Seven quick steps to getting back on track.

Ever wake up right in the middle of your life? You scream “How did I get here? I don’t want to be here!” and with horror you realize that you have been drifting. You have not been actively tending to your course and so instead of you determining your direction and driving your life, your circumstances have been driving you! Driving you down roads you don’t want to go to places you don’t want to be with people you can’t trust. You wake up and realize how far off course you are and you become embarrassed and ashamed. “I used to be stronger that this” you might say. You have forgotten who you are.

Mufasa’s Ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of life.

I remember several years ago I found myself in this exact spot. Over the course of several years I had been given many wonderful opportunities to minister in our church. Usually on the last Sunday night of each month I would teach. It was such a blessing and real training time for me. Our pastors’ name was Mark Jacobsen. He believed in the perfecting the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ – Eph 4:12. He was always working with people & grooming them in the areas of their gifts. There was a period of time though, where I stepped back from the ministry opportunities because I was busy at work. I didn’t have much time to prepare. Over a period of months I also stopped praying as much and didn’t study as much. I began to lose ground spiritually and morally. I began to get loose with my personal standards and in some of the things I was allowing in my life. I remember the day Pastor Mark approached me and asked me to teach. I said “I’m not really in the place I should be to teach”. He looked me right in the eye and said “YOU decide whether or not YOU will be a vessel of honor”. Those words have stayed with me all these years. They have served me well and still guide me when things in my life get unstable and the temptation to compromise shows up.

Fresh Start

What did I do? I straightened up and got back to business. I decided to be a vessel of honor. It’s a decision that only you can make. It’s also a decision that you will have to make over and over again as you walk out your life. I can say with full assurance that it is the only way I want to be. I don’t want to be a mud pot. I want to be a gold pot.

Pastor Mark used to tell a story of a severe flood and a man who had a small row boat. While rowing he came upon another man who was treading water, totally exhausted and about ready to give up. The man in the water cried out “Help me” and the man in the boat replied “dry yourself off and you can climb in my boat”. The man in the water said “Please, just let me in your boat” to which the man in the boat replied again “Sure, as soon as you dry yourself off you can climb right up in here”. Pastor Mark would say “Some people think that you have to clean yourself up and spruce up your behavior before you can come to God, but the truth is you can’t do that on your own. Get a man out of the water and into the warm sunshine and guess what happens? He dries off.”

Don’t let where you are keep you from turning around. You are not too far gone. You are not out of God’s reach.

Steps to recovery.

  1. Remember God is with you. Heb 13:5b says for He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. You may have stepped away from Him but He didn’t step away from you.
  2. Remember that He loves you and He’s the one who’s helping you to wake up. Jer 31:3 says The Lord has appeared of old to me saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
  3. Remember the Prodigal Son? He asked his daddy for his inheritance early and then left and began to blow it on what the bible calls riotous living. He was out partying and living it up but eventually ran out of money. Then a famine hit and he began to suffer. He got a job feeding pigs and for a Jewish boy pigs were considered unclean. This was a dirty and humiliating job. He was so desperate that he considered eating the pig slop. Then the bible says “He came to himself”. He said “even the servants at my father’s house have food enough to spare and I am dying from starvation!” He decided to go to his father and ask for a job as a servant. He said “I’m no more worthy to be called your son”. This is how we think sometimes isn’t it? But Thank God that’s not how God thinks! When the father saw his son approaching, the father ran to him, fell on his neck and kissed him. This is how God thinks!
  4. Remember 1st John 1:9. When you’ve missed it, go to God & call it what it is – sin. He promises not only to forgive what you confess but also to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.   Just pray “Lord, I thank you that Jesus came, died for me, rose from the dead for me and by his sacrifice I am redeemed. I’ve messed up and I know I’ve messed up. I confess my sin before you and call it what it is. It’s sin and I know that I shouldn’t have done it. I thank you for forgiving me and cleansed me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” It’s a matter of humbling yourself. It’s pretty simple and it’s the bible way to clear the slate.
  5. Forget the past! Isaiah 43:25 (WEB) I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins. God forgets your past, you forget it too- (Phil 3:13).
  6. Make a plan. Build your life while you are strong to carry you through while you are weak. Think about when you messed up. Try to structure your situation to avoid the triggers that take you down the wrong road. Ask God for the wisdom to see the triggers.
  7. Look for someone to help. Awaken the heart of ministry in you. I have found that serving & ministering to others helps me put my problems into a better perspective.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s up to someone else as to whether or not you can be used. So many people are waiting for permission to become excellent. You’ve already been picked! Eph 2:10 says For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. God already has something wonderful planned for you.

