The Power of a Vision!

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) Without a blueprint, you can’t build a house; and without an idea of what kind of house you want, a blueprint can’t be drawn. The same is true when it comes to making plans for the future. If you don’t have a clear idea about where you want to go — and why you want to go there — it’s difficult to sustain any forward momentum in your life.

Without a dream, we float through life without ever catching the current. Many of us fill the majority of our hours with diversions and only a few with dreams. But our world is shaped by determined dreamers, by men and women of vision. Like them, you need a dream to achieve your goal. 

Brett Hagler is someone who knows the power of a dream. After battling cancer in high school, Brett entered his twenties determined to make the most of life wth lots of “gold, girls, and glory.”

“I bought into the false equation that material things were going to bring me fulfillment … it was the path to emptiness.”

With the help of a friend, Hagler turned to Christ. Shortly afterward, he visited Haiti and saw the devastation from the 2010 earthquake. Hagler was reading the New Testament at the time, and he noticed how Jesus had a strong “bent and heart for the poor.”

God gave Hagler a dream to establish a nonprofit company called New Story, a housing start-up that uses 3D printing machines to create homes. New Story can build a two-bedroom, one bath home in about 24 hours! Goldman Sachs calls Hagler one of the Top 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs as he seeks to combat global homelessness.

Today when Brett travels the country telling people about his story, he encourages audiences with a simple but powerful motto: dream big, but start small. That’s great advice!

I admire people who envision things not yet seen and do things not yet done. Imagineers open the door to the future and let us in. Their names fill the chapters of our history books: Alexander the Great, Nicolaus Copernicus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Steve Jobs, Mary Anderson. 

Mary Anderson? Who’s she?

She was an ordinary woman who visited New York City during the winter of 1902. The snow and ice were coming down furiously, and when Mary hopped on a streetcar she noticed the driver had to keep the front window open because the windshield was covered with snow. Returning home, she envisioned a rubber device that would sweep back and forth over the windshield to keep it clear for driving. She invented the windshield wiper.

You see, everyone can have a vision — young and old, rich or poor, famous or obscure. No matter who you are, you need to be gazing into the future and asking God what He wants you to do next. 

I’m Getting Older

Just read the book Keep Moving by Dick Van Dyke. He is an ageless optimist that always sees tomorrow as fresh and new and a gift to embrace as he moves forward into whatever the day may have for him. He is 94 years old, but he doesn’t know it. In the book he recalled filming a Disney movie. He was performing a dance scene when he suddenly felt the back of his leg snap like a rubber band. His injury grew worse, and he saw a doctor who took a bunch of X-rays.

After studying them intensely, the doctor looked at Van Dyke and said, “You’re covered with arthritis from head to foot. I’m surprised you could dance. I’ve never seen so much arthritis in a single person.”

“What about a married person?” Asked Dick, ever the comedian.

“Married or single, you’re literally suffused with arthritis,” said the doctor.

“What about the pain in my leg?”

“It’s the arthritis,” the doctor answered, chiding him and telling him it was no joking matter. The doctor predicted Van Dyke would be using a walker if not a wheelchair within five years.

Dick was scared so badly he did something rash. He stood up in the examining room and started tapping his toes, then shuffling around, then dancing, “as if proving to myself I could still order my body to do a soft shoe anytime I wanted.”

The doctor looked at him in shock.

“That was 1967,” said Dick. “I was forty years old. And I have not stopped moving ever since. Nor do I plan to hit the stop button anytime soon…As a card-carrying the-glass-is-half-full optimist, I’m going to … declare that old age doesn’t have to be a dreary weather report. In 99.9 percent of the stories I have heard it is better than the alternative, if only because you get to see what happens next. How can you not be curious?”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am ready to die and willing to live, but in either case I can’t wait to see what God will do next. How can you not be curious? The Bible says, “For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be” (Romans 5:2 TLB).

As I finish off my 73 year of life and look forward to a fantastic 74th year and beyond – way beyond, God willing – I recognize that I need to keep moving forward. I need to remain enthusiastic about life, excited about what God is doing, and anticipating what He is planning to do tomorrow and the next day and the next… I believe that I must be constantly growing and changing, moving forward into what could be, who I will be. The fullness of God’s plan and purpose for my life – my whole life. I am curious about what the future will bring as God continues to move and I continue to enjoy today and reach out for tomorrow.

