After my Mom passed away I found a short letter she had written to me. Although I don’t know exactly when she wrote it or why she didn’t give it to me, nonetheless, it touches my heart every time I read it. In it, she expressed how proud she was of me as a son, as a husband to Nicole, and as a person. She used the words, “What more can a mother ask for?” And she reminded me to always put God first. I believe the Lord made sure I found the note.
I need a constant reminder of this.
I need to practice this all of the time.
Recently I deeply hurt a friend with my words and I didn’t even know I was doing it. We had grown so close that I would make fun of this person in jest, not even thinking about the words I was saying and how they might be received. Levi Lusko, Pastor of Fresh Life Church says the following about words: “Words are powerful things. They can build up and tear down. They can unlock potential and they can crush spirits.” Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (18:21). I have apologized and I am trying to learn from my mistakes. I have so much to learn.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica he wrote: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Mom was a great encourager to me. I try to be an encourager to others but fall short when I let my pride—wanting to be funny and make people laugh—overshadow my desire to encourage. This too I have to change.
Part of my Mom’s legacy is encouragement. On this, the third anniversary of her going to Heaven and spending eternity with Jesus, I want to try and encourage you with my words. Although I miss her greatly, her legacy lives on with this blog which I started one year ago today. I’m celebrating this first anniversary! All of you have been an encouragement to me, and this blog has helped me immensely, letting me synthesize my thoughts and culling them into one central place. It has worked as a healing place for me to give and receive encouragement as we all drive towards living the life God created us to live in Christ.
I am still convinced the best is yet to come and although life is full of challenges, I know Jesus is my greatest encourager and corrector, my ultimate source of joy, love and wisdom. I know that whatever pain or suffering we are currently going through, He loves us perfectly (John 15:9), and we are His treasure (1 Peter 2:9-10). ALL will be worth it, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
My prayer for us is that we can encourage one another, learning together to live the life God created us to live in Christ.
How are you doing with giving and receiving encouragement?
Chris was my friend, teammate and encourager the year I was MVP of my T-Ball league back in 1982. Although I lost contact with Chris, I still look back at our friendship fondly. I remember Chris as humble, happy, always friendly and a very good T-ball player as well. He was a great teammate and I know I would not have been MVP that season if I did not have him by my side.
Who is by your side? Who is the Chris in your life? Do you have a friend who is humble, happy, always friendly, an encourager and on the same team as you?
Life is meant to be lived in community. From the beginning, God modeled the idea of community through the Trinity of God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
Jesus also modeled friendship and community. He had three close friends—Peter, James, and John. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1).
Among those three, Jesus also had a best friend, John. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26).
They supported Jesus, though not perfectly, to help Him accomplish his mission for His life.
They were on the same team, not always humble, happy nor friendly, but they were with Him and for Him and always willing to support Him. If Jesus needed community in life, don’t we all?
Whom do you have in your life as a friend, teammate and encourager, and how have they supported you to live the life you were created to live in Christ?
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15
My Mom died and went to spend eternity with Jesus in September of 2014. It was a very hard time for me but God was with me. I don’t say that flippantly—I saw Him working in my life before, during and after to help me get through this season. His presence was tangible.
Leading up to this time, God had me working with Generous Giving to bring more Journey of Generosity’s (JOGs) to the Bay Area. A JOG is a 24 hour retreat where Christians gather to discuss, in a safe environment, generosity. I attended my first JOG in August of 2014 and then two weeks later, JOG facilitator training to be in a position to share this magnificent experience with others.
Five days before my Mom died, I met a new friend while serving at City Impact’s Adopt a Building program. Jojo was going through a painful divorce and needed someone to talk to. I felt honored to be able to minister to him.
Around the same time, my friend Nelson asked me to help him in a program to teach teenagers in the Bayview area about finances.
I could have opted out of all of these quite easily, but I felt led by God to serve. I began to sense a correlation between serving and healing. Could it be God’s plan that we help others while going through a painful season in our lives?
When we look at the last hours of Jesus life what do we see?
- Him feeding and then washing the feet of his closest friends. Matthew 26:26-29
- Asking God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Luke 23:34
- Sharing salvation with the criminals on the cross so they could have eternal life with Him. Luke 23:43
- Making sure His Mom was taken care of by his closest friend John. John 19:26-27
I have no theological backing for this next statement but I believe it was God’s purpose for Jesus to continue ministering to others right up to the end in order to endure his darkest time on earth. In essence, to take the focus off of Himself and place it onto others.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
We know we are to be like Jesus. We may often think of this from a point of view of holiness, but we can follow his example when it comes to healing too.
I believe Jesus shows us how to deal with the great pain that comes into our life so we may finish the race God created us for, like Jesus did, like Paul did, like I pray you and I do.
