Thursday, December 5, 2013

White Fat Albert: Friendships

Since this last year I have lost 55lbs. You could have called me the white Fat Albert. Here is a picture of me from Thanksgiving 2012 and a picture from Thanksgiving 2013.

I have had numerous people ask me how I did it. I changed my lifestyle with diet, working out and being accountable. For me the biggest thing was being accountable! There have been many, many times I have tried to eat right and exercise by myself and never succeeded. This past spring I started working out with a buddy in the mornings. We used an app where we shared our calorie intake, exercise routine and weight progression. Knowing that someone was following up, motivated me.

I am a relational person and have a heart for people to build relationships. Working out with other people motivated me. I think as a whole we don’t like the word “Accountable” or “Accountability.” But in my mind all “Accountability” is, is an open/honest relationship with someone or a group who will speak truth and encouragement into your life, not just the things you always want to hear.  Too many times we undervalued the importance of those relationships - whether it is with our spouse or our closest friends.  

I can look back through my life and see the importance of friends. My best friend in high school was instrumental in my becoming a Christian. He invited me to a church where I would eventually meet my wife. He was the best man in my wedding and we meet for breakfast quite a bit. I looked forward to those times.

I have a best friend from college who is just a spiritual rock! I was the best man in his wedding and I am amazed at what God is doing in his life. We don’t talk that much other then a few times a year, but when we do, we don’t miss a beat.

There is a family in Ohio who accepted this southern boy as one of their own. I have never met any people more open to God’s will in their lives as I have this family. They are truly like my brother and sister. We talk often and get to see each other about once a year.

My Pastor/friend /mentor/boss has a huge impact on me and speaks so much into my life. I am lucky to get to work with someone with whom I can have a relationship like that.

My wife, who is my best friend, can put up with so much. She is definitely a Proverbs 31: 25 Woman (She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.) Plus she is an awesome mom.

I point all of these out because the Bible has a lot to say about friendships and we see many examples: David & Jonathan (1 Samuel 18); Ruth & Naomi (Ruth 1); Elijah & Elisha (2 Kings 2:2); Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego (Daniel 2); Jesus, Mary, Martha & Lazarus (Luke 10:38); Paul, Priscilla & Aquila (Romans 16:3-4).

Here are some scripture to give us direction with evaluating our friendships:

The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.  Proverbs 12:26

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 20:6

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? Proverbs 20:6

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:17

Value your friendships. Maybe there are some friends who need to be just acquaintances because they either bring too much drama, don’t value the truth, or they are not loyal.  They will make you duller instead of sharpening you.

You need some tension in order to have open and honest conversation. It makes you smell better (Proverbs 27:9) and makes you sharper (Proverbs 27:17). Iron doesn’t get sharper without the friction of the stone. Here is the thing about friendships. It never means there will be no conflict or disagreements. It opens up the pursuit to find the truth.

If you are lonely, maybe start being a friend first by applying the above scriptures to your life. Understand that our ultimate and best friend is God because He has given us so much before we even accepted His friendship. Start with that relationship first and see what wonderful people He will bring into your life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Suspicious Marriage

Several weeks ago I listened to a Pod Cast from Andy Stanley talking about culture in your work place. He is one of my favorite leaders whom I listen to quite often. This particular pod cast has been ringing in my ears ever since I listened to it. The topic was, “Do You Have a Culture of Trust or a Culture of Suspicion?”

In a Culture of Suspicion there is never the benefit of the doubt, always finger pointing, no real honesty, always excuse making and you never get to the truth or the heart of the matter.

In a Culture of Trust there is the benefit of the doubt given in the same way you want it given to you, there is real honesty, you defend each other and you work hard to keep the trust.

I shared this in our staff meeting last week and since then it made me wonder: “What if I applied this to my marriage?” Not that I am suspicious of my wife but what if I gave her the benefit of the doubt in everything? I defended her and worked hard to keep the trust between us. I decide to believe the best in her. How would this transform my marriage?

If I have a culture of trust in my marriage, when conflict arises, it becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth in finding the best possible answer. Not if I win or Courtney wins but we both win. There is no win/lose in marriage because if one spouse loses you both lose.

In my marriage I have to do everything possible to be trustworthy. I have to let my yes be yes and my no be no. I have to be honest about my faults and mistakes. I have to take ownership of my misgivings. I have to work to maintain that trust.

Here is what happens when you don’t have a “Marriage of Trust”: you begin to live the Elvis Presley song, “Suspicious Minds.” No one wants to live in trap of suspicion. Nothing you ever say or do is right. You are caught in a vicious, unending circle of finger pointing at each other, doubt, and the flame of love is smothered out.

A choice needs to be made. I must decide to create a marriage of trust where I give my spouse the benefit of the doubt, I defend my spouse, I decide to believe the best in her and I will work hard at being trustworthy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Microwave Moses

 I love the microwave. It is great at cooking preprocessed food and re-heating food. It is great at getting meals together quickly, but it is not good at cooking a Thanksgiving meal. The microwave, as great as it is, has made us impatient. We are a very impatient society - not just with food, but also with most things. We, including myself, want it all and want it now. We don’t want to go through the process of waiting. On the flip side - look at an Oak tree - it takes years and years to grow to maturity and lasts through generations. The same is true in our lives.

