The 4 Ingredients in My ‘I-deal’ Life

ideal life 1

Someone asked me an important question when I told them I was going on a sabbatical to seek direction for my life. Looking me in the eyes with great earnestness, they said, “What makes you happy, Jim? That’s what you should be doing.”

My reply probably surprised them, for many people would have cited romance or worldwide travels as their expected source of happiness.

“The thing that makes me the happiest is to have an impact on others,” I said without hesitation. “And the more impact I’m having, the happier I am.”

Although I don’t really think life is all about “the pursuit of happiness,” this conversation really got me thinking. What, exactly, would my ideal life look like?

I encourage you to ask yourself this “happiness question,” because your answer probably won’t be the same as mine. If you’re not fully satisfied with your present life, what are some things that would bring you greater fulfillment and joy?

After some soul-searching, I’ve identified four primary ingredients necessary to bring me the greatest joy in life. They all start with “I,” so I’m calling this my “I-deal” life.

  1. INTIMACY with God and people. The Bible says “fullness of joy” can only be found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11), so that must be the starting point in my ideal life. But it’s also clear that close relationships with people are necessary in order to experience lasting joy. By “intimacy,” I’m not referring to romance or sex, but simply the ability to open your heart to others on a deep and vulnerable level. Do you have relationships like that with family and friends? I do, and it’s a blessing I’m profoundly thankful for.
  1. IMPACT. As I told the friend who asked about my happiness, impact is very important to me—perhaps even too  important. I believe we’ve been put on earth not just to be “successful” or just to “hang out” with people. We’re called to make a tangible difference  in the lives of others. Of course, we each have different ways to bring about impact. My personal mission statement is “To change the world through the written and spoken word.” That means I love to write and preach, and those are two of the ways I can touch people’s lives. In my remaining years, I also want to find more ways to pour myself into the next generation. But you may have completely different gifts and passions. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to find your own God-given calling in how to make the world a better place.
  1. INCOME. I’m not retired yet, so income is still an important part of the equation for me. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about such lofty objectives as intimacy and impact, but we all must find ways to pay the bills as well. If you’re making lots of money but falling short in things like intimacy and impact, I challenge you to make some changes. However, some of my friends have been so intent on their spiritual and social pursuits that they’ve neglected the basic necessity of having adequate financial provision for themselves and their family. Financial stress can really undercut your pursuit of a happy life.
  1. I-CARE. Sorry, but this is the only “I” word I could come up with to mean self-care. Of all the ingredients in my ideal life, this is perhaps the most difficult one for me. Although I’m passionate about impacting others, in the process I often neglect taking care of myself. In the coming season of my life, I must give a much greater focus to my health and fitness. I also need to take more time for rest and recreation, and I must reassess the margins in my work-life balance. As I was departing for my sabbatical, a friend told me, “Have fun!” Sadly, I had to admit that “having fun” is an element of self-care I really need to work on.

Identifying the elements of your ideal life won’t automatically answer all the questions you face concerning your future—but it’s a great place to start. So set aside some time, find a journal to write in, and get started in the process of defining what the life of your dreams really looks like. And don’t forget to solicit the input of trusted friends who can help you deal with any blind spots.

Your ideal life awaits! But you’ll have a much greater chance of experiencing it if you know what it looks like.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Rediscovering My ‘True North’

Compass 3

When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the cool video games and technology of today. Some of my most memorable toys were marbles, magnifying glasses, and gyroscopes.

Recently when I was praying, God spoke a powerful message to me through two of my other childhood toys: a compass and a magnet.

First, I recalled the amazing attributes of a compass. When set on a level surface, the needle rather mysteriously points to “true north.” Somehow the compass detects and automatically points toward the invisible magnet field emitted by the North Pole.

But as I pondered this wondrous ability, the picture changed. I saw a compass surrounded by various magnets. The needle was spinning, no longer able to discern the correct direction of true north.

Like this compass, I realized I was in danger of losing my sense of true north. When I gave my life to Jesus and His Spirit came into my heart, I was given an internal guidance system much like a compass. And whenever I look time to quiet my heart and rid myself of external distractions, my spirit automatically pointed toward the Lord and my true north calling.

