Invincible

The battle had been relentless. If spectators had been watching it, they would have been surprised anyone was standing after the smoke cleared. But a champion stood, at least for that day.

Love Fights 01Actually, the clash seemed unfair at the start. It was One combatant against an entire army of dragons. The army was a formidable collection of beasts armed from head to tail, literally. They breathed fire. They flew. Their tails had razor-like edges. Their bite was as powerful as a crocodile. They were as fast as lightning and as frightening as thunder. The battle hardened dragons were brutal and ruthless savages who always pressed their attack to conquer and destroy.

Love FightsThe One combatant was a strong adversary. He was a massive presence with arms and legs resembling the trunks of mighty oak trees. His eyes burned with passion. His shield was hammered from the fires of Heaven made of metal no earthly man could match. With the strength of his swing, His sword was able to slice a mortal in half. His armor was like burnished bronze covering his massive chest. Indeed, he was a foe to be feared. Though the dragons outnumbered him, this One would not go down easily.

From the very first moment of their confrontation, He unleashed his fervor attacking first by flailing his sword and shield in every direction almost at once. One dragon, then two, then three dropped to the ground almost immediately. They did not anticipate such power and agility or such viciousness. Their enemy was just as brutal as they, unwilling to take prisoners. He fought valiantly and violently holding nothing back.

The other dragons stealthily surrounded him. From all sides, their bursts of fire and razor-like tails inflicted significant wounds on His back and arms. One swooped from behind and pierced an eye with his tail while another’s bite drew blood from his thigh. The intense pain forced the One to drop to His knees and roll in agony. Surprisingly, the roll was an evasive move as well for He rose to his feet in a commanding roar that parted the clouds. He fought back with greater fierceness and the battle raged on. One dragon after another dropped to the ground. Some hobbled away. Others rebounded and fought harder. The army and the One fought each other relentlessly for hours. Both sides matched blow for blow. Neither would back down.

love fights 05After what seemed like forever, the dragons became weary. But the One seemed to gain strength the longer he fought. In fact, he kept pressing the attack. One by one by one, the dragons faltered and quit. As the sun set that evening, the One had stood His ground. His power and presence was overwhelming. He was too much for the army of dragons that day.

 

Who is this victorious combatant? It’s GOD’S love.

What is GOD’S love fighting for? You.

You are the pearl of great price. You are the hidden treasure. He’s pursuing, calling and fighting for you . . . to win your truest and deepest affection. You are the one He would give everything for.

Innumerable dragons of distraction surround you every single day. They attack your heart calling for your attention. They are the dragons of pride, unforgiveness, greed, laziness, despair and fear, among others. They are powerful foes whose sole purpose is to destroy you. They’re shrewd, cunning and deceitful. And they are relentless. Every single day brings a new battle to your heart. On your own, you cave in. At times, you do not even realize it.

But there is One fighting for you. It’s GOD’s love. You may have never realized it, but this vicious beast fights against the temptations that attack your heart and draw you into situations that are too much for you. His love knows what’s at stake. If you go down a path once, you will go down it again. And if you keep going down that path, it will disable your heart, imprison you and ultimately destroy you. So GOD’s love fights relentlessly for you, to keep you from the deceitful attacks. That’s why He pursues you and combats the dragons. Come what may the One is in the fray and will never back down or give up. No matter the cost, He will fight for your heart until the bloody end.

GOD’s love invites you to choose Him – every single moment. He sings over you at night and quiets your heart. Then every morning, GOD’S love waits for you to get up. When you do, He beckons you to a life of purpose and meaning, the very desires of your heart that get lost in the demonic distractions pulling you away from His calling.

love fights 07Today you look back and you can see it, can’t you? You can see where you caved and got lost along the way. Perhaps you still are. GOD’S love is still fighting for your heart. The dragons fight against His love every day. They tell you to doubt Him, but you know His love is true. Regardless of how hard it is right now for you, His love for you is true.

Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. “

Today, give the One a fighting chance. Choose GOD’S love over the temptations. Because He’s already paid the ultimate price for you on a cross. All the demons of hell could not keep Jesus in the grave. And now every single day, He’s fighting the forces of darkness on your behalf. Give Him a fighting chance. Let GOD love you today and see what happens.

 

 

Advertisements

Where Have You Drawn the Line?

marriageline02Have you ever said, “Well, this is where I draw the line,” meaning that you made a decision to go no further in the compromise. Perhaps you allowed something to happen once or twice or more, but on that day you drew the line, took a stand and chose to fight rather than give in.

