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Christmas Towns, Part 2

Christmas Towns, Part 2

Take a walk with me through some of the towns where the story of Jesus took place.  Along the way you will meet people who struggled to understand what God was doing.  In each town we will learn something significant about what it means to believe God.  I’m sure the individuals had doubts, yet they were certain that God had a plan and would carry out His plan.  As we walk through these towns, take notice, you may catch a glimpse of yourself and what God is doing in your life.

The second town we come to in the story of Jesus is Bethlehem.  This is the town that takes center stage each Christmas because Jesus was born there.  Every detail surrounding his birth seems perfectly orchestrated.  The new-born baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, an angel announcing the arrival of the Great Shepherd to shepherds in the field, and angels singing praise.  The one who was before all things and in whom all things hold together entered the world through a stable.  It’s a one-of-a-kind story! 

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.”  (Luke 2:1-5, The Message)

Sometimes God chooses to do big things in small, out-of-the-way places, in ways we may not expect.  No one expected this.  God’s son, the Savior of the world, was born in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem.  No one expected that such an important thing could happen there; but it did.  It happened because Joseph and Mary believed God and walked in obedience.  Just before time for Jesus to be born, a census was called for.  Who expected that?  God did. 

What blows my mind is that GOD KNEW that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem long before it happened.  Micah prophesied 700 years before this moment in Bethlehem, that it would happen.  God not only knew THAT the Messiah would be born, but He knew exactly WHERE he would be born.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

What led TO Bethlehem and what happened IN Bethlehem were not afterthoughts in the mind of God.  They were before-thoughts.  He knew there would be a census requiring Joseph to return to Bethlehem just in time for His son to be born there.  He knew the inn would be full that day, so he provided a stable.  God knew. 

God knows about you too! “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  Joseph and Mary were called according to His purpose and they believed God to work out the details.  You can too. 

In Micah’s prophesy God eliminated all other cities and towns in the world as possibilities.  Out of all the places where Jesus could have been born, God knew it would be in a tiny village, near Jerusalem.  It would not be Jerusalem, the capital city.  It would not even be Nazareth where his parents lived.  Both cities would have been logical choices, but God called it.

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Sometimes God chooses to do big things in small, out-of-the-way places, in ways we may not expect.  

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By traveling to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary weren’t trying to fulfill prophecy.  They went because that’s what they were required to do.  That’s all.  They didn’t have a choice in the matter.  The government dictated that every person had to return to their hometown; regardless of personal circumstances.  Mary was about to give birth to the Savior of the world and yet not even she was exempt from the census!  God knew that would be the case.  Mary was pregnant, and because of circumstances beyond her control, “while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born” (Luke2:6).  So perfect!  God knew about all this long before it happened! 

I imagine that we’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve thought it wasn’t supposed to be this way or that way.  God is working while we are waiting.  One way that God works all things together for the good is that he plans ahead.  Bethlehem reminds us that God has been at work long before now.  We may not always see exactly what God is doing but we can always believe that He is doing something according to his will.  Our job is to be obedient which means doing the next right thing.  And for Joseph and Mary, the next right thing was to go to Bethlehem.

God is not surprised by either world events, or personal choices.  God knew that a census would happen at that exact time in history, requiring Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem whether they wanted to go or not.  In the same way that God was aware of the census, I believe He knows about the “Bethlehem moments” that happen in our lives.  It may very well be that normal circumstances have brought you to a difficult inconvenient place.  Maybe you would prefer to be somewhere different doing something else.  Everybody has moments like that.  Wherever you are and whoever you are with, honor God in this moment. 

Bethlehem reminds us to believe that God knows how to get us WHERE we need to be WHEN we need to be there.  We can easily miss the most obvious powerful truth about Bethlehem which is that God knew before.  Stay obedient.  Embrace what God is doing.  He knows how to get you where you need to be to do what He’s called you to do.  God had to get you where you are to take you where He wants you to go.

