Simplicity & Sausages

Life can get so complicated. So many things pulling us in all directions that we actually lose our direction at times. Social media, friends, school, family, hobbies, job, career…they all bring out a different part of who we are, often diluting us. Weakening us. At times we can become disoriented and wonder what in the heck we’re even doing with our lives. That’s why it’s important to regularly re-calibrate ourselves to what matters. To focus on the really good stuff. To become centered.

To simplify.

Not so long ago, I met a man on the street in Colchester, England. He sells hot dogs. That’s it. Just hot dogs (or sausages, as the English say). Regular or extra large. With or without cheese.

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Some may look down on a grown man who runs a hot dog stand for a living, but I actually found myself admiring the man. This smiling vendor had found his niche, and that’s what got him out of bed each day – to offer his best to the world. 

One of the keys to personal fulfillment is finding that one thing you love and then to go do it with all your heart. In fact, the people who make a difference in this world are those who harness their gifts, passions and personality, directing them at what they feel is God’s destiny for them.

Admittedly, that can take some time and energy. But it’s one quest that is abundantly worth it.

Noah was a man with ONE major mission in life. One. Thing. To. Do. His singular, simple task was to build an ancient aircraft carrier and preserve a remnant of humanity for the new world.

He kept his eyes on the end goal for 120 years. He hit the bulls-eye with his life.

And so can you.

For more on how you can reach your goal of living a faith-filled life, get a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah. Available at Barnes&Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

Getting Stronger

Last Saturday, I made some repairs to the stone wall that lines part of our backyard. I’d recently been observing (actually creeping by) a stonemason who’d been upgrading a wall in my neighborhood, thinking to myself,  “Hey, if he can do that, then so can I!” So after doing a bit of research, I gathered my materials together and bought a bag of masonry cement. Saturday rolled around, and eager to get on with my project, I hoisted the 80-lb. bag of rock dust to the back yard to prepare the mix and get after the repairs.

What I did not anticipate, however, was the sheer weight and awkwardness of lifting that bag while in a bent over position. The result, though not immediately noticeable, was several days of back strain and pain, made more tolerable by my pal, Mr. Ibuprofen and 3 of his siblings. Sure, 80-lbs. may not seem like that much, but lift it the wrong way and you’ll quickly discover how brutal such an exercise can be. Truth be known, I have a weak back to begin with. In college (among many other foolish decisions I made), one Friday afternoon I jumped out of a fraternity house second-floor window and landed in a pile of sand (Don’t ask why I did it. It was supposed to be a joke). Upon my encounter with the sand, I discovered the joke was on me as my back was bent into an inhuman position. Let’s just say my chest and knees came together with extreme pressure.

 I stayed in that position for 3 days.

 Alone in my college apartment while all my friends were away (including my roommates and girlfriend), I languished in bed all weekend, unable to walk, eat or find any pain medication. There was no food in the fridge and the cupboards were bone dry (college life!). This was also in the days of no cell phones (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), so if someone wasn’t at home, it meant you couldn’t contact them (imagine that!). In my  72-hour delirium, I do recall crawling to the bathroom once. That wasn’t much fun.

 Upon my girlfriend’s return to campus, she found me in bed, emaciated, in the fetal position, and not smelling too fresh. After feeding me from my favorite burger joint, she got me some medication and a heating pad. Miraculously, in a few days, I no longer walked around like a elderly chimpanzee.

 All that to say, this is one big reason why I have such a weak back.

 Weak muscles can’t bear much weight or lift heavy things. Strong muscles can.

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 I think faith is as much like a muscle as anything. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the more weight you can bear and lift.

Some believers have weak faith. They have trouble trusting God for the smallest things. And when the big weight of life lands on them (as it often does), they crumble under the pressure. Some of these people are weak because they are afraid to really let go and give God everything…everything about themselves and their lives (family, career, future, finances, emotions, etc). They are living in disobedience and their spiritual growth is hindered. They are like adults who still suck on pacifiers and throw tantrums. They are miserable people.

Others are weak because they are simply young in their faith and haven’t developed strong muscles yet. Some are plagued by reoccurring sins or areas of immaturity. But in time, they’ll be ok, as long as they keep growing and trusting.

