We Were Not an Accident

accident

Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

God knew us before we were even born.  What an amazing thought that is!  He saw our unformed substance and said, “I have a purpose for this life.  I have good plans for them.”  Then He breathed His life into us and sent us through our mothers and fathers.  We have been handpicked by the Almighty God to be here at this time in this place in history.  There is nothing but ourselves that can stop us from being all that God intended for us to be.

Sometimes we hear parents say, “We weren’t expecting this child.  They were a surprise.  They were an accident.”  That is not true.  While that child may have been a surprise to the parents, they were not a surprise to God.  No child can be born without God breathing His life into them.  You may think, “I was unwanted.  I was an unplanned pregnancy.”  No, you would not be here if God didn’t want you here.

In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a mistake.  God does not make mistakes.  God never says, “Oops.”  Remember that God knew each one of us before we were even born.  We need to be confident in His love knowing that we are each a person of destiny and we are each a part of His mighty plan.

Let’s take time today to thank God for the life He has given us and for putting us here in our earthly families.  If we have the approval of God, the approval of others should not matter that much.

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You Are My Hero

star trek

Our culture seems to be fascinated by superheroes.  From The Avengers to Man of Steel, there have been more movies featuring superheroes in the past few years than ever before.  Our society seems to be absolutely obsessed with heroes, both fictional and real.  People want someone who they can look to that displays all the traits that they want for themselves, but are not able to achieve.

I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s and I loved watching my favorite superheroes on TV and can remember wanting to have some of their same traits.  Here is a list of my Top 10 fiction heroes.  I would love for you to share with me who some of your favorite fictional heroes were when you grew up.

Top 10 Fiction Heroes

Captain Kirk

I was a bit of a “trekie” growing up.  I loved watching the original series and the early motion pictures of Star Trek in the early and mid-80’s.  I loved how James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, would always fight the bad guy and win.  He would usually get the girl too, which was an added bonus.

George Bailey

We usually only think about George Bailey once a year at Christmas time, but he exemplifies what it means to be knocked down and get back up again, even if it takes a little help from up above.

Superman

When you can fly and your only weakness is located on another planet millions of light years away, you’re pretty much set to make any superhero list.  There have been many different people who have played Superman through the years, but for me, it will always be Christopher Reeves.

James Bond

The gadgets, the guns, the lifestyle.  Everyone has wanted to add 007 to their title at some point.  There have been so many amazing James Bond movies through the years, but my favorite Bond would have to be Roger Moore.  Sean Connery would be a close second for me.

Luke Skywalker

“May the force be with you.”  Luke’s story is one I could relate with, as it speaks to generations of young people just coming into their own and finding their way in the world.  Besides, anyone with enough courage to face Darth Vader is pretty courageous in my book.

GI Joe

I loved playing with my GI Joe action figures.  I also loved watching the GI Joe cartoon that was on our 4 channel TV growing up.  There were several characters on the good side and I loved them all.  I loved watching them battle Cobra Commander and all his evil forces.

Incredible Hulk

I loved watching the old TV series.  The one where the hulk was played by Lou Ferrigno.  The green body paint was classic.  To look back on an episode of the show now makes it seem pretty old, but at the time, it was so cool to me.

Six Million Dollar Man

This was the hero on the TV show in early 70’s.  By the time I watched the show, the series was already over and it was in reruns.  I just loved watching Lee Majors as the Bionic ex- astronaut as he would fight the bad guys.  The great thing about these old shows is that the line between the good guys and the bad guys was so clearly drawn.  That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

Indiana Jones

As a college professor who moonlighted as a whip-wielding archaeologist, Indy was the perfect blend of intelligence combined with action, making him an iconic and unforgettable adventurer.

Atticus Finch

While he isn’t famous for fighting villains or saving the world, Atticus Finch is a hero who definitely deserves to be on the list by teaching us all what it means to live with integrity and to stand up for what’s right.  He is the everyday man’s hero.

