The website to explore, discover, discuss…and embrace the life that matters
Sunday August 28th 2016

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Stop in the Name of Love!

15. Motown Stop

We so often look for God’s will on where we should go with our lives. But what about the times we need to stop? My sermon examines Acts 16:6-12 when God told Paul to stop. It reflects on how this account might apply to our own approach to sharing the Gospel with others and to our lives in general.

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

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Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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The Ring Of Truth

Caged_Lion

In slumber, I sleep
In a stupor, I stoop
In the sacred, I soar

I recently applied for a part-time administrative job at the local zoo. I love animals. Some tell me I love animals more than people. That probably depends on the animal. Or the person.

Because I love animals, I debated whether working at a zoo wouldn’t trouble my conscience. The jury’s still out on this for me, but the argument that these creatures are being raised outside their natural habitat does trouble me.

Our most common vision is of the large cat, be it lion or leopard, who paces back and forth within his confines. Many zoos have larger, more organic environments than just cages, of course. But you’re still left to wonder—is this where they are meant to be?

I too often find myself pacing like the lion. I push forward against the boundaries of my life. Wishing I were somewhere else. Learning to adapt inside my cage. I satiate myself with processed food or binging on a favorite television show. I try to discipline myself to do the right thing. I sometimes act when I shouldn’t or don’t act when I should. I too often sigh with resignation more than I roar with life.

But then in my stupor, I have the vaguest recollection that cages are often of our own making. And then I do something small, seemingly insignificant, and it all comes back to me.

Months ago, I woke up deep within my cage. I rose to go to work, buried underneath a landfill of wasteful anxiety—how was I going to solve the innumerable tasks the day held for me? I began to strategize, to push back against the fear, to breathe in and out and take one step forward.

It was early in the morning. Next thing on my long to-do list was to wipe the condensation from my car…when I looked up into the pre-dawn sky. There, against a canvas of the darkest blue were just the fewest stars and the sliver of a moon. And my heart said, “Oh…”

Are we like the caged animal? Are the bars of our own making? Do we, like John Donne once said, “neglect God and his angels for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door”? Where is our natural habitat? Is this where we’re meant to be?

Maybe, by a simple change of focus, or by a shift in location or activity, we’ll move ourselves beyond the cage of our slumber or stupor into the realm of the sacred. The truth will finally ring true in our ears, and our heart will say, “Oh…”

Unlike the poor lion, most of our cage doors are already open. It’s a daily choice whether we’ll step outside.

“One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God’s children are meant to be.” —Madeleine L’Engle

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Embrace What Matters – The Book Is Here!

IMG_20151205_072341

About The Book

It’s said that as human beings, we spend about a third of our lives asleep. But, too many of us spend the rest of our lives in a type of waking sleep, held captive by the bonds of distraction. The shiny trinkets of entertainment and materialism, the prisons of anxiety and brokenness: these hypnotize our souls into a resigned stupor, where we assume we’re living day-to-day, but are never truly alive.

The book 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is less a Bible study than it is a conversation you might have with a friend over coffee. It speaks to you and invites you to devote a few moments each day to learning, or remembering, how to live your life to the full.

In easy-to-understand, practical terms, it speaks to both the earnest spiritual pilgrim who needs a return to base camp, and to the person who has never given much thought to spiritual matters, but would like to explore that journey.

It’s never too late to live the wide-awake, passionate life you once envisioned. Embrace what matters most, and start living a life rich with purpose, delight, and eternal meaning.

Reader Reviews

“A book to embrace! Life is about relationships, and John Michalak brings that home to your heart…I read from this book every day and will purchase more to give to people I care about.”

“I think the book can speak to those who don’t necessarily know God. It can be a platform for those who wonder and are curious about what else there is in this life and how to look eternally.”

“This is a wonderful read…The author writes in a manner that allows the reader a sense of hope while pursuing a deeper understanding of why they are here and what their purpose is. If you have a shelf, this book should be on it!”

Where To Get It

It’s being sold in bookstores nationwide including Lifeway, and Barnes & Noble. It’s also being sold everywhere online, including Amazon.

