Archive for December, 2008

A Christmas Concert And Jesus, Got Tissues?

Last week I attended the high school Christmas concert to watch the concert band. My oldest daughter plays the flute, and although she can tell me every mistake they make while playing, it is something I enjoy immensley. I left work, grabbed the kiddos, and we ate fast food in the car just to make it on time. As I settled in my seat, I noticed that it wasn’t just the concert band performing. It was the various bands, chorus, and jazz ensemble squished inside the auditorium. They were all performing.

As they began to play, I had so many things running through my mind. But it wasn’t work stuff or anything else that was consuming my thoughts. I was focused on the students, the music, and my love for Jesus. While it’s true that my thoughts can ping-pong from idea to idea, there was a definate thought pattern going on here. Even though in the back of my mind I knew that my two cats were probably hunkered down in the top of my Christmas tree at home, mastermining their surprise ambush on the dog, I had chosen to focus my attention on the music. The Christmas tree could be picked up off the floor and redecorated upon returning home.

I have to admit that I had a preconceived idea of the music that would be played. I expected it to be generic carols without Christ mentioned in them. After all, it was a school sponsored event. But to my surprise, the songs sung (and people sang along with them) were indeed about Christ. The students and audience sang about Jesus. I found myself getting excited. We were a community, gathered together, singing about Jesus. Could this be considered worship? You bet!

A community worship event filled with people who may not even realize that our Lord is being worshipped! Yay God! I found myself asking Our Father to touch those who don’t know Him. I prayed that they would come to know Christ and what He did for them. Tears #1, 2, 3 and 4 were filling my eyes.

When I listened to the music, I realized how beautiful all the voices were in this worship to Christ. Everyone singing together. The drums were loud and just booming. Oh, the drums. How could I possibly think of Christ from the deep, soul shaking booms? I thought about Christ sitting at the right hand of Our Father. Drums announcing and praising Christ, would certainly be attention getting. How loud would those drums in heaven boom? How deeply would they stir my soul? I imagined the drum beats in heaven to be the most thunderous I’d ever hear to announce The King, The Savior, The Jesus who gave His life for me.

As the voices rose and joined together in worship of song, I imagined being in heaven where Jesus is seated, where He reigns over His kingdom, and what it would be like to be joined in song praising Him in His presence. Nothing could compare! I found myself so excited to know that someday…someday…I could praise Him and join in the songs of praise to Him in heaven. Tears #5, 6, 7, 8, 9 were coming faster than I could wipe.

Now, where’s my tissue? I didn’t have one. Who tears up at a high school concert? It’s a good thing I had my gloves. I wiped my eyes, dabbed my nose, and made a mental note to remember not to put my hands in them after the concert. Gross! After all, they’d become my tissue, and it beat the alternative of grabbing the jacket sleeve of the person sitting next to me. I didn’t think he’d get it if I blew my nose in his sleeve even if I’d said, “It’s all about Jesus, man!”

I guess by now you could say that I have a very active imagination. But it wasn’t me just imagining the awesomness of being in the presence of my Savior. It was the love that I felt for Him that gripped my heart. Yes, it’s true. I am head over heels in love with my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ. And for the first time, I realized how excited I felt over reaching heaven someday to worship Him in His presence. I imagined lifting my voice in song as all of heaven rejoiced to Him. How beautiful and completely awesome it would be!

Now, back to the concert. As I watched the various groups, I began to see how their postures were all different. The younger and newest high school students were sitting and playing their instruments in a rigid manner. They were there, but they were not feeling the music. The older and more experienced high school students who had been in band for awhile had more experience, were more comfortable, and they seemed to let the music flow through them. One student in particular seemed so different when he played. His movements were different than everyone elses. He seemed to be in a world so different while he played his violin.

My mind being what it is began to think about this. For one, as Christians we do (and should) move differently in our lives than the rest of the world. We do let Christ flow through us and our music (the way we speak), body language, and movements (living Godly lives) are different than the rest of the world. As I thought about the inexperienced students playing (apprehensively at best) not sure what everyone would think of them if they just let loose to let the music consume them, I thought about how I used to be an apprehensive Christian.

