I am struggling today.  This isn’t a physical battle.  It is however a battle for my mind.

Recently, a friend of mine decided it was time to move out of New York.  He made that decision after watching the financial and mental burden the New York City and Long Island area have placed on its residents.  He decided to make his family life better; leaving this area would be the best decision.  So far, he has been right.

For years, I have dreamed of leaving New York and going to other places that have not only been more affordable but less stressful, a place where I can raise my kids without the pressures of having to work infinite hours and spend more time with them.  I have dreamt of being able to sit outside at night and see the stars thinking about the wonders God has created in the heavens.  Being able to go outside in the early morning hours and sit and spend time with God in the quietness of the outdoors.  Listening to the calm breeze while pondering the greatness of the God I serve.

Unfortunately, this has not been my lot.  I live in an area where busyness is just a way of life.  Wake up, get dressed, get stuck in traffic, go to work for 9 to 10 hours per day, come home, help with the family, study then sleep and do it all over again the next day.  The non-stop pressure builds and builds only for my body and mind to stop properly functioning causing me to sit back for a day to wonder why I don’t feel so well.  This busyness causes less time with my family and more time going from one thing to the next.  So you would think that it is a no-brainer for me to pick up my family, quit my job and leave, right?

Getting up and leaving suddenly is not as easy or logical as you may be thinking.  Currently, I work at a job that I love.  My coworkers and supervisors are great and are like family.  What I do is interesting and never the same.  Each day is a new adventure.  It is a place that I have spent the last 15 years learning not just to love the work, but the people as well.  Regularly I remember them in my prayers and hope that all of them one day come into the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of their sins and live for Him.

In addition to that, I have a church family that I love as well.  For most of my life, they have encouraged me, taught me, and disciplined me with love and care.  They have prayed for my family, shown me their love through actions and have allowed me the pleasure and opportunity to try out my skills as one who preaches the Word of God.  I have even had the pleasure to have a taste of heaven when my father and I served on the same Elder board at the same time.  The first and last time that had ever happened in the history of our church.  It has been a place that I can call not just home, but family.

More recently, I have begun to learn how to be a pastor at a local church on Long Island.  Their pastor has been sick for some time and they have graciously allowed me to teach them, council them and learn what and how a church works, from the pastoral viewpoint.  Over the past 7 months or so, they too have become an extended family for me.

So you may be asking, if your life is as good as you say it is, then what is the struggle?  Why not just go on with life doing what you are doing and forget about those things which you do not have?  These are great questions, but the complexity of life and the things of this life are not what I struggle with.  Whether the house I live in is large or small or new or old, makes no difference for me.  What matters to me is something that you and I lose every day…..time.

As I grow older and my kids become adults, I notice that time is fast-forwarding at light speed.  My once little boy who made believe he read the Bible, is now learning to survive as an adult.  The other little boy who wanted to help his daddy with everything, is now in a high school where he can try subjects out to discover what he loves and wants to do.  In just a few short years both of them will be mainly on their own, living the lives they chisel out of their own masterpiece from their portion of life’s marble.

I have been watching friends of mine retire and begin living their lives as “free men” allowing them to do things with their family that previously, they could not do.  They have gained time for their families, they have slowed down the clock a bit in order to focus on helping their children become adults.

Time is something we lose every second.  Even as you have been reading this, time has slipped away into the eternal void of past lives.  No more will those seconds or minutes be gained, but will become mostly forgotten and largely lost to the busyness of what this world has to offer.  As quickly as time enters is as swiftly as it leaves.

My struggle with time has been for some time.  How to make the best decisions with the limited time I have on this earth.  During my mind’s battle for time, I have also learned that I long for something that I am not promised either.  I contemplate and plan for a time not yet discovered, a time not promised nor experienced yet.  We make plans for retirement (which I cannot do any time soon), we plan vacations, we even our meals, but are we sure that our next breath, the next second are promised?

Even with all of that, I hold onto the promise of the Good Shepherd who walks in the ways of His Father.  My focus is not on what this life has to offer or the limited time I am here, but on the work that He has called me to.  A life to help others and teach them to rely on Him.  No matter if I work in the secular world, or inside a church, the gift of being able to teach others and help others learn about the love and completion of Jesus Christ is my calling.  He gives me the strength, wisdom and patience to deal with those things, most don’t understand or care about.  He allows me the ability to do time management and still allows me quality of time my family needs from me.

As I work this all out in my mind, I am praying for clarity and direction.  I have learned from Jonah, that running away from this calling will only lead me to times of extreme trials and tribulations.  I have learned from Peter and Paul that what we have here is only a fleeting memory and unimportant in the scheme of eternity.  I have learned from Ruth that spending time with family is extremely important, so long as our focus is on God.  I have learned from Job that all that I have here, including my children, are only things that are borrowed and can be taken away in the blinking of an eye.  I have learned from David that crying out to God in my moments of struggle is where He wants me to be.   I have learned from Jesus Christ that what I want is not what is best, but the direction of God is best even if the rest of the world thinks you’re crazy.