However, life is full of external magnet fields. While the compass needle initially points northward, it can be swayed by relationships, addictions, materialism, stress, and busyness. Many of us end up trying to please people rather than God. Or our lives become consumed with the quest for a paycheck so we can pay our bills. Even the good  things in our lives can emit magnetic fields that divert us from God’s highest will.

Let’s be honest: the North Pole is a lot farther away than the external magnets around us. Yes, the Lord is very near to us (and even in us), but the attraction from what we see, feel, touch, and taste can appear much stronger at times. And the voices of people often drown out the voice of the Lord.

So how can you regain your sense of true north if your compass needle is spinning out of control? What can you do when you detect confusion in your heart about God’s plan and purpose?

Periodically, you must leave behind all the external distractions and take a personal retreat. You need to make sure your internal compass needle isn’t being influenced by anything other than the Spirit of God.

When can you take time to do that?

I know, it’s difficult to find time to rediscover your true north. But what’s the alternative? Do you want to continue living a life that lacks direction, impact, and satisfaction?

One of the great benefits of finding true north is that the other directions become clear as well. Once you know which way is north, it’s easy to find east, south, and west. Your relationships and priorities are much easier to sort out once you’ve established which way you’re headed.

When you rediscover your true north, you’ll no longer drift through life like a sleepwalker. No longer confused or purposeless, you’ll gain new appreciation for Solomon’s advice about finding divine direction:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB).

Straight paths are only possible if you’re clear about where you’re going. And your internal GPS will only function properly if you’ve first established which way north is.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Silencing the Cicadas

cicada-2

A few months ago, the Holy Spirit spoke a concise but powerful word to my heart during a personal retreat: “Jim, you need to silence the cicadas!”

If you’ve never been around any cicadas, you may want to visit YouTube and check them out. Cicadas are large, ugly insects that cluster together in trees to make an almost-deafening sound, especially at night.

The Lord advises us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” But how do you do that when you’re surrounded by cicadas?

The cicadas can take a variety of forms today:

  • Our constant connectivity to our phones, emails, and social media.
  • The 24-hour news cycle, which seems to spew out a large percentage of “fake news,” slanted toward the political bias of the network.
  • A society where political correctness is on the rise, while personal analysis and investigation is quickly waning.

Although these surrounding noises are increasingly prevalent, the worst cicadas of all come from our own emotional baggage. It’s one thing to disconnect from societal noise from time to time in order to preserve our sanity. But what about the internal noises that so often threaten our peace and serenity?

Perhaps you’ve never thought of your internal noise as cicadas, but here are some examples:

  • Fears or insecurities that arise and drown out your faith and your ability to take risks.
  • Anxiety that drowns out your enjoyment of today and your confidence in a happy future.
  • Unforgivenss or bitterness that distorts how you see the people around you.

The next time you see me, I encourage you to ask me how things are going in silencing the cicadas in my life. Well, let’s just say it’s an ongoing process at this point…

Before you get too wrapped up in putting together your resolutions and goals for the coming year, you may want to take some time to quiet your heart. Dealing with the pesky cicadas—both externally and internally—is the best way to prepare for a great new year ahead!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

A Vision That Will Change Everything

sunlight

Have you ever had a time when you realized your perspective was totally misguided? Perhaps you saw a relationship incorrectly, or you misjudged the leadership of your church. Or maybe you sunk into despair as you read news headlines about your nation or the world.

I recently was challenged when I read the life-changing vision Isaiah had after King Uzziah died:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
  (Isaiah 6:1-3).

Uzziah had been a good king, but he had a rather bad ending (2 Chronicles 26). And just as today, the political changes in ancient times often made people apprehensive.

But Isaiah saw beyond the troubling headlines of his day to a much more important reality: The Lord  was sitting on the throne of heaven. He was high and lifted up, with a vantage point much better than ours.

Nothing on earth was going to change the majestic scene in heaven.

Lately I’ve been stunned by the angelic song: “The whole earth is full of His glory!”  I’ve read this over and over, even checking it out in various translations.

How could the seraphim declare that the whole world was ALREADY full of God’s glory?

