3 Lessons I’ve Learned to Deal with Distraction

It’s easy to get distracted. We know that we as Christians have a job to do, but it’s so easy to get our eyes off of my responsibilities and onto someone else’s.  We see folks that have more money, more opportunities, and more advantages than we do. They have a better job, a better support group, better parents, better kids, better spouse, better church, or better natural abilities. We can become frustrated, bitter, and envious; our thought life becomes nearly the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Our spiritual life dwindles and our prayer life slowly dies. Unfortunately, at this point, some of us decide to step out of God’s will. We either stop altogether or find somewhere we can run from their problems. As my fried Jerry always says: “If you run from your problems, you’ll find that when you get to where you’re running to that your problems beat you there.”

How can we avoid a bitter, unproductive spirit when all around us, everyone else has more than we do? Here are three lessons that I’ve learned that help me stay focused on the work God has given me to do:

 

Focus on your current resources

I had the privilege to work for a pastor in northeast South Dakota for six years. This September, he will have pastored the same church in a town of 26,000 people for 30 years. He did not get startup hymnals, a donated van, or 10,000 flyers as a gift. He didn’t have a staff member until 2008, and then only part-time. He didn’t spend his time driving to meetings to raise money, flying to conferences to “get away from the church for a while,” or writing his complaints down on Facebook. He focused primarily on the job that God had given him to do. He had bad days and good days, just like any other man. The difference in my pastor, though, was that he was always happy and hopeful. He cheerfully looked forward to what God was going to do. He expected God to do a work. The church there is growing and blessed because of his labor. Several other churches in South Dakota refer to him as the “anchor of the North” because he has been faithful to labor in a place where others would be quick to leave given the slightest provocation.

He also had an unrivaled work ethic and didn’t waste a single minute that I ever saw. He seemed to always focus on things he could do rather than the things he couldn’t. He focused on the things he could buy rather than the things he could not afford. He focused on how he could take care of his family (he did paper routes for years) instead of how others had it so easy. Instead of focusing on what he did not have and what he wished he had, he focused on what God had given him and was endeavoring to be faithful with that. It seemed to me that he understood and lived out the principle in Luke 12:42-48 – Live as if you had to give account today of what you have been given.

I learned (and am still learning) to live as if I had to give an account today with what I have been given, not for what others have been given or what I hope to accomplish one day in the future. If God came back right now, would you be able to give a good report of what you have done with what you have been given?

 

Focus your current resources on the job God has given YOU

Matthew 6:22-23 teaches us that our focus is incredibly important to both our heart condition and our service. In the context, we are taught that attempting to focus on spiritual treasure and worldly treasure is unproductive and to have a proper purpose, we need a proper focus. I believe that this truth affects every aspect of our life. Although I believe it is very helpful to attend events designed to grow you and join discussion boards with other like-minded Christians, it is also easy to lose sight of your own purpose if you spend a lot of energy focusing on the things that you cannot do right now. Make a plan, get some ideas, but in the end, focus on YOUR job.

God has given you the job for a reason. You were called to your location, not anyone else. You are called to your family, not anyone else. You were led to your job. You were given those kids. You were given the Great Commission to tell others about Jesus. Learn to seek God on your own. Learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, not just the voice of popular leaders. Counsel is a wonderful, God-approved source of wisdom, but it is not the main source of wisdom. Be men and women of the Word! Be men and women of fervent prayer! I am so thankful for all those who have assisted me through the years, but I am most thankful to the Holy Spirit of God, Who has an active role in my growth in Him and in my work for Him.

Guided by God, go out and do what you know to do. Connect others to Jesus, care for those in your church, communicate Christ to the lost, and contribute where God has called you serve. God will lead you if you’ll follow his guidance. Are you trying to be like someone else or trying to find God’s will for you?

 

Learn in Order to Labor

More than ever, we have opportunities to learn. We have cheap ebooks, nearly unlimited free blog posts to read, and dozens of interactive communities in which to engage. As we focus on all this learning, we can become distracted by all the things we can’t afford or need to be doing that the other guy is doing.   

We can easily get caught up in learning, learning, learning. We can boast on the books we’ve read and boast on the blogs we subscribe to. We can reference the latest article and video that has come out. We can talk about the all the great ideas we’ve gleaned.

We all must learn, but we also must labor. We must put to use that which we are learning! We must work to take “what we will do” to “what we have done.” Many times, we learn too much and either get overwhelmed and don’t try anything or we try to implement too much at one time. We ought to learn and then take what we’ve learned and work to make it happen.

Perhaps you’ve learned about a great way to love your spouse. Maybe you’ve been convicted to go tell someone about Jesus. Perhaps you have seen something that inspired you to clean the house or build the shelves your wife has been wanting you to build. Great. Now get off the computer, go to Home Depot, and go build something. Get off Facebook and start cleaning. Pick up the phone and plan a date with your wife. Get up, grab your Bible and some tracts and go have a conversation with someone about Jesus. Stop just hearing about ideas and start implementing them.