Some Christians are weak because they subconsciously convince themselves they can do life without other believers. These people are very deceived and secretly full of pride. They haven’t realized yet that one great source of muscle-building is being in community with fellow weight-bearers (see Gal. 6:1-3). They haven’t yet learned how important it is to be taught the Word of God in the context of their spiritual family. These people do not have a bright future, spiritually-speaking. That’s one reason why their marriages fail and their families disintegrate. It’s why they can never seem to make progress in their lives. Doing it alone, they sadly have no idea how great life could be if they let God work His mighty strength through them and through His body. They don’t know that even in their weakness, they could experience strength (2 Cor. 12:9) Instead, they get “stuck”, bogged down in a life where their biggest goal is merely to survive and “get by”.

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Living here on Planet Earth can be carefree at times. It can also be heavy and burdensome. But whatever life sets before you – light or heavy – He wants you to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10). Practicing that daily choice to trust Him won’t always be easy, but it is within your reach.

Even right now.

Are You “Built to Last”?

I come from a legacy of carpenters. If there’s one thing my dad and older brother taught me, it was the skill of wielding a power tool. So when my sons came along, I naturally wanted to put that skill to use in building something special for them. I’ll never forget the day a lumber truck pulled up to our house, dumping a huge load of 2×6’s into our driveway. Staring at that stack of lumber, I remember thinking, “Now I’m committed. There’s nowhere to park the car, so I’d better get busy with building this thing!”

Coincidentally, my mom and dad were visiting from South Carolina at the time, so I had some extra expertise from dad in the initial stages of the project. Sawing, drilling, fitting, attaching, nailing, and some intense back pain were all a part of the next few Saturdays. At the time, my 3 sons were all under 5 years old, so foremost on my mind was constructing something that would be both safe and fun for years to come. 

By the time it was finished, the Kinley boys had a swing set (complete with a double-facing swing), cargo ladder, rope swing, playhouse/fort and sandbox. We would spend countless hours playing together out in the backyard, having fun and bonding together. Sometimes we caught them playing naked in the sandbox (hey, they’re boys!). And of course, we proudly flew a skull and crossbones pirate flag from the top. 

clayton 2Covered in cardboard for a Pirate B-Day Party.

That was 1993.

I loved that house, even though we only lived there 2 years. God called us to move out of state, and we left White Oak Lane (and the pirate fort playground) behind.

Then last year, one Saturday my wife and I were checking out some estate sales in our area and noticed there was one on White Oak Lane. Turns out it was our old house. Even though we had spent a relatively short time there, some concrete memories flooded my mind as I walked through the one story, ranch style home. The long hallway where I wrestled and played football with the boys. The front yard where early t-ball skills were honed. The sunken playroom where we wrestled and watched movies together. The tiny TV room where we religiously watched “Rescue 911” every Tuesday night after dinner. The corner of my bedroom where my oldest climbed into my lap one evening and asked me how to get a new heart to replace his sinful one. Those mental videos still play in my mind with vivid, ultra high resolution.

A lot of lasting memories were forged in a short time.

On a whim, I decided to check out the back yard to see what it looked like. Sadly, the previous owners had let the grass die, but to my surprise, the old wooden playground was still standing! 20 years later and looking weathered and worn from sun and neglect, it remained just as solid as it was back when 3 little Kinley boys climbed on it and swung like monkeys from its swings, ropes and rafters. I insisted on a picture to document my awesome building prowess.

Built to LastStill standing!

I didn’t know it at the time, but my sons would turn out to be 3 of the most awesome men I’ve ever known. Like the old treehouse fort, I think when you build something with quality, it tends to stand the test of time.

Noah built something, too. By faith. And his project would need to stand up against a fierce storm. It would have to last on the turbulent, open sea for over a year. A lot depended on the quality of its construction. It was built well.

And it lasted.

Are you building the kind of life, the kind of family, that is solid? Are you putting in the time? Are you doing the daily, important things necessary to ensure that what you’re constructing will endure through many storms. And are you doing it alone, or are you allowing your Father to give you what you need all along the way?

The Psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1)

Together, I believe you and He can make something awesome. Today.

For more on how you can build a daily, solid lifestyle of faith, pick up a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah HERE.