Every morning I remind myself that “this is the day that the Lord has made” and that He gives this day to me as a gift to be embraced and lived to its fullest. 

Every morning I pray that the Lord would use me to glorify His Name and make His love known to someone during the day.

Every morning I read His Word to feed my spirit so I can enter the day having spent time with the Lord and having heard Him speak through the Word or directly to my spirit.

Every day I do my best to not waste time or simply spend time. I want to invest the time that He has so graciously gifted me with.

Every day I enjoy what I have to do and all that needs to be accomplished and am thankful to be working with Him in His Kingdom even when I am in the world doing regular life. 

And, every day, I dream of what is to come and plan how to take the first steps toward the future He has laid out for me. 

Yup! I am getting older. But inside I am still just 19.

A Display of Raw Power

There is nothing quite as awe-inspiring as a display of raw power. If you have witnessed any of the following, especially in person, you know what I’m talking about:

    • With a deafening roar and a gush of flames, two rocket boosters release more than six million pounds of thrust, defying gravity and hurtling the space shuttle into orbit.
    • Muscles rippling and hooves flying, a thoroughbred horse sprints away from the pack in the homestretch to win the Kentucky Derby by three lengths.
    • A symphony orchestra charges through the pulse-pounding climax of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannon fire and a sky full of fireworks.
    • Tons of strategically placed explosives detonate with such precision that a forty-story skyscraper of concrete and steel is reduced to rubble in seconds 

Breathless at sights and sounds of power like this, all we can utter is “wow!”

But our awe is short-lived, isn’t it. In less than two minutes, the flaming rocket boosters are spent and jettisoned. Crossing the finish line, the thoroughbred slows to a gallop then to a harmless trot. And once the condemned building collapses into a cloud of dust, the spectators go home. That’s the way it is: Most explosions of power cannot be maintained indefinitely. Other forces at work, such as gravity, friction, limited capacity, fatigue, etc., eventually tame the outburst, quiet the thunder, and cool the flames.

Sir Issac Newton, the famous seventeenth-century mathematician and physicist, discovered a law of motion that helps explain some of these realities. It’s called Newton’s first law of motion. The second part of this law states: “An object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

In other words, It it were not for fatigue, last year’s Kentucky Derby champion might be still racing around the track and Lance Armstrong could race his bike through the Alps twenty-four hours a day. The point is this: There are a lot of forces at work that can diminish, dissipate, deflect, detour, discourage, or destroy unleashed power.

Any forward motion will encounter resistance — including your forward motion. There simply haven’t been any great causes in history that didn’t struggle against opposition. They would not have been great movements otherwise.

So, today would be a good day to take stock….

      • Is there a real passion in your heart – a fire in your bones – for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of that Kingdom?
      • Have you discovered God’s purpose for your life? The specific and unique purpose He has for you which, we must remember is built upon the generic purpose of all believers to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”?
      • Have you accepted that call upon your life to follow Him and do what He has called you to do regardless of the cost or the inconvenience?
      • Have you received His two promises made to all His disciples – His presence and His power?
        • If you have a deep, daily walk with Jesus where your level of intimacy is good and getting better … then you are experiencing His presence
        • If you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have chosen to move in the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit … then you are experiencing and walking in His power

Good. Then now all you need is the boldness and courage to go on. To move forward as an irresistible force in life and ministry. Take the first step. Step out in faith. You don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of what the Lord is asking you to do. You need to simply trust Him and take that first step in the direction He has called you to go. Leave the details to Him. If you will stand up and step out then He will show up and show off.

Mark 16:20 “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”

There you see it … the disciples have just been told to take the world for Jesus — spread the Kingdom to every corner of the known world. They really had little to no clue how they were going to accomplish that. They were short on the details. And, now Jesus has ascended into Heaven and even He will no longer be available to help them or answer their many questions. But they stepped our in faith and He showed up – His presence and His power were there and event in their everyday lives. 

