★ Thought for the Day – Audience of ONE ★

Today’s Thought has been in the hopper for quite some time.  I have mulled over and over for at least six months now.  The title is an expression that my wife has periodically brought up in conversation with me for why we should do the things that we do.  It’s all for the Kingdom of God.  That’s a tough one isn’t it??  To live your life doing things for an “audience of one.”  For those who are believers in Christ, you know the “Christianese” answer right?  “Of course my reasons are only for the glory of God,” but if you’re being honest, I’m sure that from time to time, you too have looked for that “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” after you have gone out you way to help someone or do something.  This is something that I have struggled with for most of my life both before becoming a Christian and after.  Yeah I would believe that my motivations were pure but in reality I would look for the approval of others or recognition for the “good deed” that I had done.  I think this photo captures my point…

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 15: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs in concert at Allstate Arena on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gabriel Grams/Getty Images)

We all want to have our efforts appreciated.  When you look at this performer he sure is enjoying the accolades from the audience, but the real question is…could you still put forth tremendous effort to a theater like this?

That is the true test!  Can we still labor for God and work our hearts out with no acknowledgement at all?  Can you spend yourself even if no one ever knows what you did?  That is what I want to unpack today!

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post. 

The Apostle Paul addressed this perfectly in this Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

That last part is particularly convicting to me.  If we call ourselves a follower of Jesus Christ and live our lives trying to please others, you have to evaluate who is “LORD of your life”.  YOU or GOD?! 

At first I did not even realize this character flaw but God used my wife to challenge me why do I do what I do?  “Am I trying to win the Approval of human beings or of God?”  It wasn’t until I attended the Act Like Men conference back in November 2014 that God opened my eyes that I needed to address this issue in my heart.  The conference was based on James MacDonald’s book with the same name that reveals what Biblical Manhood is.

During the conference MacDonald invited the men to respond to what God was speaking into their hearts.  I was one of these men on my knees repenting of how I sought after the praise of people over the glorification of God.  Oftentimes it is hard to see the chinks in our armor and how self-absorbed we can be.  I think Paul David Tripp nailed it when he said:

“Be aware that the kingdom of self is a costume kingdom.  It does a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”  

Wow!  Could it be that we are completely hoodwinked or deceived to believe that we are serving God while all the time really serving ourselves??

It’s not until recently that I realized why I had sought the approval of others  so vehemently.  God has been working mightily in my heart for the past couple weeks.  In the last post called ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★, I talked about my experience with the men of Zaragoza while on a missions trip to Mexico.  As part of my testimony, I shared about how my father wanted nothing to do with me once my mom and I moved from Pennsylvania to New York. As I prepared for the Bible Study, God revealed to me that I not only had a father wound, but one from my grandfather as well.  The move to the TriState area (NY) was not for a change of scenery but out of necessity because we were out of money; and so we moved into the house that my mom grew up in.  We lived in the upstairs apartment from my grandfather but even though there was only a floor separating us, we might as well have lived on another planet.  The journey to, and “life in the city” was overwhelming for this country boy. Though it was only a 2 hour and 15 minute drive, life was completely different. Instead of dirt roads, there were miles and miles of freeways.  I went from riding my bike everywhere to taking a city bus or subway.  And from being rejected by my father to my grandfather.

As a boy of 12 years old, I was excited to get to know my grandfather but unfortunately I found out pretty quick that he wanted nothing to do with me.  So as I experienced a second arrow to my heart, a deep ceded need for a man’s approval was birthed.  In his 2001 groundbreaking book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” John Eldredge spoke about how every man has received a wound or wounds in their life from their father regardless of how good they might have been.  He made this profound statement about how this injury is dealt with:

“Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven, or they shrink back and go passive.  Often it’s an odd mixture of both.”

I have realized that my drive and aggressiveness in life has been motivated unconsciously to prove that I am worthy of love and have “what it takes.”  At the time I did not realize that the rejection of my father and grandfather had cultivated a deep need for the approval of those in my life, especially men because of the absence of any masculine influence.  And a result, my motives behind why I would help others was more for commendation than genuine love of others.

