It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


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Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care

Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care

November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.

Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!

“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”

 

Challenges:

  • Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
  • 17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
  • 340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
  • 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
  • 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
  • 25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD

Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.

Creative ways to help:

  • Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
  • Share the need on Social Media and with your community
  • Advocate for these children by becoming their voice in the family courts CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)
  • Advocate for these kids in your community group, your church or civic group
  • Support adoptive families by asking how you can help them
  • Create a meal calendar with your friends and family to bring a weekly meal to an adoptive/foster family
  • Get certified and trained to provide respite care for these families
  • Ask an adoptive family if you can mow their lawn or help with some chores
  • Do they have transportation challenges? or need a bigger car? Gather a community group to fund a vehicle
  • Do they have a child with physical challenges that require accommodations like wheel chair ramps, etc? Meet that need.
  • Go to the grocery store for them
  • Help them celebrate special events like birthdays and Thanksgiving
  • Adoption is expensive – are their ways you can help financially? Pay a water bill or mortgage for a month.
  • Give the parents a ‘Night Out’ by paying for a sitter and providing a gift card to a restaurant.
  • Offer to take the entire family to the zoo or a museum or just a park
  • Get creative or just ask a family what you can do to help!
  • Find out more here…

Get in the game!


A Message to the Church

“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

(James 1:27)


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Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


Read previous post: Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)
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Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)

Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)

Jesus’ prayer for us …

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

(John 17:20)

Before our Savior marched to the cross, He prayed.  He cast the seeds of His Gospel into the eternal hearts of future generations – the Martin Luthers, the William Wilburforces, the Charles Spurgeons, the Jim Elliots, the Billy Grahams and so on. This includes you and me. One of the Savior’s seeds landed perfectly in the soils of your heart and mine.

“in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

(Psalm 139:16)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Eph. 2:10)

The seeds of our salvation were cast on the bed of eternity as yet the foundations of the earth were laid. Try to imagine it with our finite minds as we plunge into the depths of God’s unending, all encompassing grace – it is incomprehensible.

 

Will you join me in preparing the soils of future generations with prayer?

Father, THIS EASTER, may seeds of the Gospel be cast into the eternal hearts of men and women here today and generations yet born. May the seeds sown THIS Easter reap a harvest of righteousness, prayer and revival in generations to come. We pray in one accord for our children’s children’s children and so on that they may believe that you sent Jesus Christ… for “those who will believe in Jesus through [our] word.

“The shower of answers to prayer will continue to your dying hour. Nor will it cease then. And when you pass out from beneath the shower, your dear ones will step into it. EVERY prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for them and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayer.

I (we) reap, in truth, what others have sown.”

Ole Hallesby

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

(John 15:16)

We pray for a mighty harvest in generations to come. May our present prayers shower down like sweet rain from heaven on generations yet born for the Father’s Glory. In Jesus’ name.

Blessings and Happy Easter!

Ps. 16:11

[This post is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow church staff members. I thought it may encourage my readers to experience Easter and Prayer in a deeper way. I hope it blesses you … and you children’s children for generations to come.]


Read previous post: Goal Setting – A Proven System
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Goal Setting – a proven system

Goal Setting – a proven system

I’m often asked how I go about setting goals.

So, I decided to share my goal setting system. You may not be a goal-setter.  On the other hand, you could be goal guru.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you find value here.

First, I have not always been a goal-setter. I was aimless for many years until someone (Dave Ramsey) taught me how to set goals. More importantly, I was taught ‘why’ I needed to set goals.

Second, I am not claiming that my process is the only way to set goals. Nor is it completely original. I am drawing from great leaders from whom I’ve learned over the years.

Thirdly, I’m not going to get into the ‘why’ of goal setting here. This article is for the individual who knows ‘why’ goal setting is important but needs a fresh look or wants to go a little deeper. I ask the men I mentor and leaders I work with to set goals using this method (or a variation). If we are setting goals using similar methods – we are speaking the same language.

FYI – I set my annual personal goals in March (as not to get mired by the ‘New Years Resolutions’ of others.)

