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Entries in Holy Spirit (5)

Wednesday
Apr172013

good intendifications 

Good intentions. We all have them. Mine usually revolve around learning something new, applying it to my life, making myself better, and then using that growth to help other people. It sounds pretty simple when I put it down on screen like that. Makes me wonder why it sometimes feels so hard

The thing is, good intentions are essential to improving your life. You have to have a plan. It's unavoidable. You have to know where you're going if you have any hope of getting there. That's intention. And if you want your destination to be good, the steps you use to get there have to be good. Good intentions. No one makes a good meal from a bad recipe or bad ingredients.

The reason it sometimes seems so hard is because our own good intentions aren't enough. We can't see the road far enough ahead, and so we can't know when things are going to get dicey or go south or veer to the side. That's why it's important to temper our intentions with wisdom and faith and the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom will get you further than almost any other tool in your box. King Solomon was given a choice of anything he wanted. "Just ask," God said, "and it will be yours. No strings attached. Tell me." Solomon could ask for immortality, or the wealth of every nation, or control of all the lands of the Earth. Instead, he asked for wisdom.

God was so impressed by the request, He gave Solomon greater wisdom than any man who had ever lived, or would ever live. And funny enough, because of that wisdom Solomon got all of that other stuff anyway! Plus more and more and more than he ever could have imagined before.

One of the culminating works of that wisdom is the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. It contains wisdom beyond measure, a treasure unequaled on Earth!

Dave Ramsey—radio host, author, financial and business leadership guru, and solid Christian man—says in his Financial Peace University course, "There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. If you read one a day, in a month you'd have the equivalent of a Masters course in finance." 

Beyond that, Proverbs can give you a daily dose of wisdom that will change every aspect of your life, from money to relationships to running a business to achieving better health. Go to BibleGateway.com and type "Proverbs" into the search engine. You can pick any translation you want, including plain ol' modern day English, and start learning more and more and more about God's power in every aspect of your life. 

It should be noted, also, that Solomon's quest for wisdom was not limited to spiritual works. He not only studied the writings of Godly men, but the wisdom of other cultures as well. He poured over texts from ancient cultures, and used his "discerning heart" to find God's wisdom hidden there. And then he applied that wisdom to what he knew of God's Word, and used it to structure and live his life.

Remember, according to John 1:1-18, God's Word not only predates the written works, but was present in the very beginning of creation. In fact, God's Word was God Himself! And that Word became flesh, which we know to be Jesus Christ. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

John 1:1-2

The Word isn't just contained in the pages of your Bible. You can look all around you, at the whole of the world, and if you apply your discerning heart through prayer and study, you can see God's wisdom everywhere. Learn and grow from it. 

Faith seems to be one of those enigmatic concepts that confounds and infuriates people (me included). My own struggle with faith is that I haven't had a clear definition of it in my head and heart. I want to believe, and I want that belief to empower me, but I seem to always forget about faith when it comes down to the grit and grime of my day. 

Faith is more than just "belief." It is belief, but also trust. Above all, though, faith is obedience. 

To start building more faith, you start with wisdom. Start looking at the world around you, studying books and films and even television shows with an intensity for digging wisdom out of every crevice where you can find it. 

The act of looking for and discerning wisdom in everything, studying everything and praying for increased wisdom, will feed your faith and bring some added benefits as well. Proverbs 21:21 says:

Whoever persues reighteousness and love finds life, prosperirty and honor.

Proverbs 21:21

As you start seeing God's Word all around you, and start seeing the results of it in your daily life, your faith starts to increase. And it only takes a wee bit of faith to do a great deal. It's a seed, and it grows as it is nurtured and cared for. That nurturing comes from pursuing righteousness and love. It comes from seeking wisdom.

The Holy Spirit is the ingredient I was missing most when I was struggling to get a grip on my life. And, when I find myself struggling again, I can usually trace the struggle back to my movement away from the Holy Spirit.

When Christ died, He told His disciples that he would be moving on, going back to His place in the Kingdom of God. But He would send another to be with us. 

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

John 14:16

That advocate is the Holy Spirit. The third person of God Himself. He dwells with us, in us, all around us. The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and the power of faith. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can do anything!

But we have to invite Him in. He's there, waiting on the edges, waiting for us to say, "Take it. Take control. I surrender." And once He's invited, He smiles, rolls up His sleeves, and gets to work.

Trouble is, we can uninvite Him. We see all the good stuff happening and we say, "OK, great! I'll take it from here!" And we plow into His work, making a real mess of it all.