The line defined the thing you would fight for.

So, have you drawn a line somewhere in your marriage?

If you are fighting, you’ve drawn a line.

Now ask: Where is that line? What are you fighting?

Is it money? Is it sex? Is it the in-laws? Is it parenting?

Is it worth the fight?

What if you win? Will it help your marriage? Strengthen it? Grow your love? Bring health?

Unknowingly couples can draw a line that looks like this.

marriageline

It’s the line that clearly defines where each one stands. One is pulling one way while another is pulling the other. Your stance toward each other is setting you up for failure. Consider what would happen if you drew a line like this.

marriage line 1

Rather than fighting in your marriage, fight for your marriage.”

If you drew the line around you instead of between you, it would shift everything. You would fight for your marriage rather than fight in  your marriage. What a difference that would make. It would give you pause to wonder:

Is this deal so important that I will pull away from my spouse?” If it is, then it must be incredibly significant. So yeah, fight for it. Only a precious few things are more important than your marriage.

“Do I want to say this?” What you are about to say can cause irreparable damage. A derogatory word has a more powerful and longer lasting impact than a punch to the face. Do not throw caution to the wind when verbally sparing with your spouse.

“What is really going on here?” Is the problem the problem? Often it is not. Your disagreement may be a symptom of the real problem, which may be fear or selfishness or manipulation. Is something else happening beneath the surface that no one has seen or is afraid to say?

 “Why am I so defensive?” It is not just your spouse’s flaws that are surfacing in this argument, is it? Are you seeing yourself in this moment? Are you listening to your words? Are you paying attention to your thoughts? Instead of fixing your spouse, you can begin to fix you.

“What if I win?” Okay, so what if you’re right, but your victory ends up being another nail in the coffin. Marriages do not dissolve over one argument. They dissolve as two move further and further away from each other. The relationship is more important than being right.

 

Do you see how different those simple questions change everything about your argument? Fighting for your marriage rather than fighting in your marriage is an incredible game changer for you and your spouse.

It means drawing the line in the right place, which will make all the difference in your marriage. So stop a moment today and ask: Where am I drawing the line? Is it around or between? If it’s between, ask why. Get to the bottom of that question and you two can begin to move in the right direction – together instead of apart.

 

Thankful – You Made It

Thanksgiving blogIt was a long road, wasn’t it?  Uphill with the wind in your face. Step by step in unbearable heat. And that was before you got to the mountainous part. That’s when the path became steep and treacherous. You felt overwhelmed and desperate. You carried fear on your back. It seemed hopeless. Perhaps you can identify with the character, Christian from the book, Pilgrim’s Progress.

His journey is one that most of us travel. He and his friend, Hopeful, are going through a rough part of the journey where there’s suffering. Then one evening they come to a fork in the road and discover an easier way to the right. So they take that path and that night, they fall asleep in a place called Bypath Meadow, feeling happy and satisfied. They have no idea it is the land of the Giant Despair. The next morning he awakens them with loud accusations of trespassing and takes them to his castle by force. He is a brute and once they arrive, the Giant beats them and locks them in the dungeon. The next morning, He enters the dark and cold prison and beats them again. He tells them to give up. And. He. Does. This. Every. Single. Morning.

discouragementPerhaps the challenges of your life have been enormous, even overwhelming. You’ve felt desperate. Perhaps even like Job, you’ve cursed the day you were born. Your soul has been assailed by the Giant Despair. Every morning he has beat your soul until it was bruised and bloody. You wondered, “Is there an end to this road? A rest stop maybe?” You hated that mountain, that long road, the evil giant and that dark night.

But look at you today. Here you stand – stronger, resilient, more confident, and courageous.

A deeper faith, a wider love with an aroma of grace surrounding you.

Compassion has become you.

The blood you’ve shed has been costly.

The wounds have become scars and the scars are reminders of the battles you fought. Some you won. Some you lost. But still, Here you stand.

So be thankful –

That you had the courage to get up every day.Thanksgiving blog 05

That you fought the battles.

That you climbed the hills.

That you ran the race.

And as a result, those dark and difficult seasons of life have transformed you. You can be thankful for the mountains, the giants and the struggles. They’ve made you who you are. They’ve made you more than you were.

I’ve appreciated the words of Fleming Rutledge on numerous occasions,

The life of thankfulness is lived in view of the hard things of existence. As the life of thanksgiving deepens, we discover that the more mature prayers of thanks are not offered for the obvious blessings, but those spoken in gratitude for obstacles overcome, insights gained, lessons learned, increased humility, help received in time of need, strength to persevere, opportunities to serve others.

