Category Archives: Encouragement & Teaching

A Hairy Ordeal

It started with a simple idea. It always starts out as simple. Until you actually do it. Sometimes, you’re lucky and everything works out the way you saw it in your mind. Other times, it’s like watching your favorite ceramic mug fall off the counter, and you’re too far away to catch it. You simply have to watch it hit the floor and smash into pieces.

This bit of drama brought to you by the midlife crisis my hair seems to be having. My simple idea? Get a pixie haircut. “It will be fun,” they said. “It will look great on you,” they said.

My favorite mug lay shattered on the ground in a bazillion pieces.

I know I’m being dramatic, but that’s kind of how I felt for at least three solid minutes.  As a side note, I mean no disrespect or chiding to the woman who cuts my hair. I think she did a most excellent job, and nailed the picture I gave her to base the cut on. So after I stared dejectedly in the mirror for a couple of minutes, I gave myself a pep talk that hair grows, and it would all be okay in three to six months. Three to six months. That’s a long time. I needed a new plan, and a new plan is exactly what I came up with. I waited almost eight excruciating weeks for it to grow out a bit, and then I decided I was going to color it all. Platinum white. It would look spectacular. It would look so spectacular, I would no longer notice how much more I look like my brother. I would just be enamored by my cool hair color.

I made that appointment for Thursday. It was going to be fantastic. I could feel it. I’m not exactly sure what chemicals are used to lighten hair, but I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of hydrochloric acid and sulfur acid. Maybe a touch of gasoline. My scalp was on fire. But as my daughter used to say when she was in high school, “Beauty for pain.” I guess she was right.

After two rounds of the acid-like treatment, we learned the hard way that my hair is stubborn, and doesn’t like to lighten. So instead of the platinum white picture of perfection, I now had Ronald McDonald yellow hair with some white highlights.

I needed another plan.

I acquired something called a purple mask, which is a thick, purple cream you put into shampooed hair. You let it sit on your hair for five to ten minutes and then rinse it out. It’s supposed to tame the brassy/yellow color and restore it to platinum white. I packed it with the things I was taking to the boat this weekend, and headed to Door County. This morning, after my shower, I used the purple people eater cream, as directed, and busied myself for approximately seven and a half minutes. During which time, one of the marina dockhands stopped by with a question.

[look askance]

A few minutes after that embarrassing moment, Siri kindly told me it was time to rinse it out. I did so with optimism, and then ran to the mirror. I wanted to say abracadabra, presto change-o, but there were other words that made it out first. Now, instead of yellow hair with white highlights, I had yellow hair with purple highlights. No pictures this weekend, please.

One of the things I appreciate about God, besides His sense of humor, is His ability to show Himself in all the things around us. Hair is no exception. Here’s the moral of this story.

Sometimes, you just need to let your hair grow. Things happen in life that aren’t always pleasant, and we can’t fast forward our way through them. Sometimes, we just need to be patient within our present circumstances, while God is growing the things we are praying for. Trying to interfere and speed up the natural process can make the situation worse than before. And using purple people eater cream may only make you want to hide more. I should know.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Trust in God’s plan, and be patient. Just let your hair grow. 

Be blessed,
C.K.

Count the Cost

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

When counting the cost of something, that may be our time, money, conveniences, etc. To live a life for Christ demands the sum of these. It’s all our material possessions, emotional comforts and physical well-being tossed onto the proverbial table. In our Scripture above, His analogy of building a tower is simple – Christ is not demanding anything of us. He simply instructs us to take inventory of what a life of service and discipleship will require, to ensure we can finish the job.

Imagine a road. Imagine its long and winding path, sheltered and encased by the branches of majestic trees, whose roots are deep with life. You are ready. Your eye is on the finish. With each step along the narrow path you’re drawn more forward by the longing in your spirit for the Greatness you know lies ahead at your destination. Along the way, you pick up weary travelers, lifeless in spirit. You tell them of this Greatness – that which can breathe life into them again, heal their wounds and satisfy any hunger. More and more follow. You assure them, where you’re going, there is plenty of room for all (John 14:2).