The purpose of learning is not to become a scholar; the purpose of learning is to labor and put to practical use the things you have learned. In the context of learning from the Bible and doing the work of the Word, we know from James 1:22-25 that if we don’t do the work, the hearing hasn’t done us much good at all. God has given you a job to do – go do it. Whether that job is raising your kids, loving your spouse, serving your neighbor, wisely budgeting your money, talking to your co-worker about Jesus, or simply being faithful to attend your church and encourage God’s people, determine today to go do the work

 

 

The next time you are distracted by another’s success or the “unfairness of it all,” please consider the resources you do have, the job you have to do, and get to work doing it. Bitterness doesn’t like sweat – get busy with what you have and it will probably find somewhere else to be.

 

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Don’t Quit

It’s too hard.

Is it really worth it?

I already failed.

It was a good try.

If only ______, then I would have _____.

 

I write this post a little over halfway through the first month of the year. Statistically, many have already abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions. Many folks have abandoned their resolutions along with one of the sayings above. I’ll be honest, in my short 31-year existence, I have used all of these phrases far too many times. These phrases are utilized primarily to make us feel better about quitting.

Although you should quit certain things, there are times when you should not quit. Here are three guidelines to follow when you are wondering if you should quit.

Don’t quit because you’ve fallen

In the book of Proverbs, instruction is given to the wicked man to leave the righteous alone; here’s why:

Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.  

A just man with a just cause won’t allow a setback to keep him down, even if the setback is not his fault! This just man could be assaulted by the wicked man seven times and would still get back up. When we are doing right for the right reasons, we simply need to dwell on the reasons we are doing right and get back up!

If your diet and exercise plan was for the purpose of puffing up your vanity or parading the “new you” around at the beach or on Facebook, then you will have a hard time getting up from failing (and you probably shouldn’t).

If your diet and exercise plan was developed for the purpose of glorifying God with your body, exercising self-control, and seeking to live a longer, more enjoyable life for Christ, then dwell on the why and get back up!

Don’t quit because you’re tired

Although there are a plethora of reasons that we may quit a thing, I’ve never found weariness to be a valid reason. Just because we get sick and tired of something doesn’t mean we quit. It’s common today to simply quit when we get weary of our spouse, our kids, our job, our budget, or our church. If you have good reasons for what you are doing, then don’t let weariness keep you from your work.

In Galatians 6, we are told to bear one another’s burdens, as this fulfills the law of Christ (see John 15:12 for Christ’s commandment). This can be a taxing and difficult request to complete. Notice the illustration given after this command:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Although many folks utilize this principle to (rightly) cause others to fear what will happen if they “sow their wild oats,” aka “sow to the flesh,” the principle was originally given to exhort us to keep on working the fields. Keep sowing to the spirit! Keep bearing the burdens of others! If your resolutions can be defined as “well-doing,” then don’t quit. Don’t be weary – focus on the reaping. If you sow, you WILL reap. Take all the opportunities you can, then to work toward those well-doing resolutions.

Don’t quit because meh

Ok, I admit it, “meh” is one of my favorite words in the English language. It conveys so much with only three letters. It is defined this way: “expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm.” It is possible that you have a great purpose and you are not tired of the labor, it’s just that you lose interest. Meh. It’s no longer exciting, the progress isn’t coming as quickly as it did in the beginning, and people aren’t asking you how it’s going. No one would know if you stopped and you begin to think of several reasons to give just in case someone did ask. Ready for another fun word in the English language? Vacillate. That word means “to alternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.” It’s one thing to realize that your resolution was built upon pride and vanity, but it’s another entirely just to change your mind for the sake of meh. Jeremiah the prophet speak of the human heart in chapter 17 of his book:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Be careful that your deceitful heart isn’t deceiving you. Interest should not be the driving principle behind your resolutions. If your resolution was to read your Bible every day, then get back up and start reading – the interest will come, but it’s not always there from the start. That’s because of our deceitful heart. (hey, that rhymed!)  Runners aren’t always interested in running and parents aren’t always interested in parenting. Don’t give up because of meh. If it’s the right thing to do on January 1, then it’s the right thing to do on January 18.

In summary, don’t quit. Regardless of the weight, the indecisiveness, the failures, and the meh, don’t quit. Choose to stick to those well-thought out, God-honoring resolutions.

Proverbs 21:5 – The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Getting the dross out

Proverbs 25:4 declares:

“Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.”