So pray for me and my family.  Pray that we will make decisions, not based on desires, time or logic, but will make decisions based on what God is telling us.  For those who know me and are reading this, I have not made any decisions and will not for some time, so don’t worry, I ain’t going anywhere.  But one day, I will have to make some hard decisions, so I ask that when that time comes, whether it comes quickly or slowly, that we make the decisions based on His will for His Kingdom and not what we want because of our earthly sinful desires.

We thank you in advance for traveling with us and allowing me to express my struggles with you.  God bless and encourage someone today.


The Successful Failure

Many times in our lives we will fail.  We will fail others we love.  We will fail on our jobs.  We even fail within ourselves.  No matter how you look at it, you and I will fail at something during our lives.  Some people will fail constantly, while others seem to fail occasionally.  The question is not how many times we fail.  The real question is how many successes come out of our failures?

One of the most craziest times in my life, was when I failed miserably.  I was jumping from job to job.  I didn’t stay anywhere for more than 3 years.  “Sowing my oats” was the only goal I had.  Even though I was married and had one child, all I wanted was to learn as much about business in order to one day open up my own company.  Dreams and goals consumed my every day.  No thoughts of others.  No thoughts of success for the company.  No thoughts of God.  Only thoughts of my own success.  However, time was not going to be good to me.

Years prior, I had been working as a fax technician for a well known company.  It was a good job, but the work quota was mentally killing me.  I had to do five to six calls per day and make sure that 92% or more calls were fixed the first time.  Parts costs had to stay as low as possible and if any of those areas were not where they were supposed to be, my boss would remind me of what I needed to do.  After 3 1/2 years, I felt it was time to move on.

I had taken a job with a competitor as a technician, who was also going to train other technicians.  Dreams of grandeur flooded my mind.  I dreamed of working my way up the corporate ladder and becoming a manager.  Nothing was going to stop me.  That was until reality set in.

My supervisor had explained that I was not only going to fix fax machines but I was going to train his technicians on the equipment.  It wasn’t easy.  Almost all the technicians refused to listen to me.  I was young and energetic.  They were just trying to get by.  No matter how hard I tried, no one wanted to listen.  No one wanted to learn.  So I decided to let my supervisor know.  He assured me that I was doing a good job.  We decided to stop training and allow me to fix machines.  During that time, I had expressed interest in working in Manhattan.  Why?  More money.  I had been told that if you work in Manhattan, you will make more money.  I asked my supervisor and denied me that opportunity.  The beginning of a tail spin.

I had mumbled several negative ideas surrounding him and my future.  We argued and I showed off my talent.  I fixed things he couldn’t fix.  I did things he never did.  People above and below him started to notice.  It was then I got the news.  I was asked to work in Manhattan.  Awesome.  I was going to make more money, or so I thought.  Just after arriving in the Manhattan office, I was told that my salary was staying right where it was because I lacked certain certifications.  I realized that the game I was playing was different than theirs.  No matter how hard I tried or how long I worked, my best was never enough.  So I decided that sales was where I was going to make the big bucks.

I inquired from upper management about entering sales.  They gave me a exam and told me to hang in there.  I continued to work as a technician for a few more weeks.  Then the news came down, “You can’t enter sales.  You aren’t focused enough.  You like to change things up.  I’m sorry but you won’t be a salesman in this company.”  Devastation filled my mind and heart.  Hatred grew.  Anger increased.  Determination to do what I wanted consumed me.  I was going to do better.  I was going to succeed.

A close friend of mine, who I had followed to this company, had taken a sales job with a small business.  They were looking for someone and had his boss contact me.  I went for the interview, where he promised me that I would make $100,000/year, if I worked hard.  I took the job with the understanding that he would train me.

I arrived at the office expecting to be trained.  I was eager to learn.  He said, “Go out and get 100 contacts.”  I thought it was odd, but I decided to try.  Without argument I went out and started to collect business cards.  When I showed him how many cards I received that day, he sounded disappointed because it was short of the requested 100.  This continued day after day.  I asked when I was going to be trained, yet he had no answer.  One day, he came to me and said, “Here are some videos.  Watch them.”  This is how someone trains?  It didn’t seem right.  Once again, I became angry and frustrated.  Conflict and arguments consumed my days.  So I did what I knew best.  I left the job.

For the next 2 years, I didn’t hold down a job for more than 8 months.  Conflict and strife were the forefront of my days.  If someone didn’t agree with me then they had to be wrong.  I had been back-stabbed, lied to and didn’t trust anyone.  Of course I was right…wasn’t I?

