Think about these questions: Be honest with yourself as you answer them.
1. Do you desire to grow closer to Christ?
2. Do you want to spend more time with your family and friends?
3. Do you want to be in better physical shape?
4. Do you want to be in better financial shape?
Most of us would answer yes to most, if not all, of these questions. The question is how are you going to do it? How are you going to get from where you are right now to where you want to be in these areas? The truth is everyone winds up somewhere. No matter where you go in life, you will end up somewhere, but where you end up is often far from where you hoped. One time I was driving in a car with another man and we got completely lost. I looked at him and said “Do you have any idea where we are going?” He replied: “Nope, but we’re making good time.” Unfortunately, this is how many people approach their goals in life.
Most people are really good at setting goals but really bad at actually achieving them because we get sidetracked and busy and life happens. Six months later we wind up somewhere but usually not where we want to be because we didn’t take the necessary steps to make the changes stick. We wind up drifting day after day in a sea of busyness, or we quit trying to reach our goals altogether. So my question to you is: Are you going anywhere intentionally?
This summer Kathi, Katie, and myself traveled to Wyoming to spend some time at a friend’s house. Before we left the driveway I put the destination address in Google Maps and it calculated a route for me. Seventeen hours later we arrived at our destination. If we would not have had a map and a plan, it would have taken much longer. In life, the same principles apply. Regardless of where you are now, if you want to get to where you want to be, you need a road map.
In life, a road map is akin to a game plan—a carefully thought-out strategy for reaching your goals. My road map probably doesn’t look exactly like yours, because my goals are different than yours. The reality that we might be following slightly different road maps doesn’t negate the wisdom of using one in the first place. One wise person once said “If you aim at nothing, you are likely to hit it every time.”
Regardless of where you are now, you need a road map to get you to where you want to be. Here are a few tips to help you do this.
1. Know where you are right now. How can you know where you are right now? It is called “reflection”. One of my goals this past year was to spend more time with my family. So in the spring I sat down and reflected on our family time last year. Google calendar makes it really easy to do this. I also took an honest assessment of our finances, my relationship with God, and the amount of time I spent with friends.
2. Know where you want to go. Once I took a realistic look at where we were as a family and where I was as a man, I set out to determine where I wanted to be. Kathi and I sat down and planned several family days and a couple trips. Several years ago I would have let my work at church take priority, but this year I scheduled more family time because they are a higher priority. We also set financial goals and I set relational goals. I didn’t write them all down, but I do know what they are in my head. You might benefit from writing them down if you need “to do” lists to keep you on track. I want my life to benefit others. I want to be the best pastor, leader, husband, friend, and father I can be. My goals and my calendar should reflect this. Our family didn’t spend as much time together as we wanted to because, well, life happened. But it was more time than the last year because we mapped it out.
3. Understand that life happens between where you are right now and where you want to be. Some people are infected with “destination disease.” They live their life thinking that they will be happy only if they reach their goals. They think, “When I get married, then I will be happy” or “When my kids graduate from high school…” or “When I finally have money in the bank...”. They get so focused on the future that they can’t enjoy the present. I am all about planning for the days ahead, but if you base all your hopes and dreams on the then and there, you will miss the here and now. The essence of life is enjoyed in real time all the time, so enjoy the scenery and the stops along the way. I am learning to enjoy family dinners, car trips, and even watching T.V. together more.
4. Don’t be afraid to take an alternate route. While traveling to Wyoming, we encountered several areas of road construction. We could have sat in traffic for hours or even waited months for the road to reopen, but we chose to travel alternate routes. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. Rather than pouting about it, don’t be afraid to head in a new direction even if it’s unfamiliar. You are still headed toward your goal, but it just might take a little longer to get there.
When it comes to traveling through life, I can’t stress the importance of following the roadmap enough. Remember, even the best travelers stop and ask for directions from time to time. In the journey of life, people who refuse to stop and ask for directions aren’t just stubborn or persistent; they’re foolish. Taking the time to stop and ask for directions might seem like a big hassle when you're busy and behind with the daily stuff of life, but it will help you get to where you want to be.