Dross is any undesirable metal in the silver ore that needs to be eliminated for the silver to be pure. The refining process is intense and usually requires superheating the ore to the point of liquefying the metal. From there, a skilled metallurgist can separate the impure from the pure. The dross is the refuse; the silver is what is precious and valuable.

As we begin the new year, I want to encourage you to get the dross out of your life. Many times we make excellent resolutions for weight loss and debt retirement, but how often do we take a deep, introspective look to see if there is dross in our life?  For the purpose of my post, I’m going to define dross as anything that minimizes your potential value.

I want you to begin your dross search with the words of David:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Although the list of impurities could be seemingly endless, search your heart with God and be willing to identify the dross in your life. As Pastor Neil Hannahs has said: “Every Christian needs to have a time of ransacking their heart before God.” Take the time to ransack your heart before God and see if there are impurities that need to be repented of and forsaken.

I’ve complied a short list of common areas of impurity to get you started:

1. Anger

We often justify our anger instead of repent of it. If someone has offended you, begin Biblical reconciliation, don’t blow up or clam up.

 2. Bitterness

There is no Biblical reason whatsoever to hold a grudge. Know this: if you are holding a grudge, complaining, or feeling sorry for yourself, you are devaluing your potential through sin.

3. Gossip

Talking negatively of someone else is easy to do because of all the private communication we have available to us. Don’t talk poorly of your boss, your spouse, your pastor, or your parents. Instead, choose to edify.

4. Envy

Stop wanting what you don’t have. In American culture, this can be difficult. Turn off the commercials, stop subscribing to the emails, and ignore the ads on Facebook. This also applies to being envious or greedy of the money God has asked you to return back to Him via tithes and offering.

5. Lust

Lust is the craving to step over God’s prescribed line. Eating is not wrong; gluttony is. Physical intimacy is not wrong; outside of marriage, it is. Relaxation is not wrong; laziness is. Don’t allow the dross of lust to minimize your value.

This is but a short list of some of the potential elements that can hinder the refining process that God has for you. Ask God to gaze into your deceitful heart and reveal the sinful dross that lies therein.

Then proceed to confess and forsake your sin. I am so thankful for God’s marvelous promise in 1 John 1:9:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Plan Your Purposes

I’m a fan of accomplishment. Making important things happen is a thrill that is unlike any other. Whether it’s creating something useful out of a hunk of wood or completing a mentally draining yet highly rewarding study, I love the exhilarating feeling that comes from being done.  Perhaps the greatest reason to accomplish things is the results of God’s built-in reward system of endorphins, oxytocin, and other naturally occurring hormones that give us massive health benefits on top of just making us feel good.

I have realized that accomplishment doesn’t generally come by accident, nor does it come without some cost. Parents are proud of their children’s accomplishments because they generally put the time into training and disciplining their child to succeed. I have also realized that accomplishment does not consistently arrive without purpose. If a parent wants to see their child accomplish great feats in sports, they plan activities to support their purpose. They take their kids to soccer practice or to basketball tournaments. They pay coaches and instructors and special one-on-one teachers. They talk about their sport, buy presents related to that sport, and learn all they can about that sport. That’s just one example. Whether the purpose be wealth, a happy marriage, or making an impact on one’s community, the truly successful support their purpose with planning. Planning your purposes will set you on course for greater accomplishment. 

Proverbs 20:18 declares: “Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.” Any one of us would agree that if someone wants to win a war, there should OBVIOUSLY be some planning involved. A person should refine and distill their planning through the filters of select friends. I have been convicted by this truth to set aside some time to work on my purposes. Here are some steps I am taking:

1. Get alone with God to determine your main purposes

You will know what these are by seeking God in His Word. It’s good to write them out with the Scripture from which you learned the principle. For example:

  1. My purpose is to glorify God through obedience and worship. Eccl. 12:13, John 14:15, Romans 15:6
  2. My purpose is to win the lost to Christ and disciple the saved. Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:15
  3. My purpose is to be an excellent father and husband. Eph. 5&6
  4. My purpose is to be a hard-working, productive individual. Prov. 20:4, 13

You will find several purposes in Scripture. Truly, they are all sub-purposes to the first purpose I listed in the examples. You will find many more Scriptures for each of these points and you will also continue to find areas in which you want to specifically list as a purpose for your life.

2. Get a pen and paper to plan your purposes

Now sit down and give specific actions you will do in order to accomplish these purposes. How will you glorify God each day? How will you attempt to win the lost this week? How will you develop excellent work ethic? How will you be the wife and mother you ought to be? Again, God’s Word provides the answers, as well as simply utilizing the wisdom God has given us to use for these purposes. For example:

My purpose is to be a hard-working, productive individual. Prov. 20:4,13

  1. I will arrive at least 5 minutes before my scheduled shift. This develops trust in my ability to show up on time and my employers will never wonder if I will hinder their progress because of my laziness. This will also make me more productive because I will not arrive at work panicked and frenzied.
  2. I will never be doing nothing while I’m being paid to be doing something. Whether I need to take the initiative to clean, organize, or begin a side project for my employer, I will always be busy while I am supposed to busy.
  3. I will communicate with my boss at least once a quarter and ask if there is anything that I can improve. I will take his suggestions seriously and attempt to bring more value to my employer.
  4. I will honor all who are above me and will absolutely, steadfastly refuse to gossip about them or anyone else that is brought up.

