Getting Back on the Trapeze

Trapeze 1

When you learned how to ride a bike, you probably fell down a few times. Hopefully, you got back on and tried again.

The same principle applies to many other things in life—such as relationships, careers, and ministries. You can’t allow momentary failures or setbacks to keep you from picking yourself up and giving things another try.

At the same time, there’s another principle to remember when you begin again: Usually there are some things you must let go of, even as you are reaching out toward new things ahead.

From time to time, I find myself humming an old tune, which seems an apt prophetic picture of where many of us find ourselves today:

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease,

The daring young man on the flying trapeze.

Just as a circus trapeze artist must let go of one trapeze and fly through the air until grabbing the next one, I’ve often found myself in a similar position—flying through the air in transition between the trapeze left behind and the one still to come.

Perhaps you can relate. You know you aren’t where you used  to be, but you’re not where we’re going to be either. You find yourself flying swiftly through the air, on your way to a coming trapeze that’s not yet entirely visible.

It must be an exhilarating experience for a trapeze artist to fly through the air like that. But I’m sure it’s also terrifying to know the force of gravity will take its effect if the next trapeze doesn’t soon come within reach.

This process of “letting go and moving on” is part of God’s plan is to take us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And while this process is exhilarating at times, it’s easy to feel apprehensive when you have nothing to hang onto except the Lord Himself.

Experienced trapeze artists realize they dare not look down or they’ll miss the next trapeze. Big mistake!

Fortunately, God’s intention is not only to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24), but also to enable us to soar on eagles’ wings (Isaiah 40:31). The next trapeze is not a demotion but part of the “upward call of God” (Philippians 3:14). He’s taking us HIGHER!

If you’ve had some mishaps on the trapeze before, you may feel wary about getting back on. But despite the dangers, this is no time to play it safe. If you insist on clinging for dear life to your original trapeze, you are certain to make no progress at all. You’ll only go higher when you exhibit the courage of “the daring young man” who defied gravity and reached upward.

Just as God challenged people in Bible days, He would say to us today: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

So go ahead and have courage to let go of the past. Press forward and let Him strengthen you for exciting new adventures on His flying trapeze.

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The Parable of the Turtle

Turtle 2

I love the old maxim about risk-taking: “Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” You see, although you may feel safer while tucked away in your thick protective shell, you’ll never get anywhere in life. Your fears  will block your fulfillment, and your comfort  will turn into your coffin.

I’m convinced that fear is holding many people back from the necessary steps to make progress, enjoy life, or have a significant impact. My fellow baby boomers are especially prone to this common trap. We took risks in our younger days, some of which paid off, while others were brought devastating losses. But now we find it all too easy to play it safe and hedge our bets.

If you’ve talked with any financial planners recently, they’ve probably advised you to limit your risks as you get older. Be safe. Be conservative. Hang on to what you have. Don’t be too adventurous in your investments.

But those same advisors will admit that you’re unlikely to receive a substantial return on those “safe” investments. Small risk, small rewards. No risk, no rewards.

The same is true about our spiritual lives. Remember Jesus’ story about the guy who decided to bury his assets instead of risk losing them? Sadly for him, he ended up losing them in the end anyway (Matthew 25:14-28).

No decision could be riskier or more shortsighted than to opt for a risk-free life. First of all, such a life is impossible to find, since there will always be risks along the way. And even if you somehow succeeded in eliminating all risks, your life would be incredibly boring and unproductive.

Several decades ago, God gave me a vivid mental picture while I was praying. I saw myself playing poker, and I had amassed a very large stack of chips. Suddenly, however, I pushed the entire stack to the middle of the table and shouted, “ALL IN!”

Hmmm… I can’t help wondering if I would still be willing to take such a risk today. Although I claim to be entrusting my entire life to the Lord, lately I’ve only been giving Him the chips I’m willing to lose. And while I’ve succeeded in minimizing my risks, my rewards clearly have diminished as well.