What stories of serving through pain do you have?
When Jesus was asked “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28b-31).
Seems simple – love God with all my heart, mind and soul and then love my neighbors as myself. So how are we doing with the “Great Commandment”?
When people think of us as Christians do they think we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and that we love our neighbors as ourselves — I would say probably no, at least not all of the time.
Could we be suffering a “love gap” that is the distance between how we are loving and how God created us to love?
Maybe we are failing to manage the time (calendar) God has entrusted to us in the manner in which God created? For me to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself it takes less time wasted and more time with God, reading His Bible, praying to Him and being in a listening posture. I still struggle with all of this because of the pull of the world is constantly telling me I have to do this and that and be busy, busy. Why all this busyness? Perhaps because most everyone else I know is doing it and busyness seems like the natural thing to do.
But I fear that we are quenching the Spirit when we are too busy with the things of this world and not focusing on things above and instead focusing on things below. My focus too often is on what is right in front of me instead of heavenly things.
I need to remember that God is awesome and that He knows best and that is why I need to spend as much time possible with Him and Jesus.
I need to be reminded that I should not feel obligated to do my quiet time but instead be super excited to know our God more, to fall deeper in love with Him so He can be my everything including my most, by far, important relationship. I also must be reminded that when I do not live up to these goals, I should not feel shame or guilt but know that God loves me greatly and for Him there is no love gap.
What will we give up today, to close this love gap?
Saul persecuted people of the Way. He witnessed Steven being stoned to death. He was marching his way to Damascus to inflict more persecutions when Jesus Christ met him and confronted him about his activities.
Saul was blinded, filled with the Holy Spirit, regained his sight, became a Christ-follower and was baptized, then started proclaiming the name of Jesus in the synagogues.
After a little time he went to Arabia. For three years! This hard-charging man was in the desert for three years. His job was taken away as he no longer had a heart for it. He lost all of his friends, his co-workers, and those who were part of the mission to persecute people of the Way. His life completely changed.
What happened during these three years?
Could God have spent this time rebuilding the foundation of his life and faith? Saul had been going very hard for a very long time, possibly never stopping. (This sounds oddly familiar to me.) How cool it would have been to eavesdrop on the conversations between Saul and God.
Maybe during this time he learned to be content?
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Maybe he learned about Jesus’ grace and what Jesus had given up for him and everyone?
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Maybe he learned how to live and what to die for?
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Maybe he learned to count others more significant than himself?
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Maybe he learned to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) even when you have been beaten and thrown in jail?
“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23-25).
Maybe he learned that it is far better to give than to receive? (Acts 20:35) Undoubtedly Saul became Paul—a completely new man. It was that time away from everything and everyone except God that caused this change.
When was the last time you were away from everyone and everything except God? Are we missing the life we were created to live because we have not had our time away with God?
I’ve always thought Jesus was a foodie.
The feeding of the 5,000. Turning water into wine. The Last Supper. Even the resurrected Jesus had a barbeque for the disciples (John 21:9).
Once a foodie, always a foodie! I think He would love San Francisco restaurants.
When Jesus wasn’t praying, telling a parable, performing miracles, and travelling, I think He enjoyed some downtime—not in a place like Hawaii, but close to where He was doing the will of His Father. He relaxed and refreshed with close friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, at their home.
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home” (Luke 10:38).
Imagine the scene! Candles, good food, close friends, deep conversation, Jesus being served and cared for. He most likely departed feeling restored, filled up, and loved.
If Jesus needed this, don’t we?
I feel refreshed when I’m with close friends, usually one-on-one with no cell phones, dreaming of a generous and Christ-centered Bay Area. Just two hours can fill me up so much! Grabbing coffee—has to be iced coffee!—I love it. No travel. No plane. Not a lot of cost.
What do you do to get filled up?
Discipleship is important. It seems like more and more churches are taking this topic seriously and I’m hearing about it from a lot of people I trust.
But are we missing something when we discuss discipleship? There are 2,350 verses about money and possessions in the Bible. Jesus gave thirty-eight parables and sixteen of them were about money and possessions. Should we be including money and possessions when we are making disciples?
When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He stated:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 & 28:20a).
The Great Commission is so Great, as we know, because it was one of the last things Jesus said.
Can a person be a true disciple of Christ if the money and possessions with which they are entrusted are handled in a way that is outside of what the Bible teaches?
I believe we are missing something, something GREAT, if we handle money in a manner that is more in line with what we want than what King Jesus wants.
In the past, I never considered what God would have me do with my money. I can correlate, almost to the day, when Nicole and I started tithing to experiencing more joy in our lives. Then more joy came when we gave over and above the tithe. We started to be financially discipled by a fellow Certified Kingdom Advisor, Kalvin Sid, and budget coached by Brenda Haley. We started holding loosely what God had entrusted to us.
