Embrace the Challenge

I have not been writing much lately, as I seem to be going through a season of being challenged in recent months. If you are a person who likes to grow, you will understand the importance of being challenged in your life. From what I have learned, a person can only get so far doing things the way they have always done them. Eventually you will hit a plateau or the proverbial glass ceiling. I have found myself being challenged on multiple fronts recently, letting me know that the staleness I had been feeling in recent months was because I was plateauing. God has been challenging me in my way of thinking, in caring for my physical body, in my relationships, and in my spiritual life. None of this has been comfortable for me. I have spent some days feeling downright miserable, but I know that God has a plan and a purpose…He doesn’t waste any of our pain or discomfort.

In my way of thinking, I have been challenged in my initial response to situations that arise. I have a tendency to think that I have all of the solutions to stuff, you know, kind of a know-it-all. I have come to realize that I don’t have all of the answers. What I do have is a lot of opinions. Opinions are not a bad thing. In fact, we all have them, but having an opinion and constantly voicing that opinion are two different things. I have been challenged to hold my opinion until asked for it, unless it is in an area of direct influence in my life. In other words, if it’s not mine, I don’t need to speak on it, unless the person it does belong to asks for my thoughts. This may seem like common sense, but if you are a person with lots of opinions, this can be much more difficult than you think.

In caring for my physical body, I have been challenged in finding a balance between doing/consuming what is best for me versus what makes me feel good. Again, this may sound like common sense, but it is more difficult than it seems…at least for me. I love food, I love to cook it and eat it. I also enjoy exercising. I am one of those crazy people who loves to lift weights. On a side note, I hate cardio! I do it but I hate it…people who love cardio are just weird to me. Back to the point, I know that I can never out exercise a bad diet, but believe me, I have tried to do it. Balance and moderation are keys to healthy living, but I have struggled with both, to the point where God has been challenging to care for myself and take better care of the body He has given me. How can we accomplish what God designed us for if we are constantly in self-inflicted health battles?

In my relationships I have been challenged to view them in their proper context and for their actual purpose. God has put people in my life, in my sphere of influence, not because of what they can do for me, but because of what He can do through me in their lives and through them in my life. The chief purpose of all of our relationships is for God to be glorified through them, not for us to be satisfied through them. Our satisfaction should come from our relationship with the One we are trying to bring glory to. Often, we get that out of order and place unfair expectations on people. Consequently, we place a weight on them that they were never designed to carry.

In my spiritual life, I have been challenged to be more focused on spending time with God, reading my Bible and praying. I have been challenged to live like Christ, to love what He loves, to do what He would do, to pursue what He would pursue. Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to bring glory to the Father. Jesus died on the cross to bring glory to the Father. Jesus told His disciples that whatever they asked in His name, He would do so the Father would be glorified in the Son. Jesus’ entire purpose was to bring glory to God. If am I to live a Christ-like life, then that should be my purpose also, to bring glory to God. I need to live a God-centered life, not a people-centered life.

One overarching lesson that I have learned through all of this is that you get out what you put in. Again, this may sound like common sense to you, it is to me, but that doesn’t mean that I was living by it. In every area of life, in our thinking, in our physical bodies, in our relationships, in our finances, and in our spiritual lives, we get out what we put in. We cannot expect to fill ourselves with bad but get good in return. I challenge you to find a person that fills their head with bad stuff, but lives an emotionally healthy life. I challenge you to find a person who eats junk food all day, every day, but performs like a world-class athlete. I challenge you to find a successful marriage where the husband and wife cheat, don’t communicate, and argue all the time. I challenge you to find a spiritually mature person who doesn’t spend time with God and who is more focused on their personal life than they are on God. You get out what you put in. I think that is what Paul was telling the church at Philippi when he said, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

I appreciate being challenged, it causes me to evaluate where I am and determine how to get to where I want to be. It is also a necessary part of personal growth. For me, the areas I identified earlier are all hindrances to me moving to the next step in my journey. Don’t forsake the challenges in your life. Jesus said that God prunes every tree that bears fruit so it can bear more fruit (John 15:2). James said to count it all joy when we face various trials because those trials test our faith and produce patience in our lives (James 1:2-3). No one likes to be challenged, but don’t forsake the challenges in your life and don’t underestimate their value. They identify areas of potential growth for you. If you want to grow, if you want to accomplish all that you were put here to accomplish, embrace the challenges, keep your eyes focused on Jesus (not on your circumstances), and remember that you get out what you put in.