Back in 2014 I dealt with the symptom of the issue but not the root.  I did not fully know why I was so desperate for attention but now I am much more in tune with the cause; and have truly come to terms that I must be motivated by, and content with, the audience of the One!!  I need to keep this on the sticky side of my brain!

I am going go old school and go to the King James Version of 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

As part of the Temptation Series, we have unpacked about avoiding the consequences of alcohol and gluttony which you may be thinking why am I using this verse now, well I’m glad you asked.  Chapter 10 deals with idolatry, about the danger of worshiping things that do not please God (alcohol, gluttony and partying – See 1 Corinthians 10:6-11).  We need to be aware that giving ourselves over to anything other than God is a slippery slope.  The last part of verse 31 is what I want to focus on.

This is something that can radically change a person’s life if they will put in the work.  It is really easy to focus on yourself, as Tripp said the kingdom of self does “a perversely brilliant job of masquerading as the kingdom of God.”  So it’s not just enough to be helping others and serving God, we need to always be checking our motives!

In this self-promoting, indulgent world it is very easy to get derailed by all the “highlights” of people’s lives tweeted and shared online; and seek the approval from the world instead of our Heavenly Father.  If we are not careful we can become imprisoned to the acceptance we receive on social media.  I read this quote somewhere and thought it was perfect…

“A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

If we seek to be changed, God will answer.  In Ezekiel 36:26, He spoke through the project and said,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Amen?  Do you want that?  I will close with these song lyrics from Francesca Battistelli’s song called “He Knows My Name” in which she proclaims…

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

Check it out and let the lyrics wash over your soul!

 

The question remains…

Why do you do what you do?? 

Is it for God or for man’s approval? 

Is it enough to be famous in your father’s eyes only? 

I pray you will be! 

If you want to dig deeper into understanding how loved you are, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★  

★ Thought for the Day – What Does God’s Love Mean? ★   

And for the men, here are the posts of what I learned from James MacDonald’s book called

Act Like Men, 40 Days to Biblical Manhood.

 

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★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? – ¡Parte Dos! ★

Click here if you would prefer to listen to the Podcast of this blog post. 

 

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★ , I shared about the resent Missions Trip to Zaragoza, Mexico I went on with my church to  partner with a local church called Ranchos Dos Countries.  Today I want to build upon that and tell you about an amazing God story that happened while I was there.  Before I do that, I want to give a little context about the trip because I was not even supposed to go.  Our church had a meeting several months earlier in which they talked about all the different opportunities available for the year.  My daughter heard about the student trip to Mexico and wanted to go with the other teenagers. But at the time of signups there was not a lot of information and I was uncomfortable to send her out of the country for the first time.  So we decided to go on the family Missions trip instead.  Though it was not my plan to go, it was without a doubt the plan of God that I’d be there as I would find out just two days after getting there.  But to get there I had to go through much spiritual warfare. I have been on a high pressure project and the timing of the trip could not have been worse in regards to executing the work but it was exactly what I needed!!

My part on the mission trip was to share my testimony of how God has changed my life with the men of Zaragoza.  If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know full well that I have made many mistakes and had a very dark life before accepting Jesus as my savior in 1998.  So when I was asked to share my testimony, I accepted the responsibility without hesitation because I love to share how God used my wife to lead me out the life I was enslaved in. But unbeknownst to me, this time God wanted me to share an unabridged testimony.  I have shared openly about the past problems with drugs, alcoholism, partying, depression, pornography and the night I almost committed suicide.  This time however, God placed on my heart to share about the abuse that happened in my teenage years , which up until this point I had only shared with a handful of people.  Though I believe I had been healed from the abuse, the stigma and shame kept me from being 100% open and transparent with others about this trauma.  Now people who know me personally would not agree with that assessment probably, but for me I want my life to serve as a warning to others, and that cannot be fully realized if I hold back any part of the story that God has carried me through.  And let me tell you, I am so thankful I did, because I believe that there was still some amount of healing that needed to be done which happened that week in Mexico!

