Category Archives for "faith"

Faith With Feet

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:17

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

James 1:22

It seems that lately, I’ve been hit with the same general message of putting feet to my faith.  These two verses recently came to the front of my mind as I’ve been processing the balancing act of serving others with humility and of spurring others on to serve as well.  I wrote about some of these thoughts in a post about walking on a tightrope.  Earlier this week, I read a great post by Michael D. Perkins about Humble Bragging.  And I continued to wrestle with the subject as I posted about Help for the Homeless on Monday of this week.

Our faith isn’t about having all the book knowledge in the world.  If I know the entire Bible front to back and back to front, it means nothing – if I don’t put it into action.  I can go to church every Sunday for my entire life, and it means nothing – if I don’t go out into the world to lovingly serve others and to bring the message of Christ to a world that is broken and lost.

We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We are called to serve others, and we have a responsibility to bring the message of hope, truth, and love – of Jesus – to a world that doesn’t have hope, doesn’t know truth, and doesn’t know the love of Christ.

How can we do this?  How do we have faith with feet?

Here’s a place to start:

  1. Open your eyes today.  Find a way to serve those around you today.  It could be as simple as picking up after someone when they drop something, holding a door for a co-worker, or letting the person behind you go ahead of you.  What opportunities do you see around you to help others?
  2. Inconvenience yourself.  Putting feet on your faith can be inconvenient.  Maybe you have plans that need to be interrupted so you can help someone else.  Helping others isn’t about convenience.  The Bible never says “serve others when it’s convenient or when it works with your schedule.”  Prepare to be uncomfortable.  Nobody said it would be easy.  What do you need to give up today or this week, so you can serve others?
  3. Find a couple other people to serve with you.  Serving with others provides a unique opportunity to have fellowship and accountability.  When we serve with other people, we can process the “adventure” of helping others together.  Also, it can sometimes be helpful to have another set of eyes with you to recognize areas of need that you may have overlooked.  Who can you team up with this month to help someone?
  4. Be intentional.  Seek and plan for opportunities to serve.  Plan to go on a missions trip.  Plan to serve in a soup kitchen.  Plan to visit a nursing home.  Seek out opportunities to serve in you area and around the world.  There may be some fundraising that you need to do to make certain opportunities possible.  Use your mind to map out ways that you will intentionally serve others over the course of this next year.  How have you blocked of time on your calendar to serve others?  Where are you planning to serve this year?
  5. Be flexible.  I learned in Guatemala and I’ve learned through other service opportunities that things don’t always go the way you plan.  You have to learn to flex.  Sometimes God has great things in store – things that will have a greater impact on those we serve and things that will have a greater impact on us.  Sometimes we have to go with the flow.  Are you a spontaneous person or a person who likes to have more rigidity to their schedule?  What changes do you need to make to become more flexible?
  6. Trust God.  Perhaps, this sounds too simple.  It’s meant to be a reminder.  God doesn’t promise a path of ease, peace, and comfort, but He does promise to be with us, to make our paths straight, and to work together for good if we trust Him and follow His Word.  (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28Where do you need to trust God this week?

I want to have a faith that is active.  I want to have a faith that is living and breathing.  I want to have a faith with feet.

How about you?  What other ideas do you have about putting your faith into action?  How are you putting your feet on your faith these days?

Pint Size Dreams Or Ocean Size Dreams

Over the course of this year, God has definitely been working on my understanding of faith.  Back in the spring, I posted about taking a leap of faith.  That message is still working on me.  This weekend, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting Dave Sgro and his son, Luke, at our house on Saturday night and to our church on Sunday morning.  Dave and his family are missionaries in the town of Xenacoj in Guatemala.  Our team worked with his organization (Guatemala Outreach (Go!) Ministries) while we were in Guatemala this summer.

Dave and Luke arrived at our house late around 10PM on Saturday night.  I’m sure he was tired from driving and we were tired from a busy day, but we stayed up for a couple of hours to hear more about Dave’s ministry.  It’s exciting to hear how God is providing ideas and resources for things that are having a huge impact on the town of Xenacoj.  Dave also shared his families’ story about their decision to sell everything they owned in North Carolina including their home and business and to move their entire family to Guatemala two years ago.

