Learn by Example

One way God develops us is through the wisdom of others. He will place nuggets of teaching through those who are older than us and who we look up to.

Throughout junior high, I remember telling others that I wanted to be like my Dad. I appreciated the way he worked hard to provide and care for the family, was involved in church, and that he loved Mom. I also had my fair share of rebellion as I grew up but no matter what he didn’t judge me, reject me, or make fun of me.

We have made our father/son relationship more of a priority over the last year by committing to a monthly breakfast meeting. The food is great, but that’s not why I show up. I’m there to share what’s going on in my life, ask what’s happening in his, and to gain wisdom and encouragement. It is my favorite meeting of the month.

It’s also the meeting that makes the most sense. As I strive to be a husband, Dad to four, and a follower of Christ, it is critical to have someone to share with me their navigation of those seas. For me, it’s my Dad. One of the many passages in the Bible that stresses the importance of mentoring and having people being available to God to shape others in His image is this:

1 Peter 5:1-6
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

Who are those mentors in your life who have helped get you to where you are today? I shared about my Dad, but there are many other critical people who have taken time to invest in me as well.

For you, it might be a teacher, pastor, family member, coach, or a friend who has invested their wisdom, knowledge and experience into your life. Remember these people and do not forget the time they took to invest in you.

Question: Who has helped you get to where you are today? Click here to comment.

Chasing the Wrong Thing

I put pressure on myself to get married by age 22.

All throughout college, finding a girlfriend and getting married was the goal. That sounds like the plot to another crappy “American Pie” movie, but it’s true. My three-plus year relationship had come to a screeching halt during the dead of winter, sophomore year, and I was crushed.

The two-below-zero temperatures outside felt like 200-below.

I don’t know why age 22 was my target for getting married. Maybe it’s because I had it stuck in my head that that was around that age of my parents when they brought me into the world and I felt internal pressure to “keep pace.” I’m not even certain of their age though, and that makes my “Married by 22″ declaration even more ridiculous.

Now, after the breakup and without a girlfriend, at 21 years old, I was left to search. But I was searching for the wrong thing: another girlfriend to replace the one I had lost.

Psalm 91 is a Psalm about God’s faithfulness. God is our refuge, our fortress, He saves us, and protects us. God is faithful no matter the circumstances, good or bad. He’s there whether you feel like it or not:

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection. The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

-Psalm 91:1-4, 14-16 NLT

God knew I didn’t need another girlfriend. He knew I desired a wife. He also knew that my first love is to be the Lord, a lesson that took me a couple years to acknowledge.

Two years after the breakup, I prayed for God to be my focus and desire. It was a re-commitment of sorts when I put down the video game controller and picked up the Bible. I was praying more regularly and making decisions to honor God with my time, money, and in my relationships with family and friends. By no means was I perfect, but my first love became clear: God.

A short while later, Liz and I met. And in a flash we were married. Not because we had to beat the buzzer on an age limit, but because we realized the faithfulness of God and the work he had done in our lives.

He was faithful.  He simply needed me to be faithful as well.

Everybody’s journey is different as they grow in Christ, but God’s faithfulness is always the same. Thank God for his faithfulness and take comfort in knowing He will always be there for you.

Question: How have you experienced God’s faithfulness throughout your life? Click here to comment.

Jump!

The story is told of a young boy who liked to jump into the arms of his father. The son would stand at the top of the stairs and leap gleefully into his dad’s secure arms. But, the rule was, the boy was only to jump after he heard his father’s voice inviting him to take flight.

One night, the father changed the game. The boy, anticipating this nightly routine, stood perched at the top of the stairs waiting for the familiar voice of his father. But this time, the father turned off the hall lights and the boy could not see the face of his father or the strong arms that always caught him in mid-flight.

“Jump!” the father shouted.

“I can’t see you,” came the wary reply of the son.

Again, the father gave the usual command, “Jump!” “But I can’t see you,” said the boy with fear rising in his voice. The father’s response was calm and sure. “Jump!” And, with terror in his heart, the boy leaped into the air and landed safely and securely in his father’s arms.