Those challenging, perhaps painful, seasons of life have had great significance because they shaped you.thanksgiving blog 04

Look at you now – a clearer vision, greater strength, deeper faith, confident hope and a most powerful love. You’ve become more. So be thankful. GOD has brought you through and He will get you home.

 

What J.D. Said to Emma

It’s been 30 plus years since that fateful night I took my wife, Kim, on our first date. I picked her up in my Candy Apple Red Ford pickup and took her to the Sugar Bowl . . . in New Orleans . . . via the Murdock’s television. We watched the game with numerous friends and had a blast. I think Georgia lost, but that night I didn’t care. I was sitting next to the most amazing woman in the room and that was all that mattered. She still is.

married happy 01If you’ve been married very long (20 + years), then you’ve been through it. It’s impossible to walk through two decades of marriage and not face huge difficulties along the way. In case you don’t know this, hard times are what you sign up for at the wedding altar. Surely you didn’t expect your marriage to become an intimate relationship without some friction, did you? It’s impossible for two people to get close without creating friction.

And so it happens. The friction, that is. Perhaps it’s something no one can really help, like a job loss, a cancer diagnosis, or an emotional breakdown. Sometimes the choices could have been helped. Regardless, the days of struggle go on and on and on. The weeks become a season of your life. You get tired. Anger, fear, hurt and disappointment visit every single day. Emotions run high. Thoughts get distorted. Words fly. The volume gets turned up. You lay awake on your side of the bed wondering if staying together is the right choice. After all, you don’t feel that love anymore, like you used to. You aren’t happy either. Like birds, your love and happiness have flown away to another nest. Surely you can find them again. In another place? With another person?

So how do you stay? How does one make a marriage happy again? How does a couple stick it out?

married happyLet me tell you about the Watsons – J. D. and Emma. You’ve never heard of them, but they were married for 76 years. Yes, 76 years. Lived in the little town of West Bank, just outside of Wenntoba for most of those years. What was the secret of their long and lasting marriage? It all began when J.D. proposed to Emma via mail. That’s right. He mailed her a letter. He had made some bad choices and was arrested. The county jail awakened J.D. to his foolishness and he was deeply regretful. He feared losing Emma. As a result, sitting on his cell bunk, he wrote her and proposed:

“Perhaps you are wondering, Emma, what I want out of marriage. In a few words,

I want you to talk to me so I can learn to listen.

I want you to forgive me so I can experience grace.

I want you to need me so I can learn to serve.

I want you to challenge me so I can grow.

I want you to take risks so I can learn to trust.

I want you to succeed so I can honor you.

I want you to fail so I can give encouragement.

I want you to struggle so I can support you.

I want you to be honest so I can learn to be genuine.

I want you to be caring so I can learn to receive compassion.

I want you to be patient so I can learn to be patient.

That’s what I want out of this marriage. I want to change.

To become more than I am

So you can do the same.

The more I become a better me,

The more you’ll become a better you,

And together we’ll become a better we.

Then you will know that you are deeply loved.

And I will know what it is to love deeply.

That’s what I want out of marriage.”

 

My wife’s husband is far from perfect, and I mean very far, but still he’s come a long way since that Sugar Bowl date on New Year’s Day. Along the journey, he’s become a better he and she’s become a better she and together they’ve become a better them. Through better and worse (no, they’ve never talked divorce), Bruce and Kim have undergone thorough transformations. The struggles have turned out for good so far. But transformation is still happening.

married happy 02When the individuals of a marriage choose to change and mature through the seasons of marriage, the love grows and the home becomes stronger. Why? It is because growing people recognize and own their flaws, but refuse to stay the way they are. Instead they choose the path of transformation and in the process their love grows as they grow. Consequently, they make the marriage happy rather than the marriage making them happy.

If you are not happy in your marriage right now, perhaps this moment is for asking yourself how you are growing personally. What strides are you making toward transformation? Are you growing qualities like self-control or patience or humility or gratitude.

It’s your intentional willingness to grow and change that will make your marriage last. Growth is not easy or exciting, but it creates an environment where love and happiness can blossom. That’s what J.D. wanted out of marriage and that’s what he got. So can you.

 

The Lessons that Can’t be Taught; Only Learned

My wife and I were sitting at a busy intersection waiting for the traffic light to turn green. We had recently moved to start a church. The past two years had been a very different time in our lives. They had been very difficult also. We were discussing how those previous two years had impacted our family when she asked an insightful question,

“Have you ever thought this move is more about our boys than it is us?”