Reverend Doug Jones, National Director of Rhema Ministerial Association International and Rhema Alumni Association said something on Facebook several months ago that resonated with me so much that I wrote it down. He said “Refuse to wait for others to recognize your potential. Slip your life out of neutral into drive, you will be surprised where it will take you”.

My prayer for you is that you will find the course for your life that God has planned for you. It’s the best life you can live. It’s the life that takes you to your full potential.  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Being Charitable vs. Being a Sucker. Here’s the difference.

So here’s a scenario.  Your relative comes to you and wants to borrow money, but if you give them the money they ask for,  you will be putting yourself into financial distress. Should you give it to them?  If you don’t, are you being hard hearted?  How far should our charity go when it comes to this kind of thing?


I have personally witnessed this sort of thing on more than one occasion, and I’ve seen people put themselves into a financial bind trying to help family or friends that ask for money.

Accusations sometimes arise when the person refuses to help, even after they state that they can’t afford to help right now.  A woman may even be called a hypocrite and her Christianity called into question because in the eyes of her needy relative or friend, she’s not being a good Christian because she won’t give.  So, where’s the line?  When is it okay to say NO to such requests?  What can you do?

I firmly believe in being charitable.  I believe that we are here to help one another.  If you look at the commandments that God gave the Children of Israel and also the commandments that Jesus gave the Church, they all have to do with two areas:

  • How we act toward God.
  • How we act toward one another.

It’s very important to help one another. The Bible says in Proverbs 19:17 that when you have pity on the poor, you are lending to the Lord, and the Lord will repay you.  The Bible points out in a number of places that it’s God’s will for his people to be benevolent.

Creditors have better memories than debtors. (- Proverb)

When you are asked for help, look at the condition of the one asking for it.  I try to ask myself a couple of questions before I make any decision at all concerning this.

A.  Where are they financially?

  1. Are they able to work?
  2. Do they actually have an income, that if used correctly, can meet the need?
  3. Do they have any income at all?
  4. Do they have any savings that can help them through the tough time?
  5. Do they have things of value that they can sell?

B.  Why are they where they are?

  1. Are they normally quite stable and an explosion of bad circumstances just rocked them to the point where they need help?
  2. Maybe they have recently become unemployed and they need help just bridging the gap between the old job and the next step.
  3. They may also be at the other end of this spectrum where they have had plenty of excellent opportunities to develop a strong financial life, but instead have habitually made bad choices.  I have known some that would spend money on cigarettes and beer and not have any left over for gas to get back & forth to work.  Is their Modus Operandi to live off of the charity of others? Have they gone a long time and never seemed to get it together? These people may ask for help on an ongoing basis and some may attempt to shame you if you don’t help them.  I have found that with many of these people, they believe their financial hardship is never their fault.  They are always the helpless victims of people and forces outside of their control.  They don’t take personal responsibility for where they are.

What should you do?  To find our answers we look to scripture.  2 Corinthians 9:7 (Darby) says “each according as he is purposed in his heart; not grievingly, or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver”.  Notice that the giving is to be done “as he has purposed in his heart”.  Your charity should be planned and thought out.  Look also at “not grievingly, or of necessity”.  If you can’t give by faith with a cheerful heart, you should think twice about it.  Consider the promise though, from verses 8-10 (KJV). “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”.

I don’t think people should be stingy, cheap, or fearful concerning money.  I am personally convinced of how much God loves me and helps me in this area. I remember the day that Romans 8:31 – 39 became real to me.  I wept with joy when I realized that God was more “for me” than I was, and that he was actively looking for ways to get past my unbelief to help me.   Rom 8:31 & 32 says “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”  Allow Him to build this same confidence in you.  He’s on your side.  He really is.

Practical things that you can do.

