What Are You Reaching Toward this Year?

Wow, we’re already halfway through the first month of this new year! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some stretch-goals that I plan to accomplish this year and it’s high time to get moving on them. Some of my goals are fun: my wife and I plan to go camping in the Grand Tetons with our children and grandchildren; I want to ride my bicycle over 100 miles in one day (and live to tell about it); and I want to begin building a wooden sailboat.

But I also have some more weighty goals that are sure to stretch my abilities, stamina and faith. Specifically, I’m asking God to increase His influence through me this year significantly. I don’t even know what all that means yet, but I believe it will entail writing and coaching among other things and I’ve already begun working on several new books. A primary goal of mine is to continue to aggressively pursue Jesus Christ daily, asking Him to keep transforming my life.

How about you? What is God doing in your life? How will you become more like Christ this year? What will you do differently? In what ways will your faith be stretched this year? What’s one thing in your life you’d like to shed—permanently? What’s one thing you’d like to add to your life—permanently?

Personally, I’ve found that when I engage a leadership coach I gain more clarity quicker; I’m able to remove difficult obstacles to reaching my goals; and I accomplish more. These are also some of the reasons I love coaching. Through coaching, I get to participate in seeing people’s lives changed. And what is so refreshing and rewarding about that is that coaching empowers them to rely on God and the gifts He has given them to continue bringing this about.

In his book, Leadership Coaching, author Tony Stolzfus provides what he calls the Top 5 Reasons to Coach and Be Coached:

  1. Experience More Transformation. Make radical changes in your own life and see more lasting changes in others.
  2. Grow Faster/Get More Done. Accelerate change and accomplish more without overload.
  3. Unleash People. Stop creating dependence and free up you r time by empowering others to take action.
  4. Develop Leaders. Invest more effectively and efficiently in leaders around you to multiply your impact.
  5. Improve Interpersonal Skills. Learn great tools for building deep relationships and having extraordinary conversations.

What would you like to accomplish this year? How about cultivating richer, more fulfilling relationships? Or launching that project you’ve dreamed of for years? How about ditching a habit you’re sick of lugging around with you? Or how about wowing your boss with the completion of a project that’s looming over your head?

Whatever your goal, I’d love to help you get there! Contact me and let’s set up a coaching schedule, roll up our sleeves and get going!

Rob Fischer

Follow Mary’s Example

Mary was probably just a teenager of 15 or 16 when the angel Gabriel appeared to her announcing that she was to give birth to Jesus, “the Son of the Most High.” Mary asked the angel the question that would have been on all of our minds, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit would enable her to conceive by God’s great power. And as if a virgin birth weren’t amazing enough, the angel added, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

At this simple explanation, Mary did a remarkable thing. She simply said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” That’s it. No arguing, complaining, or excuses, just simple submission.

But what about the misunderstandings and ridicule she was sure to experience? If your 16 year old daughter came home and told you she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, what would you do? Even her betrothal to Joseph was now at risk. Not to mention the fact, that she ran the risk of being convicted of adultery, a crime punishable by death in those days.

But Mary humbly and full of faith merely said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Playing this scenario through in our day and age leaves many questions unanswered. Would the boy grow up with the whole community thinking he was a bastard child? What about Joseph’s reputation? Would he be suspected as the obvious father of this child conceived out of wedlock? What about all the emotional stresses and strains—both real and imagined?

Yet Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Chances are that whatever God is asking you and me to do for Him right now doesn’t even come close to what He asked of Mary. Therefore, may we follow her example, and respond humbly and with faith, “Lord, we are your servants. May your word to us be fulfilled!”[1]

©2015 Rob Fischer

[1] See Luke 1:26-38.

Seeking God

Perhaps you’ve experienced a time when reading in God’s Word and a particular portion grabs you and impacts you profoundly. This happened to me a week ago. I was reading in 1 Chronicles 22 and verse 19 powerfully impressed me.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. (NIV)

King David spoke these words to his son, Solomon as he charged Solomon to become his successor to the throne and build the temple to the Lord.