That’s where the conversation paused. That moment lingered for a very long time.

Part of our desire in jumping off the cliff of church planting (which is the way I saw it) was the opportunity to experience GOD’S faithfulness. We wanted people to know that you could trust Him with everything and that He was sufficient. We especially wanted our sons to experience a faith that was real and alive, more than a Sunday morning activity. We wanted them to own it.

life is hard 02

During this time, our sons had a front row seat watching this drama unfold. They walked with us door to door asking residents how we could serve them. They gave out innumerable bottles of water. They loaded and unloaded sound equipment weekly. And they prayed. Boy did they pray. We had talked with them early on about the opportunities this move would provide, but we had not discussed the difficulties we would encounter because we didn’t know it would be so hazardous. However, as challenges arose, we told them (as much as they could handle). We invited them to hear and know what it was like to serve a GOD who responds in ways we cannot control and does things we cannot understand. Our family talked about the struggle to trust GOD was working in spite of our circumstances. Rather than shy away from discussing the difficult realities of walking with GOD, we talked about patience and disappointment. They saw GOD answer specific prayers and they also saw unanswered prayers. They waited on GOD to answer, only to get no answer. They have been frustrated and saddened with Him just like their parents.  They’ve also been surprised with Him and His sustaining strength.

No, we haven’t always been the best examples of people who walk by faith. But that’s never been our goal anyway. Our hope has been to be the most real examples of walking by faith. – to embrace the hardships, to let go of our dreams and to walk through confusing darkness with no light. Consequently, our family has experienced the splendid power, astonishing grace and great love of Jesus in the face of life’s challenges. Because in spite of what any of us endures, those three things will always be true.

life is hard 05

It was a lesson for us and it’s an encouragement that I pass along to other parents. When life is hard and your faith is being tested, don’t protect your children. Let them be as much a part of the challenge as they can handle, which means you need to discern what they can handle. Do not shield them from the difficulties because those moments are when they begin to see most clearly with eyes of faith. Talk with them about the trials. Don’t worry about being strong for them. Just be authentic with them. They need to know that questions, tears and confusion are as much a part of faith as peace and joy.

GOD is dangerous, in case you don’t know. He created cobras, tigers and tsunamis. Learning to love, trust and follow Him is a wild adventure that keeps you on your toes. When we shield our children from the common struggles, we are creating a false illusion. We are leading them to believe GOD keeps us safe if we will trust Him. But that’s false. GOD doesn’t protect us from trouble; He empowers us to live through trouble so that we overcome it. That’s the lesson we read in the Bible repeatedly. GOD did not protect people in the Bible from slavery, prison, physical or verbal abuse, poverty, disease or any such tragedies. But He did enable them to endure and overcome. That’s what He does for us. We parents model that kind of faith for our children. Life is hard, but GOD is sufficient for every harsh reality we face. The value of that one lesson cannot be overestimated. And if you learn it early, it will build a strong foundation for later.

life is hard 06

It’s been more than a decade since my wife’s insightful moment of clarity at that intersection.

“Have you ever thought this move is more about our boys than it is us?”

Her words have proven to be true on many levels. While we were focusing our attention on planting a church that would impact generations to come, GOD was quietly, but powerfully, working in the hearts of a teenage boy and his younger brother. His plans to prosper them and to give them a hope and a future involved a move, a new church and so much more. GOD was planting seeds of strength and wisdom in them. And has been watering them ever since.

life is hard 03

Be assured that He is doing the same in your children when life is tough. He is shaping them in ways you can’t imagine. In your darkness, GOD is calling your children to come to Him, to trust Him and to bring the depths of their hearts to Him. He is compelling them to say more than just Sunday School prayers of blessing the missionaries and helping the poor. They are learning to live in the disappointment. They are learning the struggle of prayer. They are learning of the deep love and enduring faithfulness of GOD. Those lessons can’t be taught; they can only be learned.

 

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”                                         

– Jesus

 

It’s Not Perfect Parenting

Love in the home is a presence.love and family 04

It’s like a mist in the forest that settles and rests among the trees.

You can feel it in the quiet air.

It is powerful sense of calm assurance, great joy, lasting faith and deep peace.

 

Where there is love at home, children will have:

 Courage to face the world,

 To overcome evil with good,

 To be light in the darkness,

 And peacemakers in the war.

 Healing when the world attacks and hurts them.

 

 Discipline when the dangerous spirit of rebellion invades,

 And Forgiveness when they succumb to that temptation.