If self-employed, your list will be different, but the idea is the same. You may have one point or twenty. It may help to give the reason you made this decision, as in example number one.

3. Get with select friends to go over your purpose planning

Ask them to be honest – are these good purposes? Ask them to be helpful – what would you add or subtract? Ask them to be hopeful – what could this lead to?

This could be a brainstorm in a man cave, at a lunch with your friends, over coffee at your favorite diner, or through email correspondence. These are not just whoever happens to be closest: they are select friends. The President of the US would not ask me what I thought about going to war with a superpower. He would ask his generals, his political advisors, and his proven friends. No more should I ask for counsel from folks who are not successful in the areas in which I am working. Here’s a basic guide:

  1. Are they saved? A Christian can get into a lot of trouble getting counsel from someone who does not love the Lord and the Word of God. Your value systems are totally different.
  2. Are they wise? Don’t ask a beggar for financial advice, a hothead for advice on relationships, or a man-hater for advice on how to love your husband.
  3. Are they consistent? The best counsel obviously comes from the Word of God. One of the Bible’s greatest strengths is that it has consistently stood the test of time. The advice they will give ought to be something they have been doing, not just some good idea the saw on Pinterest.

4. Get after it

Just like the man described in James1:22 deceives himself when he hears the Word of God but does not do it, we also can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are accomplishing something when we are not.

Once you’ve developed your purposes through God’s word, planned your purposes, and gotten feedback and counsel on your purposes, get after it. Go and DO what you have decided is best to do. This makes all the difference between the wise man and the fool. The wise man lives according to what he has determined is the best way to live, regardless of feeling. The fool lives according to his feelings, regardless of what is best.

A helpful way to stay on track is to make a chart of your resolutions. Each night, check those resolutions you kept, and mark an x on the resolutions you did not. Make it your goal to never have two x marks in a row and to have as many check marks as possible in a row.

I look forward to experiencing more valuable accomplishment this way. Plan your purposes and over time you will see your productivity and effectiveness for the Lord skyrocket.

 

4 things you CAN do while sick

I picked a bad week to start blogging. For six days, I’ve been pretty miserable and even had to call in to work for two of those days. As you know, there is a lot that a person cannot do while sick. Sicknesses are varied, and they affect all of us in different ways. When I am sick, for example, I lose my ability to think clearly and logically, as well as move around effectively. Sermon preparation, educational reading, visits, and planning are all out the window. So what CAN I do while I am sick? Here’s what I came up with:

1. I can pray for others

One of the many practical exhortations given at the end of First Thessalonians is to “pray without ceasing.” My prayer life when I am sick usually consists only of “Lord, please help me get better SOON!” I understand that my prayers may not come out just right when I am sick, and my throat may be too hoarse to pray out loud, but I have had good times of prayer when I am sick. When you are feeling down in the dumps the most is a great time to pray for others. Pray for a friend, for a neighbor, or for a church member or guest. Pray for the lost and ask God to give you opportunities to reach someone for Christ. While your physical body is drained, fuel up your spiritual self.

 

2. I can praise my God

Throughout the Psalms, David is afflicted in a number of ways. He cries out to God for deliverance, but he also utters some of the greatest words of praise I’ve ever read! Again, my jumbled mind may not send forth praises that are going to be written down for ages to come, but I can spend time lifting up my God. “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!” I can praise Him for Who He Is, for what He has done, and for how He has blessed me and my family. Even if all you do is open your bleary, pain-filled eyes for a moment and look around the room, praise God then for each thing you see: the sunshine, your furnishings, a warm house, and a bed/couch/recliner to be lying in. If one of your friends brings you homemade chicken noodle soup, the praising God part kind of comes automatically.  🙂

 

3. I can relax my body

Relax?! Before the body aches or after I blow my sore nose for the seventy-ninth time today? Before you strike this item off your list as impossible for you, consider this: many times, our bodies getting sick are a signal to us that we have been too busy and perhaps not getting enough rest. Instead of allowing your mind to worry about all the things that are not getting done, take a day to absolutely rest. Take your medicine, and plan to relax. Allow your body the rest that it is probably craving. Is it possible that we are sick because we have been neglecting the wise example of “coming apart for a while”? I am the first one who will show up to work with a runny nose or a headache, but when I get a powerful sickness, I try to make sure that I rest as much as possible. Don’t waste your down time stressing about all the work you have to make up – relax.