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For more inspiration read Your Life in One Day (click here): https://danholland2819.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/your-life-in-one-day/ 

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Dan’s book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle version. For special offers visit http://www.CoachDanHolland.com/

“I’ve known Dan for over 30 years and this book is a beautiful watermark of his faith. It is an enlightening read that reminds you that God desperately desires to use you in EVERY chapter of your life. He skillfully communicates that trusting fully in God’s love and promises are the keys to successfully getting through the adventures he calls you to. This book challenges you to walk bravely into the arena of your life and to listen carefully for what God is calling you to do!” Kim Carbia – Career Coach and Author of “Faith And Unemployment”

 

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Breakthrough

As I consider my experience in Taekwondo the thing that stands out to me most is that in both Taekwondo and life we should always be willing to give a little more than might be required or expected. In order to do that you may need to learn to concentrate on what you know with your mind rather than what you see with your eyes. Let me explain.

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Action Photography by Micah Holland

One of the first real tests that a martial artist faces is the test of breaking a board. Each time a student begins to learn how to break a board we instruct them to kick beyond the board or to kick through the board. To help him or her grasp this concept we remove the board so that the student is able to visualize the point to which they should kick or strike. The goal of course is for them to concentrate their focus, energy, power and aim beyond the fictitious barrier.

Most students do well in this exercise. Then comes the actual test. Everything changes the moment that they see an actual board standing in the way. At that point something happens in the mind of the student. Rather than concentrating on kicking beyond the board their full attention is captured and placed on the board itself. The board is suddenly obstructing their perfect view of their goal. What seemed possible now feels impossible. 

Why does that happen? Why will a student agree to concentrate kicking to one point, practice kicking to that point and then suddenly and somewhat unconsciously completely lose sight of their goal? Why do they suddenly become in danger of fixating on the board? Is it that the student doesn’t trust their instructor? I think the explanation is a rather simple one. This change of focus happens because the board is real. Breaking the board was a nice goal and thought but actually breaking through the board is another matter entirely. What the student knows in their mind and believes in their heart is hijacked by what they see with their eyes. They believe their instructor, but then they begin to think and that is the problem. It seems that the more they think about the board the more they stop believing they can actually break through the board.

Action Photography by CI Roy Reid

That is a powerful lesson in life itself. You may know that there is more then what you might be able to see in this life and so you make your goal to live with faith, courage and determination. Yet, sometimes whenever you face physical, relational or financial obstacles (to name a few) hope, faith and joy can suddenly be hidden from sight. And then what happens? You focus on the problem rather than beyond the problem to the solution. You focus on what may become a source of pain rather than the joy that lies just beyond it. In some instances you may find that you have been fixated on the “board” in your life for years!

Now, because you have lost sight of the goal, you may continually and courageously kick against the very real obstacle and it hurts again and again. Why are we suddenly afraid of the trouble we face? While there is no simple answer I would like to submit that it might simply be due to a loss of sight. It seems to me that in the same way that a student might be suddenly afraid of seeing the board, although he or she knew that there would be a board to break, that we can suddenly be afraid in life.

We fear the board because we do not want to suffer.

We certainly don’t want to cause ourselves unnecessary pain and suffering. And so we do everything in our power to avoid the pain we expect. In other words, we want to break the board, but we don’t want it to hurt! We want to move through each challenge without suffering in any way. Yet suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance leads to maturity / character, and character leads to hope, according to scripture.

Something powerful happens in the human spirit whenever we focus our attention and belief on something that is outside of ourselves and beyond our trouble. For me, whenever I focus my attention on Christ and eternal life that is beyond anything on this earth, I also find exceptional joy and abiding peace. And when I focus on joy I am better able to break through obstacles that life presents. Not always without pain and not always on the first try. But that’s life.

Not accomplishing something the first time is ok.

Hurting as a result of trying is ok. Pain does not mean that you are doing something wrong; sometimes it’s a result of breaking through something. However, it is not ok to give up just because you are tired. There is no valid reason for not trying again: if you fall down seven times, then get up eight.