In spite of the circumstances and situations we are to trust Him, stand up and step out in faith. He will show up (presence) and back up His Word with miracles, signs, and wonders (power).

What is stopping you? It is time for true believers to stand up and step out and experience His presence and His lower. 

 

2021 – Focus on God’s Purpose

Bob Weighton celebrated his 112th birthday during the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, which meant he wasn’t able to have a party or be with friends. That’s a shame, because on that day Bob became the oldest living man on earth. The Guinness World Records organization sent him a certificate, and newspapers hailed him in heroic terms. Friends sang “Happy Birthday” from a distance while Weighton, a former missionary school teacher, listened on his balcony.

“I can’t say I am pleased to hear that the previous record holder has died, but I am pleased that I’ve been able to live so long and make so many friends,” he said.

When asked about the virus, he said, “It’s bizarre. I’ve never experienced anything like coronavirus before. I’m a bit frustrated, but then again I’ve been in situations where you just had to accept what was happening.”

Then he summed up the wisdom of a 112-year-old: “There is nothing we can do about it so you might as well do what you can. Never mind about the things that you can’t.”

That’s the key. Focus on what you can do. There’s plenty you can’t do, but there’s one thing we can all do: we can follow God’s deep desire for us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “I press on. That I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

That is God’s ultimate purpose for you and for all of us. Of course, He also has an individual plan for your life and for mine. But seriously, consider God’s ultimate purpose for your life — that you may become more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

John Bray was Dean of Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University. He and his wife were popular with students, and his chapel messages were full of life and truth. Then Bray was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The onset of symptoms led him to resign his position, but he simply continued looking ahead. He continued moving forward.

“Everyone gets a diagnosis of some kind sometime in their life,” Bray told the campus newspaper. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t.”

He told his students he is not asking why. “I can’t change what’s happened to me, so why is not a pivotal question in my life. Now, ‘how will I glorify God in the midst of all this?’ That’s at the heart of almost every major decision a Christ-follower needs to make.”

Speaking of his disability, Bray said, “Even this, that I don’t like, is designed to shape me more like Christ.”

That is the voice of someone who has grasped onto God’s purpose for his life, and no matter what comes at him, he will not let go.

Matt Mooney is a professional basketball player who, like every athlete, tries to excel at his sport, with its victories and setbacks. He’s also a dedicated follower of Jesus. “I know God has a great plan for me. I trust in Him. His purpose for me is to glorify Him playing the game.” 

He said, “I can’t take the game of basketball with me to eternity. The only thing that is eternal is God and Jesus. I realized that years ago. When I started really focusing on my faith, I realized no matter how I played, good or bad, God still loved me and I still had my salvation intact.”

Pastor Rick Warren wrote, “Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.”

When God looks at you and evaluates you, He wants you to become more and more like Jesus, to follow Him closely and to emulate His life so that Christ is seen in you more and more. That only happens as you put your focus on Him. 

2021 – Time to Plant a Tree

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”

And I would say that the best time to have told your friends and neighbours about Jesus was 20 years ago. The second nest time is now.

When I was first saved and born again there was a move of the Holy Spirit that was setting people and churches on fire for God. Back then (late 1970’s) you would hear things like this:

    • “Be on fire for Jesus!”
    • “Invite all your friends to Church!”
    • “Tell everyone you know about Jesus!”
    • “Change your school with the gospel!”
    • “Make Him know on and off the playing field!”
    • “Be a cry on the hill, different than others!”
    • “Be salt and light in your community!”

Fast forward a few years and you don’t hear those kinds of comments any more. The Great Commission to go into al the world and make disciples” is seldom taught on and few ever hear about it from the pulpit and church classrooms. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find people in the pews who are sharing the gospel with their neighbours (if they even know them), who are changing their workplace for Christ, and who are using their talents to impact the city.

It seems that the older we get and the longer we have known Jesus, the safer we live. But Jesus never called us to live safe, secure, and comfortable lives. Safe faith isn’t biblical faith! It seems the longer we have known Jesus the less likely we are to tell our neighbours and friends about Him. 