 

4. I can re-evaluate my habits

This one requires the most thinking, perhaps. I cannot perform this item when I am in the worst of my sickness. As I get those moments of metal clarity, however, I often wonder if there are steps I could have taken to have avoided this sickness. This isn’t a “beat yourself up” step; rather, it’s a positive action step. I have developed several positive habits through the thinking I have done while sick. Some of those are: being fastidious about taking my vitamins, eating at least one solid, healthy meal each day (with greens and everything!), getting some physical exercise at least three days a week, drinking plenty of water each day, and maintaining a better sleeping schedule. I also revisit these areas and others when I do get sick and often find that I have been neglecting one or more because of that awful excuse, “busyness.” If I find my present habits are keeping me up too late or my present schedule does not allow for physical exercise, I attempt to remedy that as soon as I am well.

 

These four things are things I have done at different times of being sick, but never had I written them down. This guide will be a help to me as much as it will be to any reader that comes along this page. Although these four things won’t get all your work done or make you feel better faster, I believe you’ll find your down time more profitable than if you don’t utilize them. Hope you get better soon!

What I learned from my GORUCK tough challenge

What in the world is GORUCK? GORUCK is a company formed by a former green beret soldier that designs and builds nearly indestructible bags and accessories. To learn more about company and the challenges they set up, visit them at their website.

The tough challenge is the challenge I took part in on August 26-27 on the M Lazy C Ranch near Lake George, CO. If you just looked that up on Google maps, you realize just how out in the middle of nowhere we were. This was a prototype wilderness event, so not only did we learn the values of teamwork and rucking, but also skills like night navigation and wilderness survival.

I won’t describe the entire event in detail because part of the experience is the uncertainty of it all. That, and each event is different, so mine won’t be exactly like the one you eventually do. I did go early and take advantage of a brief navigation class put on by the cadre. It was basically a hands-on version of the three-part article I read on the Art of Manliness website. Definitely glad I attended.

When the event started at 9PM, we were given the operational scenario and then had to follow some basic instruction. After that followed some team building physical exercises and then we were off to complete a team task. If only we had done better on that particular task. Alas, we did not create a useable apparatus and wound up carrying our supplies for a ways, all while learning how to operate as a team and follow orders from our team leader. Fast forward a few kilometers and countless burpees, we came to a part in our mission that required land navigation. If only it wasn’t 2AM and pitch black.

We began a journey that would teach us more about pain, fatigue, teamwork, and incredible accomplishment. Spoiler: we got to see an INCREDIBLE sunrise from the top of Round Mountain. Maybe you can guess what we climbed up in the dark. After that mountaintop moment, we navigated to another point where we completed survival tasks and then navigated back to where we started, 12.5 hours after we left.

Of course, all of this was done while wearing a 45 pound ruck and carrying either a person, a log, a sandbag, or *shudder* a bag full of water. Sometimes all of the above… or most of the above, anyway.

So why put yourself through this test of endurance? Just to brag? You better believe it.

More than bragging rights, there were lessons learned along the way. Valuable lessons that every human on earth can apply and be better for it. Unfortunately, I only can remember so much and write so well, so my advice to you would be to head to the GORUCK page and sign up for an event. Bring a buddy with you. And gloves.

Lesson 1: Teams work best with good team leaders

We switched off team leaders several times throughout the night. The team leaders received intel from the cadre and then transmitted orders to the team. Some team leaders were great at motivation, others with navigation, and some were just plain good at everything. Our team functioned best with team leaders that:

  • Knew what they were doing
  • Had confidence in their decisions
  • Kept the team unified
  • Listened well to the cadre and previous team leader (TL)

In life, every leader has another leader somewhere. Start being a good TL by paying attention to what your leader tells you to do. Understand thoroughly the instructions so you know what you are doing. You then will have the confidence to make smart and swift decisions. Use that momentum to keep your team unified. One of my TLs did that by constantly encouraging the group and by checking with individuals using specific questions.

Good decisions = good progress = good morale = good continued progress.

One of my other TLs struggled quite a bit with the map reading. He caused us to miss our time hack and we often had to stop with a LOT of weight on our shoulders while he attempted to figure out where we were.

Uncertainty = lack of progress = lack of morale = slowed progress.