Or worse, we see things going a different way than we might have planned or wanted and we yell, "NO! This isn't what I want! I'm taking over!" And then we jump into the muck and get ourselves nice and dirty, and lose sight of the fact that God sees further down the road than we do. We're stuck here, wallowing in the mud puddle, when God was just trying to get us through it so we'd have a smoother, easier path on the other side.

We've been given free will, and it's been both a blessing and a curse. We're free to say, "No thanks, I'll take care of this on my own." Or we're free to say, "I surrender, God. Please, fill me with your Holy Spirit. Please lead me to your righteousness and your love."

It's an invitation we have to make over and over, because we keep revoking it over and over. 

As we search for wisdom, as we increase our faith, we must also remember to invite the Holy Spirit, to surrender to Him, to give Him the decision making power in our lives. We have to reaffirm it, over and over, because it's always our choice. 

It's not easy sometimes, to turn it all over. Especially since we often can't see what's going on, where it's all going, where the "good stuff" lies. All we tend to focus on is the bad, the hard, the painful. We forget that none of this lasts forever. We only see what's happening right now, and can't even imagine it getting better.

But it does. It can. It will. 

Good intentions aren't enough, though. Not ours, anyway. A remarkable life, filled with joy and prosperity, comes from surrender to the intentions of God. We can live our Intended Life. The steps are easy. They just look hard.

If you want to live your Intended Life (notice how I keep capitalizing it? almost like a brand or something), God has it all mapped out for you. If you need help, need a nudge, need advice or consultation or just someone to complain to, drop me a note. Use my Contact button, up top, or leave a comment below. We'll work through it together. I'll pray for you and with you. I'll give you whatever advice I have, and share with you whatever God has taught me. We can be a strength to each other. 

God has an Intended Life for you. His intentions are better than good. He has a plan and a power, and He's inviting you to be a part of both. 

Wednesday
Apr102013

brilliancification 

I was always very arrogant about how "smart" I was. And as a friend recently pointed out, I've recently gone the other way, falling into extreme self deprecation, pointing at myself and saying, "me not so smart after all." He actually chastised me about this, telling me, "God has blessed you with intelligence. Don't demean that by tearing yourself down." I'm paraphrasingthe conversation went on for a while.

So here's where I stand: I believe I'm pretty smart, and I believe I have been pretty arrogant about that in the past. And I believe that God has blessed me with a talent and an ability that, until now, I have used selfishly and foolishly. I'm a learner. I'm a grower. I'm a son of God, and I'm trying to be humble without demeaning the gifts God has given me.

What about you?

I think a lot about you. Most of you, I don't even know. I've never met you, and we've never corresponded. But I hope you realize how much I love and respect you, and appreciate you for being in my life. I thank God for you, because you are strength to me. You are a source of energy when I need it. I write this blog for God's glory, but the goal is to reach you and help you and show you what I learn as I learn it. And I also want to learn from you. I want us to interact and be a strength to each other in God's name and under His eye.

What I'm curious about right now is, what is the talent God has blessed you with? What is it you bring to the table, that you can learn to hone and improve? How can you maximize the potential of what God has given you? 

I am constantly working on improving myself and my life. I want to learn and grow. I do this because I want a better life, but I recently discovered that I can accomplish my goals better and faster by helping you learn and grow as well. In that pursuit, I've discovered a trove of treasures that help me meet my "learn and grow" goal, and I want to share some of these with you now. Use them to start your own journey.

  1. Pray for change. Ask God, every day, to create change in your life. It can be a simple prayer: "Lord, change me." You'd be surprised how far this, alone, can take you! 
  2. Pray for wisdom. God blessed you with a mind, and it is amazing. Has anyone ever told you that before? Do you believe it? You should! Think about all the things you've learned to do in your life! Now pray for increased wisdom, every day. Ask God to show you truth in everything you study. Learn to look at everything—from books to television shows and movies to conversations with friends to everything you encounter in life—with your "discerning heart." Pray about everything you encounter and learn, and ask God what you need to take with you from the experience.
  3. Pray for increased faith. Did you know this was possible? I didn't. I always worried that my faith wasn't strong enough. I wasn't seeing miracles in my life, because I didn't believe enough. But then I read in Luke 17:5 that disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, and suddenly it hit me that faith, like anything else, is something we can ask for and nurture for growth! So pray, every day, that God will increase your faith. 
  4. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When Christ went on to bigger and better things, He told the disciples that another would come and be their strength. The Holy Spirit, the third person of God, is God's agency on Earth. He is there, waiting for you to acknowledge Him, to let Him roll up His sleeves and get to work in your life. But He won't take over uninvited. You have free will. So you have to constantly put yourself in check, and ask the Holy Spirit to take the wheel. Surrender, and let the Holy Spirit act where you would have tried on your own before. Ask, every chance you get, to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  5. Read, study, listen, learn, grow. I've never understood why people felt such dread about learning. We do it every day anyway! If reading isn't your thing, try podcasts. Watch documentaries and indie films. Watch television programs on a topic that interests you. Have a conversation with someone about a topic they know more about than you do. King Solomonwho wrote the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, and who is considered to be the wisest man to have ever lived—studied more than just the writings of his faith. He studied works from Egypt and other cultures. He studied everything he could get his hands on, hungry to learn something new. And he applied his "discerning heart" to it. He viewed every new fact through the lens of his faith, to see how it lined up with the truth he knew about God. We humans all learn in essentially the same way—we connect what we're learning to what we already know. That's how learning and growth happen. So go out, learn something new, and think about how it connects to what you knew yesterday!

