Run To Wait

My wife is a fan of the TV show (and movie) Downton Abbey, which means I have come to appreciate it as well. I think Mr. Carson, the head butler, gives us some great insight into a Christian’s prayer relationship with God. 

Mr. Carson has a lot to oversee with the house, the staff, and the needs of the family members and their guests. Everything needs to be tidy and ready at all times for both important guests and the Grantham family. That means Mr. Carson has to have a schedule and routine for everything. 

He doesn’t get up in the morning and sit around waiting for someone to tell him what to do—he gets up and gets to work. He’s a busy man with a lot of responsibilities. But can you imagine if Lord or Lady Grantham came to him with a request and he responded, “Not now, I’m too busy with my To Do list”? No way! He’s their servant, so he quickly responds, “Yes, my lord.” 

Christians can so busy and hurried with our own “To Do list” that we miss out on what’s really important. As Rick Warren then noted, “Hurry is the death of prayer!” 

The dictionary defines hurry as acting in haste, usually in a state of urgency, or feeling rushed. Notice the word “urgency” in the definition. Far too often we confuse urgent things and important things. It’s not that what we’re busy with are bad things, but perhaps we are busy with things that are keeping us blind to the important things. 

Long before Mr. Carson, there was another notable servant named Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). God showed up and Abraham wanted to be in His presence. So notice that Abraham had to run to wait to God’s presence—the narrative uses words like hurried, “quick” and ran.  

Abraham was quick to get into God’s presence SO THAT he could linger in God’s presencehe stood near Them under a tree: that’s the posture of a servant-in-waiting. 

In the NIV translation, the text says Abraham hurried, but almost every other translation says he ran to meet Them—this is an important distinction. Hurry speaks to things that are urgent, but run speaks to things that are important. 

Stephen Covey has a great diagram that helps us identify four important quadrants in our life:

As you place items from your life on this grid, our Prayer Coach—the Holy Spirit—can help us identify the time-wasters. The key is to find time to wait in prayer. The best place to make time for Quadrant II prayer comes from Quadrant IV. As you eliminate those time-wasters, you will be able to spend health-enhancing time in prayer, worship, planning, and self-care in Quadrant II. This will also better equip you to handle the Quadrant I crises as they appear.

Ultimately, like Mr. Carson, we need to be both proactive with our schedule and responsive to the requests of our Lord. A good daily posture for all of us is “If the Lord wills” (James 4:13-17). But we have to not be so distracted with unimportant things that we can hear what God is speaking to our hearts.

Please join me next week as we continue to uncover things that could derail our regular prayer times, and then strategize a plan for dealing with them.  

4 Tips For Making Better Goals

1 Corinthians 10.31I have noticed a lot of similarities between the September back-to-school rush, and New Year’s Day. Except instead of resolutions, in the fall most people set new goals, or try to readjust their schedules to take advantage of a new season.

This is an excellent idea, and the perfect time to do it.

In a psalm written by Moses, he tells us to understand the value of our days, and be as wise as we can with what we do with each day God has given us (Psalm 90:12).

The Apostle Paul echoes these thoughts:

Be very careful, then, how do you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

One way for us to make the most of every day is to wisely set some goals. Here are four tips that I’ve discovered to help me.

(1) The fewer the goals, the better.

Craig Groeschel said, “To do more things, do less things better.” I totally agree. I would suggest limiting yourself to just 1-2 goals at a time. Then put these one or two goals on your calendar first. In other words: Don’t prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.

(2) Don’t fall into the sacred/secular trap.

So many people—even Christians—think that there are spiritual goals and non-spiritual goals. But the Bible says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Every goal you set is a spiritual goal, because every goal should help you live your life wisely, in a way that honors and glorifies God.

(3) Make your goals S.M.A.R.T.

