Led Astray

As I was reading Proverbs 5 this morning, something in the footnotes caught my eye.  You are probably familiar with 5:19b and 20 which read “be intoxicated always in her love (the wife of your youth). Why should you be intoxicated my son, with a forbidden woman…”  The thing that caught my eye was that the ESV study bible says that the literal Hebrew that is translated “intoxicated” is “to be led astray”.

The image that comes to my mind when i think of someone being led astray is always negative. I certainly understand why Solomon would warn his son to avoid the forbidden woman, as many a young man has brought unnecessary pain into his life through the pursuit of momentary pleasures.

But to be led astray by and through the love of the wife of your youth.  It is such a beautiful picture.  To truly forsake all others and everything else because you know that this one love will fulfill your human hearts desire above all others.  To be led astray and love every minute of it.  And for God to be smiling over it as well.

Too often, men are led astray by work, sports, or pleasures that ultimately lead to stress, loss, and ruin.  My prayer today is that I will continue to be led astray and intoxicated with Jackie, and let all of the other stuff fade to black.

A parting thought…God desires for us to be led astray and intoxicated with Him above all.  To be so in love with the creator of the universe and the redeemer of our souls that we are led astray from thoughts and cares of the world and only pursue Him, with the love of our life by our side.

That my friends, is a life worth living.

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The More of Less

If there is a single word that contrasts with the American culture of 2016 it is Minimalism.  In Joshua Becker’s new book, The More of Less, he contends that most of us can have the life that we really want, but it begins with getting rid of all of the stuff that is in the way.  And by stuff, he means all of the things around your house and in your life that not only steal resources, but which also take valuable time to maintain, clean, and present.

I must admit that the message of this book intrigued me.  It was the sole reason that I requested the review copy in the first place.  And I could definitely feel the author’s passion, which sometimes got a little preachy (he is a pastor, so I guess he has that right), and I can see the accuracy of his message, but he never really engaged me at the level that would drive me to make significant changes.  The biggest thing that I did while reading this book was to clean out the cluttered desk in my home office.

I hope that this message and reading this book has planted some seeds.  Mr. Becker truly convinced me that a minimalist lifestyle could certainly lead to less headaches and having more resources available to pursue the life that I desire.  He just failed to convince me to do anything about it, at least for now.

I was a little set off by the editing of this book.  There are multiple references back to other chapters and previously stated material that were simply unnecessary and eventually caused me to start skimming the book, looking for truly new material in each chapter.  The book could have been shorter….

I will close by saying that I truly respect the book the Joshua Becker has written.  He has a very successful blog and I was expecting to find the book filled with promotions pushing me to purchase additional items and resources via his website, as seems to be the norm these days.  Thankfully, this book was only filled with his message and vision for what is possible for those who choose to limit their needs, and focus on bigger goals.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

We’re All Awkward

Rooted Delivers

In his forthcoming book Rooted, Banning Liebscher, founder of the ministry Jesus Culture, encourages his readers to focus less on God’s vision for their lives, and focus more on working with God to develop a healthy root system where they are now.  Subtitled The Hidden Places Where God Develops You, he uses the life of David as an example of how God may take years, even decades, to prepare us for the ultimate calling that he has placed on our lives.

Although anointed to be the future king of Israel while just a boy, David would spend years developing intimacy with God as he cared for his father’s flocks.  He would then be called to serve his country and the current king, as he faced down giants and used his talents to bless Saul.  In later years, while on the run, he would be called to lead a community of misfits who would look to him to lead, all the while knowing that God had promised him the kingdom.

These are the three areas that Banning uses to show how God develops a healthy root system within us:

  1. Intimacy – with God
  2. Serving- the body
  3. Community- doing life with the people around us

The big idea in this book is that growth takes time and we shouldn’t try to rush the process.  In 2016, that is not a popular view.  Society wants us to rush to the end.  We measure ourselves against others and try to imitate their success, whether its income, status, “likes” or “shares”, we want to have the success that others have achieved, but if we don’t have the roots in place, the fruit will not last.

Banning begins this book with a simple statement:  “Deep inside every follower of Jesus is a desire to have a visible, lasting impact on the world.”  Although his solution might not be popular, it is true.  Love God. Serve People.  Be in Authentic Community.  It will create the fertile soil that you need in your life to produce fruit that lasts.