Lesson 2: Don’t miss your time hacks

We missed our first time hack by about 40 minutes if I remember correctly. Cadre Shredder had us form up and told us a true story about he and his squad being in a life-threatening situation in which they had to move–fast. As they started, their medic fell and broke his leg. They were carrying a LOT of gear, one injured medic, and were receiving fire from the forest around them. They had called in a pick up, but failed to make the time hack. The chopper can’t wait for late soldiers. The next pick up point was 5x the distance away and through a lot more bad guys with guns. Having learned our lesson, we then proceeded to do 25 burpees to really cement that lesson in our heads. Yes, the last one we held plank while we received more learnin’ from our cadre. Lesson: don’t be late.  Missing your time hack can cost you:

  • An opportunity you’ll never have again
  • Confidence from the party you’re meeting
  • Safety, security, and perhaps your life

Being late to a job interview can cost you what might have been the greatest job you’ve ever held. Being late to church could cost you the encouragement from a friend that could’ve helped you through your week. Being late to school could cost you trust from your teacher, and it will take a while to earn that back, if ever. Being late in a military scenario or in a dangerous urban situation can cost you or someone you love their safety or their life.

Lesson 3: Stop Grunting

As we carried heavy things for long distances (I think I just defined the GORUCK challenge) some of us began to allow grunts to escape from our midsection and throats as we re-hoisted something weighty above us. It really was an involuntary reaction. Cadre made sure to teach us a thing or two about that kind of noise:

  • It’s subversive
  • It’s demoralizing
  • It’s unnecessary

Cadre counted one man grunting at the beginning of a hike and seven at the end of that stretch. One person grunting can get a whole bunch of other people grunting.  Think of grunting as “non-verbal complaining” and I think you’ll make the connection pretty quick to everyday life. Not only does it spread fast and under the radar, but it demoralizes people. When one person groans about how much longer the shift is, guess what? Other people start groaning, too. Other people also get a little more weary, too. You are not helping your team when you grunt and complain. Just because something is involuntary does not mean that it is necessary. We were told to be quiet. We didn’t talk, but we grunted. Grunting was not necessary to the success of the mission, so you know what we learned to do? We stopped grunting. You should try it, too.

Lesson 4: No Teammate Left Behind

Right at the get-go, Cadre Shredder told us that if we didn’t do our part and pull our weight, he would send us home. This isn’t a “no child left behind” policy in that lazy people get a free ride on the backs of the hard-working. When we moved, we moved with our whole team or we didn’t move at all. Either that, or we did lots of burpees (that may have happened a time or two before we got the principle down). When you move, you think in this order:

  • Team
  • Teammates
  • Myself

When you move, don’t think about your sore feet. Think about your team and the objective first. Then think about the guy’s sore feet in front of you and see if you can help him out. Then think about the girl to the left of you and see if you can encourage her. Lastly, think about yourself, but think positively. Don’t drag yourself down with complaining, grunting thoughts. Focus first on your team, then on the needs of your teammate, and finally on yourself. If you need food, water, or assistance, you get that taken care of, but you make sure your team is taken care of first. Everyday life: stop thinking about your wants and needs in your family. Family first, members of your family second, and yourself last.

As a Christian, this is easy to translate into the spiritual realm: Christ’s kingdom first (team), other people second (teammates) and yourself last.

Lesson 5: Everybody has a job

I wasn’t TL at any point, but I was an ox (I carried heavy things), I took charge on some survival skills we had to perform, and I held the compass more than once. No matter where you were or what you were doing, you were contributing to the team. Either map, compass, flag bearer, squad leader, team leader, pace counter, injured person carrier, heavy stuff carrier, or team weight person, everyone had something to do. On our team, there wasn’t a single “gray man” that tried to blend in to get away with doing nothing.

  • Don’t wait to be asked – volunteer
  • Pick the hardest job and don’t complain
  • If you’re doing nothing, find something to do

Don’t just slack off at work or milk the clock – there’s no honor and no growth in that. Find a way to work hard and benefit your team, even if you never get a thank you or a slap on the back. Doing nothing should make you uncomfortable.

Ok, I learned more than five lessons, and maybe I’ll write later on more lessons I learned, but this should keep you busy for a little while, at least. One of the greatest realizations a person can have is that the awesome truths learned from this challenge are nuggets of wisdom that are also given in God’s Word. God teaches us to be faithful and righteous leaders, to be honest and redeem the time, to be content and not to grumble, to focus on the kingdom first, others second, and self last, and finally to be busy about the Master’s business, no matter what your position is.

Until next time, I’ll be out there rucking. GORUCK!

Rarity of Loyalty

The first part of 2 Samuel 15 details part of Absalom’s treacherous plan to overthrow and assassinate his own father. This man without a physical blemish is a crafty man of action. He gets things done and he is not lazy – he rose up early in the morning for years for the purpose of sowing discord and exacerbating the political discontentment of the men of Israel. His insurrection only succeeded because the majority of the men of Israel were men of treacherous hearts. Absalom, by manipulating the men of Israel into pouting, stole their hearts away from where their hearts belonged – the anointed king whom God had chosen for the nation, David.

