Life Lessons from “Creed” (Part 1)

Last week I went to see the movie “Creed.” If you haven’t seen it yet, you should probably stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. It’s the latest movie in the “Rocky” franchise, and it is another great addition. It is better than Rocky IV or V for sure. Whether you enjoy boxing or not, the principles in this movie, the hard work and dedication, are inspirational. Growing up, if I ever needed inspiration or encouragement to go workout or get hyped before a game or something, listening to the “Rocky” soundtrack was always a good option. “Eye of the Tiger” is a great song! Even listening to some of the motivational speeches from the movies on YouTube will change your life in a positive way.
Over the course of the next few blogs I post, I want to share some quality quotes from the movie that I pray will bring encouragement and hope to your life, as well as challenging you to grow and move forward in the right direction. That is a great passion of mine, and something I desire in myself and those I am able to impact. I want us to grow and not stay still. I want us to move forward and not backward or side to side. I want to see action plans and goal setting and a singular focus on pursuing Christ as we go through life. That is a large part of the reason why I blog.
Here is the first quote from “Creed”:
“You can’t learn anything talking. You know that? It’s a fact of life.”
Rocky is giving this advice to the young Adonis Creed who keeps talking and mouthing off and talking big to the other boxes and coaches around him. Rocky reminds him that he can’t learn by talking. He needs to stop, be quiet, and receive wisdom and instruction. Ultimately that is his only hope in succeeding is to stop talking and listen to those who have been there, who have the experience, and who know what they are talking about.
I’m not sure where you are at in life, but you can constantly learn from those around you. Access to books, blogs, podcasts, and all sorts of information is at an all-time high. There is no reason not to learn. And, as John Maxwell wisely proclaims, leaders are learners.
What can you do to learn? Take the time to slow down, turn off the music, stop talking, and start listening. After all, as many of us have heard before, God gave us one mouth but two ears, so we should listen (at least) twice as often as we speak. This is a good principle for learning and growing in any area we want to. The Bible says in James 1:19 that we should be “…quick to hear, slow to speak…”
listenIf it is at work with a new program or assignment, take the time to ask questions, and then listen. If it is spiritual growth you desire, take the time to sit and listen; listen to the Word, listen to a preacher; listen to God in prayer instead of just talking at Him. If it is personal growth, take the time to find a mentor and ask good questions so you can sit back and glean wisdom as you listen.
The unspoken warning behind this is to be careful who you are listening to. Rocky was advising Creed to listen to the best in the business, those who had a proven track record and knew what they were talking about. This is a great place to start.
This is a powerful principle for all of us. Today, take the time to sit back and listen. Don’t do all the talking and don’t allow distractions to get in the way of actively listening.
Take the time to listen. It really can only benefit your life.

Setting the right bar

There is a statement that I’ve heard a number of times, and I’m sure you have as well. It’s used in athletics and business, it’s used in school and at home. The statement usually goes something like this “Set the bar high” or “raise the bar” or simply just “set the bar.” I was recently reflecting on this statement and thought I would write a little something about it that hopefully will be an encouragement to you and help you unlock untapped potential in your life.
In setting the bar, I think we often set it in the wrong way. Parents or schools or jobs can set the bar for us if we let them. When that happens it can be set too low, it can be set too high; it is rarely set at the right level for us.
It may not be challenging, or it may be too challenging. The challenge today with this post, the encouragement today, is to

Set your own bar.

When you set your own bar you can challenge yourself, you can keep moving forward, you can keep track of it. When you set your own bar you have a goal to reach that is measurable and attainable by you. You have set it yourself, so you will be able to meet it yourself.
Set the barWhat bar you going to set for yourself today? Will it be challenging? Can you reach it? What will it take to get there?
No one else should have the power to dictate your potential or your future.
Only you have that choice.
Set your own bar, and set it high enough that you have to grow and stretch just to reach it. Then, set another bar. Just a little higher so it requires just a little more growth and just a little bigger stretch.
Set the bar high enough that you are challenged to perform and be stretched in order to grow. We are really either moving forward or moving backward in life (no one wants to be in that in between place…it’s called stagnation and it’s smelly and full of moldy, gross stuff the breeds disease, and in reality stagnation is really moving backward).
What are you going to do today? Have other people been setting the bar for you? Take back control of that bar and set it where it will force you to grow, and yet in a place that really is attainable.
Set one goal at a time, and once you reach that goal set another one that is just a little more difficult. Try it out. See what happens.
And you know what, if you start before January 1, you don’t even need to set a “New Year’s Resolution” because your goal setting has already begun.
I’d love to hear how this works out for you! Feel free to comment below about your bar/goal setting and how it has affected your life, one way or the other. Thanks!