Here's a prayer you can pray every day to help you keep all of this in mind:

Lord, change me. Increase my wisdom and increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Give me a discerning heart, so I can learn and grow and glorify you in all I think, say, and do. Amen.

That prayer, or some variation of it, can be your mantra in daily life. It can be your road map for personal growth, and for Christian growth. 

And as you grow, share! Sharing what you learn with others is a sure way to cement it within yourself. Others will test you, debate you, argue with you. They can also support you, give you more information to consider and use for growth. Take it all.

When approached with debate that you can't answer, say, "That's interesting. I have to look for an answer to that. Thank you!" And then go look for that answer. Don't just pay it lip service.

When approached with new and additional or even contradictory information, say, "That's interesting. I need to think about/read about/watch something about that and learn more. Thank you!" And then go learn about this new thing! Every new piece of information is a chance to grow and change your life.

And be sure to share it with me! I need it! I need to hear from you, to learn what you learn, and to grow as you grow. We'll support each other, because that's what God wants for us. All for His glory.

We're all brililant. Just like God intended us to be.

So ... chat with you soon?

 

Thursday
Mar282013

wisdomification

I'm 40 years old, and I'm pretty sure I haven't done my best at being a steward of the gifts I was given. Some, yes, maybe. I've definitely nurtured skills such as writing, marketing and strategy, self improvement, knowledge about innovation and technology and leadership thought. My education in those areas isn't "complete." There's always more to learn and more ways to grow, but that's true of any field of expertise. I spend a lot of time growing in these areas.

I've fallen short in a couple of major areas, though. Money ... that's a big one. I had a lot of wrong-headed thinking about money, all through my 20s and 30s, and that has lead me to be deep in debt, with nothing put back for rainy days or long winters. I'm changing that now, growing in my financial education and developing the long-abused self discipline I need to be better with my finances, and to build a better future.

I've also fallen short on my health. I'm actually pretty "healthy," in that I'm not suffering from anything debilitating or inhibiting. I do have a pacemaker, but that's actually improved my health and physical stamina, rather than be a debit to my health account. Where I've fallen short is in diet and exercise, of course. I'm about 70 pounds overweight. I get winded walking from my truck to my office, or taking small flights of stairs. I'm chronically fatigued a lot of the time. I suffer from indigestion and other digestive irritations. In general, my energy and my stamina are low, and the way I look actually impacts my self esteem. I'm working to change these facts, too, by changing the way I approach food and by taking opportunities to move more, any chance I get. 

In both of those areas I have a ways to go. I have miles and years of damage and abuse to undo. Maybe some of it will never be undone, but I don't think that's true. I think that if I turn to the source of my strength, if I trust and rely on God's strength instead of my own, I'll be able to accomplish anything that brings good and joy into my life, and the lives of others.

The other area where I see need for change is my ego. I am utterly self-centered and selfish, much of the time. I know that my focus should be on loving and helping others, as often as possible. This is my mission from God, the commandment I can't avoid whenever I open my Bible or simply look around me. If I'm going to glorify God in all I do, I have to start with the one indomitable command He's given. I have to love others as I love myself. I have to help others the way I would want others to help me.

If I concentrate on that, it's possible ... more than possible, likely ... that the other areas of my life will fall in line, and even with all the work I'll have to put into it, they'll seem easy to me. 

This morning I started reading Proverbs (actually, I started listening to it from the Bible Gateway app ... worthy). I've read through it before, but this morning I approached it with new focus. I had read about Solomon, who was told by God that he could have any one thing he asked for. He could have asked for long life, or for all the earth to come under his command, or for more gold or more power, or for any number of things that might be attractive to anyone, even a king. But what he asked for was wisdom.

