How To Startle Your Neighbors–Begin The Day With A Chant

I’ve decided to begin my day with a chant.

Hear me out.  I know this sounds crazy, but let me show you my reasoning.

There are certain things in life that you just have to repeat over and over again until they are firmly lodged in your mind.   Multiplication tables, phone numbers, and anniversaries immediately come to mind.

When there is something that you don’t want to forget, repetition is key.

Sometimes as our Christian walk progresses we can become comfortable to the point where we aren’t really living vibrant lives.  We are so caught up in the day-to-day tasks that we don’t really think too much about God.

Of course, he is always there and on some level we know that, but often he just doesn’t enter our consciousness.  We are simply too busy trying to survive.

How did he remember all that?

When I was in high school, I had a friend a couple of years older than me named Craig Story.  He and I shared the same birthday and attended church together.

I can remember one time when Craig got up in church one Wednesday night and spoke the following words from memory to the kids in the youth group:

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made.
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.

I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.
I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, deluded, or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus.

I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.

And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me – my banner will be clear!

Of course, these words were not Craig’s.  Chances are you have seen them floating around the Internet somewhere.  There are several versions of who initially wrote them, but that isn’t the point.

For me, these words made a huge impact.  They reminded me who I was.  They instructed me how I should be living.  They separated the important from the trivial.  They gave me a vision of how I wanted to live my life and an aspiration for the type of legacy I wanted to leave.

Now, I find myself twenty years down the road.

I still remember these words, but I also find myself in the midst of surviving the day-to-day grind that comes with life.  I have done a fairly decent job of living according to the creed above, but of course I could do better.

Enter the chant.

A chant is a “repeated rhythmic phrase, typically one shouted or sung in unison by a crowd.” In this case, it will be a crowd of one, because it will just be me chanting.

So here is my plan going forward.

Each morning, probably at the end of my quiet time, I am going to read these words aloud.

I am going to chant them to myself.

Not because there is any power in the words, but because there is power in the One the words refer to.

For me, I believe it will help me to start my day off on the right track.  It will align my day with what was important to me all those years ago.

Hopefully, by repeating these words they will become lodged deeply within my heart and will help direct my steps on the right track.

How about you?

Is there anything you repeat to keep it at the forefront of your mind or any routines you use to start your day on the right track?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

In Your Work, Are You All Things to All People?

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To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

I am celebrating a birthday this coming weekend.  While I won’t tell you my age, I will tell you that I am right in the middle part of life.

It used to bother me that I didn’t have a very specific calling and place to serve in ministry.  For me, I wanted to have a “ministry job.”  You know, work in the church or for some big para-ministry organization.

I’m not sure if it was the prestige that I assumed went with it or just the fact that if I was working in such a place I would be on the same team with other believers moving forward toward a common goal.

But lately something struck me.  Perhaps it is being solidly in the middle of my life, but it stopped me in my tracks.

I realized that I have been given a wonderfully diverse variety of places to make my relationship with Christ known and to minister to so many people who I otherwise would have never come into contact with.

Where do you work?

My resume is an interesting document.  I look at all the types of work I have done and it is kind of funny.

I have had the privilege of learning how to work with my hands doing carpentry work. My Dad taught me all that he knows on the subject.  Because of this, I grew up swinging a hammer.  All through high school and college, I earned a living by the sweat of my brow and the strength of my back.

If you have never been to a construction site, let me assure you, there are plenty of opportunities to witness and share the love of Christ there.

I have been in people’s homes working, in their backyards building things, and in office buildings tearing down and building up.  I have witnessed by my words, my actions, and my interactions.

I have worked in the business world in sales for a Fortune 500 company.  There I had clients and customers and vendors that I interacted with.  I was able to show them the ethical and dignified way to conduct myself.  I was able to minister there as well.

I worked in a thrift store for a local non-profit ministry helping get the store up and running.  I was able to minister to people there often at their deepest point of need.  I was able to empathetic and provide a listening ear to those who had no one to talk to.

I owned my own construction business and was able to show how an ethical, godly businessman conducts himself and provides the service he promises with pride in his work.

I have taught countless students on their path to improving their education and futures while pursuing their GED.

I have had these students come back to me and tell me how something that I don’t even remember saying touched their life and made a difference.

I have officiated weddings and ministered to people as they joined their two lives together to become one.

I am a writer.  I am trying to be obedient to the plan God has for me by sharing these words as he lays them on my heart.

When you look at it this way, I have already had a pretty impactful life doing the work I was called to do; even if I am already in the middle.

You may have heard the maxim “bloom where you are planted.”

It makes a lot of sense.  If you look at each day as an opportunity to help someone out, share a kind word, show the love of Jesus, and make a difference in the world, then it really doesn’t matter what your “job” is.

You can be like Paul and try to be all things to all people for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.

And that is not a bad day’s work.

3 Words: Disciple, Husband, Father

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

I recently asked this question to a group of my students and had them make a vision board using their three words and cutouts of pictures that demonstrated those words.  It was a fascinating exercise.  Overall, most of their words were positive and encouraging.

But this got me thinking, what three words describe me?

After much consideration, (well not really, these popped into my head pretty quickly,) I came up with:

  • DISCIPLE
  • HUSBAND
  • FATHER

These three words describe me and my stage in life right now.  So let’s take a look at them and see what they mean.

DISCIPLE

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their lifewill lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  Mark 8:34-35

For me, this is where my life begins.  I had the blessing to grow up in a Christian home with parents who taught me to love and fear the Lord.  They kept us in church and helped us stay surrounded with godly friends.  I have always pursued Jesus because he pursued me first.  So the word disciple is a perfect description of my life.

