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Archive for the ‘The Heart’ Category

The Real You Wants Out!

When I grow upIf you are in your 30’s or older, you’ve asked yourself the question, “How did I get here?“ After high school or college there were all these possibilities and expectations about life. The world was full of opportunity. But that’s not what happened. For a lot of us the responsibilities just piled up while the fun and adventure drained out. Life became heavy, more about responsibility than adventure, more about duty than purpose or meaning.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it I’d really love to do or be?” What is the dream you have had since childhood? What is that thing you would do for free because you enjoy it so much? If you have had these thoughts, and you know the answer to the question, you were almost immediately confronted with thoughts like, “I’d have to go back to school.” “I couldn’t make a living at that.” “I don’t have the money.” “My family would think I was crazy”, and on and on. Because of those thoughts we almost immediately leave the question and answer behind and move on with our day.

But, what if right now you allowed those negative thoughts to come, and while some of them might be valid, just give yourself permission to lay them aside for a minute. Give yourself permission to unpack that “thing”, that dream and give it room to breathe. Regardless of all the impossibilities, what does it feel like to see yourself doing or being “that”?

If feels good doesn’t it! Real good! A God that loves you very dearly placed that desire in you, and He put it there for you to discover and dream about and fulfill. You may have given up on it or put it on a shelf, but He hasn’t. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and He plans to prosper you and not to harm you, He plans to give you hope and a future.

Harold Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I double dog dare you!

How about you? Have you faced some of this? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Click the Comments link above the picture and let me know what you think.

The Hostage You’re Holding May Be You

Hostage

I had lunch with my friend Grady today, and learned we shared a similar experience. So much so, I believe there may be a few of you who have also. While most people have heard the saying, “money is the root of all evil”. 1 Timothy 6:10 really says it a bit different, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Money is not evil, it’s the love of money that is. Ok, now that we have that straight. What if like Grady and me, you have this money thing down pretty well. That is to say, you know God is your provider, it all belongs to Him, and you’re in a place where it doesn’t run your life nor do you run after it.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to say yes when friends have asked for loans. I’ve needed the same kind of help through the years, and I feel privileged to be able to pay it forward so to speak. Sometimes God has asked me to forgive the loans, which I have done, and I’m grateful to say the same has been done for me. Again, I think I’ve got this money thing down pretty good, which leads me to the part where I got tripped up.

Through most of last year I had these checks sitting on my desk. The checks were payments on loans, but I was asked to hold them until they let me know it was ok to deposit them. No problem right! Three months goes by and no word to deposit. Six months goes by and it’s gotten even quieter. The truth is, the amount of the checks is insignificant… it’s not going to make me or break me, but I’m seeing the checks on my desk and it’s the principle of the thing… At least continue to communicate with me… Then I’d see these people on Facebook and I’m admitting I didn’t like the feeling it produced in me. So the next day at work I hid the checks under my keyboard so they wouldn’t be a constant reminder and I removed the friends from showing up on my Facebook timeline. Problem solved, right? WRONG!

Had the checks never been written, I don’t believe I would have had a problem with it. It’s God’s money after all. You’ve heard it said, “it’s the principle of the thing” right? Well the principle of the thing was messing me up inside! I can remember praying, ‘God I don’t want to feel like this towards them, help me with this’, but it wasn’t until a Saturday morning when He helped me see those checks were doing a lot more harm than any good they could ever do. I drove to my office, ripped up the checks, forgave the debt and my peace returned. Grady’s story was so similar it just made me think someone else’s story might be too, and just maybe if you’re in that “stuck” place we were in for a while, this might help you get “unstuck” today.

Are you holding someone accountable for something that’s out of your control? Let it go today. The hostage you’re holding may be you.

How are you?

handshake

How are you?
How are you doing today?
How’s it going?

These are questions you get asked many times each day. If you are like most, you reply quickly with the same answer you always give.

Fine, how are you?
I’m good, how about you?
OK, and you?

