Sometimes The Unexpected Occurs

When Things Don’t Go Like You Plan

I love having a plan, and everything going according to that plan. But that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the unexpected occurs.

Sometimes The Unexpected Occurs

Like this week, for example. I had a lot of things planned over the past few days that I wanted to get done. We had a special speaker in for the weekend at our church. And I wanted to get a few articles written in advance for this site while I am on a retreat the first week of October.

But apparently, that was not to be.

Last Thursday evening, I went home feeling exhausted. I didn’t think anything of it, because it had been a long day. But overnight, I started running a fever. By midday Friday, I was miserable. And I ran a fever off and on for the next several days. After almost a week, and a trip to the doctor, I started to feel better.

As I have reflected on this over the past couple of days, I came to realize that, no matter what my plans may be, sometimes things happen that change my plans. I can respond in one of two ways. Either I can be frustrated and angry that things aren’t going my way, or I can shift my mindset to this new thing, and see what comes of it.

While my tendency is to be frustrated when things don’t go according to plan, and to stress out over the unexpected, I have chosen the alternative way of seeing this past week. I’m watching to see what God may be teaching me through this. He could be saying slow down. He could be saying that I need to trust him and not my own efforts. He could be showing me that things will go on regardless of whether or not I accomplish my plans. There are a lot of things that I have seen through this that I may have missed had I not been forced to stop and rest.

And at the end of the day, there’s always tomorrow, and the day after, and next week, unless Jesus returns first, in which case it won’t really matter at all. I’ll shift my plans from last week to this week, and to next week if need be. Because I would rather slow down and hear these kinds of things than stay busy and miss hearing the voice of God in my life.

Sometimes it takes a sickness to accomplish that.

Question: Do you take time to rest and listen for God’s voice? Or does he have to get your attention in more drastic ways? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Benefits Of Solitude

Why Getting Away For A Time Can Be Crucial To Spiritual Growth

I’m getting antsy. I’m ready for a break from the routine, ready to get away for a few days.

The Benefits Of Solitude

Each year, I take a week around the first of October and head out for a spiritual retreat. For the past several years, I have utilized a program called Wilderness, run by Christ In Youth. And it has always been an incredible time of spiritual growth and reflection for me.

I try to take a short break every few weeks, a day away where I seek solitude and spend the day in prayer and reading God’s Word. But once a year, I take a bigger chunk of time to really revitalize my soul, and Wilderness has been a key factor in making that a priority for my life.

Solitude is a spiritual discipline that most of us are probably not comfortable with. In our busy society, and a very noisy society, getting away by ourselves and being quiet is very intimidating. But it is very necessary.

At Wilderness, one of the elements I love so much is the opportunity to find a place where I can be alone to listen to God for several hours a day, each day, throughout the week. Wilderness is held at Bear Trap Ranch, outside of Colorado Springs, and each morning, I find a spot in the mountains where I can see peaks all around me, and the golden aspens moving in the breeze. It is incredible peaceful, and I relish this time by myself each day.

Solitude is something I have come to appreciate. It’s something that Jesus modeled for us, because he spent a lot of time off on his own, seeking the Father through prayer. Sometimes it was in the early mornings (Mark 1:35), other times it was in the evening (Luke 6:12). Many times it was before a major event in his life and ministry, like the transfiguration, his arrest, or the choosing of his disciples. But regardless of when or where, it is essential to note that he did this regularly and frequently. So should we.

One Word 365 – 2017 Edition

Forget The New Year’s Resolutions - Just Choose One Word

For the past six years, I have selected one single word to focus my life on for the duration of the coming twelve months, instead of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions that I probably won’t keep. This one word is the word I will strive to live by for the coming year.

Identifying a word to live by for the year helps me to keep my focus on a specific area of growth, and helps me become more of the person God has created me to be.

One Word 365

I’ve set my focus on several different words over the last few years. For example, in 2011, I chose to focus on the word passion. This word underlined all I did throughout the year. It defined the year. Everything I did, I did with enthusiasm, and passion was pretty visible in most areas of my life.