If we could get a glimpse into heaven today, I’m sure we would hear this same song being sung. In the earthly realm, we see Democrats and Republicans waging war. Terrorists seem to be multiplying. The economy goes up and down. Racial tensions won’t seem to go away.

As an optimist, I’ve often cited Bible verses promising that God’s glory would one day fill the earth (Habakkuk 2:14, Numbers 14:21). But while my perspective has generally been limited to “the sweet by and by,” the heavenly creatures saw God’s pervasive glory as a present-tense reality.

Pause and consider how your life would change if you regularly sang the seraphim’s song. Wouldn’t there be a profound transformation if you realized that the glory of the Lord was filling your home, your office, your church, your community, and your nation?

And think about the new level of peace and hopefulness you’d experience if you believed—really  believed—that God was ultimately in control of the universe. No election can alter that fact. So let’s all take a deep breath and determine that we will entrust ourselves to Him, no matter what’s going on around us.

When Isaiah saw the Lord on His throne and recognized that His glory was already filling the earth, the political and economic news of his day suddenly faded in importance. And rather than setting himself up as a judge over the leadership changes around him, the prophet found himself repenting of his sins, humbling himself, and listening for a new mandate from God’s throne room.

“My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,”  Isaiah said (v. 5). A vision like that will change everything, no matter what is happening in the world around us.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Elijah’s Unanswered Prayer

elijah-1

Although the prophet Elijah is famous for his mighty prayers, I’ve always been more intrigued by the prayer God ignored.

James 5:17-18 recounts Elijah’s amazing feat in praying for Israel’s rain to stop for three and a half years, then praying for the rain to suddenly be restored. In-between those two monumental events, Elijah found time to supernaturally multiply a widow’s food, raise her son from the dead, and call down fire from the sky on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 17 & 18).

Pretty impressive stuff. The Bible says nothing is impossible for God, and it seemed as if nothing was impossible for Elijah either.

But there was one prayer that didn’t get answered. Elijah prayed this just as earnestly as any of his other prayers, if not more so. Yet the Lord ignored him.

The surprising scene occurred when Queen Jezebel threatened his life and Elijah escaped into the wilderness: “He prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life’” (1 Kings 19:4).

The prophet prayed that he would die.

Perhaps you’ve never prayed a prayer like this—or won’t admit that you have. But at times some of the rest of us have prayed this, and we can learn some important lessons from Elijah’s story.

Based on Elijah’s track record of answered prayer, we might have assumed God would simply say okay and grant his request. If his other requests were so easily granted, why wouldn’t the Lord give him what he wanted this time?

The answer is this: As we see later in the chapter, God still had plans for Elijah. Yet those plans were hard to see while Elijah was hiding out in the cave and feeling sorry for himself.

It’s interesting that before giving the prophet his new commission, the Lord made sure he got some rest and nourishment (1 Kings 19:5-8). The story shows how our state of mind can be negatively influenced not just by difficult circumstances, but also by things like fatigue and poor nutrition.

Next, God whispered to Elijah with a “still small voice,” cutting through all the noise and hoopla that had been surrounding him (1 Kings 19:11-12). If you’re feeling depressed and hopeless today, nothing will help you more than to tune out the noisy distractions and hear God speak to you again.

One of the other causes of Elijah’s hopelessness was his sense of loneliness, feeling that there was no one left but him to follow in the ways of the Lord. Twice he told God about his woeful aloneness:

I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life (1 Kings 19:10, 19:14).

Have you ever felt disconnected from family, friends, or the community of believers? Or perhaps you’ve felt all alone in some of the battles you’ve been facing. This is a depressing place to be.

But God pointed out that Elijah’s perspective was all wrong! While the prophet felt like he was the only one left to stand for righteousness, the Lord told him, I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18).

How could Elijah feel so alone at a time when the Lord still had 7,000 faithful followers? Maybe you’ve felt this way in a megachurch or at a conference or concert. Sometimes the loneliest feeling of all is to be surrounded by thousands, yet not truly connected to anyone.

Elijah clearly tended to be a loner in his personality type, but even loners need to be connected. God took care of this with the final step in the prophet’s restoration, giving him a new relationship that was central to his new commission and purpose.