These questions have become customs in our culture. They are as common as the handshake and almost as meaningless. The handshake used to be a bond or a promise. It was a guarantee of a man’s word. “Let’s shake on it”. Today the handshake has been replaced with a 14 page contract drawn up by lawyers. A handshake today is a mere pleasantry, something you do upon meeting and greeting someone. When someone extends their hand to you, yours automatically extends to meet theirs, it’s customary. In the same sense, we say “Hi” or “Hello” as an expression of greeting. It comes natural, we don’t have to work on remembering to say hello when we greet someone. Hello, in itself, requires no thought from the person to whom it was directed. It doesn’t ask anything of them, it is simply a pleasantry. Somewhere along the way we added “How are you?” to “hello,” but we really just lengthened the pleasantry.

Let’s be honest, out of all the times you have said, “Hello, how are you?” or “I’m fine, how are you?” how often do you really mean: I’m concerned about you. I love you and care about you. I really want to know what is going on in your world because I want to know if there is a way I can help. Now before you answer, let’s all remember what our day to day life is like. We are all very, very busy… multitasking, jobs, kids, school, traffic, etc. Take a quick look at your calendar… How many entries are listed for an honest response to the question, “How are you?” Do you really have time for three people a day to actually tell you the truth? In fact, do you really have the time to tell anyone the truth when you’re asked? Do you have anyone in your life that you trust enough to tell them the truth if they asked?

Imagine with me for a minute that Jesus is sitting across from you right now. He lovingly smiles at you and says, “Hello, how are you?” What is your response? Do you answer the same way you do when everyone else asks? The Creator of the universe has just asked how you are. What do you say? What do you trust Him with enough to share with Him? God is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, He knows all things, and in fact, He knows how you are doing right now better than you do. Do you know how many hairs are on your head today? He does. He already knows any and everything you could possibly share with him and yet He asks you… He gives you the choice and the opportunity to talk about anything you desire. Let’s imagine further that Jesus speaks again asking, “Is there any hurt place in your heart you would like Me to heal? Is there any area in your life right now that needs encouraging? Is there anything you would like Me to speak to? Is there anything at all I can do for you… or are you OK?”

Now our mind begins to race. Jesus has just asked me if there is anything He can heal, encourage, speak to or am I OK. Almost like He was heading out to the store and said, “I’m going out to get a few things, do you need anything, or are you OK?” Do I trust God enough to ask Him for help? Do I trust God enough to admit to Him those places in my heart that have been hurt? Do I trust God enough with the areas in my life that have been beaten down and need encouraging? Do I have time to sit and talk?

Making room for people might be tough… Making room for God is vital.

Matthew 7:7-12 The Message
Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

Activating Your Latent Excellence Or Ability

Here are some thoughts from the last Asheville Men’s Breakfast some of you asked for.

The definition of potential is a latent excellence or ability. Each of us has natural potential and supernatural potential. One, we can physically and mentally train to bring out, and the other takes God’s involvement to fulfill.

Judges 6:12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

You know Gideon’s story… his clan was the weakest in Manasseh, and he was the least in his family. Gideon didn’t think a lot of himself, but the angel was speaking of, and to whom, God created Him to be. A similar thing happened when Jesus renames Peter and begins to talk to, and about Peter, but it’s in the same “future tense”

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

This is what Jesus says about the man (Peter) who is about to declare he doesn’t even know Jesus. Jesus knew something about Peter that Peter wasn’t aware of yet.

What would Jesus say about you and your future today?
How would He address you?
What has He said?

There are some of you reading this that haven’t heard, and others who haven’t even considered the possibility. For others of you, God has spoken to you very clearly. He has called you by name, He has shown you purpose, He has prophesied your future and like Peter and Gideon, you are still a little unsure how it could be true.

Our difficulty in walking out Gods calling for our lives is we try to wrap a God size vision and destiny in our aptitude and abilities. God’s supernatural fulfills destiny, not the sweat of our brow! Too many of us are trying to muster, what only God can provide! There is a place for diligence and hard work, but when you try to occupy a space God wants to fill, He won’t. God wants us to believe in who He has created us to be, so much so, that we will walk in it. It’s in our believing, it’s in our walking that releases God’s supernatural.

The woman with the issue of blood believed and power was released. In the same way God speaks, and expects us to obediently walk, and as we do God’s supernatural is released and collides with the potential He wired within us.