 

It is fun for me to think back on these fictional heroes from my childhood.  As I have grown up, I have learned that there is only one superhero in which I want to emulate.  That person is Jesus.  He is the only man who ever lived who lived a sinless life.  His kindness and compassion towards people is something I find myself trying to emulate.  As I try to become more like Jesus each day of my life, I find that it has heavenly importance and that is what really counts.  We should all try to live each of our days with Him as the One we model our lives after.

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Moving on Up

moving on up

Exodus 6:6-8 (NIV)

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”

If you read the book of Exodus in the Bible, you will read about how the Israelites had been in slavery for many years.  They found themselves in the land of “barely enough.”  They were just enduring, surviving, and barely making it through.

One day God brought them out of slavery through the leadership of Moses and took the Israelites into the desert.  The Israelites now found themselves in the land of “just enough.”  Their needs were supplied by God, but nothing extra.  You can read in Exodus how God provided manna for them to each day, but that was all.  They did not have any meat to eat.  Exodus also says that their clothes did not wear out for the entire 40 years they were in the desert.  The Israelites were probably grateful that God was taking care of their basic needs, but who really wants to wear the same clothes for 40 years?

After 40 long years, God eventually brought the Israelites into the Promised Land.  This was the land of “more than enough.”  The food and supplies were plentiful.  The bundles of grapes were so large that two grown men had to carry them.  It is referred to in the Bible as the “land flowing with milk and honey.”  When it says “flowing” it means that it did not stop coming.  There were unending amounts of food and supplies available to them.  It never ran out.

 

That is where God is taking all of us who believe in Him.

Maybe you might find yourself in the land of “barely enough” or “just enough” right now.  You don’t know how you’re going to make it through next week.  Don’t worry.  God hasn’t forgotten about you.  He’s leading you to a new land.  Just keep following his leading and move forward knowing that God has great abundance waiting for you.  Just remember that God loves you and He never forgets about one of His children.  Just be patient and take comfort in knowing that better days are yet to come.

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He Wants You to Prosper

prosperity 1

Psalm 35:27 (NIV)

27 May those who delight in my vindication
    shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
    who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

God desires that we be blessed and prosperous.  He desires that we be blessed so that we can turn around and be a blessing wherever we go.  God blesses us and then we should use our gained blessing to go and help bless others.  It is the idea of keeping God’s love flowing.  If we get blessed and don’t pass it on, the flow of God’s love is stopped and it never reaches its full potential.  God wants you to have so much peace, so much joy, so much victory that when other people get around you, it spills over onto them.

Don’t let yourself have a “barely-get-by” mentality.  Jesus came to earth so that we can live an abundant life knowing that all of our sins will be forgiven.  That means an abundance of joy, an abundance of peace, an abundance of health, and abundance of finances.  We may not see it right now, and may not have experienced it in the past, but we should not develop a mindset of complacency and just settle for where we are right now.  God has so much more in store for each of us.  If we are still taking breaths, it means that God is not done with us yet.  We still have more of our story, more of our mark on the world to make.

I want to challenge us all to get a vision for our future.  Get a vision for increase in our lives.  Get a vision for abundance.  We are capable of so much more than where we find ourselves today.

God wants to see us prosperous and successful.  When we choose to think God’s thoughts and choose God’s way, we will see that increase and victory in every area of our lives.  Anything is possible through God and so we need to a better job of thinking and living our lives with that in mind.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 5)

country 5

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we talked about how Jesus gave life-giving encounters to those He interacted with.  We also talked about using Jesus as a model for how we should treat others in our own lives.  If you would like to read Part 2, you can check it out here.

In Part 3 of this blog series, we talked about the consequences of not living a life that is true to yourself.  If we live fake lives, we are robbing ourselves of who we could be.  If you would like to read Part 3, you can check it out here.

In Part 4 of this blog series, we talked about seeing the big picture and not focusing on the smaller things that can distract us.  We need to keep rooted in the Bible to live the life that we were made to live.  If you would like to read Part 4, you can check it out here.

