Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Training

Have You Surrendered?

Surrender. It’s an interesting word. In western culture, it can be a negative word because it means to give up rights, to yield, to relinquish control or comfort. These are all things we hold onto tightly, often for self-preservation.

To give up control for some is terrifying. We cling onto power and control in order to have some sense of oneself having legal standing, political standing, religious standing or just human rights standing. 

To be in total control of our lives literally means to perceive oneself as knowing better than God. To walk through life in this way is to worship the idol of self. The Commandments told us to worship no other gods but the Lord God and yet we often persist in demanding our rights, e.g., it’s my body, it’s my life, what I do behind closed doors is my business, etc. To be in total control of one’s life is a scary place to reside. How so?

  1. You can only trust you. 
  2. You dare not surrender your rights to anyone for anything.
  3. You are pressed to ultimately decide your own fate.
  4. You must hold back emotions so as to not be out of control.
  5. You must be suspect of any input.
  6. You must control or avoid any life-changing decisions and the persons initiating or provoking those changes.

In an avoidance of surrender, you must control all input, all process and all output from your life. It is an exhausting way to live. Mentally you are forced to stay ahead of everyone, you are continually second guessing those around you, perfection becomes your go-to process in order to avoid the loss of control and your rights must, at all cost, remain front and center. We see this exemplified all around us in our culture today. 

Enter Jesus. Jesus, the Savior who asks you to give up control. Jesus, the One who says to relinquish control to Him–all control. It’s no longer your money, your will, your sexuality, your political side or your self-gratification. Jesus requires surrender. 

For me to say, “I give up my rights to __________” goes against everything my flesh desires. But isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross for you and me? He gave up every right as the Son of God, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of you and me in order to surrender His life willingly. He didn’t surrender to get something, He surrendered to give something–salvation to all of mankind. We surrender our lives to Him in order to give our lives to His kingdom. 

When we surrender our passions, our careers, our bank accounts, our pain, our lust, our children, our marriage, our employment and our sin to our Savior we are not losing control, we are gaining freedom from control. 

Do you desire true faith? Surrender.

Do you desire liberty? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from sin? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from yourself and your own control? Surrender.

When we surrender to Jesus, not just as our Savior, but as our Lord, we are saying that we are done with all of our self-efforts of power and control. We are finished with self-preservation. We are through with addictive behaviors leading us. We are done becoming angry over those who we perceive as annoyingly different from us. When we surrender control, we can let go of controlling and manipulating others to be who we thought we needed them to be. 

When we fully surrender control, we will find an intimacy with the Father like never before. The more we surrender, the more freedom we’ll experience. 

Marriages in which both partners stop trying to control the other are happy and fulfilling marriages. Relationships minus control are liberating and peace-filled. 

Are you willing to die to control so that you can experience the freedom that comes from trusting God?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

Healing Our Insecurity II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 5

am forgiven all my sins. Ephesians 1:7

I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. Jerimiah 33:6

To die to ourselves as C.S. Lewis penned does not come easy.  We fight it, wrestle with it, deny it, defend ourselves, project onto others our shame and guilt, and feverishly attempt to coverup our inadequacies.  To die means to face them head on, acknowledge them, confess them to God in order to eventually lay them at the cross.

Why do we hold onto something that inwardly is hurting us?  We find it enormously difficult to be honest about ourselves.  We can barely entertain the thought of looking into a mirror and saying, “You have deep insecurities and you have to stop covering them up.”  For some of us, letting go is more difficult because it demands living another way.  It requires change and sometimes change, even for the good, is more problematic than staying the same, even when it is unhealthy to do so.  

Catch these verses found in Proverbs, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise, He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”  (Proverbs 15:31, 32) 

Are you aware the Bible tells us that God, like a loving parent, initiates discipline and correction?  Do you know why?  He loves us enough to encourage life changes.  “…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”  (Hebrews 12:10)  God wants us to change through correction in order to grow and gain something good—to be like Him, holy.  

It is imperative that we renounce the idol of worshipping oneself.  To renounce means to give up a claim or to disown voluntarily.  Even if we seem unable to pinpoint any of our self-protecting insecurities, we can still take a step of faith and renounce anything in our life that looks like, smells like or acts like insecurity.  There is only one God to worship and it is Him alone.

But if we can label our insecurities, now is the time to confess them.  Perhaps along the way many of those insecurities have come to mind.  It is now time to confess them to God, renounce them and break off any unhealthy dependency or unhealthy attachment with them.  It is time to confess any fear of man that exceeds your fear of God.  It is time to break off inordinate relationships that have become a source of security for you.  It is time to lay down your excuses and justifications for negative behavior which actually stem from your insecurities.

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among then, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’  Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’  And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’”  (II Corinthians 6:16-18)

All of us have sinned. (See Romans 3:23.)  We all fall short of God’s plan, and the wages of “missing the mark” (which is the definition of sin) is death, but Romans 6:23 states: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God has given us a free gift, without any effort on our part.

