Raising the Bar

Many years ago, the company I worked for acquired a European company based in England with operations in continental Europe. During that first year, I learned there was a joke circulated by the employees of this newly acquired company that made jest of the phrase, “raising the bar.” The American term was a common phrase within our organization with regard to new initiatives and objectives.  It didn’t translate well across culture. Evidently, “raising the bar” was the furthest thing from the mind of several employees. Success within the business was not a shared value they held. It simply was not a part of the culture. It showed in the results. Change was needed if the business was going to succeed.

It simply was not

a part of the culture.

It showed in the results.

In contrast, this past year our family traveled to Colorado for a reunion in Colorado Springs. During our stay we had a chance to visit the Air Force Academy. While touring the visitor center, I came across the following quote that is provided to prospective applicants: “Carefully consider dedication to duty, desire to serve others, ability to accept discipline, morality and the enjoyment of challenge when deciding if an Air Force Academy education is right for you.” The Air Force sets a higher bar for those who desire to become a member of their cadets. Membership here will require you to change. Your values and initiative must align with the Academy if you wish to succeed. Make sure you count the cost before you embark on this adventure.

Jesus set a “high bar” for those he called to be a part of His Kingdom. He said to His disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24 ESV The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. Jesus led the way and He calls us to a higher life. We carry our cross, no matter the cost. Just as He did. Denying self, following Him.

There is no greater vision in the world, no greater calling, no greater way to live than following Christ.

Some words written down years ago in a workshop I attended on Lordship carried these words: ““Jesus calls us to a battlefield, not a sandbox. How dangerous do you want to be for Jesus?” In attending a men’s conference recently, there were many older men but not many younger men. The church in the western world laments the loss of our young people in the church and rightly so. One reason is here: we’ve “lowered the bar.” Youth tend to be idealistic. They seek challenge. They seek purpose. They can be attracted to a vision that’s worth dying for……

There is no greater vision in the world, no greater calling, no greater way to live than following Christ. Keep living dangerously….and rub shoulders with men who are living likewise. Raise the bar…..young men will take note.

Kirk Thomsen

Kirk Thomsen

 
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

The Hunt for Significance

Some trust in their career and some in their good health, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.* Psalm 20:7

Recently I had the privilege to attend a luncheon with business men where a man, Jay Whitmer, shared about his personal hunt for significance. His transparency was palpable and his story electric for the men who listened to his journey these past 18 months. His journey has been one that entailed events that men fear. The first one was the diagnosis of cancer. The second was the loss of his job and an impressive career. Disruptions that led Jay to reevaluate his priorities. In the prime of life, married and with two children; what will be significant when I look back on my life? As Jay has wrestled with these challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity to refocus and reflect on his life. In seeking to define “significance”, he started with what it is “not.”

Significance Is:



• Not success 
• Not safe 
• Not selfish 
• Not solo 
• Not subjective
• Not short

 

He expanded on each of these with Scripture and/or reflection. Colossians 1:16 has been especially meaningful for him as he seeks to embrace Christ and that all things were created “by Him and for Him.” Jay’s hunger and thirst for God has increased. His proximity to God has grown. His life has changed. Sometimes we get a second chance to alter our course in life. Sometimes we do not. The hunt for significance runs strong in men. The question is what road will I travel when I come to that fork in the road. Knowing “Who” is significant will have a large impact on my choice. A man at our table shared a thought from John the Baptist located in John 3:30. A very good thought…..”He must become greater, I must become less.” Where I put my trust will set my compass in how I respond in the “storms” of life. Life on earth is fragile as well as finite. Eternity is forever. Living in the light of eternity is where I wish to be. Making each day count. In Christ alone I stand.

*Modification to Psalm 20:7

Kirk Thomsen

Kirk Thomsen

Husband, Father and Disciplemaker

 
"And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

Vision and the Word of God

Vision and the Word of God. They are indelibly linked. Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no vision the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Sustaining a vision where people will flourish requires a love for God’s Word. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is His Word. We can despise God’s gifts as Esau did, (Hebrews 12:16). Trading the sacred for the temporal. I lived there early in life, keeping the Bible on a shelf in my bedroom unopened and unused. Dusty Bible, dirty life. I had a vision, but it was not for God, His ways and His Word. It was a path that leads to destruction.

 

 

 

The psalmist wrote “O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97 Becoming strong in the Word of God begins with prayer. 

Praying that God will help me to grow in loving His Word, His gifts. In praying according to God’s will, God promises that He will answer. Indeed He has in my life, my love for His Word continues to grow. Thus have I prayed for my children, my family, my friends and others.

Delighting in the Word of God entails hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditation and prayer. From the quiet time, to prayer, to fellowship with others, to studies with men, to work, my marriage, my children, my witness and so many others, God’s Word directs providing vision for life. Bringing wisdom, guidance, hope, conviction, correction and assurance. The list goes on…..

My prayer is that your love for God’s Word will grow in 2019. Your vision will be sharpened and you will be blessed. And so will those around you!

What’s in your wallet?

A large banking company here in the U.S. runs a commercial advertisement to market their credit card to consumers. The advertisement has been running for several years now, so the marketing plan has clearly been successful in generating new business. The tag line that closes the advertising message is “what’s in your wallet?”