  1. Be deliberate about your giving.  Plan your giving and don’t be ruled by emotion.  Christians in general have a heart for wanting to help.  Thieves, lazy relatives and con artists take advantage of this and play to your heart.  Rev. Keith Moore said it this way: “If you show up with a fish symbol on your truck, talking about how you’re a Christian and I should trust you, bring two more references with you when you come”.  Why?  Because in reality, they may not really be Christians.  For this reason we are very deliberate in our giving. We personally have just a few organizations that we support unwaveringly.  These are planned and included in our monthly budget.
  2. Set up a benevolence fund in your budget.  Determine how much you are going to put into it every payday.  Make sure it’s an amount that you can afford but trust God to help you grow it.  It will build up over time. This will be the fund that you can use to help people with.  This should be in addition to your consistent support of your church.  In our budgeted giving we have flagged an amount each month that I sometimes call “Grass Seed”.  It’s the money that we budget for giving but doesn’t have a stated purpose.  It’s just for when situations arise and it seems like we should give.  In addition, we always make it a matter of prayer before we give.  If we don’t have peace about it, we don’t give.
  3. Set your limits.  When the fund is empty, you don’t give until you have more to give.  Don’t borrow from some other area in your budget to cover this.  That is not being a good steward of your money.
  4. Develop a resource list specific to your area. You will be able to refer people to known charities in your area that can give them the help they need. You can have everything from financial assistance to free clothing on your list. See this Resource List link for the list I use.

Your personal responsibility.  When you commit to a service or purchase something over time, you have committed your money in advance to that.  When you allow yourself to be pushed into giving money to a friend or family member when it was tagged for a payment that you owe, you’re giving away someone else’s money.  You need to keep in mind your own Christian witness to your creditors when it comes to how you give and how much you can afford.  God is not pleased, and the Gospel becomes evil spoken of when Christians poorly represent themselves and God.  When it comes to finances be wise.

Before borrowing money from a friend it’s best to decide which you need most. (Quote by – Joe Moore)

When you find yourself in a situation described by the Lord in Luke 6, obey the bible.  If your face gets smacked, turn the other cheek. Very often though, the Lord will lead you away from situations where people beat you and steal your clothes.  The bottom line in all of this is simply BE LED.  God directs his people and He will steer you. Trust Him to do it.

These are guidelines that I use and I hope they help you too.  What creative ways have you found to help others that you would like to share?  I would be glad to add them to my own tool box.  Please join the conversation by leaving your comments below.













Fathers and Firsts and the things Moms didn’t find out about.

Gwen's pics of Dad1 cropped.

Photo courtesy of Gwen McClellan

As I was running an errand this morning, I passed a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500.  My mind immediately went back to our Ford Galaxie.  This car had a real history with our family.  I remember a day when I was in fourth grade. I was helping my dad work in our back yard when he suddenly handed me the keys to our Ford Galaxie and told me to move it.  He gave me very specific instructions; “Put the key in the ignition, lightly pump the gas pedal once or twice & turn the key forward until the starter engages, then let off the key right away as soon as you hear the engine start.  Next, put your foot on the brake & pull the gear shift lever into reverse, turn & look where you’re going, let off the brake & slowly give it just a little gas. Back the car down the driveway & stop when you’re in front of the house. Put the car in park & shut it off”.  This was my very first time behind the wheel where I was in complete control & he wasn’t even in the car.  I did everything to the letter until it came time to give it some gas.  I didn’t have a feel for how hard to push the pedal so my version of lightly was about 3 inches.  I threw driveway gravel all over the place.  Even though he scolded me, it was a big day for me.  I had driven a car.  It might have only been 20 feet but still, for a fourth grader it was huge.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. ~Umberto Eco

So many of my “Firsts” happened with my dad.  He gave me my first taste of beer. He taught me how to fish, tell time & build a car out of two wooden blocks and some bottle caps. He threw me my first fast ball (with real heat). I thought my fingers were broken.  He used to let me hand him tools when he was working on the car. He let me tear up an old tarp so that I could make a make-shift poncho. I needed something to “fling back” behind my pistols when me and my cousin would have gun fights in the driveway.  Because of him I still know the words to a few Marty Robbins songs. Dad & me christmas 1971Without knowing it, he taught me how to think as well as judge situations and empathize with people.  He always seemed to know when something was bothering me.  I remember him specifically instructing me and my sister that nothing should ever be put in front of our relationship with God, especially when it came to choices in music or friends.  I remember him getting me out of bed late in the night in order for he, my mom, my aunt and my uncle to pray for me.  One time when I was in third grade he woke me up so they could pray over me and when he took me back to tuck me back into bed, he opened his bible to psalm 71:17 & 18 and read it to me.  He then looked me right in the eye and said “This is yours.  You confess it every night before you go to bed“.  I have done it my whole life and it has had an immeasurable influence on me.

