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How to Be Absolutely Certain & Completely Clueless at the Same Time

seems like i'm always leaving by Unfurled via flickr

It’s been said that life is like driving down a road at night. That’s what I was thinking as I was driving home last night, seeing that white line stretching out in front of me.  I suddenly realized that I was both absolutely certain & completely clueless, at the same time, about my drive, and about my life.

I realized that when I’m driving at night, I’m ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN about what I need to do RIGHT NOW, in the moment.  That white line tells me whether I need to veer right, veer left, or keep it straight.  A red light ahead tells me to stop; a green light tells me to go.  As long as I keep my headlights on, the guidance I need for the present moment will always be there.

That’s just like my life.  In my moment to moment living, I have “headlights” that infallibly guide me. As long as I’m walking in step with God, listening to Him, being mindful of myself, my circumstances, & others, I can be confident that I will know what to do RIGHT NOW, in the moment.  God won’t fail me.  He never has.

I also thought of the Biblical story of Joseph.  Throughout his life, he was always guided as to what he needed to say & do at the right moment:  he knew he had to refuse his master’s wife; he knew what to say to the imprisoned butler & baker; he knew how to save Egypt from starvation.

But even though I’m absolutely certain about driving in the present moment, I’m also COMPLETELY CLUELESS about WHAT LIES AHEAD. If you ask me if the road will head northeast or southeast, whether in the next mile I’ll go up a mountain or go across a bridge, whether there’s a lake up ahead or a desert— I’m (literally) in the dark.  I’ve never traveled this road before.

Isn’t life like that too? I’ve never traveled the road of my life before, so I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know whether my job will prosper or end; don’t know whether I’ll live to 100 or die while typing this post; don’t know what joys or sorrows, victories or defeats I will face tomorrow.  And guess what?  If I try too hard to control my destiny, to make sure my life doesn’t take a sharp turn or go into a dark tunnel, I’m liable to run off the road completely.

The same was true of Joseph.  Even though he saw visions and interpreted dreams, he never saw his own brothers trying to murder him, never saw being sold as a slave in a foreign country, never saw spending years in a prison.  But he also never envisioned being the regent of the richest country in his world, having wealth and power beyond his comprehension, and being responsible for not only saving his family, but an entire country, from starvation.

That’s where faith comes in, for Joseph and for me.  When I’m driving an unfamiliar road at night, I may be clueless about what’s around the bend, but I remain confident that I will reach my destination.  I know the road was built to take me there, and I know I can trust my map.

Life’s the same way.  I know that the path that God has lovingly chosen for me will succeed.  Although there is much about it I can’t understand right now, and I’m completely clueless about what’s around the bend, I know that my final destination is secure, and that it ends with the One who loves me more than I can possibly imagine.

What Will Your Grandchildren Say They Learned From You?

I read today a list of five things a grandson states he has learned from his 90 year old grandfather.  He penned this short list with obvious admiration and sincerity.  Here is what he wrote:

1) Humility: He (his grandfather) has always been keenly aware that God is God, and he is not. He has always been conscious of his smallness and God’s bigness, his imperfection and God’s perfection.

2) A love for the Gospel: He has always had a deep sense of his own sin, which has led him to a deep love for his Savior. He has always exemplified the sweet reality that you can never know Christ as a Great Savior until you first know yourself to be a great sinner. God’s amazing grace still amazes him — and that amazes me!

3) Faithfulness: Although he has had the opportunity to do many things, he has never wavered concerning God’s call on his life to be an evangelist. He knows he’s not a scholar or a theologian; he’s never tried to be. He has always remained true to God’s calling.

4) Never show favoritism: I have been with him in numerous places with numerous people, and I have never, ever seen him show favoritism. He treats all people the same, whether they are rich or poor, weak or powerful, socially significant or socially insignificant.

5) Be real: He is normal! He gets mad; he gets sad; he’s fun to be around. His favorite restaurant is Morrison’s Cafeteria. His favorite movie is “Crocodile Dundee.” His favorite drink is orange juice, and he loves catfish. He’s just another man with all of the limitations and idiosyncrasies that the rest of us have — and I love him for it!

When I read over this list, I thought, “When I am 90 years old, what will my grandchildren say they learned from my life?  What is my life teaching those closest to me?”

Think about it: what five things do you want your grandchildren to say they learned from you and your life?   What do you think those closest to you would say they are learning from your life today? Why not make a list of five things you want to pass on, and then make a list of five things that need to change in your life so that you can have that heritage for your grandchildren and all those in your life.

By the way, that list was written by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (I found it here).

You might know his grandfather, who turns 90 this week—  Billy Graham.