This passage struck me so strongly that I committed it to memory and spent several days meditating on it. Allow me to share with you some of the insights I’ve gleaned from this passage. Perhaps you will see others as well as you apply it to your life.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Now! Do it now! Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God now. There’s an urgency with the need to do something right now. Seeking the Lord is not something we should delay, put off, or postpone. Seek Him now. Don’t let anything else get in the way.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Synonyms for devote include: set, consecrate, give, yield, dedicate, and commit. Be preoccupied with seeking the Lord. Above all else, seek the Lord. Set your focus on Him. Make seeking Him your passion. He is the “pearl of great price” worth forfeiting all else in order to obtain.

Devotion to something takes time and effort. My wife and I recently took a couple of swing dance lessons. I’m not sure what I expected, but I realized that the only way to become good at something like swing dance is to be “devoted to it.” That is, to intentionally go after it, practice it and learn from others.

Devotion is deliberate. To be devoted to the Lord is not an automatic consequence of accepting Christ as Savior. Are we daily following and pursuing Him?

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. The ESV translates this, your mind and heart. My mind went immediately to what Jesus called the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) The idea is to devote our entire being—all of us—to seeking the Lord. Involve your intellect, will, and emotions.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. The word “seek” here does not mean “to look for” as if God were hidden or far off. Instead, it means to depend on, to go to, to worship, or to pursue. This is what Paul meant when he said, “I want to know Christ!” Paul was an old man and had known and served Christ for many years when he wrote that. But even as an old man his heart’s desire and devotion were to seek Christ.

We seek the Lord daily by pursuing Him, spending time with Him, enjoying His presence, worshiping Him, and sitting at His feet. We seek Him through activities like: prayer, solitude, His Word, and spending time with His children.

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Nothing and no one else is worthy of our devotion. The Lord is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is holy and infinitely above all others and all else. The truly incredible fact is that the Creator and Ruler of the universe invites us to seek Him.

In Psalm 14:2 we read, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” How about you? Won’t you join me as we devote our heart and soul to seeking the Lord our God!

Rob Fischer

©2015 Rob Fischer

28:19–The Skills for Disciple-Making

A few years ago, I attended an international conference on “spiritual formation” – a fancy term for the transformation that takes place as we follow Jesus. About 900 pastors, missionaries and church workers were present at that conference.

One of the main speakers opened the floor for questions in the large-group setting. A seasoned pastor stood up and with a tremor in his voice confessed, “I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years. I was never discipled by anyone and I have no idea how to disciple others…” Then he sat down. His was a desperate plea for help. The murmur and nodding of heads that followed demonstrated how common his situation is.

Let me suggest that we’ve taken something profoundly simple (discipleship) and have so complicated it that many view discipleship as something only trained professionals do. We’ve forgotten that Jesus used a bunch of fishermen and other unlikely characters to “turn the world upside down” as they made disciples in the first century.

Discipleship has two aspects to it. One aspect involves our resolve to actively pursue Jesus Christ daily in an ever-deepening relationship with Him. And as we draw near to Him, He transforms us, making us more like Him.

The other aspect of discipleship flows out of our growing relationship with Christ. Namely, we model for others what it means to follow and live for Jesus. And through relationship with them we encourage and challenge them to pursue Christ as we do.

Eleven years ago, while serving with a church in Anchorage, Alaska, we launched an experience in which both of these aspects of discipleship could thrive. We now call this experience 28:19—The Skills for Disciple-Making.

Perhaps you recognize the 28:19 address as Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

In the 28:19 Manual and its companion book, 28:19—The Skills for Disciple-Making, you will learn some very simple, biblical, relational skills for pursuing Jesus Christ and leading others into deeper relationship with Him. This isn’t a “study,” but a practical guide for following Jesus and showing others how to follow Him as well.

Here are some testimonials of people who are experiencing an ever-deepening relationship with Christ and the thrill of leading others into relationship with Him:

I first attended 28:19 just three weeks after receiving Christ and thank God for the experience all the time. Now, a year later, I’m taking 28:19 again with my wife and God is really using this in our lives. Just last week I was with a client. I unleashed a vision of God for this couple through my story and now they’re coming to church with me. I absolutely love it when God uses me like that and I’m able to use the skills I’ve learned in 28:19! – Ken Kenyon, General Contractor

28:19 is the purest, most relational discipleship tool I have ever encountered. Interacting with the resurrected Jesus, helping others to relate with our gracious God, and challenging others toward Christ is the essence of 28:19. These are tools that Rob has used for years and I have had the privilege of watching his life. – Brad Pesnell, Community Pastor, Valley Real Life

