Ready, Aim, Fire!

Have you ever felt like a mouse running on a wheel? Has the purpose of your life ever become blurred? Have you ever felt like success was an impossibility? If so, maybe your target is set too far away. Let me explain….

A few years ago I purchased my daughter a youth Bow & Arrow set along with a large Styrofoam target for practice. The bow was pink camouflage and the arrows were purple. The target was bigger than she was! She was so excited; she couldn’t wait to hit that bullseye!

So I set the Bow up, adjusted it and showed her how to use the sights. We set the target up at about 20 yards away and she fired her first arrow. Totally missed the target all together! So she fired the second, totally missed again. Then a third, same result, totally missed the target altogether! So I moved the target closer, about 10 yards away. She fired another arrow and struck the area outside of the target hitting the Styrofoam board at least. She must have fired 50 arrows that first day rarely hitting the actual target and never hitting the bullseye. But she was determined and she practiced almost every day!

Soon her aim became better. Her focus was intense and her skill was improving. She was hitting the target in a more consistent manner and on a very consistent basis, yet still not hitting the bullseye. It took some time. It took several weeks of practice in fact, but soon she mastered the target at 10 yards. She was hitting the bullseye on a very consistent basis and felt accomplished as her goal was being achieved. Soon I noticed her become bored with practicing and less committed to practice each day. She had achieved success and was becoming bored because it was no longer a challenge to hit the bullseye. It was time to move the target.

We moved the target back out to the 20 yard mark and I asked her to give it a shot. The first arrow hit the Styrofoam, but missed the target. Suddenly the challenge within her was renewed and she began practicing once again. Except now the strategies she used before with the target at 10 yards, wouldn’t work. The arrow seemed to wildly and erratically sail through the air with no uniformity or consistency. She couldn’t understand why the challenge seemed so much more difficult at 20 yards, while so simple to her at 10 yards. She steadied her aim in the same manner, she practiced over and over again, but the bullseye seemed to be elusive.

Then she discovered if she aimed a little higher than before hitting the target in a consistent manner became possible again. The arrows leveled out and began to take a more consistent path because she had adjusted her aim and re-aligned her strategy. Soon she was hitting the target in a consistent manner once again and well on her way to successfully accomplishing her new found goal.

But that’s not the end of the journey! Stay tuned for more of this story to come. In the meantime, if you are consistently hitting the bullseye and have become bored with life maybe it’s time to renew the challenge within you by moving your target out. Or maybe you find yourself frustrated because your arrows seem to wildly fly through the air with no consistency. Maybe you need to move your target in. Regardless of the position you may find yourself in today, remember to aim steady, adjust your strategy as needed, and stay focused on improving your skill. Success will come when you consistently focus on the goal set before you and determine within yourself to never give up!

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“Temporary Comfort or Long Term Peace”

Too many times we choose temporary comfort over long term peace. We endanger our future, in exchange for instant personal gratification, rarely considering the long term relational consequences. We reach out for that short-lived fix seeking to extinguish the pain of the present, but in the end only our future is damaged.

Addiction is real and I’m convinced we all suffer with it on some level. Maybe drugs, alcohol, or sex is not your vice of temporary comfort, perhaps you struggle with something more commonly accepted by our society like food or shopping. Whatever the case, we all struggle with something. And the void we are trying to fill usually involves broken or stressed relationships to some degree. Whether it be broken relationships with others or a broken relationship with God, a broken or stressed relationship is often discovered at the root of our addictions. Ironically, what we reach out for to ease the pains of our situation only magnifies our problems and causes us more pain in most cases.

But don’t fear, there is hope! Don’t fret, there is help! There is opportunity to overcome! YES! Victory can be achieved, but victory is a choice we must decide to make, it won’t just happen. The perfect time to act on this choice is not some time in the distant future, it’s here, in the now. We must make this decision with intentionality and stand up to fight with victory as our only acceptable outcome.

While it’s up to you to make the choice to engage in the fight, don’t feel like you have to face the battle all alone. God has, and will provide support for you. He will lead others to support you, and call on you to support others as you become strong. Healthy relationships are essential elements in every battle plan of success. So stop delaying! Quit procrastinating! Man up! Get involved and begin to cultivate healthy relationships that lead you to the expected outcome you desire!

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“I’m a Good Person”

“I’m a good person”, I’ve heard many people make this claim throughout my lifetime, and I’ve even made it myself on several occasions. But what does “good” really mean? Good, as opposed to what? I’m afraid the intense efforts being made to remove God from our society is beginning to create problems few have imagined or even thought of. With God out of the way we have removed the standard for which everything right and good is measured against. In doing so we have made ourselves susceptible to everything evil and bad. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but our modern culture redefines words on a daily basis. The dictionary is constantly enlarging, not just because of new words being created but often because of new definitions of old words being added. It seems that most words today mean a whole lot more than they used to.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “good” in the sense of the statement above as:

2 a (1):  virtuous, right, commendable <a good person> <good conduct> (2):  kind, benevolent <good intentions>

But what is this definition based on? Who said a virtuous person is good? Who said someone that is kind and benevolent is good? What is being used as the standard of measurement? How can anyone claim to be “good” without understanding what they are measuring their assessment against? I would venture to say that more than half of the people I’ve heard make this statement, including myself, have no idea what they were really saying! We come to the conclusion that we are good based on the image we have of ourselves and the comparisons we’ve made between our successes and others failures. Using this method anyone could be considered good. All one must do is find someone that has failed in ways worse than them and walla! We’re good! Oh how quickly our intelligence will lead us astray when we remove God from our presence.