From one traveler to another, I encourage you to stick to your road map or you just might end up passing time driving in circles. The older I get, the more I am learning to enjoy the journey and all that takes place on the way.
Kijong-dong is a village in Panmun-gun North Korea. It is a beautiful city full of beautiful apartments and beautiful streets and a beautiful school. The North Koreans claim that there are over 200 beautiful homes filled with everything that a perfect society needs. They have a kindergarten, day care, senior middle school, and people’s hospital. Everyday gardeners and small farmers tend to the flowers and the fields. By all accounts it looks and feels like a normal healthy North Korean Village. The problem is, nobody really lives there. Kijong-dong is known internationally as propaganda village because this village represents the perfect image that the North Korean’s desire to have. The truth is they are only fooling themselves because everybody in the rest of the world knows North Korea is anything but perfect.
After the Korean War ended and the north was divided from the south, North Korea went on a rambunctious building program. In an effort to make the South Koreans jealous of their great economy they built a completely fake city that still exists to this day. Lights come on and off in the apartments just like they would in a normal home except these lights come on at the exact same time and go off at the exact same time every day because they are set to timers. And every day the flag is raised by the soldiers in the DMZ and every night the flag is lowered. And every day the loudspeaker sings praises of Kim Jung-un. And day after day after day the North Koreans continue thinking that the rest of the world admires the great city that has no inhabitants.
The crazy thing is that you don’t have to travel to the middle of Korea to see propaganda village. All you need to do is take a drive down your streets. Propaganda village exists in every city in every state in the nation. We live in a world where people want to portray the perfect family. We manicure our yards, wash our cars, and even stage the room in front of our front window to show others we have it all together.
The truth is that when our life is falling apart we put on more makeup and pretend that everything is just great. When we have marriage problems we joke about it and laugh about it but heaven help us if we ever tell someone that our marriage is falling apart. And when it comes to our kids, we are proud as can be as long as nobody gets too personal and begins to figure out that our family has deep rooted issues.
If you don’t know it by now, I don’t want to shock you, but perfect people don’t exist. Everybody has failures, problems, and struggles. No matter how perfect we try to be, we can never actually be perfect. One of the things that makes the bible so unique is it never portrays people as perfect. The bible is full of the biographies of ordinary imperfect people. None of these people were perfect ,and in case there is any doubt, God tells us that no one is perfect. Not even one.
“There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10 NIV
Once we admit that we are not perfect, it sure makes it a lot easier to enjoy life because we can be ourselves. We don’t have to have our best clothes on just to walk out and get the mail. If you are a woman, you don’t have to have the perfect body in order to be perfectly accepted by God. God loves us as we are, even with our imperfections and our problems. Imperfect people need a perfect God to make them perfectly accepted, flaws and all.
No matter how perfect some people may appear, we all still have problems. That’s why imperfect people like you and I need a perfect God to give us the internal peace that we desperately desire. The sooner we accept the fact that we are flawed, the better because as soon as we admit that we are flawed, the sooner we are open to receiving grace from our perfect Savior.
The Bible says:
“31 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” 2 Samuel 22:31 NIV
God is perfect and Holy and willing to take an imperfect person and love them because they love his perfect son Jesus Christ. The good news is that Freshwater is a church full of imperfect people. Nobody in the Freshwater family is a super saint or a perfect person; we are all on a faith journey toward Christ-likeness. So if you have been residing in propaganda village, I want to invite you to step out of it and step into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. With him we do not have to pretend or invent an image. He accepts us as we are. Jesus accepts us with messy hair, messy homes and messy lives. Jesus accepts us with financial problems and failures. People who have an authentic relationship with Jesus accept the fact that they do not have to be perfect in order to be loved and be secure.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he willingly came and died on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. In everyday life terms this means that Jesus took a bullet for you. He willingly laid down his perfect life for an imperfect person like you and I so that we can be united with God. It’s a simple concept really, God loves you and I so much that he was willing to die so that we could have a relationship with Him.
Because of God’s grace we can be real. We can tell God why we are sad, that we feel lonely, or that we crave hope. Because of God’s grace we can admit that we are scared and scarred. Nobody is perfect, imperfect people exist everywhere. No matter how much it may look like your neighbor has it together, they still live an imperfect life and need the perfect Savior Jesus Christ. I love being part of a church that is on the corner of transparency and grace. This is the intersection where the church needs to be.