Let's look at the growth process of Moses' life:

For the first 40 years of his life growing up in Egypt, Moses had the best food, housing, education and training that there was, but he was not where God wanted him to be. The second 40 years of his life was spent in the desert with a bunch of sheep and cattle and that is where he experienced God. At 80 years old, God called Moses to lead his people. 80 YEARS OLD- that is double my age. 80 years of processing, 80 years of growing, 80 years of God working in his life. No microwave growth there.

Even at 80, Moses still didn’t feel ready to do what God called him to do. He questioned that, and instead asked God for his brother to help him (which later became a burden to him).

Here is the take away from this: Philippians 1:6 “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ - developing and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.”

Even at 80 years old God was not done with Moses’ life. 40 more years leading a country with no land, to the place promised to them by God. In our own life, God will always be working on us. He never stops working on us.

We all have something to offer, something to do, no matter how old or young we are. The main thing is being patient, allowing God to work on, work in, and work through your life. We don’t want a microwave faith but an oak tree faith that will last for generations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How did Moses do it?

Moses has been on my mind lately, mainly because of his leadership and relationship with God. I could not imagine leading ONE MILLION (close fist, extend pinkie, palm out and bring pinkie to lip) people for 40 years through the desert. These people saw many signs and wonders from God. They experienced daily miracles of being fed without labor, and yet they complained constantly!

How did Moses do it? How did he maintain his close relationship with God, “as a friend of God”? (Exodus 33:11  And the Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend.)

To me, this is the key to how Moses was able to lead. He spoke to God as a friend. What an amazing picture! I have two people in my life that I talk to all the time, several times a day. There is not a day that goes by without me talking to them: my wife, Courtney, and my best friend, Steve.  They speak in my life; they say encouraging things to me, they also correct me, and let me know when I have been wrong in my thinking.

There are several things I want to point out about this relationship Moses had with God and it may take me several blog posts:

God uses other people to speak in your life. Moses constantly had people complain to him. Early on, Moses was the only judge Israel had. So day after day, people would bring him their problems for him to figure out. Could you imagine how this would weigh on you as ONE MILLION (close fist, extend pinkie, palm out and bring pinkie to lip) people bring their complaints to you day in and day out? Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, said that it was going to kill Moses, and that he couldn't do it alone. (Exodus 18).  So Jethro laid out a plan for Moses.

Moses listened to his father-in-law, and allowed him to speak in his life. But here are some key points we all need to remember:
1) The friends who speak in your life are looking out for you, 2) make sure what your friends say line up with what God is telling you.

Jethro said, “Hey Jack, I mean Moses, here is what you need to do - because if you don’t, you are going to kill yourself. “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.””

Be careful of the people you let speak in your life, because they don’t always have the best intentions for you. Many times they can distract you from God.

More to come!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Udder Disaster

In this week’s Bible story, the Israelites grow impatient waiting for Moses to finish meeting with God (Exodus 32:1-35). They ask Aaron to build an idol for them to follow instead of God. When Moses returns to see them gathered around a golden calf, the Israelites immediately regret their impatience.

Our Bottom Line is: when you think you can’t wait, don’t forget what’s true. God had put Moses in charge of the Israelites and led them out of slavery. But in a moment of impatience, they forgot everything they’d experienced. From them, we can learn to be patient and trust the people in charge.

The monthly memory verse is, Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14, NIrV When we start to lose hope, remembering the truth of what God has done will help us wait well.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Play it Cool. Trust it is worth the Wait!

From the very beginning, God has shown patience with people. All the way back in the garden, when Adam and Eve first chose their own way instead of God’s, God started His plan to give all of us a chance to come back to Him. And time and again, God is patient with us when we make daily choices that separate us from Him. He waits for us to turn back to Him.

As a fruit of the Spirit, patience is a foundational way that we reflect God’s character. When we show patience, we are less likely to hurt our relationships with others. We are more likely to trust that God has something better for us in the future.

Patience is waiting until later for what you want now. Waiting isn’t always easy. When having patience seems too difficult, the Lord will give us strength to wait. At its core, patience is fueled by faith. We trust that what we’re waiting for is best for us.

But patience is more than just waiting. It’s also about our attitude while we wait. A patient person can wait with joy even when the situation might be stressful or anxious. A patient person avoids searching or settling for a quick fix.

The monthly memory verse is: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14, NIrV Sometimes it feels too hard to be strong while we wait, but our trust in God gives us the strength to wait well.

In yesterday's Bible story, Esau comes in from hunting and is very hungry (Genesis 25:24-34). Because he can’t wait, Esau ends up trading his entire inheritance for a full stomach. Our Bottom Line is: When you think you can’t wait, think twice. Don’t give up what’s best for something immediate.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Together

In this week’s biblical principle, we learn that friends worship God together (Hebrews 10:25; Colossians 3:16). The early believers would meet in each other’s homes to worship God. They would sing praise songs, learn of Jesus’ teachings, and look for ways to help each other.

This habit of the early church was the foundation of Small Groups today. When we meet with our Small Groups, we worship God with our friends. Our Bottom Line is: friends worship with one another. So it is important for us to gather with our Small Groups on a regular basis.
The monthly memory verse is: A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes.” (Proverbs 17:17 NIrV) We can worship God with our friends at all times, not just at church. Maybe you and your friends can help someone in your neighborhood or start a band that honors God with your songs. Worshiping God is always a great thing to do with your friends.