Rooted will be available for purchase on May 3, 2016.  I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Glory Days by Max Lucado

After the death of Moses, the Lord spoke to Joshua and gave him one monumental task:  Arise, go over the Jordan, and lead the people of Israel into the land that I have promised them.  Really?  Joshua had already scouted out the land some 40 years earlier.  He had seen the abundance of the land, but he had also seen the inhabitants.  He knew the battles that lay ahead.  Although he and Caleb wanted to trust God and take the land, it was the bad report by the other spies that had led to the people wandering in the wilderness all those years. Nevertheless, here was Joshua, preparing to lead this people into the land that God has promised.  And as you know, Joshua proved to be capable and God kept his promise.
That is the bottom line of this book.  As stated in Joshua 21:43, God gave them all land that he had promised.  And Joshua, as he learned to trust and rely on God, was capable of the task set before him.
In his new book, Glory Days:  Living Your Promised Land Life Now, best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado  walks with us through the book of Joshua, and along the way, he reveals to us how God used the obedience of Joshua and his men to lead to promised-land living for many.  At it’s core, the message of this book is simply this:  believe God and live your whole life rooted in that belief.  Yes, it will be hard.  Yes, you will struggle.  But, Yes, God is trust-worthy and he intends to do great things through your life of obedience.
Written in typical Max Lucado style, this book reads more like a conversation than a sermon.  Max provides great insights into the lives of the Israelites and practical applications in our everyday lives.  The book is divided into 16 easily read chapters, and includes a study guide for each chapter.
The big takeaway for me was “possess the land”.  God has already made abundant promises to us.  He has saved us and empowered us with his Holy Spirit.  But we have to “possess the land”.  We have to live out the promises of God now.  Too many of us are waiting for some breakthrough in life or our physical death to begin to be the person that God says we are now.  Living our promised land life begins with believing who God says that he is and who we are, and then living that out in our lives every day.
I would highly recommend this book.  If you are one of the 90% of Christians who feel that you are languishing in the wilderness, then this book will help you to begin to overcome your doubts and fears.
I received a complimentary copy of this book and agreed to give a full and impartial review.

Let Me Give You This Book

I just finished reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  While the subtitle of the book is Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, in my opinion, the book goes far beyond this.  It actually helped me to understand many things about myself that have frustrated me over the years.  And it helped to view many of those frustrations in a new light, so that I can now see them as opportunities to build on.

Using herself as a guinea pig, Mrs. Rubin explores the ways in which we approach habits and the methods that work best for some, but not for others.  I was surprised to see the variety of ways that varying types of people reinforce habits in their lives.  We truly are unique creatures and what works well for one, may in fact ruin the chances of another being successful.

Through the reading of this book, I discovered that I am an Obliger, Lark, Procrastinator, Underbuyer, Finisher, Simplicity Lover, Familiarity Lover, Prevention-Focused, and a Taker of Small Steps.

Utilizing all of this information, I can now see why I am able to do some things (like train for a marathon on my own), but struggle to do other things (like put a box away in the attic).  So much of my behavior is tied to my tendencies and foundational beliefs.  Where this book have aided me the most is in recognizing my need to work within my core to accomplish things, rather than spending all of my energy on trying to change who I am before I do the things that I need to do.

I can’t tell you how highly I recommend this book.  It has been eye-opening to say the least, and is a book that I will refer back to for years to come.

Throughout the book, Gretchen shares how she allows reminds herself to just “BE GRETCHEN”.  I am realizing that while I may not be able to be a very good “Gretchen”, or anyone else for that matter, I can be an amazing “Doug”.

The book has just been released in trade paperback.  And I would love to give you a copy. In face, I am giving away a free copy of the trade paperback.  All that you have to do to enter the drawing is:

-Click the follow button on the left hand side of this page, AND

-Leave a comment below sharing the habit that you would most like to change or add.

I will randomly select a winner on March 25th.

Good Luck!

Avoiding Distractions

I have a folder on the home screen of my phone that is called Social Media.  Sometimes, I think a better label might be “Time Wasters”, “Pointless Distractions”, or “Anger Inducers”.  This harmless little folder holds my access points to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I am doing my best to not open this folder for a while.

It’s already been almost 48 hours since I last allowed myself to get sucked in to the great black-hole that is commonly referred to as social media.  While I am not exactly on a fast, I have decided that the cons far out-weigh the pros for the time being when it comes to accessing these little apps.

I came to the realization a couple of days ago that I spend way too much time scrolling through every one else’s lives…seeing what you are doing while I am doing nothing but wasting time.  And I also discovered that many times I am at best frustrated or annoyed, and oftentimes actually angry when I close it down, usually over some post, or meme, or comment.

I think that we as a society have become very passive-aggressive.  It is rare that I walk away from an actual face-to-face conversation with a real live human and feel anger towards them.  I can’t remember the last time that I “unfriended” someone after a face-to-face conversation, probably because we weren’t really friends to begin with, and we both knew it.  However on social media, we find the courage to scream things that most of us never say to another person.  And we then walk away from our “friends” who disagree with our rants.