So…back to the God story I want to share with you.  I was ready to air all the dirty laundry and leave the “baggage” back in Texas, those thoughts of condemnation and shame which have weighed me down, and go full throttle to minister to the men in Mexico.  I was warned that because Zaragoza is a small community where everyone knows everyone, it will be a challenge to get the men to share.  In addition to that, inside my head there was spiritual warfare right before I started to speak because of the age gap between most of the men and me, most being 20 years older than me, God showed up in a powerful way and cut right through all the blockades!  As I sat in a small one room schoolhouse

with (16) leather-faced men who had been hardened by the sun and by life, God worked through me to reach these men.  Strongholds were broken and breakthroughs were made that I have never seen before!!   The truth of James 5:16 (ESV) was realized in a mighty way…

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

As I shared my story and confessed my sins and opened up about the abuse, God softened the hearts of these men. They saw that regardless of what has happened in the past, He can heal and deliver anyone from any bondage of sin, shame or guilt.  Tears flowed in that small schoolhouse as man after man confessed sins and regrets of past mistakes.  The greatest moment for me though was when the last man to speak shared that he was sexually abused too!!  It was incredible to see the raw honesty and deliverance from the enemy that happened!!!  And all I had to do was be a conduit for God’s love,  grace and forgiveness to flow.  Charles Stanley has this great life lesson on the verse from James we just read, he said…

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.  We cannot obey God without being in regular, close fellowship with other believers.  He has designed us so that many of our needs can only be met through mutual interdependence.”

Jesus Himself needed fellowship with others.  Almost immediately He started His ministry, Jesus invited men to follow Him and become His disciples, see Luke Chapter 5.  So if Jesus saw the value in surrounding Himself with others shouldn’t we??  This is something that in the past two years I have been doing and I have seen such tremendous growth and strengthening in my faith walk.  And it is that sharpening that enabled me to finally break free to share what I did.  I just finished a Bible reading plan called “Play The Man” from Mark Batterson and he made this powerful point:

“A man of conscience is a change agent—a force to be reckoned with.  As Andrew Jackson observed, “One man with courage makes a majority.”  He’s not blown here and there by trending winds.  He’s anchored to the Word of God, and that anchor holds him through ups and downs, through thick and thin.”

When you’re a man (or woman) of conscience you can overcome sin and adversity in life but you must be dialed in to God!  To be a change agent, a force to be reckoned with, you must study God’s Word because that is where true freedom will come!  I will close with this truth from John 8:31-32 (NLT)…

“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

The truth will set you free!!  What I experienced in Mexico with those men you can experience too IF you are willing to be a conduit for God to speak through.  You don’t need to a seminary degree or to know the Bible cover to cover, it’s just about being willing to be transparent with your struggles and available to share the truth of God’s Word that will encourage and transform people’s lives!!

 

If you would like to read more on this topic check out: 

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ 

★ Thought for the Day – Be the MAN to Carry the Light ★

★ Thought for the Day – Chain Reaction Catalyst ★

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Story? ★

I am excited to announce that today is our 200th post!!

It is also the 3 year anniversary since the Daily Dependence blog was born!  And the first post that will also include an audio recording if you prefer to listen instead of reading, just click here to listen.

 

Today I want to ask you this question…

What’s Your Story?

We all have one.  It could be that you were adopted, or grew up in a single parent home, or maybe you had both parents under one roof.  Perhaps your family was rich or poor or somewhere in the middle.  You may have grown up believing in God, or never have darkened a church door in your life, or you could have come to faith later in life.  Whatever your family of origin, socioeconomic circumstances and religious background may be, we all have a story which has helped shape and define the way we behave and interact with others.

For me, I grew up in a one stoplight town in Pennsylvania with my mom, brother and sister.  As a divorced woman with 3 kids to support, my mom worked herself to the bone as a maid in a local resort destination but unfortunately God really did not have any real part in our lives.  I have been thinking a lot about my story lately since my oldest daughter and I got back from a trip to Zaragoza, Mexico.  If you are thinking “I have never heard of a vacation destination with that name,” well that’s because no one would ever pick there to spend a week unless they had family there or as a result of their car breaking down while driving through to somewhere else.  Zaragoza is a dirt poor town near the Mexico–US border with Texas, 1 hour southwest of the Del Rio border crossing.  With a population of approximately 12,000, Zaragoza is far from any resort area; in fact, it is 1,000 miles to the north of Acapulco, Mexico.