I had taken a new job that paid more than I could ever imagine.  I was once again told dreams of grandeur that I recognized as manure.  Due to my past experiences, I had told my fellow technicians that I was going to open my own business some day.  Millions of dollars were coming my way and I would remember them when it did.  I spoke boldly of my future.  I was determined to make a name for myself.  That was until my boss heard what I said.

After only 3 months, I was called into the office only to be told that I was being ‘let go’.  I pleaded with him but there was no response.  Now I had no job.  Unemployed with a family.  Married, one child and rent were my responsibility.  What was I going to do?  I had failed miserably.  Why was this happening to me?

During the next 8 months, it would be revealed to me that pride consumed my life.  Instead of thinking of God, I was only thinking of myself.  Selfishness came naturally but others oriented did not.  I asked God to teach me and allow me to get job.  The eight unemployed months were some of the greatest times, I experienced.

God taught me about tithing.  I obeyed and He provided.  Bills got paid off.  To this day I don’t understand it, I just know that it happened.  Joy filled my life.  Happiness was becoming more normal.  God also taught me to place Him first.  I was reading like never before.  Every day for an hour or two, I would spend time with God trying to understand my next steps.

After months of giving up everything to God, someone called me totally out of the blue and asked me to come and interview with them.  It was the parent company of the one I had first started out with.  I never sent them a resume.  I never contacted them directly.  So how did they know about me?  Of course, I recognized it was God working.

Today, I continue to work for that company and am able to provide a decent living for my family.  No more am I consumed with making millions.  However, I am consumed with making a difference for the Kingdom.  Even though I had many tragic failures, God turned them around and created one of the greatest successes in my life.

Don’t worry about your life.  Trust God and he can turn the tragedies into triumphs.  Only God can take our dirty rotten lives and make them into an orchestra of beautiful flowers.  If God can change my life, certainly He can change yours too.

God bless and encourage someone today.

What is Your Greatest Success?

I recently asked this question to my friends and family.  The answers were what you would typically think should be our success:

  • “Raising my four wonderful children who I love with all my heart”
  • “Daughter, Son, 2 Grand Children and 40 years of marriage.”
  • “My greatest success is the fruition of Gods plans for me that I faithfully followed through with, even when I wanted to stray and do things my own way!”
  • “I think being honest with my parents tops making it through my calc homework.”
  • “Having been blessed with a job that allowed me to clothe my family, feed my family and keep a roof over their heads!”
  • “My daughter a teenager, is a very good judge of character. She knows which peers are not good examples to hang out with.

I also had an opportunity to talk with a long time friend who was very successful in business.  When I asked his response he said, “The day I was born was probably the most successful because if I wasn’t born then how successful would I have been?”

All of these wonderful answers play a significant part in our lives.  Our family, jobs and even doing well at work or school can be great experiences and great successes, but are the greatest?

What if you were to lose your job tomorrow?  What if one of your kids suddenly died without reason?  What if it was your parents or grandchildren?  How would you handle that?  Would you be able to make it through the day?  If you are like me, you are probably having a hard time answering that question. The “what if” scenario can drive people to madness.  At the same time, we also must be able to answer these questions confidently.

I also have had great success in life.  I am married to my best friend and most beautiful woman on this earth.  My boys are respectful and polite.  The job I have allows me to finance dreams and goals I never thought I could achieve.  I have good friends that accept me for who I am rather than try to change me, but it always wasn’t full of success.  I had failures as well, lots of them.  As the apostle Paul said, “I have learned to live with little and with excess”, I too have experienced this, but all of these pales in comparison to my greatest success.

In fact, the greatest success in my life has nothing to do with my family, work or church.  It has nothing to do with my hobbies, dreams or desires.  The greatest success in my life doesn’t even do with something that I accomplished.  The greatest success in my life has everything to do with me doing nothing.  I make you a bet you’re confused now.

The greatest success in my life was when Jesus called my name and I responded to His calling.  That’s it.  So why is this the greatest success?  Think about it.  If I didn’t respond to the calling of Christ, my life would be consumed with this world.  If I lost someone or something and identified myself with them, I would become depressed and self-focused wanting others to feel my pain.  However, if I focus on Someone eternal, then my life is filled with hope, joy and peace.

I know too many people who allow their jobs to be their point of individuality.  Some may allow their looks to be their distinguishing factor.  But what if you lost all of it?  How would you identify yourself?  Would you be able to focus on something or someone bigger than you or I?

The only logical solution is Jesus.  As Jesus is living and eternal, He is the only logical choice for long lasting hope, joy and peace.  Jesus can’t die again, so He can’t be lost.  Jesus understands what you and I face each and every day, so He can have compassion.  Jesus never sleeps so He can be watchful when we cannot.  Everything Jesus said is right and true so He can be trusted.  Jesus loves us so much that He is willing to call us ‘friend’, so He can be reliable and non-judgmental.  How many of us can say that?  How many of our friends and family can be relied on like that?