I. Goal Setting Basics

Your goals must:

  • Be SPECIFIC
  • Be MEASURABLE (achievable)
  • Be YOUR OWN (don’t let someone else set your personal goals)
  • Have a TIME LIMIT
  • Be in WRITING (keep where you can see them every day)

Example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

 

II. Undergird your goals (the ‘whats’)

For each goal ask the following questions (write down the answers)

1. What are the benefits of reaching this goal?
2. What are the obstacles?
3. What help is needed?
4. What is my plan of action?
5. What is my time-budget?

Using the example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

1. Benefits: I will be healthier, stronger and gain a sense of accomplishment
2. Obstacles: Procrastination and busy schedule (work and family)
3. Help needed: Accountability and encouragement – perhaps a training coach or partner
4. Plan of Action: Training plan – weekly running and conditioning schedule, diet changes, journal results
5. Time Budget: Weekly time set aside for training leading up to the half-marathon

III. Balance your personal goals

I recommend setting goals in 7 areas of life (Zig Ziglar’s ‘wheel’). This will keep you from becoming lopsided. Unbalanced goals will cause problems in other areas of life. Think of driving a car with a flat tire.

Set goals in these seven areas:

1. Personal (relational)
2. Spiritual
3. Family
4. Financial
5. Career
6. Intellectual
7. Physical

IV. Share your Goals

My biggest obstacle in reaching my goals is me. I must admit I need help (and I consider myself a self-starter). However, life gets busy and I know I’m a magician at creating busyness that pushes goals aside. Its a form of procrastination. Therefore, I share my goals with folks who will hold me accountable. I give them permission to press into me and ask me how I’m doing. They are my cheerleaders as well.  I need someone to speak into my life and tell me to get moving or be there if I need help. (Great book on this is ‘Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud)

I can’t say it enough, share your goals!

V. Going deeper with goals

Personal Mission Statement: If you want to live a life that matters and makes a difference in the world, create a personal mission statement. It is your ‘why’. It tells the world who you are and what you are about. Here is my mission statement.

Prayer: As a Christ-follower, I am intentional about prayer. I need wisdom, vision and strength to set and achieve goals. In addition, I want my goals to be in line with God’s will and purpose for my life. Pray in each of the seven areas of your life and ask God to provide direction.

Bible Verses: It is vital to me to have a bible verse as the foundation of my goals. I usually have one for the entire year. This verse undergirds all of my goals and acts as a theme for the year. When times get tough, I can fall back on God’s Word for strength. This reminds me whose ultimately in charge.

Reflection and Reporting: At the end of the year, I reflect and report on my goals. I share this with the team and invite feedback.

VI. When you FAIL – and you will FAIL

Every week I try to experience three things:

1. Accomplish something difficult
2. Learn something new
3. FAIL at something

Failure is a good thing. I do not hit all of my goals every year. If I did, my goals are not challenging enough. We need failure. We learn more from failure than success. When I look back over goals I’ve failed to achieve, I learn where I failed and why. I learn and also see PROGRESS! We may have failed to reach our goals but we make progress.

 

Encouragement for you

In conclusion, below are some quotes I keep in mind when it comes to goals:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar

On being SPECIFIC: “Aim small, miss small” – Chris Kyle (US Navy SEAL Sniper)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (or perish)…” – Proverbs 29:18

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope this is helpful.

Now, get after it!


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Rescue them from evil – Prayer in 3D

Rescue them from evil – Prayer in 3D

[Content Warning]: The following narrative contains graphic descriptions of human depravity and evil. I am bound by my conscience to share this truth but I want to caution my readers that the content is heart-breaking and disturbing.

It has been nearly two years since I became involved in local efforts to combat human trafficking in our area. I serve on the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce with local law enforcement, Homeland Security, community leaders, concerned citizens and several non-profits. All of us recognize that we have a big problem in Fort Worth with DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking). That is to say, that children are being bought and sold for sex in our city and beyond. The average ages are between 12-14 years old. And you know how we arrive at averages, right?

While we are seeing small victories on a local level, there is so much more to do. However, I want to share a dimension that I believe will provide you some perspective and open your eyes to this scourge on a global scale.