As I have applied the skills from 28:19, my interaction with God has moved from my head to my heart. The Lord has given me new hope and is sprouting growth in areas of my life that have been dark and hopeless for so long. – Lynda Bustamante, Accountant & Dental Hygienist 

Soon after my husband came to Christ, he attended 28:19. God has used this curriculum in powerful ways in my husband’s life. He’s constantly telling others about the Lord and has grown so quickly in his faith. When he comes home, he spreads God’s light to me and my son. Now, through 28:19, I’m experiencing God’s love and working in me in new and exciting ways! – Ginnette Kenyon, Home Maker

I came to Christ shortly before going through 28:19. I see God working in my life each week. Just this week I was in a unique position to offer a friend the use of my car when hers broke down. God’s Word has changed how I normally interact in my relationships and I’m using my blessings to glorify God. – Eric Brock, Heavy Equipment Operator

28:19 has inspired me to pursue Christ in every Moment of my life. I am developing a greater inner awareness of what discipleship is, as well as gaining valuable skills to share with everyone I come in contact with. – Thomas Bove, Business Owner

Discipleship is profoundly relational

28:19—The Skills for Disciple-Making is not something you experience by yourself! Engage with a large group, small group or simply with a spiritual partner to deepen your relationship with Christ and with each other. In this 13-week experience you’ll have the tremendous joy of helping others pursue Christ as you do!

Rob Fischer

You can order the 28:19 book and Manual here:

The book, 28:19—The Skills for Disciple-Making

front only for Dad's purposes

The 28:19 ManualFront 28.19 Manual

Climbing the Heights through Coaching

Call me crazy, but there are certain aspects of basic training in the Army that I really enjoyed! One of my favorites was the “Confidence Course.” The Confidence Course was the mother of all challenge courses without the safety devices (at least back then).

One of the elements (or structures) on the Confidence Course that I most vividly remember was called the Skyscraper and resembled a multi-story building. This structure consisted of four telephone poles planted vertically in the ground, their bases forming a square. Each pole stood about eight feet from the other. The four poles all angled outward, away from the center of the structure as they rose from the ground.

At increments of about nine feet, level platforms were suspended between the poles forming each “story.” Because the poles jutted outward, so did each successive story. This made jumping up to the next story impossible.

The rules of engagement were that we were not allowed to climb the poles, but had to ascend the Skyscraper simply by climbing from one level to the next. The challenge was that there was no way to accomplish the task by ourselves. Instead, we paired up with a buddy with whom we worked together to climb the Skyscraper. Working with another person the task was still difficult but doable.

Engaging the challenges of a career, relationships, a major transition, or some lofty goal can be far more complex and daunting than climbing the “Skyscraper.” But for some reason, we often think we have to go it alone. Somewhere along the line, we picked up the false notion that if we don’t achieve our goals alone, we’ve somehow failed.

Let me debunk that notion! International leadership guru, Bill Hybels, said, “I have never done a single thing of value without the assistance of others.”

I have to agree with Bill. And one of the best ways to engage the assistance of others to help achieve whatever challenge stands before us is to employ a coach. I’ve personally gained so much through working with a coach.

Perhaps you’ve never engaged a coach before, but I’ve piqued your interest. Let me offer you a free, no-obligation, 30-minute, kick-the-tires coaching session. You’ve nothing to lose and a lot to gain! Try coaching and see how you can maximize your leadership potential and stay on top of your game.

©2015 Rob Fischer, CPLC

3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Suffering

At first, this may seem like an odd pursuit—getting the most out of suffering. Usually, our first response is to extract ourselves from suffering. That response is normal.

But what if we can’t remove ourselves from our suffering—or at least not right away? What do we do then? We have a choice either to waste our suffering or make the most of it.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

James reveals a simple truth about trials and suffering—they are always a test of our faith. How we react to suffering and what we allow it to work in our lives reveals the genuineness of our faith in God. We’ve trusted him when all is going well. Will we trust him now that all seems lost?

Typically, in the middle of difficult trials, at least two soul-rending questions surface:

  • Is God bigger than our trial?
  • Why is he allowing this to happen to me? In other words, can I trust God’s care for me in spite of this trial?

