As 2015 ends…my personal reflection

Personal Mission Statement
I have always been a pretty big “goal” guy. I have been writing down goals since early in my sales career and about 5 years ago I added personal goals to the mix. But in mid-2014, I really thought through the purpose of my goals. Because I follow Jesus Christ, and desire to live for him, the purpose of my goals had to be Christ-centered. So in June 2014, I committed to the following personal mission statement:

To love and lead my family well as a husband and father.
To preach the word of God and disciple the people of God as a pastor.
To provide for my family and grow my sphere of influence in order to image Christ as a business professional.
To live a life full of joy in Christ, regardless of my circumstances, as a disciple of Christ.

The Journey of 2015
2015 was both an exciting year and a difficult year.

Fitness, by way of Crossfit, became a more significant part of my life than it ever had. I am part of one of the best gyms (Resolution Crossfit) and many of the coaches and members have become like family. The difficult workouts and supportive environment have pushed me to achieve many of the fitness goals I set for myself. Though I am not at my ideal weight nor do I sit at the top of my gym’s leaderboard, I can complete 5 unbroken muscle-ups, a 305lb front squat, and a 325lb back squat (all specific goals I had set for 2015). I’ve achieved many other personal records while flirting with lots more.

My business, RJM, saw more success in 2015 than it had since I started in 2011. I jumped back into the employed workforce in June 2015 by accepting a position as Director of Sales and Marketing with one of my clients, Centennial. I can say that it is hand-down the best company I have ever worked for and I am thankful everyday for the God-given opportunity. Taking this job allowed me to exceed my monthly income goal for 2015, which provided stability at home while offering my family opportunities to support needs outside of our own through the year. It has also provided an outlet for me to steward many of the gifts God has blessed me with in new ways. I am being stretched daily and I love it!

Our family is flourishing, though we have seen our share of hard days. I am daily blown away by the fact that God graced me with an amazing wife and two beautiful girls. We are regularly pressing to grow closer together, and do so by going on mini-adventures (with crazy family selfies), by seeking God, and by sticking together when times are tough. Memories have been made, but what lies ahead is even more exciting.

Personally, the year has been interesting to say the least. I had some of the best days of my life and I experienced depression for the first time in my life. I’ve questioned most every facet of my life (personal, professional, spiritual), yet as the end of 2015 draws near I stand confident in Christ believing with all my heart that I am exactly where He has called me to be. One of my big goals was to begin memorizing a book of the Bible. I chose Ephesians and sought to memorize the first chapter. It took a (long) while for me to really get going but I’m excited that 60% of the chapter is stuck in my brain!

I am happy that I achieved many of the goals I set out to achieve in 2015 while sticking close to my mission statement. That said, I have a long way to go in fulfilling that mission statement well.

Creating unbelievable outcomes in 2016
2016 is going to be the “year of the outcome” for me. I want to see awesome outcomes in fitness, family, personal, professional, and family aspects. Some of those areas have very specific numbers set to them, while others are tied to specific dates. But I know this. If I seek each one of those goals through the lens of my personal mission statement, 2016 will be my best year yet.

 


Does My Christianity Even Matter to You?

I have been thinking about that question a lot lately. But not in a theoretical way. I am really considering the point of my Christianity to the people around me. Specifically, to people around me that are not Christians. And even more specific, to those that I care about and/or care about me. This really stems from a lot that I have been reading lately as well as conversations I have been having. And this question then opens up a whole host of others:

  • If you knew me before I became a Christian, do you see any positive differences in my life?
  • How about in our relationship/friendship? Are you treated better now than then?
  • If I quit Christianity tomorrow, would it change how you see me? For good or bad?
  • Do you avoid certain things/areas of life with me because of my Christianity?

 

So does it? Does my Christianity even matter to you?

 


Excuse the Mess

This blog was originally written for and published at http://www.forhisglorycc.org

Most of us have invited someone into our homes and one of the first things we said was “excuse the mess.” Whether it truly looks like a bomb went off, or we spent (ok, really our wives spent) all day cleaning, that is typically a default statement. We do this to make sure that if indeed something is out of place, the guests do not think that we are less than perfect.

What about when it comes to our life? As Christians, we do our best to “walk in a manner worthy of the gospel” (see Phil 1:27) but it doesn’t always work out. And maybe that is due to a lack of effort, but that’s not what I would like to address today. What I would like to address is the other side of the spectrum. This is the side that belittles and breaks down. It is the side of us that is never happy with who we are (both on the inside and outside). Is this how we are to look at ourselves?

Set apart

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Ps 139:14

David here recognizes that God “fearfully and wonderfully made” him. In addition, we can see in this same passage that being fearfully and wonderfully made is likened to being “set apart (see ESV study Bible).” God not only formed and fashioned David, and us, but he set us apart for himself. This is great news!

Amazingly, God did not stop there. After setting us apart, God puts into motion a process in which he gives us a new heart (regeneration), declares us righteous (justification), and works to bring us to perfection (sanctification). Let’s take a look at this process in a few passages of scripture.