MAIN SECTIONS & WEEKLY THEMES

PART 1: Who You Are, Why You’re Here, and What You Should Do About It

Your Identity Matters
Your Purpose Matters
Your Growth Matters
Your Learning Matters
Your Wisdom Matters
Your Productivity Matters
Your Adventures Matter

PART 2: How You See the World

Your Perspective Matters
Your Focus Matters
Your Sense Of Reality Matters
Your Sense Of Wonder Matters
Your Awareness Of Creation Matters
Your Awareness Of Art Matters
Your Awareness Of Industry Matters
Your Awareness Of Time Matters

PART 3: How to Free Yourself from the Rat Race

Rest Matters
Peace Matters
Simplicity Matters
Provision Matters
Stability Matters
Personal Matters
Uncool Matters
Joy Matters
Living Matters

PART 4: The Importance of Your Relationships

Relationship Matters
Love Matters
Romance Matters
Family Matters
Parenting Matters
Friends Matter
Community Matters
Strangers Matter
God Matters

PART 5: What’s Wrong and How to Make It Right

What’s Wrong Matters
Weakness Matters
Healing Matters
Forgiveness Matters
Openness Matters
Communication Matters
Presence Matters
Hope Matters

PART 6: How to Become a Better Human Being

Your Character Matters
Your Choices Matter
Your Discipline Matters
Your Consumption Matters
Your Movement Matters
Your Attitude Matters
Your Humility Matters
Your Manners Matter
Your Giving Matters
Your Faithfulness Matters

Conclusion

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Between Keith And The Nuns

There is a mystery to belonging.

I’m usually reminded of this early on Sunday mornings. I bought one of those clock alarms with a CD player so you can wake up to the music of your choice rather than some annoying radio station or a loud buzzer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Recreational Vehicles

Previously, I wrote about our pursuit of the American Dream, its pros and cons, and how most view it as improving yourself economically, owning your own home, building a retirement nest-egg, etc. But, perhaps the most compelling symbol for those who’ve achieved the American Dream is embodied in just two letters: RV. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Your Working Relationship?

The precious possession of a man is diligence. — Proverbs 12:27

Do you like what you do? According to recent surveys, most Americans don’t. Most of us are unhappy and wishing we were somewhere else. Some of us are lazy. Others are unchallenged. Some can’t get along with our co-workers. Others have a mean boss or feel under-appreciated for all they do.

In truth, understanding our relationship to work is a fundamental life-question, and if we’re not happy with what we do, this might be a red-flag for some self-examination. Why? Because work, or what we do, encapsulates much more than what we do for a paycheck and therefore speaks more about who we are as human beings than just who we are as employees.

Sure, most of us go to work to earn a living. But, It’s also work to get out of bed, it’s work to exercise, to eat right and keep ourselves fit. It’s work to keep a house clean, to care for infants and teenagers, to love our husband or wife, it’s work to come up with fresh ideas, to keep up with our studies, to go to church, to pray, to volunteer in our community, and so on.

Understanding our relationship to work runs as deep as understanding our relationship to God, to our spouse, our children, or others who matter to us. Because, just like marriage, childbirth, etc., work is seated deep within our psyche and our history. The concept of work is sewn within the fabric of life’s purpose and meaning.

In the Bible, the first thing we read about God doing is work. When he speaks, he does so with a view towards productivity. Through his creative energy, he produces for us light, the earth, the sea, plants, animals, humans–all with a similar reproductive or utilitarian end. They’re meant to work for something. The first commission he gives to man is to work, to cultivate and maintain Eden, his home. Everything has its purpose, and our purpose is typically exercised through work.

The Bible has a lot to say about our relationship to work:

Are you one of those who feels unappreciated at your job (outside or inside the home), like no one understands your value or properly rewards you for what you do? There are lots of passages where God defends equal work for equal pay. And, God does care about justice in the workplace. But, he also cares about your attitude and your sense of duty. God says that it’s better to be a nobody with a job than to be unemployed with no one around to challenge your superiority (1). And, he says that, ultimately, he’s the one you should be working for; he’s the one you should seek your rewards and recognition from (2).

Work produces. Idleness, believe it or not, destroys (3). Idleness is rampant in our culture of electronic self-worship and passivity. When we have nothing to do for an extended period, our love turns inward and our judgment turns outward (4). When we aren’t producing anything, we’re more apt to tear down and, worse-case scenario, to even lose the life and gifts God meant for us to put to good use in the first place (5).

You’ve heard all the stories of people who win the lottery only to end up in bankruptcy, broken relationships, and even death? God says that “the precious possession of a man is his diligence” (6). There needs to be an appreciation between what we have and how much work was done to produce it. Otherwise, we disintegrate into selfishness, and what we do have has no meaning; we incessantly crave and desire and are left with nothing (7).

Now some of you Bible scholars are shouting at your screen, trying to remind me that God gives us our most precious possession, our eternal relationship with Him, through his grace and not our own work. This is indeed true. But, God’s grace, while given freely, is the result of the finished work of his son, and we’ll have no true job satisfaction in life without–in appreciation of the cost that was paid for this free gift–following the same work-ethic Jesus did while on earth.

