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I Will Rejoice in the Lord!

Last week, as I was getting ready for bed, I was grumbling! I was grumbling before the Lord and asking, “how long?” How long would we have to shelter in place? How long until there was a cure to Covid-19? How long until I could hug my friends? Or return to church? And as I grumbled, I heard God speak. Not in an audible voice. But in a whisper. Yes, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, read Habakkuk. Habakkuk? Yes, Habakkuk! And with that, I knew it had to be the Holy Spirit, and not a bad burrito, as I had never been prompted to read Habakkuk before. Nor was it a book, I’d turn to when I needed a little hope and perspective. So in obedience to the Lord, I opened my Bible to Habakkuk and started to read.

As I turned to Habakkuk, these words immediately jumped off the page, “Habakkuk’s Complaint”! Ha ha, God! You got me. Then after a good laugh, I was gripped by these words from the prophet in the second verse of chapter one, “How long, Lord, must I call for help”! Wow, I immediately identified with Habakkuk’s agonizing cry to the Lord. Like us, the people of Judah were facing a crisis. And while their crisis was different than ours, Habakkuk was asking similar questions.

Then I read God’s response to Habakkuk, when He says, “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (1:5).” My heart leaped with joy, as I am sure it did for Habakkuk. I began to imagine what our city, our nation and our world might look like as God’s plan began to unfold. And I found hope. Yes, God was going to do something, but then to my surprise, and I am sure Habakkuk’s as well, I read how God was going to accomplish His plan for His people. And it wasn’t quite what I expected. And I am sure it wasn’t what Habakkuk expected either. Then for the rest of the book, I was invited to listen in on a conversation between God and Habakkuk, as Habakkuk comes to terms with God’s plan and purposes.

Finally, at the end of the conversation, Habakkuk exclaims, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (3:17,18).” How is Habakkuk able to move from pain to this place of peace and confidence? Well it was a journey! And since that night I have been studying and meditating on this book, and here is what I have come to remember along my journey….

First, even when all outward evidence points to the contrary, the church is called to trust in the Lord. This trust is based not on what we see, but on who God is—the Lord Almighty (2:13). And the Lord Almighty calls all people, from every tribe and nation, to place their trust in Him, for “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4). While at times God may seem silent, He always has a plan and is at work in unseen ways. The example of Habakkuk encourages believers to wait on the Lord, expecting that He will indeed work out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Although God’s plan was not clear to Habakkuk, he had learned to trust God and lived by faith.

Secondly, the book affirms that God is a sovereign, omnipotent God who has all things under control. We just need to be still and know He is at work. He is who He says He is and does keep His promises. Even when we cannot see it, He is still on the throne of the universe. And when we rest in that fact, we can like Habakkuk, declare that: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:19).

​​God’s ways are not our ways, yet He can be trusted. Even when things seem chaotic, God is still in control. God wants what’s best for us even when it’s hard to understand. And understanding how God works is not my job, but trusting Him is. So in my grumbling, I have rediscovered that peace and joy don’t come from my circumstances, but from the Lord Almighty. My timing, is just that, my timing. But God’s timing is perfect! So while I may grumbling, God is using COVID 19 to accomplish His plan and purposes in our world, and I do believe God is saying, “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (1:5).”

Lesson learned. Now God, can I go out and play? 😊

Who Do You Listen To?

Back in December, Jennifer and I were discussing following the example of our new Senior Co-Campus Pastor James Powell and his wife Brittany and coming up with a word for 2020 that we felt best described the year ahead and what we believed God was going to do in us and through us! I felt impressed to use the word “breakthrough” and Jen wanted the word “new normal”! First, I reminded Jen, that “new normal” was two words and that we needed to pick one. Then, I asked her what that meant to her.

As she shared about the significance of the words “new normal” to her, she talked about how 2020 was going to be different year for us as we prepare to launch Zach into the world and became empty-nesters! Yes, we haven’t shared this publicly much, but Zach graduates Rocklin High School this year and has plans to go to Bodenseehof Bible College in Germany this fall! So yes, 2020 was going to be a new normal for us. I understood her, but still argued that “new normal” was two words. We agreed to disagree, and she choose “new normal” and I choose “breakthrough”.