The result of that wisdom, beyond becoming a ruler who has become the benchmark for wise rulers throughout history, was the book of Proverbs. It's a treatise of Solomon's wisdom. It's written in simple language that, somehow, hides more truth than it reveals, and that can only be dug up through repeated reading and study. It's a guide for anyone who wants to improve his or her life, to get on a path that leads to greater life, to better health, the increased wealth. Looking for the ultimate self-help book? It was written a few thousand years ago, in the format of a letter from father to son. 

In Becoming a Millionaire God's Way, Dr. C. Thomas Anderson writes that if you want to improve your life in every avenue, if you do nothing else, read, study, and dwell upon Proverbs. Follow the wisdom there and you'll start seeing positive results in your life. I already am.

It's not all about money, obviously. Money is just a tool for reaching goals, helping others, serving God. It's not all about health, either. We need strong health to have the energy and physical reserves to do what's good for us and for others and for God. Really it's all about gaining wisdom, and using that wisdom to glorify God.

Pray for wisdom. Ask for it right now. I pray this prayer throughout the day:

Lord, change me. Give me wisdom. Increase my faith. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Show me how to glorify you in all I do. Amen.

Pray. Study. Pray and study. 

And it's not just about the Bible. Solomon studied the literature and wisdom of Egypt and other nations. He wrote about it all extensively, along with his insights and interpretations and ideas. He used what I call the REAL Word of God.

According to John 1:1-5 The Word was with God in the beginning. It was God. Ultimately, the Word became flesh in the form of Jesus, the Christ. So the Word is more than just the Bible. It has existed, exists, and will exist in all of creation and eternity. Which means you can find the Word, and wisdom, anywhere you look. So look broad and wide. Think about what you're seeing, consider it through the lens of your faith, and suddenly Wisdom starts to show herself.

Wisdom is the path to wealth, health, long life, and happiness. Wisdom is the road to God's kingdom. Trade everything for it. Forget feeling low about the failures of your life. Learn from them, grow from them, use them to cultivate a nice crop of wisdom. Every garden needs fertilizer.

I'm working on those rough patches in my life. I'm praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and that I wil receive increased faith and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And ya know, I can see it happening. I'm making a lot of progress, every minute of the day. I'm already well beyond the man I was just a couple of months ago. I'm grateful for God's touch on my heart and my life. I feel sorrow for those times I let Him down, and grieve the Holy Spirit, but I feel joy in His mercy and grace, and in the wisdom I'm seeing build slowly in me.

Wealth, health, and happiness come from love, righteousness, and wisdom. God wants us to seek all three, and he wants us to help each other in the search. I'll help you walk if you help me walk. We'll make the trip together.

Friday
Mar152013

the DNA of your every day

Choices are the DNA of our every day. 

Every minute represents one. We make them sometimes without thinking, and then we sometimes fall into a routine of just dealing with the results instead of thinking of what the next choice should be. And before you know it, you're standing in a doctor's office with 60 extra pounds of bad choices bulging over the waistline of your jeans. Or you're staring at a bank slip with a negative balance of several years of financial choices. Or you're pulling off your wedding band as you sign the final paperwork on a relationship-ending choice you never thought you'd make.

If we want to shape the direction of our lives, every choice has to be a conscious choice. The trouble is, that's not just hard ... it's impossible. 

We aren't built to make good choices automatically. It's not in us. Instead, we're programmed to make all the wrong choices. We want the cookie we shouldn't eat. We want to watch the movie we shouldn't watch. We want to take the thing that doesn't belong to us, or be with the person we shouldn't be with, or think the thoughts we shouldn't think. 

We're hard wired for making bad choices, and then improvising around the results.

But that doesn't mean we can't change. It just means we need a higher source of power than what we carry with us by default.

My source is God. For some people, that sounds nuts. They'd rather turn to almost anything else. Government, family, community, friends. Or maybe something more destructive, like drugs and booze. Which, on the whole, I think we can agree aren't going to help you make better choices.

The point is, if you're going to make real, positive change in your life, you can't rely on your own batteries. You have your routines and your tricks and your methods, and they've gotten you exactly here. Want real change? Choose better. Turn yourself off and turn on something that can give you the strength you need.

For me, that's God. What is it for you? Whatever it is, make sure you're stepping back every now and then, examining your trajectory and your choices, and determine if your source of power is getting you where you want and need to go. If not, it just means it's time to choose again.

Monday
Jan232012

Coming Out

OK, I admit it.

I’m sure the rumors have circulated. I’m guessing that most people, when they read this, are simply not going to be surprised. “I knew it,” they’ll say. “He should have just come out years ago.”