When the prophet felt as if his life’s purpose was over, the Lord gave him a new mission and vision. Elijah first was told to anoint some new kings, but then the pivotal moment came when God said he must anoint Elisha “as prophet in your place” (1 Kings 19:16).

The prophet’s new commission was to train his replacement! How would you respond to a mandate like that?

Elijah didn’t initially seem too happy about training someone to replace him. But isn’t this what true ministry is all about? Isn’t the primary task of every leader to equip others for their role in God’s kingdom? (See Ephesians 4:11-12.)

To sum up this story, God ignored Elijah’s request to die. Instead, He showed him a new purpose—one that ultimately had more significance than anything he had done before.

Fortunately, Elijah’s story didn’t end until a “double portion” of his spirit rested upon his successor, Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-15).

Think about that for a moment. What if the Lord said to you, “I don’t want your life to end until there’s a double portion of blessings resting upon your kids and those you mentor in the next generation”? Nothing is as important as that.

So it’s okay if you take some time to rest and get nourished, even if you have to hang out in a cave for a while. But then listen for God’s voice and His new commission in your life. And don’t be surprised if it has something to do with training your replacement and equipping the next generation.

As long as you still have breath, God still has plans.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Watching God Connect Your Dots

Big Dipper 2

Being old has its benefits. And I don’t just mean the senior coffees at McDonalds.

I’m old enough to know that “what goes around comes around,” and King Solomon had it right when he observed that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). History really does have a habit of repeating itself, particularly if we fail to learn its lessons the first time around.

But recently I’ve come to appreciate another benefit of having lived awhile: I’ve seen that God is a skilled Artist who delights in “connecting the dots” in our lives. Perhaps you haven’t lived long enough to see this fantastic divine pattern yet, but I believe you will in time.

By “dots,” I mean whatever experiences, events, relationships, successes, failures, pains, or pleasures you’ve encountered during your life. Some of these dots you’ve no doubt categorized as “bad,” and other ones you’ve probably described as “good.” And if you’re anything like me, many of the dots in life simply seem random—without any apparent purpose…making absolutely no sense at the time.

Yet I have good news for you today—news so good you probably will find it hard to believe: As time goes by during your life, the Lord will increasingly connect the dots and reveal an intricate, well-planned masterpiece. Yes, He’ll connect even the dots that once made no sense. And if all the dots still don’t seem to be perfectly connected by the end of your earthly life, He will surely finish the job in eternity.

By the time God gets done with His handiwork, EVERY dot will be connected, and NOTHING will be wasted (John 6:12). He will find a use even for your most painful dots or and the events you considered your greatest failures.

You see, the Bible has been right all along when it told us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Read that one more time. It doesn’t say just SOME thing work together for good—it says “ALL THINGS!”

Now take a few minutes to consider some of the “dots” you wish you could erase from your life. Believe it or not, God can do something good even with those painful or ugly dots. In the next few weeks, I’ll be launching an e-book on preventing, surviving and recovering from church splits. Sad to say, I’m one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject—but the Lord is going to use my painful and unwanted experiences to help thousands of pastors who are dealing with such things in their own churches.

And if you still doubt God’s ability to turn around tragic events and use them for His purposes, consider King David. I’m sure he wished he could erase his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah (see Psalm 51). But Bathsheba ultimately gave birth to Solomon, and she ended up in the family lineage of Jesus, the Messiah! (Matthew 1:6) God is great in mercy, isn’t He?

And in case you think God only loves you or offers you His favor when you are “good,” let me share one more connect-the-dots illustration.

Although I’ve never been much of a stargazer or astronomer, the Big Dipper is one constellation that’s always blessed and intrigued me. First of all, note that it’s not a “dipper” at all until you connect the dots of the various stars.

But what amazes me about the Big Dipper is that it’s continually tilted in such a way as to pour out its contents. My friend, that’s exactly how God wants you to see His love and favor for you. It’s not something that comes and goes, nor is it so fragile that it can easily be lost. In fact, Paul assured us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God…nothing (Romans 8:28).