We all have natural potential that we’re aware of and that others have noticed. Maybe athletically, musically, artistically, mentally… but there is a reservoir of “potential” that only God’s supernatural will activate.  Our stepping up, and stepping out calls that forward. I can bring a coach alongside me to help call out, and bring forth my natural potential, but I’m talking about something different here. I’m talking about God activating something we can’t.

Ephesians 3:15 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us

You have potential in you that you aren’t aware of. God has places and things in store for you that you will never even imagine.

I see over and over God casting a vision to a man or woman who then wrestles with it, and if the man or woman has the courage to walk it out, God fulfills the vision for His glory. From the beginning to today and into the future. That’s how God operates.

Adam, Eve, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Mary, Peter, Paul, Steve, Pam, Tim, Michael, Sam, Karen, Nick, Bill, Insert your name here: ______

Over the past 10 years I have gone through John Eldridge’s Wild At Heart Series with hundreds of men. We’ve done it in weekly small groups, conferences and retreats. There is a section where we ask the men to get alone with God and ask Him what He thinks of them. They ask God, “Who am I, and why am I here?”

Every Single Time, God speaks to some of the men in these groups that day. He gives them a name and in many cases a mission statement. Equally consistent is each man’s reluctance to tell others what God has said to them. WHY? Because in so many cases we are just like Gideon and Peter… we look like the exact opposite of what was said. “If I admit what God says about me it might cause people to laugh or they may think me arrogant.” For that and other reasons we tend to wait to speak up, and step out until we can see even a little “proof” that it might be true. Unfortunately, God doesn’t work that way. He meets us in our speaking and stepping.

You shrinking back from what God says, denies the power that God wants to demonstrate through you for His glory.

I believe that every one of us have been wired with God given potential, a latent excellence or ability that once acknowledged and combined with God’s supernatural will enable us to accomplish for His glory what we could never imagine in our own strength.

If you are in the threshing floor like Gideon taking care of business or like Peter, you’re following Jesus before He’s renamed you. Ask God to speak. Ask Him for marching orders.

If God has spoken, He’s given you direction, He’s birthed a dream and you are now “wrestling”. Begin to communicate that to close friends. Get good counsel, and ask God for the timing to walk it out.

If you are operating in that calling, you’ve heard, you’ve wrestled, and now you’re walking it out. Be aware of the enemy’s ability to fight you with “good” to keep you from God’s best.

The M*A*S*H Unit

  • As a child and you just endured the first of many verbal assaults from your Dad.
  • The one you’ve been dating, the one your crazy about just crushed you when they broke up with you.  
  • Your best friend of 12 years just stabbed you in the back. 
  • Your partner stole from you.    
  • Your spouse cheated on you. 
  • You look at your face in the mirror and gingerly touch the bruise around your eye from the abuse that has become all too common. 
  • You are away at camp having the time of your life until your innocence is shattered by a counselor who molests you.  
  • You hold your hands tight around your ears so you can’t hear your parents fight the night they tell you they are getting a divorce.
  • Your pillow is soaked with tears as you lay awake trying to understand why Daddy isn’t going to come home anymore. 
  • You are Fat, Tall, Four Eyes, Mommas Boy, Cry Baby, and Sissy, Whatever the name was you endured.

 We have all been wounded. And each time we are, we carry our wounded “selves” deep, deep undercover…Far back behind enemy lines to our own personal M.A.S.H. unit. And as we enter we see two rows of gurneys lining each wall. It has a very familiar look to it, much like the M.A.S.H. TV show. Each gurney has a wounded soldier in it. Each wound is different from the next. As we push our current wounded self between the two rows we notice that every one of the patients is us. There I am from that wound in grade school. In the next bed it’s the wounded me from the break up, in the next bed its me and the wound I took from my dad that I would never be good enough, I’d never really matter. It’s a room full of “you’s”.

We carry our wounded “selves” in but we never go back to bring them out again. We leave them there more out of protection than for healing. Each wounded “us” is now shell-shocked for life. We are gun-shy and we begin to develop a suit of armor that will prevent being wounded in that place again. Pretty soon we’re walking around like robots… “Stiff”

We can go to the M.A.S.H. unit and talk to ourselves for hours. In fact we many times invite others in to show them our scars. We maintain our focus on not becoming more wounded instead of seeking healing. We remain in the gurneys to try and restrict future pain, but by doing so we inadvertently restrict our level of life, our level of love, connection, ministry and relationship.