The journey is long and the bottoms of your shoes become worn. The night falls steadily, along with the hope that sparked your first steps. Your pace ceases as you find yourself staring dejectedly at the unexpected mountain before you. There is no way around this mountain. Only over it. To take such a journey of strength will require a lightened load and the use of your hands for climbing. This means abandoning all your possessions for the sake of the climb. Disillusionment creeps in as you are taunted by your own ill-preparedness. Fear tells you to turn around. In that moment, you’re faced with a choice that will impact not only your own life, but the lives of so many others.

In your weakness and fear, you turn. When you do, you are face to face with all the weary travelers who are following you, uncertain of why you stopped. As you pass through the sea of searching faces, your actions of retreat make words unnecessary. The travelers who were once filled with hope are now standing in silence, gazing back and forth between their retreating leader and the mountain before them. The cloaks of dejectedness and disillusionment are passed through the crowd as the vision of Greatness you spoke of fades with every step backwards you take. For many, hurt turns to anger and bitterness for leading them so far for nothing. They leave the path, never to return (2 Peter 2:21). Others ridicule you. For others, they continue to follow you, turning back to the place that took the life within them and made them weary in the first place.

But there is one. There is one who remains staring at the mountain. He takes his time to think about the journey and all it will require. When weighed against the reward of the Greatness that waits on the other side, there is no hesitation in his spirit (Isaiah 6:8). He gathers those who are still found motionless in the confusion and calls out to those who have already turned around to see if any will follow with him. They leave any unnecessary thing and, together, begin the climb.

Which one will you be?

Be blessed,
C.K.

Going Beyond

The Bible tells us we are to imitate Christ in all things. What about giving? I’m not talking about money. We are called to do that too, but the kind of giving I’m talking about today is the giving of ourselves to others.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

It can be really hard to die to self. We are born with a sin nature, and therefore we’re wired to think about ourselves first. Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I had a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in, so I was in go mode. You know, that mode where your brain becomes a human scoreboard and winning means checking off all the boxes on your list. I typically perform exceedingly well in this mode. I’m focused. I have a plan. A good plan. I have things in my cart I didn’t even plan on getting and I’m still slightly ahead of schedule. There’s the checkout. And there’s a lane with the light on with no one in it. And it says, “We bag.” Jackpot.

Sometimes life throws elderly women at us.

I was making a quick bee line to the open lane when I saw her. She was coming from the opposite direction, and looking at the same open lane. My lane. And her cart was loaded.

Even though she was closer to it than I was, a quick round of mathematics told me I could easily make it there before she did. Train A is moving north at 4mph, at a distance of 30 feet from destination, while Train B is moving south at 2mph, at a distance of 15 feet and closing. If Train A increases speed to 5mph… you get the idea, and have now been made privy to the scarier parts of my thought processes.

I’m embarrassed to say I authorized Train A to increase speed. I was right. I did beat her to the lane, but there was no victory lap, for it was clear what I had done. I knew it. She knew it. The cashier knew it. The kid sitting in the cart one lane over, picking his nose, knew it. There was no relief. Only guilt and conviction. My cart got lighter as I unloaded it, but my heart got a lot heavier. 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20

Was that ridiculous and immature display of selfishness a good example of me doing immeasurably more? Definitely not. Not only was I selfish, but I was impatient too. We could probably throw a little bit of disrespect in there for good measure. It wasn’t even worth it because of how it made me feel. Selfishness never rewards as well as thoughtfulness.

You want to know what else bothered my heart after the fact? In addition to that just being plain rude, I found myself wondering if my doing what I did made her feel bad about herself. Did my actions cause her to feel slower than she should be or older than she wanted to be? I couldn’t help but wonder just what my actions caused her to feel. With a little patience, a smile, and a compliment, I could have made that moment feel very different for both of us.

We have opportunities all around us every single day to go above and beyond for people. My blog last week was about nature being a silent witness to the existence of God. So are our actions. As Christ followers, we are called to a higher level. Let an elderly person get in line in front of you. You could even help them lift something heavy out of their cart and onto the conveyer belt. There are a million little ways to go above and beyond if you’re looking.