I like the verse above because Jesus is completely honest with his disciples, (and by extension you and me.)  He lets us know that to follow him is to deny ourselves.  This means we have to put aside what we want and focus on what He wants for us; things that will further the kingdom.  This isn’t always easy to do, but I have found that the more I focus on God, the less I am concerned with the things of this world.

My desire as a disciple is to be conformed into the image of Christ.  When Jesus died on the cross for my sins, his blood washed me clean.   Now when God looks at me, he doesn’t see me as the sinner that I am, but rather he sees me washed clean.  This amazing transformation is ongoing.  I continue to sin, in spite of myself, and he continues to shape me and mold me more closely to the image of Jesus.  This is what being a disciple is.  However, this is not all that it is.  Being a disciple means I must continually seek to share Jesus with those around me.  It may be through words, it may be through actions, it may be through this blog, but a disciple of Christ sits at his feet and then goes out into the world to share him with others.

Disciple defines every other component of my life.

HUSBAND

The next word that describes me is husband.  I have been married to my bride for almost fourteen years.  She is a perfect fit for me.  I know that God provided her to be my wife and me to be her husband.  It is amazing the way God created us. Where I have a weakness, she has a strength.  When I don’t know the answers, she is there to help me find them.  I always tell people that my wife knows me better than I know myself.

This word defines me because God put us together for a specific reason.  We are made to go together and work out his will for our lives.  I take my responsibilities as a husband seriously.  I know that I am to serve my wife, to give my life up for her if necessary.  This is what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:25-33.  First Peter 3:7 also says that I am to treat my wife with tenderness and consideration so that nothing may hinder my prayers.

I will be a husband until the day that one of us places the other in the arms of Jesus. It is more than a word, it is what I am called to be and a commitment that I have made.

FATHER

The third word that describes me is father.  I am so incredibly blessed to be a Dad.   Every day when I come home, my kids greet me with genuine excitement to see me.  This too is a huge responsibility.  I can remember when my daughter was born my grandfather told me congratulations and then told me that I had created a life for eternity.  Talk about an eye-opening statement!  Now, years later as I try to teach and lead and love my kids, I realize the truth of that statement.  Like many things in life, what I do with my kids while they are young will stick with them for the rest of their lives.  They will hopefully hear my voice in their head as they grow up and make decisions and choose careers and spouses and lives.  I hope that I have followed Proverbs 22:6.  Train up a child in the way he should go,  And when he is old he will not depart from it.  This is my awesome task that God has given me to accomplish.  


I encourage you to take a look at your life and find out what your three words are. Are the positive and what you want them to be?  Are they negative and need changing?  It is up to you to decide, today, what your words are and how they will affect the rest of your life.

Living For Eternity

 “A Kingdom centered life is more about how you live than what you do for a living.”

I have had a lot of time to think about this statement over the last few years.  With a background in the construction industry I have been a victim of the economy and have found myself “under”-employed.  In the past several years I have been a building products salesman, trim carpenter, handyman, thrift-store manager, GED teacher, teacher of my kids, supporter of my wife’s job, minister and writer.  As a man, it is sometimes difficult because so much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do for a living.  Indeed, we spend most of our waking hours at hour jobs, so when you don’t have a job or have a job that is less than what you had hoped for it can leave you feeling slightly inadequate.

Then you think about the statement above:  a Kingdom centered life is more about how you live than what you do for a living. 

I firmly believe that the things I do on this earth are mere preparation for my life in eternity.  Everything I do (or don’t do) here makes ripples in the ocean of eternity.  That is why it is so important to focus on the Kingdom of God and what impact you can have on the eternal things. 

For this reason, whether I am working or not, I can impact people for Christ.  In fact, my attitude and demeanor when I am not working can speak volumes about my relationship with Him.  Doing carpentry work I am exposed to different people almost every week.  I have an opportunity to show Jesus to them through my life and then often times I never see them again.  I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will work on their hearts and some other believer somewhere will be instrumental in the Harvest of their soul.  As a teacher, every ten weeks I am exposed to a new group of people.  I have an opportunity there to live my life in such a way that they see Jesus in me.  It is not something I take lightly. 

My desire for my life is to serve God in some capacity of full time Christian ministry.  For whatever reason He has me stuck firmly where I am.  As difficult as 2010 was, my family and I were taken care of every day and our basic needs were met.

As you go through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, focus on this one thing.  As Christ-followers, we are all placed in positions where we can do the most good for those around us.  We have to simply be obedient to the Spirit’s leading and show Jesus to those we meet. 

Father, help me to be content to labor where you have placed me.  Help me to never miss an opportunity to share the love you have shown me.  Give me peace and joy in the simple things that last for eternity and help me to thrive where you have placed me.

The Habit of Faith

I was reading today’s devotion from Streams in the Desert and I came across the turn of phrase: the habit of faith.  Something within them resonated with me.  Perhaps it is because the word habit is usually associated with the negative adjective “bad” in front of it.  For example, the bad habit of biting your fingernails, or chewing with your mouth open or following the slow driver in the fast lane too closely. 

What struck me about this is that habits can be good too.  What is a habit anyway?

Habit:  a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. 

So the question is this:  Is your faith a habit?  Is it a regular practice? Is it hard to give up?  Or as is so often the case do you flee your faith when the going gets tough? 

The lesson to be learned here is that a habit takes time, energy and effort to attain.  This is perhaps more true for a good habit than a bad one.  If your faith seems shaky and not in the habit category, perhaps you need to spend a little time on developing it.  Regular time in the Word, listening to what God has said to others and what He wants to say to you is a good start.  Working through your trials with a prayerful heart is another way to develop your habit.

Remember, any habit that has God as its obsession is a good thing.  It will be what you turn to automatically when you need it.  Your habit of faith will sustain you as you rely solely on the One that is sufficient to meet your deepest needs.