Jesus’ Lifestyle

If you want to experience the life of Jesus, you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.

In prepping for a talk, this John Mark Comer quote from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry made the notes.


If you were to make a list that described Jesus’ lifestyle, what would you include? I made a list of five. Here they are with scripture that illustrate them.

  1. For his Father. “If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10
  2. Balance. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:52
  3. Prayer.  “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After he said goodbye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:45-46
  4. Non-materialistic. “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ Or ‘What will we drink?’ Or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6:31-33
  5. People. “When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

What else would you add? Consider completing this for a devotional exercise and reply with your thoughts.

Law Enforcement and Mental Health

I turned on the TV earlier today to jump into a football game my friend urged me to see. The first thing on the screen was a LIVE press conference on Baynews9 with the Polk County Sheriff regarding a deputy-involved shooting in Auburndale. In his talk he used a phrase that was new to me: Suicide by Cop.

What wasn’t new to me was his comments on the uprising mental health crisis and its impact on police work. My professional friends working in law enforcement and counseling know this all too well.

The reason I’m posting this is twofold.

  1.  We should cover this ongoing crisis and all those impacted in prayer.
  2.  We should do our part to raise awareness.

Known: “Show Me You Exist”

(Post #4 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By David Goodman (bio below)

A few months ago, in remarkably certain terms, God showed me that I’m known to Him. Therefore, when Pastor Gregory invited me to write an article for a series he was calling Known, I was excited for the opportunity.

My story starts in early September. Something seemed wrong as I was getting ready for work. My necklace felt lighter. I hadn’t put my shirt on yet and when I looked down, I didn’t see the religious amulet my wife bought me sixteen years ago.  The clasp on my necklace was closed, and it functioned properly.

How then did I lose the amulet? 

I looked everywhere for the amulet. I guess I was hoping for a small miracle, so I checked the trunk of my car, inside the refrigerator, on bookshelves. Finally, I admitted to myself that I was not going to find the amulet.

Several weeks went by.  In early October, my daughter was in town. She goes to school in Tampa. We landed on the topic of God’s existence because lately her faith has been very shaky.  We recently moved to Sarasota from Milwaukee, and she was struggling with the transition. It hurt to see how sad she looked.

I don’t ask God for help too often. I have always assumed that He knows what I need. But when I worked out later that day, I asked God to show me He exists.

I’m a swimmer. I count each stroke because it helps me stay focused on my pace. On this day, I replaced counting with a prayer: “Please God, show me that you exist.” Each syllable for each stroke.

About 45 minutes later, after I had repeated my prayer more than 200 times, I was nearly done swimming when a shiny object caught my eye. Without thinking, I reached for my neck. Nothing there. Quickly I returned to the other side of the pool. I dove down and grabbed my necklace.

I stood in the pool untangling it. Suddenly, part of the clasp broke off. I cupped my hand to catch the tiny piece of metal as it sank in the water. I swear I had it; but when I opened my hand to place it on the side of the pool for a closer look, my hand was empty.

I stared at the side of the pool. It had to be there. Then another object caught my eye. I reached for it without thinking. It took a few seconds to grasp the inconceivable. That I was holding the amulet I had lost weeks ago.

I left the pool. I was walking to the locker room. “Thank you, God,” came to my lips.

About a month later, while driving my daughter and son to a movie, I told them about my experience. They were fascinated and heartened by my story.

I dropped them off and, as I drove away, I saw them in my rear-view mirror for a moment, both smiling before disappearing into a crowd.


Blogger Bio: David J. Goodman earned both a PhD and Master of Education in psychology from Loyola University of Chicago (1994) and Indiana University (1989), respectively.  He started his professional career in 1992 with the Chicago Public School System as a certified school psychologist. His clinical training continued in 1994, when he took a post-doctoral residency on a children’s inpatient floor at Saint Therese Medical Center in Waukegan, IL. During the next 25 years, half of which Dr. Goodman spent as a Wisconsin licensed psychologist, he served individuals and families in medical rehab, skilled nursing, community mental health, and private practice.
​Dr. Goodman recently moved from Milwaukee to Sarasota. As a staff psychologist with Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast, among other duties and responsibilities, he will focus on helping at-risk children and teens by participating in SCSGC’s outreach efforts, and by providing psychological testing, behavioral counseling, and psychotherapy to those identified youth and their families. 