Essentially, when we accept the rewards of Christ’s work, we do so by signing a new job application. God becomes our new boss. He has already paid us the highest of salaries, and promises to energize us to do so many things we could never do on our own (8). But, ultimately, he expects us, through his power and guidance, to be productive–to help him reproduce in others what he has produced in us.

If you’re feeling disgruntled with your job, with the effort you produce, with your place in life, ask yourself this question: What are you working for? Is it to produce a living, a regular paycheck, food on the table, shoes for the kids? This is right to do. But, you shouldn’t work just to produce a living, but to produce a life–not just for yourself or your own sense of purpose, but for the lives of those around you. That’s really what you were created for.

God says that by working hard, we should remember those in need, whether, physical, or spiritual (9). He says that a person should “labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need” (10).

Our relationship to work, then, has everything to do with how we work on our relationships. What if we applied the following as a work ethic, both on the job, and in life itself?

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody” (11).

Tell me that the work described above wouldn’t produce a reward that is miles beyond your measly expectations of a fair paycheck and proper recognition in your career or vocation. It would both exhaust you and help you sleep more soundly at night. It would produce in you and others a life of purpose and meaning.

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, God’s sign has been placed in the window of your life all this time:

“Help Wanted.”

What are you ready to do for him?

(1).   Proverbs 12:9
(2).   Ephesians 6:5-8; Hebrews 6:10-12
(3).   Proverbs 18:9
(4).   I Timothy 5:13-18; Proverbs 26:16
(5).   Luke 19:20-26
(6).   Proverbs 12:27
(7).   Proverbs 13:4; 21:25-26
(8).   Philippians 2:12-13
(9).   Acts 20:35
(10). Ephesians 4:28
(11). Romans 12:9-18

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Growing Up Again

When I was very young and bursting with faith.

“There exists in most men a poet who died young, while the man survived.”
— Sainte-Beuve

It is one of the gifts of life to me that, no matter how old we are, we’re never far from the glory and imagery of childhood.

We, of course, spend perhaps a quarter of our life as children. Then, sometime soon after becoming adults (and sometimes before) many of us have children of our own and raise them into our middle years (and sometimes beyond). Our children then have children, and if we’re granted years beyond the average span, our greatness is measured by how many of their children surround us.

For people like me and my wife, we have the gift of nieces and nephews, the children of friends and extended family. So, unless we’re monks or highly reclusive, children and childhood are always around us.

Many of the reasons for this gift are obvious. Some are beyond our comprehension. Children infuse our decaying psyches with the pulse of renewal, of innocence and purity. Children give us hope. They shock us out of the mundane drone of anxious reality into living in the rapturous present–the unrestrained belly laugh; the melodious giggle; the faraway gaze; the bursting enthusiasm; the playful absorption. They remind us of guileless friendship and interdimensional joy. Their life’s purpose is seated in love and connection. Imagination isn’t a word they use. It’s the lens through which they see everything.

Scripture speaks often of the lessons of childhood. It speaks of what it means to be a child and what it means to grow up. But, I think, when we become adults, we often misinterpret these lessons. We exempt ourselves from the lessons of childhood because, as adults, we think we don’t need them any more. But, as spiritual children, no matter our age, we’re really never beyond needing them.

Certainly, most reading this have reached adulthood—we have jobs, we pay our taxes, we take out the trash. In the context of the physical world, we have reached maturity. We have left our father and mother and have a sense of sovereignty and autonomy over the physical universe.

But, what about the spiritual world? Are we likewise spiritual “grown-ups,” not needing a transcendent Father to protect us and help us make sense of things? Spiritually, no matter the assessment of our own maturity, shouldn’t we always remain the little child who can look with an unknowing awe and unrestrained dependence toward their daddy?

Perhaps we have grown spiritually in some areas, but unknowingly, are still children in others. Or, having grown some, perhaps we learned an important lesson as spiritual children, but in our seasoned maturity, we have forgotten what it was. God often calls us backward in order to move us forward.

As adults of this world, we live lives of responsibility and restraint. But, spiritually, we could stand to remember the uninhibited passion of childhood. And not just the passion to enjoy what’s good in life, but a passionate transparency to cry out to anyone who would listen when things are not so good.

Scripture does say that we shouldn’t remain children. That we should grow spiritually. But again, most of us never really have the chance to grow up because we won’t first regress into spiritual infancy. We think our goal in life should be to seek greatness. Control. Accomplishment. But, Christ said we should instead humble ourselves and seek him with all the dependence and frailty of a little child.

Growing up can be hard and there are some memories of youth we wouldn’t want to repeat. But we serve a God who makes all things new, and the Kingdom of Heaven is found, not in the security of adulthood, but in the precarious wonder of starting over with a remembered innocence.

