So, You Don’t Fit! Then, Stand Out!!

There are many times that I feel like I just don’t fit. Like I am marching to the beat of a different drummer than every one else. Like my values, morals, and world perspective simply don’t jive with the people I live among. In other words, I am different. I simply don’t like what others like, watch what others watch, do what others do…

I have done a lot of thinking about this over the years. And, I have come to understand that realizing you don’t fit in is a good thing. You and I were not made to fit in. We were made to fulfill our calling in Christ. We were made to fit out not fit in. To stand out. You know, like a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). To go against the grain. And to not only bring change to the community and relationships but to be the change for a world that lacks hope.

Since Jesus laid down His life for me, the least I can do is stand up and stand out for Him. The same is true for you if you are a true believer and disciple of Jesus. In today’s worth-seeking world, being liked and wanted is something we all yearn for. And regardless of whether it comes naturally, it’s how our culture forces us to feel – even by advertising popularity.

The world says:

Failure is not an option (I believe it originated with NASA)

If you are not first, you’re last (from a Sony picture 2006)

If you’re not somebody, you are nobody (popular saying)

But when we begin to look into the depth of Scripture, we’ll realize that none of those things are actually true. Literally, none of them.

Where NASA says, “Failure is not an option,” Scripture starts, “For everyone has sinned (failed); we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23)

Where Ricky Bobby in the movie, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” says, If you are not first, you’re last,” Jesus says, “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last” (Matthew 20:16)

For everyone that tells you, “If you’re not somebody, you are nobody,” the Bible’s clear answer is: “God does not show favouritism” (Romans 2:11) Everyone is a somebody.

God has called us to go against the grain. To be the salt. To be the city on the hill. To be the light of the world.

Some of us walk, talk, read, and tweet like the most spiritual people ever to inhabit the earth. But behind the plastic mask we call “Christianity” is often merely personal modification rather than actual heart transformation. We seek more width than actual depth, and this show can only go on for so long.

Before you were born, you were called to be different. You were given potential for being a world changer. To walk so differently than the world that others will notice. And although being different might sometimes look lonely or unpopular, you must come to see that no matter the circumstances, God is still with you. Why on earth would we continue to cheat ourselves out of God’s love, and try to fill the void with worldly acceptance?

So, I’ve come to understand that my purpose on this earth isn’t to be loved and cherished by everyone around me. My purpose is to share the love of Jesus, show relentless grace, and always be willing to help my neighbour. Surprisingly enough, not everyone likes that. 

If you want to fully embrace the life that Jesus offers, be willing to ignore the opinions of man while you engage in the righteous pursuit of Christ. This will mean discussing touchy subjects. This means not ignoring the truth that most others seems to miss in the situation. It means purposely talk about the tough stuff in order to bring light to a situation that might be drowning in fear and darkness. It will mean swimming upstream while everyone else is floating downstream. However, remember that dead fish float downstream.

If we hide behind smooth words and shallow theology, we are indirectly telling God we are not bold enough to speak the truth. But, as I said earlier, “Since Jesus laid down His life for me, the least I can do is stand up and stand out for Him.”

So, a final question: Do you represent Jesus in a way that reflects timidity, or are you speaking the truth boldly and in love, unshaken by the opinions of others?

It is time to evaluate your life as a believer; your speech, your conduct, your lifestyle. There is no neutrality in the eyes of Jesus. You and I are required to pick a side, no exception. 

Living For Jesus! Really?

We are all busy trying to live life for Jesus. Live a life-style pleasing to Him. Fulfilling His command to love God with everything we are. Loving others as He would love them. We are “living for Jesus” or, at least, trying to. 

But, I had a thought the other day. Yes, I do think and often think deeply about things we simply take for granted or look at but only with a surface glance. I hate living life on the surface. I detest life being an inch deep and a mile wide. So, I give a great deal of thought to a great many things.

Why are we “living for Jesus?” After all, most times we would have to admit that we fail when we try and life life for Jesus. We simply are not Jesus. We don’t love like He does. We don’t forgive as freely and deeply as He does. We are not as accepting and understanding as He is. So, we try to be like Him and end up, most times, failing. Then we feel guilty We condemn ourselves. We feel like we failed again. 

