Category Archives: Christian Living

How Will I Be Recognized?

Do you ever feel like you are having a tough time living up to the expectations that you have placed on yourself? Do you ever feel that your best, simply isn’t good enough? Have you ever come to the realization that you are not perfect? Well, the good news is, if you’re like me, you have aced this test!

As I poured forth effort this past week to study our small group’s weekly passage found in Acts 4, I was in awe of the spirit-filled life of the Apostle Peter.  My awe of the life of Peter exemplified in Acts 4, left me cut to the heart.  Here are two men, Peter and John, who are “uneducated and untrained”, whom are clearly recognized as having been with Jesus after speaking with authority to the religious leaders of the day.  They were initially observed as confident (Acts 4:13) and later exemplified boldness (Acts 4:20).  My heart concurs for this to be the reality of my life, but then I am left to an honest revelation that I am no where near that “bold”.  To be utterly transparent, I often look a lot more like Peter in Mark 14:66-72 (i.e. cowardly denial).  Ever been there?

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for my small group, I was unable to teach past the point where God is dealing with me. Sometimes my desire to appear “educated and trained” gets in the way of “being with Jesus” (can I get an “amen” from the fellow “type A’s”?).  Notice this is the exact opposite of Peter and John in Acts 4:13. To put it plainly, I often seek out answers for questions instead of seeking the Person who answers.

So this is where I stand, needing to place myself under the authority of God’s word.  To spend time daily with my savior to know the heart of God, while I ‘m left pleading to God for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit.  Not so that I would appear “educated and trained”, but so that I would appear as nothing but a vessel, and that I would only be recognized as one who has been with Jesus.

I must also realign my thinking for the questions that I opened this post with.  For I should have no expectations but Jesus’ and because of Jesus I am “good enough” and one day I will be perfect (Revelation 21).  Until then, I put forth effort to be will make it my desire to be content with being recognized as having “been with Jesus”.

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” ~ Acts 4:13

Who Sets Your Agenda?

Last week, I took a break from the daily grind of work and walked to my car which is parked in the parking garage at my work.  I shut the door to my car and resisted turning on the radio for some background noise.  I picked up my personal cell phone to put it on silent and noticed that I had multiple texts that I had yet to address… so I quickly worked through them.  While doing so, my blackberry from work was “dinging” with e-mails and calendar reminders… once again, I scanned them quickly and put my phone on silent.  My attempt to withdraw has already been sidetracked multiple times!

To some extent, I believe that this 10 minute exercise represents a microcosm of my life (I’m guessing yours as well).  There are phone calls to make, deadlines to meet, agendas to keep, and that is just during the work day.   My effort of even putting this all aside during the middle of my work day has led me to conclude:

1. Communion with God requires effort

I’m typically not one to shy away from effort, with the caveat being that my effort is for something that I desire!  Too often, I find that my desires are based on selfish motives.  I desire success in my job, the feeling of being a valuable member of my team, and the satisfaction of a task well done.  I was recently challenged to consider my use of time as a plumb line for determining my desires (any one else not want to answer that challenge?!).

2. Communion with God requires the denial of self

Too often, my thoughts are more “kingdom” focused than “Kingdom” focused (little “k” vs. big “K”).  My outlook is more temporal than eternal and my desires more superficial than genuine.  In fact, my entire purpose of withdrawing during the middle of my work day was to test myself regarding the driving force in my life: work or communion with the living God?

3.  Communion with God requires the submission of one’s will

Until I was able to shut down “Travis’ agenda”, I had no chance for true communion with God.  I praise God that he works in me through the power of the Holy Spirit, consistently and faithfully drawing me into communion and prayer.  While my shortcomings are many and my faults easily identifiable, I can boldly ask God, just as King David did, not to cast me away from His presence nor take His Holy Spirit away from me (see Psalm 51:11).  I am forever indebted to the grace of God and my God does not withhold good from those who walk uprightly (see Psalm 84:11).

To reduce it all down to one sentence, communion with God requires effort, denying oneself, and the submission of one’s will.  I pray that my journey to true communion with the living God will come quickly today!

Blessings,

Travis

 

 

Working Unto the Lord…

23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. ~ Colossians 3:23-24

I thoroughly enjoy the work that I do.  It is a unique and rewarding career, of which I am part of a small office that allows me to work pretty independently with a flexible schedule.  In fact, it is hard to believe that I have already been there over 6 years.  God has truly blessed my family through this job, as I  have had great opportunities set before me.

Most jobs have some cyclical nature to them and mine is no exception.  Our office is typically busier in the winter, spring, and fall, with a summer slowdown.  However, the past few months have been extremely busy for me at work.  By no means is that a complaint, just a reality of my current work situation.  After a busy spring, I was looking forward to having a nice relaxing summer, with frequent Friday afternoon golf outings with my son and friends from church, and surprising the kids by coming home early to go to the park.  Instead, due to a resignation in our department, I found myself picking up extra work, while keeping the clubs locked in the trunk of my car.