Disloyalty, or treachery, is a serious problem in our day. People jump political ships on a whim, they swap allegiances to people based on a single conversation, and they treat loyalty to their family as “extra points” instead of a core value. Loyalty to your local church is a foreign idea to many Christians, as well as loyalty to convictions of truth.

Whereas it may not be morally wrong to change your favorite football team or your brand of toothpaste, we need to be careful that our attitude in the transient matters of life doesn’t affect our spirit toward the eternal things as well. We need to be able to discern the difference between temporary, foolish things and eternal, weighty things. You don’t need to be loyal to Apple products, but you need to be loyal to your family. You don’t need to be loyal to Ford or Chevy, but you need to be loyal to your local Bible-believing Baptist church. You don’t need to be loyal to Remington or Benelli, but you need to be loyal to your convictions of holiness.

Our world today is selling us a false bill of goods: IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! Marketing is focused on getting us to change loyalties based upon the whims of “Almighty Me.” Folks just don’t seem to consider others when making decisions that free them from responsibility or inconvenience. The world says:

If you are benefited more by a newer version of the Bible, go for it! Don’t worry about accuracy and truth – which one flows better for you?

If you are benefited by a different church, go for it! Don’t worry about all those Bible verses about being a part of the body (Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 for example), just see which one pleases you best.

If you are benefited by an easier to follow set of standards, go for it! Listen to your heart – you’ll find a way to get around the Bible truth without too much guilt.

If you are benefited by cheating on your spouse, go for it! I mean, who actually abides by God’s standards of purity anymore? You deserve it.

If you are benefited by walking out on your job, go for it! They deserved it. It’s not your problem.

It is the foolish parent that tells their petulant child to do what they FEEL like doing to keep them from pouting and it is the foolish Christian that allows himself to do what he feels like to keep himself from pouting. We need men and ladies who will take a clear stand on the things that God has ordained and then be LOYAL to those things until death. Kind of like Ittai in verse 21 of 2 Samuel 15:

“And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.”

Christians ought to be the most loyal people in existence. These four steps will help you to be more like Ittai and less like the men who followed Absalom:

  1. Decide what is important, write it down, and don’t allow your feelings to change your mind.  This goes for devotions, diet, exercise, and entertainment habits. THINK and pray about what would be most pleasing to God and CHOOSE to do it, without reneging on your decision.
  2. Don’t allow yourself to pout for any reason. If you have a problem with someone, confront that person Biblically and be willing to change where you may be wrong. If you are pouting toward “no one in particular,” you are most likely pouting toward God.
  3. If you are under authority, don’t ever, EVER badmouth the people above you. Not parents, pastors, or presidents. If you have a problem with any of them, take the Biblical steps toward conflict resolution. If all else fails, pull out your secret weapon and PRAY.
  4. Above all else, develop the resilience to stay. Too often we view ourselves as temporary spectators in the drama of life. Your job, your church, your family, and your friends are not simply TV channels to change when the boring parts come up. It’s sad that folks are more wrought up about a man abandoning his dog than a man abandoning his family.

Choose to be loyal today. Start building this habit into your life by committing to be loyal to that whom you should already be loyal. Make a wise, Godly decision, don’t allow pouting or badmouthing, and ride out the rough times via a humble resilience powered by the grace of God. God does not bless treachery. God will bless proper loyalty.

Special Snowflake Syndrome

John 14:15 records the words of Jesus as He spoke to His disciples: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

One of my favorite medical terms I’ve learned since lifting weights is “SSS.” A person who has developed SSS is unable to push as hard as other people and unable to lift a weight like they are instructed to lift. The one afflicted with SSS can’t follow dietary restrictions or lifestyle restrictions because of their affliction. It’s too hard to diet for the afflicted and it’s too hard to go to the gym on a regular basis. They want what everyone else gets, but unfortunately, because of their disease, they need an easier path to getting the results. SSS, by the way, stands for “Special Snowflake Syndrome.” To the afflicted, they are a special and unique snowflake that is unlike any other person in the world. Their muscles don’t respond like everyone else’s do and their body fat just doesn’t come off like everyone else’s in the world. “Normal” diets don’t work for them… isn’t there a pill they can use? They are indeed diseased with a type of thinking that says they don’t have to work as hard because they are special.

Sometimes we have special snowflake syndrome in Christianity. We say “well, others have to follow God’s commandments to love God, but not me! I’m a special snowflake. God knows that in my heart I love Him in spite of the fact that I don’t follow His commandments. God just loves ALL of His special snowflakes!” This Christian, too, is afflicted with a wrong type of thinking. If you say you love God, then you will keep His commandments. Like the dynamic between works and faith (James 2:17-18), our keeping of Christ’s commandments is a result of our love for God. You can keep His commandments without loving Him, but you cannot love Him without keeping His commandments.

