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The Principle of The Path

This is one of my “spiritual seed packs”— a condensation of a book that lays out its big ideas in a way that you can digest them in a few minutes.  The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley is a timely tome on a timeless principle– that direction, not intention, determines destination.  Every single person can apply the truth of this principle to their life.  The following contains both direct quotes and my own reworking of the book’s main thoughts.  The original book is a recommended read and is available through Amazon by clicking here.

What is a Principle?

Principle: a truth that shapes your life

A principle is powerful: it will shape your life whether you are aware of its existence or not
A principle is immutable: principles like “you reap what you sow” will never change
A principle is unavoidable: you can’t evade it or change it
A principle is useful: once you know it you can use its power in your favor

If you don’t master life by learning to use principles, then you are left to learn by experience.

Experience is not the best teacher, it is the most brutal teacher.

Why? Experience eats up your most valuable commodity: time

Trying to learn simply by experience will fill your life with regret, and regret brings despair, addiction, and a whole host of life-destroying emotions.

What is the Principle of the Path?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a “yellow brick road” that would take you to whatever destination you wanted in life? Marriage, security, happiness, success, peace?

If there were, you would stop trying to find solutions, stop trying to “fix” your problems, and just follow the right path.

But that actually is how life works.

Simply put, you & I will win or lose in life by the paths we choose.

No matter what it looks like or what we think, we don’t actually have “problems” in our life to fix. That’s not the right way to look at life. Instead of looking for a solution, look for a direction, a direction in the path of your life to change.

The Principle of the Path:

Direction –not intention– determines destination.

You can dream & desire where you want to be all you want, but it is only the direction that you actually chose to walk in the past that has resulted in where you are right now, and it is only the direction that you choose to walk today that will result in where you will end up in the future.

The Problem With Getting Lost

People who are somewhere in their life they don’t want to be are lost.

No one gets lost on purpose, and no one know exactly when it happens, but it is always a result of taking the wrong path.

Direction is everything. Every choice in life we make changes our direction, which in turn changes our destination. That is why we cannot afford to live unaware lives, where we don’t see the connection between our daily choices, the direction that they head us in, and the destination they lead us to.

When you get lost on the road, you lose a few minutes or hours, and those are easy to make up. When you get lost in life, you can lose years or even decades, and you can never get them back. They will be wasted opportunity, gone forever.

Looking Ahead–

“the prudent see danger & take refuge, but the simple keep going & suffer for it” Proverbs 27:12

See the difference: both wise & foolish people are on a path that leads to danger, but the wise see it, look ahead and realize where the path leads and change their course, but the foolish do not look ahead, do not realize where their path is going & suffer for it.

Life is short. The seasons of life pass quickly. And each season is connected to the one that follows. Today’s decisions create tomorrow’s experiences.

Truth & Lies–

When we stand at the crossroads between prudence & pleasure, we lie to ourselves. We begin selling ourselves on what we want to do rather than what we ought to do.

We try to defend pleasure decisions with justifications that aren’t founded in truth. You can’t have it both ways when at the fork in the road pleasure goes one way & prudence goes the other.

Our problem is rarely a lack of information, it is a lack of honesty with ourselves. We deceive ourselves about why we choose the things we choose. And then we spin a web of excuses to protect ourselves, excuses that over time we come to believe.

As long as we are lying to ourselves, it is impossible to get to where we want to be. Maps are useless if you don’t know where you are.

Lying to yourself saying “everything is going to work out” or “I can handle this” doesn’t help when you’re lost, it actually keeps you from stopping, getting help, & changing direction.

Telling yourself the truth about where you are & why you got there is painful, but it is the only way to free yourself to move from where you are to where you want & need to be.

Why am I doing this, really?
If someone in my circumstances came to me for advice, what course of action would I recommend?
In light of my past experiences and my future hopes & dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?

What’s Better Than Information

The challenging aspect about picking the right paths is that the choices are now. The outcomes are later. There’s no way to unmake choices— which is why it’s so crucial for us to make the right choices up front.

But how do we make the right choices?

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 straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

First: Don’t trust your heart, trust God with your heart.
Second: Acknowledge God: recognize Who He is, & act like it.
Result: God will make the best path unmistakably clear.

Divine direction begins with unconditional submission.

In order to make the best decisions now, we need much more than information, common sense, or conventional wisdom. We need God. If the wisdom, understanding, and insight of a man like Solomon does not ensure against choosing the wrong path, isn’t it foolish for us to lean on our own limited insight & understanding?