Now, let’s comment on the fact that young people are leaving the Church. Those who are in the age group called the Millennials are leaving the Church in substantial numbers. Stay with me as these two different streams of thought are really one. I will link them up in a minute.

Research has found that 70 percent of young adults leave the church at or about the age of nineteen. I am often asked “why has the younger generation abandoned the Church?” My answer is that I think the older generation has abandoned the mission of reaching the lost. So, the Millennials see a Church that has no purpose and no vision or goal and thus leave it because to them that means the Church is irrelevant. 

Statistics also show that among Millennials the number of them sharing their faith on a regular basis is increasing. They no longer attend Church but they are still in love with Jesus and more determined than the Church to share Him with others.

These studies are basically saying there is a mass exodus of young people from the Church, but they are sharing their faith more than ever once they’re out. It’s as if they’re graduating from the Church but not necessarily abandoning the faith. It seems this younger generation see the need for this dark world to know Christ but does’t see the Church as a viable way to make that happen.

It seems that the young people share because they have nothing to lose. But the older we get the less we share Jesus because we have more to lose – reputation, position, income, wealth, authority, friendships. 

It’s a lot safer to just be a believer and not be a disciple maker. Then you can agree but not do. There’s less risk involved when we just agree with Jesus. We abandon the mission because it costs us too much — our time, our resources, and especially our convenience. 

Have you ever noticed that older people don’t usually have scabs? Think about it. Scabs are what you get when you’re young. You get them on the playground from running too fast, jumping too high, or playing too hard. But as you get older, you don’t attempt anything that could give you scabs. Because our bodies have more to lose if something goes wrong.

Again, it seems that the older you get the safer you live. It seems that this is true of our faith journey also. It seems we have restricted the fun and powerful glory days of our faith to our youth. 

Francis Chan once spoke about his frustration with this notion. Both of his parents passed away in their forties, so it taught him to number his days. He talked about how he never knows if this is his last day before meeting Jesus. But instead of letting this sobering reality paralyze him, he’s allowed it to ignite his faith. He said, “It just doesn’t make sense to me. If you’re close to seeing God, why are we living such a safe life? And what the heck are we saving for? We go backward in the church, where we do crazy things when you’re eighteen, and then we start to live safer and safer every year.”

So, no matter what age you are, consider this: if today truly was your last day, what would you do with it?

I can guarantee that whatever you’d do, it wouldn’t be safe. It would involve meaningful risk. Whether it was restoring a broken relationship, telling that loved one about Jesus, or fulfilling an item on your bucket list, it wouldn’t be safe.

Time to plant a tree … 

2021 – Look Around and Meet a Need

Many years ago I heard a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. The phrase was, “Find a need and meet it.” Good advice then when I first heard it and still good advice today. Often in the Church we see people struggling to determine the calling on their life. What is it that God wants them to do? Of course, they are thinking about being a pastor, an evangelist, a teacher of the Bible… But, they have no idea how to really find out what it is God wants them to be doing. 

Well, it is simple really. Live life to the fullest engaged with others and the real world. As you engage with and embrace life you will find a need and meet it. Then, in the process of helping others, you will sense, feel, and discover what it is that God is calling you to do. That one, unique thing that you were created to do. Often you will find this ‘one thing’ almost by accident as you live life and meet a need.

A true story….

One Sunday afternoon in 1771, a man named Valentin Haüy ducked into a restaurant in Paris for dinner. He sat near the stage, and the show that evening featured blind people in a comedy routine. They were objects of ridicule and cruelty. The act was designed to make fun of their blindness. Deeply offended, Haüy began to develop a burden for the blind.

Sometime later he spotted a sightless street urchin who was begging for coins outside a Parisian church. Giving the boy some money, Haüy was amazed to see the boy feel the raised markings on the coins to distinguish the amounts. That gave Haüy an idea. Why couldn’t books be written with raised letter, like images on coins? Why couldn’t people learn to read with their fingers? Haüy took the boy off the streets, offered him food and shelter, devised a plan with wooden blocks and numbers, and taught the boy to read. In 1784, Haüy started the world’s first school for blind children. It was in Paris, and one of the first teachers was the blind boy rescued from the streets.

But that’s just the beginning.