In 2012, I chose the word commit. One of my biggest struggles in life has been to stick to many of the things I decide to do. Focusing on this word helped me to address that deficiency.

In 2013, I chose the word intentional. We have a large family, and as a result, we have a lot going on. I realized that I needed to be intentional, especially in my relationships with family and friends, and in my ministry.

In both 2014 and 2015, I chose the word wait. I tend to be very impatient at times, and focusing on waiting helped me see the bigger picture. And, rather than take matters into my own hands, it allowed my faith to grow by waiting on the Lord.

In 2016, my word was prudence. It simply means to use wisdom and discretion in all that I do. It’s actually very similar to the word wait, and God has continued to teach me to be patient and wait on him.

Each year, I choose to identify and implement a single word as a part of my Life Plan. I add this word to the beginning of my plan, and try to use it as a piece of the foundation for every portion of my plan. Some areas are more successful than others.

The Truth About Words

One of the things that I hold most deeply is the authority of Scripture. The Word of God is infallible and inerrant. God’s Word, and his words, are truth.

The Truth About Words

Not too long ago, I was reading a book recommended to me by a friend, New Evangelicalism, by Paul Smith. It was a very interesting and eye-opening book, and gave me a lot to think about.

But in reading it, I came across this passage that just blew my mind: Smith is speaking here about the solid theological beginnings of Princeton Seminary, and identifying some of the fundamental issues that served as the foundation for the college as it started. He states:

Truth was a stable entity best expressed in written language that conveyed one message relevant for all times and in every place. At Princeton, as well as in many nineteenth-century Protestant American churches, the idea was held that persons of simple common sense could rightly understand Scripture. They also held the view that a genuine religious experience grew out of right ideas, and right ideas could only be expressed in written words.

That simple statement, stuck in the middle of a section that propounded upon the inerrancy of Scripture, has bounced around in my mind for weeks.

I see two striking truths in that paragraph.

First of all, words are sacred. Over and over, the Bible tells us that the things that we speak are weighty (See James 1:19; 3:1-12; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 5:4 for a start). But most of those passages deal with the spoken word, our conversations. Because I was curious, I did a quick search for the words “write,” “written” and “wrote” in the Bible. Did you know that these word appear in English almost 400 times? And that doesn’t include any other variations of the words, or even look at the original languages and compare all the different forms from their roots.

Walk Thru The Bible

How A Weekend Event Can Help Us Read The Bible

Last weekend, we held an event at our church called Walk Thru The Old Testament. It was an excellent event and provided the perfect incentive to encourage our church to spend more time in the Bible.

Walk Thru The Bible

I have had experience with Walk Thru The Bible before, way back in 1995. It has been a while since that seminar, and I really didn’t know just what to expect. I was blown away by just how incredible this ministry is, and how it can impact people.

We started planning for this event several months ago, when I pitched the idea to our leadership team. They seemed to be excited about it, but none of us really knew just how big this would actually turn out to be.

Planning continued, and we tried to do all of the preparatory work by the book. We followed WTB’s schedule closely, publishing ads when they said to publish ads, hanging posters when we were supposed to hang posters, making the announcements so many weeks in advance, and working our way up to the weekend of the event itself.

What happened was absolutely incredible. God’s Word was presented in such a way that many people grasped an overview of portions of Scripture hat they had never put together before.

WTB’s Old Testament event is a five hour event, broken into four separate sessions. We presented the first session during our church service, devoting most of our time to it. After a break for lunch, we returned for the next three sessions, working our way through the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi. Along with the overview, we were taught seventy-seven different key points, with creative hand motions, to help us remember it all.

It was one of the best weekends that our church has experienced in a while. A large number of our congregation made the commitment to stay for the duration, and several people from our community joined us for the day. It was a phenomenal success, and we haven’t heard a negative review of it yet.

Through it all, I learned a few key facts about leadership and ministry. I think I have known these, and they may seem like common sense to many, but they were reinforced in my mind very strongly over the weekend.

