Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Week 3

If you happen to check in on the is blog regularly, you may notice that if you count the days between the last post and this one, it has been more than 1 week in the challenge.  That is for 2 reasons:

  1. I have not been very good about blogging and have gotten behind (Today is day 23)
  2. I have taken a few days away from the challenge as life has become very busy for me.  I am trying VERY hard to "be more" in so many ways, and unfortunately, everyone gets skipped every so often as I am physically a little drained from balancing everything.  The worst part about this is that I know in my mind that everyone EXCEPT God should get skipped every now and then, because he should be at the center of everything that I do.  But, to be honest, I'm not quite there yet on my faith walk.  I am, however, much closer than I was 30 days ago.  
Because my last couple of weeks have become more busy in virtually all facets of my life, it has been very difficult to devote extravagant time to Him.  I hope he forgives me for this shortcoming.  On the other hand, when I stop to think about it, I have developed many new tendencies (I'm not prepared to call them habits yet), that take place throughout my days and weeks that are bringing me closer to Him.  I am encouraged in my mind by these actions, although I also know that that is creating shades of gray in this world (like we humans love to do), when pretty much everything is actually black and white (you are either following Him or you're not).  So, I'm not prepared to break my arm patting myself on the back just yet.

I find myself listening to different radio stations in my truck which allow me to take a few minutes in my day to appreciate a little worship.  I am much better about seeing a need in someone's life and immediately "shooting a prayer arrow" in an effort to help them.  I am taking time to attend daily mass 2 times per week over my lunch break and it is amazingly refreshing in the middle of my crazy work schedule.  I have made time in my schedule in the past few weeks to sit down and talk over coffee or lunch with some great like-minded men.  I have limited some draining activities from my life in hopes that I can focus more on the energizing items which lift me up.  I have worked hard to invest spiritually and emotionally in some of my college student athletes in an effort to be a positive mentor in their life (I have been rewarded handsomely by several of them thanking me for making an impact in their life and showing me what their new relationship with Christ is doing for them).  Then again, I probably shouldn't say that since I work for a secular institution.

As I said, I'm not prepared to call these habits yet, but they are me moving in the right direction.

This week's challenges that stand out to me are those which relate to apostolic function, worship, and suffering.  It may be hard to understand unless you've read these challenges, but to me they relate back to a common theme:  Serving.  This week I am firmly convinced that He is calling me to help many unreached people in Sudan (hopefully with Man Up).  It is kind of a long story, but I have been slapped in the face repeatedly with Sudan in the past 7-10 days and the suffering that has taken place there in recent years.  This is for many reasons (many of which I don't understand), but I believe that one of the main causes is the lack of believers in their society.

Apostolic function is all about bringing the Gospel to unreached people (i.e. Sudan).  The challenge day on worship was all about listening and following God's call (i.e. to visit Sudan).  And obviously suffering is also related to these people.  Through apostolic function, we can help those who are suffering to understand why their suffering is taking place and to learn to trust in Him to know His plan for them.

The day that stands out to me as a call to action was "Hospitality."  I think I'm pretty welcoming to others and easy to be around, but I do know that as I reflect on myself and my personal thoughts that I do not view small inconveniences in my day as opportunities to invest in others.  Rather, I find myself annoyed and not always as hospitable as I should be.  One of my many efforts this coming week will be to look for those opportunities to share with others and show His love by working to serve and not be concerned with myself when others ask for my assistance.

It has been a great month so far.  It is coming to a close, which is a little bit sad, but also a relief.  I only hope I can continue these changes when the challenge is complete.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Week 2

Week 2 for me was a lot about action.  There were other great topics this week, such as transparency (opening up to others, even when they may have wronged you), prophesy (attempting to see things as God sees them), and affirmation (emphasizing other's positive attributes).  But, for some reason, in a week where I struggled to get anywhere close to my daily 2.4 hours of extravagant time with Him, I kept getting hit in the face with repeated words of action.