Several years later, another boy named Louis was born in the village of Coupvray, France. His father was a farmer and harness maker, and as a toddler Louis loved watching his father work with leather tools. But tragedy stuck in 1812 when three-year-old Louis was playing with a leftover strap of leather, trying to punch holes in it. His hand slipped, and the sharp tool punctured and put out his eye. An infection set in that spread to the other eye, and little Louis ended up blind in both eyes for life.

A local minister names Jacques Palluy loved the boy and began visiting him to read to him the Bible. Seeing the boy had a good mind, Father Jacques determined he should receive an education. So at age ten. Louis was enrolled in the school Haüy had established in Paris, where he proved to be a brilliant student.

Eventually Louis began teaching other students in the Paris School for the Blind. He studied Haüy’s method of reading, and he also became aware of a system of military communication developed by a French army captain that allowed soldiers to communicate in the dark by running their fingers over a series of dots and dashes. Though still a teenager, Louis Braille began adapting these systems into a program of his own; in 1829, at age twenty, he published a little book on the Braille method of reading.

The school resided in a damp building by the River Seine. It was cold and unhealthy, and the food and conditions were poor. Louis developed tuberculosis, but he continued working on his system of reading, which began catching on and soon was being exported around the world. As his health failed, Louis said, “I am convinced my mission on earth has been accomplished, I asked God to carry me away from this world.”

Think of the chain reaction of that cascading dream. One man developed a burden for the blind when he saw ridiculed actors on stage and a begger boy on the streets. He was just going about his normal, every day life and was impacted by something he experienced and this led him to seeing a need and meeting it. We call that having a ministry. His burden led him to establish a school and attempt a system of reading. Then a local pastor developed a burden for a blind boy in another village (saw a need and met it) and taught him the Bible and longed to send him to a school. That blind child, Louis Braille, developed a burden to improve and to expand Haüy’s work. The world was changed, and as a result, millions of sightless souls have experienced the joy of reading the Bible and other books for themselves for almost two centuries.  

So, as believers we should simply live life to the fullest and along the way be sensitive to the needs of others. When we spot a need, step in and work to meet it. You will then be ministering in compassion as Jesus did and using your talents and skills to meet the need that you encountered. This is real ministry. 

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part Two

God is a wise investor. He is not going to waste His investment on a body or a world that is destined to pass away. His money is on the part that’s going to last forever, the soul, the spirit, the inside person. But as Christians, we turn it around. We spend our time, energy, and resources on the outer person. Think about it. Most of our prayers have to do with our health, our wealth, and our social life. And when we experience a setback or grow impatient, we ask, “God, where are you?”

At the same time, we fail to pray for the things that will benefit us for eternity. If God answered all of our prayers, our character would suffer because in most cases, our prayers center on the removal of the very circumstances He is using to conform us to His image.

A favourite author of mine writes, “When we ignore what’s happening on the inside we lose all power to change what we do on the outside in any meaningful way. We rearrange rather than change, and in so doing, we never become the transformed person God calls us to be.”

Every day, eager investors scope out the trading floor on their national stock exchange looking for tips. In addition to doing their own research, thorough analysts watch certain key people to help determine if a stock’s value will change. Sometimes the least little flinch can cause a flurry of trading. If it looks like someone knows something, its catch’s people’s attention.

In your life and in mine, the Consummate Trader has spoken. God has purchased a million shares of your inner person. That should tell you something. The question you should be asking is not, Why doesn’t God do something? But, What is God up to, and how can I get in on it? If God’s main concern is your character, that should give you a pretty good idea about where to place your focus. After all, God isn’t just going on a hunch. He has insider information.

God wants to transform us … from the inside out. And, the first step to joining Him in His work is to see and understand what He has been up to since the day you were born. Once you see what God has planned for your character — and why — you’ll be more motivated and better equipped to get in on it.

No passage I know summarizes it better than Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV) “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” 

In this passage the apostle Paul stresses a couple of things. First, he tells his readers that God is working inside them. It doesn’t get much plainer than that! Second, he tells them that this work is going on right now. The verb is in the present tense. It’s happening now. It was happening when Paul wrote it. And it was still going on when his readers finally received the letter. God is at work.

