Keep Pressing

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:13-16)

Years ago someone described me as a “spigot.”  I was a very young Christian at the time, but the analogy seemed appropriate as they further explained that instead of “hot & cold,” out of me could flow spiritual “good or evil.”  My wife and I have discussed this comparison several times over the years and it always seemed appropriate.  For the sake of time and simplicity, Chad… BC (before Christ),  was a very bad (evil) person.  There may be some people who I knew back then that would not agree with that last statement, they however were merely fooled by my deception.

The spigot seems to be a good metaphor for spiritual life in general for all of us.  Each of us has the ability to seemingly turn on more of either the hot or cold at different times of our life.  I fear however that in doing this many of us spend most of our time in a perpetual state of “lukewarmness.”  Jesus address this matter as follows, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”   (Revelation 3:15-16)  Obviously, lukewarm is really not the temperature we want to be.

If we want to remain “hot” for God we must have a purpose, vision, and opportunities to serve him.  Romans 12:11 instructs us, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Zeal is defined as “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something.”  Are you “eager” to serve?  What is your contribution to God’s Kingdom each day?  Are you only focused on what God can do for you or your immediate loved ones?

Hopefully the previous questions do not seem too harsh.  I posed them as they are the questions that have been on my heart recently regarding myself.  Lukewarm water is nasty!  Left stagnant it is a breeding ground for all kinds of disgusting stuff.  How are you serving God?  Is there truly anything better than serving God?  Knowing that at any given moment you are exactly where He wants you to be is the most amazing feeling in the world, generally because this is when you are most likely to feel His presence and hear His voice.

I previously mentioned that If we desire to remain “hot” for God we must serve Him.  If we are not constantly mindful, sin has a ridiculously strong ability to seep in and turn us “lukewarm” without us even noticing.   Have a reason and a purpose for continually pressing in towards God.  Have men in your life that can hold you accountable.  Next time… think of how your actions may impact your wife, kids, others, yourself.  Who may miss out on the opportunity to have the joy of Jesus in their life, presently and in the hereafter?

Who will notice or what will suffer if you fail to prevent yourself from becoming lukewarm?  If you can’t think of many things or people… (sorry, but you are likely already lukewarm.)  We don’t want to be this type of person.  Timothy warned us about this kind of person in 2nd Timothy 3:5, “Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”   May we always “in our hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  (1st Peter 3:15)  PRESS IN BROTHERS…    Blessed is Best

Shared by Chad Hellenthal

Life Pleasing To God

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.    And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Often times I will write the name of a potential blog post topic on the top of a document intending to return at some point and further explore it.  God has been revealing many things to me lately, thus further proving His promise… “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8).  I clearly recall intending to learn more about living a life pleasing to God, to make a long story short,  somehow I changed or deleted the topic.  It is not that it is not worthy of writing about, in fact, it is the topic of this post.  It’s just that the “Living to Please God” concept sat in my documents list so long that I eventually just changed it’s name and wrote about something else entirely.

Ironically, just yesterday a good friend asked me, “So how does a Christian live a life that pleases God?”  It seemed like such a simple question, I mean it is what I am trying to do (or should be) every day. Right?  Please just stop for 1 minute and see what your answer to this question would be.  Can you list 3-5 things and/or give a clear and persuasive explanation?  If so, congratulations!  I could not and the realization of this was kind of personally dumbfounding.  What is it that God wants me to do to honor him?  We do not have a “religion” of seemingly endless directives, routines, rituals, etc.  We do however have commandments that we are to follow, but our efforts needed to fulfill these seem ever changing.  Not that the commandments change, but rather every person is unique and every situation is different.  We must therefore depend on God to lead and guide us regarding what is right… acknowledging our complete dependence on Him in all things.

When attempting to clarify what it means to live a life pleasing to God I came up with one simple explanation, “Bear Fruit!”  John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”  Notice that Jesus is not instructing us to try harder or do more, we simply seek to draw closer to Him and the fruit will come naturally.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

A life that pleases God is one that yearns to KNOW God better.  First, growing in the knowledge of God is not the same as seeking to learn how to get more from God. Many of us are only concerned with how we can tap into God’s resources. We want to know how to get God to answer our prayers. We want to know how to get God to meet our needs and banish our problems.  Second, growing in the knowledge of God is not the same as growing in knowledge ABOUT God.  There is always a danger of substituting facts for a relationship. The life that pleases God is the one that yearns to know more about God so that they can know God better. I think this kind of person:

  • Reads the Bible not primarily for factual information but to discern the heart of God. They look for direction not merely information.