Here’s a question… Where in the Bible does it say we are to be “living for Jesus?” You know what? It isn’t in the Bible. It is something man has made up and we were taught to do because it sounds biblical and spiritual. Could it be simply more religion?

How did I get started going down this path of thought? Good question. I was reading my Bible and I saw that Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ (so we are dead). It is no longer I who live (because we are dead), but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

The Passion Translation puts it this way… “And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives His life through me – we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that He gave Himself for me, and dispenses His life into mine!”

So, instead of living for Jesus we are to die to self and let Christ live His life through us. That is much more biblical than the former way of trying to live life.  

This means we must yield to Him and trust Him. This is what Ephesians 5:18 is all about. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Paul is stating that just as the alcohol in the wine, when you are drunk, controls your thoughts, words, actions, and attitude. So, yield to the Holy Spirit and trust Him so that He can live life through you and your words, thoughts, actions, and attitude would be that of Christ Himself. 

Henry Blackaby wrote, “We are so activity oriented that we assume we were saved for a task we are to perform rather than for a relationship to enjoy.” I agree. Remembering that out of that amazing relationship with Jesus will come things He will want us to become involved in (Ephesians 2:10). These involvements are so we are in the right place at the right time to release Him to minister through us.

Thus the initial call and ministry of every believer is to “Follow Me.” As we do He works in us to form and mould us into people with hearts for the lost. Then He works through us touching lives with His love, acceptance, and forgiveness. We simply yield and follow His lead allowing the Spirit who lives in us to flow from us touching others and setting them free. This was plainly set out for us through the teaching and words of Jesus…

John 7:38-39a “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of the hear will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit…”

“Believe in Me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says! Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit…” (The Passion Translation)

Again, please note, it is the Spirit flowing from within you not you trying to live for Jesus or being like Jesus. Just trust Him and follow Him as He said. And He will live His life through you and touch many others with His love. Jesus

To Set On Fire

After Jesus rose from the dead He appeared to a number of disciples individually and then to the disciples as they were fishing. He had told them recently (Luke 24:49) that they were to go and wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. But instead of doing as He had asked seven of them went out fishing. 

One wonders if the reason they did not catch any fish was because they were not suppose to be fishing – but waiting in Jerusalem. So, after a whole night of fishing and catching nothing, Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the starboard side and they catch so many fish that they have an issue bringing the net into the boat. It is then that John realizes that it is the Lord who has spoken to them from the shore. He tells Peter. Peter jumps in and swims to shore. Interesting to note: Peter began to follow Jesus because of a great catch of fish (Luke 5:2-10). So Jesus now repeats that miracle inviting Peter to begin to follow Him again. 

A time of cooking a meal begins. Jesus has already begun to broil fish and He has some bread. But He asks them to add to the fish from their catch. They do so and settle in for a meal around the campfire. After they had eaten their breakfast together Jesus says to Simon (John 21:15) “Simon, son of John, do you burn with love for me more than these?”

When Jesus announced that He would be crucified and die, Peter had said that he would never leave Jesus nor deny he was a disciple even if it cost him (Peter) his life. He then said that even if no one else followed, he would. Jesus told him he would actually deny Him three times before the morning sunrise. And, that is what happened. Now, Jesus asks him, in front of the other disciples, if he loved Him more than the other disciples (referencing Peter’s comment “even if they – the other disciples – do not follow…”)

Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Because Peter had denied knowing Jesus or being His disciple three times that eventful night. The Aramaic word for “love” is hooba and it is taken from a root word that means “to set on fire.” So, Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you burn with love for Me?”

The message for us today: Our love for Jesus must be passionate and kindle a holy fire within our hearts.

Peter denied Jesus three times and so Jesus asks Peter three times if he had a burning passion for Him. Only the third time does Peter actually give an affirmative answer… “You know that I burn with love for you!” (John 21:17) 

The story goes on and at the end of John 21 Jesus prophesies over Peter telling him how he would, in his old age, die for the faith and glorify God. Again, building on Peter’s initial denial of Jesus, the Lord now completes the circle and ends with – “You were right however Peter, you will lay down your life for me.” 