As we talked, Dave talked about our expectations for God.  He says that we often limit God through our expectations and dreams.  We expect God to fill our pint size hopes and dreams when God is actually capable of filling ocean size hopes and dreams.  It was a reminder that we need to dream big.  I wrote about this earlier when I talked about building a house in Guatemala.  This gave me a taste of this.  I could have just sought out enough money to go on the trip, but I decided to see if we could build a house through The Stretched Community.  I wonder even in that thought if I my expectations were too limited.

What would happen if we really dreamed bigger – if we realized that God is able to do far more than we could ever imagine?

Here are some of the ideas that come to mind for me:

  • A family missions trip this summer to Xenacoj with other families.  No, a lifetime of Kingdom Journeys that change families both here in America and around the world.
  • Another house built by and through the Stretched Community.  No, a real Stretched Community built by and through The Stretched Blog and The Stretched Community.
  • A book.  No, ten books!

It’s my prayer that you and I would wake up to the vast love and power of a God who is able to do far more that we could imagine.  Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 makes more sense to me now than ever:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

(Ephesians 3:14-21)

Seriously, how are you putting limits on your dreams?  How can you enlarge your dreams?  What is one area where you need to grasp how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for you?  What’s your dream – is it pint-sized or ocean-sized?

More Than Words

It seems like God is hitting me over the head with a message recently.  Following Christ and sharing His love is so much more than words – knowing words, memorizing words, and studying words.

While I think it’s important to read, study, and understand the Bible, I think it’s so much more important to put these teachings into action – into following Christ with our hands and feet.  This message has been hammered home in a few different but obvious mediums.

First, I was catching up on my blog reading on Saturday morning when I came across this video in a blog post by Ryan Tate at Discipulus.  In the video, Francis Chan shares some simple but obvious thoughts about discipleship – what it is and what it is not.

Next, I was finishing up Love Does by Bob Goff on Sunday morning (I shared about this book on my blog yesterday).  Towards the end of the book, Bob offers his thoughts on Bible study:

What’s up with equating “Bible study” with knowing God anyway?  Wouldn’t it be a horrible thing if we studies the ones we loved instead of bonding in deeper ways by doing things with them?  I’d never want to get married to a girl no matter how much I studied her.  I’d rather take her sailing or fishing or eat cotton candy with her on a Ferris wheel.  I don’t think knowing what her name means in Greek is going to help me love her more.  In fact, they have a name for guys who just study things about a person they like but don’t do anything about it – they’re called bachelors.

So I started getting together with the same guys each week and instead of calling it a Bible study, we call it a “Bible doing.”  We’ve been at it for fifteen years now, and I’ve found there’s a big difference between the two.  At our Bible doing, we read what God has to say and then focus all of our attention on what we are going to do about it.  Just agreeing isn’t enough.  I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with Him.

Finally, I was in church on Sunday morning when our guest pastor, Paul Williams, asked the question in his sermon – “What if we loved our neighbor as ourselves?”  In Paul’s sermon, he used the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to point out that anyone and everyone is our neighbor.  Then he used the story of the Rich Young Man (Matthew 19:16-30) to remind us that we’re to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and part of this is learning to love ourselves.  Finally, Paul turned to Matthew 22:15-40.  In this passage, the Pharisees and Sadducees are having a conversation with Jesus.  (These men were known to have the Bible (The Old Testament) memorized knowing every single law that was supposed to be followed.  At the end of this passage, Jesus answers questions thrown out with a famous passage, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  It’s that simple.  It doesn’t matter how much we know about the Bible if we’re not loving God and loving others with all we’ve got.

Bam!  Bam!  Bam!

Three times nailed over the head in a matter of 24 hours.  Do you think God was trying to tell me something?