Back to the board-breaking…I learned to focus on a point beyond the board. All was well until I was required to face the more difficult challenge of breaking through concrete. First degree required that I break one 2″ concrete cap with my hand. Second degree black required breaking through two 2″ concrete caps with my foot. The lessons I carried into breaking concrete were things like: Don’t overthink it (huge lesson)…It’s been done before…You are well prepared…Trust your instructor to put you in situations that are both challenging and sometimes difficult…Always give your best.

Having said that, times of testing in both Taekwondo and in life can be useful markers along the journey just to confirm that you are experiencing progress. I like that I am always learning and always teaching.

Why did I pursue 3rd Dan Black Belt?

Once the testing was over, individuals were allowed to ask questions of me in a public forum. One of those questions came from my wife. She asked me why I did it? She said, “A lot has happened in the year leading up to this point of testing. At any point you could have decided not to move forward. Why did you do it?” After thinking for a moment I answered to the audience, “I decided to persevere because I knew that if I did and was successful, it would allow me to work toward a fourth degree. But if I didn’t, it would be the end. I didn’t want it to be the end.” 

I am humbled by the fact that while many began this race, few (by comparison) have come this far. I am thankful for each person who invested time, energy, suggestions, training and encouragement. While I am so grateful to each instructor and students, I am especially grateful to Kwanjangnim David Turnbull and Sahbumnim Wendy Turnbull. I hope that there will be many opportunities to help others experience breakthroughs to their dreams and goals.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Examine Yourself

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An environment of tolerance is a funny thing because in such an environment, intolerance is not tolerated. Weird.

I’ve thought it might be helpful, or at least fun, to say to people who are intolerant of intolerance, “Sorry you think its intolerant of me to not tolerate your intolerance,” but then that comment may come across a bit, shall we say, snide.

What is the opposite of tolerance? Is it intolerance? No. I think the opposite of tolerance might be caring. When you genuinely care about ideals you have about people and things, then you will appropriately stand for truth. Yet, this gets you to the root of the problem…doesn’t it? All to often you may not be clear about what is truth. Here’s the truth…

Tolerate something long enough and it becomes acceptable.

Accept something long enough and it becomes familiar.

And if it’s familiar long enough – it becomes right – even righteous.

At this point everyone does what is right in his own eyes. It happened to God’s Old Testament people (Judges 17:6; 21:25) and it can happen to you. It can happen to you but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Just be careful what you tolerate!

Not everything we tolerate is a sin or national crisis. Sometimes we tolerate “dumb” stuff. Some examples might help: If you Tolerate laziness, in yourself or anyone, and what do you hope to gain? If you Tolerate overspending, then eventually you may have to live with her children named poverty and hardship – and they have an insatiable appetite! If you Tolerate people misbehaving in your life/world, anyone, then you likely will live in chaos, conflict, strive and serious avoidance.

It begins with building a tolerance for something…anything. That is usually accomplished by allowing existence or practice of something without interference. Often it is tolerating something that you do not necessarily like or agree with. You just tolerate it. You allow it to exist or to be practiced without interference. Why would you do that? Good question? What’s the answer? Is it…Fear of rejection/Desire for acceptance…Lack of courage…Laziness…Avoiding conflict? Your guess is as good as mine.

The point is that you can and probably should examine what and why you tolerate stuff.

“That’s All Folks!”

Oh…almost forgot, a couple of scriptures for you to contemplate:

1. “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.” – Proverbs 5:21. You can be sure that the Lord is paying attention to your steps.

2. “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11. Before you accept something as true examine it through the lens of scripture.

3. “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” – 1 Corinthians 11:28. Communion is a time when you should examine your life and relationship with God and others as well.

4. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5. Notice that the pronoun yourselves is used twice…this is to emphasize the idea that you should start looking more at your self than at others.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Bible Verse, Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Provision

ProVision01I was writing a prayer and I wrote “Thank you Lord for your provision.”  I thanked God for providing for my needs. No big deal except for the the fact that I noticed that the word is comprised of two words: “pro” and “vision.”  You probably already knew, that but it was a new thought for me.

Provision means to provide or supply something for someone’s use such as food, drink or equipment.  Add an “s” to the end of the word and you’re suddenly looking to the future. Provisions means to make “financial or other arrangements for future eventualities or requirements.” For example, saving for retirement…you don’t need it yet, however, if you live long enough, you will.

Let me take you one step further; the word “pro” is used in different ways. On the one hand it can mean “to be for something”. For example, you might be pro-life which simply means that you would choose life over death when possible. On the other hand, sometimes “pro” is used as slang to describe someone that has achieved the highest skill level such as someone that excels in their career like a speech writer or athlete. But the whole idea of being pro-vision struck me because it might mean that you would choose vision over illusion.

You probably remember the story of Abraham going through the motions to sacrifice his dearly loved son, Isaac, when suddenly, just in the nick of time, God provided a ram to use as a sacrifice in the place of Isaac.  Obviously the story offers us a picture of Jesus being offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for us.  Look closely because there is an emotionally charged moment in the story when both Abraham and Isaac are trying to understand how this was going to play out.  This is how it is written:

“Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” (Gn 22:7-8)

Abraham’s response is simply that God would make pro-vision…God would provide.  Maybe you have been in a place when you are walking forward in obedience and not totally certain how everything will turn out.  But you keep walking!  Each day, you get out of bed and remind yourself to breath.  You really only know the next thing to do and so you do whatever that thing is.  For Abraham and Isaac it meant building an altar, placing the wood.

At some point they had to do the hard thing…they had to go through the process of binding Isaac’s feet and hands, and laying him on the altar.  Seeing no way out of this hard obedience, Abraham finally raised the knife to kill his son.  Freeze!

Which do you think required more faith:  Being bound and laid on the altar or raising the knife?  I’ll let you think about that one.

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gn 22:14)

In this true story the Lord’s Hebrew name is Jehovah-Jireh which means ‘The LORD will provide’ or ‘The LORD will see.’  It means to give a means of deliverance; the root means “to see.”  In other words, and this is the interesting piece of pro-vision, the LORD will see and provide.

The good news is this: when the Lord requires hard things from you, he also sees what is needed and provides.  Not ahead of time but always in time.  He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and just in time provided a ram.  Whatever He has asked of you, he will also make pro-vison. Just keep walking.

Vision definitely makes the hard things easier.  On the other hand “Where there is no vision, the people perish (cast off restraint)” Proverbs 29:18.

And that, my friend, is no illusion.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Bible Verse, Goal Setting, Leadership

 

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Strong Leader

Strong Leader01Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so true it made you stop the conversation, or at least pause for a moment, just to think about what had just been said?  I had one of those exact experiences a few years ago, and I’ve tried to live up to it since.

Here is what happened: I was on the phone with a trusted friend and mentor that lives in Miami.  We were discussing solutions to some challenges I was facing and that is when he said it.  He spoke in a deliberate tone: “If you want to work with strong leaders then be one.”

I’ll never forget that moment.  I was so grateful and at the same time I wanted to yell, “Ouch…that hurt!”  Although I agreed with him the impact felt like I had hit a speed bump to quickly.  The kind of speed bump that almost brings you to a stop while your car rolls up and over the “bump.”  That one comment stopped me cold in my tracks.  In that instance I had to slow down while I finished getting over that thought.

My friend was dead on accurate:  Leaders are people who think of solutions and act.  Leaders not only can identify a problem but feel the burden to bring a solution to the problem.  Be the person in your family, office, or team that spends the necessary time to think through a problem long enough to think new thoughts about possible solutions.  Expect the leaders around you to do the same.  The fact is that whenever you live as a strong leader you find yourself in the company of other strong leaders.  You will either attract them to you or you will be attracted to them.  It’s probably both.  Pretty cool deal for sure.

