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How to Get What You REALLY Want, Right Now

Okay, quick, list five things you REALLY want—

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

How did you do? What’s on your list? A dream vacation, car, or house, or job? Brimming over bank account? Physical health or healing? A spouse who is always there for you? Children or grandchildren? A grande mocha latte?

So, now, take your list, and consider this: for each thing on your list, do you really want the thing itself, or do you actually want what you think the thing will do for your soul?

Look deeper. That dream job– you really want what you envision that job’s status, accomplishment, and fulfillment will do for you, don’t you? That deep need to feel loved & cherished, isn’t that what you are really desiring from that perfect relationship? That bank account means security & freedom from worry to you, doesn’t it? In fact, if you dig down deep enough into your soul, you will find that for each & every material reality you desire, there is a spiritual need that is fueling that desire.

And guess what? Although material realities are given to us by God & are meant for our enjoyment, they aren’t meant to fill spiritual needs. No thing, no person, no accomplishment, nothing in this world can give us true & lasting peace or contentment or security or acceptance or joy. That’s not what material things are for. (You might even say that’s like putting Pepsi in a gas tank… )

Jesus taught his disciples, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” He knew that even the best things in this world are only material, and that the material can never bring us the spiritual things that we truly desire.

Look at your goals, your dreams, your desires, the material things you are striving for, worrying over, clinging to, frustrated about. They are not what you REALLY want, and they can’t get you what you really want.

Peace, joy, contentment, acceptance, security— you don’t have to hope for, strive for, work for any of these– they are freely & instantly available, they are our birthright as children of God. You really can have what you really want, not someday, but right now, if you are willing to turn your eyes away from the things that cannot give them to you. All you need to do is turn your eyes & open your heart toward the One Who can give them to you. Your heavenly Father is eager to give good gifts to you, His beloved child. Receive, and be blessed.

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!

What Are You Thirsty For?

I don’t like the taste of Powerade.

To me it’s just a disagreeably sicky sweet salty taste. I’ll drink water, or diet drinks (yes I know they’re not good for me), or even a chocolate frappacino once in a while.

But I never drink Powerade.

That all changed one Sunday morning.

A few miles into my half-marathon, I approached the first drink station. They were handing out cups of both water and Powerade. Normally, I would have reached towards the water without even a thought. But as I looked at both, suddenly my brain was swinging my arm towards the Powerade. I reached out and took a few swigs as I kept running.

Whoa. It tasted completely different than it had before. It tasted, like, really really good. It was six ounces of blue heaven in a cup.

What was going on? What happened? I couldn’t figure it out. The scientist in me kicked in, and I promised myself that I would run a test and drink water at the next station.

The next station came, and I got ready to enjoy some clean, cold, refreshing water. But instead I got this bleah stuff swirling in my mouth that I knew was water, but somehow it wasn’t refreshing. It didn’t seem to satisfy me. I was no longer thirsty for it.

Still not convinced, I decided to switch back to that drink I couldn’t stand at the next station. And once again, that revolting Powerade tasted like pure heaven to my taste buds.

What happened? Had they changed the taste of Powerade or of water? I knew the answer: the drink had not changed, but the drinker. I was losing calories and electrolytes in the run, and my body was automatically adjusting my taste buds to reflect what I really needed. Because I had changed, what I was thirsty for changed.

That little incident on a street in downtown Knoxville reminds me of one of the most sobering questions I have ever asked myself: What are you thirsty for, John?

This time, I’m not talking about a thirsty body, but a thirsty soul. I look at my soul straight in the face and ask it, “Soul, what are you thirsty for?”

The answer isn’t pretty. So often my soul thirsts for pretty useless stuff– the latest gadget, a little mindless TV, one more piece of pie. And the darker, soul-destroying thirsts of sin are ever present as well. Isn’t it strange that we so often want life out of what we know will actually kill us instead?

I know that if you take an honest look at your own soul you’ll see some ugly thirsts too. That’s part of belonging to the human race, my friend.

So what do we do? How do handle these thirsts within our soul?