The truth is I grew up in a pastor’s family.  I was known as the Bible geek in my freshman English class for knowing all the answers to the Bible questions.  I’ve even prided myself on the knowledge I’ve gained and retained along the way.  Knowledge is okay (and is important for maintaining a sound doctrine and for reminding us of Biblical truths and standards), but action is even more important.  James states it well:

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  James 2:17

I get so tired of all the political back and forth at this time of the year.  One side is trying to find the candidate who is the most Christian.  The other side is trying to find a government who will fix everything and create programs for our neighbors.  Wouldn’t it be a different world if Christians actually stepped up and loved their neighbors with action and not just words.  I think this is a challenge for all of us – including me.  And that’s how I’m being stretched right now!  I want my faith to be more than words.

How about you?  How are you loving your neighbor?  Is your faith and love for others based on words or based on action?

Always Be Prepared – Lessons From A Smoke Alarm (Part 2)

Yesterday, I explained how a smoke detector alarm in my home reminded me of some valuable truths related to my preparation for sharing the reason for my hope (I Peter 3:15,16).  Today’s post is a follow up to my story as well as an addition to my preparation list.

After getting up at 3:45AM to the sound of the first alarm, going to the grocery store at 4AM to purchase 9 volt batteries, and replacing the batteries in all the smoke detectors in our house, the smoke alarm was still going off periodically.  Needless to say, I was beside myself.  What else could I do to resolve this annoying and disruptive noise that was filling our house at random times.

I did some research, and I discovered that it’s recommended that the smoke detectors are cleaned with compressed air or a vacuum.  Apparently, dust can get into the detector over time and cause false alarms.  Leanne and Isaac attempted to vacuum out the detector in question once everyone was awake, but the alarm still continued.  Ugh!

Finally, reading further in the instructions, it says that the detector may need to be replaced.  So at lunch yesterday, I ran over to the local hardware store and picked up a copy of smoke detectors that were compatible with our system.  When I arrived home after work, Isaac and I replaced the detector.  And I’m happy to report that we haven’t had an alarm since!

And so I’ve learned a couple more things about being prepared to give an answer for my hope:

  • Research.  Besides reading the Bible (which should be the starting point and foundation for sharing your faith), there are other resources out there that might be helpful.  A couple that come to mind are Out of the Saltshaker and into the Earth (Evangelism as a Way of Life) by Rebecca Pippert, The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman, and Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels.  Research also includes understanding the interests, beliefs, and perspectives of others.  There are plenty of books, blogs, and websites that can help with this task.
  • Replace defective parts.  As you grow and learn, replace the things in your life that don’t work in representing Christ well.  When we become Christians, we become new creations.  The old is gone.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

What other tips to you have for being prepared to share our hope?  What have you had to research lately?  What resources do you recommend to help others prepare to share their faith?  What is something you’ve had to replace in your life recently?

Always Be Prepared – Lessons From A Smoke Alarm

I’ve been awake since 3:45 this morning.  I get up early each morning, but not this early normally.  I was in a pretty deep sleep when the smoke detectors in our house went into alarm.  They are all hooked together, so if one goes off, they all go into alarm.  I instantly hopped out of bed.  Was there a fire in my house?  I knew I needed to check things out.  I walked through the house, but I couldn’t find any smoke or fire (which is obviously good).  The alarm stopped, and I returned to bed.

Within a few minutes, I was back out of bed as the alarm went off again.  As I guessed, the battery in one of the detectors must have been losing its power.  Typically when this happens, the detector sends out a beep every minute or two.  However, in some cases, it will simply send the whole house into alarm.

With this in mind, I began to search the house for a fresh 9-Volt battery.  I looked in our battery bin.  Nothing.  I thought for a minute about where else I might have another newer battery.  The only place I could come up with was Isaac’s model rocket launcher.  I found the controller and pulled the battery.  When I took it to the detector I thought was the culprit, I discovered that the battery from Isaac’s rocket launcher was also low on power.

So what else could I do?  You guessed it.  I grabbed my wallet and car keys, threw on my shoes, and drove to our local grocery store to pick up 9-Volt batteries – at four in the morning!  When I returned home at 4:20AM, I began replacing all the smoke detector batteries in the house.  I purchased enough batteries for the whole house along with having a few spares.  Next time, I’ll be sure to replace the smoke detector batteries on a regular basis (like they recommend), and I’ll be sure to be prepared with a few extra 9-Volt batteries in the house.

