Fear of the Deep End

I remember when I was just a grade-school boy. One of my favorite summertime activities was swimming. If I had a chance to be in the water, I would take it, even if it wasn’t terribly hot outside.

There was a community pool in our city, called Anderson Pool. For just 25 cents, you could spend the entire day there. I still remember the smell of the chlorine, the pre-swim shower that felt like needles against my sunburned shoulders, the stubbed toes, and the lifeguards continually telling me to WALK!

There were 3 pools at Anderson Pool. A shallow pool for small children, a 3 to 5 foot deep pool for kids like me, and deeper pool that you could jump off the diving board into.

I remember one summer when I really wanted to jump off the diving boards. I was still pretty small and swimming in the deeper pool required little guys like me to pass a swim test. I was with several friends but only a couple of us were brave enough to take the plunge (literally).

The lifeguard told us that we had to be able to swim from one end of the deep pool to the other. I had already attempted this the summer before, and failed, but this time I wasn’t going to give up. It felt like everyone was watching, and I wanted to look strong. When the lifeguard yelled GO, I jumped in and doggie paddled as hard as I could. I swam to the other end of the pool, and back again! I was exhausted but I passed the test. I was now able to jump off the diving boards!

I discovered that summer that the diving boards were the most fun thing at the pool! I never wanted to go back to the less deep pools ever again! I loved the feeling of plunging into the water, and that brief moment of weightlessness as tiny air bubbles surrounded me. I would spend hours jumping, diving, and flipping into the deep end.

Unfortunately, some of my friends wouldn’t take the test. They were afraid, or they just didn’t want to do it. No matter how many times I encouraged them, or told them how amazing it was in the deep end, they just wouldn’t do it. They were content with splashing around in 3 feet of water, or just sitting at the edge of the pool dipping their feet in while they worked on their tan.

I find following Jesus a lot like that. There is a deep end, and it’s amazing!

In the deep end is peace. In the deep end is purpose. In the deep end is revelation, intimacy, joy, wisdom, and adventure!

The deep end requires of us. It requires time in prayer, time in God’s word, silence, fasting, sacrifice. But, just like I never regretted taking that swim test, I’ve never regretted paying any price to go deeper in my faith.

Yet, there are some who are content in the shallows. They don’t really know what they’re missing, and they don’t feel like finding out. Just like I wish I could have gotten my friends to take the swim test, I wish I could get all believers to take the plunge into deeper, more meaningful experiences with God.

How about you? Are you still splashing around in the shallows? What’s keeping you there? Do you lack motivation? Are you afraid?

Push past those things, jump in, and discover the awesome adventure that is the deep end.

You won’t regret it!

One Truth About God That Can Change Your Life Forever

Today’s post is a guest post by Christian writer and blogger Charles L. Stanley. Charles is a seasoned Christ-follower who writes weekly devotions that encourage people to deepen their knowledge, passion, and experience of God.

Charles wrote a 7 day devotional eBook that he’d love to give you for free. You can grab it by clicking here.


Exodus 34

The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” …

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you…

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

We are more secure as believers in Jesus Christ than we know. At the core of that security is the core of God’s name, “steadfast love and faithfulness.”

This is the same steadfast love and faithfulness that existed between the Father and the Son when the Father promised that the Son would be King forever. Psalm 61:6-7.

God is 100% for you

Steadfast love is a translation of the Hebrew word, Hesed. Edmund Clowney, former President of Westminster Seminary, translated it “covenant devotion.” We can easily understand the devotion between the Father and the Son. Did you realize that this Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is devoted to you? He is completely for you!

God’s eternal character

This has always been God’s character from before the beginning. In John’s Gospel, we see that Jesus Christ brought “grace and truth,” the New Testament equivalent of “steadfast love and faithfulness.” Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.” At his core, he has always been and will always be, ”steadfast love and faithfulness” or “grace and truth.” Remember, we have one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one Bible, both Old, and New Testaments. He is the same, always and everywhere.

The cure for your anxieties

This truth about God has had a profound effect on me. It has largely erased my fears, worries, and anxieties about the future. The New Covenant in Christ is God’s covenant that includes me in Christ. God’s character is such that I have no worries. My Almighty Savior is trustworthy to perform all he has promised, both in this life and in the next on the New Earth.

Take a moment to think about the fact that God in Christ is fully devoted to you. Is that a new thought to you? Does it impact how you think about yourself and your life? Your family? Does it help you to think more in eternal terms?

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” ~Psalm 63:3

Please take a moment to share the thoughts you have about this truth from God’s word. How has it affected your life? This is our chance to minister to one another as fellow readers and members of the Body of Christ. Thank you for participating.

The Secret to Going the Distance 

I was listening to a podcast this morning and the host, and his guest, were talking about “guys who have been following the Lord for a long time now”.

I never really thought about it, but now it hit me like a football to the face: I’ve been following Jesus for over 30 years. Just typing that sentence makes me feel old. I’m not even sure why, but I suddenly have the impulse to drive slow, leave the blinker on, eat hard candy, and watch 60 minutes with the television volume turned up way too loud.

When I look back, I can recollect a lot of people who have given up following Jesus over the years. I don’t think they meant to, it just kind of happened. I suppose the reason most people fall away from the faith is not because they get mad at God (though some do) or they intentionally stop believing (usually after unanswered prayers). I think most people fall away because they neglect their souls.

This lead me to another football to the face moment. I had to ask myself how I’ve kept my beliefs all these years. I searched inwardly for some sort of Tweet-worthy revelation that people would ask me to write a book about. I thought that there must be some sort of mind-blowing secret to going the distance with my faith.

It turned out that the answer was really simple: just keep showing up.

