I think I might be confident… Maybe.

•May 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:35

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CONFIDENCE.  Confidence is a state of being certain.  Certain of ones own opinions, abilities, strength, plan, thinking.  Confidence is an internal trust of ones own place and process or a certainty of trust in another’s opinions, abilities, strength, plan and thinking that shapes how we act and perceive life and others.

Is there anyone out there who could use a boost of confidence?  How about the student who thinks all her friends are prettier, so every day her confidence is shaken?  How about the dad whose kids struggle in school and he feels inadequate to help?  Or maybe the guy whose friends all seem to be able to run faster, jump higher and last place is one of the regular stops he makes in his life journey.  The aging businessman in the ultra competitive market, sensing he is competing in a younger mans game.  The longtime single person, wondering if marriage and all it brings will pass them by.  The married person beat down by words, criticism and even with force.  The kid whose parent has lost the ability to encourage and now criticism is the only language spoken at the dinner table or in the car.  There are only about a million more scenarios I could paint.  College students competing for scholarships, seasoned people going back to school after the kids have moved out.  Marriages shaking, loneliness, looks, status and personal power all impact our confidence.

Enter faith and you would think our confidence would grow, but does it?  Not always.  The rules, the preaching that describes a friendship with God that seems unattainable.  There is the frustrating inability to stop the simplest of habits and start the simplest of habits.  Then there is finding God’s will, hearing from him about jobs, relationships, decisions, kids and so much more.  Mix faith with our already frail structures and far too often our eyes take over and our confidence shrinks.   

Then on the flip side of all these aforementioned confidence stealers is the person who seems to have so much confidence that they never stop, never quit and never slow.  They always know, always have a plan, always act as though they are right and quite often are.  Interestingly it is this person whose certainty can negatively impact the confidence of others and makes it shrink. 

I have a ton of questions. What is the difference between confidence and cockiness?  How can one be very confident as a person and not be a prideful person?  How can one bolster their confidence?  What are the top few confidence killing mistakes people make?   What impact can healthy confidence have on the confidence of others?  How does healthy faith and healthy confidence interact?

Do you have any of these questions?  If so, tune in for the next few posts.  If you tune in, feel free to chime in as well.  That’s enough for today, Off… we go now.

The Hard Work of Heart Work

•April 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Once, while sitting on a mountainside, Jesus told a crowd of people that the blessing coming from a pure heart would be the ability to see God.

The word pure, in reference to the heart, has a double meaning.  It is the heart that has been cleansed.  Sort of the idea of a refiners fire, the impurities have been removed so what is left is pure.  It is also the heart that is true.  A pure heart is a single focused heart.  Jesus also told the crowd “you cannot serve two masters.”  The pure heart is the heart that has had other affections removed so only one real love remains.  This is the heart that recognizes God. 

When I worked with teens, my team and I often played games to start our meetings.  One time we gathered four pairs of best friends and blindfolded half, giving them these instructions.  “Listen for your friends voice in all the noise and see if you can find your friend.”  The friend was instructed to speak these words in a regular voice and tone, “I am right here, come to me”.  Finally, the rest of the group was also instructed to say the same line in a regular voice.  ImageThe goal was to be the first to recognize the voice of your best friend and find them.  The two friends who won, when asked how they did it answered; “I know their voice anywhere, I love them so much.” 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, they will see (hear, recognize the voice of) God.”  Matthew 5:8  

Okay Leonard, where are you going with this?  To be quite honest, I read these words recently and asked myself this question.  “How much of God do I miss because I settle for a less than “pure heart”?

For me, the issue is not sin.  Oh, it is not that I never sin, it is just that I understand how forgiven I am and that on the cross, Christ paid for everything I would ever do.  I trust fully that because of faith in Christ that in the eyes of my Heavenly Father, I am the “righteousness of God because of Christ.”  I know that for my daily struggles with sin, God has invited me to come quickly to him and confess my sin, that I might live in the reality of his already provided forgiveness and that in the words of the bible, my confession makes me pure.  In other words, because of Christ and the cross, Sin is easily fixed when the heart is willing.

My struggle is a little more subtle.  You see, I allow too many suitors for my affections.   My affection for me, my affection to be praised, my affection for comfort and security, my affection for new hunting gear, a new car, a little more money, and that is enough confession.  This culture sure knows how to woo my affections and to be quite honest; this culture doesn’t always have to try that hard.  I have missed seeing God simply because my pile of stuff blocked my view.  I have let anger, unforgiveness my own personal rights and even some of my relationships give me a divided heart, causing me to miss who God is and what he was doing all around me.  A wise person once said, “Staring at yourself sure does make it hard to see God.”

It is as if Jesus was saying, “Hey, in my kingdom, the ones that get it, the ones that know me best, recognize my voice amidst the other noises, understand what I am doing and want done, they are the ones who have a pure heart.  And if you will take the time to deal with your affections, apply what I have done to your sin, I will bless you with the ability to see God.”  ImageToday, I want to see God so I pray this from Psalm 51:10  “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  That is enough for today, Off… we go now.