You may have heard these before, but I really like to use them. Make your goals:

  • Specific—not “I want to eat better” but “I want to eat two servings of fruits or vegetables each day.”
  • Measurable—have a way to track your progress toward your goal. How many pages did you read? how many calories did you eat? how many minutes did you work out?
  • Achievable—don’t set a goal to run 5 miles a day if you’ve only been a couch potato. Ramp your goals up little by little in a way that’s achievable for you.
  • Relevant—I like to ask a “so that?” question about each of my goals in make sure it’s moving me forward. “I want to exercise for 20 minute three times per week, so that my blood pressure comes down, so that I can live medicine-free, so that I can….” I think you get the idea. Keep going to make sure your goal is relevant for your life.
  • Time to review—set a date to revisit your goals and see if you need to adjust anything.

(4) Make a “stop doing” list.

You cannot do everything, so focus on the important, not the urgent. And remember not everything can stay on your calendar. For instance, if you want to read more in the evenings, you may have to eliminate some TV time; if you want to exercise in the mornings, you may have to eliminate that second cup of coffee.

Just a couple of verses after Moses challenges us to make the most of every day God has given us, he asks God for His helpMay the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for usyes, establish the work of our hands.

May God give you wisdom as you make new goals, and may He bless the work of your hands as you implement your new strategies.

Confession: I Struggle With Being An Atheist

ITLWYou see, I love my day to be highly organized. I like to get to all my meetings on time, and then have them run smoothly and efficiently. I like to setup my To Do list, and then methodically check off each item as I go through my day. I like to be in charge of my day.

I am an atheist.

I’m the one calling the shots. I set my agenda. I determine my day. I decide who to see and what project to accept.

There was a guy that Jesus talked about who did the exact same thing. This guy thought to himself and talked to himself all about his plans. Seriously, in just three verses he says me/I/my a dozen times (Luke 12:17-19)!

But God said, “You fool!” The word for fool means without mind. He didn’t mind his mind. He thought the thoughts he wanted to think, without ever consulting anyone else. Not even God.

Jesus made prayer a priority every day (Mark 1:35). What do you think He prayed? Do you think He said, “Here’s what I’m going to do today, and I want You to bless it, Father”? No way!

When Jesus taught us to pray He said, Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-13). Not only did Jesus pray this way, He lived this way too. He didn’t do a single thing unless His Father directed Him to do it (John 6:38), and He didn’t say a single word unless His Father directed Him to say it (John 12:49).

The problem is not going into my prayer closet to meet with God in the morning, the problem is thinking I can leave God in the closet as I go about my day! That is atheism!

The Apostle James gave us this sound counsel: Instead of making my plans all on my own, I should say, “If the Lord wills, this is what I will do today” (James 4:13-17). And wise King Solomon said I shouldn’t lean on my own thoughts when planning my days, but lean onto God, and then watch to see how He will direct my life in the right way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I’ve begun writing I.T.L.W. on the top of my daily calendar. It’s my reminder to say, “If The Lord Wills” this is what I will do today. And if something else comes up, I quickly acknowledge that God is directing my path where He needs me to go.

Your Kingdom come means my kingdom has to go. Your will be done means my agenda takes a distant second.

If you’re feeling stressed about your schedule, that should be your reminder to pray: “God, what do you want to have done here.” Silence the atheistic thoughts that sound like, “I have to get my list done.” Stop and pray right there on the spot.

Here’s the full video of my message on this topic—

We will be continuing our series called Practical Prayer this Sunday. If you don’t have a home church in Cedar Springs, please come be our guest. Or you can tune into our live broadcast via Periscope.

What Is Your Aim?

John PiperThis is a devotional from John Piper which I found so intriguing that I wanted to share the entire thing with you.

What Is Your Aim?

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

When you get up in the morning and you face a day, what do you say to yourself about your hopes for the day? When you look from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, what do you want to happen because you have lived?

If you say, “I don’t even think like that, I just get up and do what I’ve got to do,” then you are cutting yourself off from a basic means of grace and a source of guidance and strength and fruitfulness and joy. It is crystal clear in the Bible, including this text, that God means for us to aim consciously at something significant in our days.