When I was a “newbie” believer coming back to learn about Christ, I used to worship, praise, and pray just enough so that I was part of the believing body of worshippers, but still reserved. I reserved myself enough to not be considered a “Jesus Freak”, “one of them”, or a “bible pusher”. In my life, if my faith were an orchestra, in the beginning I was just there. I believed in the music being played, but I didn’t want to let it consume me. I played the music, but I resisted it just as much. If I had let it consume me, I would’ve stood out in the crowd.

As I watched this one particular student move differently than his peers, as I watched him let the music flow through his body, I watched him become alive in the music. At that moment I thought about how my life has changed. Once I let Jesus flow through me and didn’t resist him, I started moving, living, and feeling his love differently. I now stand out. I pray openly, I live differently, and I don’t hide my love for my Savior. Yes, I imagine big neon signs pointing to me that read, “Jesus Freak”, “I (heart) Jesus”, and “It’s ALL about Jesus”. And you know what? It’s exciting! Thank you, God!

To feel this much love for my Savior here on earth, to know that God is orchestrating this thing called life, to know that I will someday meet and celebrate my King, Jesus in heaven, to know that I have been saved, to know that I can share the most incredible love imaginable while I’m here on earth by sharing Christ with those around me, to know that I have let Christ consume me, to know that I do move differently in the name of Jesus Christ, is what my life has become about. I don’t have it perfect. I’m still a sinner, and I still screw up, but I’m a sinner who absolutely is in love with Jesus!

I feel His music inside my soul. And His music is love. I hope that everyone around me can hear it, and just to be sure…I’m turning it up. I love hearing His music within, and I know that someday I will get to hear it echoing in the heavens. Yes, I can’t wait!

I need another tissue. Tears of joy! Hmmm…The tissues are in the restroom, but my dog is right next to me. I’m just kidding! I won’t use her tail. I’m getting a tissue, I’m going…

As you worship Christ this Christmas, let His music and love consume you. Let it move you.
Merry Christmas!

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The Promise Of A Product, Part II

In my last blog entry, The Promise Of A Product, Part I, I wrote about how we naturally seek products and services to fix problems and end challenges in our lives. There are millions of available products and services that can cure, fix, correct and provide solutions to just about anything our minds can think of. And that’s not a bad thing so long as we don’t fixate on them and make them idols. We can’t forget that our only hope is in Christ to fix our brokenness.

So, do we avoid purchasing products and services that can assist us? No, not at all. God gave us gifts and talents that we are to use to help each other to the best of our abilities. If your gifts, talents, and skills make you an excellent teacher, then teach! If your gifts, talents, and natural skills are writing, then write books! If you are a natural leader and encourager, then lead and encourage people! If you are wired with a mind for inventions, then invent and sell! We are all designed to work, so we must work to provide for our own needs.

The millions upon millions of products and services stem from someone’s passion and a desire to work, therefore they design and build the products and services, market them, and earn a living. I guess you could say this is how the millions upon millions of products available to help us through life are born. Someone has a gift, they are passionate about it, and they choose to make a career out of it. We all need the services and skills of another at some point, so we purchase those products/services. I know! I am so grateful that I could call upon the skills of an expert plumber this weekend, because I needed to call in a pro! And then I thanked God for creating individuals who possess the skills I lack!

What I thought about over the past couple of days was related to the products, and the promises they bring. For instance, can an author really promise that their latest book will change your life? No. It may touch you in a heartfelt way or be the most logical thing you’ve ever read, but the book by itself cannot change your life. Why? It’s just a book! It can’t physically do anything but sit on a bookshelf or table unless someone picks it up and does something with it. It takes a person to move it. In order for anything to occur, there must be some type of action involved.

Can the latest invention fix your life? Not really. It may make one part of your life easier, but what about the rest of it? What about the other life areas?