When the Bible speaks of being justified or having received justification (See Romans 5:1.), there is a threefold definition to this word.  To be justified means that I am forgiven of my sin, I am free from my guilt, and I am in right standing with God.  To be forgiven, free of the guilt I feel for sinning, and then to actually be in right standing with God in my human state is simply astonishing and yet true, based on what Jesus, the Just One, did for me.

Through Him I am forgiven of all my sin, in right standing with God and can enjoy peace and security in my life.

Question for reflection:

Can you take a minute to once again identify your insecurities, confess them and break off their power over your life?

To order the book for yourself, a friend, your family or a group click here.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Parents, Training

Starting Tomorrow for Thirty Days!

Watch your in-box for some very special blog posts.

Starting tomorrow for 30 days you will be receiving a daily blog post and exerpt from my new book, Identity: The Distinctiveness of You.

I hope you enjoy this challenge and will take the time to read it each day. I pray you receive much from every post.

Pass it on to others and feel free to add your own comments. See you soon!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

Joining the Dishonest

Why do we think it’s more spiritual to appease others or live by conciliatory gestures?  And why is passive-aggressive behavior tolerated more today?  Are we being merciful and gracious or are we being dishonest?

 

Today we write comments on social media or letters to the editor trying to get our aggressions across in an acceptable media-centered way.  But is it the right way?  As well, what about the people in your life who will not tell you what they see or feel, but they will definitely show you or make an inference on Facebook?  That is passive-aggressive behavior.

 

Matthew chapter 18 tells us that if your brother sins against you, you are to go to your brother.  Nowhere in that chapter does it say to write a letter to the editor, bully them on Facebook, ignore them or slam them with passive-aggressive tactics.  We are to go one-on-one in love, in the hope that our brother will hear us.

 

Listen to I Peter 3:8 & 9: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  We must determine that part of being a blessing is speaking compassionate truth and words of blessing.

 

One day Jesus encountered an issue with Philip while Philip was requesting to be shown the Father.  Jesus looked straight back at him and said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”  I’ll bet Philip never asked that question again.

 

I’ve had leaders who have loved me enough to confront me with what they saw as a deficit in my life.  As hard as that kind of thing is to receive and look at, I realize they love me enough to tell me the truth as they understand it.  To me, that is real mercy.  Not being confronted toward change will cause me to repeat the wrong I was doing. 

 

I’ve often asked other leaders to let me know if they hear something in what I teach that is culturally insensitive or incorrect.  After speaking on one occasion, I requested input and, low and behold, I was told, “Yeah, there was one thing…”  I agreed and was thankful for their honesty.  If you do not want truthful input, don’t ask, but then do not expect to grow.

 

Another Reason or Three Why We Do Not Confront

  • Self-protection – I am apprehensive because I am protecting myself from a projected reaction that will affect me, so I choose not to go there. Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “True friends stab you in the front.”
  • Arrogance – Rather than moving in love, compassion and humility, we feel arrogance because we’re not walking in this sin, wrong doing or what we think is wrong thinking. Arrogance is full of pride and will keep us from changing.
  • Insecurity – I perceive my worth, my identity wrapped up in the garment of this person liking me and not rejecting me. If I confront them, my identity could be shaken.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…”

 

The book of Proverbs wisely counsels there are times we are to overlook an offense.  (See Proverbs 17:9, 19:11.)  It simply is not worth getting into.  But when is it worth getting into how do we confront someone with the truth?  Here are some life-giving ways or approaches to consider.

 

  1. When you expose another’s fault, a sin, you do so in love in order to win your brother or sister back (Matthew 18:15). Compassion is a major ingredient in the why of your confrontation.  “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  (Proverbs 27:6)
  2. When it is not criticism for criticism’s sake and it is not, “The truth hurts sometimes,” because that can be mean-spiritedness. It must be that I love you enough to tell you the truth.  The spirit of the conversation is love and the vehicle is grace.  (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. Paul the Apostle disagreed with Barnabas about taking John Mark on their missionary journey because John Mark had deserted Paul in Pamphylia. Paul was honest about how he felt concerning John Mark and why.  Be honest, be truthful while at the same time believing for and positioning yourself for healing in the life of the one you have to be honest with.
  4. Paul would eventually reconcile with John Mark. Everyone is worth a second chance.  Give the one you are confronting the benefit of the doubt and trust God for a second chance and reconciliation.
  5. Proverbs says that the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18). Is what you have to say spoken in an effort to bring healing or destruction and judgement?  It takes courage in the desire to bring healing to another.
  6. Stop airing your opinions and move toward understanding (Proverbs 18:2 – “Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their opinions.”). Once we speak what God has shown us, stop and listen to understand.
  7. Be the tongue that brings life and not death (Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”) Grace-filled truth brings life.
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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Training

How Is Your Root System?