Psa 71:17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. 18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

Dad, Lula & Me at Grandma Gordon'sDad gave me my first guitar.  It was a Teisco Tulip guitar.  I never played it.  I think I might have learned 3 open chords but it hurt my fingers so I didn’t play it.  Dad ended up giving it to my cousin David, who didn’t play it either so my uncle Chuck gave it back.  I used to be convinced that it was the world’s biggest piece of junk but now I see how much they are selling for on Craigslist.  Wow!  Wish I still had it.  I do play guitar now though and my love of music came from dad. I have had the privilege of knowing some great men I my life.  Many of them have been strong examples, mentors & friends for me but NONE of them will ever get the honor that is reserved for him.  To my dad I would say this: You’ve started me off right.  I am forever grateful.  I honor you with every breath and every heartbeat.

My daddy, he was somewhere between God and John Wayne. ~Hank Williams, Jr

Let’s talk about Dads.  What’s special about yours?

The Very Next Step…

stepping-outHave you ever found yourself cornered and didn’t know what to do?  Maybe you were foolish and your bad choices caught up to you or maybe you were the victim of someone else’s heartlessness. You find yourself stuck, suffering and don’t see a way out.  I know I’ve felt trapped before.

The year I graduated from high school I lost my driver’s license.  I lost it because I was uninsured and in more than one car accident.  The insurance companies for the other drivers wanted to recover damages from me that my insurance should have paid.  I was led to believe that until I paid that money I couldn’t get my license back.   My job was about 13 miles away.  I couldn’t get there in a timely manner anymore and part of my job was to make local deliveries so I was let go.  I now had a very large problem.  I couldn’t pay down any debt without a job but I couldn’t get & keep a decent paying job because I couldn’t get there.  My life sort of went on hold.  This was the last straw and it seemed like within a few days, my whole life fell apart.  I literally did not know what to do.  None of the options in front of me were good ones.  They were all bad…or so I thought.

Ben Stein
There is no sudden leap into the stratosphere. There is only advancing step by step, slowly and tortuously, up the pyramid towards your goals.

THE VERY NEXT STEP!   If you find yourself in a situation like this, the very next step is a crucial one.  The next step can mean the difference between going deeper into your situation or it could be the very first step toward the answer that you so desperately need.  Think about it.  This next move could be the defining moment that changes everything.  My problem was that I sort of shut down and took on a victim mentality.  Never mind that it was ALL my fault!

I actually stopped taking steps for a while.  I was so polarized by the size and complexity of the situation I was in that I didn’t know what to do or what questions to ask.  Don’t allow yourself to get to this point.  Sometimes no action is the worst action. You can only effectively steer a moving vehicle. Even if it starts out going the wrong direction, it can only be corrected if it’s moving.  You can’t give up.

WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?  Psalm 25:5 (NKJ) says “Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day“. Isaiah 48:17 (BBE) says “The Lord who takes up your cause, the Holy One of Israel, says, I am the Lord your God, who is teaching you for your profit, guiding you by the way in which you are to go”.  I know that sometimes the pressures of life can act like blinders and all you see is the problem.  Lift your eyes.  God Himself has promised to lead you if you will listen.  He will guide you “for your profit”.  He doesn’t want you to suffer, He takes NO pleasure in it.  He wants you to have peace.  Sometimes when you’re right in the thick of the battle, it may seem like you have to take five steps before you’re close enough to even ask for help but that is not the truth.  God says in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”.  You will never be out of His reach.  He says in Isaiah 59:1 (WEB) “Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save; neither His ear heavy, that it can’t hear”.  The separation is on our part.  We fail to look to Him for help.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

THE BREAK THROUGH.   Remember, I said I stopped moving forward.  It took me a little while to start moving again.  A few years later, through many wonderful events, too many to talk about here, I was able to get a good job and even get married,  but I still didn’t have my license.  I really wanted to get this fixed but still didn’t know how.  I had however been praying about it a lot and asking specifically for wisdom to know what to do.  One night while relaxing in the bathtub (Yes, God can deal with you anywhere) the Lord began to deal with my heart.  I didn’t hear a voice or anything like that but a thought occurred to me just as clear as if I has spoken it myself.  “Have you done everything you CAN do?”  In a split second I could see that there was ONE thing that I COULD do.  I could pay the re-instatement fee.  I didn’t have the thousands of dollars it would take to clear the whole mess up, but I had the re-instatement fee.  So I paid it.  Why you may ask?  Because it was the one thing I COULD do, so I did it trusting that God would make something out of it.