As I was driving to and from the grocery store at 4ish in the morning, I couldn’t help but think how this early morning wake-up call was a good reminder the follow the teaching found in I Peter 3.  In this chapter, Peter proclaims that we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we profess.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  

I Peter 3:15,16

Being prepared to give an answer to everyone regarding the hope I have seems pretty challenging, but I think there’s a few simple things we can do to help us prepare for this opportunity.  Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Remember God’s Word.  We don’t all have to be Bible scholars, but it helps to know what the Bible says.  In God’s Word, there is truth and hope that we can share with others.
  • Recharge and refresh your spiritual battery.  On a daily basis, spend time with God.  On a weekly basis, spend time with other believers at your local church.  Once or twice a year, get away for a spiritual retreat.  This could be yourself, on a missions trip, or at a conference.  Each of these activities when regularly exercised will help to keep you charged up and ready to share the hope you have with others.
  • Relax.  Yes, giving an answer for the hope we possess is an important responsibility, and it’s easy to become intimidated when an opportunity to share our faith arises.  But I think that God will help us when we take the time to prepare and recharge.  Sharing your faith isn’t just about words, it’s just as much about living it out through your actions on a daily basis.

And yet again, I learn from the lessons of my life.  In some strange way, I’m thankful for a smoke detector alarm that woke me up in the early hours of the morning.  And next time, I’ll be better prepared!

When was the last time you woke up in the middle of the night to something alarming?  What other suggestions do you have for being better prepared to give a reason for your hope?

WOW! Guatemala Goal Met!

For those of you who have been following along, The Stretched Community has been working together to fund the costs to build a house in Guatemala.  If you read my post this morning, you may have noticed that we still needed $2,550 to meet this target.

Well…

You stepped up!  The goal was met as of 1:36PM today!

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

I am amazed and blown away by the power of taking a leap of faith and by the power of community.

Thanks to your generous support, The Stretched Community will be responsible for building a house in Guatemala.

The goal has been met, but there’s still an opportunity to be involved.  You can give towards another home by hitting the fundraising page, and you can definitely pray for our trip.  My post from earlier today provides some specific prayer requests.

God is great!

When was the last time you were blown away?

Repost: Plans For Me

This week, I’m going on vacation with my family. I thought I’d take this opportunity to republish some old posts from the archives. Feel free to leave comments here or on the original post. Enjoy, I’ll be back next week!

Today’s post was originally posted in October 2010.  September and October of 2010 was a life changing and challenging time for our family.  It’s interesting to look back and see how God was shaping me in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Today is the final day of reposts as we are returning from vacation.  I’d love to hear what you’ve thought of this week of reposts.  Thanks for allowing me the chance to take a break.

I feel like I have recently been in a mental wrestling match with myself about my plans, the future, and trying to live one day at a time. I like to have a plan for things. I like it when I can map things out and know where I’m headed. I have a quote hanging in my office, “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.” I think it’s important to have a plan, but I’m also learning that it’s important to be flexible and to trust. Trusting God for my future sounds easy and maybe it should be easy, but I must have the brain of a mule (stubborn). I still get hung up on the “what ifs” of tomorrow, next month, next year, etc.

As I’ve been processing this and meditating on the word ‘plans,’ Jeremiah 29:11-13 came to my mind:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

These verses point very clearly to that fact that God has plans for me that include hope for the future. He simply asks me to come to Him, to seek Him with all I’ve got, and to be open to His plan. I’m learning, and I’m thankful today for this reminder. With this in mind, I can let go of my anxiety and my personal wrestling match.

One day at a time…

What are you wrestling with these days?  How have you seen God work wonders in the midst of your plans, uncertainties, and challenges?

Repost: Lemons Into Lemonade

This week, I’m going on vacation with my family. I thought I’d take this opportunity to republish some old posts from the archives. Feel free to leave comments here or on the original post. Enjoy, I’ll be back next week!