Some may be forced to change their opinion of me. “He’s not the man I thought he was.” Maybe that will make them happy for me, or maybe it will turn them against me. I would hate to lose a friend over this, but I know it can happen. I can live with it.

So this is it. This is me … coming out. I admit it, here and forever.

I am a Christian.

Whew! That, my friends, is a load off. Man! I can’t tell you how long I have kept that hidden. And to admit it here, to you, publicly and unabashedly … it feels good.

I don’t know, exactly, when I started feeling like I couldn’t openly proclaim that I am a Christian. In fact, I’ll admit that as I wrote the previous sentence, I was starting to write “proclaim that Christ is my Lord,” and I balked.

Why? I think it’s because there seems to be a public stigma on Christianity. Every day I encounter people who have some pretty low opinions about Christ and God and anyone who loves the Lord. TV is full of it. There are websites, books and even whole films dedicated to the simple position that God doesn’t exist, that religion is a fool’s folly and a crock (and possibly the root of all evil, if you can believe Bill Maher), and that anyone who makes proclamations of faith in God is probably a kook and a nutcase, and should be shunned if not locked away.

Not sure how all that came about, but you can’t argue. It’s real.

Somewhere along the way, I guess that sort of thing started having an effect on me. I opened myself up to it, I guess. Which is sad, because growing up I was so happy to be a part of my church, and so dedicated to the idea that God was real, that Christ was my savior, and that people were inherently good.

I still believe all of that, but it’s getting harder to point to any part of my life to prove that this is what I believe. Somewhere along the way I started acting out that classic R.E.M. song. I was “Losing My Religion.”

I have several friends who are atheists. A few will openly scorn the very idea of God, and will equally scorn me for believing. Some proclaim loudly that they might as well believe in “the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which I find oddly hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

Some are more tolerant. They don’t really care what I believe, and as long as I’m not pushing my faith on them they have no trouble liking me and hanging out with me. Even so, I feel a sort of panicked sadness when I think about these friends. I’m not qualified to make ridiculous proclamations that they’re all going to go to hell or something. I don’t believe it will ever be my place (or any human’s place) to say something like that. But I know that I am sometimes locked up with the struggles and heartache of this world, and there are occasionally some long, dark nights of the soul to contend with. I know Who I turn to for comfort during those times. Who do my atheist friends turn to? I just dread it, thinking about it. I just fear that they are so lonely.

But the truth is, and we all know this, they are probably perfectly content. They may have their own little rituals that are quite comforting to them. They have other people and other things to turn to.

This seems sad too, because I know how impermanent life is when you’re turning to the world for comfort instead of turning to God. But I can’t begrudge them for taking comfort where they find it. I’ve done the same. I still do, actually, though I’m finally starting to thaw a bit and look to my Lord for comfort. I’m learning how to turn things over to Him, instead of holding on to them like Gollum clutching the One Ring straight into the lava below.

“Lord of the Rings” reference. I am so way cool.

So here is the dilemma I’ve faced lately — it seems like I am actually ashamed of being a Christian.

I don’t like this. It isn’t right, and it makes me feel like a loser. Ashamed? God gives me so much, and Christ sacrificed so much, and my reaction to all of it is to feel embarrassed to talk about it? “Yeah, that’s my God. He’s swell. But, uh, can we maybe talk about ‘Star Trek’ instead? For some reason I’m way more comfortable with being a complete dork than being saved.”

I don’t like that. So I’m working to change it. I know it won’t be easy, and I know that somewhere along the way I may lose a friend or two. But this is pretty important. This is more than just me, honestly. This is my wife, my family, my friends, the people I meet every day, the people I lead in life, the people I’ve wronged in life. This is about the people who need to see someone who is led by a purpose in life, and who has the light of God radiating from them. These people need to see someone who can be some kind of example of what God has in mind. I’m still learning to be that person, and I’m frankly quite terrible at it. But I think God can use that, too.

So today I’m coming out. I am J. Kevin Tumlinson, and I am a Christian. I proclaim Jesus Christ to be my personal Lord and Savior. I proclaim God to be my Father, and I will worship no other gods before Him. I proclaim the Holy Spirit to be my guide and my strength.

When I fail, when I make mistakes, when I am the worst example of Christianity anyone has ever seen, I know that God has already forgiven me. I know that there is infinite grace and mercy waiting there. I accept it. I know that I’m a terrible example, and maybe that’s part of the reason I’ve always felt ashamed. But God loves me “even though.” And He loves you, too. And if you are also feeling ashamed or afraid or uncertain, let me know and I will pray for you. It will be the prayer of a lowly fool and a bad example, but God hears those, too. And you and I can be Godly fools together. Strength in numbers.