Why do I hesitate to give God full access to every part of my life?

What do I fear will happen on the other side of that decision?

What is the most difficult area of my life to yield control?

Cutting Through the Fog of Emotion

Your decision-making environments are not emotionally neutral. More often than not, the circumstances we face are saturated with powerful emotions. Those emotions easily turn into misguided passions. In the end, emotion clouds the ability to accurately evaluate the circumstance in order to choose the right path.

Life is too short to allow the emotions of the moment move you in a direction you will later regret.

Three questions:

Does this option violate God’s law?
Does this option violate a principle?
In light of the story I want to tell of my whole life, what is the wise thing to do?

Whose map are you using?

Would you get driving directions from someone that had never been where you wanted to go? All of us take cues in life from someone or something. Many of our “maps” are subconscious, yet we still use them everyday to steer our path.

One of the most crucial decisions you will make is the decision regarding whose map you are going to follow.

Successful people attribute their success to the wisdom & insight they garner from others.

Successful people know when they’re in over their head. They don’t deceive themselves or others.

Chances are, you would have avoided what turned out to be your greatest regret if you had sought out and listened to wise counsel. The wise are always listening. That’s how they became wise.

You will never reach your full potential without tapping into the wisdom of others.

The Power of Attention

We have a tendency to drift in the direction of the things that have my attention.

Attention determines direction.

The perceived cost of disentangling ourselves from the unhealthy things that have our attention seems too high to us, as is the price of focusing on healthy things with a payoff that seems far away.

We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.

Dead Dreams

What do you do with dreams that can’t come true, destinations that are unreachable?

You can choose anger, or despair, or manipulating, but at the end of it all, you will be just as far away from whatever you desired as before, but you will also be far away from God. Your only other option is to go towards God, pour out your heart, and confess, “Not my will, but Yours.”

Spiritual Seed Pack: Crazy Love

I love books that are in your face and don’t mince words. There are few books that are more straightforward than Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. His writing and his challenges are plain:

  1. What’s Wrong With Christianity Is That We Aren’t Crazy About God
  2. We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Don’t Really Know Him
  3. We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Are Too Crazy About Us
  4. Lukewarm Love for God Is Good for Nothing
  5. If You Get Crazy in Love With God You’ll Lead a Crazy Life

Crazy Love is a quick, easy read that will impact your life. I highly recommend getting that you read the whole book, but here’s your seed pack of its core ideas:

What’s Wrong With Christianity Is That We Aren’t Crazy About God

To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid “big” sins— is this passionate, wholehearted love for God? –Francois Fenelon

Chan writes boldly that everyone can see that all is not well with the American church— that we really seem little different than people who don’t go to church.

“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians.”— those are just symptoms, not the core issue. “The answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts”

The core issue is getting “crazy in love” with God. Remember when you were wildly in love with someone? It changed EVERYTHING— you were consumed with the person, every thought, every moment of your life was structured around them.

That’s the passion we need to feel about God.

Until we get crazy in love with God little will change in our lives or in the church.

We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Don’t Really Know Him

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A. W. Tozer

The first step in getting crazy in love with God is to really get our minds around who He is in all His power & glory & majesty & love.

“If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can.”

“God is holy. In heaven exists a Being who decides whether or not I take another breath.”

“The greatest good on this earth is God. Period. God’s one goal for us is Himself. Do you believe that God is the greatest thing you can experience in the whole world?”

We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Are Too Crazy About Us

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. –(James 4:14)

The second step in getting crazy in love with God is to get a proper perspective of who we are in relation to God and eternity.

“On the average day, we live caught up in ourselves. On the average day, we don’t consider God very much. On the average day, we forget that our life truly is a vapor.”

“It’s crazy that we think today is just a normal day to do whatever we want with. Do you live with the reality that perhaps today you will die?”

“We generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Christ.”

In other words, we need to step back, take a look around, and realize that—

“Life is all about God and not about me at all.”

“Frankly, you need to get over yourself.”

Lukewarm Love for God Is Good for Nothing

“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?” –Chan

The third step in getting crazy in love with God is to realize that what usually passes just fine for devotion in the American church is pretty lame in the eyes of God. Chan says that just because we are saved and try to live a good life, we assume that we are the “good soil” in Christ’s parable.

DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU ARE GOOD SOIL.

“When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it.”

“Most of us have too much in our lives.”

“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?”

Do we really see God as infinitely more precious than anything else in our life?