I love the way the Scriptures simply fall together in such an amazing way. 

So, do we, His disciples, truly “burn with love” for Jesus? Loving Him with our whole being? Is He first in our lives? Does He have our whole heart? 

As we quickly come to the close of the first month in the new year 2020 it would be a good time to get honest and real and see if we truly “burn with love.” If we do, then we need to add more fuel to that flame. If we don’t, then we need to blow on the embers and “fan into flames” the love that was once there. 

Don’t enter the next month without taking some time to see what or who you burn with passion for.

Teach Us To Pray

It is amazing what we think the Bible is saying when really it is not. So many passages become so familiar to those of us who read it daily and have done so over the years, even decades. So, we read the words but they don’t speak to us because we assume we know what they say. We know the story. We know the teaching of Jesus. We have been here, read that before. It is almost like we are wearing “religious glasses” that prevent us from seeing old truths in new ways. And, that definitely prevent us from seeing any real new truth. 

But God’’s Word states that it is living, active, alive and working inside us.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Passion Translation: “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.”

So, maybe, just maybe, we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to remove our traditional or religious glasses and give us new eyes – spiritual eyes – to see new truths and even old truths in a new light.

One personal example I have recently experienced is found in Luke, Chapter 11…

Luke 11:1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place and when He finished one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’”

Notice it does not say “teach us how to pray,” which is often misquoted. It says “teach us to pray.”

The disciples had been with Jesus in one of His times of prayer. And, as they watched Him and listened to how He was praying and what He was praying they recognized something. There was a revelation. Something deep inside these young men who were following Jesus clicked and they realized that what they called prayer was really nothing like what Jesus experienced as prayer. They came to the realization (revelation) that they totally misunderstood what prayer was and how prayer worked. So, they realized that there were, in Jesus’ terms, prayerless.

So, they turned to Jesus and said, “teach us to pray.” In other words, obviously what we have been doing over the years – the traditional prayers of the Jewish faith – is not prayer as you experience it, Lord. So, teach us to pray. Not “how to pray” but “to pray.” Basic reality.

I would suggest that this is a dangerous, powerful prayer to pray. We should not pray this request unless we really mean it, because God will often use trials and hardships and difficulties to teach us to pray. He will totally change what we view as prayer and revolutionize our time with the Father that we now call our “quiet time” or “devotional life.” 

I, for one, want to have Jesus totally stir up and change my prayer life. I am praying “Lord, teach me to pray (as you prayed and continue to pray today at the right hand of the Father.” 

The Start of a New Year

Here is what I know about the new year – it won’t turn out the way you hope it does.  It won’t be near as good as you want it to be. It will not be the fulfillment of your fondest dream. It will not be anything like what you think it should be. How do I know that? Well, after 70+ years of life I simply have come to that conclusion. And, it is not negative – it is simply truthful and realistic. And, approaching a new year with this attitude means I recognize that bad things do happen to good people. And, there are many up and downs in any given 12 month period. 

Life is filled with ups and downs. The problem is that what most of us want is ups and ups. That’s not possible. I think it’s pretty obvious that no one gets to escape bad experiences. But, we must remember that God is in control and that He is with us and will see us through no matter what the new year brings our way. And, that as a result of our faith in Him we will be stronger and better off at the end of the year than at the start.

There is an old saying: ‘Some days you’re the pigeon; some days you’re the statue!”

We can do everything in our power to avoid negative experiences and not be the statue, but they (the pigeons) have a way of finding us. I love the quote, “I try to take life one day at a time, but lately several days have attacked me at once.” No matter who you are, where you live, what you do, or what your background is, you will have to deal with bad experiences in 2020.

As television host and author observed, “Expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.” You have to have realistic expectations when it comes to pain and problems. You can’t avoid them. Everyone has bad experiences. Starting a fresh, new year does not alter that truth.

But, my observation is that there are few people, even few believers, who make bad experiences positive experiences.

Life’s difficulties do not allow us to stay the same. They move us. The question is in which direction will we be moved: forward or backward? When we have bad experiences, do we become better or bitter? Will those experiences limit us or lead us to grow? As Warren Lester remarked, “Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well.”

