Forward thinking

Advice from a mountain

During Christmas break some dear friends of ours let us use their cabin in Winter Park.  This was a tremendous blessing to our family.  It was a joy to spend mornings in our “jammies”, afternoons walking and sledding, and evenings gathered around hot soup and fun family games.  On our last day we stopped by one of the many tourist trap shops in downtown and found this wall hanging that caught my eye.Image

As you and I look to this next year with anticipation, there is much truth and wisdom found in this cheesy-chic decoration.

Reach New HeightsThe LORD came down on the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses climbed the mountain. Exodus 19:20 NLT

God is calling each of us to greater and newer heights of faith, sacrifice, joy and service.  I love Moses’ simple response.  He climbed.  He didn’t second-guess.  He didn’t argue.  He didn’t put it off until it better suited his timing.  He started climbing.  Will you and I do the same?

Rise Above It AllDon’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.   Romans 12:21 NLT

Dysfunction is all around.  From personal, family relationships to natural disasters to the evil men do to one another.  The way of the Cross is to rise above.  The best response, the best way to soar is to overwhelm evil’s machinations with the transforming Good of the Kingdom of Heaven.

There Is Beauty As Far As The Eye Can SeeHonor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Psalm 96:6

All of creation points to the grandeur and wonder of God.  The psalmist is overcome when considering the loveliness of the LORD.  When was the last time you were cognizant of the beauty of God?  Have you acknowledged His signature in the sunset?  Or His authorship in the sweeping vistas of nature?  In 2013 intentionally choose to sink deep into the beauty of God.

Be UpliftingI’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other. Romans 1:12 NLT

How might your relationships change if by the end of this year people would say of you, “He(she) is the most encouraging person I know.”?  Lifting other’s up is one of the best ways to root out the sickness of selfishness in our hearts.  Sharing an encouraging word costs you nothing but becomes an investment with unlimited returns in others.

Patience, Patience, PatienceFinishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLT

Most of us give up before we see the blessing.  We grow weary, distracted and disillusioned often just before the breakthrough comes.  Training for, and running a marathon has helped hammer this idea into me.  Patience is about faithfully putting one foot in front of the next in anticipation of a “finish line” that cannot yet be seen.  Have the resiliency, and patience to pray through whatever lies ahead of you.

Get To The PointFor the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT

Too often I have depended on the “Osmosis Method of Evangelism”.  Trusting that the simple presence of my faith will somehow ooze its way across the membranes of doubt and unbelief of those I meet.  When was the last time you clearly articulated the Truth of the Gospel to someone?  Do not trust in actions alone; get to the point of salvation.

Enjoy the view!I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11 NIV

Scripture is clear…a grumpy Christian is an oxymoron.  Joy is one of the best evangelism tools we have.  We must choose it and use it, daily.  Christ does not offer us partial joy.  It is not a 50% option.  His joy in us equals our joy topping out and flowing to others.

I encourage you to take these seven simple exhortations and doggedly apply them to your daily life.  So that 2013 will usher in a new season of Kingdom living for you and those you love.

Joel Thomas

Things I won’t change

It is not the things you cannot change that hold you back.  It is the things you won’t.

This phrase popped into my head as I charged up a beautiful autumn hillside outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.  A close friend of mine had invited me to come and spend a few days of rest and renewal.  It was in the midst of this much-needed “r and r” that the Holy Spirit dropped these two lines in my head.

Since that trail run two weeks ago, I have returned to these sentences often; asking God to reveal the truth and depth of them in my life.  Here is what I have learned thus far.

1. I am not a victim.

We live in a culture that would have us believe that the difficulties in our lives are the result of forces leveraged against us.  Whatever the pain in your life, you are not the cause of it.  You are a simple and innocent bystander in the story of your life.  If you’re overweight, it’s a glandular problem—not your fault.  If you’ve been passed over for promotion, it’s because someone else is keeping you down, and you’ve been taken advantage of—not your fault.  If your marriage has fallen apart, it’s your spouse’s responsibility.  She just won’t take the time to communicate better—not your fault.  Your sex life with your wife is unfulfilling, if only she understood your needs better—not your fault.  If your children are bitter and distant, it’s because of their rebellious natures, not because of your parenting skills—not your fault.  Too often our culture tells us to take a pill, read another “self help” book, or move on if the going gets tough.  That is so rarely true it’s laughable.  Nine times out of ten, I am responsible for the circumstances in my life.  If I want things to change, I need to get on my knees, seek the Father and get busy becoming the Man of God He calls me to be.

2.  I have made some unhealthy agreements.

I have become such a masterful liar, that I can even lie to myself.  I’m sure you can relate.  There are so many things that I’ve “agreed” not to change or address about my life.  See if any of these ring true for you.  “I’m too busy to have a daily time with Jesus.”—baloney.  “My kids will understand that I can’t play with them right now.”—phooey.  “My wife knows I need this promotion.  She’ll understand if I can’t be there.”—bogus.  “I have to lie a little if I’m going to get ahead.”—wrong.  There is much more that each of us control than we like to admit.  Unhealthy agreements delay self-actualization and holy redemption.  They must be avoided at all costs.

This past weekend I attended an event titled, “The Rising – men rising to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”  If any of us are to truly rise, we must wholeheartedly embrace points one and two.  I am always the largest obstacle in the way of becoming all that God has called me to be.

Questions:

What are the things in your life that are “holding you back”?

Be painfully honest and evaluate if rather than being something you “cannot” control, its something you won’t.

List out some unintentional unhealthy agreements that have been shaping your attitudes.

Take each on that list and offer them as a prayer to God.

Example:

Dear Father I have unintentionally agreed that I cannot change my circumstances.  Give me the sight to see beyond that lie.  Help me to own my mistakes and help me to move beyond them.  Give me the courage and the strength to change.  In Jesus name, amen.

Joel Thomas