As a student of the Bible, I’ve concluded that we need to grasp a couple of important lessons about risk-taking:

  • If God truly has told us to do something, obeying Him doesn’t constitute a “risk.” Before walking on the water, Peter wisely sought and received a green light from Jesus. Things were going fantastic at first, as they always do when we trust and obey. Peter only ran into trouble when he took his eyes off the Lord (Matthew 14:25-32).
  • Often we must take a step of faith, even when we have no direct guidance from God or assurances about the outcome. I love the story of Jonathan’s plan to defeat the Philistines, despite his lack of resources and manpower. His message to his armor bearer shows a commitment to do “the right thing,” even though God hadn’t told him what to do nor promised him victory: “Come and let us cross over to the garrison ofthese uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). What a challenging statement this is for those of us who want ironclad assurance from God before we embark on any endeavor. He doesn’t always work that way! Sometimes we need to “take a chance” on a noble venture, hoping God will come through for us.

After they each took a bold step of faith, Peter and Jonathan both received supernatural assistance. Peter had gotten direct encouragement from the Lord in his quest to walk on water. Jonathan, in contrast, trusted God and hoped for victory solely by virtue of his worthwhile mission.

When was the last time YOU took a significant risk, relying on God’s help? Like Peter, has Jesus been beckoning you to take a seemingly risky step, leaving the safety of your “boat”? Or do you find yourself in a situation more like Jonathan, where your heart says to take action, despite an uncertain future?

One thing for sure: You don’t want to be like the turtle who allowed fear to keep him hiding in his shell. If you’re trusting God with your life, you’ll need to stick your neck out from time to time. Your life will surely be more exciting and fulfilling that way.

The Bible is pretty clear that God prefers risk-takers to those who insist on playing it safe. Yes, when you take risks there will be some losses as well as gains. But if you ever start to sink among the roaring waves, He will lift you up again—and I bet He will even applaud your effort.

 

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Fear, Betty White, and Me

This month Betty White celebrates her 94th birthday, and I bet she won’t even invite me to her party. Many years ago, Betty and I starred in a musical together. Well, it’s more accurate to say that she was the star, but I had a pretty good role too.

At age 10, I played Betty’s son in “Take Me Along,” a musical you’ve probably never heard of. We got to sing and dance together in front of about 4,000 people a night, and it was a great experience.

There are two lessons I learned from my experiences with Betty—who was a really nice person, by the way.

First, I learned that fear is a normal part of life, and sometimes we need to jump into our role and do things despite our fears. Before Betty and I took the stage the first night, she asked, “Jimmy, are you feeling afraid at all?”

“Yeah, I sure am!” I replied sheepishly.

“Well, I am too!” Betty told me with a wink. “But I’ve found that when I confront my fears, they always go away soon after I get started.”

Her words were very reassuring, and I’ve never forgotten them. It was okay to feel a little nervous before singing and dancing in front of thousands of people. Even Betty White was a little scared before the curtain rose. But she had done it many times before, and she knew the fears would soon pass.

What about you? Are your fears causing you to procrastinate about “taking the stage” in a new phase of your life? If so, it’s time to cast your fears aside and “do it afraid”—because the curtain is opening on a new year and new opportunities!

The second lesson about Betty is that I never realized how successful and famous she would ultimately become. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had the foresight to stay in touch with her all these years?

I hope you will take this important lesson to heart today. You may be rubbing shoulders with someone destined for greatness, so the best policy is to value and honor everyone you encounter along the way. You may even want to get their phone number in case they become a celebrity!

In Genesis 40 we read about the king’s butler and baker who shared a prison cell with a young Hebrew man named Joseph. Who could have imagined that one day he would be the most powerful man in Egypt?

The moral of the story is that we should treat everyone as if they are destined for greatness—for in God’s eyes, they are.

 

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So, What Are You Afraid Of?

When my friend Jacob recently entered the world of online dating, he found it to be a terrifying experience.

“Jim,” he confided, “you wouldn’t believe how different the dating scene is than when I was in my twenties.”

Jacob’s marriage of 30+ years had ended several months before, and now he was embarking on a mission he never expected: the search for a new wife.

Sensing his discomfort with the whole situation, I asked, “What are you so afraid of? Why don’t you just relax and enjoy the ride?”

“That’s easy for you to say,” he replied. “You just don’t understand…”

“OK, explain it to me then. What exactly is so terrifying about meeting new people and going on dates?”