This is a great story illustrating the concepts of faith and trust!

In the story of Peter walking on water, we often the focus on Peter’s lack of faith as he begins to sink. But what if this story really isn’t about lack of faith, but rather what a person can experience if he or she takes the invitation of Jesus seriously?  Check it out:

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “ Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
-Matthew 14:27-29

Peter’s response to Jesus is amazing and bold.  It’s as if he was playing a game of “Truth or Dare.”

Motive aside, we know that Jesus invited Peter to join Him on the water.  As Peter gets out of the boat he learns that Jesus can be trusted as he experiences the impossible.

Today, Jesus invites you to Him.  No matter how dark or hopeless your situation seems, get out of the boat and follow!

Question: What is in the way of stepping out of the boat?  Click here to comment.

Remember Who You Are

My 9th grade basketball coach made it clear to our team: “Ben is the 3-point shooter.”  He designed four specific inbound plays for our team to run when we had to get the ball in from underneath our basket.  All four of these plays worked to get me a 3-point shot and there wasn’t any confusion.  That coach gave me the most clear description for who I was as a player and what role I was to fill on the team.

The Apostle Paul was clear about his identity as well.  There wasn’t much confusion in how Paul saw himself.  No lack of clarity once God had taken a hold of him and told him who he was.

In today’s world, it is easy to be confused about who we are or what we’re to do.  We don’t understand the core of our identity and need to claim who God is and what that means for our life.  Make these statements your own.  Know it, live it!

“I follow Christ.” When the disciples were first called Christians, it was because they were “like Christ.” Their beliefs were worked out in the actions of their lives. They joined Jesus on a journey. Believe that God has called you to this journey as well…to a life-long process of being conformed to His image.

“I’m a regular guy/gal.” Many of us struggle with thinking we are the center of the universe. There’s only one star in the Kingdom of God – and it’s not you or me. His name is Jesus.

“I’m called to make a difference.” Jesus’ plan was to make His love real to people through us, His followers. Be an influence or be influenced.

“I love life.” In light of eternity, we are given a small amount of time on this planet. Jesus said that He has come to give us life to the full. While we’re here, let’s finish the race, fight the good fight, and keep the faith.

“I am not finished, not even close.” Look for God at work and you will see him.Pray for more of Jesus, more of His love, more of His power in your life, more of His nature living in and through you.

Question: What would you add to the list of claiming your identity in Christ? Click here to comment.

The JV Squad

Selecting teams for “tackle football” each day on the playground was the highlight of my entire fifth grade year.  If I wasn’t one of the captains picking teams then I was certainly one of the first picks.  It felt good to know that I was a leader on the playground football field.

When choosing his team, Jesus didn’t go with the best available.  At least not in the world’s eyes.  He went with the weak and dependent.  There was nothing special about the twelve men Jesus gathered as disciples, they were passed over as rabbis and most of them left to be fishermen.

I’m guessing Jesus would have picked the boys playing jump rope to come on over and be on his playground football team during recess.

When choosing the disciples, Jesus could have gone to the temples and chosen those who had memorized the Torah. He could have recruited men of influence and good standing. He could have chosen those who were popular or wealthy. Instead, he took the least of these. He looked past the most obvious apprentices, approached some fishermen and simply said, “Follow me.” They did:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.” And they left their nets at once and followed him. -Matthew 4:19-20

Check out some of the descriptions the Appendix of the Bible uses to fill us in on the characteristics of the disciples: treacherous, greedy, doubtful, despised, judgmental, short-tempered, and impulsive. These were people who struggled with imperfections.  Think you can relate?

What made the disciples stand out is that they were willing to leave everything behind to follow Jesus.  There is no need to improve yourself before you try to follow Jesus.  Get up and go!

Jesus has picked you first.  He believes in you and knows what you can do through him.

Question: Jesus asked the fishermen to drop their nets and follow, what is he asking you to leave behind?  Click here to comment.