Some might say if we use God as the standard of right and good then humans have no chance of ever being good and would suffer from low self-esteem. Lord knows we can’t have that! Yet Jesus had this to say about himself in Luke 18:19 (NLT)  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good…”. Even Jesus was hesitant to be called good, and that should really get our attention! So was Jesus saying there is no hope of humans ever really being good? Not in my opinion. I believe this scripture is actually pointing us toward the standard of good and the measure we must use when we make our observations. Jesus was pointing us toward God. Jesus was teaching us the importance of keeping God involved in our lives, not obliterated from our lives. Since only God is good it would make sense that He is the measure we must use to make our comparisons. And truly when we look at God and compare ourselves to Him it is indeed easy to see none of us are good, no not one! However, when we look to God as the standard of good we are measured by, it helps us extend to the rest of humanity a lot more grace!

So the next time someone says to you in casual conversation, “I’m a good person” I dare you to ask them how they came to that conclusion. Ask them what their good was measured against. It may well easily open up a door of opportunity to witness to someone about the only One that truly is good!

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“Giving for the Credit”

I don’t know about you but I have to wonder about people that take pictures of packaged food, diapers, gift cards, or whatever that they are donating and post them on social media for people to see what they are doing. I guess I’m just weird but I like to give with as few people as possible knowing it was me! I don’t need public praise for being a good steward with what God entrusted me with. I’ve merely done that which was expected of me, not anything worthy of reward, or praise.

One may say, “Well, if we don’t share what we do with the world how will they know about it”? Really? Are the ones being blessed by our generosity so prideful that they won’t share with the world how they’ve been blessed? Are they so unthankful, and entitled, that they believe our generosity is owed them? Where does this attitude come from? I believe it stems from the environment that the church has created. By catering to every whimper of the “less fortunate” with no expectation of them ever changing we have caused them to become entitled! And the problem is NOT with them, it’s with us! We have become so infatuated with ourselves that we make everything about us, even our giving! We could care less that in many cases we are enabling, as long as WE get the credit for being generous!

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m getting too old to understand current culture, and maybe I’m just being too critical. Or perhaps maybe I’m just sick and tired of Christians tooting their own horn because those benefitting from the generosity of Christians are so unthankful! The Bible doesn’t say “God helps those that help themselves” but I sure feel a whole lot better about helping someone that is at least trying their hardest! And I don’t need the world to know about it for my benefit either!

That being said let me encourage you to pay attention this holiday season. Look for those that are trying their best and give them a helping hand. And when you do, put your trumpet down and keep your mouth shut! Oh and keep your Twitter and Facebook feeds clear of any self-praise as well! I don’t need to see a picture of the diapers you purchased for a needy single mother of five under the age 4 with six different fathers! (Ok, I went over the cliff with that last statement, but frustration is like a fart, it’s painful when you try to hold it in!)

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“Praise & Thanks”

Today I received a blessing in the mail! To be honest I was really doubting it was going to come and had already began conditioning myself mentally to accept another let down. I’ve dealt with far too much misfortune in my short lifetime and usually find myself “preparing for the worst” instead of “hoping for the best”. In some strange way I’ve learned to fool myself into believing that “preparing for the worst” will somehow make the pains of disappointment hurt less. Yet truthfully that never works. Disappointments hurt. When you have high hopes for something good to happen and then things fall apart, it plain and simply hurts. Yet today I found myself rejoicing and praising God for a blessing.

I thanked Him several times and praised Him for answering my prayer in a positive manner. After all, when something good happens, thankfulness and praise is the proper response from a Christian, right? Then suddenly in the middle of all my enthusiastic acts of thankful worship, I was convicted. I thought why did I not consider God worthy of all this thanks and praise before the good fortune came. Why do I praise God more when something good happens and seem to praise Him less if it doesn’t? Isn’t God worthy of all my praise and thankfulness regardless of what good does, or does not, come my way? Isn’t He worthy of the same praise and thankfulness no matter what blessings I receive? What if the blessing had not come, would I have been upset and presented God with my grievance against Him instead of offering Him thanks and praise? Isn’t He a great God all the time, or is He only great when things work out in a positive manner like I planned?

Today I realized I should love God the same all the time. When things work out good and when things seem to be falling apart. He’s the same God yesterday, today, and forevermore and He deserves the same praise and thankfulness from me no matter what. Maybe I’ll always praise Him more when I’m happy about something good, but today He taught me to remember to praise Him, and thank Him everyday, no matter what. Hope this inspires you to praise and thank Him today too!

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