Lots of things are terrifying!” Jacob said, clearly irritated that he had to spell things out for me. “Some days I’m afraid I’ll never find the woman of my dreams. Other days I’m afraid I will find the woman of my dreams, but I’ll mess things up and she won’t love me in return.”

“Sounds like a real dilemma,” I acknowledged.

As our conversation continued, it became clear that my friend was still hurting from his unhappy marriage and the rejection he felt when his wife left him. But I encouraged him that God had a plan and he shouldn’t give up.

“You’re still dealing with the grieving process, Jacob. That’s normal after what you’ve gone through, but as you trust the Lord in this, I know He will keep working to heal your heart.”

Just a few weeks later, Jacob called to say that my prayers for him must be working.

“Jim, I’m so excited. I found this amazing woman on Match.com, and she has agreed to meet me for coffee tonight.”

I told Jacob I was happy for him and asked him to let me know how things went on his big date.

Sure enough, my friend called on the way home from meeting this beautiful and successful woman he had found online.

“We talked for nearly two hours,” Jacob gushed. “It was going really well until we got to the part where we asked each other what we’re looking for in a partner.”

“That sounds like a fair question. So what did you tell her?”

Apparently Jacob gave this lovely woman a lengthy description of how he wanted someone faithful and kind…affectionate…loving unconditionally…never holding a grudge…grateful for the little things in life…and always glad to see him.

To his horror, she replied somewhat indignantly to his wish list, “It sounds like what you really need is a DOG!”

After I got done laughing at my friend’s plight, we ended up discussing the many benefits of having a dog while going through life’s transitions.

“You’ve got to admit, Jacob, dogs can be pretty cool. They’re low maintenance, easy to please, and they lick your face for no reason at all…”

Well, I probably shouldn’t have laughed at my friend’s anguish. But Jacob’s online dating experiences have given us some good opportunities to discuss two universal forces in life: FEAR and FAITH.

On the one hand, the Bible assures us that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). However, that certainly doesn’t mean He won’t place us in scary situations from time to time.

Remember the shepherds in the Christmas story? (Luke 2:8-20) They were just minding their business one dark night when “an angel of the Lord” woke them up with a terrifying divine encounter.

The shepherds’ experience follows a pattern found throughout the Bible: First, God puts us in circumstances that cause our fears to rise, and then He comforts those fears by telling us, “Do not be afraid” (v. 10).

Isn’t that pretty funny?

Jacob and I have concluded that fearful circumstances are simply part of God’s healing process to REVEAL and then HEAL us of our fears. It’s all part of His love for us and His determination to uproot anything that’s keeping us from His BEST for our lives.

So the next time you sense fear rising in your heart, don’t shy away from it. Face it head on and recognize it for what it is: God’s plan to set you free from fear so you can enter into His highest purposes for your life.

Remember how the Israelites cowered in fear on the brink of their Promised Land (Numbers 13)? They didn’t realize it at the time, but their FEARS were actually pointing the way toward their FUTURE. Unnecessarily, they spent 40 years in the wilderness before they were willing to confront the fear and unbelief lurking in their hearts.

So, what are YOU afraid of today? It’s probably a clue to an important breakthrough God wants to give you in some area of your life.

Yes, you may want to get a dog too. But that’s only a temporary solution.

 

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The Funny Thing About Your Fears

Fear and faith. Two primal forces that significantly shape our actions, attitudes, emotions, and relationships.

Like oil and water, the two don’t mix.

Throughout the Bible, God tells people, “Fear not, for I am with you!” (Isaiah 41:10, etc.)

But here’s the funny thing about it:

I’m convinced God intentionally puts us into situations that expose the fears we’ve harbored in our heart. And once we’re in one of those terrifying situations, He then tells us, “Fear not!”

When you see this pattern, you might be tempted to think God is sadistic and cruel. Why else would He be so intent on revealing our deepest fears—just so He can comfort us and tell us not to fear?

The answer is that the Lord does this as part of our healing process. Unless our fears come to the surface, we’ll never confront them and allow Him to heal us.