Wouldn’t it just be so easy to have someone who could fix our lives without us having to lift a finger? But, think about what would happen if you had someone “fix” your challenges for you. What would happen then? Would your life change? Nope! Change occurs from within. That option might correct something temporarily, but it would leave you not knowing how to do it for yourself. All life change requires some form of action on your part. Do you see what I’m getting at? The best products will improve your whole life through life balance. They don’t just fix one part and leave the others out in the cold.

I have seen all kinds of products that have promised to change a life, and I bust out laughing each time I hear those promises. I know that the only way to a truly changed life, a better marriage, a better financial situation, a better career, a better way to handle stress, is to have Christ in your life.

God has authored the only book that can carry a promise such as that, and it’s called The Bible. It’s such a perfect book filled with perfect promises, perfect solutions to life’s problems, and the best resource available, that it remains constant. There are no further volumes of the bible. It’s never been new and improved. Why? Because it is the absolute authority. It’s not like God didn’t get it right the first time it was written. God doesn’t make mistakes! He gave us the perfect solution when He gave us his perfect son, Jesus! God had no need to have a 12 volume bible series to improve His word. The bible is the authority that just can’t be duplicated and it fixes ALL areas of your life! Talk about the ultimate in life balance!

As I thought more about the book I recently published, the second book I am in the process of writing, the new webinars that I’ve scheduled, the workbooks I publish each month, and the public speaking I do, I thought about how I don’t want to promise anyone that any of my products will change their life. They won’t unless the individual using them takes action to implement the things I teach and coach them through. What I can promise is that I do know of one thing that they can fixate on that will change their life here on earth and beyond into eternity. And that is giving them hope through Christ. That hope is available to anyone, anywhere, at any time, and it’s not just mine. Hope through Christ belongs to us all.

If you decide to utilize my books, webinars, and tools to fix your life, remember…I can’t fix your life. I can provide the tools and resources to help you see things you may not have seen before, but the true fixing comes from Christ…and that’s not something you have to order to receive. All you have to do is ask for it. If you’d like to receive hope, eternal salvation, and contentment in this world, just pray and ask Jesus for it. No order forms, no toll-free numbers to dial…just pray and ask!

And if you’re ready to share the gifts, talents, and skills that God has given you, but you’re not sure where to start, need some encouragement to think outside the box, or help with developing your action plan…well, I can definately help you start moving into action to start your journey. However you move into action to change your life just remember to keep your focus on Him and His promises first and foremost.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (New International Version)

15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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The Promise Of A Product, Part I

I rarely watch TV, but when I do it’s usually a movie that I will watch with the kiddos for some inexpensive family entertainment. And since I don’t watch the tube very much, I miss a lot of the commercials. Recently however, I spent a night tossing and turning, so I grabbed the remote, turned the television on, and started flipping through channels. I was surfing through channels to find something boring to ease me into a peaceful slumber. However, my plan backfired on me.

Late at night the programming is aimed at infomercials. For $19.95 we can find anything and everything. There are far too many products claiming to fix problems, make our lives easier, and find the solution to everything. And I mean everything. Instead of being bored by this late night programming and drifting off to sleep, I found myself thinking about the products offered. I wondered why, if the products were indeed the perfect solution, were there two offered for the price of one? Were the items cheesy? Would they break? Was it just a “gimmick” to lead to an impulse purchase?

I listened over and over to that famous tag line, “But wait…order NOW, and we’ll send you TWO of these, throw in this additional gizmo, and send you that gadget at no additional cost! But you must order now!” And the testimonials were not very convincing. Why, Why, Why is there always a disclaimer somewhere on the television screen that says, “Actual results may vary” or “Results not typical”? If I’m going to invest in something, I want the best, I want assurance, and I want to feel confident in the product. Yet after watching this for 15 minutes, I was just not feeling it.

I wasn’t convinced enough to jump out of bed, run to grab my purse, and place my order. Instead, I stayed snug in my blankets, scratched my cat’s ears, and started to think. I knew that I wasn’t anywhere near getting to sleep. When I start thinking like that I know I’m usually in for a long night.

Here’s what I thought about:

There IS a product that can teach us how to fix our lives, and it’s been around for centuries. It hasn’t needed a new and improved anything. It’s the same as it was, will remain the same always and the promises aren’t just for one person-they fit everyone. It’s the Bible. It contains all the instructions for life that we’ll ever need. Jesus is the only one who can fix everything from the first day of our life on earth to the last, and every life challenge we face in between.

There is no new technique, no book (mine included), no teaching that can help us fix our problems unless we are actively seeking God while using them. There are plenty of great Christian books and resources that can encourage and teach us how to move forward in our lives, but unless we are praying and staying in close communication with Our Father, our efforts are self-reliant. When our efforts are based on trust in ourselves, we fail to rely on God’s promises. Instead we rely on a faulted person to use even the best of products/resources available. A book, counselor, or class may help us understand how to implement life change, but seeking God, praying, and working on your life change with Him every step of the way will yield the results we seek. In other words, we can’t do it alone. Nor are we meant to. Seek Him always!

If we are failing to seek God first and foremost, can we really be surprised when our lives are messed up? What did we put our trust in? In reality, we are always on the look out for a “quick fix” to our financial difficulties, careers, troubled relationships, broken marriages, and the other nine million challenges in our life areas. Are we a nation of people who pray only when we hit rock bottom? I asked this last question because when I thought about it, to me it seems that if we prayed constantly, stayed in touch with God constantly, sought our answers in the Bible first and foremost, learned the God-breathed scriptures inside and out, that we wouldn’t be looking for a quick-fix at all. We wouldn’t need one.

There is nothing wrong with using books, tools, and resources from others to aid us in fixing our life areas. Sometimes we all need encouragement, a list of how to’s and actual steps from individuals who’ve done it before. But, we need to avoid becoming “fixed” upon them as the solution to all our problems. They are merely aids. The solution is found when we seek God first, during, and after their use. This means we need to continue to seek Him after we use the available tools to avoid falling back into our old habits and facing the same challenges we worked so hard to overcome.

I’ll give a few examples:

Have you ever been on a diet and utilized a diet plan or personal trainer? There are some great tools available to assist with weight loss. However, the tool by itself doesn’t aid us in resisting temptation to eat a donut at a business meeting. Praying and seeking God helps us resist temptations to not eat the “ooey, gooey” tempting treat. Our strength comes from Him and is available to us at all times.

Have you ever had an addiction to overcome? There are great books, classes, and resources available to help overcome such things as alcoholism, tobacco use, gambling, or pornography addictions. But when that temptation or the urge is so overpowering that you feel yourself scrambling and thinking, “Just one more time, I’ll quit tomorrow”, prayer and strength to resist can only come from God. Books and programs can help you with the how (the actual steps) and encouragement, but the actual strength to resist and keep pressing forward comes through the strength we can receive through our Savior.

The examples could go on and on and include everything from sour relationships, overcoming abuse, reaching our goals, raising our children, fixing our finances, and more. There is no doubt we need help to get through life, but we are spending millions on “things” to fix us, and not much fixing is being achieved! When I thought about why this is, I realized that we are trying to harness the power of man for the fixes and spending way too much.

How much does it cost to receive more hope, power, and strength than we could ever imagine possible to succeed with the life challenges we face? It costs nothing. There are no disclaimers to say it will work for some people but not all. We can go back again and again to receive more. All we have to do is hand the challenges over to Christ, leave them at the cross that He bore for us, and seek Our Father’s promises through our trust in Him.

The tools, books, classes, and numerous resources available are meant to be “aids and tools” to assist and encourage us to solve our life challenges, but they are not the solution. The next time we pick up a self-help book or utilize the latest resource to implement lasting change in our lives, let’s be sure to utilize it with God as the power source for our change.

Use the resources available to you, but first and foremost, pray. Consult Him and rely on His strength from the first day of your journey toward life change to your last day on earth.

Part II of this thought series is coming shortly…

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