Well, welcome to the year of the “new normal”! In the first three months of 2020, we have had the threat of war, an impeachment trial and now are sheltered in place for the next 30 days! Yes, Jen had it right!

And as we experience this “new normal,” there are so many differing voices out there on how to respond to what is happening in our world right now. On any given day you get a barrage of information from social media, politicians, the medical community, and the media. Not to mention the lies of the enemy, who is throwing things at us to evoke fear and anxiety!

So who do we listen to in times like these? Well as I was considering this, I recalled a moment in my life, over seven years ago, when we first moved to Roseville! We had just bought a new Honda Accord in Orange County before moving to the area, and the dealership had called me to let me know that my car was due for service. I thanked them for calling, mentioned that I had moved and told them I would contact my local Honda dealer for service. However, when I called the local dealer, they told me that my car didn’t need to be brought in for another 3,500 miles, as my car had synthetic oil.

Perplexed, I told Jennifer about the differing view points and asked her who I should listen to. And in all of her wisdom, she reminded me of that little booklet that sits in the glove box of the car, and suggested that I read it, because she thought it might have the answer to my question, directly from the manufacturer of the car! Again, Jen had it right!

Aren’t we just like that in times of uncertainty? We run to Google, we call a friend, we read articles, we research, we listen to podcasts, when instead we need to turn to our owners manual, the Bible! God has given us His Word to be our anchor, to be our guide, to be our blueprint for living! But, like I did with the Honda, we listen to the other voices, instead of the voice of the One who made us and promises to be with us!

This is what God tells us in Hebrews 6:17-20, Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 2where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

In considering this text, I believe that there are three things that God wants to remind us in this season…

First, God’s nature is unchanging! God is still on the throne! Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He is the alpha and the omega! He hasn’t changed. And even though our circumstances have changed, His character and nature have not! He is still ALL knowing! ALL powerful! He is the ALWAYS present one!

God loves you! He is near. He is for you! Why is this important to understand? Because as Daniel 11:32 tell us, those who know their God will display strength will display strength and take action. Do you want to display strength and take action? Then spend time learning and getting to know Him! Read your Bible! Invest time hearing it, reading it, studying it, memorizing and meditating on it! It is our source of strength. It is our blueprint for living!

Second, it is impossible for God to lie! This means His promises are true! As Hebrews 6 tells us, He has promised and confirmed it with an oath! Not only is God our way maker, but he is our promise keeper! Throughout the Bible there are so many stories of God’s faithfulness. He’s always keeps His promises in His timing. Remember that the same God in the stories of the Bible, is the same one who is right there with you. He’ll do the same for you every time.

Can I be honest with you for a minute? I have a grid by which a person’s promises go through depending on who promises it! If my teenage son promises to do something for me, I believe he will do it about 85% of the time. However, if my wife promises me something, I trust her about 100% of the time. And then there are others I say, “I am not going to hold my breath on that!” But as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:20, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. God’s promises are our HOPE! Let’s claim them, because God is not a liar!

Finally, our hope is secure, because Jesus has gone before us! This is what the text says, We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Jesus is our forerunner, who has gone before us, and made a way to know and be with God for all eternity! And as our forerunner, our future is secure and guaranteed. Jesus has gone ahead to we can anchor in the fact that He is unchanging, His promises are sure, and therefore we can stand firm and secure because he has gone before us!

You see the writer of Hebrews was writing to new Hebrew believers who wanted to go back to some stinking thinking. Back to the old ways of doing things – under the law. There were some other voices they were listening to. And the writer of Hebrews is saying, Jesus is greater than the high priests, the angels, the law! And because Jesus is greater, our hope is firm and secure!

So who do I listen to? I choose to listen to Jesus!

Why? Because, we have a certain God! We know the end of the story!

Let’s hold onto that HOPE!

We Live By Faith, Not By Sight

I’ve been prayerfully thinking through how to respond to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 around the world. I have gotten questions about upcoming missions trips our church is planning, as well as personal questions surrounding my son’s plans to go to Bible College in Germany this fall. And it’s got me thinking, how do people of faith respond in times like this?

I don’t want to minimize the risk, nor do I want to incite fear. And in being wise, I have heeded the warnings and followed the advise of our medical community. But beyond that, what are we to do?