•May 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What is it about our culture that is so easily and continually bored?  We have more gadgets and can connect with people faster than at any time in the history of mankind. We have more opportunities to entertain ourselves, we are more mobile than any time in history but we also seem to be more bored than ever. How can this be?  If you or someone you know finds himself or herself muttering, sighing, whining, saying or thinking I’m Bored…  here is a possible antidote.

Boredom is what happens to the person whose preoccupation with self-satisfaction has grown out of proportion.  Boredom is the byproduct of me first, me only, me, me, me thinking, heck, the first letter in “I’m Bored” is “I”.

What causes boredom?  An overgrown preoccupation with self.  Yet in our culture, people try to stop boredom by finding more and more ways to entertain themselves.  People live vicariously through the media, fall in love with celebrities, can’t get enough of shows that match singles, swap spouses, reveal baggage all to quell boredom.  Those hooked on adrenalin rushes jump off bridges with rubber bands tied to their legs, take risks and adopt the word extreme to keep life from being boring.  Yet, our inner boredom turns many parts of life into the addictive drug of preoccupation with self.

What if the cure for boredom was not in feeding the addictive drug of self -preoccupation but rather finding a way to give our lives away in a greater cause?  What if much of the boredom of life could be alleviated with creative generosity?  What if answering this question could kick the addictive drug of self-preoccupation?

Who, in the name of Christ, can I serve today?

It could be observed that rarely do you meet a generous person who is bored.  Generous people stifle the boredom of life, not by feeding self but rather by giving themselves away.  Here are a few questions that can help prime the pump of creative generosity.

Who can I take to lunch?

To whom can I write a note?

Who can I visit?

Is there someone who needs help with shopping or cleaning?

Is there someone I can mentor?

Or try this question once again.  Who, in the name of Christ, can I serve today?  That is all for now, Off…we go now.

See a Penny Pick it up…

•January 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

A few years back I was with a group of children who were all under the age of 6 and to keep them entertained I kept dropping pennies in various places.  Each time they came across a penny, they acted like it was a treasure and when they caught on to the fact some mystery person was dropping money, they instantly transformed into treasure hunters.  Excitedly searching for pennies on sidewalks, in flowerbeds, in the gutter and around the cars parked in the driveway, these treasure hunters knew that every penny was a treasure and well worth the effort to go on an adventure to find one.

In contrast, not that long ago I was with a group of guys and we saw a penny on the ground.  We looked at it, and left it there.  Apparently a penny holds more value to kids than a group of guys who couldn’t even be convinced to pick it up.  It struck me as funny so I asked these guys, just how much money needed to be sitting on the ground to justify the effort required to bend down and retrieve it.  At 25 cents, most of us said we would stop to pick it up, but we had to get all the way to a dollar bill before everyone agreed the effort of bending over to pick up money was worthwhile.

Jesus once said, Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 

More than pointing to the pathway to heaven, when Jesus talked about entering the Kingdom of God, he was talking about entering a life in the here and now where the ruler is none other that Christ himself.  To enter the kingdom of God is to live out the values of God’s wisdom and truth in the present.  Jesus said the kind of faith required to live this way was greatest in children, I believe it is because they possess the faith to be treasure hunters when it comes to God’s truth.

Many who are reading these words have heard wisdom from God, it sounded like this;  …forgive others, love your enemies, pray always, meditate on scripture, love others as yourself, give generously, live holy, be careful of your mouth, and spend time in the word…  This wisdom reminds us to care for the poor, love God with all we have and trust him over worry.  This truth instructs us on dealing with conflict, it makes us better parents, husbands, wives, children and friends.  This wisdom instructs us on how to interact with Christians and those yet to know the amazing love of God. 

Here is an honest confession.  In my life, I find that I rarely lack for the wisdom I need from God, instead, what I far to often lack is the “childlike faith” to pick it up.  In the end, I become guilty of treating God’s wisdom like I would treat a penny.  I notice the wisdom, but after assessing the effort it would take to pick it up, I deem it is not worth the effort.  Instead of childlike faith that would see God’s truth like a treasure, I miss entering into kingdom living in the here and now.

James 4:17 – if you know the right thing to do and do not do it, this is sin.  Try this for the next few days.  If you see “a penny” pick it up.   Off We Go Now…

Five Things I Am Learning… Part One

•September 6, 2011 • 2 Comments

In February of this year I started on my Master’s Degree.  As I was weighing out the opportunities to apply and be in this program, I kept hearing the phrase “life long learner”.  It is not new in my mind, but in light of the journey in which I find myself, the phrase has taken on new light.

It is now September and much water has traveled under the bridge of life and in a moment of pause, I am asking myself this question.  “What am I learning?”  My intention with these posts is to share some of the way in which God is shaping me as a person, man, father, husband and leader.  It is also my hope that in reading you would find yourself encouraged.

