Every Bite’s a Blessing


Gluttony (1)I’m intrigued by several things in life. But nothing intrigues me more than this: What does it take to trigger…and sustain…life change? What does it take for me to get better at doing what’s best for me? And to do it more quickly. And more faithfully.

What’s the catalyst of true transformation…transformation that causes us to become more like the person we are designed to be? Knowledge doesn’t seem to do it. We all have more knowledge than we know what to do with. We can rattle off the benefits of change, but perks don’t seem to do the trick, either.

Like many pastors throughout the world, our pastor, Todd, pours his heart into the weekend messages – heart and soul. But quite frankly, I sometimes wonder what difference a great message makes. What difference does it make in the way we think, or in the decisions we make. Does the truth really have an impact on how we live life…in the long run?

Okay, I’m probably going a little too deep here, considering our topic. Our topic is discovering a blessing in every bite of food.

I’ve recently made a life change. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say I’ve recently begun a life change. It’s a change in the making. But my change-in-the-making was not motivated by a gifted speaker. It was not inspired by some profound insight. Or by knowledge.

It was inspired by our five-year-old grandson, Landyn. It happened during one of my Michigan visits to see my family there. And I’m quite sure he didn’t mean to do it.

It was a simple observation: “Grandpa, you’re getting a little chubby.” And he grinned.

And I grinned back. And I meant it (if it’s possible to mean a grin).

I grinned because it was true. And it was cute. And it started my neurological wheels turning.

For several months I’d noticed a profile in the mirror that I’d never imagined I’d see. It was the profile of an overweight (okay, “chubby”), little-past-middle-aged grandpa-guy. So I’d suck it in for a few seconds, just to remember what I used to look like. Then I’d tighten my belt and get on with my day. According to the chart on the wall of my doctor’s examination room, I was one category shy of being obese.

When I got back to home to New Mexico, I was motivated to face my chubbiness. I began by posting a plea for help from my Facebook friends. I imposed only two restrictions: no diet suggestions, and no exercise guilt trips. That’s it. These things may be great for other people, but they’ve become a bit cliche. I was looking for some fresh ideas.

Some folks suggested supplements. My son, Aaron, suggested tapeworms. I’m sure supplements have merit, but they’re not my thing. So I looked in to the worm suggestion. I found an ad from the 1920s that promised worm eggs were “easy to swallow.” And exercise and dieting were not a required component of the tapeworm regimen. I was intrigued. Unfortunately, Amazon does not seem to carry tapeworm eggs, so I nixed that idea.

Another friend, Chuck, suggested that I make hunger my friend, rather than a beast to be fed. This simple idea spawned a plan: Eat everything I want, but less. Enjoy every bite. And make friends with my hunger.

That was six weeks…and 20 pounds…ago.

And I’ve experienced some fairly significant side effects (besides gaining a couple notches in my belt). I spend less money on food. I have more energy. Most important to me—I’m more thankful. Which makes me more aware of the needs around me.

I’m thankful for every bite. I enjoy the flavor, and the texture. I chew slowly. I savor even the slightest hint of seasoning.

Knowing that I’ll take only a few bites – maybe a half dozen or so – I’m not in a hurry to pound it down. Then I put whatever’s left back in the fridge for later. It was a plan that required me to do what seemed unnatural at first. It was a plan that required intentional, consistent choices.

It was a plan that required me to weigh every hunger craving I had against what I wanted in the long run…which was to be less chubby. And more honoring of God’s provision in my life.

I discovered that my craving for food – in the past – had trumped my better judgment. My cravings – rather than my will – were behind the wheel…in the driver’s seat of my life. It was akin to a spoiled child wrecking havoc in the home, and nobody doing anything to stop it.

The intentional choice thing is beginning to spill over into other areas of my life. I’m aware that I often use too many words to say what I want to say. I’ve noticed that too often I’m impatient about things that have no lasting significance. And I’ve noticed I’m too quick to judge.