So, whatever our age, any hope we might have for our future lies not just in being born again, but in growing up again. And, as we grow up again in him, we are called the “children of promise.”

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God. And we are!…And, it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is…everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” — 1 John 3:1-3

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About John Michalak

niQSkYTh

An author, speaker, musician, and minister, John Michalak has spent more than 20 years equipping others in the areas of life-change and personal relationship. John’s inspirational new book, 365 Devotions To Embrace What Matters Most is now available from Zondervan publishing.

Need More Inspiration?

Click HERE to get more inspirational articles sent directly to you as well as updates from John on his writing and other items of interest.

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Social Networking & The Golden Rule

I’ve always loved the old Spaghetti Westerns. Clint Eastwood rides into some frontier town covered with dust, mystery, and rawhide testosterone.

The Old West town he surveys is riddled with the oddest mix of characters: the snake-oil salesman bellows to anyone within shouting distance that he can cure all their ills; the preacher across the street shouts a solution Read the rest of this entry »

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A Bittersweet Season

Like many, Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. There is a richness of life and color. Houses, trees and city streets seem to stand up a bit straighter as we all do when we put on our best clothes. The world shines a pregnant glow. The air grows cooler, and we imagine the warmth inside all those shops and homes with smoke-filled chimneys.

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Minding Your Ps…

No need to tell you where I was, but it was wonderful.

It was high summer and I was on vacation, visiting a location I had been many times before. The sun was setting, I was alone, standing on a quiet country road at the head of an expansive bean field. The crop was low and plush, and you could see all the way to the end. The fading sunlight had been replaced by Read the rest of this entry »

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The Pain Now Is Part Of The Happiness Then

Today, I’m in mourning. There’s a weight on me that feels like the dense pressure in your chest they say is common with a heart attack. I’ve cried more in the last few days than I have in years. My emotions go from disorientation to shock, from guilt to a sense of peace. I’m in mourning because sometime last night, I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Questions To Ask Yourself Before Speaking

If you’re like me, you get in trouble for opening your mouth a lot. It’s part of being human. But, there are lessons we can learn on how to filter our speech, whether it’s with our family, our friends, co-workers, or with the stranger on the street. The following is one of the most effective lessons on this I’ve ever heard. Read the rest of this entry »

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Life Is Relationship

Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? He was an author and psychotherapist who died about 9 years ago at the age of 92. Among his other accomplishments, he wrote a great book called Man’s Search For Meaning. This book begins by showing the way Dr. Frankl would start out his therapy Read the rest of this entry »

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Character and Wonder

I love movies. For good or ill, they have had a major impact on my life. I’m a fan of most genres—comedy, romance, drama, action.

As a fairly analytical human, I was thinking a while back on what makes a great movie…great. Certainly there are many ingredients—good writing, talented Read the rest of this entry »

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Humility and Gratitude

(Originally written June 2007)

A beautiful woman died the other day. And, for my own life, I have no reason at all to complain.

Jacqui was to turn 28 in a month or so. She was a gorgeous, petite girl with striking eyes and auburn hair. She was filled with love and with an amazing energy for life. She was married just under 2 years to a wonderful man. But, she died. Of cancer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Awakening From The American Dream

I hate to admit this, but there’s a side of me that sometimes enjoys the idea of oncoming disaster.

Maybe I’m too detached and numbed by the virtual world of movies and television, where a 10.5 earthquake sends California into the ocean or an ice Read the rest of this entry »

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The Greatest Of These

(This is a feature I wrote for Good News Magazine back in 2000)

How Alzheimer’s other victims have loved, persevered and come to terms with one of life’s most dehumanizing diseases.
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Throwing In The Towel

Here’s another life lesson I had as a kid that has left a significant mark on who I am today. In my early teens and at various other periods growing up, I was the victim of a lot of “persecution” by my peers…teasing. The persecution came in a lot of forms, some physical with bullies, but I guess most of it was verbal–name-calling, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fingal’s Cave

There are certain works of art that have a lifetime impact on you. At least for me. They literally shape who you are. Reading Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle as a kid could qualify. Reading Plato in high school was significant for me (if that qualifies as art). One of the most epic encounters with a work of art Read the rest of this entry »

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Freedom In Relationship

(Originally written just prior to the 4th of July)

Jean Valjean was “a very dangerous man.”

That was the description written about him on the yellow passport he carried. After nineteen years of horrible imprisonment for the small crime of stealing a loaf of bread, he was set free. But, although now outside the prison walls, he knew he was still a prisoner, and the paper he carried proved that to all he encountered. Read the rest of this entry »

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