“Well, I’m not sure You are worth it, God.. You see, I really like my car, or my little sin habit, or my money, and I’m really not sure I want to give them up, even if it means I get You.”

“We need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him.”

“We disgust God when we weigh and compare Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide those things are better for us than God Himself.”

Do we really consider ourselves as fully devoted, no holds barred, to God?

“If you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you. They own you. Somehow this realization does not cross over to our thinking about the Christian life.”

“Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.”

“Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.”

If You Get Crazy in Love With God You’ll Lead a Crazy Life

The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life. –Daniel Webster

The life of a Christian should be marked by the word OBSESSION. Not obsessed with a list of rules or performance or measuring up, but obsessed with loving God and loving others through Him.

“Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.”

People who are crazy in love with God love freely, give freely, serve freely, sacrifice freely, take risks, are humble and honest with God and with people.

“If we really believe that if we sacrifice things on earth so that we will have an eternity of rewards, it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“Dare to imagine what it would mean for you to take the words of Jesus seriously.”— & GET CRAZY!

Spiritual Seed Pack 1: Living by Grace

John Piper’s Future Grace is a book so deep & yet so practical that it is certainly on my “must-read” list for every Christian.  This spiritual seed pack gives you core concepts and ideas from Future Grace to plant and grow in your life.  There are direct quotes from Dr. Piper, major ideas distilled down into my own words, and quotes from other writers.

Hungry for the whole book?  Click here to see it on Amazon.com.

Want more depth? Click here for a series of articles going through the book chapter by chapter.

Faith Is the Key to Grace

Faith is the key, the channel, that God’s grace flows through. So to experience grace you must possess faith.  Faith is absolutely central.

If you go wrong on the nature of faith, everything in the Christian life will go wrong.

So, what is faith?  Here are some key concepts:

Faith trusts in the promises that God has made through Christ, and loves them, cherishes them, prizes them with all the heart.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that faith is more than mere knowledge, more than belief, but is a joyful response of the heart to the truth of the Gospel.

Eternal life is not given to people who think that Jesus is the Son of God.  It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God.

Faith, embracing the spiritual beauty of Christ, is the key to my joy and spiritual growth.

If we can look in our hearts and see God’s love within, sense a spiritual eye for Christ’s light and an ear for Christ’s voice and a taste for Christ’s living water, then we can rejoice and thank God for His glorious grace in our lives, for these are the marks of true faith.

Because building my faith is central to grace, destroying my faith is central to Satan.

Whether it is a discouraging situation, a tempting thought, or any other kind of battle, the real target of Satan is always my faith.

Whenever we turn from faith (total trust and reliance) in God and turn toward anything else, we open the door to sin in our lives.

All the sinful states of our hearts are owing to unbelief in God’s super-abounding future grace.

All our sin comes from failing to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.

Example: the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer.  So the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy.  You can’t trust in God and in money at the same time.  Belief in one is unbelief in the other.

Where faith in God fails, sin follows.  Faith stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more satisfying than the one promised by sin. Where this truth is embraced and God is cherished above all, the power of sin is broken.

Grace is God’s Power At Work in My Life

God’s Grace is Boundless

The reason God saved us was so He could lavish the riches of His grace on us, and it will take God all of eternity to do it. (see Ephesians 2:4-7)

We never have to worry about being beyond the reach of God’s grace, and we never have to worry or manipulate to try and win God’s grace.

God’s grace is a boundless infinite ocean. This reservoir of future grace is hidden from our eyes, but each of us can look back and see a sea of grace that has already flowed from God’s hand, and it grows broader and deeper every day.

God did the hardest thing, not only that has ever been done, but the hardest thing that could ever even be conceivable to be done, in the universe: He allowed His Son, the being He loved more than anything else in the universe, to suffer and die.  Why? Romans 8:32 says it— “for us.”  So Paul is saying that if God has already done the hardest thing in the universe, it is an easy thing, a simple thing, for Him to “graciously give us all things.”

Having Faith in God’s Grace Changes Everything

You must believe this or you will not thrive, or perhaps even survive as a Christian, in the pressures and temptations of modern life.  There is so much pain, so many setbacks and discouragements, so many controversies and pressures.  I do not know where I would turn in the ministry if I did not believe that almighty God is taking every setback and every discouragement and every controversy and every pressure and every pain, and stripping it of its destructive power and making it work for the enlargement of my joy in God.