Day 10 was about "Abandon" and being willing and able to answer the call to do whatever He wants, no matter where and when it is.  And then in day 11 I was given the instruction to pray "God, change me, and change the hearts of this unreached people in the same way you are changing me."  That statement is incredibly powerful for me right now, given my passion for unreached people and the orphans of the world, as well as a desire to open my heart more fully to Him.

Then today, day 14, the call is to simply "be more."  Be more for Him.  Be more to better present yourself to Him someday.  Be more for those around you.  We are in a society where we are constantly told to "do your best" (which is a bit of a struggle for me watching my 3 year old playing soccer).  Of course, there is a line where that is okay, but we truly do need to BE MORE.
"This generation needs to learn to eat less, sleep less, and pray more."  -Leonard Ravenhill
I wasn't just hit with the Live Dead Challenge on the words of action.  I viewed an Andy Stanley message online where he talked about the book of Nehemiah when Nehemiah is rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem.  In chapter 6, his enemies approached him to strike a deal to stop any further construction, but Nehemiah consistently retorts "I am doing a great work, and I cannot descend..."

What a powerful statement.  "I am doing great work, and I cannot descend..."  I can easily relate this to Man Up, as we truly are doing great work.  But, it can also relate to parenting, my field of work, mentoring young people, and so on.  This begs the question about everything in life, "is what I'm doing great work?"  And, if the answer is "no", then why am I doing it?  It isn't worth my time.  But, if it is, don't let other things get in the way, because I cannot and will not descend from my great work.

Action steps were also discussed by Pastor Tommy at the local North Point Church this week in the continuation of the series "MOVE."  His point is that we are (or should be) constantly moving in our spiritual life.  Make sure it you are moving the right direction.

The book, Fivestar Man, calls men to awaken their entrepreneurial spirit and use the skills and blessings that we have been given to prosper financially for our family and to be able to share those riches with those who are less fortunate.

The greatest thing about the week is that in the midst of all of the words of encouragement from multiple areas, I have been blessed with tremendous opportunities to MOVE and BE MORE in my work, Man Up, and family life.  And, all of these blessings occurred in a week that I didn't commit myself to the extravagant time with Him that I have been striving for each day.

I am tremendously blessed and have a huge desire to "be more" with everything.  I guess that means I need to "be less" with sleep.  That's okay as well.  If it means being more to those around me and to make myself more presentable to Him, then count me in.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Live Dead Challenge: Conclusion of Week 1

As I reflect on a week worth of the Live Dead Challenge, it has been a great week!  I have been able to be pretty consistent with my time and ability to keep up with the daily challenges.  That's not to say that I have been perfect, but I have definitely committed myself to more extravagant with Him.  This has taken the form of quiet prayer, reflection, reading, and listening to him and his word.

Each day has brought about it's own insight into my life.  Listening is one great example.  I am reminded a lot by those around me that I wasn't naturally gifted with the ability to listen well.  This is not simply the case with those who I spend much of my time with, but it also pertains to my relationship with God.  Historically, I have not taken the time to listen to Him.  What I have found in several days of taking the time to listen to him and his wishes, I have experienced great clarity on some issues and relationships that I have felt confused about in the past.

Living a simple life and understanding expectations are also lessons which were learned this week.  These are also both areas in which I historically struggle.  While I feel that I try to keep things relatively simple at times, let's face it, in this day in age, a biblical sense of simple is much different than ours.  And realistically I'm about as bad at this as it gets.  I rarely say no to anything, which may make life simple for others, but more complicated for me and my relationship with my God and my family.  At the end of the day, He says that our relationship with Him must be first, followed by our family.  Everything else comes after that.  Unfortunately, I can't say that historically these have been my priorities in life.

Understanding expectations from my spiritual relationship and those around me is also something that I need to work on.  I've been blessed with so many opportunities, time, talents, and relationships that I often expect much more than I should.  I often expect things to come easy, but I must remind myself that anything worth having will not come easy or without pain, no matter what part of life we are talking about.