Heard

(Final post in a 5-part series collaboration)

In the first four posts of this series, my guests have shared how they hear from God. Here’s a recap with a link to their post:

Dawn: worship, prayer, personal devotions, preaching, meditation, relationships

Bob: putting God first, asking Him to speak, aligning priorities, talking about him with others

Erin: peace from God after season of prayer, Spirit conviction, through others

Aaron: vision from within (words, peace), scripture

Before I answer the question, I believe it’s helpful to answer another question: What might be keeping me from hearing God’s voice? I believe that can be answered with this word-Noise. God is always present and available, but it’s quite possible he can’t be heard over all the other noise. And if I’m honest with myself, all that noise is entirely within my control.

“If I’m moving at an insane pace and there is no room in my life for quiet, I will miss God’s voice.” –Lance Witt, Replenish

So if I earnestly want to hear from God, I have to control the noise. And what that most likely means is tuning it out. Tuning out:

  • Distractions like social media
  • Voices contrary to godly dialogue (in my own head, lies from the enemy, subtleties in media/entertainment, misguided thinking or content from well-meaning people)
  • By slowing down
  • By scheduling quiet

Once I’ve handled the noise, then I’m ready to tune in to hear from God. Dawn, Bob, Erin, and Aaron have told us how they tune in. Here are five ways I tune in:

  1. Community. As an introvert, a community of one sounds fine to me. But I’ve learned that I rob myself and tune out the voice of God when I resist being in community. So my community consists of small groups from church, routine meet ups with like-minded men, being coached, and engaging in Sunday services by expecting to receive a personal message from God to me.
  2. Journaling. I’m not legalistic about it, but often journaling is a helpful exercise during or after reading scripture. When a thought or challenge surfaces that needs some exploring, that’s what guides how I approach my journal entry. Sometimes it looks like a paraphrase of what I read, putting into my own words or applying it to a current situation. Sometimes it ends up being a written prayer. Sometimes it’s bullet points. Sometimes it’s an outline for future teaching use. If you haven’t tried it and would like some direction, I suggest reading The Divine Mentor by  Wayne Cordeiro. Journaling has the potential of opening up an avenue of conversation that otherwise may not happen.
  3. Prayer. In order to hear from God, prayer should be viewed as an ongoing dialogue, a two-way conversation.  You might say a paraphrase of “pray without ceasing” would be “never hang up the phone.”
  4. Asking and Expecting. Similar to dinner conversation or an email thread, the dialogue of prayer should include more than input from one party. For my part of the conversation, I try to include questions that require an answer only God could give, such as:
    • “How did I do with that interaction with my coworker today?”
    • “What are you trying to say to me through that verse that just came to mind?”
    • “What encouraging words do you want me to share with the grocery cashier?” Ask the question and wait for the answer. He’ll answer the email when it’s time. Or it may wait until the next meal. That’s part of recognizing his sovereignty.  But it’s up to my end of the conversation to ask the question.
  5. Responding. Since all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is little doubt that he speaks to us. I have found that one of the best ways to tune in is to simply respond when he speaks. Much like a child who has been called to dinner or given any other direction from their parent, a respectful, “Heard,” helps both parties know they are connected.  And a “Thank you” can’t hurt either.

So what’s your answer? How do you hear from God? A DJ on thejoyfm Tuesday said he got a message from God through feeding his fish. One thing is true-God’s ability to be heard is unlimited. We five writers would like to hear how God is heard by you.

Heard

(Post #3 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Erin Pilant (bio below)

Nearly 16 years ago, my husband and I had to make, what we would call, a major life decision. In our three short years of marriage, we had had a couple of decisions to make; but in my book, this was by far the biggest.

I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. This was where I worked, where I got married, where our son was born. This was the place where we were going to raise our family and where we were going to grow old. My husband was a youth pastor of a small, country church. We had seen many students trust in Jesus and grow into leaders within the student ministry; we had formed close relationships with them. We loved this little church and it’s people; but God was changing our hearts, and we didn’t understand why. He had other plans for us, but we didn’t know it yet.

An opportunity was presented to us. A church in Independence, Missouri, where my husband was born and raised, was looking for a youth pastor. There were too many “coincidences” for us to ignore this, what we thought could be God literally moving in our lives. This was the first time I begged God to give me peace about something…about anything. This would be such a huge life shift for us. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere other than Florida. No longer being a few minutes away from my parents. Leaving my job of 7 1/2 years. My mind was on overload. So I begged God for peace, the kind of peace described in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I was very nervous, and I needed His help.

I cannot tell you where I was, or what I was doing, or even how long it took. But like a wave flooding over me, He gave me the peace I had been asking for. Suddenly, I had full confidence that God was going to take care of us and that He would lead us to the right decision. In every step, He guided us and gave me peace, a peace that transcended all understanding. My soul, my heart and my mind, they were all at rest.