 

Encouragement to dream

                      And to pursue those dreams.

       love and family 02Wisdom to navigate the waters of uncertainty,

And Grace if those dreams fail.

 

  Assurance to open up their hearts safely,

And to share what they discover.

Because there is no ridicule or sarcasm where there is love.

 

Truth to firmly ground them on a solid foundation,

And Discernment to uncover the lies that can destroy them.Love and Family

 

It’s not perfect parenting that sets up a child to succeed.

It’s love.

Love launches a child into the world of the unknown and at the same time, it draws them back home.

Children know that regardless of where they go or what they will encounter, home will be there, because

Love always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Dad & Son

Thankful for all those dads out there loving their children and helping them become all GOD created them to be. And thankful to be a dad!

 

 

The Wiser Choice for a Better Life

Don’t You Wish for Someone to Tell You How to Live?

“Ha Ha.” You chuckle. “I already have that person – my father.” Or, “Yeah, I get that all the time from my sister.”  I am guessing you are not happy to have that “advisor” watching you live and then giving you advice.

But what if you did? What if you did have someone who spoke into your life regularly?

wise counsel 04

I worked for several years with a local hospice agency. One of the more ordinary tasks I had was charting visits with patients and bereaved families. JCAHO, a national accrediting organization, would occasionally visit our office and check our charting. This aspect of our accreditation was critical. In order to make sure my charting met the industry standards, each month she would pick a random sampling of my charting and critique what I had recorded. At first, it was frustrating because it seemed like I always left out something and could have done something different, according to her. Although I had a great working relationship with my supervisor, I honestly did not like emailing her the chart information. Then one day the thought hit me that she was actually helping me. Her feedback was enabling me to do a better job. Rather than be frustrated with her remarks, I became grateful. It was a huge change of perspective for me. As a result, I was less stressed and did a better job.

Let me repeat my earlier question: Don’t you wish for someone to tell you how to live? If you did and you listened and made adjustments, just think what could happen. You could be less stressed and live a better life. Who doesn’t want that?

wise counsel

 

“Well, you don’t know my sister. She’s just nosy and besides, look at her life. Talk about problems.” Or “My dad is a Mr. Google. He knows everything. I can’t stand it when he tells me how to handle my money.”

My supervisor was not perfect. She made mistakes, but one fact was true: I trusted her. I knew that she had my best interests at heart as well as the best interests of our company. Who do you trust? Who has your best interests at heart? Who is the person you would want to speak into your life? Why don’t you ask him/her?

Seriously, take a moment and answer that question – why don’t you ask him/her? What keeps you from inviting someone into your life?

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”

-Proverbs 15:22, nlt

wise counsel 06Think about how great it would be to have someone who loved you watching you live? When you made a poor choice, he/she was willing to take the risk of offending you by asking you about your decision in private? Do you realize how much love that takes? And courage? To confront someone’s foolish decision? Would you want that responsibility?

Wouldn’t it be great to have someone say, “Stop _____” or “Start _____”? If you did, how would you respond? Would you listen? Would you take their advice? Would you get angry? Anger is often a good indicator of the truth. I know that I’ve gotten angry when people told me the truth. It hurt and I didn’t like it even if it was true. The truth spoken in love is a powerful antidote to foolishness.

What if your advisor is right? What if you did what she said and her advice took you up a road toward healing, strength and wisdom? But you would have missed it apart from her words of guidance.

It takes a great dose of humility to ask people for their input. Humility is one of the greatest steps toward success.

wise counsel 03Since you are reading this blog I assume you are open to the input of others, so here goes:

  1. Do you want to live a better life? Make better decisions? What area of your life do you want to improve?
  2. Who is someone you respect? Someone whose opinion and input you value? Someone who is living the kind of life you want to live? Perhaps it’s several people.
  3. What about his/her life do you admire?
  4. How could you invite him/her into your life?
  5. Are you willing to talk honestly? To listen? To do whatever he/she suggests?
  6. Now ask them – for feedback, for advice, for an honest opinion. Even for a small issue. Begin somewhere. Experience the value of being encouraged and guided.

wise counsel 02

Bottom Line: All of us need people we trust and respect to speak love and truth into our lives. The results of their input will be astounding. Their input will be a huge dose of regular encouragement. This kind of relationship could truly change your life. And the lives of your children and spouse and parents and close friends. It will be one of the wisest choices you make.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”

– Proverbs 12:15, nlt

 

Find inspiration from my two books, Found my Heart When I Lost my Way and Make It Count. You can get either from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) or from me personally via Facebook or Twitter.