There are three options, only three, open to you. The first is to try and quench your thirst with what your soul is thirsty for. Freely indulge that addiction, go for the gusto, live your life pursuing pleasure, or power, or prestige, or peace, or whatever your soul says it needs.

There’s one huge problem with that approach: your soul is not like my body was on race day: it doesn’t know what it should be thirsty for. Our souls have all been warped by our fallenness. If we are willing to take an honest look we can all see it: many foolish decisions, many mistakes, many lives hurt because of our souls being thirsty for the wrong things.

The second approach to the thirsty soul is to quiet it. This is the approach of some religions, that of realizing that soul thirst can never be fully quenched in a fallen world, and so they decide to try and kill thirst instead. If desire inevitably brings suffering, then they say we must eliminate desire.

The problem with this approach is obvious: convincing a man in a desert that he doesn’t need water doesn’t stop him from dying of thirst. Our souls are thirsty. They must drink. Pretending that we have no soul desires is both futile and deadly.

So, if our soul’s thirst can neither be quenched nor quieted, what can we do? The answer lies in what happened during my run: my thirst was changed. What my brain desired was shifted to what my body needed, and the result was a new thirst that was a positive force for my good.

So, how does that work on a soul level? What does my soul really need? What is its “Powerade,” and how can I change my thirst to match it?

Jesus answered this very question, while talking to a woman at a well…

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ( John 4:10-14 )

It’s so simple: the thirst of our soul is meant to be a thirst for the presence of God. No other drink will do. And God in His grace gives us a new thirst for Him when He gives us a new life, and gives us a spring of water in the Holy Spirit.

Think about what the presence of God is for the soul. First, God’s presence is perfect: there is no better nourishment possible for our souls, because God created our souls to receive life from Him.

His presence is also pure: there is nothing evil, nothing harmful, nothing but good to be gotten from God. His presence is powerful: our lives are transformed as we live in Him.

Finally, His presence is permanent. As Jesus said to the woman, those who are Christ’s have a well that will never run dry. God is now always with us, always available to relieve our soul’s thirst, and we shall live in His presence for all eternity.

Perfect, pure, powerful, permanent: God’s gift of His presence in the Spirit is all these things, and a thousand more.

Since my soul is still fallen, I still have these other thirsts, other things that my foolish soul sometimes thinks will give me refreshment. But now I have an answer when I feel the thirst, when my soul asks “What am I thirsty for?”

I simply answer back, “Soul, what are you really thirsty for, down deep, in the spirit God gave you when He gave you a new life?” And I smile, and hear God say, “Drink, my son, drink deep and long of the fountain I have put within you, and be refreshed.”

What a Dream Taught Me About My Future

strange room by mazzuk via flickrAs I journey along this curious path called life, I have been blessed by many signposts along the way.  Friends & mentors, books & the Scriptures, wise advice & quiet introspection.  But today I had an out of the ordinary signpost, one that woke me up this morning in the form of a dream:

In this dream I was walking in the office building that my father worked in when I was a child.  I thought to myself, “I’ll look into his office one more time.”  But when I walked in I was in a huge room about the size of a school gymnasium, mostly empty, with skylights in the ceiling letting light in.  All was white except for a few splashes of orange on the walls.  This wasn’t what I expected at all, & I was both intimidated & disappointed. I turned to exit the building but found that there was drywall covering the front entrance doors.

I don’t usually try to “figure out” dreams, but I started pondering the simple but stark images and what they could mean.  I saw that the office itself represented my future, & I realized that each detail had a meaning, one about how I needed to view my life. 

First, I saw that my future can’t be contained in the confines of my past.  Although the past is familiar and more comfortable, that’s not where my future lies, and the sooner I accept it, the sooner I can actively seek it out.  Until I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, I will never experience what God has in store for me.  And what God has in store for me is MUCH bigger than the little room I would feel comfortable staying in.

Second, I saw that my future is mine to create.  This empty room represented the empty canvas of my future; one that was mine to paint by my own choices and actions.  The content and the beauty of the canvas will be mine to decide. Even so, I was reminded to include happiness in my choices by the splashes of orange, the color of happiness.