In Him,


What the World Needs Most

We live in a chaotic world. I think most would agree with that statement. If you watch the news for more than 20 seconds, you will quickly realize that things are a little out-of-sorts. It’s no wonder that millions of people suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s also no surprise that some take their own lives with the hope of finding a way of escape, not fully realizing the pain and hurt they leave in their wake. What does the world need most? Is it rest? We could all use a little rest, and not just physical rest, but mental and emotional rest too. Our lives are as hectic as they have been at any point in history. We are bombarded with things that affect, or even overwhelm, us mentally and emotionally on a daily basis. We could definitely use some rest.

What about peace and comfort? We see images of refugees around the world, people fleeing from their homes to escape war, human trafficking, starvation, and other atrocities. We are faced with death on a daily basis, some expected and some unexpected, some quietly and some widely publicized. Regardless of the way it occurs, death is a normal part of life, one with which we have regular encounters. We could definitely use some peace and comfort. Some would argue that all the world needs is love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love could be the answer to all of our problems, they would say. The world would be a wonderful place if we could all just get along. I agree, the world would be much better if we all truly loved one another.

What if I told you that you could find all of these things in one place? What if I told you that Jesus is the answer to all of these needs? You would probably say, “I already know that!” I hope you do know that. I hope you do realize that Jesus is the only answer. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and have heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus will give you rest! Jesus is the prince of peace. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in ALL things through prayer, supplication, and giving of thanks, let your request be made known to God, and the peace of God will rule and reign in your heart through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus will give you peace! Jesus also said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.” Jesus laid down His life for you and me. Jesus will give you love!

So, what does the world need most? The simple answer is Jesus, but the more precise answer is Jesus in you. The world needs Christians, who are full of the Holy Spirit, to live like Christ. The world needs us to be all that we were created and called to be. The person on the street who needs peace and comfort needs you and me to be Christ’s representatives to them. They need to experience the love of God through us. They need to find rest, peace, and comfort by having us choose to carry their burdens with them. They need to be able to meet the living God through us! How can we do that if we are the ones needing rest, peace, comfort, and love? How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus if we are always carrying the weight of our own world? We can’t! We have to first learn to cast our cares on Him, to be anxious for nothing, to let His peace rule and reign in our hearts, and to seek His kingdom first so He can take care of our needs. Then, and only then, will we be able to be what the world needs most, true disciples.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Always be prepared! Preparation is not simply knowing the answers to their questions. Peter is not telling us to have a premade list of answers so we can offer a rebuttal when someone questions our faith. He is telling us to always be ready, be ready in how we live, be ready in what we know, be ready in who we are in Christ so we are able to gently and respectfully tell them about the hope in us and introduce them to the one who has given us this hope. But we can’t do this if we have allowed our circumstances to steal our hope. We can’t give what we don’t have. Does the world need Jesus? Absolutely! But the world also needs you and me to be willing and available vessels. Willing should define our attitude while available defines our lifestyle. The world needs us to be willing and available. What are you willing to do to make yourself available? Join me in this journey. My heart is definitely willing, but I know I need to make myself more available. For me, it will start by learning to be content and to cast my cares on the one who cares for me. What about you, where will you start?


In Him,


The Hallmark of Leadership

What makes a great leader? Is it their charisma, their ambition, maybe their determination? I’m sure all of those things come into play at some point. What about their natural gifts, the talents and skills that God has given them over the years? I’m sure those things play a part as well. But, if you were to ask me what one quality I think every great leader should possess, my response may surprise you. I would say it has to be humility! Humility, really, humility…seems like a weird, kind of passé, quality for a great leader to possess, doesn’t it? Well, what if I told you that the most prominent quality I see in the greatest leader of all time is definitely humility.

This thought seems to go against our way of thinking. We expect leaders to be ambitious and driven; we even look at their arrogance as just part of what makes them great. In sports, we want the best players to want the ball and all of the attention. We get upset when the best player doesn’t have the ball in his or her hands in the final seconds. We want our leaders to be anything but humble. Is that how it should be? I don’t think so.  I think we have misinterpreted what leadership really is. Leadership, at its very essence, is the ability to inspire others, to maintain influence in the lives of others, and to help those under you achieve even more than they thought possible. Great leaders get the best out of their people and inspire them to be fully committed to the task at hand.

So, how does humility translate into leadership? Well first, we need to agree on a definition of humility. Humility is defined as a modest view of one’s own importance. In other words, not thinking too highly of yourself. In terms of leadership, this means that you put your team, your organization, and your mission, above yourself. This sounds like common sense, but it can be difficult to do because the leader is usually the one constant in a plethora of moving parts in a successful organization. In most organizations, the role players come and go over time, they just fill voids as the organization moves on toward its ultimate goal. The leader, however, is usually there from the beginning, and through the ups and downs. Over time, this can make you think, “Look at what I’ve done.” Now, we may never say it, but what that really means is, “This is all about me!”