A few weeks later I received a call from a very nice lady who worked for the Secretary of State’s office in the state where I lived.  She indicated that she had received a check from me and was wondering why.  I explained my whole situation to her and about paying the re-instatement fee.  She then began to give me a very detailed roadmap to fix my situation.  She told me what forms I needed and where to get them.  She told me what to do in each situation in order to get resolution.  I thanked her and hung up the phone.  I don’t remember today if I jumped around the room or not but I remember being “off the hook” excited.  I was thanking God!  To make a long story short, within two months I had my license and had about $7,000 of an $11,000 debt forgiven.  God knew exactly who I needed to talk to.  I am convinced to this day that it was a divine setup.

Step in Sand

The thing I want you to remember is this.  You are never more than one step away from the right direction.  You are never more than one step away from help.  I don’t care how dark it may appear where you are, God is not too far away!  Let Him lead you.  The very next step could be the first step toward the answer.

How can you move forward?  Even if it seems like an insignificant step, what could you do?  What example in your own life could you share to help others?  Please join the conversation by leaving a comment.





Do you care what people think? Here’s why you should.

tape-over-mouth1Hurray for Social Media!  Because of Social Media I have been able to connect with people from my past that I have truly missed.  I am now connected again with my best friend from high school.  I’m able to stay current on family and friends even though we are spread across so many different states.  Social media has given me somewhat direct access to people I respect and admire and I now get to keep up better with their lives, work and ministries.  Social media gives me unique perspective that I didn’t have without it.  For example, before social media I would never be able to see or know what you’re having for lunch, even while you’re in a different time zone. Awesome!  I’ll try that restaurant when I’m there.  Without social media, I wouldn’t know how many people I know who used to secretly smoke pot in Colorado but are now posting pictures of it on Facebook.  What I have also learned is how many young people “don’t give a (cuss)” what people think of them, or at least that’s what they say…over and over again.

Let us ask ourselves; What kind of people do we think we are?   -Ronald Reagan

I am under no illusion that when it comes to my social media activity, people are forming opinions or having opinions reinforced about me.  Social media aside, people are doing that to all of us everyday.  You are doing that to others also.  Here’s the question; should you care what other people think of you?  Does it matter?  The profound answer to that question is “Yes” and “No”.  Now that we’ve muddied the waters allow me to explain.

Core values & social filters.  I break it down into three categories:

  1. Unchanging values.  Personally speaking, I have core values that are formed by the Bible.  I made a decision back in 1985 that the Bible was going to be the final authority in my life.  My understanding of the scripture has become the primary filter that I use to interpret my life and circumstances.  I am unwilling to compromise in this area.  This has become an area in my life that even when I have been made fun of, pressured or persecuted because of it, I will not change.  I have decided long ago that the negative opinions of others will not change my thinking where this is concerned.
  2. Flexible values. Socially things are a little different.  I have had a Facebook account since 2008 and in that time I have only unfriended two people, both were for very poor behavior.  My thoughts are that I don’t want to burn a bridge or remove an avenue where I might at some point have a positive influence on someone.  I am cautious as to what I will speak up about.  I am not interested in alienating people.  I do have very specific opinions on many areas of our culture but I am very reserved when it comes to engaging in debate about them.  Convictions on the other hand, I will not back down on.  The truth is that in many areas I do care what people think.  I don’t want my language, my attitude or my appearance to ever shut me out of an excellent opportunity.  Unfortunately this is happening to people all of the time.  They are being ignored for some great opportunities because of their language, attitude or appearance.
  3. Your way.  In some situations the most important thing to me is the happiness of others.  In these situations I will be watching for opportunities to adapt & change in order to make the situation run smoother and that everyone is happy.

I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!  –Theodore Roosevelt

Social media is a little deceptive though, don’t you think?  Looking at someone’s Facebook profile is really looking at a highlight reel.  Social media makes other people’s lives seem so much more exciting than yours.  In reality though, while people are posting cool pictures of them doing fun and interesting things, they are posting those pictures in between loads of laundry. Party over there!

Tell me an area where you care what people think?  What area are you uncompromising in?  I would love to hear your comments.  Join the conversation.