This isn’t just for strangers. A great place to start is with the people we know and love. For example, how often do you go above and beyond for your spouse? Give them more than they ask for? My throw down for you today is to pray for an opportunity to do more for someone than they expect. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be as simple as helping a vertically challenged person (like me) get something off a high shelf, or paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee.

Let your actions be a silent witness. Do more. Be more. Why? Because Jesus was our example first.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Labor Pains

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Roomavailable for pre-order on Amazon. The book releases on June 18th.

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:20-21

Jesus is comforting His disciples in this passage. They’ve just learned they’ll soon be without Him, and they’re completely dismayed at the thought. Jesus is helping them understand the glory in His death, and the necessary pain required to birth a joy that is everlasting. You can apply these words as a healing balm to your own suffering heart while experiencing a time of waiting.

There are times when God chooses to deliver us out of a trial or bring an answer very quickly. Can I get an amen? However, there are times God will require us to walk what feels like a very long road. This requires a lot of trust in Him but, let me assure you, God doesn’t do anything haphazardly. Stop with me for a moment and think about the fact that every day of your life was written in God’s book before one of them came into being (Psalm 139:16). Really digest that concept. Powerful stuff, right? I don’t know about you, but my mind gets completely blown when I really try to process the forethought God has on every day of every one of our lives. Our God is a planner, and there is order to everything He does. You can be confident in His forethought of your present situation, and the steps required to bring it to fruition. This brings us to the heart of our time together today.

Within our journey, a crucial developmental process is taking place. Just as a baby in the womb, if we force it out too soon, there are complications, and often, death. The development of a baby in utero is a stunning process. When we recognize the great mysteries and profound complexity of this process, God can use this to teach us an important lesson about waiting for His deliverance. The gestational period of a baby is very exact, and things develop in a very specific and important order. When God speaks something to your heart, He’s doing so with the knowledge of what’s to come, and exactly how it is to come about. What He requires of you is trust, patience, and obedience. Regardless of moments of fear or disobedience, God ultimately knows what it will take to bring what He has spoken to pass. He knows what He’s doing. It may be painful, but I’ve learned the more painful it becomes, the closer you usually are to your answer.

When I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, I was taking the required Lamaze class, in which they help to prepare you physically and mentally for the painful birthing process ahead. The instructor was demonstrating with a plastic baby and skeletal representation of a woman’s hips and pelvic bones, how the baby descends and is birthed. All eyes were riveted on the instructor as she placed the baby inside the skeleton and began moving it downward, laughing as the baby got stuck midway through the pelvis. This required her to jam her hand down on it to free it from its position. Nervous laughter turned into several nauseatingly green faces. Other than learning the final stages of dilation are termed “the hurricane hour” for very painful reasons, I don’t think I remembered a single word she said after that. My mind was fixated on the terrifying reality this baby had to come out, and it was going to hurt – a lot.

Sometimes we panic when faced with a trial we know is going to hurt. With childbirth, it’s a bit easier to come to the realization that we have to go through it in order to receive that bundle of joy into our arms. In life’s journeys, it’s not always easy to continue walking, because we may not be able to see the joy that lies ahead of us in a tangible form. However, if God promised a blessing, we can be certain it’s there in the heavenly realm and waiting for His perfect timing – and looking exactly as He knows is best. It comes down to a question of who you believe God is. It comes down to whether or not you’re going to choose to believe what He spoke to your heart. If God is asking you to walk a difficult path, you can trust it’s for a very good reason – one He will reveal to you in His timing.

For those of us who have had the honor of birthing a baby, we remember the joy of being told we were pregnant – or for those of us on our journeys, the moment God spoke a promise to our hearts. For nine long months, or whatever the length of your journey, we watch our bodies change and our hearts grow deep with love for a child or a promise we have not yet seen. We spend hours, days, or even years in immeasurable pain and discomfort, until that moment – that beautiful, life-breathing moment – when we are looking our promise in the face. The pain subsides, and all that’s left is a battle scar full of stories of triumph.

Just as every day in the womb is a time of growth for new life, as you walk through a time of fiery trial, you can rest assured every step you take is a necessary detail in the growth of your character and the maturing of your faith. I pray you will never lose heart and give up.

