Of Cows and Hardship

A friend of mine keeps a small herd of cattle on his farm. But before initially releasing the cows to his pasture, he noticed several patches of a weed, Canadian thistle, growing in the pasture. He immediately thought, “I’ve got to get rid of that weed!” Like most thistles, this one also has tiny thorns. Additionally, weeds tend to be invasive and could soon take over a whole pasture.

But as he researched the problem, my friend discovered something he hadn’t expected. While it’s true that cows initially find this thistle’s tiny thorns unpleasant, they toughen to the thorns and will eat it. And eating it yields two great results. First, this thistle contains much higher amounts of protein than the grass in the pasture, so it’s more nutritious. Second, by eating it the cows naturally keep the thistle from spreading. But the key is, they have to put up with the thorns.

Why am I writing about cows eating thistles? Because when faced with hardship, our immediate response is, “I’ve got to get rid of this problem!” But time and time again, hardships, challenges, and problems prove to be far more beneficial in helping us grow than when all is going smoothly and according to plan.

Obviously, there are some hardships or problems in our lives that we need to remove as soon as possible. But sometimes we try to extricate ourselves from a gritty challenge too soon. Perhaps we should at least stop and reflect on a few questions like:

  • What caused this problem? (What do I need to change?)
  • In what ways can I grow as a result of this hardship?
  • What are my peripheral responses to this hardship? (How am I holding up? What impact is it having on: my joy, the way I treat others, or my health?)
  • Where is God in the midst of this crisis? To what extent am I trusting Him?
  • Instead of running from this problem, how else could I respond to it?

Hardships toughen us, stretch us and enable us to grow in ways otherwise not possible. What are the thistles in your life right now and how can you profit from them?

©2017 Rob Fischer

Contentment Is Not Complacency

For a variety of reasons, I feel like my life is at a crossroads right now and I have some decisions to make. But I don’t know yet what those changes should be. In the middle of uncertainty, it’s easy to become discontented, paralyzed and complacent. But that would be foolish!

Instead, in spite of the uncertainty, I’m seeking to be content in my circumstances. Yet at the same time I’m looking to the Lord to guide me into my next steps. Being complacent would get me nowhere but frustrated and would certainly damage my situation and perhaps that of those around me.

The writer of Hebrews urges us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)

Paul also wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)

Some might think that contentment runs contrary to ambition and the desire to excel and achieve even more. But this not at all what is meant by contentment. Contentment and complacency share no common ground.

Contentment is being at peace with where God has us right now. Being content means that we’re in a state of trusting God to meet our needs and we enjoy a quiet relaxation knowing that He has everything under control. When we’re content, we’re thankful to God and acknowledge His sovereign and gracious provision for all things.

But contentment is not complacency. Complacency is failure to act when we should. Complacency means we accept the status quo in spite of the fact that we know God wants us to do something about it.

Complacency represents the kind of faux-faith that James describes. It’s a faith lacking substance. A faith with no action is no faith. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Instead, Paul urges, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV) And, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Perhaps you find yourself in midst of change as well. Let’s demonstrate our trust in God through contentment and reject complacency as faithlessness and disobedience.

©2017 Rob Fischer

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

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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.

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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

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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

 

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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

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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!

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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)

 

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Dare Mighty Things!

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt 

There’s something about that quote that stirs me to the core of my being! Who wants to “rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat”?

The problem is that people get stuck. Behavioral patterns for a day, soon become those for a week, and then a month, and then a year, and so forth. Suddenly, a person wakes up one morning realizing they’re no further along than they were 10, 20, or 30 years before.

That’s tragic!

The definition of insanity: “doing what we’ve always done, yet expecting different results” has become merely a cliché. We glibly acknowledge its truth, but don’t act on it.

Stop! No, really! We cannot continue doing the same things we’ve always done and expect different results!

But we’re afraid. We’re cautious. We’re careful. We reason that our hesitations are prudent and wise, only to discover that perhaps we too “rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

As we embark on 2015, perhaps you find yourself living too much “in a gray twilight.” What characterizes your life, your relationships, and your pursuits? Do you find that you “neither enjoy nor suffer much?”

If so, coaching may be just the leverage and impetus you need to dare some mighty thing. This is one of the things I love about coaching; it leaves no one in that “gray twilight,” but challenges, empowers and equips to “dare mighty things.”

How about it? Give coaching a try in 2015. Call, text or email me to get started meeting with your personal coach.

Rob Fischer

 

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