So take heart today. Nothing has happened in your life that is too awful for God to forgive or to redeem for His glory. Go ahead and give Him the dots—all of them—and you’ll be amazed by the beautiful tapestry He’ll produce.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

4 Reasons You May Be Feeling Stuck

Stuck

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!

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Finding the Fountain of Youth–at Any Age!

Grandpa Buchan

It has been nearly six months since my dad passed away at age 94, and I find myself reflecting on his amazing ability to stay young at heart his entire life. Meanwhile, I’ve been noticing lately that people’s chronological age is often quite different from how they seem. Some people already seem quite old in their 40s and 50s, while others have youthful zest for many decades after that.

Here are 5 of my dad’s secrets to uncommon youthfulness—secrets for experiencing the Fountain of Youth no matter how old you are:

  1. Keep active (Don’t neglect your PHYSICAL health). In his 60s, Dad was still playing handball, tennis, and golf. And in his 80s he would go to the local Walmart or Sam’s Club, not to shop but to walk around and get some exercise. He understood the old maxim, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” and he did his very best to take care of his body.
  1. Keep learning (Don’t neglect your MENTAL health). If Dad were still alive today, we would be having lively conversations about the latest news on the Presidential candidates or the economy. And he would be absolutely ecstatic that BOTH the Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina Panthers are undefeated at this point in their seasons. You see, Dad was a lifelong learner, never tiring of reading another book or newspaper to find out what’s happening in the world.
  1. Keep dreaming (Don’t neglect your EMOTIONAL health). One important lesson I gleaned from Dad was that he always made sure to have something to look forward to. It might be a cruise, a trip here to Charlotte or back to Ohio, or simply a concert or musical he wanted to see. Even on the days when not much was going on in his life, he found hope and excitement as he contemplated the coming events on his calendar. So here’s a new maxim I’ve come up with to explain this wise practice: Life is DREARY when you quit DREAMING! God says He has plans to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and that perspective is a critical component of our emotional health.
  1. Keep loving (Don’t neglect your SOCIAL health). My dad’s last 25 years turned out to be some of the happiest, most joy-filled times of his life. There may have been a number of reasons for this, but number one on the list would surely be the love he shared with his wonderful wife Delores. Their relationship was a fantastic testimony that you can still be “in love” even in your final decades. Countless medical studies have proven that if you don’t have anybody to love, you’re bound to age more rapidly. In fact, if you’re no longer loving, you’re already dying. But what if you don’t have a spouse to share your love with? In addition to his relationship with Delores, Dad continually reached out in love to my brother and I and the grandchildren—and he was still offering us his wise counsel until just weeks before his death.
  1. Keep praying (Don’t neglect your SPIRITUAL health). Dad was puzzled that so few of the seniors in his community had any interest in spiritual matters or church. He and Delores rarely missed a Sunday, and their deep faith was an important ingredient in their vitality. Whenever I have birthday, I find myself claiming the Bible’s promises in Psalm 103:4-5 MSG: He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in His presence.”

I encourage you to take another look at this passage in Psalm 103 and claim its promises for your  life today. No matter what you may have gone through in the past, God wants to crown you with love and mercy. And although He wants you to take good care of your physical body, He also offers you something much more important: “beauty eternal.”

So, my friend, there really IS a Fountain of Youth available to you. God can renew your youth each day, because “you’re always young in His presence.”

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Luggage or Baggage — Do You Know the Difference?

Luggage-225x300

While preparing to fly to New Zealand next week, I’ve reflected on my visit last year to a local flea market in search of new luggage. Perhaps that sounds like an insignificant event, but it was an exhilarating experience for me. Why? Because new luggage was a declaration of my intention to go someplace!

You see, if you’re stuck and immobilized, there’s no need for luggage. The only reason you need luggage is if you have a vision to travel and advance!

When I was shopping for new luggage, I didn’t really know where I would be going. But the exact destination wasn’t the issue at the time. It’s all about mobility, fresh vision, and getting unstuck.

I was beginning to sense God stirring a vision I first had in my mid-twenties—to play a role in filling the earth with the glory of the Lord (Habakkuk 2:14). Pursuant to that vision, purchasing new luggage was a step of faith and a prophetic declaration. It was a statement of my renewed desire to fulfill God’s purposes in my life.