Despite our plans, God often takes unexpected life situations to teach us the truth of Scripture.  In this case, I was constantly energized by the Scripture passage in Colossians (quoted at the beginning of this post).  I’m thankful that God is not silent regarding the day-to-day tasks of this life on earth.  And why would he be, because he cares for his children.  This summer, God gave me great perspective that even though I was drawing my paycheck from my employer, it is not them whom I was ultimately serving.

To be honest, it would have been easier to “mail it in” and do the minimum to get by, or to stress out and lash out at those close to me (something I would have done in the past).  But God (yes, one of those “but God” moments), gave me the grace to persevere.  In fact, the greatest reward for me is hearing my wife say, “I feel like you have done a good job of balancing work and family”.  I often fear allowing those two seemingly competing time and effort requirements to become unbalanced.  I praise God that he gives us the victories that we need.

Blessings,

Travis

 

SIDE NOTE: Don’t get me wrong, this by no means indicates that my family and I did not have a great summer (complete with a family vacation, trips to grandparents’ houses, and a fun filled day at the Iowa State Fair).  However, this probably means that our summer didn’t quite go as “we” had planned.   God ways are not our ways for his ways are higher (see Isaiah 55:9).

 

Family Shepherds…(like with the Rod and Staff?)

I would classify myself as an avid reader (as avid as you can be with a demanding job and a family six).  If you were to checkout my bookshelf, you would quickly notice that I am not much for “fiction” reading and spend the bulk of my time reading books that I feel will benefit me professionally, personally, and / or spiritually.

A lot of people write reviews of books and most would provide a more eloquent or technical review than what I will be able to expound.  My primary goal in writing a review is to have a forum for my reflection on the work that God has done in my life through reading this book.  Or simply the work that God was doing in my life while reading this book.

I recently finished a book titled, “Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes”, written by Voddie Baucham Jr.   For me, the book’s title alone was intriguing enough to warrant the time to read.  I also had become familiar with the author through his book, “Family Driven Faith”, which I also previously read and thoroughly enjoyed.   For those of you not familiar with Voddie and his ministry, I offer a link to his website.  For some, his view on the role of the church regarding youth ministry may be controversial, but it is hard to ignore some of the evidence that he presents.

Voddie starts the book making a simple point about “knowing” vs. ” doing”.  To summarize in my terms… if Christian men were asked the question, who is responsible for discipling and training your children to walk in the ways of god, 99.999% of people would get the answer right… the parents.  You could count me among the 99.999%!.  However, I found myself increasingly frustrated with my lack of understanding for accomplishing this task.  I could easily point to the passages in scripture that admonish me to fulfill my role as the spiritual leader and the head of my household, but I found myself weak and powerless in fulfillment.  I believe that part of my frustration was driven by the fact that I didn’t even really know what it looked like to be the spiritual leader and head of my home.  A second part of my frustration may have been due to the desire to find some new effective method (i.e. shortcut).

I’ve certainly found good news throughout this process of sanctification, because God is not hiding wisdom from those who seek him.  In his book Voddie lays out a compelling case that the Bible calls men to shepherd their families.  As a man, who has tried to “get things right” with parenting, it was a profound truth for me to realize that “discipling our children is not about teaching them to behave in such a way that won’t embarrass us”  but rather to raise “our children with a view towards leading them to trust and to follow Christ”.   While, I still seek to avoid public embarrassment, I am learning to understand my role as shepherd of my family.

In the second part of the book, Voddie goes to great length to lay out what it might look like for a man to herald the Gospel in his home.  This section perhaps cut me most deeply, as it became readily apparent that my half-baked attempt at family devotions were more “going through the motions” than birthed out of a true desire to with the biblical viewpoint of leading my children to trust and follow Christ (ouch!).  Don’t take me wrong, I sincerely desired for my children to follow Christ, but given our schedule of nightly devotions, by the time 8:30 rolled around and I just labored through an intense day of work, I was ready to “check out” (selfishly).  If you have young kids… I’m sure you’ve “been there”.  While we are not perfect, my wife and I have had great victory over the past couple of months in the quality of devotion time that we have had with our kids in teaching them the word of God and worshiping as a family (more on that in another post).

Overall, as a man this book was a welcome nourishment to my soul.  I need to be challenged and instructed in the word of God.  I need to cry out for wisdom.  God has been effectively working on me (“sanctifying me”) for over a year regarding this topic (see recent blog post here).  The book, Family Shepherds, has certainly been a part of the journey and a tool that God used to exhort me about the deep truths founds in scripture concerning leading my family.  I pray that the Lord will continue to mold me into an “under shepherd” for my family, and I pray that if you are reading, God will grant that desire to you as well!