How to Be a God-Focused Encourager

a little flower by higetiger

Think of the last time you were encouraged, genuinely, deeply encouraged, by someone.  Pretty sweet, wasn’t it?  We all need encouragement in our lives, and we all need to learn to be encouragers of each other.

If we would learn to be a better encourager by example, there’s none better than one of the first followers of Jesus named Joseph.  Wait, you probably don’t even recognize his given name Joseph, but his nickname Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”  That’s the kind of guy he was, a man known for his encouragement.  His encouragement was so important to the church that he is mentioned by name 33 times in the New Testament, more than anyone else who wasn’t an apostle.

So, how did Barnabas do encouragement?  Studying him, it’s clear that he was known as a God-focused encourager.  No matter where he went or what he did, his heart remained focused on God, and his encouragement to others flowed from a heart filled from God and with God.

There is one key verse in Acts that gives us some clear yet concise insight as to why Barnabas was such an effective encourager:

When Barnabas came (to Antioch) and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. (Acts 11:23)

First, we see that Barnabas let God lead him to people.  He did not wait for someone to come to him.  He traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch with the specific purpose to encourage the Christians there.  The Bible records that the church in Jerusalem specifically asked him to go to Antioch.  If we are focused on God, He will guide us to people to encourage, either through the guiding of our church or friends or circumstances or through the Spirit.  Don’t you think that God has someone for you to encourage today?  If you remain focused on Him He will show you who.

After he came to Antioch Barnabas saw what God was doing.  One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “What is God doing in the life of this person?  Where is God at work?”  Being a God-focused encourager doesn’t mean throwing out generic “Have a great day, hang in there, trust in God, blah blah blah” cliches.  It means taking the time to listen, to observe, and to ask God to show you a person’s true need.

We next see that Barnabas was filled with joy at seeing God’s grace.  The old saying goes that there is more “caught” than “taught.”  That principle is absolutely essential in encouragement.  As we move into another person’s life, our hearts should be filled with God’s joy.  Seeing who God is and where He is moving in another person’s life is incredibly energizing and empowering.  Sharing our joy in God with both our words and our lives is the most powerful encouragement we can ever give to each other.

Finally, we see that Barnabas encouraged others to be God focused.  We all need encouragement in every aspect of our lives.  I’m sure Barnabas was known for saying things like, “Say, have you lost a few pounds?”  “That’s a great job you did with your house.”  “You’ve got a great sense of humor.”  “That’s the best stew I’ve had all month!”  But most of all, he was known for encouraging people to look to God in all they did.  Being a faithful Christian was a terribly hard thing in 1st century Palestine, but Barnabas clearly saw both the challenge of leading a faithful, God-focused life and the absolute necessity of it.

So, will you be like Barnabas today?  Will you be God-focused enough to let Him lead you to the people that you can uniquely impact, to see what God is doing in their lives, to move with joy into their lives, and encourage them to fix their eyes on God?  I know, it sounds like a tall order, but as you let God guide and empower you He will surely accomplish great things through you for His glory.


I Want a Wii Life

I’m currently hooked on my wii fit game.  Especially this morning, when my tv screen showed the little wii balance board put on a party hat and wave to me and wish me a happy 44th birthday. (Yes, it’s the little things in life!)

One of the things that I appreciate the most about wii fit is the feedback.  When I do an exercise, the balance board is continuously sensing where my body is and showing me this yellow circle that represents where I want my body to be and then a moving red dot of where my body actually is.  Being able to see that circle and that dot makes a huge difference between the wii fit and just following along an exercise DVD.  Instead of just seeing someone else, you see where YOU want to be and have the feedback of where YOU are, which gives you both a goal and the knowledge (and satisfaction) of when you’re within that goal.

Yes, having a wii-fit game is an awesome tool for toning up my body, but what about toning up my life?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a “wii life” game that I could strap on and take with me everywhere? As I go through my day, whether I’m stuck in traffic, trying to figure out what to do with a patient, listening to my wife, or talking with my kids, there would be my wii life game showing me on a screen, ”Here’s the circle where you need to be, and here you are with this little red dot.”  I would always have a clear vision of where I needed to be, and continuous feedback of where I was in relation to where I needed to be.  I can hear the little wii voice now: “Be a little more patient here, little less self-centered there, oh, you’re right where you need to be on love, shift left, shift right, alright, great job!”

But do I really need a video game to employ this concept in my life?  If I am willing to listen to the voice of God, will He not be willing to show me my circle and my dot?  I have the Bible and the Spirit to guide me minute by minute if I am willing to listen.  As I seek to know God better everyday, to love Him, to abide in Him, to walk with Him, I will daily be better able to sense where my spirit is in relation to where God wants me to be.  That’s what God truly desires for my life, and I don’t even need a TV screen to do it.