The roots of a tree serve multiple functions. Tree roots absorb water and nutrients (minerals) for the tree. The tree root  system support the above ground portion of the tree. “Feeder roots” remain closer to the surface collecting water while lateral roots provide anchorage for the tree. Roots spread four to seven times the distance (radius) of the tree. While not all trees have what’s called a taproot, those that do are better held in storms and draw water and minerals deep within the soil, helping a tree in the driest of times. Thus, trees that experience infrequent watering will develop the deepest root system in their search for water, something that ultimately benefits the tree.

 

I once read that the mighty redwoods, even with shallow root systems, will grab hold of the roots of other trees and rocks underground in order to stabilize themselves. Many trees are dependent upon other trees around them for strength.

 

We love trees for their process of photosynthesis, i.e., turning carbon dioxide into carbohydrates.  We love their beauty and their shade. We enjoy the fruit that some trees produce and the oxygen and air-filtering they offer. Trees are vital to our environment, but tree roots are vital to the tree.

 

It is said that we discover the real us when pressure is applied. The longer the pressure, the more real we’ll become. We have a marvelous ability to fake it on the surface, but when the human element of pain comes and our roots are exposed, what has been held deep within us will surface.

 

How deep are your roots? The deeper they are the more life elements you can endure. In fact, not just endure but become stronger through the struggle and the trial. Tree roots can penetrate solid block walls and underground pipes. When your roots hit a wall, are they strong enough to find a way through?

 

Like the redwoods, are your roots grabbing hold of the stability of others around you? Do your roots sink deep into good soil for the proper nutrients to maintain a godly life?

 

 

…If the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16b)

 

 

A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (Proverbs 12:3)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Training

Ten Ways to Became Debt-Free

Financial debt can feel so impossible, so overwhelming at times. Over 80% of Americans are in debt and the personal average debt figure (excluding mortgages) is $38,000.00. Experian’s 2019 figure for Americans’ debt with mortgages is over $90K. When our income is not much more than our outgoing, it becomes even more challenging. Below is what we did to arrive at a debt-free position.

 

  1. My wife and I prayed together about becoming debt-free and had the same conviction. So, being in agreement and prayer together has always been step one.
  2. It is essential to give. We have desired to give beyond a 10% tithe because we wanted to do more than expected. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I can guarantee you that in giving (“Give and it shall be given unto you…”) God always honored His word and gave us a return, “…pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Practically, we sow into missionaries around the world, local ministries we appreciate and tip generously at restaurants. We believe in a spirit of generosity in all things.
  3. Build up a healthy savings account so that you can borrow from yourself and not your credit card when facing an emergency.
  4. Speaking of credit cards: we never carry a balance. You will not become debt-free paying 21% or greater interest on a credit card balance.
  5. Start by paying off your smallest debt. Once you accomplish this and feel the freedom, place that amount on your next debt and snowball your effectiveness of paying down your existing debt.
  6. Make a commitment to not borrow. Have the conviction of scripture which tells us the borrower is servant to the lender. (Note: we recognize many of us borrow for our home, which is perceived as good debt, but this too can be paid down early by paying extra on the principle.)
  7. Run your present car until the wheels fall off. Cars today can reach 150,000 plus miles. Maintaining a used car is most times cheaper than a new car payment. Meanwhile, save for your next used car purchase.
  8. Maintain and keep a close eye on that budget. Watch areas like entertainment, eating out, purchasing unnecessary items. Wait 30 days for a large purchases and if you still need it in 30 days, it may actually be a need versus a want. Have a plan and agree together on your spending.
  9. Recognize it takes sacrifice and discipline, but the goal is worth it. Yes, we do without some items like that newer computer or larger smart TV, but believe me, the sacrifice does not compare to the freedom found in becoming debt-free.
  10. Be accountable. Be accountable to one another in all of your saving and spending, even weekly. Remind yourselves that it is those small, miscellaneous expenditures that can really add up. Agree to weekly or monthly spending amounts for groceries, clothes, gifts, entertainment, sundry items like coffee and snacks. Give grace, but be accountable. It will pay off.

 

Truthfully, we can be in financial bondage with a lot of money or very little money, but when we agree together to our process of becoming debt-free, we will also find wonderful side effects. Those side effects can include: less arguments about money, less pressure when paying the bills, joy in agreement toward a certain goal and the growth of tenacity, discipline and patience in our lives, even if becoming debt-free takes ten or twenty years.

 

Romans 13:8: Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

The Two Sides of Integrity

Integrity has two sides: that which you will not do and that which you will do.  The latter is often forgotten when it comes to integrity.  Integrity is adhering to principles that you or your ethical and moral side hold as truth and of value to follow.  Integrity by definition is being “honest” and walking in, “soundness of moral character.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Training

The Bondage of an Offense and Six Healing Steps

Many years ago, I worked with someone who continually picked up offenses.  With tremendous immaturity and insecurity, they made life miserable for everyone around them.  We walked on eggshells when this person was present.

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