Third, I saw that God will light my way.  That wasn’t a long stretch of interpretation considering  this room was brightly lit from above me & outside.  It also wasn’t a long stretch considering God’s many promises in Scripture of the light of His presence & guidance.  I can rest assured that I will never be without His light.

Finally, I saw that my future was my responsibility.  When I tried to leave I found that I could not.  I cannot dodge or evade or check out of the responsibility that God has entrusted to me.  This is why I am still on this planet; this is why I am living; to fashion a future worthy of my gifts & God’s glory.  May I be faithful to fashion it well.

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.

The Five Ways Passivity Robs Your Life

I took a hard look at this shady corner of my yard this afternoon.

It was an unpleasant reminder of the consequences of passivity.

You see, seven years ago this was my vegetable garden. Yes really, there were rows of tomatoes and peppers, lettuce and berries where now there is just barren ground over the deep shade of some fast growing trees.

How could this have happened? It was nothing more than my own passivity.  As I stood looking, I thought about the obvious parallel between this soil and the rest of my life. Whether it’s a garden of plants or a garden of an important project or treasured relationship or my own inner soul, the consequences of passivity are stark.

I thought back to the ancient proverb that I thought would never literally apply to me:

I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.  (Proverbs 24:30-34)

So, how did I get tripped up?  How did I let passivity rob me of my garden?  On reflection, I saw these five ways that passivity deceived me and then robbed me:

1.  Passivity underestimates consequences. If you had shown me this photo six years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have thought, yes, a neglected garden might get a little weedy, a little harder to till up, but I would have never dreamed how radical the change would be, how totally unusable my garden would become with neglect.  It is rare that we accurately see the true extent of the consequences of passivity in our lives.

2.  Passivity clouds vision.  There’s a stand of pine trees between my back deck and my garden, so I had to walk about fifty yards to see just how bad the garden was looking.  The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” wasn’t thought up just for a garden.  The woman who keeps putting that frustrating project at the bottom of her pile, the man who checks out of dealing with a troubled relationship by staying glued to the television screen, are both giving passivity the opportunity to cloud their vision.

3.  Passivity justifies procrastination. With my neglected garden I believed the lie that I could always make up for lost time later. I let procrastination tell me, “You can cut down those weeds next week.” “You can cut those saplings down next weekend.” “You can till it up in the Spring.” Do those excuses sound familiar to you?  Have you ever told yourself statements like “I’ll clean up the garage next week.” “I’ve got the weekend to get that project done.” “We’ll take a vacation together next year.”  The truth is that tasks you put off don’t get done, so don’t let passivity justify your procrastination.

4.  Passivity rationalizes impending failure.  When I saw the garden getting worse and worse, I started telling myself things like “Well, I have higher priorities now.” “It wasn’t a good spot for a garden anyway.” “It’s too much trouble.”  When we start to see the “handwriting on the wall” it’s much easier to rationalize & dismiss our failure than to take a hard, humble look at ourselves and accept responsibility for our mistakes.

5.  Passivity takes us beyond the point of no return. There’s no going back now with my garden. The tree root systems are now so entrenched it would be easier to plow up another section of my yard than to try to restore my old garden.  The final consequence of passivity is that we don’t always get second chances. We deceive ourselves when we assume that we’ll have a chance to patch up that strained friendship someday, that our marriage will improve once the stresses are less, that we’ll be able to catch up with God when we’re not so busy.

The consequences of my passivity robbed me of my garden, but it doesn’t have to take any other part of my life.  I can be vigilant to guard against its deceit, and so can you.  Don’t let passivity rob you of anything in your life.

What Does It Mean to Walk with God?

labrynith by vgm8383 via flickr

Walking is a oft-used metaphor of life’s journey.  Over the years I’ve come to realize that my most important goal is to walk with God.  But what does that really mean, to walk with God?  What does it actually entail to structure the focus, the rhythm, and the path of my life to a relationship with an infinite being?  I will doubtless spend the rest of my life learning the answer to this question (and then trying to live it out!).  But at 43 years of age, this is the framework of what I have so far:

First, to walk with God means to follow Him.  Twenty times the Bible records Jesus uttering these two words: Follow Me.  If my life is focused on God, then I will be looking toward Him, as Jesus looked to the Father, to sense where He is moving in the world, to know the path of love, the path of obedience, and sometimes the path of suffering He would want me to take.  If I am to walk with God I must endeavor to follow Him.