If you love God, you will demonstrate your love just like every other Christian – you will keep His commandments. You are unique in your makeup, but you are not unique in your responsibilities. The Christian life works for all kinds of different people, but it works under the same principles for everyone. Don’t believe your deceitful heart – you are not a special snowflake when it comes to how you show your love to God. We all show our love in the same way – by doing what He says to do.

Need some Motivation?

Life can get routine, which can become mundane, which can lead to boring, which ends up leading us to feel overwhelmed and defeated.  The Christian life was designed to be enthusiastic and abundant, yet at times you and I may feel discouraged and lethargic. In a temporal world, we have learned to provide motivators for ourselves to spur us on to action. That cup of coffee pulls us out of bed or that inward promise to get an ice cream on the way home pushes us through to the end of the work day. The promise of a quiet hour or two has motivated many a mother to accomplish nearly inhuman tasks and the hope of a future feeling of accomplishment has kept men under a car or in a tree stand for hours.

As a Christian, you may feel you have no motivators for the spiritual realm. You may struggle accomplishing the abstract and looking forward to what seems intangible. When your spiritual motivator is running low on fuel,  you need to have a place to go for a refill. Memorize and mark this location in your Bible: 2 Corinthians 5.

Motivation #1  4:16-5:4
This chapter starts out with the first thought that provides great spiritual motivation: there is more to life than this life. This motivation reminds us that “this world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”  Your focus determines your perspective, so focus on eternal things.

Motivation #2 5:5-8
The second motivational truth we are given is akin to the first: I belong to God. The Holy Spirit within us is the earnest of our future salvation. Your destiny is to spend eternity with your Creator! When you leave this body, you are present with the Almighty Sovereign Ruler of the universe.

Motivation #3 5:9-10
Another motivation for you to think about is that not only will we be with God our Father one day, but you will stand before Him as well. As you focus on eternity realizing you belong to God, remember this: I will get a report card one day. Just because they are not given out quarterly does not mean that God is not going to judge all of your works. This is not going to determine whether or not you enter heaven, but what you will receive from Christ.

Motivation #4 5:11-13
One of the motivators for Paul and company was the terror of the Lord. We must serve God, not only because of the judgment seat of Christ, but because hell is real. This was why Paul and his group persuaded men and made themselves manifest (open, transparent, visible) to others. All was done, not for appearance, but for the cause of rescuing souls.

Motivation #5 5:14-17
The greatest motivator in all of history lies before you in this passage: the love of Christ. Not only does Jesus love ME, but He loves ALL. He died so that ALL who were dead may live and that ALL who live should live, not for self, but for Christ! The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ provides a way for salvation, which makes you a new creature: old things passed away, behold all things are become new. His transforming love gives you newness of life.

Motivation #6 5:18-21
The final motivation seen in this passage is that of you and I being called to service. Always remember that I am a trusted ambassador of Christ. Christ did not commit the propagation of the Gospel to angels or to animals. He didn’t command nature to speak for Him; He entrusted you. Your mission in life is not about amassing material things or making sure your happiness meter is full; it’s about fulfilling your duty to see the lost reconciled to their loving Father through the work of Christ.

Let these Biblical motivations propel you to labor for Christ until He comes!

Wrestle for what is Worthy

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4

Something incredibly valuable to a farmer of this day was his oxen. They downside to owning oxen was cleaning out the crib, aka mucking out the stall. Although keeping an ox required a lot of time in maintenance, the benefits from owning an ox outweighed the effort expended. This very simple Proverb teaches us a lesson: it’s worth putting effort into that which will yield greater benefits. Further refining of that principle leads me to this thought: Wrestle for what is worthy.

Wrestle means to toil, labor, sweat, and expend real effort. It’s an attempt to win by strength and wit. Worthy is talking about something that will benefit you. The application to you and me then, can be boiled down to two thoughts:

1. Some things in life ought to be wrestled for! You get out of something about what you put into it, so what are you putting into the valuable things of life? How much effort are you putting forth into those things that will yield a greater return? Don’t complain about not having a good life if you haven’t been willing to “muck out stalls” to keep what’s valuable in your life.

2. Don’t waste your time mucking out the stall of a herd of cats. What value do felines have for a farmer (that a $5 box of rat killer won’t do)? In other words, have you been expending energy for what is worthy? Have you been wrestling for spiritual growth in your life and your family’s life and your church family’s life? Have you been wrestling for a tremendous marriage and a happy home? Or have you been expending your energy on entertainment and/or a bank account? Cats don’t bring much increase; oxen do.

Prayer, Bible reading, and Godly habits take effort. They will pay great dividends, however. Working toward a Biblically happy home and striving for spiritual friendships are also going to take some wrestling, but they are worthy endeavors.  Are you laboring for the valuable in your life? Strive to wrestle for what is worthy.