The truth of the matter is that it is never about the individual. It should be about the mission. The leader has the unique privilege / responsibility of being the one person who views the mission globally. Most role players only view the mission in terms of their role’s impact on the mission. A humble leader is one who can effectively communicate the mission and understand that the mission is what is important, not their personal fame or success. A humble leader also understands that the best and easiest way to have success is to elevate their role players and make them feel valued and empowered. Jesus gave us a great example of what true leadership looks like. He selected His disciples, He trained them, He empowered them and sent them out, and He made them feel valued as He (the leader) washed their feet. Most leaders miss that last part. Most would be perfectly fine with their role players washing their (the leader’s) feet, but would consider it far beneath them (the leader) to wash their role player’s feet.

Humility is a tricky thing. It goes against our very nature. It requires us to, at times, lead from the back instead of taking the place of prominence. Humility also requires submission to something greater than yourself. Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, submitted to the will of the Father. His submission defined His mission. His mission defined His actions. His actions empowered His followers. His followers shared His actions and impacted the world for Him. Ultimately, it was His humility that made Him who He was. It took great humility to submit to death on the cross. It took great humility to give up His divinity, leave heaven to come to earth and pay the price for our sins. It took great humility for the Master to wash the feet of His disciples, and to love the one who would eventually betray Him. It was His humility that positioned His remaining disciples to do great things in His name and for His glory. Remember that it is God who gives success. 1 Peter 5:5-6 tells us to clothe ourselves with humility because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. It goes on to say that we should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt us at the proper time. Success comes from God! Humility, on our part, opens the door for success. If you want to be a great leader in you home or in your church, it all starts with humility.



In Him,




Why God, Why?

Sometimes we go through things in life where all we can say is, “Why God, Why?” I’ve heard people ask this question many times. Christians and non-Christians alike, tend to have moments where all you can say is, “why God, why? “ I have experienced these moments in my life, moments where it felt like I was doing everything I was supposed to do, but things were still going wrong. I’ve also had moment when I have treated others the way I wanted to be treated; you know…the whole Golden Rule thing, yet they still wronged me in some way. Moments like that make me want to ask, “why God, why?” I’ve seen bad things happen to good people. I’ve counseled families that lost a loved one unexpectedly, watched good parents cry over the choices their children have made, and witnessed little children in a battle for their lives as they war against the disease raging through their bodies. All of these things make me want to scream, “why God, why?

So, what if I screamed out at the top of my lungs, “Why God?” What would the outcome be? What if He answered me.? What if He didn’t answer me? Has God broken some promise by not answering me? Has he proven himself unfaithful by allowing these things to happen in our lives? I don’t believe so. The truth of the matter is that Jesus told us we would go through troubles in life. He told us we would have to face things that we did not want to face. You will not find a passage in the Bible that says bad things will never happen to good people. What you will find in Scripture is the answer for how we are to handle these things and the promise that we won’t have to go through it alone. Jesus, prior to His death, burial, and resurrection, told His disciple that in this world they would have trouble, but to be of good cheer because He had overcome the world. He was preparing them to face hard times. Notice that He did not say, “Now that you are my disciple, nothing bad will ever happen to you.” We are going to face hard times. We are going to have trouble in our lives. We are going to face situations that make us want to throw up our hands and yell, “WHY GOD, WHY?”

So why do we face those situations? The simple answer is that we live in a fallen, sinful world, full of fallen, sinful people. Often times, we find ourselves caught up in someone else’s sin. Hence the parents crying over their children’s choices, or the person who has just found out that their spouse is cheating on them. We have to prepare ourselves to face the troubles we are going to face on a regular basis. The Bible gives us some insight into how to do this. First, the Bible tells us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in ALL things, through prayer, supplication, and giving of thanks, let your request be made known to God,”(Philippians 4:6). Secondly, the Bible tells us to, “cast all of our anxieties on God because He cares for us,” (1 Peter 5:7). The key is to give it over to God…to let go of it and let God handle it. It is not easy, but it will help you if you can do it. I will admit, I struggle with implementing this myself.