Here are 3 ways to get the most out of suffering

  1. Continue to deliberately trust God through your trial or suffering. Go back to what you know. You know that God is all powerful. You know that God loves you unconditionally—so intensely that he gave his Son Jesus to die for you. You’re his child. Trust him and take joy in that fact. Express your joy openly in praise and thanksgiving to him. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
  2. Persevere through your suffering, allowing it to make you more Christlike. Never give up! As meaningless as your trial seems right now, believe that God doesn’t squander anything on us. He’s using this trial to help us: see him more clearly, focus on what’s really important, and make us more holy. (Hebrews 12:7-13)
  3. Continue to love and serve others. When we’re in the middle of suffering, it’s easy to become self-focused. Resist that temptation. Instead, focus on others. The glory of Christ will shine more brightly through us in trials than when all is going well. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

When we do those things, our suffering produces:

  • Deeper faith and maturity in us
  • Praise and glory to Christ
  • Clear evidence to others of God’s love and power

Suffering and trials are tough enough already. Let’s not waste them and add to our suffering!

©2015 Rob Fischer

 

Living in Contradiction and Being OK with It

The title of this article may strike us uncomfortably. But the fact of the matter is, we all hold to conflicting values and pursuits—and we have to be okay with that. I’m talking about values that seem to pull us in different directions.

For instance, who hasn’t wrestled with finding harmony between spending time with family versus spending time at work? At times, the two seem to conflict and we have to agree that striking the right balance between the two can be a challenge. Both are vitally important. We must attend well to both. And when we over-emphasize one to the hurt of the other, we reap the negative consequences.

What about the two values: ambition and contentment. There’s an unlikely pair! How do we reconcile ambition with contentment? Both appear to be honorable values, yet they seem to contradict one another.

One way to think through their seeming contradictory pursuits is to consider what they are and aren’t. For instance, the opposite of ambition is apathy. Would we equate contentment with apathy? I don’t think so—or at least we shouldn’t. But we might call ambition a holy discontent.

The Apostle Paul made it his ambition to preach the gospel in places where Christ was not yet known (Romans 15:20). Yet he also explained that he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” (Philippians 4:11). And in the context of his current circumstances, he was in prison for preaching the gospel.

Ambition and contentment don’t have to contradict each other—but they can. James explains, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16) One thing we can glean from James’ statement is that we have the ability to pervert a perfectly good value by attaching sinful motives to it. James’ example reeks of both discontent and misplaced ambition.

In helping us sort out seeming contradictory pursuits, the Bible urges us to “Stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)

God has revealed to us his character and he has given us his Spirit. He also gave us the power of reason and he filled his Word with examples for us to follow. The key is to imitate Christ’s character. Now that’s a righteous ambition! And as we imitate Christ, let’s pursue other godly ambitions, while learning contentment.

©2015 Rob Fischer

 

3-Fold Strategy for Rooting Sin Out of Our Lives

A number of years ago, on my way home from work, a guy cut me off in traffic and I became very angry. I honked and scowled at him to let him know what I thought of his driving. Then, instantly, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin.

I was crushed! How could I respond to others with such anger and venom? I felt soiled by my sin. I was deeply ashamed and desperate to have the Lord take this behavior from me. I needed his transforming power.

At home, I changed and went out for a hike. On that hike, I meditated word-for-word and thought-for-thought on 1 John 1:9, allowing its truths to wash over me.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.

My meditation on this passage was extremely helpful and it also prompted a thought in me I had never considered.

Up until now, I had always “hoped” and “prayed” that I would avoid such a godless reaction when a situation like this arose in traffic. But I saw that this approach was totally passive on my part. As a result, I was always dealing with this sin on the back side of it, after-the-fact, in a reactionary way having to “clean up” my mess.

I realized that all of us go through much of life hoping to avoid sin, but doing very little to aggressively root it out of our lives. Specifically with this sin, I decided I needed to go on the offensive and remove it from my life—but how?

Going to the Word and in conversation with the Lord, he led me to a three-fold offensive strategy:

  1. I daily practiced abiding in Christ asking him to change me.
  2. I shared my specific need for change with a confidant—a spiritual partner (and with my wife).
  3. I chose to replace anger and frustration, with Christ’s patience and love.

Over the next months, as I continued practicing this offensive strategy, I experienced the change the Christ wanted to bring about in me. He gives us victory!