When tough times and bad experiences come, many people don’t respond well. Some seem to have the motto that I once saw on a bumper sticker: “When the going gets tough, it’s time to take a nap.” What a shame. We need to be examining the bad experience, looking for lessons that will help us to grow. Yes, bad experiences can be painful. But don’t waste the experience or the pain. Learn from them. Most successful people will point to the hard times in their lives as key points in their journey of development and growth. If you are dedicated to growth and becoming more mature, then you must be committed to managing your bad experiences well and learning from them. 

So, let your discomfort and disappointment in 2020 be a catalyst for your development. Growth is the best possible outcome for any negative experience. 

So a story to drive home the point:

There was this chicken farmer whose land was flooded nearly every spring. He didn’t want to give up the farm and move, but when the water backed up onto his land and flooded his chicken coops, it was always a struggle to get his chickens to higher ground. Some years he couldn’t move fast enough and hundreds of his chickens drowned.

After the worst spring he’s ever experienced and losing his entire flock, he came into the farmhouse and told his wife. “I’ve had it. I can’t afford another place. I can’t sell this one. I don’t know what to do.”

His wife replied, “Buy ducks.”

The people who make the most out of bad experiences are the ones who find creative ways to meet them, like the farmer’s wife in the story. They see possibilities within their problems. 

Author Neale Donald Walsh asserted, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I believe that creativity begins at the end of your comfort zone. When you feel the pain of bad experiences, creativity gives you the opportunity to turn that pain into gain. The secret to doing that is to use the energy that comes from either adrenaline or anger and use it to solve problems and learn lessons. 

When you have had a bad experience, instead of letting it discourage you or make you angry, try to find ways to let it prompt your creativity. 

God Can Speak Regardless

So I was in a local church recently and it was a traditional church where they read three Scripture passages in the service. An Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and a Psalm. Then the pastor is to teach on the verses as he brings the message for the day. The Scripture is always amazing – always! This time, in my humble opinion, the preacher spoke poorly and said little to nothing. But, God can speak regardless. A verse among the many that were read really stood out and jumped off the page at me. Yes, I follow along in my own Bible.

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

The Passion Version: “Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!”

I have been mulling that verse over for the last three days – since Sunday morning. Regardless of the situation God can speak and He did. 

Think about it … We have the hope of the world living inside us. The most pressing crisis at hand is that there are people who are lost without Jesus and thus live without hope. They are prisoners to their sin, searching for answers, lonely, hurting, confused. Some are suicidal, thinking there is no way out of the situation they’re in currently. Many need healing spiritually, physically, and relationally. The message of the cross is lifesaving, and I am convinced beyond any doubt that the best life anyone could possibly live is one that serves God and obeys His Word. This includes sharing His Word with others that they too may have hope.

My passion is to see this current generation of believers become so compelled by the love of Christ that we cannot help but try to persuade our fellow man that He died for all. I want to see the modern-day church more closely resemble the early church, which was fearless and singularly focused on spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom – to the degree that the early disciples were accused of turning the world upside down by those who opposed them (Acts 17:6). With all my heart I believe that same boldness can be mustered in the church today to transform the world for Jesus!

For those loved ones and family members and all of your acquaintances, hearing the gospel is a matter of life and death. Paul explained unequivocally in Ephesians 2:1-3 that without Christ, we are dead in our transgressions and deserving of God’s wrath. That’s bad news – a tragic reality for everyone on this planet who has not put their faith in Jesus Christ. Now let me show you what Paul wrote in the very next few verses, because it is unfathomably good news:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV)

Paul also explained this same idea more simply: But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We have been saved by the excessive love, mercy, and grace of God. And since it exceeds us, we should not keep it to ourselves. The greatest assignment we have been given by Almighty God is to grab hold of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of us – which is sharing the gospel with others before they enter into eternity.

Our God wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:4-6).

Through His extravagant grace, your heavenly Father has made a way for all who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to have everlasting life. To live with hope. Even the difficult coworker or the classmate who uses sarcasm or humour to mask his or her pain. The friend who seems to have it all together and is disinterested in “that Jesus stuff.” The businessman consumed with chasing the next deal. The problematic teenager who won’t listen. The grumpy cashier at the grocery store. The homeless person on the street begging for spare change. Yes, even the family member who seems to do everything in his or her power to flee from the things of God.