Regeneration

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” Ephesians 2:1-5

God set us apart but did not leave us alone. He was actively involved in turning our messiness into beauty, giving us a new heart.

Justification

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26

The response of a regenerated heart is the reception of Christ as Lord and Savior. At that moment, God declares us as righteous. This is not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ did for us (see 2 Cor 5:21).

Sanctification

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Philippians 1:6

Set apart and declared righteous are wonderful things God has done for us. But when we examine our lives, we don’t seem to be “perfect.” While we were declared righteous, we are also being made righteous. This process is known as sanctification and it is the way by which God refines us so we become more like Jesus, until one day we are with him.

Please excuse the mess

If each of us is striving to “walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel,” we are exactly who God wants us to be and where God wants us to be in the present. He fashioned each of us individually. He sets each of us on different paths. No two people are alike so no two “progressions of” sanctification (that’s my term) are the same.

We musn’t be ashamed of who we are in Christ. We musn’t make excuses for the “mess” we are (or have made), but stand proud in our identity as children of God. And while you’re at it, don’t worry about the house. We all live in a little bit of mess there too!

 


Pure Knowledge

The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize that pure knowledge of God is the true key to a radical life lived for Christ. Think about the Apostle Paul for a second…

Paul went on journey after journey being opposed, beaten, and imprisoned. There isn’t recorded a single statement of doubt on Paul’s part or disobedience to God’s call on his life. Instead, Paul said he answered the call “because of the surpassing worth of KNOWING Christ” (Phil 3:9). He believed in an absolutely sovereign God and would not back down from his convictions (read the story of him going before the all the non-believing leaders in Acts 21-28).

There could have been a big danger in all of Paul’s life. You see, had Paul made claims about Christ without ever showing evidence of living them out, the recipients of his letters wouldn’t have listened and neither would we. How about us? Should we strive for pure knowledge? Do we? What dangers does seeking knowledge present? The Book of Proverbs speaks to this often. But knowing verses alone isn’t helpful so let me offer some practical cautionary thoughts in this light (and then go read the Book of Proverbs):

  1. Negating the importance of correct biblical understanding and an impenetrable view of Christ leads to watered down Christianity. We will not be motivated to do the “hard things” and will seldom invest in the call to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Instead we may just sit back and watch as others do which is a waste of the life God has called us to or we may take shots that miss far and wide which wastes valuable time in proclaiming the gospel to those who are perishing.
  2. Relying on a “surface level understanding” of Christ leads to stale Christianity and a potential bad witness. “Even Satan knew and acknowledged God” is an oft-used statement (which I totally agree with), but we don’t think of it’s implications for us. We usually use that to talk about others who claim Christ but aren’t really Christians. But isn’t it possible for us to know all the right answers without living them out? Can we preach a message to others that we should be preaching to the mirror?

Regardless of which of the above we run the risk of associating with, we need to look back to the Word and Paul’s life for our reminder…

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Phil 3:12-16

We are inspired and motivated by Paul because he talked a huge game and then lived it out. We must do the same. We cannot live radically without pure knowledge (right thinking). So dig deep into God’s Word and PRESS ON!


Fearless Living

I just finished the book “Fearless”, a story about the heroic life and death of Naval SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown. I loved it for so many reasons, but for lack of desire in writing a book report I just want to share a few thoughts that have stirred in my heart as a result of reading it.

First, I want my life to be different. Not necessarily different than it is now, though it will have to be, but definitely different than the “norm.” I want to exhaust myself in loving my wife and loving my children. I want them to know that they mean more to me than anything or anyone else on this earth and are only second to God in my heart. I want them to know that because God is first, they are able to get more of me than I could give them on my own. I want to enjoy more silly, irresponsible, and ridiculous times with my kids. I want to be more romantic and caring with my wife. I know I just don’t do those things enough.

Second, I want to worry less about the little things. I don’t want the temporal junk in this world to have so much weight on my attitude and demeanor. I realize wasted time in God’s economy is such a shame and absolutely unnecessary. There are just too many great things going on to get hung up with junk. Instead, I want to spend all my time in life pressing into what matters most (God and family).

Third, I want everyone around me to realize that every bit of good in me (my talent, recognition, achievements, and good days) is the result of a God that loved me. I try to take credit at times to my own fault, but it’s always been God. I didn’t know or understand it was God until August 13, 2001 but He knew it before he formed me. Without God, my life would be so meaningless but because of Him, everything has a purpose.

So what will I do? How will the inspiration from this book last longer than the night? I am not completely sure but I do know that I will try my best to fearlessly attack each one of those areas above. If the life and death of Adam Brown taught me anything, it was that if I set my mind to something and trust God with it, failure is nothing more than an opportunity for a greater appreciation of eternal victory!

 

Oh…and go read the book!