We go and visit one of our wounded selves and we sit and talk and talk and talk. It’s easy to do because we have so much in common. We strategize and develop a mask to show the rest of the world so we will be able to stay in pain. COME ON! How much sense does that make? We’ve been hurt, let’s say for example the person we were dating, (and had fallen in love with) just broke up with us. We’re shattered and instead of getting help and healing we figure out a way not to get hurt that way again. We carry our wounded self back to the M.A.S.H. unit and leave our self there for good. Please follow this. We have dropped our wounded self off at the “hospital” not to get fixed or repaired or healed but for PROTECTION. We have no intention of ever coming back and bringing that person or part of our heart out ever again, (that stupid person [Me] who just got us hurt so badly. We decide to never let anyone get that close to us ever again. But the fact remains, that person is still a part of us. We are still wounded, just because we try not to let the rest of the world see the wound, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. All we have done is devised a plan of how not to get worse! (This is craziness!)

Wounds are fertile soil for hate, bitterness, jealousy, envy and so much more ugliness. I once read that bitterness corrodes the container it’s carried in. That is so true. Are there some places in your heart that need to be healed by the Great Physician?

Turn and be healed
…They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.
Isaiah 19:22

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:15

How’s Your Complexion?

Most everyone is aware how anger, hatred and un-forgiveness can turn into bitterness and how harmful these things can be to a person’s well being. I remember reading once, “Hate corrodes the container it is carried in.” That is so true. In fact, you could really substitute the word “hate” in that sentence with jealousy, envy, anger, offense and so many more. I wonder if we would harbor these things if the byproduct was manifest on the outside of the body instead of within.

What if jealousy showed up as a rash on the arms and envy presented itself as bruising on the neck. What if un-forgiveness showed up as boils on our face and prejudice manifest as blisters on our hands. What if… How many people would be seeking The Physician then? How many people would be content to walk around like that if these things were that obvious to others? How’s your complexion?

Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness. 1 John 2:9-11 (The Message)

Embracing Me

I don’t know of any challenge as daunting nor as thrilling to master than that of self. Once we’ve done that, I dare say that adversity may look more like opportunity. James must have seen it this way to consider it “Pure Joy”.

Acknowledge and EMBRACE the way you are wired. Identify the characteristics, giftings and longings of your heart and recognize that they are responsible for many of your ingenious and exceptional qualities. AND with them come some cleverly disguised destructive traits that can continually blindside you. (The old “greatest strength, greatest weakness” thing).

We are built to be brilliant, talented and resilient, but without surrounding ourselves with others who can guide and counsel us, we will rarely come close to our potential. We all need someone who can call the best out of us. We all need a coach to lead us and we all need a cheerleader to come along side us. FYI: Most of the time they don’t come looking for us. (It’s worth mentioning that we are all coaches and cheerleaders for people in our life as well.)

God designed each of us for a purpose and He has given us every tool we will need to be successful. Mastering the use of the tools however requires some practice on our part. For example: If the heart were a tool it could be used to love or hate, but only in love is the tool used properly. Our brains can file, store, and retrieve information like a super computer but they can also be so noisy that it is difficult to finish reading this paragraph. Master “self” and your potential is unlimited. React to “self” and live a small truncated life. Be you! Ask the Designer for help. Be specific.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

What Makes You Come Alive?

…Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall… Nehemiah 2:17 

Seeing Jerusalem in ruins broke Nehemiah’s heart. He had to do something. All the “great” ones stood for something… some “thing”… ONE thing! It consumed them. Today, as always, there are so many worthy causes and most people dabble in a few rather than finding their “niche”… their call.

Men are wired for adventure and if we’re not engaged in a real adventure we go looking for a substitute. Surveys show that 60% of men who have had an affair did so for the adventure, not sex! Abuse of drugs, alcohol and pornography continues to top the list as an escape from an adventureless life.

What is it that breaks your heart? What injustice turns your stomach? What atrocity produces anger in you? What are you willing to die for? And most of all what makes you come alive? Identify that and begin with reckless abandon. NO, I mean right now… START! Or shut up, open your bag of chips, sit back on the couch with the other 99% who have the same inner rumblings, but are too obsessed with themselves and “today” to head out on a journey to change the world. Can you feel the love? I hope so!