I have the privilege of working with a lot of strong leaders…and hopefully so do you.  About six months ago at one of our staff meetings we went over some guiding principles, the kind that really resonate in the heart of those who want to lead well.  If memory serves me, I think that lead pastor Justin Miller gave the list.  The basic points are his, the commentary is mine.  Anyway, here is the list.  I hope that these thoughts are helpful and inspiring.

1. There is a clear difference between processes and people.  A strong leader will fix systems and deal with individuals.

2. Planning and preparation are key to success in most anything.  Sweat before or sweat during.  The weekend is won or lost by Friday.  In other words, before you get to an event or meeting you can feel confident when you have planned and prepared well.

3. Be people focused on the weekends.  Regardless of the type of business, in the end it comes down to people business.  I joke that ministry would be so fantastic if only we didn’t have to deal with people.  Of course that would be true for most businesses.  Of course what is also true is that if it weren’t for people, you would be out of business.  My guess is that its as easy for electricians and pastors alike to forget that we are in the people business.

4. Take ownership for all we do.  Take responsibility for being heard, don’t assume people know.

5. Back of house and team preparedness sets the tone for everyone.  Remember that everyone in your organization matters.  For one thing their attitude matters because it will come through in their interactions with those you serve.  That is why it really matters for you to have conversations with everyone in your organization.  Your people need to know what matters to you.  Not just one speech to your team at Christmastime, but lots of conversations all of the time.

6. Follow up promptly, accurately and tactfully.  In other words, keep your word…do what you said you’d do. The secrets to success aren’t secrets at all: Say thank you and please, smile, show up on time, and keep your word.  Four easy things that anyone can do and there free!  Does anyone remember the red Staples Easy button?

7. Spend time on the ground with your sleeves rolled up.  Don’t depend solely on reports from those you lead.  Get into their world and understand what it takes to get things done that you as a leader expect to have done.  That is exactly what happens in the television show Undercover Boss.  Awesome…  Imagine that your boss, I mean the big dog in your company is working next to you.  Would you work, act, or speak differently then you currently do?

That’s all: If you want to work with strong leaders, then be one.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Leadership, Uncategorized

 

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Want to Make a Difference?

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Live All Out

You don’t have to be beautiful or attractive or even talented to make a lasting difference in someone’s life or to live with incredible purpose. You just need a little drive, determination, single-mindedness, focus and resolve. What’s more is that, while it may be nice, you don’t have to be liked or accepted by others to have a positive impact; but you do have to like yourself. Where you are headed in life matters infinitely more than where you came from. In other words, how you live is more important than where you were born. Where you were born was yesterday. How you live is today; You only have today. Enjoy life…today.

Be the Best You

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Is 53:2-3

Jesus wasn’t physically attractive but he was popular and he did have purpose. What was true for Jesus is true for every human being. Life flows from your heart and mind. Pay more attention to your heart and mind then everything external. I am not saying that you should make an effort to be ugly, or mean-spirited, or brash, or sickly, or out of shape. It’s just that the most talented athlete with an ungrateful spirit is simply talented and no more. The most beautiful person with an ugly attitude is simply unattractive…after all, physical beauty is skin deep. 

It’s just sometimes we are seduced into believing that being liked by someone, accepted by others, beautiful by comparison, or talented in a certain skill is what matters most of all. But those are all things that change and frankly over which we have very little control. As a result of this delusion, you may find yourself spending your emotion, money and time trying to impress people you don’t like (probably should love them…even though you may not like them).

Enjoy Life…Today

Today, maybe the best advice is the advice that Jesus would give. Maybe you should determine that you will live all out. Love God with every fiber of your being; also, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love God; Love your neighbor. That’s all. Forget the past; press on in the life God has given you. Run! Run! Run!

And as you run with purpose, notice how beautiful and loved you feel. You were created to run, to live fully, today. Find a way to engage and enjoy life today. 

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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