This is noteworthy since Paul wrote to a group of people, many of whom he didn’t know. They might have written back, “Hey, Paul, you don’t even know me … How do you know what God is up to in my life?”

The fact is, God is at work in all believers. That means you. It’s present tense. It’s constant. When you’re tempted, give in to temptation, or tempt someone else, God is still at work. While you’re busy working, juggling your children, or dreaming about your true love, He is still at work. He has purchased His investment at a price, and He is making certain that it goes up in value. He won’t give up. 

So, it is time to tear down the false separation of secular and sacred. It is time to let God out of the Sunday morning box most believers have put Him in. It is time to move past seeing Jesus as Saviour but not accepting Him as Lord of your life. It is time to let God be a part of your every day life and thus not limit Him to what happening in the building we call church. Let God out of the Church and into your life.  

2021 – Time to Let God Out of the Church – Part One

Too often we leave God in the Church and don’t invite Him into our every day life. It’s good to meet with Him and worship Him on Sunday for an hour or so, but we really don’t want to invite Him into our daily lives. In other words, great that He is our Saviour but we have not made Him Lord of our life – our every day life. 

Because of this many Christians can’t make sense of what God is doing or not doing in their lives. He seems absent from the daily details and the grind of life. Because of this they have adopted a worldview known as dualism. In this belief system, life is divided into two categories: the religious and the secular. The religious side includes all situations in which God is perceived to be interested or directly involved, such as charitable activities, acts of service, and benevolences performed in the Name of God.

All the other activities are then lumped into the secular category, which can include work, community, recreation, friendships, and family, to name a few. Secular then becomes the catchall for everything that is not directly related to their religion. It is a place where people put the parts of their lives that they determine are not of interest to God. As far as they’re concerned, He doesn’t want access to them, nor do they concern themselves with surrendering these parts to Him.

A person governed by the philosophy of dualism gives a portion of his or her life to God but maintains control of the rest. He does his part when it comes to religious duties, such as attending church, but he fails to take an active role in conforming his whole life to the image of Christ.

Life does not work that way. God is not satisfied just selling eternal fire insurance. He is actively interested in every aspect of our lives. He wants to transform us from the inside out to reflect the character of His Son. But when a person consciously or unconsciously chooses a dualistic approach to life, he locks God out of portions of his life. As a result, he can never make sense of the circumstances of life. God appears as a distant, uncaring Creator. Life is governed by luck and random chance.

Most people who adopt a dualistic worldview do so by default. Since they can’t see evidence of God in their circumstances, they assume He is not there. Why? Because they’re looking in the wrong place. They’re looking on the outside while He is busy on the inside. That’s not to say He is not active in our circumstances –  the outside, regular, every day world. But generally, His work externally is a means to an internal end.

Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to focus on career, family, and friends. At least we can see how all that works. We can see when we’re making progress or when something needs attention. But real life begins on the inside, where God is always at work. The danger for you and for me is that we’ll miss out on what He wants to do — all because we measure His love and activity by an external standard that totally ignores the focus of His work. And all along, if we’re believers, He is inside pushing, pulling, working, to create something wonderful from the inside out. 

All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because He is concerned with a much more serious problem — our character.

While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you. And for good reason. 

More next time… 

 

Personal Character in 2021

There has been a shift going on for the last decade or two. It has not always been noticeable but there is a definite shift in the way people today, regardless of the nation they live in, are thinking.

One researcher did a study of American self-help literature covering a 200-year span. He observed that literature written during the first 150 years focused on developing what he called the “character ethic” as the foundation for success in life and in relationships. In essence, success in life was defined according to virtues such as honesty and integrity and the golden rule. In sharp contrast, literature written in the last 50 or so years focuses on what he termed the “personality ethic”; that is, success is defined by a person’s ability to achieve, improve performance, and simply get ahead.

The subtle change in the definition of success caries with it some devastating consequences to our perception of character. If honesty and integrity are no longer highly sought-after values, a shift occurs in our moral and ethical framework. If virtue is no longer the objective, then what you are isn’t nearly as important as what you do. And how you think means nothing compared to how you feel.