God’s revealed will for you is that when you get up in the morning, you don’t drift aimlessly through the day letting mere circumstances alone dictate what you do, but that you aim at something—that you focus on a certain kind of purpose. I’m talking about children here, and teenagers, and adults—single, married, widowed, moms, and every trade.

Aimlessness is akin to lifelessness. Dead leaves in the back yard may move around more than anything else—more than the dog, more than the children. The wind blows this way, they go this way. The wind blows that way, they go that way. They tumble, they bounce, they skip, they press against a fence, but they have no aim whatsoever. They are full of motion and empty of life.

God did not create humans in his image to be aimless, like lifeless leaves blown around in the backyard of life. He created us to be purposeful—to have a focus and an aim for all our days. What is yours today?

By the way, you can sign up for lots of helpful devotionals through BibleGateway.

Links & Quotes

link quote

These are links to articles and quotes I found interesting today.

What the what? An App To Help You While Out On A Date

“God deserves to be served with all the energy of which we are capable. If the service of God is worth anything, it is worth everything.” —Charles Spurgeon

For you Detroit Tigers fans: When Willie Horton Walked Out On The Tigers

[VIDEO] A cool interaction between a garbage collector and an autistic boy

Interesting: How Millionaires Manage Their Time

Good reminder from Jeff Bonzelaar: satan Serves God

“No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.” —Isaac Newton

“Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power.” —Baron Justus von Liebig (1803-1873), German chemist

[VIDEO] My daughter asks Seth to Swirl: Will You Be My Date?

Whose Plans?

Sometimes what needs to go on my To Do list seems logical. But logical to whom? If I’m not careful I can get so focused on doing the next logical thing, that I miss out on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Bruce Wilkinson said it this way —

“If we aren’t passionately and deliberately focused on carrying out God’s agenda with God’s heart, we’ll end up putting our own agenda first. We’ll increasingly look for the kind of missions we enjoy most. We’ll tend to ask God to bless our busyness for Him instead of asking Him to send us on the miracle mission of His choice.”


I don’t think the Bible is against To Do lists, but I need to make my lists the right way.

Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

With those verses in mind, this is what I’m praying:

Dear God, I want to decided right here and now that Your agenda is more important than mine. Not my “To Do” list be done, but Yours. I die to my plans so that I might live out your plans.

I am trying to Live Dead to my agenda this week.

Join me next Sunday for part 2 in our series called Live Dead.

Tick, Tock! Drip, Drop!

Tick, Tock! “There just is never enough time in my day!”

Tick, Tock! “Wow, this day has just flown by and I got nothing done!”

Tick, Tock! “Why do I always have so much To Do List left at the end of my week?”

May I suggest that instead of Tick, Tock! you focus on Drip, Drop!

I’ve gotten some great insight on time usage from Paul Meyer. Check it out:

“Most time is wasted, not in hours, but in minutes. A bucket with a small hole in the bottom gets just as empty as a bucket that is deliberately emptied.”

Usually our time doesn’t just Tick! by, it Drips! by. In other words, it’s really easy to spot the huge time-wasters; it’s much more difficult to find the time-leakers. But they can be found and plugged. Listen to more good advice from Dr. Meyer:

“Time is usually wasted in the same way every day.”

You cannot add more Tick, Tocking! time to your day, but you can keep more of your day from Drip, Dropping! away. Here are two things I’ve done which have really helped me:

  1. For one week (7 full days) I kept a log of how I spent every 15-minute increment. This might sound like a Drip, Drop! thing to do, but I was amazed at how many leaks I discovered after a week of doing this.
  2. Then I prayed the same prayer Moses prayed, “Give me wisdom to use my days the right way.”

If you can identify the time leaks, God can give you the wisdom to help you plug them. When you can control the Drip, Drop! you’ll get more out of your Tick, Tock! each day.

Too Busy

Life’s coming at me way too fast today!

Like a runaway commuter train.

I’ve got way too much to get done today!

Like a shorthanded deli owner at the peak of the lunch rush.

My To-Do list is longer than my To-Day’s hours.

What goes first?