 

I’m proud of the accomplishments I have made in my life and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to making a living working with animals and getting to travel around the country and work with all kinds of amazing people.  I have seen and done things that I never could have imagined growing up.  But I’m also very thankful for the lessons I learned growing up.  I am so proud of where I started and know that it has influenced and will continue to influence who I am and the choices I make.  No matter where I live, how much money I make, or any of the other accomplishments that might come my way, I’m still Bill Marsau from Hudson, Iowa.

Country people never lose sight of their roots, even if they had struggles at times.  I live in town these days, but the country has never left my soul.  Country people are never ashamed of their origins and I know that I am certainly not.  Country people learned that being true to themselves means remaining humble, resourceful, and resilient.

No matter how successful country people become, they never lose sight of the lessons they learned growing up.  The importance of family.  The importance of keeping their word.  The importance of looking someone in the eye and offering their hand in assistance.  Staying true to His small-town roots, Jesus never wavered from His purpose of pointing people back to His Father’s love.  He reminds us to remain grounded even as we shoot for the stars, to remember where we came from while chasing our dreams.

John Ortberg, pastor and writer, once was quoted as saying, “The problem with spending your life climbing up the ladder is that you will go right past Jesus, for He’s coming down.”  I love that quote.  Jesus is willing to come to us, wherever we are, and help us in our time of need.  The problem is that if we do not have our focus on Him, we may not even see Him.

Take a few minutes and consider the following two questions:

Who are the people who’ve helped shape your values and faith?

Why have they had such a powerful impact on your life?

Sometimes heroes come in everyday form and may not have world-wide fame.  If you have never told these people thanks, you really should.  They poured out their time and efforts to help make you who you are today.  You, in turn, need to this same thing for people you can help and influence.  It creates an environment where everyone is pouring out into one another and we all gain from it.

2 Timothy 1:1-5 (NIV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

The idea of helping others and passing your faith on to the younger generation has been around for thousands of years.  In this passage, Paul (who wrote this letter to Timothy) talks about serving just as his ancestors did.  He learned this from the older generation.  Paul talks about seeing a sincere faith in Timothy, which was present in Timothy’s ancestors and was passed down to him also.  Just as we received our faith from our parents and grandparents, it is our responsibility to pass this on to the next generation.

 

Jesus didn’t come just to die for our sins, but also to empower us to lead lives that display God’s righteousness.

James 2:26 (NIV)

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Just as James is telling us in this passage, it shows us why it’s so important that we try to follow the example of humility, compassion, selflessness, and sacrifice that Christ demonstrated throughout His life.  These are the qualities of Jesus and they are also what it means to be country.

There is one chapter of the Bible that I think sums up what being country is all about and I would like to share it with you here:

Philippians 2:1-15 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very natureof a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.

We may leave the country, but the country never leaves us.  You may not have had the privilege of growing up in the country like I did, but even if you didn’t; you can still learn and live out the lesson that growing up country teaches us all.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 4)

country 4

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we talked about how Jesus gave life-giving encounters to those He interacted with.  We also talked about using Jesus as a model for how we should treat others in our own lives.  If you would like to read Part 2, you can check it out here.

In Part 3 of this blog series, we talked about the consequences of not living a life that is true to yourself.  If we live fake lives, we are robbing ourselves of who we could be.  If you would like to read Part 3, you can check it out here.

 

When we are feeling tired, depressed, lonely, or aroused, it’s not easy to remember who we are and what we’re about.  We can easily start acting in a way that is out of our normal character.  If we’re consumed by greed or lust, then we can lose sight of the commitments we’ve made and the responsibilities we have.  When our appetites get the best of us, we often forget where we came from and where we are going.  It’s a lot easier to focus on the immediate gratification that comes from getting what will feel good right away.  We naturally want instant gratification.  The problem is that ultimately, it might not be good for us.

Too often people lose sight of the big picture for their lives.  They feel so overwhelmed by immediate pain or disappointment that they compromise and take a shortcut to get a few minutes of comfort or relief.  But God wants more for us than what we often settle for in the heat of the moment.

Eric Liddell, a Scottish athlete and missionary once said, “Have a great aim- have a high standard- make Jesus your ideal…make Him an ideal not merely to be admired, but also to be followed.”  If we are going to follow Jesus’ lead, then we need to make trying to think like Jesus and do what Jesus did a priority in our lives.  Settling for less than our best will keep us from living the full life that is possible for us.