Dear Freshwater Friend,
Over a decade ago I was in my office late one night wrapping up a few lingering items. For whatever reason, I stopped working and reflected on why people love Freshwater. As I reflected, what kept coming to mind is this:
I typed out my thoughts trying to capture them in order to share. Over the years I have reflected on this many times. This is the statement that reflected my heart back then and it still reflects it today.
“We are the leaders at Freshwater. As volunteer staff and paid staff, we serve together. As a team we work together. As a church we worship together. As people we care for those whom we serve in our facilities and in our lives. We look beyond ourselves and consciously strive to see the needs of others so we can meet them. We desire to give people more than they expect in every way. We are unified in purpose and in spirit. We minister because we care and people come because they can feel it.”
I still believe that this is why people call Freshwater home. We love God and we love people and that’s what it’s all about. If we miss this, we miss everything. As part of the Freshwater family, I want to thank you for investing in the lives of others. What we do matters, it matters to God and it matters to those whom we serve and serve with.
Several months ago a friend gave me this verse as she prayed a blessing over Freshwater and myself. She said the verse was for the church.
“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:12
Freshwater does bear fruit. God is moving here in some amazing ways. And I believe we are on the verge of a new movement of God, a spiritual breakthrough fueled by the power of prayer and the passion of God’s people. Will you please join me in praying that God stirs the hearts of those who come to reflect the love of Christ with their attitude and actions? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit prompts the people in our community to take the next step and connect with him? Will you pray that God uses Freshwater to raise the spiritual climate of this community? I can sense that God is on the move at Freshwater and by the power of the Holy Spirit I am prayerfully seeking His wisdom, guidance and direction. I am asking you to do the same. Thank you for investing in Freshwater. Thank you for investing in others for the glory of God. I’m excited about what God has in store for us.
As a kid, my parents would make me and my sister go to church because they enjoyed going. It would drive me nuts listening to my father sing, because as far as I was concerned, all the singing should have been left to the experienced vocalists in the choir, and all the listening should have been left to him and everyone else. Occasionally when my parents looked at me I would lip sync like Milli Vanilli, putting on enough of an act to satisfy my parents that I was engaged in what was happening around me.
The weekends that my dad ushered were the best. He ushered about once a month and we always went out for breakfast with all the other ushers before church. Thirty minutes before service we would head over to the church and talk about who was covering what. I liked to hand out programs because it was my excuse for talking to cute girls. Five minutes after the service started we had to get ready to receive the offering, making sure to be ready for the pastor to say the word for us to come forward and pass the plates. Most of the time it went smoothly, but occasionally I saw one or two of the girls I had handed a program to earlier, and wound up skipping a row or two so I could smile at them again. Apparently this messed up the flow and caused all kinds of problems, but it was worth it to me.
After collecting the offering we would put it all in one bucket and two of us would take it downstairs to the church office. Then my dad and his friends would linger around the kitchen area drinking coffee and eating another donut that always lasted the length of the message. When the pastor was done speaking, coffee break was over and we went back upstairs to hear him give the benediction. After service, our job was to walk up and down the aisles collecting trash and straightening chairs. It was a small price to pay for getting to skip the message. Looking back, I liked ushering because we went out for breakfast before church, I got to check out the chicks, eat donuts, and skip the message.
After becoming a Christian, I realized that my previous motives for serving and attending church were not exactly “godly”. In fact, they were quite self-centered. Since those pre-Christian days my heart has changed. So why do I go to church now? No, I don’t go just because I’m a pastor; I attend church because I want to.
Did you know that people who attend church on a regular basis have better marriages and better sex than those who do not attend church?
(I’m not kidding! - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140409103032.htm)
Church attenders also have more joy and more peace than those who don’t attend. I could go on and on about the peripheral benefits of attending church on a regular basis, but here are the top five reasons why I love attending church every week:
1. I get to worship with others.
There is something about worshipping with other believers that lights a fire in me. I still can’t sing, so yes, I still lip sync on occasion. But my heart is in it now.