Everywhere you go, people need Jesus! And, the hope that He brings into their life. They need answers. They need the truth that can bring that hope to light. They need a solution to life’s greatest burdens.

Yet many people have never heard a clear and simple explanation of how forgiveness and redemption take place through faith in Christ alone. They live without hope. They are hopeless!

It is our obligation to tell them the good news. Paul left no room for debate when he wrote, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 NLT)

When we truly examine what the Bible says about evangelism, I believe we will find that becoming a messenger who brings the good news is a compelling call. I think we will discover that this calling is so wonderful, so fulfilling, that it is quite irresistible. It’s almost as though we have no choice but to preach and share the gospel.

“For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

No one is out of God’s reach, and He uses Christ followers like you to carry His message of truth that brings hope. What an incredible honour! Starting today, may you look around and truly see those around you, asking the Lord of the Harvest for the courage and the opportunity to share the good news and the hope that Christ brings with them. 

Motivation – Part Two

We are discussing motivation. We are either driven by eternal motivations or by worldly motivations. We have looked at the worldly motivations…

1> Money or financial rewards

2> Accomplishments

3> The desire to affect change and influence

Your motivation is the reason why you do what you do. It’s the thing, person, feeling, or goal that drives you to act. Whatever you are living for.

We have looked at worldly motivations – temporary motivations that distract mankind from the truth. Even as Christians we may fool ourselves into believing that making money or being liked is more important than sharing the gospel. Success, notoriety, and influence can call to us like sirens, pulling us into their unfulfilling whirlpools. Clever deception masquerades as authenticity, and temptation abounds.

We live in a day and age when sound doctrine is being replaced with self-serving ideas that are devoid of spiritual truth. Churches across the world are dying because they no longer accurately preach and teach God’s Word. It is quite possible that we have arrived at the dreadful hour Paul warned his disciple Timothy about. A time”when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

Paul also predicted that there would be terrible times in the last days. In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, he wrote,

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Does that sound familiar to you? To love oneself is humanism. To love money is materialism. To love pleasure is hedonism. All three are major motivators in the world today. 

The truth is that we are to be motivated by the eternal. God is eternal and He offers eternity to us through Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16). His living words are the only words of eternal life (John 6:68; Hebrews 4:12). 

All other religions began with people asking, “How can we get to God?” That’s a very good question. And in the attempt to find an answer, many different people came up with their own moral systems. They said in essence, “Let’s do these things to get to God. And if we do enough of these good things, we’ll get to heaven.” (Or, in New Age thinking, ‘find peace within ourselves.’)

In Christianity, God looks down from heaven and wants to redeem mankind. So He left heaven and came to this earth in the form of a baby to bring salvation to the earth. His name was Jesus. He lived thirty-three years and never committed a sin. Then He died on a cross as atonement for our sins so we could have eternal life. No other man in the history of the world has ever done such a thing for humanity.

There is no substitute for Jesus’s love. Every other attempt falls devastatingly short because it will have zero ability to change our hearts, cure our sin, or impact our eternal destiny. Christ’s love is our true motivation, and it propels us toward greater feats than we ever thought possible. We will share His truth with the world so that as many people as possible can have a personal relationship with God and spend eternity with Him in heaven. 

That’s what being compelled to tell is all about! It’s a passion that will get us out of bed in the morning better than any alarm clock, deadline, or sales goal. It’ll help us endure pain, sorrow, and hardship in order to tell others about the best thing that has ever happened to us. 