A part of the problem for me personally, and I am guessing that I am not alone in this, is that I want the problems to be fixed on my timetable. I don’t want to go through trouble, especially the trouble I did not cause. I want to understand why things happen, and not just settle for the fact that stuff happens. I want to be able to give answers to the hurting and the grieving. I WANT TO BE IN CONTROL…and therein lies the frustration…it is the lack of control, the uncertainty, and the fear of realizing just how little control I actually have. But there is one thing I can control in every situation, my response. I can choose to respond out of fear and frustration. I can throw my hands up and ask, “why God, why?” I can fight against that which I cannot figure out OR I can choose to trust God. That “OR” in the middle of the last sentence means that I have options, I have a say in the matter. I can choose to believe that He is in control, that He has overcome the world, and that He has a plan and a purpose, even for my pain. I CAN CHOOSE! Remember, the Bible has told us how we are to handle bad situations; we get to choose how we respond.  God also makes us a promise in His word, that we don’t have to go through it alone. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Even when we don’t feel Him near, He is there. Luke 12:7 tells us that God knows the number of hairs on our head…He cares about us that much. Surely our pain grieves Him but it has a purpose. We have to remember His sovereignty, and trust in His faithfulness. So, when we are tempted to yell our, “why God, why?” we need to remember that He is Lord of all, so we don’t need to be.

Instead of saying, “Why God,” try saying, “Lord, I trust You…even in the midst of this mess, I trust You. Even though I am dealing with a problem I did not create and receiving treatment I do not deserve, I trust You…Even though I’m hurting, I’m choosing to trust You. I might be frustrated and confused, but I am choosing to respond in faith instead of fear…I trust You and I”m giving it over to You” Cast all of your cares on Him because He cares for you!

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6


In Him,



Bloom Where You’re Planted

If you have been in or around church for any length of time, you have probably heard a preacher say, “You should bloom where you are planted.” That is basically preacher-speak for, “You should be able to grow, no matter where you are.” I have been in situations where I have questioned whether or not I was in the right place, or with the right people. And I am not just referring to church! I have run into this in the workplace and in school as well. Sometimes it just feels like the place you are in is the worst possible place for you, and all you can think about is how to get out. I know, I’ve been there a time or two.


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending some time in California. My wife and I were attending a ministry conference that talked about various ways to help people get connected to the local church, and to help them bloom where they are planted. While in California, we took a trip to the coast, to a place called Crystal Cove, and spent some time just walking along the beach. Crystal Cove is a beautiful place. It is a picturesque beach at the bottom of a small cliff. It really does look like a picture from a post card. To get to the beach, you have to walk along a  trail that winds its way through a small park, down the side of the cliff, and on to the beach. While walking down the trail, we came across a cactus with a few flowers on it. I was immediately amazed at the way the bright yellow and pink flowers stood out against the landscape, which was mostly dry, and very monochromatic.


As I pondered what I was looking at, I had an epiphany of sorts: the cactus’ was blooming in the place where it was designed to bloom. I was so focused on the environment and the conditions around the cactus, that I neglected the Creator’s design of the cactus. I was amazed, but I should not have been because the cactus was doing what it was designed to do. I think the same is true of people. So often, we focus on the environment, and the conditions around us, and we forget all about the Creator’s design for us. The key to blooming where you are planted is to make sure you are doing what you were designed to do. Environments may seem harsh at times, and they may not appear to be conducive for growth, but I want to assure you, you can bloom right where you are planted.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, the Apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (ESV).” Paul planted and Apollos watered…in other words, Paul and Apollos provided the environment for the seed and the conditions around the seed, but God is the one who actually made the seed grow. We were created to be in relationship with God. We only grow when we are connected to God. Jesus talked about this in John 15 when He told us that He is the vine and we are the branches. He was illustrating our need to be connected to Him. You can be connected to God no matter what your environment may be. Your personal relationship with God is what brings about your growth. Every situation is an opportunity for you to learn: to learn your strengths, to recognize your areas for improvement, and most importantly, to learn to rely on God.

In my life, it has been the places that seemed like the worst places to be planted, that God used to bring about growth. It was the places that I wanted out of the most that God used to teach me to rely on Him and to show me the areas where I still needed to grow. Don’t despise the dry places in your life. James 1:2-3 says to count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, because the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is our ability to stand firm and hold our ground, no matter what we may be facing. James goes on to say in verse 4 that we should let steadfastness have its full effect; that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. God uses the trials to build our faith and our ability to stand fast in the face of adversity. He uses those situations for our growth and for His glory. You can grow where you are planted! You can even produce great fruit and bloom in the worst of environments, but it will only happen if you are connected to the source of life and growth. So, my challenge for you is to stop focusing on the environment and the conditions around you and start focusing on the Creator and what He has created you to do. It starts and ends with our relationship with Him.  Are you blooming where you are planted? If not, get connected to the vine and get ready to produce some fruit!

If you are struggling in your relationship with God, check out my book, Consensual Christianity.  It is all about developing your personal relationship with Your Heavenly Father.  You can go to jnathanielblizzard.com for more details.

In Him,