2. I get to hear God’s word.
A good message is engaging and relevant. It helps me to understand God’s word and challenges me to live it out. Whenever I speak, I always try my best to be engaging, relevant, and challenging.
3. I am being accountable.
When I attend church I am being accountable to God and to others because I’m staying engaged. Regular attendance also helps me to continue to practice biblical tithing. I committed to being on the team when I joined the church, so every week I show up because I am a team player. I have come to appreciate the accountability that comes from attending church regularly.
4. I get to serve.
It’s been a long time since I served at church for the wrong reasons. Now I love to serve because I love helping people grow in their faith. It doesn’t matter if I am picking up garbage in the parking lot, painting a wall, or greeting people at the door. All these activities help make disciples, something Jesus commands His followers to do. Now I enjoy serving for the right reasons.
5. I feel connected.
If I miss a few weeks of church, I feel disconnected. Over the summer I take a short sabbatical and attend other churches while I am away, but nothing compares to being around my church family at Freshwater. I love connecting with my friends and future friends to share what is happening in my life and to ask them what is happening in theirs. I also enjoy the good coffee and donuts we have.
These are just a few of the many reasons why I love going to church. Could I just stay home and listen to messages online? Sure, but I would miss out on all the other blessings that come from being around other like-minded believers. If you have not made a commitment to attend church every week, consider it and you will find yourself even more blessed. There is nothing on the planet like the local church, and when it’s healthy like Freshwater, it produces life. I look forward to worshipping with you!
I am often asked “How do I study the bible?” That’s a great question. There’s no doubt it’s a big book and can seem overwhelming at first. Some people try to read through it from cover to cover winding up feeling defeated by the time they get to the book of Numbers (the fourth book in the Old Testament). But I believe that anyone can study the bible as long as they know how.
Precept Ministries is known for teaching what is known as the inductive method of bible study to learn more about God and his written word. The inductive method of bible study is a three step process that can open a new door of scriptural understanding and will challenge you to apply what you learn. If you have never studied the bible on your own, the inductive method is a great tool to do just that.
I suggest starting in the New Testament with the Gospel of John if you are a rookie. If you have been a Christian you should go for other New Testament books like Romans or 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Just start somewhere and go from there. If you use these three steps the bible will come alive because you will have a new understanding of what’s being communicated through it.
Start by praying for God to give you wisdom and understanding. Read an entire chapter out of the Bible and observe what is happening in the text. The Bible was written for people by people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As you read it ask “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” questions. Mark key words and phrases that are essential to the text. For example, in Ephesians chapter one the words “In Christ” are used multiple times. Figure out what they mean or lead to. If you read the word “therefore” you need to find out what it’s there for. You might have to go back and read the previous chapter to do this.
2. Interpretation. This is when you seek to understand the context that the biblical author wrote in. What was going on in history at the time? Is your interpretation consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the entire book? Ask what is being communicated? What is the message that is being sent? What does it mean? Keep a notebook or highlighter handy. I like to highlight passages that stand out to me. Circle any key words or phrases you read. Find the meaning of the text you are reading and do more research if you have to.
There are tons of useful websites to help you as well.
3. Application. Discover what the text means to you in a practical sense. Ask God to reveal what he wants you to learn. Have you ever read the Bible and a passage just sticks out to you and feels like it was written just for you at that moment? I have. It’s called “Illumination” and it’s the work of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. The theologian Millard Erickson states, “Illumination by the Holy Spirit helps the Scripture reader or hearer understand the Bible and creates the conviction that it is true and is the Word of God” (Christian Theology).
Now that I have shared with you the skills to study the bible on your own, the next step is for you to make it a priority. I also suggest you get involved in a small group to experience God’s word with others in Christian community and to have an outlet to ask questions and deepen your understanding of scripture.
You might not do a study every time you sit down to read the bible but you should strive to do a few in depth studies at least several times a month. When I was a new Christian I read a Proverb a day because there are 31 Proverbs and I always knew what chapter to read. I would also read other Scripture, but Proverbs is so full of practical wisdom that it’s easy to see where I can apply it. I still read Proverbs several times a year. I hope this helps you dig deeper into God’s word so you can take the next step in your faith. Blessings.