I don’t know how long this is going to last, but the last two days have been quite peaceful.  Scrolling through the internet isn’t quiet.  It isn’t relaxing.  It’s wave after wave of distractions.  Noise.  We think that we are just “vegging”, but that is the big con. We are being stimulated and influenced the whole time.  And real down-time that we are craving is not to be found online.

So if you need me, give me a call, or stop by the house.  I love company and will be happy to see you.

Now back to my book…

Abundant Life

John 10:10 is one of the most precious promises that Jesus made to Believers.  He said that He came to give us abundant life!  Oftentimes I look at my circumstances and the world around me and think that this must be a promise that He plans to fulfill in eternity, but that is not what the passage says.  Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy (which he his obviously already doing) but that Christ came to give life (which he is already doing as well).

The ESV Study Bible says this in its notes on this verse:

Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.

This is my desire for my own life.

  1. To have it overflowing with meaningful activities.
  2. To live under the personal favor and blessing of God.
  3. To stay in continual fellowship with his people.

Where I struggle is in believing that I am already there.  I don’t have to strive to have this life at some future point.  What I have to do is have the mind of Christ, so that I walk daily in the awareness of his plans and purposes, so that I can see the meaning, favor, blessing, and fellowship that is already present in my everyday activities.  Even the ones that feel meaningless and without purpose.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that God has a higher purpose and calling on each of our lives.  He wants us to rise above our present commission, but the road that leads to that higher place is before us today.

We only have to take the first step down the path.

Nothing Changes Until Something Changes

I have been reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  It is a fantastic book about habits and our need to master them so that we can produce the kind of life that we desire.  It has been both hysterical and frightening to see the results of her research and see myself in it.  Yikes!

This morning at church, my pastor spoke on ruts and how difficult it can be to get out of them.  Most of the time, it requires such effort and focus to exit a rut that we just end up staying where we are.  It is amazing to me that we can enter a rut with little effort and thinking, but it requires herculean strength to get out.  If you are interested, you can listen to the message here.

One of his key points was this:

What you think is what you speak.  What you speak is what you do.

We end up becoming what we think.  There is great power in this…we can literally reshape our future by changing our thinking and aligning our thoughts with all that God says about us.  But there is also great danger in it as well.  We can sleep walk through life and never even crack the surface of our potential.  If we are truly honest, most of us go through the vast majority of every day never thinking about what we are doing…we are simply doing what we always do.

We get up. Have coffee. Shower. Eat. Brush teeth. Drive to work.  Work. Eat lunch.  Drive home.  Make dinner. Eat. Watch tv.  Go to bed. Repeat.  No thinking required.

A truth that I learned while attending an addiction recovery group a few years ago is this:  Nothing changes until something changes.  Ever.  If you are unhappy with where you are or where you are going, then something needs to change.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, but it has to be something. And it has to change.  Now.  Not tomorrow.

Now.

Stress Response

How do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?  Let me give you an example…

I am currently in the process of training for the Publix Georgia Marathon.  I am right now about 3 weeks out from the race.  The first 10-12 weeks of my training were great.  I was getting in all of my runs; I was hitting or beating all of my paces…it was awesome.  But a couple of weeks ago, as my weekly mileage increased and my paces gradually worked down towards my goal pace, something unexpected happened:  Plantar Fasciitis.

I have dealt with it off and on in the past, but I had taken a few weeks off and thought that it was dealt with.  Sadly, I was wrong.  It was back, and while it’s not quite as bad as it has been, it definitely is there and is forcing me to rethink my strategy.

So I ask again, how do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?

I see three possible responses:

  1.  You can avoid the thing that is causing the stress.  This is what I tried to do.  Since the running was causing the PF to hurt, I avoided running.  While this strategy did work to alleviate the pain that I was feeling, it did not strengthen the area and allow it to heal.  Pain avoidance is natural, but it doesn’t lead to healing.
  2. You can push through the pain.  Sure, keep running the longer and harder miles.  You might be ok, or you might make it worse.  And you may destroy much more than your foot in the process.  You might be able to reach your goal, but you will cause more damage and either delay healing, or make healing impossible in the process.
  3. You can spend some time dealing with the brokenness and actually allow the wounded place to heal.  This obviously means some things are going to change in the short-term (lowered expectations) but in the long-term, you can expect to gain these back and more.

In my case, I have decided that healing is necessary.  More clearly stated, healing isn’t a decision as much as it is simply agreeing with reality.  I have stopped running altogether and begun to do some no-impact cardio on my skier.  I am also spending some time everyday strength training and stretching to put small amounts of stress on the area.  Stressing the area just a little and then removing the stress is helping it to become stronger and heal, not just stop hurting for a moment.

One thing that I have found to be true in life is this:  What is true for the body, is also true for the soul.  We find inner healing as well, not from avoiding pain or pushing through and ignoring consequences, but by intentionally focusing on places of hurt and allowing them to heal.