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139:16-17

Be blessed,
C.K.

First Things First

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Roomavailable for pre-order on Amazon. The book releases on June 18th.

Being on your knees and sending your prayers up to the Father of the heavenly lights is the most important thing you can be doing. But let’s be real. It’s hard. Especially when it’s for people or situations near and dear to our hearts. I know firsthand how it feels to be praying fervently for something and watching it unfold in the complete opposite direction. Not only is that crushing to see, but it threatens to deflate our faith like air from a blown tire. When those things happen, you’ve got to decide to see with spiritual eyes rather than earthly eyes. You have to get out your patch kit, plug the hole that’s leaking faith, and keep moving forward. That means you keep getting on your knees and resolve to keep bringing your requests to God, despite what your earthly circumstances are telling you.

I know I just made that sound easy, but I also know the reality that it can be a daily struggle. The writings in this book were born out of some of my personal struggles, so I want to take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge wherever you’re at.

So, how do we move past these emotions? This first step is all about reminding our hearts of some very important things that give us the right perspective while we’re in the waiting room. Let’s look at a few of those.

There is an Order to Things

God’s vantage point is well beyond ours. If you see the trees, He sees the planet. If you see the planet, He sees the galaxies. There isn’t anything that escapes His view, and there is no element of anything that exists – past, present, or future – that He doesn’t consider. God operates in an entirely different dimension than we do. In His world, there is no dimension of time or space. It’s all fluid and He sees beyond the boundaries in which we tend to think.

You and I may have trouble grasping all of that, and although we may feel uncomfortable, God is perfectly comfortable and supernaturally capable. Because of all He sees and knows, He is uniquely and solely qualified to set the order of things that will maximize the glory for His Kingdom. He knows what you need and when you need it. He knows what every person needs and when they need it. All of those things fit together like one, glorious cosmic puzzle, and He drew the picture of that puzzle long before you or I even existed. Trust if God is asking you to wait just a little bit longer, He has a very good reason, and He will give you everything you need to be comfortable and at peace during your wait.

He’s a Heart God

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the promise we’re looking to receive. It becomes our single focus, and obtaining it is the culmination of what we call victory. We have to consider that God’s definition of victory might be a little different than ours. What I’m about to say isn’t always what we want to hear, but the sooner we grasp it, the sooner (I believe) we can stop wandering around in the desert, like the Israelites did for forty years (Exodus).

The wait is not always about what we’re getting, but what God is doing in us and who we’re becoming while we’re waiting.

God is much more concerned with who you are than what you have.

Don’t get me wrong – the things you want could very well be God-given promises having great significance for the Kingdom. But I don’t think it’s worth as much to God if you are lost in it along the way. God tells us He works all things for the good of those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). You might be praying for physical healing and miss the opportunity for spiritual or emotional healing along your journey. Think about it this way – if God heals your physical body, you sure would have a great testimony to share the power of Christ with others. But if you’re an emotional mess inside as a result of the wait, how powerful will that testimony be for the Kingdom?

Consider this. The promise God wants to bless you with may not rest in what you receive at the end of your wait, but what happens inside of you during it.

* End of Excerpt *

Be blessed,
C.K.

Surrender

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Room, available for pre-order on Amazon. Only eBook is available for pre-order, but both eBook and paperback will be available for purchase when the book releases on June 18th.


“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-45

I imagine the title alone may have sent waves of discomfort through you. It sure did to me for a number of years. As Christians, we like to sing about surrender, but walking that talk is a lot harder than it sounds on Sunday morning. If we look to Merriam-Webster to help us define surrender, we find the following:

“a: to yield to the power, control, or possession of another or b:to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.”

When we surrender to God, we’re giving Him authority to exercise His sovereign judgment in our lives. To clarify, this isn’t God overruling our ability to have free will. It’s us giving to God what we think is best, in return for what He knows is best.