However, I must confess that the second element of that strategy was the most difficult because I had to humble myself, admit defeat, and give my confidant permission to ask me each week how I was doing.

The second element of this offensive strategy is so crucial for victory:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

What pattern of sin would you like God to root out of your life? Go on the offensive, using this strategy and see what God does!

©2015 Rob Fischer

God Tracks

One of the things I enjoy about snow is what it reveals. While animal tracks on a hard-packed trail in the summer may not be readily visible, in the snow all is revealed.

I remember hiking not far from home just as the first light snowfall ended. Because the snow was so freshly fallen, I could tell which tracks were fresh. Not far from the trailhead, I picked up the tracks of a deer. A little farther along a couple of coyotes joined the trail.

I continued to follow the trail and take in the story it told. After a while the two coyotes veered off the trail into the woods. But imagine my surprise when a bit farther along I saw the unmistakable paw prints of a cougar stalking the deer. Believe me, I continued my hike with a lot more vigilance from that point on!

Before long, I came to a spot in the trail where the cougar had clearly caught up with the deer and had taken it down. A deer-sized swath was plowed through the snow into the woods where the cougar had dragged its kill away.

On another occasion, I followed some rabbit tracks in the fresh snow. Then suddenly, the tracks ended. At that spot, there were signs of a brief struggle and the imprints of an owl’s wingtips where it had swooped down to grab its supper. It is truly amazing the stories that soft, fresh snow reveals.

As I was hiking again in the snow the other day, I was amazed at all the different tracks I saw: deer, moose, rabbit, turkey, grouse, coyote, raccoon, squirrel, and badger. Most of which I’d never have seen without the aid of the soft, impressionable snow.

And then I began thinking about our hearts. It occurred to me that a hard heart, resistant to the impressions of God, may conclude that God has not been present. But a heart softened to him and pliable to his touch will have plenty to show and tell of God’s grace and presence in that life.

Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

Any one of us is capable of developing a hard heart that repels rather than receives and displays the tracks of God in our lives. May we continually humble ourselves before him, worship him and thank him for his presence and work in our lives!

When Change Is Thrust Upon Us

All change is a step into the unknown. Whether we choose a change for ourselves, or have some change imposed on us, change demands that we leave what we know and move toward what is not yet clearly defined. For this reason, change offers us an amazing opportunity for personal and spiritual growth—but we often miss it.

I remember vividly the day in 1971 when I received my draft notice from Uncle Sam informing me that I’d soon be a member of the US armed services. I admit that it didn’t catch me totally off-guard, but it was definitely imposed on me!

God helped me in my response to that life-changing event and the three years I spent in the Army enriched my life in many ways. But I can’t say that I’ve always responded to unwanted change so positively.

Often, when change is imposed on us, we miss these growth opportunities, or perhaps experience only a portion of them for several reasons.

  • We may buck or balk at the change. When we actively resist change that is unavoidable, we may fight, kick and scratch, or simply grumble and complain about it. If the change is truly inevitable, then such a response not only hinders our growth, but makes us difficult to get along with for others.
  • We may blame others for the change. If what we perceive to be a negative change is forced on us, it’s easy to resent it, become angry about it, and focus our anger on those responsible for the change. (We often view God as the culprit.) These responses are caustic and place us in a thick, dark smog that prevents us from seeing the situation clearly.
  • We may retreat from the change. We do this by passively avoiding the change, trying to postpone it, or denying the reality of it. This approach casts us into a fantasy of our own creation where no real growth or forward movement can occur.

Again, I recently had a significant change imposed on me. It would be easy for me to default to one of the responses above and let my mind go to dark places. But I don’t want to miss out on what God has for me in this change. I want to grab hold of it and squeeze every drop of benefit from it possible. How do we do that?

When Jesus was contemplating the monumental change that would soon be thrust on him in terms of the cross and the horrors that accompanied it, he said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV)

Remarkably, in the very next verse, Jesus applied the same principle to us who follow him. A life following Jesus calls for change—constant change. Following Jesus means daily dying to self and pursuing him. In his presence, we cannot remain unchanged.

The application here is not that we die or submit to the change. Instead, we’re dying to the fleshly response to that change that we’re tempted to engage in and we willfully submit to Christ.

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Because, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:6 & 8 NIV)