  • Their prayer is not totally consumed with requests. They take time to work on their relationship with God.

  • They are eager to learn of God. They want to read or to be taught anything that might help them know God better.

  • They are careful to make sure they are seeking truth and not just seeking ammunition to defend their own perceptions of God.

A life that pleases God endures troubled times and is patient with difficult people.  Paul tells the Colossians that a life that pleases God is one that is “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might . . . “. But notice the purpose of this power: it is given so we might “have great endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11)

A life that pleases God is a life lived graciously.   Have you ever noticed how much we complain?  We complain about the weather, income, government, food, others, traffic, crowds… You get the idea.  We often thank God for what He’s given us while at the same time feeling he should have given more.  We seem to think that if God really loved us we would have: less problems, more money, more stuff, more influence, less illness, more good times, less difficult times.  True gratitude begins when we realize we do not deserve the inheritance that has been reserved for us.  An attitude of gratitude begins when we learn to open our eyes to the blessings we take for granted.

We’ve by no means exhausted this topic, this is a matter of which countless books have been written about.  To sum it all up in a simple way I’ll quickly refer to John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  Our initial verse at the top of this page was from Matthew 22 when Jesus informs us of the greatest commandment.  There are many commandments from Christ (which we will explore next week), but Jesus wants us to simply understand that the most important thing we can do is LOVE God with all our heart, soul, and mind.  The second most important is to love our neighbor as ourself.  Notice what both commandments have in common? LOVE!  God is Love!  A life that pleases God is a life rooted in LOVE.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)  More than anything… God wants us to WANT Him, to KNOW Him, to LOVE Him!  To love God is to please Him… Love… Love… Love… Love!

Blessed is Best!

Shared By Chad Hellenthal

Keeping it Real (Part #2)

Last week I shared how my relationship with God has vastly improved over the last 7 months. The moment things started to change is as clear to me now as it was when it occurred at the last men’s retreat.  The final night included a time in which everyone had an opportunity to share whatever was on their heart.  Personally, the Lord was lovingly convicting me regarding the place (or lack thereof) that I had given to Him in my life.  Church was what I did for my wife and kids.  It is sad how easily this can happen to people.  I liken it to swimming in the ocean, you know how it is when you venture straight out from your spot on the shore and before you know it your 100 yards down from where you started.  In the same way it is rarely noticeable that you are drifting away from God, you just kind of look up one time and ask, “How did I get here?”

Anyway, that night at the retreat I could feel God moving on my heart.  Basically everyone else had shared, I remained silent till essentially the last possible moment.  My hand raised, seemingly not by my own causing and I began to speak, or trying to speak as my premeditated thoughts quickly turned to tear filled words.  This was the beginning of the change that was to take place inside me.  It took my opening up and sharing with other men to bring forth healing and repentance.  This is not fundamentally very different than what occurred the moment I first opened my mouth and make a public confession to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior 16.5 years earlier.

I share these things in hopes that it may help other men.  We all have struggles and challenges in our lives but for some reason we so often try to do things on our own.  As if somehow “real men” never show weakness.  I’ll say this, “real men,” they display “meekness.” Everyman needs at least 1 other man in their life in which they can be real and honest with. There is something powerful about sharing or confessing challenges to a Christian brother. If you do not have this kind of godly man in your life, please ask God to bring this relationship into your life.

It is not enough to just have a Godly friendship in your life.  My change further continued as I stood on Matthew 6:33 by “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” Everything else that I needed in my life will only come once I first discover what it truly means to “seek Him first!”  I’ll make this point very clear, if you are not seeking Him first thing in the morning before doing anything else (besides maybe pouring a cup of coffee and using the restroom you are not placing Him first in your life.  This is one of the most basic, fundamental and powerful changes I made in my life.

In addition to focusing of starting off each day in God’s Word, I  began asking God to reveal the things in my life that prevent me from having a more intimate relationship with Him. Some things were obvious, while other issues were hidden from my knowledge.  Psalm 90:8 reads, “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.”  Making the effort to spend time in His Word and with Him in prayer is when changes really started to happen in my life.  We must be open to hearing was God is speaking to us, and willing to do it.  We are instructed of the importance of this principle in James 1:22.