Our main mission – and thus our only motivation – is to tell others about Christ. The risen Lord is the only cure for what’s ailing this world. He is the only One who can fill the empty space in our hearts. In a world filled with counterfeits and substitutions, people need to know:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You and I know firsthand what it’s like to have held the wrong motivations in life, because we were rescued from them on the day we were saved and born again. I don’t know your story personally, but my guess is that you have pursued false religions and New Age theologies, entertainment and celebrities, sex and ungodly relationships, health and wealth, work, or selfish gain before you gave your life to the Lord. You now have a new cause in Christ. You can tell people where you’ve been and how God delivered you. You can declare, as David did in Psalm 40:2:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Each day before you get out of bed in the morning – before your feet even touch the floor – pray and thank God for saving you and for all His blessings. Then say, “God, use me today. Show me how I can be a vessel for You and Your Kingdom today. You are my portion, my life, and my motivation.” If you start each day with this sincere prayer, it will serve as a powerful reminder of what drives and compels you – what motivates you – and I guarantee that God will open your eyes to new opportunities to be a light for Him and to make an impact for eternity. 

Motivation – Part One

What motivates you in your daily living? What drives you to get out of bed and go forward for another day and then another day and then another? Scores of people are motivated by fame, money, power, and pleasure. In fact, these motivations have become a $10 billion industry with folks eagerly handing over their time and money for self-help books, on-line courses, and motivational seminars. We want to know the secret to becoming a one-minute manager and a millionaire next door. We want to enjoy a shorter work week and the sculpt our bodies in ten days so we can master the art of attraction. We’ll research, pour over countless quotes from historical figures, and analyze the habits of successful people in order to distill the truths of what truly compels us.

Your motivation is the reason why you do what you do. It’s the thing, person, feeling, or goal that drives you to act. It’s whatever you’re living for.

To put it simply, we’re either driven by eternal motivations or by worldly motivations. 

One example of worldly motivation would be money or financial reward. Employees work hard for the promise of raises, incentives, and bonuses. Professional athletes work tirelessly for large contracts and signing bonuses. Sales teams rally together to achieve the best sales in their region and win their all-expenses paid trips to costal destinations. Money is a powerful motivator, albeit a temporary one. After all, as Proverbs 23:5 says, “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

For some money means nothing, but success and accomplishment are everything. Parents will make big financial sacrifices in order to prepare their child to become the next president, CEO, or neurosurgeon. A college student will practically live in the library in order to make the dean’s list. Musicians may practice until their fingers are bloody for a standing ovation. Success feels good. Like the other motivations, it can be quite seductive – making us feel important, even ‘better than’ others. Success leads us to believe we have done something worthwhile wth our lives. But again, it is only a temporary motivator. 

Another popular worldly motivation is the desire to affect change and influence. Every year millions of people from around the world give to causes larger than themselves, wanting to make a difference. Church mission outreaches to indigenous people groups, marathons for medical research, disaster relief teams, the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, and many more organizations draw volunteers from all walks of life, all of them hoping to show that their lives mean something. 

The desire to make a positive change on this planet is a good thing, and there are many important causes to rally behind. But if that becomes our main focus, or we seek to obtain meaning and significance in our charitable work, we miss an incomparable opportunity to make a spiritual and an eternal difference in the lives of others. 

Temporary motivations distract mankind from the truth. Even as Christians we may fool ourselves into believing that making money or being liked is more important than preaching or sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom. Success, notoriety, and influence can call to us like sirens, pulling is into their unfulfilling whirlpools. Clever deception masquerades as authenticity, and temptation abounds.

We live in a day and age when sound doctrine is being replaced with self-serving ideas that are devoid of spiritual truth and life. Churches across the world are dying because they no longer accurately preach and teach God’s Word. It is quite possible that we have arrived at the dreadful hour Paul warned his disciple Timothy about. A time “when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

Paul also predicted that there would be terrible times in the last days. In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, he wrote:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Does any of this sound familiar to you? To love oneself is humanism. To love money is materialism. To love pleasure is hedonism. All three are major motivators in the world today. 

As believers and disciples of Jesus we must not allow these worldly motivators dictate how we live our lives. So what should be our motivation as Christians?

  • The answer next time…

Turning Bad Experiences Into Growth Encounters – Part Two

We are looking at how to turn a bad experience into a growth encounter. Last time we saw:

1> Choose a positive life stance

2> Embrace and develop your creativity

3> Embrace the value of bad experiences

President John F. Kennedy was once asked how he became a war hero. With his customary dry wit he responded, “It was easy. Someone sunk my boat.” It is always easier to see something positive in a negative experience long after it happens. It is difficult to meet the negative experience in the moment with a positive mind-set. However, if you can do that, you will always be able to learn something from it.