However, I’ve also been thinking of another word, baggage, which often is used as a synonym for luggage. Although the two words can mean the same, baggage has some very negative connotations: “things that impede or encumber one’s freedom, progress, development, or adaptability.”

While luggage is all about vision for the future, baggage is focused on our failures and frustrations in the past. We’ve all been encumbered by unwanted baggage at one time or another. The baggage may be from past sins or failures, broken relationships or shattered dreams—or anything else we allow to weigh us down and impede or progress.

Luggage is symbol of our availability to go where God sends us. Baggage, in contrast, involves whatever “stuff” is slowing us down from running the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If you’re like me, you probably have some baggage you’re not even aware of. Ask God to search your heart, my friend. Lay aside the baggage, and go shopping for some new luggage.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Unchaining Your Lost Melody

Have you ever found yourself humming a song from the distant past—a song that illuminated a timely issue in your life? That happened a few days ago, when God dropped the old Righteous Brothers song “Unchained Melody” into my heart.

I think this was sparked when a friend texted me to ask if I could help him write a book on how to be set free from addictions. I told him we could discuss this in a few days, but I was inclined to turn him down. After all, there already are countless books about how people can overcome drugs, pornography, smoking, alcoholism, codependence, and all sorts of other forms of addiction. I couldn’t see how one more book would do much good.

A few hours later, however, I found myself thinking about Unchained Melody, and it entirely changed my perspective.

Here’s why…

God has put a unique song (i.e., a melody) in the heart of each one of His children. But let’s be honest: Very FEW people seem to actually be singing the special, God-giving tune they’ve been given. Most seem to be living lives of drudgery, singing someone else’s song instead of their own.

What’s the problem here? If God has given us a special song to sing, why is it so rare to meet people who are truly “living out” that song?

I’m glad you asked…

A good starting place to answer the question is Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. You probably know the story of the wealthy man who had two sons. He greatly loved both of them, but each son had something blocking his ability to experience the father’s love.

The younger son took his share of the inheritance and quickly squandered it in wild living. Not until his money ran out and he spent time in a pigpen did the young man come to his senses and return home.

The amazing part of the story is that instead of scolding and punishing his wayward son, the father threw him a huge party. Do you see how ironic this is?

The son probably would have returned home a lot sooner if he knew the love, acceptance, and blessings that awaited him. He spent all his money on PARTYING that could never satisfy, when all along, his father had been ready to throw him a PARTY that would change his life forever.

You see, once upon a time, the younger son had a Melody in his heart. But because of his sinful, addictive, wanton lifestyle, the Melody had become chained. Eventually the bondage became so oppressive that he totally forgot there had ever had been a grand Melody and purpose to his life.

When the young man witnessed the joyous music and dancing coming from his father’s house, something resonated in his heart. His song came back to life, and he finally experienced the joy of the Unchained Melody he had always been destined to sing.

Sadly, the older brother didn’t experience such a happy ending. While the Melody in his young brother’s heart was chained because of SIN and WORLDLINESS, the older brother’s Melody was in bondage because of RELIGION and SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS—often much more difficult chains to break.

Do you see how this applies to you and me? God wants each of us to sing our Unchained Melody—unhindered by sin and uninhibited by the stubborn pride of self-righteousness and religion.

So if I decide to help my friend on his book project, I hope the book can do more than just focus on addiction. The truth is, addiction feels good on some level (Hebrews 11:24-25), so we have to point people to something BETTER—the joyous Unchained Melody that God desires for them to sing.

And one more point…

Notice that the song is about Unchained MELODY, not Unchained HARMONY. While it’s a wonderful thing to harmoniously support other people’s dreams and visions, don’t forget about your own dream and vision. Although there’s a time to sing in the “choir,” perhaps this is the season to sing your own Unchained Melody.

But let me ask you…

Do you still even remember the song God placed in your heart many years ago? Or has it become a distant memory, needing the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to rekindle the fire and remind you of the lyrics once again?

My friend, your Father has scheduled a party in your honor. Don’t let anything keep you from attending.

Can you hear the sound? Then go ahead and put on your dancing shoes!

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon