanted…
What does it look like? What does it sound like? Who is there? What are you doing? Where are you at?
Whatever it is, I believe you can get there…but it starts with a dream.
So today I give you permission to start dreaming… Have fun!
Last week I discussed how Hope and Air are a lot alike. How they both move through life surrounding us at all times. How they are necessary for us to move forward, constantly giving us momentum, energy and inspiration.
We also began to talk about what would happen if one of these essential elements of life wasn’t available. Specifically Hope. And that’s where we pick up today…
Have you ever really thought about what your life would look like without hope? Without the expectation that whatever you’re going through will ever end?
Without the feeling that life will ever get better?
Without the sensation of what’s to come?
Without the inner peace of knowing that better days are ahead?
Or even on a more basic level, without the expectation that you will be able to feed yourself again?
Without the thought that you’ll ever enjoy another event?
Without the hope for a weekend or a date or a fulfilling relationship?
Truly, a life without hope is a scary proposition!
The good news for those who may be experiencing a season of life with little-to-no hope is that season can come to an end today. Why? Because Hope is truly ALIVE! Hope is here for you today, and it’s free, it’s present and it’s available for you to accept it. Right now! Not in a few days, not when you start to be a better person, not after you finish five more self-help books, not next Sunday at church. No, Right Now!
Hope is a free gift God has given us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Jesus, God in the flesh, His forgiveness of our sins and the grace He pours out to us all is the true definition of Hope.
In the book of Jeremiah, the author himself writes a letter on behalf of God to a group of folks who are living in exile. These people are separated from the life they know, they are left hopeless to wonder if life will ever get back to normal.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declare the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile”( Jeremiah 29:10-14).
God knew how challenging it was for these exiles to sit for years and years with no hope. He saw their hope dwindling, so He decided to send them some encouragement. A spark to hopefully re-ignite their hope. In today’s terms, God sent them an encouraging text or posted an uplifting word on their timeline.
For someone reading this today, I hope this blog is serving as that same spark. I don’t know who you are or what you are going through. But I pray with everything I have that today you will experience the freedom that comes from accepting the Hope that Jesus can bring your life. The Hope that you do have a future beyond whatever it is that’s bringing you down today. A future that can be prosperous and rewarding, like the life you’ve dreamed of living.
It’s the peace you’ve searched for. It’s the never-ending joy you’ve tried to find from so many other things in your life. It’s the friendship you’ve always wanted. It’s the feeling that will drive you to be all you can be.
By trusting in Jesus and surrendering your will to His, this HOPE will become yours. That free gift will instantly show up on your doorstep. This Hope will change you forever!
A life without hope is a scary proposition. I know, I nearly died without it. But today I am fully alive, hope has changed my life and my hope is Jesus.
What is your hope?
Have you experienced a season of life without hope?
There are many theories out there about addiction – its causes, how it takes root and how it perpetuates. There are even more out there about its remedies – how it’s cured, how to treat it and how to live with it.
When I was in treatment at Rob’s Ranch, they told us that the medical community, and even the government, had declared addiction a disease. When I first heard this I must admit I kind of chuckled. I was new in sobriety, really new, like three days into it. So it seemed like a phony excuse made up for addicts like me. You know something they tell you so you don’t feel so bad about how horrible your life had become.
But the more I let this theory roll around in my skull, the more and more it began to make sense. A disease, in its most basic form is a sickness. The simplest step to begin overcoming any sickness is by a daily regimented treatment. Right?
Well I knew I had a problem that I couldn’t stop on my own. I had tried for years to cure my own ills, only to fail time and time again. So a few weeks into treatment, as my mind started to clear up, I began to understand how daily treatment could really help me to overcome my sickness. Pretty soon that description of disease started sounding pretty good to me. I was sick and I needed someone, something to help me get well.
If you are a Bible reader you may know the story of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus in the book of John. The story begins by the admission that Lazarus was sick. Here is what it says…
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” John 11:1-3 NIV
So sick was Lazarus that his sister and close friend felt the need to relay to Jesus, with urgency, this news, in hopes that Jesus would hear it and come running. Or better yet, just heal him on the spot.
But, knowing that Jesus is God, in bone and skin. We realize He already knew the sickness was upon his friend and the way in which the story would end. Just the same way He knows you and me and the ending to our stories.
We see later in verse four what Jesus’ response was upon receiving this distress call from Lazarus’ posse. This powerful verse shook me to my core when I heard it. Here is what is says.
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV
Boom! As soon as I heard that, my mind rushed back to that moment when I was first told that the plague that nearly killed me was a disease, a sickness. I could have died from that sickness. In fact, many of my good friends have. Many who were sitting in that same lecture with me two years ago are dead. But not me. Why? God had a bigger plan. A brighter purpose. A future, a hope.
Is it for me to receive acclaim? Of course NOT.
Is it for my counselors to be praised? NO.
Was I spared so I could write a book or get a pat on the back after speaking somewhere? Not a chance.
I was spared from my sickness for one reason and one reason only. So that God’s Son, Jesus would be glorified through it. So that by me continuing to live, He would receive more glory, more honor and more praise.
We all face sickness in our lives. Some of you are literally dealing with disease and illness right now, in this moment. You are suffering through sicknesses of depression, anxiety, hate, pain, trauma, molestation and the list could go on and on.
Whatever sickness you’re facing today, I want you to know and believe that it doesn’t have to end in death. God wants to use it for His glory. He wants to bring you back to Himself, opening up an endless foundation of freedom, forgiveness and love. He is the miracle worker. He is the magnificent healer. He is making all things new and today. Trust that He has a plan and that it starts today. He can turn your sickness into a story. For His glory!
-Hope is Alive!