Second, to walk with God means to be shepherded by Him.  Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved pieces of sacred poetry, and for good reason.  We all have a desire to be led by still waters; we all must pass through the valley of the shadow of death.  To go through the good and bad of life, the blessing and the trial, with a loving Shepherd by my side is precious indeed.  But as the prophet once spoke, just like a sheep I am prone to wander off the path, and I must purpose to focus on God and let Him shepherd me.

Third, to walk with God means to abide in Him. The night before He died Jesus took great pains to explain to his disciples the mystery of abiding in Him, and how vital it would be to their lives.  Just as a branch is created to draw life and vitality from the vine, my spiritual life and vitality comes only from Christ.  I cannot walk with God without the practice of abiding in Him.

Lastly, to walk with God means to see Him as the goal and destination of my journey.  There is a reason why mystics throughout the ages have used a labrynith as a spiritual exercise.  To walk through a labrynith is to encounter many twists and turns and seeming changes in direction, and yet to know there will be an end to the journey within the center, and that every step taken will have actually been a step toward that blessed center.  So it is with life.  Though my steps be many, and often seemingly take me away from my goals, I can look toward God as my center and my destination.  I can rest secure that my journey will surely lead me to Him.

 

Indiana Jones vs. the “Ordinary” Life

Indiana Jones

“You’re a teacher?”

That line of stunned but admiring disbelief is a centerpiece of both the new Indiana Jones film and much of the great mythic stories we enjoy.  Whether it’s the fedora-wearing archaeologist who saves the world, or the mild-mannered newspaper reporter who is the son of Krypton, or the young youth who draws the sword from the stone, or the quiet hobbit who is called to defeat the evil ruler of Mount Doom, we look up to the individual who lives the extraordinary life.

But where does that leave the ten million teachers who are “just” teachers?  The mailmen and mechanics and mothers who are not spending their weekends defeating KGB agents in the Amazon jungle with a whip and a grin?  The men and women who are leading just “ordinary” lives?

It’s a subtle trap, but one that bears looking at:  the trap of seeing ourselves as leading “ordinary” lives.  For if we look at our life, the 9 to 5, paying bills, raising kids, growing older every year “ordinary” life, and compare it to the books and movies, we can convince ourselves that something’s wrong, that the life we’re living isn’t exciting enough and isn’t important enough for us.  We think that we should be living an extraordinary life instead.

If we fall into this trap of the “Indiana Jones syndrome,” what are the results?  The first will be discontentment with the life we do have, with a whole host of emotions like frustration or guilt or discouragment in tow.  We might invest our energies in trying to create an extraordinary life,  like a dream career change or a promotion that will end up in disaster.  We might even try to find some adrenaline on the side to give our sagging ego a boost.  It could be an all-consuming hobby, a spicy illicit relationship, or a soul-destroying addiction as a substitute for having missed out on that extraordinary life.

Are you wincing yet?  Are you looking in the mirror and seeing yourself?  I know I’ve longed to put the fedora on my head in the past, and seen the discontment seep into my soul. 

What’s the answer?  How do we escape from the Indiana Jones syndrome, from the dissatifaction of living an “ordinary” life?  As with everything else, the answer lies with God.  The apostle Paul gave a word picture about the “ordinary” life in 1 Corinthians 12:

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

The Christians at Corinth all had the Indiana Jones syndrome; they were all wanting to lead extraordinary lives and be leaders or show off miraculous gifts.  But Paul rebukes them.  He says that just as a properly functioning body has different parts, the church as the body of Christ has different parts.  By nature and by necessity the church has people leading more outwardly glamorous or extraordinary lives and others leading very “ordinary” lives.  Every life is equally important in the Kingdom and equally valued by God, no matter how they look on the surface or are esteemed by the world.  God in His love and His wisdom chooses the best life for each and every one of us.