I am learning to trust God with what matters most to me.

I am an intense person.  Okay, relationally I am kind of laid back and love to laugh, but my mind is always thinking and “on” if you know what I mean.  Imagine this as your dad.  You see, in my caffeinated backwards thinking brain, everything matters.  Add passion, a bit of fear and you have the recipe for wearing out your kids.

In April of this year, I was reading and praying through Philippians 1.  I got to the familiar verse six of the first chapter “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

As I read the verse I realized something.  I did not pray for my kids with that same confidence.  I was not trusting God to do what he promised he would do in them.  I was operating out of a sense of fear that asked the question; “What if my kids make a giant mistake?”  What if my kids do not listen?”  what if my kids don’t give their best?”  As I sat there reading this verse, I could hear God’s gentle voice. “Leonard, I love your kids more than you do, can do more for them than you can and have better plans for them than you have. Trust me with the confidence of this verse.”

Truth?  I cried.  I cried because I was not trusting God like a needed to.  I cried because I had heard from my Father in heaven words that I needed to hear.  I cried because I knew my kids would get from God what they needed from God. (I also knew I couldn’t give them what he will.)  I cried in relief.

Today, my prayer life for my kids is radically different.  It is filled with the confidence that what God started, he will finish.  In the same chapter, Paul, the writer shares what he prayed with such confidence.  This is now my daily prayer for my kids.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”  Philippians 1:9-11

I am learning to trust God with what matters most to me.  So here is a real life confession, my whole family noticed the difference.  Thank you God the Holy Spirit for revealing your word, instructing my heart and gently moving my prayer life forward in a way that trusts you with what matters most.  Off… we go now.

Break time is over!

•September 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I have been so busy posting on other sites, launching a new ministry, doing grad school, traveling over 50,000 miles this summer and getting my daughter on her way to college that I have not posted here is a long time.  I appreciate those who send in requests for me to write more, and kind words are always a plus too.  I just figured I would eventually get back to writing more often when the time was right.  

 

 

 

What’s in the box?

•May 26, 2011 • 1 Comment

Today I want to tell you a story.

Once there was a poor man who lived in a poor village in a poor city in a poor state in a poor country.   One day he received a large box and on the box there was only one instruction.  Use this with wisdom and for that which it was intended.  

When he opened the box he saw it was filled with money, enough to share with his family, his village and his city.  With more than a lifetime supply of money in front of him, he quickly forgot about the note.   These new found riches afforded him the chance to make his life better, much better.  He hired a contractor and the contractor built him a bigger and better home.  He hired a personal chef to make sure the food his family ate was the best.  He purchased the finest clothes, cars and accessories. 

One day there was a knock at the door and when his butler opened the door there was a common looking man with average clothes and average build.  This man was invited in and as he sat together with the newly rich, formerly poor gentleman he asked a question; “did you get the box I delivered to you?” 

In shock, the newly rich, formerly poor gentleman nodded a shy and suspicious yes, but was obvious that he struggled to believe it came from such an average looking man.  “It came from you?”  “but…”  was all he could say.  Holding up his hand as if to say “listen” the average man began to tell a story. 

I was a poor man in a poor village in a poor city in a poor state in a poor country.  One day a box of money showed up on my doorstep.  On the box was a note that said, “Use this with wisdom and for that which it was intended.” 

My first response was to dream of all the new things I could now get for me and my family.  But then I saw the note again.  It haunted me.  Use this with wisdom and for that which it was intended.  In my sleep that night I dreamt about the note.  When I awoke I thought about the note.  So I set out to find the author of the note and I used the money to help me find the author.  In a very short time I found the author and there began a friendship.  It was a brotherhood and partnership that changed everything.  I stayed for hours that day and came back every day.  I finally got the courage to ask about the note.   “I asked for what purpose did you give this to me?”  His answer shook me to my core.  “So you would use it to find me, know me and we could be friends and so that in this new friendship you could help me share more boxes.”  My mind began to spin as I asked, “more boxes?” 

What happened next stunned me even more.  He opened a door to a room that had no end and showed me boxes.  I asked, “how many boxes do you have here?”  “Enough for everyone” he replied and then he handed me yours.  He said, “take it to him and leave it on his door with this note.”  Use this with wisdom and for that which it was intended.  That’s when it made sense.   

For those of us reading these words and feeling like this is about money, can I ask you now to re-read these words and everywhere you see the word money, will you replace it with the word faith?

What if God’s intention for faith was that we could and would know Him and in knowing Him share Him?  What if faith’s purpose was not so we could have power but rather so we could share His power?  What if God had in mind the best kind of love and friendship that could ever be imagined and in His wisdom provided us with the only active ingredient that could take this relationship and love from His imagination to our reality?  Faith!  And what if faith came with a simple set of instructions?  Use this with wisdom and for that which it was intended.

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Off…we go now.

 
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