His Faithfulness, and Our Potential

At church the last couple weeks we've been taking about how God is our Provider, but sometimes the way He provides, isn't exactly what we've been expecting. 

One of the pictures that has helped me the most in this conversation is the difference between an answered prayer in seed form, or in bread form.

Sometimes when God answers our prayer, He simply gives us exactly what we need. For example, we are hungry, and God gives us bread. Sometimes however, God gives us something that will meet our need, as well as meet future needs for us and for others. For example, we find ourselves hungry, and God gives us a seed to plant, that will produce much fruit for years to come. Enough for us, and enough for others. 

Both are answered prayers, one meets an immediate need today with little effort on our part, and one meets multiple future needs, but it only comes when it is partnered with some effort on our part. 

God provides, but sometimes He provides... strength to endure, creativity to make a way, strategy to overcome, or people to encourage and walk with us. 

There is a big difference between being given something to meet an immediate need, and being given something that, partnered with some effort will meet a greater need, or a need in a greater way. Yet both are indeed kindness, and both are indeed provision.

When talking about this, sometimes this reality is met with comments like, "That's not real kindness!" or "I thought God was supposed to be faithful?"

In light of these types of questions, I'd like us to consider this... 

God is indeed faithful and He will always keep His promises. But God’s faithfulness doesn’t force you and me to walk into our full potential. 

Achieving every good goal, and making the best of every opportunity, isn't something God forces us into, it's something He makes a way for. 

We walk into our full potential and opportunities by faithfully and consistently taking the seeds He's given us, and planting them, nurturing them, caring for them, and seeing them through to maturity. 

2 Corinthians 9:6 says, "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."

We are meant to take those seeds God gives us and plant them! We are meant to care for them, and then we get to see them grow!

You may have a natural gifting for music, but your full potential won't come by simply using what musical ability you've been given. The greater thing is found by investing in and working on what you start with, bringing it to a creative future far better than your starting point. This makes way for greater opportunities, and likely involves helping and teaching others along their path.

You may be a gifted entrepreneur, but you're full potential isn't found in simply being able to lead a small business from scratch. The greater thing is found when you invest in and work hard to dream, plan, cast vision, and successfully move into the unknown territory in front of you. This makes way for more job opportunities for others, and likely involves generosity and insight shared with other business leaders along the way.

God is a Good God, and He indeed gives bread, and I'm thankful for that. Yet I also believe God is passing out seeds, perhaps even more often than bread; waiting for us to partner with Him. When we do, we will be walking into a greater future; not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of our families, communities, churches, and friends. 

What seeds have you been sitting on? What can you do this week to plant and cultivate that seed, so that it can become a mighty life giving tree in your near future?

Working Together

One of my very favorite memories from the Army was a group obstacle course they had us run through. It was an obstacle course designed to be impossible to do alone. It involved mud, climbing, crawling, barbed wire, large heavy logs, rope ladders, blood, sweat and a couple of french words shared by some of the more passionate members of the group.

I think about this day frequently, for a lot of reasons. Some of it is simply because I just miss those relationships, but so much of what I love about the memory is how hard it was, and how awesome we felt when we finished. 

It was one of those challenges that when you first looked things over, your honest thought was, "This isn't possible..." The distance was too far, the objects were too heavy, and the challenge was too big, it just wasn't possible. 

As we've been crossing the six month mark as a church, and starring down our one year mark coming up, I have been thinking a lot about the challenges, dreams, and goals we have in front of us, and if I'm really honest, there are times my thoughts have been, "It just isn't possible" 

Yet, as I consider the people God has placed around me, as I consider the amazing quality of the individuals, families, and leaders here at Woodland, I am reminded of this obstacle course all those years ago.

Not only did we succeed in every obstacle, we got it done a lot quicker than I thought, we grew to trust each other so much more, and even in the midst of the extreme challenge, we had a really great time!

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" 

Doing things together is better than doing them alone, and the more you have working with you, the greater the potential, and the greater the reward!

I'm not sure all what your facing in your life, but what I do know is, when you work together with the people around you, do it with joy and choose to stick together to see it through, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Not only will you see things through, you will grow in depth of relationship, grow in confidence, and have a great time doing it! 

And if you're a part of Woodland Church, I CAN'T WAIT to see the ways God uses you and your gifts, so that together with God's help and leading, we can do so much more than we could ever imagine on our own!




Staying In The Sun

Treasa and I along with our kids just got back from an amazing vacation down to our old stomping grounds in El Paso, TX. We had a lot of fun with good friends, I got to do some golfing, Treasa got to do some shopping, and the kids did a bunch of swimming. We had such a great time, and we now return home refreshed and excited about the future. 