The reason we were there was to share the love of Jesus through acts of service…from passing out food in the neighboring homes, to putting on Vacation Bible School for the children, to facilitating men’s and women’s bible studies.  The video below was produced by a friend of mine on the trip that captures the incredible week of ministry that our church experienced as we partnered with the local church called “Rancho Dos Countries” (www.ranchodoscountries.com) in Zaragoza, Mexico.

It was my first mission trip and was absolutely amazing!  I shared the video with a buddy of mine and he had this to say…

“Looks like you helped bring a bunch of joy to some folks man!”

My response to him and what I want to share with you today is that it was just the opposite!  I have spent over a year going out of my mind as a result of a project I am on and all the stress it has caused, but one week in Mexico has change my attitude and outlook on life!  While he was correct that I did help some people, they helped me far more!  I learned three major things while in Mexico:

1.  Service.

I’ve always been a person who would pitch-in with whatever is needed.  On the missions trip I learned very quickly that you will do a variety of jobs and there is absolutely no room for ego.  From the Team Leaders to the Pastor to the youngest child on the trip, everybody was expected to shoulder their fair share and do whatever was asked of them without complaint and with joy.  And that is exactly what happened!  It was truly incredible to see Psalm 133:1 (NIV) in action!!  

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

We left from Mansfield, Texas as acquaintances but have come back as a family!

The second thing I learned was:

2.  Gratitude.

Many times I have acknowledged that God has blessed me with a beautiful family, a wonderful house, and a great job but until this trip I never truly understood how much I really am! The abject poverty that I saw on this trip was heart wrenching and quite honestly difficult for me to believe that in the 21st-century there still exists!

The people of Zaragoza have so little and yet when you talk with them, there is a deep joy and appreciation of what God has done in their lives.  It was inspiring and convicting at the same time.

The final lesson I learned was:

3.  Perspective.

I realized that the things that I worry about are so meaningless.  Yes I may have a bad day at work or having issues on a tough project, but there are people not only in Mexico but all over the world who spend their days just fighting to survive.  While there to encourage the people, I found myself being far more encouraged by them.  I met a man there named Francisco.  I first saw him riding up a hill towards me on the makeshift bicycle you see on bottom right of the photo.  When he reached me and of the other guys from our team, we were greeted with the biggest smile.  You may not have noticed it at first but there is a crank shaft that goes from the handle bars to the front wheels and that is because Francisco has no legs.  He is known all around the town I would suspect because of the bicycle and his physical limitations but after talking with him for a half hour or so through a translator I believe it’s because of his joyful attitude and fun loving spirit.  He also does an incredible job of shining shoes which is how he supports his wife and two daughters.  We were blessed to hear his testimony of how 20 years ago he tried to jump on a moving train and lost his grip resulting in the dual amputation.  If that were not traumatic enough, Francisco was also dragged by the train for a while before he got free.  When he was found, Francisco was assumed dead and sent to the morgue.  For 12 hours he laid there until the medical examiner discovered he was alive!!  As I listened to this miraculous story, it is undeniable that the hand of God was on him that night and has been for the past 2 decades because there has never been a day in my life that I have ever gone to work with an ounce of his joy!!  He  truly embodies what the Apostle Paul commanded in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV):

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

I have quoted this scripture many times believing in my heart that I was fulfilling the charge, only to see from the life of a humble shoeshine man that I have far to go. Because of Francisco my perspective has been forever changed.  Boy I tell you nothing helps you more to forget about your problems like going on a mission trip to serve and help others because you never know how God will not work through you BUT to you!!

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Back Into the Fire ★ I shared this verse from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)…

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

God comforts us so that we will turn around and comfort those in need.  That is why Missions Trips are so wonderful, because you get to partner with God, to be His hands and feet in the fulfillment of the Great Commission that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV):

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has gone through hardships and adversity, some much more than others.  The key though is what to you do with it??  My wife  put it perfectly when we were talking about this Thought,

I love that!  We all have story. How can you use your story to glorify God?  Like Francisco, as we share our story of what God has carried us through, we can encourage and inspire others in His masterplan!  I leave you with the same command to Go Make Disciples of all Nations, not just in another country but in your neighborhood, school or workplace!  There are needs everywhere and I pray that you will move you into action!

 

If you would like to read Part 2, click here.

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