1 Corinthians 10:12

The Message (MSG)

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

As this verse in 1 Corinthians says, we need to learn from our ancestors.  We need to do the things that made them successful and avoid the things that made them stumble.  The greatest history book that we have available to us is the Bible.  We need to let this book be our guide for how we should live our lives.  If we stray way from doing what it says we should do, we will find ourselves in dangerous waters.  We need to learn what the Bible says and then live it out in our lives.  Doing this keeps us on “the straight and narrow path” and will lead us in a good direction.

God wants us to have a larger perspective in order to meet our soul’s deeper hunger.  Just as Jesus gave Living Water to quench the thirst of the Samaritan woman at the well, God wants us to remember who we are and not be distracted by the shiny objects we encounter along our path.

What “shiny objects” easily distract you?  I can think of several shiny objects that I am often attracted to.  What we need to do is figure out what we need to do to make sure that we are focused more on the “big picture” of life and faith.  Let’s challenge ourselves to not get so focused on the little things that we miss the big things that come along.

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Living a Country Way of Life (Part 3)

country 3

In Part 1 of this blog series, I talked about my humble beginnings and how it gave me an understanding of what country living is all about.  If you would like to read Part 1, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we talked about how Jesus gave life-giving encounters to those He interacted with.  We also talked about using Jesus as a model for how we should treat others in our own lives.  If you would like to read Part 2, you can check it out here.

 

In about whatever we decide to do in life, there will always be people telling us who we should be and what we should be doing in order to be successful.  As much as I love life and all the great things this world can offer me, I know that the things of this world do not define me as a man or as a husband.  We are defined by the world by earthly things, but we are defined by God by the heavenly things we focus on during our time on earth.

One of the hallmarks of a true country person is their ability to be genuine, down-to-earth, grounded, and authentic.  As crazy as it sounds, I’ve met people who have worked hard to fake being genuine.  In other words, they tried to come across as country, but only as long as it allowed them to get what they wanted.

These people were just putting on an act, and no matter what act any of us is putting on, if we are not living a life of integrity and being who we really are, then we are just missing out.  We are missing out on the greatness we have inside of us.  We are living a lie and depriving those around us from what we genuinely could give them if we weren’t so busy trying to be someone else.  I know there have been great portions of my life where I was only living an act and I lived a life that was less than what I was capable of.  Maybe some of you have done this very same thing.  Maybe some of you are living this kind of life right now.  Even if you are in a low place right now, it is not too late.

The book of Hebrews gives us a great reminder that Jesus never waivered in who He was, what He stood for, or what He was doing.  He stayed true to Himself and His mission even when great adversity came His way.  He lived a life of integrity even though He could have had more earthly gain if He had compromised His and God’s values.  He could have avoided His death if He had decided to put on an act, but if He had, we all would have been in big trouble.  Because He did not choose to be fake, He sits in the place of honor in heaven and all believers are saved.  Putting on an act may not have such dire consequences as it did with Jesus, but we still need to understand that not being true to ourselves causes pain and destruction.  It can destroy our relationships with others.  We need to use Jesus as our example of how we can live a life that we can be proud of.

Hebrews 12:2

The Message (MSG)

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

All of us face opportunities and temptations to be someone other than who we really are.  We need to ask ourselves this question:

What would my family, friends, and co-workers say that I value the most?

Would their responses match yours?  Does the life you live reflect what you value the most?  If you are living true to yourself, your values will be easy to see.  If people have troubles seeing what values are most important to you, it might be a sign that you are living an act and not being true to yourself.  If you want to be an actor, then go be an actor, but don’t try to play an alternate character other than yourself in your real life.

There is only one you in the entire world so focus your efforts on making the real you shine. Don’t settle for being someone else or a different version of yourself.  Remember, when you are who you really are, it’s easier to know where you are going.  You will not live a perfect life, but don’t compound the issue by not living your life.  Be true to yourself and let everything else sort itself out.

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