Finally, integrity in speech is paramount.  I'm extremely guilty of not thinking before I speak and I've committed to doing just that as I move forward.

I've always been a huge believer that our society doesn't teach enough self reliance.  Our younger generations are being taught that it is almost always someone else's fault and that everything should be handed to you.  Today, a local pastor had a great sermon on moving through your personal spiritual journey and one thing that I took to heart is that if we are truly going to ever become God centered, we have to be accountable for our own spiritual growth.  It is not up to anyone else to help me grow spiritually.  There are a lot of options out there to assist me on my spiritual journey, but at the end of the day, it is MY responsibility.  I have to say that over the recent months that I have taken it upon myself to grow my personal faith that I couldn't agree more with Pastor Tommy's statement.  Is it up to us to find Him and get close to Him.  Heaven is a choice.  He gives us the roadmap, but it's up to us to follow it.

Obviously my passion is for orphans and those less fortunate.  One of my favorite scriptures from this week is Matthew 9:37-38

"'The harvest is so great and the workers are so few,' he told his disciples.  'So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields'"

Monday, January 2, 2012

Live Dead Challenge Day 1: Abide

For those of you who know me personally and have been around me over the past 6-9 months, you know that God is at work in me.  I don't quite know how to describe it, but I believe that he is trying hard to do some special things through me and I am trying hard to listen to his calling.

Recently, my close friends who are all part of the Man Up project and I vowed to take the 30 day Live Dead challenge.  It is a 30 day prayer challenge to "Live Dead."  Basically, what that means is that you die to self and live through Christ.  It is a concept that interests me and my friend who brought it to me is someone I trust and look up to in many ways, so I said "Why not?  Let's see where God leads us through this."  The mission of Live Dead is to help people grow closer to God, bring awareness to the need for missionaries, and to promote prayer for many people (mostly in east Africa) who have never been exposed to Jesus Christ.

I have to admit, the whole thing seemed simple enough until I received the Live Dead Journal.  I flipped through it for the first time and I began to glance over the first day's challenge.  I suddenly became pretty nervous about it.

The first challenge discusses John 15: 4-5, 16.  It talks about how we are the fruit and God is the vine.  Without the vine, the fruit withers away, so we must be obedient to the vine (God).  We all know that Christians are called to tithe 10% of their money to church.  But, what about time?  Today's Live Dead challenge was to tithe 10% of our time to God.  That's 2 1/2 hours a day!

Those of you who know me, know that I don't typically have a ton of extra time on my hands.  With a busy job, consulting business, educating other coaches, father of 2 littles ones, and a husband, my days become pretty full, pretty quick.  How would I find this much time in my day to give extravagantly to Him?

To be honest, I'm not sure yet, but I will say that day 1 went very well.  I really enjoyed focusing more attention on Him throughout my day.  I did little things, like turn off the radio in my truck and turned off the TV when I rode my bike this morning, to spend time focusing on Him.

Another thing I did was to listen to a sermon from one of our local churches that was posted online.  The pastor did a great job of challenging people with their new year's resolutions.  Most people resolve to do "something" (i.e. eat better, save money, etc.), instead of becoming better people.  Once we become better people, then we will do better "things."

As I listened, it really rang home to me...I want to be an authentic man.  I want to be a man of honor.  I want to be a pure person.  I want to be a resilient man.  These are the types of things that will eventually help me become a better husband, father, and son.  Becoming a better person will help me be one of the best athletic trainers and strength coaches around.  They will help me become fit, healthy, and more spiritual.  Being all of these things will help me make more money to support my family, and equally as important, support those who are less fortunate. I want all of these things.

The question is...can I really do all of these things and become all that I want to be?  I'm not sure yet, but I know that I can't do any of it without His direction.  Without His vine, I will wither.  As I tithe my 10% over the next 30 days, the time I have left will be more productive than ever.  The Live Dead Day 1 Challenge is over and it was a success!

I will periodically post on the challenge as a way to share the experience as well as chronicle the events for myself.

Live Dead, Love Big!