Making Good Friends

One of the most important aspects of life is developing great friendships. We need friends. No one can do life alone. God designed us to be in relationships with one another.

Making Good Friends

But making, and being, a good friend can be difficult sometimes. And especially so if you are the least bit introverted at all. Luckily, there are several things that you and I can do to help develop quality friendships that will last a lifetime.

When you look through the Bible, you see multiple examples of great friendships. For example, King David, before he became king, and Jonathan had an amazing friendship. Their relationship went to great depths, inspiring David to say that it was deeper than any other in 2 Samuel 1:26.

Their relationship went beyond casual acquaintance, deeper than social buddies, and achieved the level that few people ever reach.

A friendship such as this is needed, and it will help you develop into the man or woman that God has created you to be. And when we develop that kind of friendship, it’s because we have learned to be that kind of friend.

There are a few things that you and I can do to build such friendships. Some of them are more difficult than others, but all of these traits will help you be the kind of friend that you want to have.

Developing A Consistent Prayer Life

Praying can be hard. We often tend to neglect this important part of our spiritual lives, sometimes without even meaning to do so. But it is a critical aspect of our connection with God, and we need that line of communication like no other.

PrayerMate

I have always struggled with maintaining a consistent prayer time in my daily life. That may sound a bit weird coming from a minister, of all people. Reading the Bible has always been an easy discipline, as has journaling, and many others. But prayer has been harder.

I have tried all of the different methods: a prayer journal, writing my prayers out, making lists. I’ve tried to develop this discipline on my own, and with prayer partners. I have purchased several different “systems,” and developed my own.

Nothing really worked for me.

I’ve studied the concept of having a great prayer life, and the need to have a quiet place with sufficient time and no distractions. I have opened up time in my schedule, my home, and my life. All to little avail.

I get distracted easily. I can be praying, and the next thing I know, I’m imagining myself to be a fighter pilot, or hiking El Capitan, or playing with the bookmark in my Bible.

Frankly, it’s kind of frustrating.

Enter PrayerMate. Goofy name. Great app.

Someone out in the digital world apparently had the same problem I do. Somewhere, I ran across a blogger who had as much frustration about being as consistent in prayer as I do, and they mentioned an app for the mobile phone, and iPhone in my case, that had helped them. I don’t remember who it was, but I am eternally grateful.

I downloaded this app, and it has been the best thing I have ever done for my prayer life. This app is completely customizable, and I can set it up to fit my needs almost perfectly. It creates my prayer lists, as many as I need, and allows me to create specific prayer cards for each item in that list.

For example, I have lists for the following subjects and topics: biblical prayers, wisdom, personal godliness and growth, my wife, each of my kids, my ministry and church, my friends, other ministries and missions, evangelism, our nation, and many more. Some of these lists hold dozens of prayer cards.

I can set the parameters for each list. For example, I have seven different prayer cards in my personal godliness list. PrayerMate cycles through these cards, randomly, until all seven have been prayed for, and then starts over again. This way, I can ask God to grow me in these different areas each week, but not always in the same order.

Another example would be my church family. There are several dozen cards in that list. PrayerMate is scheduled to select three cards each day, until all of them have been covered. And then the list begins again. I am able to pray for my entire church, family by family, and no one gets left out.

The scheduling in PrayerMate is incredible. I can choose to be reminded of as many or as few prayer needs on each list as needed, and build my prayer lists accordingly. And, with the reminder feature, I never forget to pray over these lists. My phone is always with me, and as a result, I can prayer while walking, or driving, and more. It’s been an incredible blessing for me.

And the best thing about this powerful little tool? It’s free, for iPhone and Android. Perfect!

The only drawback to it is that it does take some time to get things set up like I wanted them. I had to add and delete a few things until I figured out where everything fit. And even that ability is pretty simple to accomplish.

I highly recommend that you give this app a shot, especially if you struggle with a consistent prayer life. PrayerMate is a great tool that can help your prayer life become much more disciplined than it has ever been before.

You need to try this for yourself.

Question: What do you do to help build your prayer life into a solid spiritual discipline? You can leave a comment by clicking here.