3D Prayer

I’ve been praying that God would bring victory over the scourge of trafficking in our city. I have also been quietly praying for humility and compassion as He has given me a voice of influence to bring more people to the fight. He has been answering prayer for victory in spades. Yet, before I could allow pride to puff up my heart as if I could take any credit, God crushed me and thus brought me low. He answered my prayer in 3D. That is to say, it was a swift, three-dimensional answer for victory, humility and compassion.

Yesterday, I met with a local team that was formed to assist children rescued from trafficking locally. God brought this team together in short order and formed the program. This was a huge victory for our community. Following the meeting, we each walked to our cars to go our separate ways.  We stopped to celebrate right there in the freezing cold. As we celebrated, a friend pulled me aside to share his work with me.

Without going into detail, his ministry is on the frontlines of rescuing children from trafficking both domestically and globally. They operate in some of the darkest most dangerous places in the world.

Places where our worst nightmares go to have nightmares.

He reached into his pocked and produced a smart phone. “Lance, THIS is what we are dealing with…” He went on to describe the horrors of women and children being sold into slavery, murders and torture that would make you physically sick.

Then, he pressed play on a video on his phone. The location and group involved will remain nameless. It was in the middle-east.

I saw a man dragging a tiny child, screaming and crying into what appeared to be a make-shift medical tent. There were other men scrambling around the inside the tent. The video was shaky and I couldn’t understand what I was watching at first. My friend began telling me what I was seeing as the video played and everything came into focus.

This toddler, a little girl had been kidnapped – torn away from her family along with dozens of others from her village. This was not a ‘medical tent’ I was seeing. Although it had the appearance of one. It was a slaughter house. Not where animals where killed and processed into food, but where little children were slaughtered and their organs removed for sale on the black market.

As I watched this screaming child helplessly being dragged and run over by men moving about the room, the camera focused on a man standing over a child’s body – hand’s thrust into the little one’s torso. Underneath, was a stack of two or three lifeless bodies of little children.

These monsters were cutting open children to harvest their tiny organs and selling them. Pure unequivocal evil.

The reality of what I was witnessing set in and I turned away in horror. I lost my composure and like being slammed to the ground, the breath was completely knocked out of me. I stepped away and doubled over. Tears of hurt, rage and helplessness filled my eyes. For a moment I felt like I was caught in a vortex of hyper-reality and my worst nightmare.

What is it I just saw? How can that be real?

It was very real and it is happening as you read this.

Those images and screams will haunt me for the rest of my days. It was a crushing blow to my heart. It was if the Lord said, “This is what they are doing to my little ones… Remember this evil.” Then He reminded me that He is Savior, not me. He will execute justice and vengeance because He is good. I realized I am also accountable to what I now know.

In less than 3 minutes time, God had answered a three-fold prayer in three dimensions. He broke my heart for what breaks His. He uses the weak to humble the strong.

I cannot unsee what I saw. I cannot forget. It would be a tragedy to forget. To do nothing would be wrong. As the great abolitionist William Wilberforce once said when he told British Parliament about the horrors of the African slave trade;

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Now I know. But, what can one man (or woman) do?

In the Bible, every seemingly impossible command comes with divine enablement and accountability. This enablement is only manifested in humility and complete dependence upon God (See John 15: The True Vine). We must be rooted in the truth of God’s word, bowed in prayer, love mercy and do justice.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?”
Proverbs 24:11-12

Today, when our superficial little world is falling apart with ‘first world’ problems like waiting in line at the store or sitting in rush hour traffic, remember this story. Be grateful for the relative safety of your family.  Pray for victory, humility and compassion. Be ready for the answer. Be ready to act.  Raise awareness by telling others.  Maybe one day the western media will shine a light on this.  But until then, “this little light of mine… I’m going to let it shine.”

Please know that there are great organizations working to combat the dual scourges of trafficking of humans and the organ black-market.  Please pray for them.


For more information on the trafficking of human organs around the globe.  Simply search Google with keywords: “Human organ trafficking”, “United Nations organ trafficking”. Here is a good article to provide an overview: click here…


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