God answering my prayers for peace was a big moment in my Christian life. No, not all life decisions end up where I thought or even where I wanted, but God showed me that He really does desire to give us what we need. My desire was to hear from Him, and He gave me exactly what I needed. Our move to Independence, Missouri, ended up not being a difficult one at all. I knew we were right where God wanted us.

It’s important to know that God speaks to me in several different ways. The Holy Spirit convicts me often. He speaks to me through others, like my pastor. And sometimes I just have a nudge in my heart or the pit of my stomach. However, peace is what I continually ask God for.

How do I hear from God? He gives me peace-His peace. My heart hears His whispers of comfort…in small decisions and in the big, life-changing decisions…in the moments when I need clarity and I’m searching for the next step. I ask God for only the peace that comes from Him through being in His Word, continually drawing closer to Him, and being in prayer. He gives me peace to see that my heart and mind are ready for the next step.


Blogger Bio:  Erin Pilant married Aaron Pilant nearly 20 years ago. They have a 16-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their very favorite thing to do as a family is go to Disney World, and they do it often.
Erin is a Marketing Director of Chick-fil-A Cortez Plaza (941-727-7313) and for 8 years has been making people fall in love with the brand, one Chicken Sandwich at a time.
When Erin isn’t at Chick-fil-A, Disney or at Church, you can find her watching a new movie or an old classic and spending time with friends and family.

🐄eat more chicken

The 7-year-old & The 77-year-old

Many believers claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a favorite verse. Rarely have I heard anyone share the next two verses along with it. There’s more to claim.

You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Wednesday morning I shared verse 13 with a lady in my office. It came to my mind while I listened to her explain how she has been drawn to God by attending our church since moving to Bradenton. At the age of 77, she is seeking God with all her heart for the first time in her life. And God is keeping His promise.

Yesterday God showed himself to a 7-year-old. The nurse at her school inquired if we could help this little second grader with some new shoes. She has tremendous health issues, so her family struggles to meet basic needs. When we showed up with a pair of shoes for her, unbeknownst to us we were showing her God listens. She loves pink. And we had brought a pair that looked like these:


God cares about your details.

God listens to your calls.

God sees all hearts, the 7-year-old whose heart is suffering and the 77-year-old whose heart is searching.

Call. Come. Pray. Seek. Search. With All Your Heart.

Heard

(Post #1 in a 5-part series collaboration)

By Dawn Stark (bio below)

This morning in my daily devotion I’m reading from 1 Chronicles 14 where King David is fighting the Philistines. In preparation for the battle, David inquires of the Lord about strategy and God answers very specifically: “Do not attack them straight on. Instead circle around behind and attack them near the poplar trees.  When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the poplar trees, go out and attack!” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but throughout a lifetime of inquiring to the Lord I’ve never been given such a specific and detailed answer.  Yet, this type of communication was commonplace for David and many others as recorded in the Old Testament.

God speaks this clearly to believers throughout the New Testament too. A good example is the back and forth conversation between the Lord and Ananias in Acts 9.  God’s instructions were very detailed: “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now.  I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Acts records Ananias’ response to these instructions and God’s reply to his questions too.

I believe God still speaks to us today. Scripture explains He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 18:8, Mal 3:6).  He speaks to us through general revelation, such as what we observe in nature and from history; and, He speaks through special revelation as recorded in Scripture.

Worship and prayer are both powerful ways I hear from God. Worship is the cornerstone of my spiritual life.  Many days I wake up in the morning with a song running through my head and heart.  I’ve come to wonder if this is the Holy Spirit helping to prepare me for the day ahead.  Prayer is also a huge factor of my faith life. I’ve found that prayer quiets and heals my soul, or as Ole Hallesby so powerfully writes, “prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts” (Prayer, 1936, p.14).

God speaks to my heart during personal devotion time and through the preaching of the Word too. These are aspects of his special revelation, which require me to faithfully attend to the habits of reading the Bible and attending church.  I’m constantly amazed how often these activities seem to overlap and confirm each other-for instance, when a passage I’ve studied during the week just happens to be a key component in pastor’s Sunday message.

Meditating along the ocean shore or hiking through a nature preserve become holy places where He will reveal something new about His faithfulness and strength to me. Soft as rain, these gentle whispers create a new thought that cause me to suddenly see situations in my life differently. In the “be still and know” solitary spaces, God is near and always leading me forward.

Finally, and probably most profoundly, I hear from God through the relationships we form in this life.  Within the context of family and friends I learn of His faithfulness, compassion, and enduring love.  As I wipe away my children’s tears, I know that God also wipes away mine. Not only can I understand His patterns and purposes deeply through these vital relationships, my desire for His presence deepens.  When earthly relationships bring pain and disappoint, I run to the Creator to be healed by His unconditional and steadfast love.