If you have kids, particularly teenagers, then you’re well aware of a thing I like to call the “Omni Effect.” The Omni Effect is the result of a child turning the age at which they know the answer to every question ever asked. They no longer need the wisdom of their parents because they’re smarter and far wiser in the ways of the world, despite experiencing only a fraction of what their parents have. They know what’s best, so they feel they should be able to do what they like. They believe the world has changed so dramatically, that we, as parents, couldn’t possibly be smart enough to guide and educate them.

Are you parents out there rolling your eyes yet? I thought so. This is a pretty easy concept for us to grasp, right? What if we applied this to our all-knowing God? News flash: we are those kids. We’re the ones who have experienced only a fraction of what God has. I don’t think we could even call it a fraction. That would be far too generous. He knows all because He created all. The Bible tells us every day was written before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He’s the only One able to provide perfect guidance in perfect timing.

Perhaps the greatest testimony of surrender happens when we, amidst the charge of the enemy, lay down our shield, get on our knees, and lift our hands. It’s not a white flag we hold, but the offering of our will to God, whatever the outcome may be. To give yourself wholly and completely to the will of God, without regard to your own personal desires, is the epitome of surrender.

It’s also terrifying.

Why is it so scary? Why is there fear in surrender? We fall into the trap of fear when one of two things happen. The first is we believe the lies of the enemy. Satan doesn’t want you to be close to God. In fact, he wants nothing but misery and death for you (John 10:10). He’s going to whisper lies into your ear about why what God wants for you isn’t going to make you happy. He’s going to stir confusion and doubt. There’s a way to combat that. Fall on the Word. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Search the Scriptures on what God has to say about your situation and who He created you to be.

The second reason we fall into fear is because we don’t know, or choose not to rely on, the character of our God. Do you know Him well enough to know He loves you beyond measure (Ephesians 3:17-19); that He, Himself is love (1 John 4:8)? Do you trust His heart enough to know He longs to bless you and give you every good thing (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:9-11)? It’s impossible for God to lie and it’s impossible for God to do anything outside the character of goodness. For these reasons, you can trust Him completely.

It’s a spiritual truth that you can never out-give God. If God’s asking you to give Him something, don’t place such a high value on it and cling to it for fear of losing the joy or security you think it brings. When you surrender it to God, you’ll find He returns something of even greater value. As I’ve often told my daughter, doing what’s asked of us isn’t the extent of obedience. God desires our right attitudes as well. The attitude of surrender should be one of prostration in the presence of an all-knowing God, comforted in the assurance that He knows what you don’t. He’ll only ask of you what He knows will ultimately lead to both your blessing and His glory. In keeping with our spiritual truth, God will never ask you for something and then return something less than you gave to Him.

Surrendering doesn’t make you weak. It’s what you do when you are weak, so God can be your strength. However difficult this may be for you, take your treasure – your money, time, job, relationship, food, home, hobbies, whatever He’s asking for – and lay it at His feet. He’ll return what you never thought possible, including freedom. Don’t be bound in slavery to the things you refuse to let go of out of fear. It’s keeping you from a greater blessing and a beautiful display of His Glory.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forget the Former Things

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all have expectations and desires for our tomorrows, but we sometimes allow our yesterdays to get in the way. No matter what your current situation in life, I pray this leaves you excited about the great things our God has waiting for you, as well as a changed perspective about where you’ve been. I’m excited to look with you in Isaiah, where we’ll learn about the amazing power of transformation available to us, and how God encourages us to keep our eye on the prize.

Visualize a wasteland. Webster defines this as “an ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area.” Imagine what would happen if a stream of fresh, clean water is planted right in the middle of that wasteland. Over time, the ground around it begins to absorb the water. As the water spreads farther into the ground, it’s the catalyst for new life. Slowly, the seeds that once fell on hard and dry soil now have soft dirt to cultivate in. In a matter of time, what was once ugly and barren is full of lush, green life. When you choose to call God the Lord of your life, you are choosing life itself. You are allowing His living water to be deposited into the deepest part of you.

Let’s look to a common scientific principle – water was meant to flow. As you read His Word and spend time with Him, increasing your understanding of who God is and His will for you, that repository of water begins to flow, not only into every part of you but, into the lives of those around you. That water changes you. It changes your heart and transforms your mind (Romans 12:2). Transforming your mind and heart will transform your life. 