There really is an escape from the Indiana Jones syndrome.  We can rest in knowing there is no ordinary life that is lived for God.  There is no “ordinary” cup of cold water given to another that will go unrewarded (Matthew 10:42).  There is no “ordinary” hospitality given to a stranger that may not be to an angel (Hebrews 13:2).  There is no bath in a “ordinary” river that may not result in a miracle (2 Kings 5).

If we will live it in Christ and for Christ, we all will experience an extraordinary life.

Contentment and Commission

This is an interesting quote that I pulled from the GetReligion blog which I regularly read.  It is part of an old interview with Charlton Heston.  He is reflecting on how playing the part of Moses in The Ten Commandments changed him and he says,

It is interesting to note that once Moses climbs Mt. Sinai and talks to God there is never contentment for him again. That is the way it is with us. Once we talk to God, once we get his commission to us for our lives we cannot be again content. We are happier. We are busier. But we are not content because then we have a mission — a commission, rather.

Wise words.  How content are you?  Have you talked to God?  Have you heard a commission from him?

Seven Things I Wished I Knew at Seventeen

George Marty McFly Back to the Future

I recently watched the film Back to the Future for the first time in years. One thing that impressed me (now that I am 43 years old) was how George McFly (Michael Fox’s father) changed due to Marty’s little time travel escapade. That pivotal time of his adolescence was dramatically impacted by a few events, and resulted in George living a very different life.

It made me think back 25 years to my own adolescence. If I could jump into a plutonium-powered Delorean and visit myself, what would I say? What advice, what challenges would I give to myself? After some thought, I decided on seven fundamental things I wished I had known at seventeen:

1. There is much more to knowing God than accumulating information. Yes, study the Bible, read the books, get an accurate picture of the nature of God, but seek more. When Jesus said in John 17:3 that the nature of eternal life was to know God, He wasn’t meaning just a head full of theology. Seek to enjoy & commune with the presence of God.

2. Don’t take people for granted. One day you will realize your parents are indeed flawed people, but they did their best. Seek to honor them and love them while still being true to God and yourself. Love and serve everyone you come in contact with, not just those who seem to be valuable to you. Friends: they will slip through your fingers before you know it if you aren’t consistently proactive in keeping the friendship going.

3. Be ruthless with sin. You cannot now imagine the pain you will cause God, yourself, and the ones you love through your sin. Pride, self-centeredness, greed, lies, lust— they will all cause you untold hours of bitter tears. Do all that you can to pull up even the little weeds of sin you find as soon as you can and as thoroughlly as you can. Repent regularly & completely and walk with God.

4. Find a spiritual mentor. There is no substitute in your life for a man of wisdom, older and wiser than you, to help guide you on your journey. Casual contact with teachers, pastors, friends, even the occasional baring of your soul to another, is not the same as one man consistently investing himself in your life for the purpose of your spiritual growth. Keep praying, keep seeking, keep asking, until you find that man.

5. Believe in your place in God’s Kingdom. There are many things that will discourage you from thinking you can accomplish great things for God, and there will be many distractions along the way. Don’t let up; don’t give up; keep striving for the unique contribution that God has prepared you to make.

6. Evaluate the eternal value of every moment. Those hundreds of hours you’ll spend in video and computer games: you will look back and see them as largely a waste. Seek out fun, adventure, fellowship and accomplishment in things that matter. Although it doesn’t appear so at the time, every moment counts. Every moment becomes an unchangeable part of your life and your legacy.

7. Never let fear be a factor. You will miss out on so much if you make a decision or fail to make a decision based on fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of making the wrong decision will haunt you, but you must realize that you can’t live life to the full by never taking a risk.

As I looked at the whole list, I realized that I was not only speaking to an imaginary 17 year old teen, but a 43 year old man as well. These seven challenges are just as relevant to my life today as they would have been back then. I still need to challenge myself each day with each of these statements.

Looking at the list, I also realized that I could boil down the whole list to one phrase, which is one of my favorites: Don’t waste your life. That’s what the difference between the “old” and “new” George McFly in the movie was: the difference of a life wasted and a life lived. For those of us who follow Christ, the challenge for us every day is just this: Don’t waste your life.

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