How do I hear from God?  Oh, I hear from him in so many beautiful and powerful ways. I may not be the recipient of full conversations as the saints of old; but His presence fills me, heals me, and guides me daily. He is imminent and He is faithful.  I just need to be quiet and listen.


Blogger BioDawn Stark and her husband Tim ministered to youth of all ages, from babies to young adults, all while enduring their own private infertility battle.  Throughout this process that spanned a 23-year period, Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.  As with Hannah of old, God was faithful and eventually granted Tim and Dawn three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala.  

It was during Dawn’s adoptions from Guatemala that her eyes were opened to the complicated and lasting effects of poverty. Stuck in the process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate for children and families in need.  Serving in the non-profit arena since 2013, she has worked for the Both Ends Burning campaign as the Director of Faith-based Initiatives and One More Child + FBCH as the Orphan Care Coordinator.

Her advocacy journey led her to Operation Blessing in May 2019 where she now serves as the Regional Philanthropy Manager for the Southeast Region.  In this role, she works in a 9-state region to match the philanthropic goals and interest of partners with the needs of the most vulnerable in 39 countries, including the U.S.   She is passionate about the work Operation Blessing is doing to bring hope and help to suffering families through innovative programs and partnerships that maximize resources and save lives. 

Dawn graduated from Regent University with a degree in government/ international relations and is currently completing a master’s degree in international community development at Southeastern University. She is a blogger, aspiring author, public speaker and a beach lover.  She currently lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband of 34 years, five children, and Siberian Husky puppy. 

Heard

(Introduction to a 5-part series collaboration)

Recently I had a brief conversation based on this statement: “I don’t know how to hear from God. People around me say they hear from God, but I don’t. I pray, and nothing. I feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

Due to the social context, that conversation was one-sided. That person’s tone and spirit has stuck with me. So much so that I’ve recruited some friends/thinkers to add many sides to the conversation. A team of five is writing blogs answering this question: How Do I Hear From God? You can read each post as they upload each Friday in November.

Besides me, here is a little bio introduction to the other four bloggers:

Dawn Stark: Mother of 5, Beach Lover, Manager of Philanthropy for Operation Blessing

Aaron Pilant: Father of 2, Lover of K.C. sports, Bradenton Police Officer

aaron

Erin Pilant: Mother of 2, Lover of Disney, Marketing Director for Chick-Fil-A

erin

Bob Morrissey: Father of 3, Lover of Detroit sports, Pastor of The Church at Clawson

bob

We don’t have to wait until November. Want to answer the question and start the conversation? Go ahead and leave a comment. Be Heard!

Self-Compassion

Finished my first Brene Brown book this weekend. 

Walking away with so much. I’ll share my two favorite things in a few posts. Here’s the first one:

Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.

This quote came from a section entitled How To Practice Self-Compassion. She shares this definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin: “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Brown translated that definition to her simple mandate.

I’m guilty. Chances are the vast majority of us are. Sharing high criticism like, “John, that was stupid,” or, “You are such an idiot.” I’ve even said recently, before I read this section, that that is how God talks to me because he speaks my language. So, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. “John, that’s a lie. When you come to him with honest repentance, God doesn’t respond like that. Stop putting God in your shoes. Try stepping into his shoes filled with love for you.”

If you share my tendency, I issue you this 7-day challenge: 

For the next week, listen to your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound like God would say to you, hit the pause button. Restate the sentence how you believe he’d say it. And, just in case you can’t figure it out, ask him. This could be a classic “you have not because you ask not.” Go ahead. Call yourself out for some self-compassion.

What Are You Waiting For?

Two posts ago, I shared a prayer exercise. Here are a couple of stories from my exercise.

One of my five desires that I listed in my journal was “detection of God’s movement.” Since yesterday, my desire has been granted twice.

  1. Monday morning I woke up and sent this message to a friend: “Not sure why, but you dominated my dreams this morning. I spent much time in prayer for you. God loves you.” Last night they responded, “Thanks, friend!!! Means so much and I was up at 4:30am also after bad dreams. Thank you.”
  2. After my race Monday in WV, I drove to PA to run a race Wednesday morning. On my drive, I decided to search for a massage therapist in hopes to schedule an appointment Tuesday. Just so happens, a chiropractor office was across the street from my hotel. I walked over, and they gave me a referral to a local therapist. Long story short, she only had one hour available today. Not only did she give my muscles what they needed, we also talked the entire hour about church, prayer, God, coaching, and life direction. We both agreed…that hour was an answer to our prayers.

If you haven’t tried the exercise yet, what are you waiting for?