It seems as if the more grateful I am for the things that have been entrusted to me to sustain my life, the more careful I am to treat these things with respect. I feel less “gluttonous,” not just with respect to food, but with respect to everything that matters to me. I savor the things that are precious to me.

I’ve become more attuned to the Source of my new-found restraint and awareness—the Spirit of God. He’s the source of something called the “Fruit of the Spirit,” and self-control is a component of this supernatural fruit (Galatians 5.22-23).

Yes, I get hungry. And I’m thankful for my hunger. It has become my friend, reminding me that everything I have is a gift. And I’ve been gifted with things most people in the world can only dream about. I can eat as much as I want, as often as I want. And I can eat as little as I want, as seldom as I want.

I can truly say I eat to my heart’s content.

Every bite’s a blessing.

The “Burning Question”


burningTHE WORD: “Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing.” ~ 1 King 18:21

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” ~Joshua 24:15

I’ve been wrestling with a decision that I need to make. It’s daunting. On the one hand, I know that God is calling me to greater things, not in the sense that I’m going to be great, but in the sense that God wants to use the gifts and talents that He created in me to carry out His purpose. I am being challenged to step into my vocation…my calling. It’s a transition that I know God has been preparing me for, and yet I feel so totally inept. This time of transition is scary! My biggest struggle is the fear of failure. I do not want to fail Papa God.

In addition to the study of Gideon by Priscilla Shirer, I’ve been listening to messages by Andy Stanley, Todd Cook, and this week I added a message from Pastor Steve Furdick. Every message resonates the same theme: It is time to choose.

In the book of 1st Kings, the story of Elijah continues as God instructs him to anoint Elisha as the next prophet of Israel.
“So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” ~1 Kings 19:19-21

“Go back,” Elijah replied.“So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.”

These verses spoke volumes to me. You see, in order to move forward, Elisha knew he had to do some housekeeping. He had to say goodbye to his parents, but more significant to me was the fact that Elisha knew he had to burn his plow and slaughter his oxen – the tools of his trade. This was a pivotal moment in Elisha’s life. He knew that in order to be completely free to forge ahead to do the greater things that God had purposed for him, he had to be rid of anything in his life that would hold him back.

Elisha took the necessary steps to complete surrender. So this begged the questions: What are the things I’m holding onto? What do I need to “burn,” metaphorically speaking? I know the answer: It is my fear, my doubt, my trepidation of the unknown! Now that I know this, the decision is really quite simple. I must trust Papa God. He has my best interest at heart. He knows my past, my present and my future. I must walk by faith and not by sight!

It’s time to step into the water and watch God part my daunting Red Sea. It’s time for complete surrender!

The final spiritual arrow that pierced my heart this week was embedded in Todd’s message yesterday. I came home and read it again:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 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. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” ~Revelation 3:14-20

This is the voice of our Savior…calling out to us…pursuing us…because he loves us so!

In Todd’s message, he said, “As a believer, if you choose to disobey, you will not lose your salvation, but you will lose the JOY of your salvation.”

I decided a long time ago that I want to live out the rest of my life in the joy of the Lord! I know now what I must choose!

How about you? Are you at a crossroad? Do you have fears, doubts, habits, relationships, in your life that keep you from moving forward? What is God calling you to do? How will you respond? Will you remain silent, or will you “burn” the things that hinder and weigh you down. Will you choose today to be a servant of your idols…or a servant of God?

“Papa God, help us to trust you with every area of our lives! Help us to seek after you…to surrender completely anything that would hinder our walk and our service to you. Help us to take your WORD seriously, to read it daily and to allow it to massage our hearts into obedience. You created us for a purpose. Help us to be still and to listen to your voice…your calling for our lives. You, Papa, will never fail us. You have our best interest at heart! We ask this in Jesus name… Amen”

Turning Point…Are You Willing?


turning point (1)THE WORD: “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:17 NLT)

What an amazing week it’s been! Between the North Point Church online messages that I listened to last week, the Gideon study by Priscilla Shirer that I’m in the middle of, and today’s message from Pastor Todd…there is no doubt in my mind that Papa’s Holy Spirit is moving!