A principle for success

I was listening to a podcast sermon by Craig Groeschel, the lead pastor at Life.Church (used to be, and all of a sudden a song came in to my head. It’s an old one I learned probably twenty years ago as a little kid:

“Oh God, You are my God

And I will ever praise you

Oh God, You are my God

And I will ever praise you

And I will seek You in the morning

And I will learn to walk in Your ways

And step by step You’ll lead me

And I will follow You all of my days”

How many of you remember this song? It’s such a simple melody, and yet lyrically difficult to mean and live out in our lives. How well do we ever praise God, seeking Him in the morning, learning to walk in His ways, following Him step by step all of our days? It is not an easy road to take.

Which is kind of the point. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

So, which way are we going? Wide or narrow? A helpful key to following the narrow way:

Allow God to lead you step by step.

Narrow PathHe doesn’t always reveal things all at once. He doesn’t always give us a clue as to what He is up to in the moment. But God lets us know just enough; just the right amount we need at the time, and then at the end, it all makes a little more sense as we see how the pieces fit together. The essential thing is to be faithful step by step.

Craig Groeschel said:

Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally

What if today began your success as you consistently follow God step by step? Make it something you do consistently, not occasionally. Because, let’s be honest, occasionally allowing Jesus is what most “normal Christians” do. Let’s be a little different.

Live a consistent faith, step by step, day by day. Wherever you are, start today, or be encouraged to continue doing that today if you already do.

Manual focus

When I was younger I had my eyes set on a camera. I really enjoy seeing pictures and taking pictures. I have a desire to be artsy, but I’m not always creative enough. Look at cameras I’ve always been something in the family of the Canon Rebel T3 or something along those lines. I’d see them at Sam’s Club when shopping with my mom. I would look at them on Amazon. I would see others who had them. I just really wanted one, but they were very expensive!

So I made do with what I had. I had a little Canon pocket sized digital camera that worked great and took great pictures, especially action shots. The camera kept the movement in focus and I was always impressed at how well it did. After that I got another Canon that was a little bit bigger and fancier, but still not a Canon Rebel. This camera worked awesome too, and only recently did I stop using it. The reason I stopped using it is because I FINALLY got a Canon Rebel T3i! Connie and I used some money we received as a gift and purchased one to use for our family. It was an exciting day!!

This image must not be reproduced without permission.The moment the camera arrived I started playing with it and practicing taking pictures. I had to learn how to use the camera and the different settings and the different lenses that came with it. I didn’t totally understand it, but the lens makes such a big difference. There is a switch on most lenses too which give the opportunity for the camera to automatically do the work, or for you to manually do the work. This picture and the idea of auto and manual focus are what I was thinking about when I read this verse from Isaiah 44:8:

“Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

You see, we have no reason to tremble, to be afraid, when our focus is on God and His power, knowing that He is the One True God. There is no other Rock to stand on or trust in. It is God and God alone. When our focus is there, we have nothing to fear.

The problem is, auto focus doesn’t focus us on God. Our default, our auto focus, is most often and more likely going to focus on immediate problems, stressors, and situations in our world.

To live a life free from fear of God, we really have to take back control and manually focus on God. We have to do the work and the study to know how to focus on God and keep our focus there. It is not easy, it requires continual study and communication, but it will be worth it when our manual focus is placed on God and He replaces our fear with His love.

I’d like to end with a quote I read recently from Oswald Chambers:

“The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself

Life can be pretty hectic. Our schedules get busy, our calendars get full, our days go quickly. Time flies!