Well here are three things I believe the Scriptures tell us what to do in times like this:

Pause

Romans 10:17 states that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” If we want to be people who move beyond panic to peace, we need to be in God’s Word! It’s the single most important thing we can do each day…to pause from the cares of this world to be with God. To let God speak to us, and assure us of His promises.

You see, as we are in God’s Word, our faith muscles grow, and we move beyond the fear to the “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). So before reading the headlines, or scrolling through your Facebook feed, make sure you are taking in God’s Word and seeing the world through the lens of His eternal truths. It will definitely change your perspective.

Pray

Did you know that it takes the same amount of energy to worry as to pray? One leads to peace, the other to panic. So we need to choose wisely. Scripture tells us to pray about everything. In fact, Philippians 4:6, 7 instructs us to, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Worry is common to man. But God has called us to face troubles and threats with courage, leaning our weight on Him. So let’s be people who pray! Let’s pray for God’s healing hand upon our land. Let’s pray for our medical community. Let’s pray for our leaders. Let’s pray for our families, our churches and our community. And let’s pray that we in the midst of everything, we would be people of faith, who love others well.

Proclaim

Right now, we have a world in need of some hope. And it’s in times like these, that I am reminded that the church needs to advance, not retreat. So let’s share the hope that we have found in Christ. Let’s remind our brothers and sisters, of an eternal God, who loves us, assures us of His promises and who has made a way for us to spend all of eternity with Him.

Yes, we need to be cautious, but let’s also remember that in times like these, the world needs people who are strengthened by God’s Word, who are marked by prayer and who offer His message of hope to others.

All In

Do you remember the Hokey Pokey? That catchy little kids tune, that went like this… “you put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about?” Then you “do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, because that’s what it’s all about!” Well through the stanzas of the song, all the various body parts get put in the circle, and then it ends with putting your whole self in, and putting your whole self out!

When I think of the Holey Pokey, I’m reminded of another instruction from the Apostle Paul, when he writes: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). “To present your bodies” is Paul’s way of saying, put your whole self in and be all in for Jesus.

Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice

To be “all in” for Jesus, means that we present our lives to Jesus as a living sacrifice. In some ways, it’s like Paul is calling out the last stanza of the Hokey Pokey, “You put your whole self in!” Not just an arm, or a leg, or an elbow. In other words, you’re all in. Meaning that you’re committed to do whatever God wants you to do, in every area of your life.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live by faith, I live for Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul clearly understood the commitment it took to follow Jesus, and he was willing to risk his very life for the sake of the gospel.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of baptizing a woman who converted from the Muslim faith to Christianity. When I asked Anahita, what her baptism meant to her, she said it meant that she was “all in”! Then she went on to explain, that in her county she could die, for publicly declaring her faith in Jesus. To be a “living sacrifice,” begins with a decision to give God permission to lead and guide our lives according to His purpose and plan, not my own. Even at the risk of losing friendships, or life itself.

See Jesus As Your Lord, not Your Consultant

Ask yourself this. Do you want Jesus as your consultant or as your Lord? What’s the difference you ask? Well when a consultant gives you advice or direction, then you have the opportunity to follow the advice or not. But, when Jesus is your Lord and says jump, you ask, “how far?”

A few years ago, I was addicted to the show The Profit. In the show, Marcus, a successful small business owner, would consult with the owners of struggling businesses, offering them feedback and suggestions for turning around their business. Many of the owners, would agree in theory the  suggestions Marcus would make, but many would refuse to implement his strategies and as a result fail in their business ventures.

Unfortunately, this is how many of us operate with God. We read His Word, we listen to messages, we may even be in a small group, but we fail to integrate His truths into our lives. That’s because we see Jesus more as a consultant, and often think we know better than God when it comes to the decisions in our lives. Unfortunately, most times that is a recipe for disaster, because we are not God nor do we have the perspective God has.

Don’t Conform to the Pattern of this World

To “not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” means that, I don’t take my values, my standards, my priorities from the world around me. It saddens me that we have developed a kind of selective Christianity that allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities, and yet almost totally pagan in the day to day activities of our lives. And what is even more troubling is that most of us never realize the discrepancy.

In order to not be “confirmed to the pattern of this world” we need to determine what we expose ourselves to. Input always determines output. So, ask yourself, what do you watch? And what do you read? Are they helping or hurting my spiritual life? Who do you hang with? As Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Finally, who are you trying to impress? So often we compromise our values, because we are trying to impress someone.