 

What’s Your Faith Made of?

Christians talk a lot about faith. A lot. But have you ever stopped to consider what your faith actually is? Ever wondered what your faith is really made of? In other words, if you were to dissect your personal faith, what would you find? And when your time here is over, what will others discover when they eulogize your life, specifically as it relates to your faith?

Some people’s faith is more sentimental than solid. The enjoy the romantic ideal of “having great faith”, of being thought of as a “good Christian”. But just like the transition from courtship to marriage, they quickly realize it’s not all that fun at times. Reality sets in, and they find out that real “love” goes way beyond that nice feeling you get when you’re with your love interest or spouse. Love means processing wounded relationships, giving even when the other person doesn’t and demonstrating forgiveness even when it hurts. Love can be hard work.

Other people’s faith is sort of like a fireworks display – big, loud, impressive, but short-lived. I’ve known hundreds like this. They come on like a storm, and they talk big about what they’re going to do for Jesus. Like Peter, their mouths write checks that their faith (and life) can’t cash. “I’m not going to let my boss make me work on Sundays anymore.” “I’m only going to date people who are as committed to Jesus like I am.”  “You can count on me to be at church every week, Pastor!” 

Yawn.

Honestly, people like these bore me. And I can usually identify them before that promise to God is finished leaving their lips. I don’t doubt their sincerity. It’s just that those who don’t understand the nature of true faith in Jesus are blind to how empty such promises really are. It would be like me saying, “I’m going to RUN in a marathon.” Nice thought, Kinley, but you and me both know that’s not going to happen anytime soon…if ever. 

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These faith “professors” are the first to crumble under the slightest pressure. That’s because their faith is more facade than fact. And it’s built on emotion and good intentions, not founded on the Rock of Jesus Himself (Matthew 7:21-27).

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Their faith-boasts produce quick “fruit”, but it quickly withers in the blazing heart of the sun. It fails to take root because it was faulty from the start. And as James so eloquently put it, “Faith without works is dead (faith) – James 2:26. On the contrary, 

Real faith lasts.

Real faith perseveres through opposition.

Real faith pushes through times of confusion and drought.

Real faith triumphs over feelings.

Real faith does it’s talking with action, not mere words.

Real faith does whatever it takes, no matter what the cost or sacrifice.

Real faith isn’t pretty and neat, but bloody and messy.

Real faith believes when there seems to be no reason for it.

Real faith risks.

Real faith is daily.

Noah was a man with real faith. His deep trust and dependence on God was a rare jewel, and something we need more of today. Can you even imagine what would happen if we had more “Noah-like” faith in the church?

What about you? How’s your faith? What does it look like today? What’s it really made of?

For more on how to have a faith like Noah’s, dive into As It Was In the Days of Noah

How to Take Criticism

  Anytime you write a book that gets national attention, people contact you. Sometimes those who’ve read the book and are impacted by it send you an encouraging note or even a small gift. A very nice cattle rancher from New Mexico sent me a CD he’s recorded. He’s a cowboy singer and had a song about the Flood. I appreciated his kind gesture and music. Another man sent me a copy of a book he had written and self-published. I really enjoy feedback from my work. It’s nice to know that what I do with my life makes a difference in people’s lives.

  Then there are those who write me with not so nice things to say. One man wrote to inform me that I had no idea who Jesus was and that he hoped me and my “followers” would burn in hell (but what do you really think!). He hadn’t actually read the book, but rather stumbled on an online article/interview. I usually don’t respond to hate mail, but this guy needed some special love, so I wrote him back, and included an excerpt from AS IT WAS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH that contradicted what he thought was true about God’s truth (and me).

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  There are also religious people who occasionally write to me or post comments on my Official Facebook Page. Sometimes they just want to point out what they see as a minor “mistake” in the book, but a few have taken the opportunity to let me know how wrong I am about the end times and Jesus coming back. Some have quirky views about the last days, and of course, theirs is the only “correct” interpretation. While I acknowledge in my book that there are other viewpoints held by sincere believers, mine didn’t come to me just because it made me “feel good”. A few of these guys try and hair me into the boxing ring to debate minutia about the end times. Again, most of these guys haven’t actually read the book, but rather collect their info from sound bytes or online articles. But either way, I’m not interested, nor do I have the time to waste, arguing with all the Post-tribulationists or A-millenialists out there. It’s not my job to correct the world.

  But this doesn’t mean I don’t ever need correcting, or even an occasional rebuke. In fact, I received one last week that I’ll share with you. BTW, raw, anonymous criticism is generally useless, and you should file it in the “water off a duck’s back” category. The internet is crawling of mean-spirited trolls who get some kind of self-righteous buzz from drive-by verbal stonings. It’s the nature of the internet, and you shouldn’t get drown into it (maybe that’s why they call it the worldwide “web”) It’s just verbal noise pollution. So ignore. On the other hand, you constructive criticism is beneficial if it comes from those who genuinely know you and care about you.

  Case in point: I have a friend in another state. He’s a businessman who is a dedicated Christian. He loves Jesus. He’s also a smart guy. I also like him. We laugh a lot together. The other day he said something to me that moved me (and rebuked me). The conversation went something like this:

Him: Hey Jeff, can I give you some constructive advice?

Me: Sure, fire away.

Him: As I’ve watched you and gotten to know you, I’ve come to believe that God has placed you as a very special spokesman for this generation. You are God’s man for the hour, and He is using you greatly. But your problem is that you need to embrace that. You are just too self-deprecating and overly humble. I think you need to accept God’s big role for you, and move forward with more confidence and faith. Stop asking God for merely the little things or the “next step”. He’s a big God who is honored when we launch out and ask for huge things in His Name. Things that are “God-sized”. So quit with the “golly-gee, I’m so humble” routine and step up to the throne in confidence.

Me: (Silence)

Those are precisely the kinds of things you need somebody ELSE to say to you. And his words struck a chord in my heart (they also stung a bit! – see Proverbs 27:6). But he was right. I do think about myself too much, and in the wrong way. Humility doesn’t mean you’re unimportant. It just means seeing yourself as God does, and submitting to Him. I needed to be reminded that when I ask big, it’s not really for me (though I do benefit, and there’s nothing wrong with that). So I took his words to heart. It was “iron sharpening iron”.

Me: Thanks, brother. I needed someone to say that.

After our conversation, I immediately sat down to write out some goals – big things on my heart I desired God to do for His glory and my good. I ask for “Noah” to break into the Top 100 Best Selling Books in America, and it happened. I ask for the book to reach the #1 Best Sellers spot in Prophecy, and it did. I wrote down that I wanted to appear on a certain show with a massive viewing audience, and within the hour my phone rang. It was that show’s producer calling to ask me to be on the show!

God’s not showcased by lame prayer requests. He wants to do stuff in our lives that display His power and glory

I still struggle a bit with “self-promotion”. But I’m getting better, thanks to a gentle rebuke and someone who believed in me and really wanted to help.

Christian Kryptonite

  I made an unsettling discovery a while back. One of my shop hammers turned up bent. Not sure how that happened, but now it doesn’t work quite right. In fact, I no longer use it at all. Oh, I have other hammers. I’m just surprised because I didn’t know that hammers could do that.

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In reality, bending to the point of snapping may simply mean you quietly lose your steam, your passion in life. It means you give up, give in and give yourself over to something just as deadly as overt sin or that experience which “kills” you. You succumb to the awful curse of mediocrity, a fatal disease which relegates you to an almost drone-like existence. It doesn’t take you out like a sniper’s bullet, or snuff out your existence in a millisecond like a roadside bomb. Instead, it eats away at you like a cancer, a little bit every day.

And time becomes your enemy.

As fallible humans, we forget how fragile life is, and how weak we really are. We see a true picture of ourselves when we’re under the stress, weight and burden that life consistently heaves on top of us. Finances. Anxiety. Family problems. Fears. Relationship struggles. Job or career frustrations. And we wake up one day and decide we’re tired of carrying the load and fighting the battle. We decide to “check out” emotionally. and the downward spiral begins.

So where will your strength come from? An “iron will”? A positive attitude? Some philosophical Zen mind trick? A doctor’s prescription? Or something better, deeper and more practical and substantive?

We are not as strong as we think we are.

Even hammers can bend.