What prevents us from embracing the change and walking in transformation? Often times, it’s because we’re too busy dwelling on our past. You know the phrase, “the best predictor of the future is the past.” There’s usually no shortage of people reminding us of our mistakes and shortcomings. After hearing these messages enough times, we begin to believe the limitations others set for us.

God takes a different approach on things. He’s telling us to forget the former things. One of the amazing gifts afforded to us through our relationship with Christ is the ability to wipe our slates clean. If you’re in doubt, look at Paul’s story (Acts 9), and the amazing works he was able to do for Christ afterthe years he spent murdering Christians. I sometimes wonder what self-deprecating thoughts Paul had to overcome after his own transformation. How many times did he have to tell himself God was bigger than his murderous rampage of the brothers that were now his?

I’m not saying it’s easy to forget our past, but we must reconcile the misgiving that our failures make us unworthy. Sweet One, our being human makes us unworthy, but the power of Christ’s death and resurrection created a way for us to forget the former things and set ourselves on a new path.

Don’t let Satan use your past as a means to limit your future.

Understand our mistakes only serve to glorify the One who can make all things new (Romans 8:28-30). I believe this glory comes in two forms. The first is simple – Jesus saves. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done – there isn’t anything the cross didn’t overcome. When Jesus hung on that cross, bloody and beaten, he bore the pain and shame of every sin ever committed and yet to be committed. Nothing was forgotten. No one was forgotten.

The second form of glory is more subjective, but equally valuable – your story. Think of survivor stories and how individuals use those to inspire and motivate others. In our Christian walks, it’s vital for us to relate to others in a way that makes faith real and even tangible. We do this through sharing our stories and triumphs of overcoming sin and hardship. People need to know and believe we’ve walked in their shoes before they will trust what we say to them.

Being real about who we were before Christ transformed us, and the ways we fall on our face amidst our Christian walks today, serves to fortify the hope available for those who choose to believe.

Dwelling on your past will lead you back to a drought. Don’t forget the lessons in them, but don’t let your past limit your future. We serve an amazing God – able to do immeasurably more than we could possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If God believes you can, shouldn’t you?

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31, 37-39

Be blessed,
C.K.

Small Beginnings

“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” Zechariah 4:10

“What?”

After only a few sips of my morning coffee, that’s what I uttered out loud after reading the Scripture passage above. This is a good example of the types of verses that are easy to gloss over. We read it, but we’re not quite sure what we just read, so we shrug our shoulders and keep going. I’ll admit, that’s exactly what I did. Everything I had to do yesterday was already piling up in my mind, and it just seemed like too much of an inconvenience to stop and dig in. It was much easier to just keep reading and check the box on my quiet time for the day.

But God is good, and He knows what we need, when we need it. Every to-do item that ran around in my brain had a companion thought… “small things” … “capstone” … “hand of Zerubbabel.” Both curiosity and conviction got the better of me. I closed my to-do app, read the Scripture in context, and then opened my concordance and commentary apps. Boy, I’m sure glad I did.

First, a question. Do you ever find yourself looking around at small beginnings, and despising that they are small?

Second, a quick history lesson to set the stage. Stick with me. It will be worth it.

There was a great temple built in Jerusalem under King Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 6), which was destroyed about fifty years later by the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, when they overtook the city. The Judean people were exiled for the next 30 years, until King Cyrus conquered the Babylonians, and permitted the Judean people to come back and rebuild their temple.

Zerubbabel was one of the first Jews to return. He was appointed Governor of Judah, and immediately began the rebuild. It took him two years to lay the foundation, and had to deal with opposition and false accusations, which caused leadership to pull their support. There it sat, for seventeen years. Nothing. Enter stage right a couple of prophets sent to encourage, and four years later the temple rebuild was finally complete.

You’d think twenty-three years of work would get you a gigantic sphinx with Zerubbabel’s head carved into it. Not so much. It was recorded to be much less grand in stature than its predecessor, Solomon’s temple. Author’s commentary: It was smaller. Laughably smaller. Is laughably a word?