There have been times when I have had to take a break from social media because it just hasn’t been good for my soul. You know how it goes. Trying to impress people through posts or finding yourself jealous of a friend or a relative who always seems to go on extravagant vacations.

Whatever the temptation, we’re exhorted to no longer follow the pattern of this world. As Christians, we live by a different standard.

Renew Your Mind

Finally, in Romans 12, if we’re to be all in, we need to renew our minds. In other words, we’re to align our thoughts, values and priorities with God’s viewpoint. Our part in renewing our minds is to flee what’s harmful, and feed on what’s helpful.

For me, the practice of renewing my mind, means that I memorize a lot of Scripture. That I hang with people who motivate and encourage me. That I watch what kind of movies I see. That I meditate on God’s Word. And as a result, I can test and approve God’s good and perfect will.

So, are you ready to do the Hokey Pokey for God? To put your whole self in. To offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him? If so, I pray you will experience the joy and wonder of what Romans 12:2 promises, that “you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

How We Grow

A few months ago, our Celebrate Recovery program celebrated 5 years at Bayside Adventure. Even in the midst of several church transitions, this forever family stayed faithful to the call and commission, God placed in their hearts.

The road to recovery, is not an easy journey. But for those who stay the course, it’s a rewarding one. That’s why they say in recovery, “don’t give up before the miracle.”

As I have observed the miracles of healed marriages, restored joy, victory over substance abuse and families changed, I have noticed a few characteristics that are necessary for working a successful recovery program. Spiritual transformation is not about trying harder, but about training wisely. God calls us to come as we are, but there are some key things that we need in order for us to effectively grow in Christ. Here they are…

Courage

In order for us to grow in Christ, to be transformed, and be successful in life, we must have courage to meet the demands of reality. This ultimately means coming to a point in our life and admitting that “we are powerless” over our sin and compulsive behaviors. It takes courage to express weakness. But admitting that we have problems, doubts, fears, insecurities, and trouble, is the first step to healing.

I remember my first Celebrate Recovery step study. We were 6 months into the journey, when one of our members, finally found the courage to admit that he had been lying to the group the whole time about his sobriety date. Crippled by fear, not wanting to lose his leadership role in our program, nor disappoint his wife, he lived a lie and was gripped by shame and guilt. But finding the courage to be truthful, brought greater healing in his life, as he came to experience the love and grace of God. The acceptance and love of the group ultimately gave him greater freedom months later, when he courageously turned himself into the authorities, who had a warrant out for his arrest. Again, in this situation, God honored his courage by giving him favor with the judge who just assigned him to community service, rather than time in jail.

Courage to stand for truth, to speak up for others, or to share our faith with a not yet follower of Jesus, allow our faith muscles to grow. And as our faith grows, we find greater courage to say or do the right thing, for the right reasons.

Commitment

I believe that many of the problems in our society are due to a lack of commitment. A lack of commitment to our beliefs, a lack of commitment to our families, a lack of commitment to our friends, a lack of commitment to our churches, etc. We live in a world where we fear commitment. We don’t make commitments, or we wait until the last minute to commit, because we fear that we just might miss out on another opportunity. Or we fail to follow through on our commitments because it’s too hard, or too painful.

In observing those who received the miracle, their lives were marked by commitment to being truth tellers, to working hard, to reliving some painful moments and not giving in before they received the miracle. That takes dedication, discipline and determination. It takes commitment. Nothing is ever easy in life. As they say, no pain, no gain.

Community

Life is better together. The success of recovery programs and why God has called us into connection with each other, is because two are better than one. The success of any recovery program is in community. As people come alongside us, guide us, encourage us, speak truth to us and to use their stories to inspire us, we find hope.

I often hear in recovery circles, “I thought I was the only one experiencing this.” That’s a lonely place to be. The reality is, we are all sojourners in need of hope and healing. Remember this, “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And therefore, none of us are perfect.

So often we come to God in our brokenness and need for God, but once we trust him as our Lord and Savior, it’s like the struggle disappears. Not so, my friend. We live in a broken world, and we need the community of fellow believers to spur us on to love and good deeds. For it’s in community, we find connection, we find acceptance and we find hope.