Every day (or most days) for 30 years, I’ve been setting a little time aside to show up before God’s throne to say hi. I usually read the Bible too. It’s not a big deal. I’m not one of those guys who prays for two hours, then breaks out the commentaries and Greek dictionary. I just show up and visit with God for a bit. It may not sound like much, but it’s how I’ve kept my faith so long.

When I was a pre-teen, my mother had a friend who used to take my brother and me places to hang out. He had bigger muscles than anyone I’d ever known before. Every time I’d ask him how he got into such good shape, he’d always say the same thing, “It’s better to do one pushup a day than to lift weights hard but inconsistently.

In other words, “Just keep showing up.” That’s the secret. The “one weird trick” to following Jesus for over 30 years is to talk to him every day.

Build the habit of prayer into your life and that habit will build life into you.

Put Your Focus In the Right Place

I’m learning that amazing things can happen when we live with the awareness that God uses our availability more than our abilities.

When we focus on our abilities, then it’s too easy to disqualify ourselves from the opportunities God brings our way, because we feel we lack the skill or talent.  We limit ourselves to only what we feel qualified to do.

But when we make ourselves available to the needs and pain of others, and trust that God can do the work through us, then we can change the world.

Be aware today!

Stick a Fork In Me

It’s been two years since we planted a new church.  It’s not the first church my wife and I have planted but it’s the first one that has survived the first year and grown.  The ironic thing I’ve found is that a successful church plant is much more difficult to live through than one that dies in the first year.  The weight of responsibility, the burden of keeping roles filled by volunteers (probably the single greatest challenge), the wondering if we’ll stay afloat financially, the wearing of so many hats that I’ve lost track, dealing with critics and pharisees, doing 500 pounds worth of work for an ounce of return, and the inability to switch it all off.  I know that last part is probably my fault, but working from home because there’s no office space in our building blurs a lot of lines and makes it difficult to get unstuck from “pastor mode”.  You want to know the crazy part?  I LOVE IT!!

I love carrying the church’s burdens to Jesus in prayer.  I love investing in the lives of others and dreaming about where God is leading us.  I love being a spiritual director, leader, and (as Brennan Manning would say) “prophet and professional lover”.  But…

I’m tired.  More tired than I’ve ever been.  Exhausted well beyond capacity.  Running on fumes would be an upgrade for me.  In fact, I deeply fear burnout.  Many of the things I really enjoy doing, I don’t want to do any more.  The smallest task feels like a huge burden.  And the people nearest and dearest to me often feel like a drain instead of the blessing the truly are.

I know that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.  I recognize this is not a healthy place.  I have not done a good job honoring the sabbath or pacing myself.  So, before I go off and do something stupid to medicate this feeling of exhaustion, depression, and burnout I’m going to take some action.  Here it is… (more…)

What Is God’s Will For My Life??

long_roadWhat is God’s will for my life?  It’s a question I (and most people I know) ask often.

To be honest with you, I really thought I would be well beyond that question by the time I reached the age I am now.  Heck I’m halfway through my life and I still wonder what’s around the corner, if I’m doing the right thing, or if there’s another chapter in my life I should be preparing for.  A while back, I blogged about the subject of finding God’s will.  I just can’t seem t leave the matter alone.

However, I HAVE learned a couple things that have helped me quite a bit and maybe they’ll help you.  They might even surprise you.  Are you ready to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life?  Check it out…

Finding a vision for your life requires finding a vision for who you are.  Truth is, it’s hard to know what to do if you don’t know who you are or who you want to be.  Try writing a personal mission statement.  It makes a great course reference when distractions come.  What character traits do you value?  How do you want to be remembered?  At the end of your life you will be remembered for the kind of person you were, more than for the things you accomplished.

Romans 12:2 says to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you…

The key to developing a vision for who you want to be is to let God.  Let God define success for you.  Let God choose your priorities, your values, and your preferences.  Then you will learn His will for you!

The next part of finding a vision for your life is this: A vision for our lives requires an ear for God’s heart.  Think about Isaiah’s calling for a minute (Isaiah 6).  Isaiah didn’t receive a direct word from The Lord.  God’s will wasn’t sent to Isaiah in a letter delivered by an angel.  Isaiah was simply in God’s presence and he heard God asking, “Who will go?”  Isaiah heard the need, put up his hand, and said, “I’ll do it!”

I want you to notice something here.  Isaiah saw a need and decided to meet it.  He didn’t take a test to see if he had the correct “gift mix” to respond to the calling.  He didn’t examine the need to make sure it aligned with his passions.  He just said yes, and history was written because of his willingness.

It’s a tragedy that so many lives go untouched, and so many needs go unmet because believers won’t step up to the plate if they don’t feel a warm tingly feeling inside when a need is presented.  If we treated our spouses the way we treated God, we’d all be divorced.  I can only imagine what my wife would say if I said, “I love you honey, but I won’t help you with the dishes because my heart’s not in it and I wouldn’t be doing you any favors by washing them half-heartedly.”  I would soon find myself sleeping on my mom’s couch, eating a steady diet of Chinese take away and Funions.

I recently read an article about career placement and fulfillment entitled, “Passion is Overrated”.  The researcher found that those who spent their lives “following their passions” usually ended up unemployed and/or unhappy.  Most people don’t even know what they’re really passionate about, so how can they follow their passion?

On the other hand, many people discover they are passionate after they do something!  Think about the times you volunteered for something after someone talked you into it, and you ended up loving it!  I have a friend who took a mission trip to Africa and the trip changed his life.  He ended up starting a humanitarian organization  because of the effect the trip had on him.  He did not have a passion for helping African orphans until AFTER he stepped out!

So let me wrap this up by reminding you to be like Isaiah by spending time in God’s presence, determine who you want to be, and answer the call when a need is presented.  You may be surprised to discover that finding what you’re supposed to do with your life isn’t that hard at all.