I began to look at my wife in children with a new insight and understanding regarding my role as a husband and father. My role was not to just go to church for their sake, it was to fight to become the “Man of God” that they needed me to be.  The stakes of complacency had become too high, it was no longer just myself that suffered from my lack of focus on the things of God.  No credit for any of this can be given to myself although it did take a conscious effort on my part to fight the good fight.  I’m also nowhere near finished.   For those of you that have been reading these blogs over the past several months you might realize that this is a way that I can stay focused on God.  They tend to often be a direct reflection of what God is speaking to me and doing in my life.

“I’ve been “here” before, too often for my liking.  Yet, part of me is happy to be “here” again… for at least I’m not where I was.”  That was the first sentence of my first blog post roughly seven months ago.  The title of the blog was “Today… Again,” which referred to the fact that I seemed to be once again deciding to turn back to God.  Albert Einstein once said that “the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  Maybe you are in a low place similar to where I was before the men’s retreat, or maybe you are walking strong with the Lord at this time.  Either way, hopefully you can recognize that you are in dire need of more of Him.  I challenge you as I’ll challenge myself, what can we do or change in our lives to draw closer to God?  The best thing about accepting this challenge is seeing the fruit of what God does with a man whose heart seeks after Him. To hear God’s voice and recognize His guidance and hand upon your life is the most amazing thing in life.  If you want more of this there is only one thing to do… Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).  Blessed is Best!!
Shared by Chad Hellenthal

Keeping It Real

Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

(September 28, 1997) The day that changed my life forever.  The months prior to this wonderful day were filled with anger, hurt, pain, several attempts to end it all.  Gun loaded, barrel inserted into mouth, finger on the trigger.  Thank you God for saving me from destruction that time, every time.  Even as I denied you in every way possible. I remember screaming at my mom “God is Dead!  God is Dead!  God is just a means of social control invented by man to keep order in the world!”

I spoke those horrible things about God only weeks before He revealed Himself to me in a powerful way.  From God hater to believer in all of about 7 seconds.  “YOU DIED ONCE, I BROUGHT YOU BACK AND NOW YOUR LIFE BELONGS TO ME.”  “What?” I replied. “YOU DIED ONCE, I BROUGHT YOU BACK AND NOW YOUR LIFE BELONGS TO ME.”  It may be helpful to know that I drowned while In Alaska at the age of 4 and experienced a seemingly unexplainable recovery.  The prayers of a mother in response to a lifeless child, a promise to raise that child in the church if only he would live.  Obviously, I lived… but it seems as if only recently am I beginning to really understand what it means to be alive.

It was not until the age of 24 that I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.  At this point I’ve been born again for 16.5 years.  I’d like to say that all those years were spent passionately pursuing God but they were not.  There were seasons of deep intimacy, and seasons of which I chose to live as if God was once again dead.  It amazes me just how much grace and forgiveness He has given me, I’m so thankful that you are not a God of “You will get what you deserve.”

It has been on my heart lately that I’ve failed to make the best use of my time.  This is true over the last 16.5 years since I’ve know Jesus… the last several months…. weeks… days… 40 years… today.  I don’t want to be foolish anymore.  I want to know what the will of the Lord is.  I want to walk as though I am wise, not unwise.  Does anybody else feel any conviction regarding how they spend their time.  What is the first thing you do when you wake up?  What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?  What are the typical conversations you have with your kids, wife, friends?  What shows do you watch, music do you listen to.  What do you read or think of the most?

I’m not judging anyone and there is nothing wrong with most things as long as they are in moderation.  The reality is that we are just one phone call or conversation away from having our entire life change in a way we never expected.  Is our focus to live for God?  If not, what is it that we live for?  Are we in danger of essentially having other god’s before God?  Is your wife in need of a more godly husband, your kids of a godly father?  All these questions are things that are between you and God.  Will you join me this week in asking God to reveal things to us that may not be a wise use of our time?  In this we will better understand what the will of the Lord is in our life.  In His will is where we will find the fullness of His presence and greatest joys of life.  Blessed is Best!!

Next week I’ll follow up on these thoughts by addressing some changes in my life that have resulted in the opportunity to have a more intimate relationship with God.

 
Shared by Chad Hellenthal