We were made into financial disciples and our lives have never been the same. How we view and handle the cash God has entrusted to us was turned right side up.
What do you think about the idea of making financial disciples?
“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”
Money has always played an important part in my life. As you can see from this picture, when I was younger I loved a lot of stuff—two TV’s on my desk (come on!) and if you take a closer look you can see a popular sticker from the 80’s: I love money.
Yep, that was me, and still is to a certain extent. I was raised with the idea that if I gained more money and “stuff,” my problems would be solved. I battle this mindset almost every day, but I have God’s word to help me, financial buddies with whom to talk to about money, and great resources to help further my education around the subject.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
When I achieved some financial success in my twenties, it created new problems and made the old problems much worse. Some of the new problems were that I felt a sense of entitlement because I had “made it,” in my mind, which combined with the pride I had, made for a miserable life. I thought the world revolved around me, and that all things that I was involved with should be to help further my own agenda in my life.
My love of money was preventing me from living the life God created me for. If I had continued on this “love of money” trajectory, I shiver to think what my life would consist of now.
I went very hard after money, and when I achieved financial goals, I was left with a deep emptiness which eventually led to a great anger that I had been duped. At times I felt it was just me and my money because I had no real relationships.
Thanks to God’s hand on my life and the partnership of my wife Nicole, I no longer love money the way I used to. It’s been a long road and I’ll continue to work toward Godliness in this area, but together Nicole and I have been learning to submit our financial lives to the Lord, and funny enough, we rarely argue about money like we used to. Maybe we’re on to something! We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re not where were before.
How about you? What is your money story and what part is currently being written?
We all want to be marveled at, don’t we? Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to chase after adoration from strangers and friends alike. We put ourselves out there on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and every social media outlet you can think of—including blogs! Our goal is to be marveled at—for people to think we are special.
I’m guilty of this, and it’s a battle I fight daily.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “marvel” as “one that evokes surprise, admiration, or wonder.” That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. We want to be admired and “liked.” Isn’t that one of the main drivers getting us to these social media sites so often?
But what if we had a different mindset? What if everything we did, we did with the goal of being marveled at by Jesus?
Think of the centurion who inspired Jesus to say these words:
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).
Jesus was really impressed by the Centurions faith; so much so that He wanted to tell others. Jesus even added emphasis, using the equivalent of “I’m telling you!” Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith.
I want so badly for Jesus to be impressed with my faith and with all of my actions. But I fall short. I still care more about what others think than what Jesus thinks.
This is changing! I’m headed in the right direction, but it’s a fight every day.
How about you? How are you doing when it comes to being marveled at by Jesus and others?
In 1907 my Grandmother was born. Lulla Belle Stewart. She was an amazing, strong, feisty woman. I loved her so much. Most importantly, she loved the Lord. She came to Christ later in life even though she was born and raised in Kentucky.
In 2010 my son Luke was born. He too is feisty, strong and may turn out amazing. Who knows? My prayer is that he will love Jesus more and more every day, much like his great-grandmother did.
I was born in 1972. I’m thinking if things work out, I could have a great-grandson born in 2072.
Yes, I have a problem. But maybe I will live to 100 and see this young whipper-snapper?
I often think of what my legacy will be. What characteristics of mine will show up in that young baby boy in 2072?
I try and live my life as if I will not live till the end of 2016, much less until 2072. I struggle with how much I need to show, teach, and love Luke now so he will keep it going with his children, and others beyond our family.
As we know, Jesus had 33 years on earth. I am 10 years past that and thinking I’m living on borrowed time. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it is because I think of this verse often:
“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Time is running out to love fully, laugh a lot, and to make the greatest impact in this life I’ve been given.
One day my story will be over so I want to live and love fully while I still can. Sadly, some of my time is spent comparing myself to others; in self-doubt; and being jealous of friendships I wish I had.
How about you? What do you think of when you think of your legacy?
How do you stay focused on making the greatest impact possible and avoid wasting energy on petty worries?
Surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.
Chip Ingram, “The Real God”
Right after Nicole and I got married, we started fighting a lot. Mostly about money, but also related to what we should be doing (calendar and calling) and how we were going to do it. Little did Nicole know that she had married a big jerk!
During this rough time in our marriage, I came up with one statement that I would repeat when we began to argue. I was having trouble winning these arguments (many men might be familiar with this), so I gave up and said:
“I don’t care where we live, what we do for a living, or how much money we make. I just want you, me and any children we have to be Christ-followers.”
That was in 2006.
That is still the theme of my life today. Although I struggle with this, it’s what I want—with one addition.
Not only is it my fervent wish that my family follow Christ, my desire has expanded to everyone else as well. Everyone! It’s my prayer that we all would live as God intended.
