My Word For 2018

Last week, I had the privilege of preaching on New Year's Eve at Church of the City. (If you're at all interested, you can check out the message here.) Knowing that everyone was gearing up to engage in their resolutions for 2018, I was asking God to show me what we needed as encouragement to do so.The most prominent insight that I received as a reminder was how often we tend to make commitments toward change and attempt to fulfill them in our strength. It's almost as though we make determinations entirely on our own and then ask God to join us in our pursuits, rather than the opposite. This insight broadened to my awareness of how we do this in our commitments as followers of Jesus, as well. A quote came to mind from J. Heinrich Arnold who says, “As long as we try to conquer evil by sheer willpower, evil will get the better of us.” As Jesus, Himself, once said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." John 6:63 When we attempt to run toward our resolutions and fail, we find ourselves consumed with guilt and shame, which causes us to withdraw from others and completely abandon the commitments we've made. The beauty comes when we begin to believe the words written in Hebrews 4:16, which say "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need." The Lord desires that we would flourish as a result of a connection with Him, as we are reminded in verses like John 10:10 and John 15:5.So, in response to this reminder, I thought maybe it would be helpful for us to simplify our pursuit of our resolutions for the New Year. Rather than starting by making extensive lists without the consideration of sustainability or the direction of God, maybe we could begin by asking God for one word. Yes, I know this seems overly simplistic, but when we allow this word to be the foundation for our resolutions toward change, we have an anchor to hold all of our commitments.My word for 2018 is INTENTIONAL.I feel as though the Lord is leading me toward a commitment to deeply consider the "why" behind the decisions that I am making. Whether it is the things that I choose to spend my money on, the things I say yes or no to participate in, or the ways I use my time, I need to be intentional with those choices. This one word, then, leads me to consider the resolutions that I will make to uphold this leading from God. Only seven days into the New Year, this commitment has been challenging, but my word has been a beautiful reminder. I've also found some supplemental resources for encouragement and insight. One is a return trip through a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism.So, what's your word for 2018? How is God leading you to live it out practically?P.S. If you're still unclear, I'd love to commit to pray with you about it!  

Finding Motivation

I've been feeling a bit sluggish lately and I haven't been as intentional with exercising, which is certainly a contributing factor. It's clear that I haven't had an established "why" in my heart for exercise recently. This reality caused me to think back to a season of time in which I was extremely motivated to remain consistent with my accomplishing my health goals. I know that many people that I've talked to feel the same longing to gain some calibration in this area, and as we creep closer to the time for New Year's Resolutions, the desire will increase.Over the period of about 4 years, I gained a lot of weight. I had always been into sports and been pretty active my whole life, but I had some knee troubles which slowed my activity WAY down. On top of the knee trouble, I had also begun to experience plantar fasciitis in both feet. The slowed activity and increased eating combined to create a situation in which I certainly wasn’t content with where I was. I realized it was time to do something about it. I set the goal to lose weight. I learned pretty quickly, though, that the quest toward simply getting trim was not going to cut it. I needed something else. On the days when my body and mind didn't feel like getting up and getting out to run, it was easy to tell myself that losing weight wasn't such a big deal. For the first few runs, this was my laser focus but after about a week, this began to wear off. When I truly realized that this was going to be a long and arduous road toward wellness, rather than a quick fix of my weight situation, I began to feel discouraged. I remember taking off on what I thought may be one of my last runs with a sense of desperation. In my desperation, I began to cry out to God. With every step, there was a prayer, with every mile there was a petition. The Lord met with me on that run.I cannot explain the joy that I experienced in my connection with God during that time. He ministered to me, He encouraged me and I experienced Him in a new way. I began to crave that time with God. Rather than waking up with the idea of running for fitness alone, I began to wake up with the knowledge that I was going to get to spend time with Him.I was getting time away that no one could take from me. I had the time to clear my mind and communicate with God. I was able to focus on ideas clearly and to be creative. I was able to connect with the savior. That’s what I began to long for. That motivation to meet with God collided with the idea of getting fit to create a true, sustainable life rhythm. When there is a true motivation, its reinforcement gives you the ability to fight through the instances when your body is resisting. It is simply something that helps you to get over the hump.I'm extremely thankful for the results that came from a dedicated fitness regimen. These results would not have occurred if I hadn't found something more than simply the desire to lose weight. I'm grateful for this reminder as the year comes to a close. If you are hitting a wall on your fitness journey, I would encourage you to find the additional motivation available to you. When you establish a life rhythm, it will simply be a part of who you are, rather than just what you do. But, sometimes we need to remind ourselves, and one another.What's your motivation?

Someday at Christmas (Advent is Here)

I love Christmastime.I love so much about what this time of year represents. It’s fun to see so many folks finding ways to connect together and celebrate life. For me, the most beautiful aspect of this season is the celebration of advent. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” To celebrate advent is the representation of the longing for the Messiah, the one who rescues and will restore everything to the way things are intended. There is a beautiful word that represents this restoration; Shalom.An author and professor, Cornelius Plantinga Jr., shared some profound thoughts about this premise of shalom. He wrote, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”As we have been attempting to “get into the spirit of the season” as a family, we have been listening to a lot of Christmas music. Honestly, it has been a challenge for me because there are so many things going on in our world that, quite frankly, don’t call for celebration. The rumors of war, political unrest, the capture and killing of hostages, the terrible stories of the revelation of abuse, school shootings, and the strong racial tension that is present in America make it difficult to enter into a “festive” and “jolly” mindset. There is one song, though, that I have thoroughly connected with over the past few weeks. “Someday at Christmas”.The song, “Someday at Christmas” was written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells for a young Stevie Wonder’s Christmas album in 1967 and has since been recorded many times. It was one of the first Christmas songs to contain a strong social message, standing for peace, equality and compassion. When I listen to the hopeful way in which the song was performed in such tenuous circumstances, it encourages me deeply during these trying times we are in today.This song reminds me of my longing and prayer for shalom. It reminds me of the promise in Revelation 21:4-5 that in the end, God will make all things new, restoring everything back to the way that He intended from the beginning. The song brings hope to my heart in light of the weight and sadness I feel as I read the news stories every day. This is the point of Advent. To live in the tension of the brokenness of our world and the hope of restoration.Knowing the hope that this song has brought me lately, I asked a good friend, Jason Eskridge, if he’d be interested in recording a version of it. He graciously did. We’d like this song to be a gift to you in this season. (You can find it at the bottom of this post.) You might be compelled to listen to it with friends and family, or pull away and contemplate its message alone. Our hope is that you’d consider the idea that in the midst of all that is broken in our world today, there is a Living Hope in Jesus.[audio mp3=""][/audio]