Blessings,

Travis

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If you are interested, you can read some “real” reviews and purchase the book off of Amazon here.  If you are interested in borrowing the book let me know.

 

Revival and Eternal Impact

In light of my most recent blog post on Hezekiah and Revival, I have been attempting to cultivate a heart of responsivness in my life through godly disciplines.  Over the past fews days, I’ve had some blessed time of communion with my Savior and he has been faithful in teaching me and growing me.

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how quickly “life can pass you by.”  This year has marked my 11th as a Christian, 8 years since high school graduation, celebrating my 5th anniversary with my wife, and 4 years since receiving my finance degree and moving to the Des Moines area.  The concept that “time flies” has become an all too real cliche’ and it causes me to ponder my responsiveness of God in the wake of a busy life.  The last thing I want is to wake up a year from now and say, “wow, I really didn’t make much impact for eternity’s sake during the past 12 months.”

We learn from King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles that he certainly did what was pleasing, right, and true before the Lord his God (2 Chron. 21:20).   He made an impact for eternity.  While his name might not always be the first one you think of regarding God’s people (i.e. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, etc.), for the people who lived during his reign, you bet he made an impact.

[albeit the nation fell into sin and idol worship again – see Manasseh in 2 Chron. 33]

Have you considered how you may be able to make an impact for eternity?  Or do you just leave that up the so-called spiritual giants?  I think for too long, I’ve allowed myself to give lip service to that statement while sitting in the wings waiting for others to take the lead in making an impact.  While I may never have the opportunity to impact people as a leader such as Hezekiah did in his reign as king, I do have the same opportunity to choose this day, if I will be responsive to the Lord.  My impact may not reach to the ends of the earth, my circle of influence may remain relatively small, but if I do what is right and true, it will rise up before the eyes of the Lord my God. 

Blessings,
Travis

Revival and a Man Named Hezekiah

Lately the topic of spiritual revival and awakening has been on mind.  A blog that I read regularly recently broached the topic as well.  Has there ever been times in your life when God continues to show you things until you are prompted to action by conviction and encouragement?  I feel like now is one of those times, but I’m not sure what to do with it…

Earlier this evening, I was reading in the book of 2nd Chronicles and the story of Hezekiah when he becomes King of Judah (2 Chronicles 29-31).  Hezekiah is about my age when he takes over as King.  [Astonishing to think that someone my age could be leading God’s chosen people!]  While I typically don’t look for a theme of alliterations when coming up with lessons fro the scriptures, I couldn’t help but notice the words that I had underlined while studying this passage.  In the first few verses alone you see he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:2), repaired the house of the Lord (2 Chr. 29:3), began reforming the house of the Lord through consecration (2 Chr. 29:5), restored temple worship, and as a result you see the people rejoicing (2 Chr. 29:36).  In chapter 30, you see his action to reinstitute the passover feast, people returning to the Lord, and prayers rising to heaven, the holy dwelling place (2 Chr. 30:27).  In chapter 31, you see continuation of reforms and the destruction of idols, the Lord providing for the tithe in abudance, and the people repsonding faithfully! What an absolutely riveting three chapters in the Old Testament (hence, one of the reasons that 2nd Chronicles is one of my favorite books)! The section culminates in 2 Chr. 31:20-21 with the following, “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all of Judah; and he did was good, right and true before the Lord  his God.  Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” WOW!

[deep pause to take all of that in]

So…what do I take away from all of this?  What was it about Hezekiah that led to revival in the hearts of the the people of Judah? 

The over-arching theme that I see in the life of Hezekiah is responsiveness. He was responsive to the desires of his heavenly father.  He followed the examples of great men of faith before him.  It is evident that he sought the heart of God (2 Chr. 29:10).

So… what does this have to do with revival today?

Can the responsiveness of one man change the course of an entire nation of people?  [don’t dismiss this too quickly – see Hezekiah’s example of Ahaz, his father in 2 Chr. 28)] .  Can the responsiveness of one father bring revival to his household?  What about one mother and the spiritual lives of her children?  One Pastor and his church?  One church and the nation?

Although I don’t believe there is a “secret formula” to revival, I do feel that we are given examples and testimonies in God’s word of which we are to draw wisdom.  Based on the life of Hezekiah, I wonder if it may simply start with a heart of responsiveness…

Blessings,
Travis

Faith that Goes Deeper

A good friend of mine, Travis Stevick (check out his blogs here and here) , posed this question on his facebook profile:

“If you were to ever speak of “going deeper” in your faith, what would you mean?”