In the North Point Church message entitled, “Right in the Eye,” Andy Stanley opens the series with this statement “It’s my life. I should be free to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want . . . as long as I’m not hurting anybody.” This is what we tell ourselves. But what if it’s not true? What if our desire to do what is right in our own eyes has major consequences for us, for the people with us, for the people who love us, and for the people coming after us?”

The Gideon study by Priscilla Shirer takes us through the life of a man who is no different from you and me. A man called by God, empowered by God to unite the people of God to fight against the enemies of God. However, somewhere along the way Gideon lost focus; he allowed his anger and pride to rule the day. His humility left him. He neglected his relationship with God. At the end of battles that he fought, he used the praises of man and the gold rings to create his own idol. He turned to the world and allowed the comfort of money and fame to take the place of God in his life. He returned to his idolatry.

This story…this study…begs the questions: “Is there anything in my life that I have allowed to take the place of God? Have I allowed sin to creep back in? Is there anything in my life that I’m idolizing more than Papa God?”

In today’s message from pastor Todd, the challenge was loud and clear…. “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get unstuck?”

Rather than being willing to do whatever it takes to get free, most of us try to convince others that we’re not really stuck. We mask our “issues” with smiles and pretend that our world is just fine. We isolate and deceive ourselves into thinking that we can keep it under the radar. We tell ourselves, “If no one knows…then it’s really not ‘real,’ and I don’t have to do anything about it. I can continue in my secret sin…no one has to know.”

Little do we know that the sin is glaring like a big fat pimple in the middle of our forehead…full of puss and ready to burst! At the end of the day, the only one we’re deceiving is ourselves.

Whatever we struggle with…that “thing” that we keep shoving under the rug…is actually consuming us. Like cancer, it spreads, consumes and destroys everything and everyone around us. The longer we remain in this path of deception, the more damage we cause…to ourselves and to our loved ones.

Oh how the Devil smiles over this state of stupidity we fall into…this path we have chosen! Worse yet is the fact that we lose our spiritual “sweet spot” with Papa God. He removes his “lamp stand” from us because we have made the choice to remain in a state of rebellion. And our strength is sapped: “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night, your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” ~ Psalm 32:3-4

Like Adam and Eve, we hide. We let the guilt and the shame override the fact that the entire time that we are in the middle our sin, God’s heart is breaking for us! He is a loving merciful forgiving Father! Just as He called out for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Papa cries out for you and me! “Where are you…why are you hiding?” Oh how He longs for our return. He does not force us; it needs to be our choice. He simply waits.

So my prayer and my call to any one of us that may be dealing with secret sin(s): Let us take time to help each other get unstuck! TODAY…not tomorrow…is the day to take the prescription of the three “R’s” seriously:

REMEMBER…the heights from which you have fallen…that “sweet spot” where you found your joy with Papa God. Remember the energy, the warmth, the pleasure you felt being in His presence! You and HIM…exactly how it is meant to be! He loves you so much and longs to be your King again!

REPENT – If you are dealing with a ‘secret’ sin, choose right now to turn around and walk away from it. Do not let the enemy win! Do not wait until tomorrow…do it TODAY!

RETURN – God is right there…waiting to gaze into your face and wrap His loving arms around you! Turn around child…run back to the Cross and fall into His loving arms.

One last thought from Pastor Todd’s message: “In God’s economy, seeking God is greater than serving Him.”

He is worth it friend! Take time today to SEEK His face and His righteousness and you will be amazed at how “all other things” will be added unto you!

“Papa God, we come before your throne today. Humble us and cause us to take inventory of our lives. Search our hearts and reveal to us anything that we may have allowed to take your place. Give us the courage to repent and turn back to you today! Help us to reach out to a brother or sister in Christ….someone that can love and hold us accountable…someone that will pray with and for us.