We all have areas that are not only important but are also very personal.  They are, by no means, illogical or unimportant and should not be diminished in any way.  We also must realize that this world is bigger than all of us and everything we see will one day be destroyed.  However, Jesus will never be like that.  He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one gets to the Father except through me.”  There is no other way.

Be encouraged today with the availability, compassion and commitment from Jesus.  Only He can fulfill your life with joy, peace and hope.  Ask Jesus into your life today and experience the greatest success your life will ever know.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The “Do-Nothing” Mindset

What if I told you that the Christian life is full of “Do-Nothing” opportunities?  How would you respond?  Would you tell me that “we have to be doing the Lord’s work” or would you say, “That’s cool”?  How do you feel about doing absolutely nothing?  How do you feel about doing everything?  No matter your view, did you know that the Christian life really is a “do-nothing” mindset?

The traditional view in the American church is to “do the Lord’s work” and “evangelize the lost”.  Are we called to do that work?  Absolutely.  Unfortunately, today most Christians have one of two views:

  • Do nothing and live life (or)
  • Do everything and complain about those who aren’t doing as much as you.

Both of these views are not only detrimental to the health of the church, but both are rooted in pride.  The first one is concentrated on our life.  The “Do Nothing and Live Life” attitude says “I am a Christian.  I don’t need to serve.  I don’t need the church.  I can go to various churches every week and no one should care that I do that.”

The second view is just as bad.  It says “If you aren’t doing something for God every day you aren’t a real Christian.  If you don’t serve one local body, you can’t be a committed Christian.  You have to do serve just like me.”

Think about it for a minute.  The first attitude allows people to just do whatever they want, whenever they want and never make a commitment to people.  The second attitude allows people to do things they don’t like to do for people they don’t care about with time they don’t have.  Are they committed to people as well?  No.  Some might think that because they do everything, that God will say, “Hey you did everything, burnt yourself out so here’s a bonus.”  That simply is not true.

The Christian life is a “Do-Nothing” mindset.  The focus is not on the action or inaction but on the last word “mindset”.  In Jesus’ day, He spoke with very highly regarded religious leaders who did everything.  They sacrificed as necessary by the Mosaic laws, they followed all 600+ rules and regulations handed down to them by their teachers.  They organized and did everything.  Yet through all this, Jesus called them a “brood of vipers”.  So what was Jesus saying to them?  In the simplest of terms Jesus was saying, “It doesn’t make a difference how much you do.  All that make the difference to me is that you believe in me.  Just because you do a lot of stuff doesn’t mean anything.  Your attitude towards Me is what counts.”

So where does the “Do-Nothing” fit in?  Well in the same breath that Jesus was telling those who did everything, Jesus also said, “If you love me, you will do as I do.”  Did Jesus do nothing?  Well, He turned water into wine.  He healed the sick.  He fed the hungry and in the book of John, we read that not all the works of Christ were documented as there would be too many stories to write.  However, through it all, Jesus had the “Do-Nothing” mindset.

Just before his death, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As He prayed listen to the content of His prayers:

  • John 17:4 – “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (NIV 1984)
  • John 17:6 – “I have revealed youto those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” (NIV 1984)
  • John 17:20-21 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (NIV 1984)

Did Jesus say, “May they believe and do nothing?”  No.  In fact, Jesus many times spoke to people about “doing the Father’s work.”  However, Jesus’ attitude is also in His teachings and prayers.  In John 15, Jesus is explaining His death to His disciples.  He explains that He and the Father are One and encouraged them to do the work of the Father because they love Him.  In reality, the “Do-Nothing” mindset is relying on God completely, realizing that we can do nothing without Him but work diligently because we love Him.

There are many examples of the “Do-Nothing” mindset.  When Peter walked on the water, he had to do some action (walk) but the reality was God was enabling Peter to walk on water.  When Moses was to lead Israel out of Egypt, God enabled Moses but God did the work.  He led them with a pillar of clouds by day and a flame by night.  When David killed Goliath, David threw the stone, but God guided it to the giant’s head with such velocity that the giant died instantly.  The question is, “Are we doing for the sake of doing or are we doing out of love for God?”

When we act because God loves us we have less stress and more joy.  We become content with what we do and less satisfied with external success.  When we act out of our own strength, stress increases, joy leaves, contentment is nowhere to be found and we try to do many things to satisfy our longings.

What do you love to do?  Do you love God more?  If so, then do what you love to do for the One you love more.  Don’t let action or inaction get in the way of your relationship with God.  In the next blog, I’ll share how to discover the will of God in your life.  God Bless and encourage someone today.