Christ

For the Christ follower this is obvious, and some may argue that I should have put this down as the first characteristic. But I put it down at the bottom of the list, because I believe Jesus is the foundation for all things. Without Christ, without the forgiveness He offers, without the Church He established, our world would lack meaning and purpose.

You see, we were created by God, to live in community with each other, for the express purpose of knowing Him and making Him known. And without Him, we would not know the grace we need to be courageous, the power He gives us to follow through on our commitments, or the beauty of biblical community to offer us hope.

Jesus is the cornerstone. And as the cornerstone, our lives need to be built on Him. As we build our lives on Him, He promises to grow and mature us into His likeness, until that day in which we will be fully complete in Him.

Life is Too Short to Go It Alone

According to a Time magazine report, every 60 seconds on Facebook is packed with a lifetime’s worth of social interactions! For example, in the next 60 seconds, 500,000 comments will be posted on Facebook and 350,000 posts will be liked. In addition, 250,000 messages will be sent, 135,000 photos will be added, and 100,000 statuses will be updated! That’s a lot of information! While I am not convinced that things like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have helped our sense of connection, it’s not surprising to me that Facebook is now the #1 most visited site on the internet.

You see, as human beings we have an innate desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this innate desire to connect with one another is because God created us with this innate need for community! In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” I don’t know if you ever noticed the plurality of that verse, but in those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature. The words “us” and the word “our” proclaim the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community. Yes, the creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose nature we are created. And since we are created in God’s image, we are therefore created for community!

The need for relationship was part of God’s created order. It wasn’t the result of the fall, as some might believe. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realized we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to survive.

If you remember the movie, Cast Away with Tom Hanks, his character, Chuck Noland, is stranded on a tropical island, and he had to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive both physically and emotionally. In order to keep his sanity, he made a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball. During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Hanks character weather many storms together, but when a big tropical storm comes upon the island and Wilson is blown off to sea, Chuck breaks down emotionally.

Cast Away is a fascinating movie which so accurately displays our need for connection, which has been hard wired into our DNA. But unfortunately, as humans and even as Christ followers, we try to do life alone and we isolate, because of shame, guilt, discouragement, and fear of rejection. Yet God calls us out of the isolation and invites us into community. He gives us an example of what this community looks like in Acts 2:42-47. It’s an amazing ideal of what the church can and needs to look like.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Looking at these verses, it’s clear that if you want to experience life as God intended it, and experience the ideals of our faith in Christ, we need to commit to be with others. There are a lot of things we can do alone in life. We can drive a car, play solitaire, or read a book. But we cannot experience the joy of knowing and being known outside of community, because it’s in community that we will experience all that God has for us. That’s why there is so much instruction in the Bible about how we are to live out our faith with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament! These Bible passages help us to understand how much emphasis the Scriptures place on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in relationship in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.

Life is all about relationships! So, I invite you to get off your electronic devices and connect. Start taking some risks to be vulnerable, and experience the reality that life is better together.

The Danger of Comparison

We do it everyday. Consciously or unconsciously, we size one another up. We measure others by their looks, the type of car they drive, where they live, and by the type of job they have. We use comparison like a measuring stick, assessing our own worthiness based on how many friends we have on Facebook and how many likes we have for our posts on Twitter and Instagram. But the sin of comparison is robbing us of our joy and contentment.

The problem with comparisons is that they lead us to make judgments – toward ourselves and toward others. And comparison also causes us to show partiality toward others or ourselves.

As human beings, we often use conscious or unconscious measuring sticks to try and rank others. But the problem with that is that we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Therefore there are no “better people” or “worse people” – there are only people created in the image and likeness of God.

Comparisons get us into trouble for at least two reasons:

1. They can make us feel better than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to pride. Remember the man who thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner? The enemy of our souls loves it when we struggle with pride. After all, it was his downfall.

2. They can make us feel worse than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to low self-esteem, which still keeps our focus on ourselves. Although it says in James that God is not a respecter of persons, we do not believe this if we believe God is withholding something from us that is rightfully ours.

In other words, when we compare, we’re essentially telling God that what He created wasn’t good enough. And we miss the opportunity to see the beauty of God in ourselves and in others.

The Bible says satisfaction comes from doing your best, not comparing yourself to others: “Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4 LB).  In other words, you can’t focus on your purpose and find contentment while looking at other people.