Okay, here’s my insight. 

It didn’t really matter if it was smaller than the first temple, because it was significant in a completely different way. It signified the rebirth of life and freedom for the Jews after experiencing a devastating exile. Here’s something more. The first temple was built under forced labor. This one was built by the people and for the people – the same people who vowed to maintain it because they were passionate about it. What I found equally interesting is, although this temple was smaller, it became more central to the Judean people as a point of their history than Solomon’s temple was. After what they had experienced, they knew what this temple represented.

So, why do we care about all this? Take a deep breath with me, and realize this is the story of many of our lives.

Whether it’s your faith, your finances, a relationship, a job, or a dream… maybe you had something you thought was really great – either in idea or action. Then life happened, sending you off course, and leaving you feeling lost. You had to deal with opposition – whether it happened to you or because of you. Maybe for a year. Maybe for twenty-three years. Maybe it felt like a full-on exile.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or where you are now. God is calling you out of that exile to rebuild. And if you’re already trying to rebuild and there’s opposition, just keep laying one stone at a time. Use the things you learned and the ways you grew as the mortar for each of those stones.

When you do start laying stones, don’t look around discouraged and despise small beginnings. They are the foundation for what can lead to something of even greater significance than what you had before.

Our beginning Scripture says not to despise the day of small things, and that the eyes of the Lord will rejoice when they see the capstone in Zerubbabel’s hand. A capstone is any of the stones making up the top layer of the wall. God has a plan for your life. Every plan starts out small, but if you keep laying one stone at a time, before you know it, you’ll be holding a capstone. And heaven will be rejoicing with you. It will be worth every step of your journey.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Extreme Home Makeover

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

Do you remember the old ABC hit show, Extreme Home Makeover? Ty Pennington and his team would travel the nation, rebuilding the homes of people whose lives had been marked with struggle, illness, or the death of their loved ones. The families would be excursioned off for a week while the makeover team demolished what was there and put something incredibly beautiful in its place.

As Christians, we should take inventory of our spiritual houses. When you stand at a central point looking at the walls around you, what do you see? Do you see a clean and beautiful structure or do you see cracked walls and rotting boards? What in your spiritual house needs to be demolished and rebuilt?

What was the pinnacle or turning point in the lives of the families on this show? They either asked for help or someone close to them made a plea on their behalf. Sound familiar? I hope so, because this, my friend, is prayer. Whether you’re crying out to God for help, or someone who loves you is interceding for you, God hears the prayers of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

Some of us have developed in our spiritual maturity, and just need God to come in and renovate a few problematic rooms. However, sometimes we have too much damage for mere renovation. Our walls might be crumbling and, just as we can’t pour new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17), God won’t build a new home on top of a foundation that’s damaged. In these situations, we find ourselves surrendered and requiring all the trust we can muster as the walls are brought down around us.

Sweet one, I know all too well how frightening this can be. There was a point in my life when everything seemed to be crumbling down around me. Anything and everything that held significance to me seemed to get ripped away in some fashion. As I mentally and emotionally walked through the rubble, tears streaming over the broken items, it was then God picked me up and held me in His arms. He pulled me far enough away so my focus was no longer on the broken pieces, but on the crew that was waiting in the distance to clear away the rubble and rebuild. What I first thought was demise was, in reality, the hope for something better.

I love to redecorate rooms. I love finding one unique item and patterning everything else around it as a compliment. We all have rooms that need a little redecorating. As you allow God into those rooms, He places His Son Jesus inside as the unique centerpiece. Over time, He develops and adds pieces of your character that compliment your centerpiece. This is a life-long process that should never be stagnant.

If you were having guests over, would you be quick to make sure it’s clean? With your spiritual home, every time you interact with people, you’re inviting them into an open house. If it’s less than what God desires, I’d encourage you to see your cracks as opportunities to grow.

Take heart, for help is on the way! When you surrender your spiritual house to the Almighty Designer, He will come in and transform you room by room, until what’s left is your palace (Hebrews 11:10).