If you live inside this massive promise, your life is more solid and stable than Mount Everest… nothing can blow you over when you are inside the walls …Outside all is confusion and anxiety and fear and uncertainty.  Outside this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions…once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom…The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.  When God’s people really live by the future grace of Romans 8:28— from measles to the mortuary— we are the freest and strongest and most generous people in the world.

God’s Answer to Every Prayer is Grace.

Many of us have been taught that God answers prayers either “yes” “no” or “wait.”  But in reality God always answers every prayer by giving us His grace—the grace of a blessing, the grace to endure a hardship, or the grace of patience.

Grace Gives Me a Heart for Holiness

Jesus repeatedly spoke of the importance of becoming like God—loving & holy.  Jesus said that he did not come to do away with God’s laws but to fulfill them. Bottom line:

The law is so wonderful and important that part of the reason Jesus died was that we could obey it and fulfill it.

The commandments of God are not negligible because we are under grace. They are doable because we are under grace.

How does grace do give me a heart for holiness? Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God. Sin makes a promise to us, to satisfy us, just as God does.  Obeying God is learning to trust and value God’s promises to satisfy us in Jesus more than trusting or valuing the promises of sin.

There is a power that comes from prizing God which leaves no nook or cranny of life untouched.

Grace Gives Me a Heart of Patience

Patience is a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience— to wait in His place, and go at His pace.

On his deathbed the 18th century pastor Charles Simeon wrote:

Infinite wisdom has arranged the whole (of my life) with infinite love; and infinite power enables me— to rest upon that love.  I am in a dear Father’s hands— all is secure.  When I look to Him, I see nothing but faithfulness— and immutability— and truth; and I have the sweetest peace— I cannot have more peace.

Grace Gives Me a Heart of Contentment

Faith is the experience of contentment in Jesus, the satisfaction of my soul’s thirst and my heart’s hunger. The fight of faith is the fight to keep your heart contented in Christ— to really believe, and keep on believing, that He will meet every need and satisfy every longing.

As bitterness rears its ugly taste in our soul, we can successfully banish it with the assurance that God’s justice will be satisfied and by cherishing the even sweeter taste of God’s own forgiveness and love for us.

Grace Gives Me a Heart of Endurance

The Apostle Paul uses two word pictures of the walk of faith: a fight and a race.  That means it must be hard, and that we must endure to the end.  Knowing that we are in a race and a fight helps us to endure when the way becomes hard.

Grace Brings Suffering & Redeems Suffering

The more you are willing to forsake trust in yourself and the things of this world, the more you will open yourself up to situations where you may experience suffering for God.

When you know that your future is in the hands of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise God who promises to work all things for your good, you are free to take any risk that love demands— no matter the cost.

In regards to spreading the gospel today, we talk so much about “closed countries” that we have almost lost God’s perspective on missions— as though he ever meant it to be safe.

There are no closed countries to those who assume that persecution, imprisonment, and death are the likely results of spreading the gospel. And Jesus in Matthew 24:9 said plainly that these are the likely results.

God has purposes that He intends to accomplish through suffering:
Suffering Shapes an Unshakable Faith
Suffering Shapes our Character
Suffering Magnifies the Worth of Christ

Grace Frees Me From Fear

The aim of grace is to liberate me from fears and desires that enslave my soul and hinder radical obedience to Jesus.

Freeing me to live a radical life, doing whatever will advance the Kingdom and glorify Jesus– that’s why God gives me grace.

Grace Gives Me a Heart for God’s Glory

One thing is past all question: we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace.  If I have much faith, so that I can take God at His Word… I shall greatly honor my Lord and King. (Charles Spurgeon)

Grace Gives Me a Heart for Ministry

The state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires.

Ministry is a lifestyle devoted to advancing other people’s faith and holiness.

But a lifestyle of ministry is costly, in acts of sacrificial love. None of these costly acts of love just happens.  They are impelled by a new appetite— the appetite of faith for the fullest experience of God’s grace.”

Grace Frees Me to Pursue Joy in God

The breadth and depth of our pursuit of joy in God is the measure of His worth in our life.

God commands us to pursue joy in Him. In fact, He commands us to pursue joy with as much passion and zeal and intensity as we can.  Pursuing joy is not sin, but pursuing happiness where it cannot be lastingly found is sin.

“Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) is not a secondary suggestion.  It is a radical call to pursue your fullest satisfaction in all that God promises to be for you in Jesus.  It is a call to live in the joyful freedom and sacrificial love that comes from faith in future grace.

Live by faith. Live by grace. Live for joy in God.