The Biblical examples of this strange process are too numerous to list, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • At a time when Jacob was terrified of his future and on the run from his brother Esau, God took him to a dark desert where he had a stunning revelation of a ladder between heaven and earth. His fears melted away as he recognized the Lord’s awesome presence with him.
  • When Moses was 40, the Israelites rejected his effort to help them during their captivity in Egypt.As a result, he had to escape to the wilderness, where he took care of sheep for 40 years. Eventually the Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush and sent him right back to Egypt, the scene of his previous trauma and rejection.
  • The most traumatic experience of Joshua’s life occurred when more than a million Israelites rejected his counsel and chose not to enter the Promised Land. When Moses died 40 years later, what did God do? He brought Joshua full circle to the very scene of his deepest fears—and commissioned Joshua to courageously lead the Israelites on the same mission that had miserably failed 40 years earlier.
  • Peter denied Jesus three times around a fire in the courtyard of the high priest. After the resurrection, God arranged the circumstances for Peter to again be around a fire—where Jesus told him three times, “Feed my sheep.” Three failures were erased by three statements of affirmation from Jesus.

So what are YOU afraid of? Years ago, I might have answered, “Nothing! I’m fearless and full of faith!”

Yet God has found ways to expose fears I didn’t even know I had. Fears of intimacy…failure…abandonment…loss…loneliness…financial lack…and countless other things.

As I look back on the difficult experiences I’ve faced along the way, I’ve come to realize an amazing thing about this process: I’m not nearly as afraid of those things anymore! Hey, the devil took his best shot, and I’m still standing!

If you are in a situation today that is revealing some kind of fear in the depths of your heart, I have good news: Faith can overcome your fears. And the healing balm of the Holy Spirit can cleanse every wound and calm every anxious thought.

So fear not, my friend. He is with you. And if you let Him, He’s going to work everything for your good (Romans 8:28).

But getting set free from your fears is a funny process, isn’t it?

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Feeling Overwhelmed? These 7 Tips Will Help

If you’re anything like me, some days you feel like conquering the world—and other days the world seems to be conquering you. Although I usually respond pretty well when confronted with just one problem at a time, it’s overwhelming when the problems come at me from every side. Some days I feel like I’m playing a game of cosmic Whac-a-Mole, with troubles springing up everywhere.

Yet I’m comforted to know that many others have written about days when they were surrounded by problems on every side. For example, King David wrote about being hemmed in by deadly enemies (Psalm 17:9). He described how he cried out to the Lord when his heart was overwhelmed, saying, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2).

King Jehoshaphat was another person overwhelmed when “a great multitude” of enemies surrounded him (2 Chronicles 20). I encourage you to read the entire story for yourself, but here are a few of the key tips for experiencing victory when problems attack you from every direction:

1. Recognize that God is bigger than your problems. When facing overwhelming situations, it’s easy to feel quite small and vulnerable, if not hopeless. But look at how Jehoshaphat focused on God’s power and sovereignty, rather than trying to defeat the enemies in his own strength: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (v. 6)

2. Reflect on God’s past faithfulness. If you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while, you hopefully have many memories of how He came to your aid during past battles. Jehoshaphat called to mind stories of God’s past miracles and promises, and he prayed, “AreYou not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” (v. 7)

3. Rely on God’s power rather than your own. In crisis situations, there’s often a temptation to “take matters into your own hands” rather than trust the Lord and ask for His strategies. But Jehoshaphat freely acknowledged that he was powerless to handle things without God’s intervention: “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes areupon You” (v. 12). Notice that Jehoshaphat made a conscious decision to fix his eyes on the Lord instead of on his problems (cf. Hebrews 12:2).

4. Cast aside all fear. In a crisis, you need faith. Fear is never your friend. While Jehoshaphat was praying about his dire situation, the Spirit of God spoke an encouraging prophetic word to banish his fears: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle isnot yours, but God’s” (v. 15). You see, if the battle is YOURS, it’s quite reasonable for you to feel afraid. But when you realize that God is fighting on your behalf, victory is assured, and there’s no need to fear.

5. Listen for God’s strategy. Yes, the Lord will fight our battles, but victory comes only when we listen for, and obey, His strategy for our situation. In the case of this battle faced by the people of Judah, God’s strategy was to send a team of worshipers before the army: “When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (v. 22). In times of trouble, praise is a powerful weapon, both to calm our hearts and to release God’s intervention.

6. Look for the blessings  amid the battles. In this remarkable story, the Lord not only caused Jehoshaphat’s enemies to destroy each other, but the end result was a huge treasure trove of plunder: “When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away” (v. 25). When first surrounded by enemy armies, Jehoshaphat probably would have considered it a great victory just to SURVIVE the battle. But God has much more in mind. He wanted Jehoshaphat and his people to THRIVE, becoming far better off after the encounter than before. If you’re going through a difficult trial today, remember that God can use it to give you far greater blessings in the end than in the beginning (Job 42:12).

7. Enter into God’s rest, even if the battle is still raging all around you. The story ends with this beautiful conclusion: “Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (v. 30). If your battles have been intense and long-lasting, it may be difficult to envision finding a time of peace and security ever again. But God wants to give your story a happy ending, just as He did for Jehoshaphat.

Jesus predicted we would face some pretty overwhelming times in the Last Days, so we shouldn’t be too surprised when that happens. His advice was simple, though. Instead of focusing on the surrounding circumstances, He told us, “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

The Message paraphrases it this way: “When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

So take courage, my friend. When you look up and turn your eyes upon Jesus, you can be sure that help is on the way.

————————————————-

I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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4 Steps to Getting Unstuck

The longer I live, the more convinced I am that most people are paralyzed or imprisoned in some way. No wonder the Bible tells so many stories about those who got healed of paralysis or set free from bondage and imprisonment.

When we read such Bible stories today, it’s easy to miss how these events apply to our lives. If we’ve never been physically paralyzed or lame, we can struggle to relate to the paralyzed man in Mark 2:1-12 or the lame man in Acts 3:1-12. And if we’ve never done jail time, we can assume there’s not much we can learn from Joseph’s release from an Egyptian dungeon (Genesis 39-40) or the supernatural prison breaks of Peter (Acts 12:1-19) and Paul and Silas (Acts 16:16-40).

But, you see, the imprisonment most people face today is emotional and spiritual rather than physical. They’ve been traumatized by their journey through life, whether through the consequences of their own bad decisions or through the unkind actions of others.

In John 20:19-29 Jesus’ disciples were locked in a self-imposed prison after experiencing the trauma of their Master’s unjust arrest, brutal beating, and horrific crucifixion. Today we sometimes call those events “Good Friday,” but there seemed nothing “good” about the cross of Calvary at the time. The disciples were understandably devastated, gathered together behind locked doors because of fear of the Jewish leaders.

Suddenly Jesus appeared to these shell-shocked men. Although preachers sometimes say, based on Revelation 3:20, that Jesus always knocks before entering our situation, that’s simply not true. This time He just came right on in, bypassing every defense mechanism in order to release these traumatized followers from their emotional bondage.

This is one of the most pivotal scenes in the entire Bible. It’s not an overstatement to say that the whole fate of the church and the expansion of God’s kingdom rested on what would happen in the lives of these shattered men.

The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, believing that their lives would ultimately change the world. Now their dreams seemed to have reached a cruel dead end. Dazed and confused, they were very unlikely candidates for any kind of heroic, world-changing mission.

So how did Jesus turn the worst of times into the best of times for these emotionally damaged followers? He addressed four different snares that were holding these men in spiritual captivity:

  1. FEAR – Not just once, but twice, Jesus told them, “Peace be with you.” And when they “saw the Lord,” their fear and anguish were replaced with great joy. If you are feeling “stuck” in some area of your life today, it’s likely that fear is one of the things holding you back. Just as He did for the disciples, Jesus wants to penetrate your closed doors and replace your fear with faith, and your anxiety with His peace and joy.
  2. PURPOSELESSNESS – These men who had taken such bold steps to leave their careers and families in order to change the world with Jesus were now left without a purpose or a vision. They had abandoned and denied their Savior in His hour of need, and now their traumatized condition seemed to disqualify them from any significant usefulness in His plan. Nevertheless, Jesus re-commissioned and affirmed them with fresh vision and purpose: As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”What an encouraging story for us today. Even when we feel like failures, unusable by God, He can reaffirm our calling and give us a new commission to impact the world.
  3. WEAKNESS – In addition to a lack of purpose, Jesus’ disciples were suffering from a lack of power. A new commission would have fallen on deaf ears unless they also received new empowerment. Recognizing their need, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In their own strength, they never would have been able to fulfill His majestic plan for their lives—nor can you or I. But, empowered by the Spirit, we can transform the world (Acts 1:8, Philippians 4:13).
  4. FORGIVENESS ISSUES – Jesus showed them His wounds, proof that they had been forgiven by His shed blood. But then He talked to them about their calling to extend His forgiveness to OTHERS. If you are in some kind of spiritual prison today, there’s a good chance that forgiveness is one of the keys needed to set you free. Perhaps you need to RECEIVE God’s full forgiveness of your past, releasing you from any guilt, shame, or condemnation. Or maybe you are still locked in emotional bondage because you’ve not yet forgiven someone who has hurt you. Either way, forgiveness is an indispensable key to your spiritual and emotional freedom.

I encourage you to read this list again, asking God to show you which of these four keys are needed to help you get unstuck and ready to fulfill your destiny as a follower of Christ.

Perhaps you’ve been hiding out behind closed doors for a long time now, traumatized by some experience that has been hard to shake. But if Jesus could take these distraught men from the shadow of the cross to the glory of resurrection life, surely He can transform your life and give you a new beginning.

Like Jesus’ disciples, you may seem like an unlikely world-changer today. But once He has freed you from fear, given you fresh vision, empowered you by His Spirit, and dealt with your forgiveness issues, your life can be amazing. You don’t have to wait any longer!


OHIO FRIENDS: I would love to have you join me at Judah Christian Community in Columbus as I preach there Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m. The church is located at 972 Beechwood Road, and we will meet for lunch at the Whitehall MCL Cafeteria afterward for lunch. Don’t miss it! My message will help you see your past, present, and future in a whole new light!

 

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Love & Other Craziness

Valentine’s Day really impacted me this year, and I still find myself thinking about the strange nature of “love.” If you’ve truly experienced love and are honest about it, you know it makes you a little bit crazy—and sometimes a whole lot crazy.

It doesn’t require any deep exegesis to conclude that the lovers in the Song of Solomon are over-the-top crazy about each other. Love has blinded them to such an extent that they refer to each other as “altogether lovely” (5:16), a description that’s obviously hyperbole unless referring to Jesus. The rest of us have many flaws, after all.

Sensing the craziness of these two lovers, the onlookers in Song of Solomon try in vain to sound a note of caution. Three separate times, they are charged not to “stir up nor awaken love” until the proper time (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). But alas, it was too late. Love—crazy love—had already been awakened.

The maiden knew she had a problem: She was “lovesick” (2:5, 5:8). That’s a “sickness” God wants us all to have, but it sure is uncomfortable at times.

This reminds me of one of my favorite musicals, Man of La Mancha, in which Don Quixote goes wild for a vulgar barmaid named Aldonza. Unable to recognize her unseemly condition or despicable morals, he calls her his “virtuous lady, Dulcinea.”

Like I say, love is a crazy thing, and Don Quixote is a prime example. But the really crazy part of the story is that Aldonza was transformed into Dulcinea by the end of the play. Quixote’s seemingly irrational love turned out to be a powerful force for the hapless barmaid and hooker to see herself in a whole new way.

Okay, perhaps you Bible scholars out there think I’m only referring to the craziness of romantic love, described by the Greek word eros. Certainly God’s love, agape, is more rational and levelheaded than that.

To our surprise, however, there’s evidence that even agape love is pretty crazy at times. How else can you characterize something that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”? (1 Corinthians 13:7)

To ignore the “evidence” and keep believing, hoping, and enduring certainly seems irrational to me. Yet that’s the nature of love.