Encouraged to Believe

I remember the first time I was truly exposed to the thought of Calvinism. A good friend shared with me in disgust that he found out two of our favorite musical artists were indeed Calvinists. “Ugh, that makes me sick!” was one of my first reactions. I couldn’t believe two men who would share such amazing music could believe in a God “like that.” That was 2009.

“Ugh, that (Calvinism) makes me sick!”

Fast forward to this morning. I sat with a young man over a business meeting. A few minutes in, he mentioned that my email signature and other “subtle hints” led him to believe that I could be a Christian. I confirmed his assumption and went on to say that I was a pastor. He seemed relieved that was my answer to his question. We went about our business meeting on a new playing field. My message didn’t change, and I don’t think his did either, but because we knew where each other stood, things just went a bit “different.” The meeting went great as we talked business ownership, family balance, and more. As we wound down, he asked if I was familiar with his local church. I told him that other than mentions from a few people, I didn’t know much. Then he let the cat out of the bag…..

“We are a little different than many other churches” he said. “Like how?” was my reply. “Well, we are a bit Calvinistic…err, reformed” he hesitantly responded. “Ha, us too!” I said. At that point, we stood up and began walking out the door.

What then transpired outside was something I needed personally after some weeks of theological discussions, challenges, and debates. He proceeded to share that years earlier he was faced with his dad telling him that Calvinism was supported by the teachings of the Bible. “I denied it and wouldn’t have it” he said. But as time went on, he searched the scriptures. He began to reluctantly discover that God was fully sovereign, thus in total control. He saw that God did the saving and his own “failed” attempts to save friends wasn’t failure at all, but the result of a God working apart from his human ability (or lack of it). He realized that God wasn’t disappoointed with his life struggles, but actually supportive and more in love with him than ever before. All this came at a time when depression and thoughts of suicide were prevelant in his life. And then, as he got teary-eyed mid-sentence, he said that practically overnight “this new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.” He no longer had to measure himself for God. He was free to live as God called him and trusted that if he gave all he had, God would take care of the results.

“This new view of God removed the thoughts of depression and suicide.”

I don’t need to be a Calvinist but I do need to be a Christian.

I don’t need to line up with a man’s interpretation of scripture but I do need to line up with what I believe scripture teaches.

I don’t need a God that manipulates but I do need a God that is always in control.

I don’t need to convince anyone to believe as I do but I will encourage it because often times, it’s the only thing that gets me through the day.

 


What Am I Doing Here?

alphabet-tech-punt-preg-012714-swaIt’s been quite awhile since I have written for my blog. This post is going to be more of a journal entry than a blog per se. Because of that, it may offer very scattered thoughts but I hope that in sharing, it will help me process thoughts and help anyone else that may be in the same place in life.

I think many of us, if not most of us, at some time in our lives ask the question “What am I doing here?” Maybe the question relates to a job, a relationship, or the result of a decision made. But it is a very real question. As a Christian, the typical answer is something along the lines of “I am fulfilling the call that God has for my life, which is to live for and glorify Him in all that I do.” And I would answer that way too. But it doesn’t directly address the practical ups and downs we experience (or better said, not what I am currently experiencing).

For those that know me, whether personally or through some social media channel, have seen and heard a myriad of emotions come from me over the last couple of years. There have been words of defeat as I lost a job, lost a house, and was beaten by specific situations. There have been words of victory as I started a new business, was blessed with an amazing new home, and claimed the win during many of life’s challenges. Somewhere in there, a balance needs to be found. Unfortunately, imbalance remains and it leans towards struggle and defeat. I’m not bipolar and I don’t (typically) struggle with depression, but this season of life has brought about those types of feelings.

The easy fix to defeat is achieving new victory but shaking off the defeat can be challenging, especially when the defeats come more frequently than hoped. Being hurt by someone personally, whether it was meant to be “constructive” or just downright vindictive, can leave marks that take much too long to heal. When multiple things pile on at the same time, it brings about a discouragement that I am not used to and don’t deal with well.

I trust in a sovereign God that is in control of every little thing, down to the very breath I take. And maybe at times, that makes the struggle even harder to deal with. I know God’s end-goal but I am not excited about the path. I find myself regularly asking the question, “What am I doing here?” as well as “How much more of this can I actually handle?”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like you have come to the very end of yourself? Was there a time (maybe even now) when you were left dumbfounded? How did you deal with it?

There is a band I really love called “Citizens” that recorded a song called “I Am Living in the Land of Death.” I have held onto a few particular lines in the song:

Darkness is everywhere
But there’s a path in the dark that has emerged
I can see a great light beyond this curse
A brilliant blaze that is Your word
A beacon of hope that burns

And I focus my captivated gaze
On the radiant light from Jesus’ face
The water of life is all I crave
Only Your word remains

So here I am. I (think I) see a light beyond this season. I fear the path to get there. I question every role I am in, every place I stand, and in some ways every word I speak. I hate feeling this way and I am ready for this season of life to be over! I turn to the word of God and trust verses like this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Hebrews 12:1-4

 

So what am I doing here? I’ll have to get back to you on that one!