I’ll leave you with one more thought. Why did the families on Extreme Home Makeover trust the crew? They were familiar with the show and had seen the results time and time again. If these families can put their homes into the hands of a crew that existed for only a few years, then certainly, you and I can put our homes in the hands of an infinitely-existing, all-knowing, ever-present God, whose record of victories existed before time began.

Be blessed,
C.K.

The Kicker

“…So Esau despised his birthright.” Genesis 25:34

Do you ever wonder if you’re “called” to do something? Rather than tell you what it feels like, I’m going to ask you, by laying out a series of questions about your desires. Hold out until the end because, with all things, there’s a “kicker.”

To get us in the right frame of mind, the desires I’m referring to are not about things you can get. They’re about things you can give… your God-given gifts and talents. Your gift could be artistic, business oriented, working with your hands in a trade, lending emotional support to hurting people, writing, or as a financial giver. Don’t overthink the answers. Just make a mental note of whatever immediately pops into your mind as you read through these next questions. They’re certainly not all-inclusive, but I hope it’s a start to get you thinking.

Do you have a passion stirring deep inside that you tell yourself is just your own desire, but deep down you know — you can feel — it’s something so much bigger than you? Do you have an almost restless sensation that gives you an unexplainable urge or need to do that thing? And when I say restless, I really mean a Sigourney Weaver alien bursting out of your stomach kind of restless. On that note, does it also scare you? Does it take you beyond your present comfort zone? Do other people reaffirm your gift? When you’re operating in that gift, does it feel easier than you thought, fulfilling, and help seems to come just when you need it? Despite fear, does the idea of not doing it leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled?

Here’s a big one.

Is there an inaudible yet unmistakable voice… something you sense in the deepest recesses of your being that something… Someone… is calling out to you and telling you to cross that comfort line and do what you already know is welling up in you?

I don’t know what’s going through your mind right now, but I hope it’s validation of what you already know to be true. A name for your gift. Your call to action. Your calling.

Writing books and speaking/teaching is my calling. I used to be afraid to say that out loud. I used to let Satan fill my head with lies and fears. “No one will buy your books.” “No one will care what you have to say.” “You don’t have the right degrees.” I’ve dealt with tough negative self-talk over the years, but wasn’t able to get to the other side of it until I learned something very valuable. It’s not about me.

It’s not about you either. It’s about what God can do through us, if we’re willing.

I don’t need to care about who will or won’t buy my books. I just have to write them. I don’t have to worry about what people think of what I teach. I just have to invest time in studying, listening, and writing, and what those words do when they fall on someone’s eyes or ears is up to Him. It’s freeing, really. But you need to choose to give God control. Listening and answering the call are the easy parts. Give God the hard part, which is how people respond to what you offer.

I’m not suggesting answering the call makes the rest of the journey easy or care free. My first book, Stolen, is being published in a little over three weeks. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling vulnerable and nervous putting myself out there like that. But I try to remind myself it’s not about me. It’s about the message, which is in God’s hands now. The same goes for you.

Ok, here’s the kicker. Are you ready?

You can’t take forever to decide to answer the call. God’s Word shows us if we don’t respond, He’ll find someone else who will. In Genesis 25, Esau despised his birthright, so God passed over him and granted it to his younger brother, Jacob. Do you recall all the places in the Bible where it refers to the great lineage of patriarchs “Abraham, Isaac and Esau?” Whoops. That turned into “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Or what about the business of King Saul? Saul had the throne of Israel first, but kept hardening his heart, so God passed over him too, and anointed that quiet shepherd boy we now know as King David. It was from King David’s lineage that Jesus, the Messiah was born. Double ouch for Saul.

The morale of the story is simple. First, don’t ignore the God-given gifts He is speaking to, and burning inside of, your heart. Second, don’t be afraid. Step up and step out. He’ll be there to carry you the whole way. I love the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.” Lastly, don’t live a life of regret because you didn’t step up and out, and God passed your call onto someone else who would. You can’t undo that decision, and you have no idea the great plans God has for you, your whole family, and the lives of so many others. Don’t overthink it. Just answer it. I challenge you to take one step forward over the next week. Big step. Small step. It doesn’t matter. Just take a step, and see what God does.

Be blessed,
C.K.