In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul makes a profound statement about the factors that either energize or undercut our ability to love: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love [agape] and of a sound mind.” An entire book could probably be written about how the various elements of this passage interconnect:

  • Fear and love are enemies, and “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). But let’s get real: Nothing is scarier than love, for it involves entrusting our heart to another person.
  • True love is a supernatural thing, and in order to overcome fear and truly love another person, we must have the power of God (dynamis). Power and love are meant to go together, and power is a very dangerous thing if not governed my love.
  • By far the most intriguing part of this verse is the reference to “a sound mind.” The Greek word (sophronismos) describes moderation, self-control, or returning to sanity. Its root is sozo, the word for salvation, so the literal translation could easily be “a saved mind.”

This brings us back to the craziness of love. Anyone who engages in such a hazardous undertaking needs God to deliver them from fear…empower them by the Holy Spirit…and, last but not least, to give them a saved mind.

If love has made you a little crazy lately, I pray that God will give you a saved mind, helping you see things from His perspective. But I’m also praying for those of you who need a little more craziness in your life. May you overcome your fears and experience the joys of lovesickness once again.

 

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Surmounting Your Past to Find Your Future

Sometimes we’re on the brink of our breakthrough, but something is holding us back. Can you relate?

After Moses’ death, Joshua found himself on the banks of the Jordan River, overlooking the Promised Land on the other side. God was telling him to take the Israelites over the river and into their destiny—but there was a problem.

Forty years earlier, Joshua had been one of the 12 spies sent to view the Promised Land before the Israelites entered (Numbers 13 – 14). The spies all gave a glowing report about what a wonderful land it was, but 10 of the spies said there were fierce enemies and “giants” in the land. It was much too dangerous to risk entry, they warned.

Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who said the Israelites should obey God and trust Him to give them the land. But their report was rejected, and more than a million people chose to wander in the wilderness rather than enter the Promised Land.

Now Joshua had come full circle, right back to this place where he had boldly proclaimed God’s provision—but where he suffered an agonizing and humiliating defeat when his message was rejected. Forty years had passed, but he still was traumatized by the memories.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar place. You are on the brink of the Promised Land. You have tasted its fruit before, and you know it’s an incredibly good land. Yet you also remember the painful experiences associated with this. Fear and apprehension rise up within you when you consider the prospect of taking a step of faith to cross over and face the giants.

God has brought you to this place, not so He can torment you, but so He can heal you. He is telling you, just as He told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”  (Joshua 1:9).

You’ve the Promised Land before, and here you are again—right on the brink. The Lord has brought you full circle so you can face your fears and find your destiny.

You are SO close, and you can succeed this time. Don’t let anything, or anyone, hold you back. I’m convinced the call toward your future is stronger than the tormenting chains of your past.

 

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Betty White and Me

I heard on NPR radio that today is Betty White’s 92nd birthday. Betty and I starred in a musical together many, many years ago, when I was just a kid. Well, it would be more accurate to say that she  was the star, but I had a pretty good role too.

I played Betty’s son in “Take Me Along,” a musical you’ve probably never heard of. We got to sing and dance together in front of thousands of people.

There are two lessons I learned from my experiences with Betty—who is a really nice person, by the way.

First, I learned that fear is a normal part of life, and sometimes we need to jump into our role and do things despite our fears. Before Betty and I took the stage the first night, she asked, “Jimmy, are you feeling afraid at all?”

“Yeah, I sure am!” I replied.

“Well, I am too,” Betty told me with a wink. “But I’ve found that when I confront my fears, they always go away after I get started.”

Her words were very reassuring, and I’ve never forgotten them. It was okay to feel a little nervous before singing and dancing in front of thousands of people. Even Betty White was a little afraid. But she knew the fears would surely pass.

What about you? Are your fears causing you to procrastinate about “taking the stage” in a new phase of your life? If so, it’s time to cast your fears aside and “do it afraid”—because the curtain is about to open!

The second lesson about Betty is that I never realized how successful and famous she would ultimately become. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had the foresight to stay in touch with her all these years?

I hope you will take this lesson to heart today. You may be rubbing shoulders with someone destined for greatness, so the best policy to value and honor everyone  you encounter today. You may even want to get their phone number in case they become a celebrity one day!

In Genesis 40 we read about the king’s butler and baker who shared a prison cell with a young Hebrew man named Joseph. Who could have imagined that one day he would be the most powerful man in Egypt?

The moral of the story is that we should treat everyone as if they are destined for greatness—for in God’s eyes, they are.

 

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