What can wait until tomorrow?

What can I delegate to someone else?

Wait… listen to this odd counsel about busyness:

“Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer” (Martin Luther).

The first hours praying?!?

Not responding to emails.

Not getting a head start on the piles of stuff.

Not folding laundry before the kids get up.

Not going to the office before the phones start ringing.

Yes, get up earlier to pray more!

God knows your schedule.

He knows your To-Do list.

He knows your To-Day’s hours.

He knows what’s important … really important.

God says, “Love Me. Love others. Serve the world.”

“You must love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And you must love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing else on your To-Do list is more important than these” (Jesus).

Too busy today?

Get up earlier tomorrow and talk to God about it.

“I direct the steps of those who seek Me. I delight in every detail of their lives” (God).

Get up and get praying.


Managing “To Do” Lists

I’ll bet many of you have your “To Do” lists ready to go this week. I’ve got my list ready. But even as I was working on my list last night I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to get everything done that I’m hoping to get done. Do you ever feel like that?

So how do you respond? Just doggedly press through no matter what? Let off the gas a little because you know it’s not all going to get done anyhow? Or just scrap the list and fly by the seat of your pants?

Here are 4 things I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that might help you:

  • Begin the day with prayer. The Bible says that the steps of the righteous are directed by God. He knows what’s in store for you today and He can help guide you in your list-making time.
  • Know the difference between important and urgent. The urgent things always scream at you, while the important things usually stand by silently. Focus on what’s important. And here’s one key guideline: People are important.
  • Don’t try to get it all done today. I love John Maxwell’s reminder, “We overestimate what we can do in a day; we underestimate what we can do in a year.” If I only get time to read one chapter a day in a book, that’s still 365 chapters at the end of the year, and that’s quite a few books! It’s good to take a long-range view.
  • Look for the small time-wasters. If you just track one week’s time usage in 15-minute increments, you’ll be amazed to find out where a few minutes here and a few minutes there add up to a whole lot of time at the end of each week.

I’m still learning this stuff. If you have some tips or strategies that work for you, I’d love to hear them. Please share in the comment section.

I Checked Nothing Off My To Do List Today

Several people emailed me throughout the day saying, “I came to your blog but there was nothing new for today.” First of all, thanks—I’m honored that you are checking in so regularly.

My blog today was a casualty of the day—I got absolutely nothing done that was on my To Do list. But I had an incredible day!

I used to be a real hard-charging, task-oriented, bottom-line, project-driven, to-do-list lovin’ guy. I still am naturally bent that way, but I’ve learned something … (drum roll, please) … relationships don’t fit neatly on a To Do list.

I can hear some of you now, “Wow, Craig! That’s deep! You just figured that out?!?”

No, actually I’m a work-in-progress. I’ve been learning this for a while, and today was just a good reminder.

I had some time alone with God as I read my Bible this morning. As I was pondering a passage of Scripture, I just happened to linger there. And linger. And linger. It was challenging, yet perplexing; exciting, yet scary. It took some time for the Holy Spirit to help make an application to my life. It was too good to rush.

Then off to Panera to meet with a good friend. We shared with each other the challenges that pastors know all too well. It was not a conversation that could fit into a pre-arranged time. So we lingered. And lingered. And lingered. It was energizing to reconnect.

Then a phone call from another fellow pastor sent me driving 30 minutes north. We did a little spiritual reconnaissance in a community that needs a thriving full-gospel church. This kind of boots-on-the-ground recon cannot fit neatly into a Daytimer. So we lingered. And lingered. And lingered. It was great to dream.

Then off to hospice to visit and pray and cry with a family whose patriarch is nearing the end of his life here. Thankfully, because of his personal relationship with Jesus, he’s getting ready to begin his Real Life that will last forever. And so I sat with this great man and his family and lingered. And lingered. And lingered. It was sweet to share this intimate moment with dear friends.

So my To Do list for today remains just as full as when I got up this morning. But I’m so pleased with today. It feels great to get nothing checked off, and yet to accomplish so much!

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