Father, just as You will not force us to turn back, neither can our brothers or sisters. It is our choice…our call. Help us to pour out in confession anything that is hindering our walk with you and damaging our witness. I know you love us Lord…and you long for our return. Help us to trust you. Help us to remember that in YOUR arms is exactly where we need to be! In Jesus name, I pray! ~ Amen”

Do You Get Distracted by the Enemy’s Noise?


noiseTHE WORD: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7

My study of the life of Gideon has taken me to an introspective place once again. I love these moments when God taps me on my shoulder and reminds me that I need to turn my face…my attention…back to Him.

I tend to be easily distracted by the obstacles that the enemy uses to derail me from God’s divine purpose. When I allow emotions to drown out His voice, I experience an unnecessary diversion. The distraction of the noise from the enemy’s camp sways me into seeking human approval for matters that God has already worked out. It’s so easy for me to get caught-up in the momentum of disappointments. Oh how frail my earthen vessel!

As always….You are amazing Papa God! When I made the decision to follow You, You promised to never leave or forsake me! When I go off track, You pursue me…and when You find me in the ditches…muddied and bruised, You lift me up, clean me up, and gently turn my face back to Your loving gaze! You remove my insecurities. You refuel me with Your courage and strength….an infusion of perseverance…and on Your way I go!

Yes…I sense a change in my trajectory up ahead….a life changer to be sure! I am trusting ABBA Father to keep me focused! I will cling to the Vine…there my source of strength will remain constant and sure. Papa God has already worked out the details. He will remove the obstacles and clear the way so that at the end of this life, HE will have been glorified…His purpose fulfilled. That is my desire!

Thank you Papa God…for it is your Spirit that resides in me. Help me to be consistent in my walk with You. You are the strength that I need. I want to be caught up in YOUR momentum! I praise and thank You for renewal this morning! In Jesus name…

Opportunity in the Opposition


sword (2)If you allow your perception of circumstances to trump God’s TRUTH, in essence you’ve allowed the enemy’s lies to become your reality.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” ~James 4:7, 10 NLT

“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. Then I said, ‘O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’” ~ Nehemiah 1:4-9

What can we learn from Nehemiah’s prayer?
1. He acknowledges the character of God. (1:5)
2. He confesses his sin (1:6-7)
3. He prays for an opportunity (1:11)

What obstacles do we face like Nehemiah?
1. He faced ridicule. (4:1-3)
2. He faced fatigue. (4:10)

What should we do when we face these obstacles? Here’s what we learn from Nehemiah…(4:4-5, 14, 15)
1. He relied on God.
2. He reorganized.
3. He told the people to fight with the sword in one hand and work with the other with Gods power.
4. They refused to quit.

There will be no opportunity without opposition. What is it in your life that Satan would love for you to give up on?

Your future is not determined by the opinions of others. Your future is in the hands of God. Pray as if it depends on God, and work as if it depends on you. Remember who you belong to!

In Nehemiah, chapter 8, Nehemiah assembled with a unified purpose. He and his fellow brothers and sisters made a commitment to live and learn in community. They made a commitment to confess their sins. Once you’ve confessed your sins and poured your heart out to God, don’t stay there…RISE UP! Look up and take our Savior’s hand! Don’t focus on your failures. Rely on God’s faithfulness! Anticipate His presence.

READ Nehemiah 6:1-6, 8-12, 15

What takes us off course? What is causing us to leave our commitments? Are you going to allow distractions to make you lose the purpose that God wants to fulfill in and through you? Are you making a 1st rate commitment to 10th rate stuff?

We need to apply laser like focus – know what you value and then live by your values. Define your non-negotiables.

The key components to success are prayer and the Word of God. Are you going to let the opinion (gossip) of others stop you from being all that God has called you to be?

Speak the truth in love. Be a part of the solution. Pray and ask God to strengthen you from the inside out. Don’t let the words of those that are trying to discourage or oppress you succeed. Our almighty God will deal with them. God is in control.

Are you allowing fear to paralyze you? It comes down to faith vs. fear! What are we allowing to win? Never give up on your passion. Yes, give up all those things that hinder your walk, but never, ever give up on God! He never gave up on you! Our life matters to God
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I’ve got one shot! Am I living for an audience of ONE?
LIFE IS AN OCCASION…RISE TO IT!

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