Some questions to jump start your heart: CLEAR!

  • What do I love to do?
  • What do I enjoy so much I would do it for free?
  • What have others told me I’m good at?

Christian Or Not

I received an interesting question from a man about my consulting business, and if it was right for him. (I will call him Bill, but he will remain anonymous) I thought it was worth answering publically just in case someone else might be wondering the same thing.

Bill writes: “I visited your website today and liked what I saw. Your video described me to a T, my business is dependent on me and I work more hours than I care to admit. I think I could use the kind of help you offer, but I noticed you give a lot of credit to God for your success. I am not a Christian, nor do I intend on becoming one. Do you believe you still have something to offer me?”

Dear Bill,

First off I applaud your honesty and I appreciate someone who knows where they stand. I had a measure of success prior to having a relationship with Jesus. I believe there are proven principles and strategies for business that will work for anyone, Christian or not. I believe there are definitive ways you can cherish your wife and engage your kids that will make your relationships extraordinary, Christian or not. I believe there are certain morals and values you can operate by that will make you kind, loving, generous, and a person who is well liked, Christian or not.  So the short answer to your question is yes.

What I never had was the fulfillment and contentment that I thought the success and money would bring. I believe there is an innate desire in everyone for a relationship with their Creator. And we try to fill it innumerous ways, but we’re always left with a space only God can fill. Bill, I look forward to working with you on your business, Christian or not… no strings attached. But the best service I can be to you, if and when you’re ready is an introduction to Jesus.

Best regards,
Michael

Rare Is The Man

Rare is the man whose heart is wholly devoted to the Lord.

Most of us believe in God, love God, worship God and trust God… with 98% of our heart.

We serve an extraordinary God but most of us would describe our lives as ordinary at best. If we compared ourselves to non-believers there wouldn’t be a big “AVANTAGE” in the Christian column like there should be.

Everyone’s heard “What makes something extraordinary?” That little EXTRA, well I think the same thing is true in the other direction. Giving God a little less than 100% of your heart keeps us mediocre.

I believe that small part of your heart that you keep locked away from everyone else (including God) (which in itself is a little funny because God obviously knows about it, you’re just not allowing Him access to it) keeps you below average, mediocre and ordinary instead of living the abundant life we are called to.

This is not a new condition by the way!  Go back several thousand years and for generations in both directions only one man is found. 2 Kings 23:25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength…

Now come forward to about two thousand years ago. Jesus is talking to an entire city and can’t find one person whose fully engaged. Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

How about today? Here are statistics about American Christian men (most from the Barna group)

  • 44% admitted to struggling with fear.
  • 73% admitted to not leading their family the way God intended.
  • 70% admitted to struggling with porn in their daily lives.
  • 50% admitted to viewing pornography at least twice a month.
  • 38% believe it is morally acceptable and there is nothing wrong with porn.
  • 22% are having inappropriate relations with another woman.
  • 82% would describe their lives as average to mediocre
  • 98% have a secret
  • 31% admitted to being a workaholic
  • When asked is your marriage thriving, plateaued or failing. Only 18% said thriving

These are Statistics about American Christian men… How is this possible? How can we serve an extraordinary God and be so similar to those who don’t even know Him?

I believe the control you are holding onto is making you vulnerable and keeping you average! I believe that that little piece of your heart you want to maintain control of is your undoing. I don’t care if that small part of your heart is hurt, shame, fear, guilt, pride, or a secret. If you don’t give God access to it it’s never going to change!

Ten years ago I had lost everything; business, family, friends… everything, and I prayed this little prayer “God I give you access to my whole heart! I’m not holding anything back anymore! Do whatever it takes to make me the man You’ve created me to be. Make me a great husband, an awesome father, an incredible provider, a great steward of the resources you entrust me with. Do whatever it takes!

I first prayed it when I had nothing left to lose. Today it’s a bit of a scary prayer, but I will not stop praying it because I trust God more with me than I trust me with me and that my friends is what it really boils down to. Are you willing to relinquish control?

I do not have it all figured out! But I attribute God’s work in my life to this prayer and giving Him 100% access and permission to do whatever it takes. So what do you say? How’s what you’re doing working for you? Make a move!

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