With this busyness, life can kind of stop being fun if we let it. We start to get serious and stressed and task oriented. There are things we have to get done but there never seems to be enough time. The holidays are coming up and just add to the craziness. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ll probably be there again later this week. It’s cyclical.

But the thing is, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. We can’t be so busy and stressed and worried about money or getting to the dentist or doing the dishes or mowing the lawn or finishing homework or some chore that we let tasks take the joy out of life.

I was reminded of the hilarity of life this past Sunday. I had asked to make an announcement about our college group at the church, and so first and second service I had a time slot to go up on stage and talk about our group. The first service was totally normal, nothing too crazy happened. But then came the second service.

I got out of my seat and was walking up the stairs as the song was finishing up. So the crowd wasn’t super focused on me and what I was doing, but something new had entered their line of sight, so I’m sure it caught the attention of a good amount. As I got to the top step, I must have not been paying very close attention, because my foot got caught and I stumbled. I caught myself so I didn’t fall flat on my face, but I definitely tripped going up the stairs in front of a whole crowd!

keep-calm-laugh-at-yourselfSo when it came time to make my announcement, I just owned it and let everyone know that yep, I did indeed trip over that top step! We all had a good laugh and moved on with the announcement.

After I was done on stage, I came down and some of the students were laughing at me, and I was like, “Hey, we just gotta have some fun up there!”

It reminded me that when life gets crazy and busy and stressful, we need to have a good laugh at our own expense. It keeps things in perspective, keeps us moving forward, and just releases some tension.

So go have some fun today, laugh at yourself, and release a little stress :)

What’s your excuse?

There always seem to be an excuse to not do something.

I should take the dog for a walk… but she’s been running around crazy with that stupid rope getting enough exercise, and I have too much to do here at home. She’ll be okay for another day. (and repeat this every day of the week until the weekend…then finally take her out and wonder why she’s getting a little fatter).

I should workout… but it’s been a long day, and I’d have to change and drive to the gym and then who will make dinner or do the dishes or mow the lawn or rake the leaves? Ah, I don’t have time to workout, I’ll just get to it tomorrow.

I should eat healthy… but it’s so expensive and time consuming. Maybe I can make that my new years resolution. Until then, I’ll just not east fast food today and call it good….

Have you ever used these excuses? Or been more creative in the excuses you’ve used to get yourself out of things?

What’s your favorite excuse?

Start NowWhat if we stopped making excuses and instead simply started doing the things we should do? What if we actually started working out a couple (or a few) times a week? What if we actually changed our diet and ate healthy?
Imagine your future. Imagine where you want to be. What will it take to get you there? Why not start doing that today?

I dare you to try it. Let me know how it goes!

The enemy of the everyday

The Christian life is an everyday thing. I previously wrote a post describing how there is no day off, no vacation, for the true follower of Christ. This is a continuation of that post as I continue to grow in that understanding and think things through on this topic.

The enemy of our faith is the everyday mundane-ness of the Christian faith.

There is power and abundance and joy, for certain. There is security and love, compassion, forgiveness and acceptance.

But faithfulness is an everyday battle we must engage.

There’s a funny Nyquil commercial that’s going around, where a dad walks in to his baby’s room and says, “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt, I gotta take a sick day tomorrow.” And then the commentator chimes in and says, “Dads don’t take sick days. Dads take Nyquil.”

It’s the same way in our Christian walk! The enemy of everyday is that it’s every day. We don’t get a break. We can’t take a day off.  We don’t get a sick day.

The encouraging news?

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

It can be exhausting and discouraging and overwhelming to realize that we never get a day off. But take heart, because as we live in this world, God gives us rest and joy and courage. He gives us strength and endurance, and gives us the power to persevere.

Let the enemy of everyday drive you to the feet of Jesus. Take up His yoke and His burden. Keep your eyes focused on Christ and your everyday becomes just a little bit easier because it’s not under your own power but under the power given to you by the Holy Spirit.

The blessing of work

We are created to work. God created Adam & Eve and put them to work before the Fall of Man. Before sin entered the world, work had entered the world. It is a good thing for us to work.

Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

So Adam and Eve are called to bear children, to fill the earth, to subdue the earth and to take dominion, or rule, over everything on the earth. This is work. It takes work to subdue and rule. It takes work to do all of these things.

So why do we sometimes view work with such a negative attitude? Conversations happen almost daily about how tired or busy or stressed we are because of work or home life or school or a sport. Does it have to be a negative thing? Or can we transform our attitude to view work as a good thing? In fact, could we even go so far as to view work as a blessing from God?

That is the challenge and the encouragement today. Transform your view of your work, and take this verse and apply it to your life:

Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Wherever you are today, whatever your job, do it with the right attitude. It will change the way you do your job! Let’s do this together today!

An “Aha!” moment

Have you ever had one of these? You’re doing something, trying to fix a problem, trying to figure something out, and all of sudden you have a breakthrough. The lightbulb turns on. You have that longed for “Aha!” moment as now you have the answer to whatever problem, or you have a way to figure out the answer that you didn’t have before.

These are exciting moments…most of the timman-lightbulb-momente! Sometimes, that moment, that realization, can come and it does not bode well for the future. We reach that moment and then it’s like, “Oh man, I wish I hadn’t known that..” The realization can come with a weight, like this picture. It’s not just a small moment, but it has a huge impact on what happens next.

This same thing happened to Gideon, a special guy in the Old Testament of the Bible. He was a warrior. Here’s what Judges 6:22-23 records happening in his life:

“When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he cried out, ‘Oh, Sovereign LORD, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!’ ‘It is all right,’ the LORD replied, ‘Do not be afraid. You will not die.'”

There was something special about this realization. Gideon realized the person that he had been talking to was not just any person, but was in fact the angel of the LORD. He freaked out when he realized this! He basically thought he was going to die because he was not worthy of talking to the angel of the LORD and he knew it.

Gideon’s realization, his “aha!” moment, caused him to run right to God.

Have you ever had an “Aha!” moment? What did you do with it? We can make plans, we can prepare, we can adapt to light bulb moments. But Proverbs 16:9 says this, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

Whatever your realization today, or tomorrow, or whenever it comes, make sure to run it to God. What do you do with it? How do you handle it? What path should you take now?

Pray. Ask God. Trust in His understanding and His plan. He will be your guide if you follow Him.

A little pick-me-up this morning!

I hope you enjoy this Tuesday morning encouragement!

What is Tuesday? It’s not Monday. Mondays are the start of the week, the end of most people’s weekends where they had time off and now they begin again the drudgery of the weekly schedule. No more free time at the cottage, less time to do household chores, and more things packed into a 5-day schedule than can actually be accomplished. It’s common to hate Mondays.

Then there is Wednesday. Hump Day. When we make it to this day we’ve successfully made it halfway through the week and another weekend is on the horizon. We can see the end of the week because we’ve made it over the hump.

Thursday is kind of like Tuesday. It’s an in-between day. Not the best, not the worst, just a pit stop on the road to Friday afternoon!

Then we finally make it to Friday! We get to wear casual clothes and maybe even finish work or school a little early, and we sneak out as quickly as possible. FINALLY THE WEEKEND!! monday-to-friday-workweek-graphic

But then the weekend ends and we go through this cycle all over again.

Now, this is the normal cycle. I get it, and I often feel this way coming down the road to Thursday and Friday, I’m ready for a day to sleep in a little bit longer and have some time to get things done around the house that I hadn’t been able to do during the week. But is this cycle necessary? Is it life-giving? Is it exciting, filling us with a desire to work hard and work well?

Today, on a random, in-betweener Tuesday, what if you lived like it was Friday? Bring that energy and excitement that Friday brings, knowing it is almost the weekend, to your every day, and your Friday will be just that much better. Live every day intentionally. Be joyful on purpose. Take the initiative to make your own cycle, and don’t fall into the drudgery of horrible Mondays, pretty good Wednesdays, and great Fridays.

You’re still alive and kicking, so why not make today (and every day) the best day by intentionally choosing to have the right attitude, to add value to those around you, and to give your personal best in whatever endeavor you find yourself in? Try it. See what happens!