That’s a big, audacious prayer. But I think God loves those kinds the best; especially when they are in line with His desires too.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
How about you? What do you want?
When you look at Paul’s life, was He confused as to what He wanted? “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
How about Jesus—confused? No, of course not, He was never confused. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
My prayer is that we would seek God in order to know what we want; and that we would ask God for those things, no matter how outrageous, with full faith that he will answer.
You are the light of the world.
Being raised an only child, when I was growing up everything revolved around me. Even when I was older, this continued, and I often felt frustrated when things didn’t go my way.
This is a battle I fight to this day. It gets worse around my birthday, November 13th, and continues until college football crowns another champion for the year.
So this year, I’m changing the game plan. Instead of focusing on myself and my issues, I am attempting to be strategic and do the following:
- Focus on things above. “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:2).
- Seek God’s Kingdom first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
- Think of others more than myself. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
An event to kick off the holidays.
On Facebook, I have created a page that says the following:
I am turning 44 on November 13 and I need your help. During the Christmas Season, every year, I get the blues and I act like a GRUMP! On Sunday, November 13th, join me at Yerba Buena Gardens from 1:30-3:30 pm. There are 4 things that would make me happy (not 44).
– Give me a hug
– High-five me for making it to age 44
– Consider throwing the Frisbee with me.
– Bring a small gift card ($5-$10)
If you want to join, put it in the comments and we look forward to seeing you then!
What I plan to do with the gift cards is give them out to strangers during the next month, sharing with them that this gift is from God, and that the greatest gift ever is Jesus.
I hope you can join me this Christmas Season as we learn to be more and more like Christ.
Contentment does not come from what we have, but who we know.
You will never be bored doing what God wants you to do.
I’ve always liked numbers. Growing up I played the card game Cribbage and memorized dozens baseball statistics of professional baseball players.
I’ve never been much of a reader or a writer. It was all about the numbers.
My Dad and I decided that I would major in accounting in college and work for a Big 6 firm, but after taking accounting in college, I decided it was not for me. I was still focused on “numbers” so I got a job at a local bank. This turned into a career in giving financial advice and this is where I have been since. My entire career has been about money.
In 2006, a pivot occurred as I began reading the Bible consistently. With this, many things began to change as I got to know God more and more. I became more familiar with His ways. I am still a work in progress, but one thing is absolutely true:
“When I’m with You (God), I feel the real me breaking through.”
You may recognize this song lyric by the band Citizen’s Way.
All my life, I’ve had so many strong influencers—bosses, family, friends—that have prevented the real me from coming out. My own bad decisions haven’t helped! The decision to focus on numbers and ignore the importance of reading and writing kept me from discovering something I was created to do: share thoughts and ideas with words.
For years I thought I wrote poorly, and I was scared to speak in public. This is frightening! A big part of my life could have gone undiscovered if I hadn’t spent the time to get to know God. I could have just kept going my own way and missing a part of who I was created to be.
How about you? What have you discovered about yourself by spending more time with God?
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” Isaiah 41:10.
*Lyric from “When I’m With You” by the band Citizen Way. See their website here
I used to play a lot of golf and really enjoyed it. I am a competitive person and I thrived on being teamed with my good buddy Duane and playing against another two-person team. I was my best when I followed my “pre-set routine” and was really relaxed. Having a regular “rhythm” allowed me to perform my best under pressure.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35 ESV). Jesus had His rhythms, too. He had His calendar in order—perfectly in line with what God wanted.
Jesus also had many days of pressure, real pressure, not like I faced on the golf course. Can you even imagine the trials He faced—including many we don’t know about—to knock Him off the course God had him on?
What role did rhythms play in His life? What role can my rhythms play in my life to help me with the challenges I face?
Jesus came down to earth for many things, one to be a perfect role model for me and for you. In addition to my golf routine, I have a morning routine, but sometimes it feels like a dull boring practice that I labor through in order to check the box and feel somewhat good about myself.
I need God to refuel me each morning, give me perspective and talk to me. I need to feel His presence. I need time to thank God for giving me breath, at least for the moment. It doesn’t work this way all of the time, but when it does, it’s amazing and I feel like I’m ready to tackle my day. I have tried to skip my morning routine and something always goes wrong—I end up either irritable, anxious or just plain upset with something or someone.
I am very curious to know if there are other rhythms I could adopt that would prepare me for when I meet Him one day. Feel free to share your ideas. What are the rhythms you see as important to help you become all that God wants you to be?
I want so badly to mirror my King Jesus and rise early in the morning and pray to my Heavenly Father.
I try and think often of what I need to give up or say no to in order to make Jesus my priority.
What are somethings that you have given up to make Jesus your priority like Jesus made God the Father His priority?