Today’s post was originally posted in September 2010.  Most of the text comes from a devotional that we were using with our son, Isaac.  The truths still apply today.

I just had to share the thoughts from Isaac’s devotion for yesterday:

From The One Year Every Day Devotions (Devotions to help you stand strong) by Stephen Arterburn and Jesse Florea:

Have you ever heard someone say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?”

As goofy as it sounds, this saying holds a lot of truth. First, it says that life will hand you lemons. It doesn’t say if, and it doesn’t say life might hand you lemons. It says when.

Lemons are the bad things that happen in life. Maybe a pet dies. Maybe your best friend decides not to be your friend anymore. Perhaps you’re not treated fairly by a teacher. Whatever it is, you’ll have to face your share of lemons in life.

The second part of that saying is the hardest to follow – “make lemonade.” In other words, take the bad things that happen and make the best of them. Look for the positives. Find the good part.

Sometimes finding the good part is really difficult. When a friend turns her back on you, it hurts. Sure, you can make other friends. But it hurts right now. Making lemonade is probably the last thing you want to do. That’s why it may be a good idea to add another sentence to that saying: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. And God is the ultimate lemonade maker.”

God can take the worst situations in your life and make something good from them. At first, you may find it hard to see the good, but over time you’ll look back and see how God turned bad things to positive experiences in your life. And here’s the best part: while you’re waiting for God to make things better, you can hide in him. Use that time to get to know him better. Take comfort that God love you, cares for you, and can use bad things to make you stronger and more like him. When things get tough, look to God and take comfort in his strength.

Psalm 141:8 But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge….

What’s going on in your life that needs to be transformed from lemons to lemonade?

Random Stretch Thoughts

Life continues to provide plenty of stretching opportunities. Today’s post is simply some of the things that are stretching me these days.

1. Headaches. Since the month of February, I’ve been dealing with lots of headaches. I haven’t had a migraine for a few weeks, but I’m still wrestling a bit with the day-to-day nuisance headaches. I started seeing someone who is helping with deep tissue message. This seems to be helping, but it seems like I still have a way to go until my back, shoulders, and neck loosen up.
2. Running. Yesterday, I shared about the 2nd Annual Race to Remember. Between blogging, headaches, and the other busyness of life, it can be a challenge to find a regular routine for running. I’m hoping that a date on the calendar will inspire me to be more consistent in my running.
3. Gardening. I don’t talk about gardening a whole lot here, but it is still one of my passions. Admittedly, this hobby has taken a backseat to my family, my job, my writing, and other activities. I did manage to get my garden planted a few weeks ago. Now, I need to figure out how to keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden. And I need to find time to weed.
4. Blogging. I love the blog, and I intend on keeping it going. My main struggle is landing on my next path forward – What is the next step for the Stretched Blog?  Should I write and eBook? If so, where should I focus? I know for certain that I want to use my writing and blogging for something way bigger than myself. The Guatemala trip and the Stretched house is confirmation that anything is possible.
5. Guatemala. I really need to work on my Spanish. In nearly a month and a half, I’ll be making this life changing trip. I pray that I will be alert to the impact of this trip. We’re less than $2,700 away from paying for the house! Feel free to hop on board.
6. Family and marriage. This is a huge priority for me. Many times I feel like my attention and energy isn’t always where it should be. I don’t want to look back with any regrets. In a week, my daughter will be graduating from middle school. I know she’s ready for high school, but this milestone is a reminder that time isn’t slowing down. I need to make the most of the opportunities.
7. Faith. To put it plainly, my relationship with God has to be the most important thing in my life. I’m constantly filling my mind with good things, but I’m realizing more and more that I need to be still. This stretches me to the core.

I’m sure there are many other things that are stretching me, but this list provides a glimpse into the ones that keep coming back to me. I’m thankful that God is patient with us while we stretch. I’m thankful that he desires a relationship that is new, exciting, and stretching.

What’s stretching you see days?

(Don’t forget to get in on the giveaway that’s going on this week on the Stretched blog. Click here for more details.  There’s still time to win Platform by Michael Hyatt or Love Does by Bob Goff.)