Suddenly, the ultimate goals are position and achievement. The first priority is personal fulfillment. So what we’re really saying is that right and wrong are now determined by what helps or hinders our progress. And if we’re totally honest, right is defined in terms of what moves us towards our goal. Wrong is defined as anything that gets in our way.

When achievement takes precedence over character, a new code of ethics has been introduced:

    • If the family stands in the way of someone’s career, then the family is sacrificed.
    • If honesty impedes the accumulation of wealth, then deceit becomes the norm.
    • It’s right to steal if stealing means progress.
    • It’s right to claim another person’s idea as your own.
    • If cheating means winning, then cheating is right.

When personal fulfillment takes precedence over character, a new moral standard is introduced:

    • If it fulfills me, it’s moral.
    • If it doesn’t meet my needs, it’s immoral.
    • Self-control is renamed self-denial and is considered unhealthy.
    • If cheating on my spouse makes me happy, then unfaithfulness is moral.
    • If an unexpected pregnancy threatens my career or social goals, then abortion is not only an option; it is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, we invent an endless stream of subconscious rhetoric to justify and qualify our actions in our minds:

    • “This isn’t immoral, I need this because….”
    • “How else am I suppose to compete?”
    • “I just can’t seem to stop…”

There was a time in the Church world when men and women made the development of character a top priority. But somewhere along the way, the focus shifted … following the trend that was evident in the secular world. The Church was and still is no longer a counterculture but became a sub-culture of the everyday society and world in which we lived. Almost a mirror-image with a thin ‘Christian’ veneer. We lost our bearings. Christians stopped emphasizing the inner person and began to measure success by what they saw on the outside. So, we experienced this personal war – the inner person against the outer person. And as the outer person has prevailed, the outer person is establishing a new, acceptable way to express the faith which is totally not biblical. 

Choosing in 2021 to take up the pursuit of character – becoming more and more like Jesus – will mean choosing to stand against the prevailing culture. You won’t fit in. Not only won’t you not fit into the society and neighbourhood in which you live. But, you most likely will also not fit into the normal, every day life of the local church. You are simply not going to get much help or even encouragement from the outside. 

But, as you will soon find out, character has rewards that far outweigh anything you may be forced to give up along the way. 

Let’s reclaim “character” in 2021 as something important that we need to focus on and work with so that we truly live life in a manner that is biblical and honours the Lord whom we follow and serve. 

Don’t Quit

We are almost at the middle of the first month of the new year 2021. By now many of your New Year’s resolutions have been long forgotten and tossed out. And, you have regained the rhythm of life that you had at the end of the previous year. The rhythm you were wanting to change which is why you made a few New Year’s resolutions and even set a goal or two in the first place. 

It simply didn’t work out the way you planned it. Things stood in your way. Obstacles needed to be overcome. It was taking more time and effort than you first thought it would. You apparently lack the self-discipline to make it happen. It was simply easier to give in and give up and resume life as you knew it before the Christmas and New Year’s break from daily routine and life. 

But the truth is, it is not to late to pick up your dream of change and the goals you set. Pick them back up and try again. You can do it. It is always too soon to quit. You can break the old patterns. And, you can add some adventure into your daily existence. In fact, you can turn ‘existing’ into ‘living’ and ‘living’ into ‘abundant life. You can live 2021 without regret. It is never too late to pick up some new challenges and changes that will add excitement and enthusiasm to your life. Don’t quit. 

You had a glimpse of what you wanted the new year and the new you to look like. Donn’t give up. Continue to move forward and don’t quit. No one said it was going to be easy. But it will be worthwhile…

The following poem, by an unknown author, could have been penned by me personally. And, in many ways, a number of Bible characters could also relate to it – Peter, Job, Joseph, Paul, Jesus, and many other followers of the Lord since the early days of the Church. It is entitled simply, “Don’t Quit.”

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit —
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit —
It’s when things go wrong that you mustn’t quit.

As the second week of the new year — January 2021 — comes to a close, Don’t Quit. Remember that with God nothing is impossible and that means all things are possible.

With His help let’s get up and try again. Don’t quit.