My regular wallet has numerous cards in it. So many that I tend to tilt to the left when driving in the car. A bit like sitting on an orange but not quite. In my wallet I have two credit cards, two debit cards, driver’s license, AAA card, health insurance cards, and numerous cards for the “reward programs” of retailers frequently visited. Occasionally, even “cash.” Most of the cards are related to the exchange of goods or value between myself and others. Those earthly treasures that are bought, sold, consumed and accumulated in life.

But I got to thinking about changing that tagline and adding a word. What if it said, “What’s in your spiritual wallet?”  What might my spiritual wallet hold? Treasures given by God perhaps. And what might those be? For one, He has given me His Son, Jesus Christ.[i]   Secondly, His Holy Spirit.[ii] Eternal life for all who believe.[iii] The gift of the Holy Scriptures. [iv] …..That’s a pretty big wallet.

Yet God in His abundance continues to fill my spiritual wallet with more. The wonderful gift of my wife, Marian.[v] Three precious gifts in my daughters.[vi] Gifts to minister to the fellowship of believers in Christ.[vii] Gifts for life: to work, to provide and to be generous.[viii] Yes, my cup runneth over…….

But what about that regular wallet? Where does that fit in? A couple of men stopped by earlier this month and provided some advice on a statement Jesus had spoken: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness.”[ix] What is the distinction between healthy or diseased eyes when it comes to earthly treasures? They proffered three recommendations in order for me keep my eyes healthy when working with earthly treasures. See them as 1) a tool; 2) a test given by God; and 3) a representation of my testimony for Christ. And being “wise men,” they provided support from God’s Word.[x] Wise men, indeed.

Living in a wealthy nation can challenge my eyes with respect to earthly treasures. Likely true wherever I may live. Will they stay healthy or become diseased? Jesus said that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[xi] May my eyes, my gratitude, my treasure remain focused on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What’s in your wallet?

[i] John 3:16

[ii] John 14:16-17

[iii] John 5:24

[iv] II Peter 1:20-21

[v] Proverbs 18:22

[vi] Psalm 127:3

[vii] Romans 12:3-8

[viii]Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Romans 8:32

[ix] Matthew 6:22-23 NB

[x] I Timothy 6:17-18, Matthew 25:14-30

[xi] Matthew 6:21 NB

Kirk Thomsen

Kirk Thomsen

Husband, Father and Disciplemaker

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Hornets – 1, Dad – 0

It has been an unusually busy spring and summer this year. Several conventions along with several trips to visit family and friends kept me occupied through six weekends straight during one stretch of the calendar. All good, of course! In the midst of all that activity, however, choices must be made as to what gets done and what does not. Decisions, decisions…..indeed! What shall be the priority? Well, in the midst of all that travel activity this year choices needed to be made or perhaps I should say, “not made.” Specifically, the choice to take care of the yard work while I was away. It took a hit. Thus, when time was available for me to get active on the yard, it was mid-July. The grass cutting had been outsourced for the summer so things were fine there. But when it came to the weeds and the bushes, they were more than flourishing, they were moving in and taking over. Reminded me of the verse in Song of Solomon, chapter 1, …..”Alas, my own vineyard I could not keep!” NB When I’m busy elsewhere, something else will be neglected.

Better late than never, however, was my motto, so I dived into getting the yard back into shape. One of my tasks was to trim the bushes which were well overgrown by now. Armed with my trusty over 20 year old electric hedge trimmer, I began to hack away in swathes. A bit like harvesting wheat as you see the branches fall. I could clearly see the path where I had been. As I headed around the bend of the bushes however, I began to notice that there were some black things flying in the air. That seemed odd until several of them noticed me! It was recognition at first site shall we say by both parties. And it didn’t appear to be friendly, on either side. Needless-to-say, I quickly stopped using the hedge trimmer to “trim” and converted it into a “hornet hacker”. Not that it would do much good, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. As the hornets launched their attack, my measured retreat soon turned into a rout! But not before the hornets struck first blood. Thus, wounded and greatly outnumbered, my retreat was hastily made into the safety of the garage. The hornets soon gave up the attack exultant in their triumph.

After the episode, I was reminded of a similar occurrence several years back when a similar set of circumstances had taken place. My yardwork was delayed until mid-summer due to a busy schedule and the hornets had moved in. Only that time, I had avoided getting stung. I’m either getting older or slower……more than likely it’s both. I’ve now learned the lesson twice…….I’m purposing now not to learn it a third time. Next time, the hornets just might get more missiles through. But we’ll see…..time will tell. Life is like that……when we neglect things, the riff raff move in. Similarly, what is true in the physical life is also true in the spiritual. Must be why the Bible states that we are to “take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit.” I Timothy 4:7 – JB Phillips Keeping our own vineyard spiritually fit requires diligence and effort with daily time in God’s Word and prayer. And our spiritual life is far more important than the physical. Allowing the busyness of life to keep me from my relationship with God is very dangerous territory. I don’t want to live there.

A friend of mine was sharing his testimony with me earlier this year. He told me that he used to think of God as a “god of the gaps”. When he had a gap in his day, he fit God in. When he didn’t have a gap, he didn’t. He was challenged at the end of a 2 year study with some other men to consider what, if anything, would be different in his life going forward. He was convicted that he needed to put God “first,” not second or last in his day. From that day on, God’s word and prayer came first each day before anything else. His life has dramatically changed. Jesus stated that I am to seek His kingdom first. He will take care of that other stuff that we need. Any other road is a dead end.

Postscript: The hornets won the first battle. They didn’t win the war.

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