So here are four ways to stop comparing yourself to others and rediscover your joy and find contentment:

1. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Psalm 139:14, the psalmist tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In other words, you are God’s unique creation. If you ever consider yourself unremarkable or even ordinary, you’re not seeing yourself God see you. But when we discover the truth that we are God’s unique design, it is overwhelming and empowering. So when you begin to feel inadequate and feel the temptation to compare, quietly whisper a prayer of thanks to God for making you the way you are.

2. Realize we all have different strengths and weaknesses. 

The reality is that there will always be someone thinner, richer, and better looking than us! No matter how hard we try, someone will always be better at something than we are. So when we start feeling the need to compare, we must recognize our opportunity to practice humility and recognize the beauty of God in His creation. This past week, at a Night of Prayer for our church, the different gifting and talents of our church staff struck me. And I thought about how each of those staff members’ gifts and talents are needed for the church to function well. God in his sovereignty has given us each a set of gifts and talents to accomplish His kingdom purpose.

3. Choose compliments over comparison. 

Instead of being people that compare ourselves to each other, we need to be people who champion each other. So whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to another, why not go right up to that person and compliment them about the very thing you are comparing yourself with. Jealous of someone’s great hair, his or her nice car or beautiful home? Tell them how beautiful you find those things! Instead of comparing your accomplishments to the accomplishments of a coworker, why not send a note congratulating them on their achievement? When we turn our comparisons into opportunities to champion each other, the devil loses and God is glorified.

4. Rely on God’s opinion rather than the opinion of others. 

Truth be known, it’s often our own insecurity that causes us to compare ourselves with others. But what if you and I relied on God’s opinion of us, before we had a chance to listen to our own, or another’s opinion of us? Not only are you and I fearfully and wonderfully made, but Scripture also reminds that those in Christ are loved, forgiven, accepted and complete. That means we must use God’s measuring stick, not our own or that of others to live by.

So when it comes to comparison trap, God asks one thing of you: Be who He created to be!

20 Things I Learned from My Mom

In honor of my mom this Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some of the life lessons I learned from her, either by her words or by her example…

  1. Believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  2. Don’t expect things to be handed to you. Work for them.
  3. Don’t give up. When you encounter roadblocks or hurdles, figure it out and move on.
  4. Keep your commitments. If you say you’re going to do something – do it.
  5. As long as you try your best in everything you do, you’ll never fail.
  6. Be respectful to those around you.
  7. Education is worth pursuing. Plan and save for it.
  8. Work smarter, not harder. Do it right the first time.
  9. Spring cleaning is good. Don’t hang onto junk, throw it out.
  10. Age is a state of mind.
  11. Be responsible with your money. It doesn’t grow on trees. (Okay, maybe I heard that one from my dad!)
  12. Getting organized will help you get the important things done.
  13. Prioritize vacations. Work hard. Play hard.
  14. Try new things. Life should be full of experiences.
  15. It’s important to remember special days in people’s lives.
  16. Be dependable.
  17. Honor family traditions. They’re fun and create memories.
  18. Always send thank you cards!
  19. Take care of the things that matter most.
  20. Stand your ground. Sometimes it’s okay to go out and play, even though you didn’t eat your liver!”😀

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Thanks for who you are, all you do and everything you’ve taught me. I love you!

Flourish in Relationship

relationshipsGod made us to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we are made to flourish with him and with others in relationship. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be connected with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

God…

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In this passage, Jesus tells us that there is no other relationship of greater importance; there is no aspect of life any more important, than to know and to be in relationship with God. A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow God’s Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others will allow us to experience the promise of this verse.

In my life, none of my other relationships work well if my relationship with God is out of whack. I can tell when I have neglected time with Jesus, as I get weary, become less patient and less present with others. And sadly this state of mind rubs off into my relationships with my wife, my son and with those I work with. But as I seek first God’s kingdom, and prioritize my relationship with Him, everything goes much better, as I experience His presence and power!

Friends…

Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, have fun with, or do life with. And there is such power in connectedness. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.”

Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about how Belgian horses are trained to work together—and how it made these incredible animals so much more effective. Belgian horses are huge, powerful animals. In fact, one Belgian can pull more than 8,000 pounds. That’s one strong horse! But the amazing thing is that if you put two Belgian horses together, who are strangers, they don’t just double the amount they can pull; they actually triple it to 24,000 pounds. And if you spend some time training them to work together, that unified pair can pull a whopping 32,000 pounds. That’s four times what a single horse can do alone!

That story reminds me that connections are powerful. And just as Solomon reminds us, people need healthy relationships to win at life, too.

Wise Counselors…

Life can present us with challenges and decisions that are not easy to make on our own. We may pray about the situation and read God’s Word for guidance, but could still feel confused and uncertain about the direction we should take. It’s in these times, that it can be helpful to seek the counsel of other wise and godly people.

I believe that everyone needs a mentor in his or her life. To cultivate a relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey. A wise counselor is someone in which you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom and get perspective from.

Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.” Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility and some of the most successful people in life have surrounded themselves with wise counselors.

As a pastor, I have come into contact with many great Christian leaders like Bill Hybels, Phil Vischer, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren, and what strikes me about their leadership is that they are always asking questions. In my conversations with these men, they don’t seek to impart with me their wisdom; they seek wisdom by asking lots of questions. And I believe it’s this humility and perspective on life that God blesses.

A Close Confidant…

Finally, I believe we all need a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Jesus called twelve guys to do life with him, but within his circle of twelve, he had an inner circle of three comprised of Peter, James, and John. These were his closest friends and confidants. And in following Jesus’ example, we need to circle ourselves with a few people that truly know our story, our struggles, our insecurities and our fears.

It’s these types of friendships that shape who we become and truly affect where we go! Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way.

Yes, life is all about relationships! So get connected, start taking some risks to be vulnerable and get connected by pursuing these relationships in your life. Until next time…

Post written as a contributor for Principles to Live By

Reflections on Turning 50

football-50Today I turn 50 years old. That’s right, the Big Five-O. Yep, it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to be given the gift of turning 50. As i embark on this new decade of life, I’m filled with joy, gratitude and wonder. And instead of complaining, or making jokes about being over the hill, I’m celebrating the gift of reaching this milestone day.

These past 50 years have been an amazing ride for Bryan Hardwick, and I have the scars, age spots, wrinkles, gray hair as well as the AARP card to prove it. And at 50, I think I look pretty good and can probably still make your head spin on the dance floor. But, I have to admit, embracing this milestone day has been a journey for me. And as this day has approached, I have truly wondered if my best days are behind me or before me. Yet in recalling God’s faithfulness over these past 50 years, and in understanding God’s character and promises, I have come to embrace that the best days are truly ahead.

In considering the stories of the Bible, I learn that many men of the Bible experienced greater fruitfulness and blessing in their ministry in the second half of their life. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelite’s out of Egyptian at the ages of 80 and 83. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan, during the last thirty years of his life to which he lived to 110. Daniel was well over 80 when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon and was thrown into the lion’s den. So until God takes us home, our mission is not done, and each moment is to be treasured until we are called home.

The last 50 years have been great ones…I have an incredible family who I love and who loves me. I have been blessed to spend the last 25 years of my life with this most amazing woman of God who loves me unconditionally and who is an incredible cook and mother to our son Zach. I have an amazing son, who is our miracle from heaven. He’s thriving in his freshman year at Rocklin High School and I am so encouraged by the young man he’s becoming. I have a career that I truly love! Yes, it’s complicated at times, especially over these past couple of years, but it is truly an honor to come alongside others to help them experience God in fresh ways. In addition, I have been blessed by some awesome friends and mentors who have walked through some amazing seasons with me. I could go on and on, but special thanks go out to Dan, Dave, Mike, JP, Todd, Brad and Michael for believing in me and making a difference in my life.

  • Yes, it’s been an amazing 50 years and by God’s grace I have learned to take myself less seriously, worry less, and to accept and even love my imperfections. To embrace that I am perfectly imperfect. That I am flawed, and that I make mistakes. Yep, I bump into walls and I stumble and fall. But I have learned that in embracing my imperfections, I embrace God’s love and grace in my life. And for this recovering perfectionist, this has been one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.
  • So, thank you God for the gift of another year! Today, I own my age and I wear it proudly. I am 50! WooHoo! And I’m praying that this will be the best year ever. I am filled with anticipation of what this next phase of my life will bring and I welcome it all.
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