As I've been getting back into the swing of things, I've been thinking a bit about our time away. During our vacation, it took me a while to really unwind and relax. Really, it took me the better part of a week.

Can I just say, when you're on vacation, and you're not relaxing or acting like you're on vacation, that's no fun for the rest of your family.

Looking back, for me to take a week to unwind, means I was pretty wound up. Truth is, I was too wound up. 

Two big take aways for me...

One, don't wait so long for a vacation, that when it arrives, it takes the whole trip to get me back to feeling normal.

Two, find ways to live my daily life where I can have mini-moments of vacation, rest, and relaxation to keep me in a healthy spot.

Proverbs 12:25 says, "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad."

Anxiety and stress weighs us down. We don't deal with people or circumstances well when we are anxiety ridden, even when we are trying to give it our best. 

We may be working through lunch and through the weekend to get something important done, but what kind of quality work are we doing? What kind of quality are we going to bring the Monday after? Most importantly, what quality of friend, spouse, or parent are we when we're pushing that hard?

I'm feeling pretty good today, but I just spent a bunch of time in the sun. The bigger and more important challenge is, how do I stay in the sun until my next big trip! How about you?

Rest Isn't a Bad Word

In Genesis we find the creation account, where God made all that was made... and God, the One who breathes planets, rested on the seventh day.

I think it is safe to say, that God didn't rest because He was tired, but rather, because He was illustrating a picture that He wanted us to live.

In some seasons I have done better than others, but I have tried hard to live consistently with a Sabbath in my week. A day that in large part, doesn't have any pressing matters for me. Right now, that day is Friday. I still have basic things I have to attend to, sometimes I need to run to the store, there are meetings or conferences that just can't be avoided, and sometimes I have to pick up or drop off kids, but outside these types of things, it is a day that in large part, is focused on finding rest. It also happens to be the day that Treasa and I have a standing breakfast date together, and this is a wonderful addition to my day of rest. I look forward to Fridays every week, and at the end of Friday, I always feel more optimistic and excited about the week in front of me. 

For the sake of transparency, I want to give some context. I always have things to do when Thursday night comes to an end. There are always people who would like to meet with me on Fridays. There is always a temptation to work on Fridays. My Sabbath isn't a part of my life, because I don't have much going on. I am a father of six amazing kids, I am a church planter, I am a husband, and I am a friend. I always have more to do, than I can do. I believe this makes the need for a Sabbath even more important. 

The primary reason I share this, is because this is really hard for me. I hate to do nothing. I often wrestle with feelings of guilt when I'm not working, and I often put off vacations with my family because I stay too focused on church.

This message is particularly important, because my family is also going on vacation next week. 

I'm not sure if you're like me, and wrestle with rest, but if you are, I want to encourage you today.

Hebrews 4:9-11 "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience."

It doesn't matter what gifts you have, where you serve, or what you bring to the table... your part matters, it matters far more than you know. 

In order for you to walk out your path with strength, and with endurance, you need to rest.

If you don't, you're making yourself susceptible to falling, to burn out, to feeling thin and eventually... becoming ineffective. Not just ineffective for work in the church, but ineffective in your friendships, your family, your community.

Let's choose to rest friends. Take vacations, take breaks, find opportunities to nap. Take a day each week where you do as little as possible, so you can reflect on what good things God has done for you. Let your heart, your mind, and your spirit become rejuvenated. 

It's worth it, it will be good for you, and good for everyone around you.

To Get Deeper, You Have to Go Deeper

Last night marks a pretty momentous day for us as a church. We had our first official board meeting. I'm sure that sounds pretty riveting and exciting to you, I can feel it... But stick with me, this is good.

Last night, we met and spent some time really getting to know each other better. We started the night by sharing our stories. Sharing stories is powerful, but how this group shared is what is really powerful. People got real, they got honest, and they went deep. They shared moments of victory and failure. They shared moments of suffering and success. They talked about love, pain, and promises they are still waiting on. 

It was beautiful.

Pretty much everyone had met before, but no one really knew each other deeply. Their willingness to be real and vulnerable created a really awesome moment at the end of the night.

Before we left, we took some time to pray for each other. This group of acquaintances prayed for each other in a powerful way. Tears were shed, encouragement was offered and things moved in a deeply meaningful way.

Here is why I share all this, many of us are looking for meaningful and real connection with people. We want to go deeper in relationships and conversation, but the hard reality is, in order to go deeper in relationship we have to be willing to first be vulnerable. 

I know it's scary, and I know it's risky, but I'm telling you, seeing it, experiencing, watching it... is powerful!