I quickly clicked reply and was ready to spout out an answer, but found myself pondering the question and unwilling to just give a quick answer (hence the blog post).  My thoughts have swirled around this topic for the night as I began to write this post. I was reminded that Christians, as a whole, are often guilty of speaking “Christianese” or adopting coined phrases from popular sermons and preachers.  Sometimes I wonder if we hide behind phrases such as “get real with God” or “going deeper”.  We put up false fronts of what the Christian should say, instead of what we truly think or believe (I think we’ve all been there before).

So then, what is faith?  We know from Hebrews 11:1 that “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  Faith in what?  For a Christian faith is different, it is not a “power or belief” or “positive thinking”.  As a Christian there is an object to my faith, that object being the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Without defining faith, we are lost without an object.  There is no deep well from which to draw, simply the surface of emotions that we battle with on a daily basis.

So, what do I mean, when I say I want to go deeper in my faith?  Simply put, I want to seek God more authentically (Jeremiah 29:13).  I want to grow in that blessed hope and his soon second-coming and trust in the true promises and sovereignty of God (Matthew 24:29-21; Psalm 119:160; 2 Peter 3:9).  I want to know Jesus deeply, from the wellspring of my heart (Provers 4:23 NIV).  I want to go deeper than just the surface level!

So… what does “going deeper” in your faith mean to you?

Link: What to Read When You’re Tired

3 Chapters… 1 Chapter… 12 verses… zzzzzzzzzz

Perhaps you never struggle with this…but I am not ashamed to admit that I do.  Working as the head of the household, managing expectations, taking care of my wife and 4 chilren 4 and under, and finding some spare time to relax, can certainly leave one exhausted.  Don’t view that as a complaint, because I love where God has me in my life.  But simply put, there are a lot of things demanding of my time. 

Check out the following link for some words of wisdom regarding What to Read When You’re Tired

Encouragement 101

Have you ever felt like you just need a good dose of encouragement?  The older I get, the more that I realize that “life” seems to send its trials your way.  I’ll be the first to admit that my life is not characterized by perfect submission and heartfelt praise to God in the midst of my trials (James 1:2).  There are times when I (and probably you) simply don’t feel like being joyful during a trial or testing of your faith.  The apostle Paul was obviously cognizant of this fact, for he consistently is encouraging the believers in the early church to press on toward the prize (1 Corin. 9:24) and pursue heavenly rewards.  Let me offer the following encouragement to you (and myself) from the book of Romans.

Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world ,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

While it is relatively easy to quote a verse on encouragment (thanks Google), it is much harder to live a life according to Romans 12:1-2 as a means of encouragement.  Sacrifice and submission to spiritual service are not easy tasks.  Breaking out from conformity with the world is even harder.  Staring the down the barrel of real transformation, just might be too much to bear!  Perhaps, our (my) ability to persevere in joy in the midst of trials is directly related to my daily intake of the mercies of God.  For to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis, despite the promise that they are new every morning (see Lam. 3:22-23), requires just that…to cry out for God’s mercy on a daily basis!  Our self-reliance and culture of achievement may be the largest stumbling block to real spiritual breakthrough and maturity, as least I believe I have found one of mine.  Our daily bread from the Lord truly must be daily, just as it was for the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was to be no regular storing up of bread, because it would become moldy (just as our spiritual lives).

Join me this week in meeting the Lord at the fountain, instead of relying on moldy spiritual bread to sustain!

Blessings,
Travis

Submission Quiz – Did I scare you away?

I’ve been slowly working through the book, “Touching Godliness through Submission” by K.P. Yohannan (founder of Gospel for Asia).  Side Note – Please consider supporting Gospel for Asia, they are doing some great things for the Kingdom!   The following is a little snippet from the book that has caused me to do some pondering… join me if you will…

Why is it our flesh hates submission and resists learning about it?

It’s because submission requires brokenness – humblings ourselves…

There was no rebellion in Christ, he was the embodiment of submission and surrender, even though at the same time He was God. 

Rebellion is the seed of Satan because it was through rebellion against authority that he became Satan…. Thus, the seed of sin is rebellion.  Through the sin of Adam, our lives all begin with the spirit of rebellion.  In Christ we are called out of rebellion into obedience by submitting to the authority of God. 

May we allow the Lord to change us more and more into the likeness of Christ until there is nothing left in us from the ruler of this world. 

I praise God that my life no longer has to be marked by the spirit of rebellion.  I just wish it contained more obedience, more submitting to the authority of God, more denying my fleshly desires, more likeness of Christ in me… my look in the mirror reveals too much leftovers from the spirit of rebellion from the ruler of this world.

Will you look in the mirror too?  Will you compare the embodiment of submission and surrender in the Lord Savior Jesus against the evil seed of sin in the liar Satan?  If no, why not?  If yes, you are not alone…

Blessings in joining you,
Travis