Inventor Charles F. Kettering, who was the head of research at General Motors, said, “You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.” In other words, where there is no struggle, there is no progress. Facing difficulties is inevitable. Learning for them is optional. Whether you learn is based on if you understand that difficulties present opportunities to learn and treat them accordingly. 

4> Make good changes after learning from bad experiences

It has been said, “Not every thing that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Often it takes a bad experience for us to face the changes we need to make in our lives. Often a bad experience introduces us to a “teachable moment.” And that bad experience gives us an opportunity to turn our lives around. A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

Most people don’t think their way to positive change – they feel their way. In the book, The Heart of Change, we read, “Changing behaviour is less a matter of giving people analysis to influence their thoughts than helping them to see a truth to influence their feelings. Both thinking and feeling are essential, and both are found in successful organizations, but the heart of change is in the emotions.”

When bad experience create strong feelings in us, we either face the feelings and try to change or we try to escape. It’s the old fight-or-flight instinct. We need to train ourselves to fight for positive changes. How do we do that? By remembering that our choices will lead to either the pain of self-discipline or the pain or regret. I would rather live with the pain of self-discipline and reap the positive rewards than live with the pain of regret, which is something that can create a deep and continual ache within us. 

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a bad experience, remind yourself that you are on the cusp of an opportunity to change and grow. Whether you do will depend on how you react to your experience, and the changes you make as a result. Allow your emotions to be the catalyst for change, think through how to change to make sure you are making good choices, and then take action.

5> Take responsibility for your life

You need to recognize that your circumstances don’t define you. They are outside of you and need not negatively impact your values and standards. At the same time, you must take responsibility for your life and the choices you make. It has been stated that people who overcome bad experiences avoid the label of “victim” and take responsibility for moving forward. They don’t say, “What happened to me is the worst thing in the world, and I’ll never be free from it.” They say, “What happened to me was pretty bad, but other people are worse off, and I won’t give up.” They do not wallow in self-pity or ask, “Why me?” And that’s a good thing, because it’s one short step from “why me?” to”woe is me.”

It is nearly impossible to grow in any significant way when you don’t take responsibility for yourself and your life. No matter what you have gone through in your life – or what you are currently going through – you have the opportunity to grow from it. It’s sometimes very difficult to see the opportunity in the midst of the pain, but it is there. You must be willing to not only look for it, but pursue it. As you do, perhaps the words of William Penn, English philosopher and founder of the Pennsylvania province, will encourage you: “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.”

Turning Bad Experiences Into Growth Encounters – Part One

We had a look at bad experiences yesterday and saw three basic truths. Today we want to look at how to turn a bad experience into a growth encounter.

Someone once said, “Experience isn’t really the best teacher but it sure does serve as the best excuse for not trying to do the same silly thing again.” If you want your bad experiences to keep you not only from doing the same silly things but to also lead to significant personal growth and maturity, I would suggest you consider embracing the following five actions…

1> Choose a positive life stance

“Life stance” is a term used to describe people’s overall frame of reference – the set of attitudes, assumptions, and expectations people hold about themselves, other people, and the world in general. It comprises, for instance, people’s attitudes towards money, assumptions about their health, and expectations for their children’s future. The product of any person’s life stance is their overall way of looking at things: whether they tend to be optimistic or pessimistic, cheerful or gloomy, trusting or suspicious, friendly or reserved, brave or timid, generous or stingy, giving or selfish. If you can maintain a positive life stance, you put yourself in the best position to manage bad experience and turn them into positive growth encounters. 

Family therapy pioneer and author Virginia Satir observed, “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” You cannot control much of what happens to you in life. However, you can control your attitude. And you can choose to rise above your circumstances and refuse to allow negative experiences to undermine who you are and what you believe.

You need to adopt a positive life stance because it gives you the best chance to succeed while putting you in the best position to help others succeed. To develop this daily mind-set you need to focus and think…

        • Life is filled with good and bad
        • Some of the good and bad I can’t control – that’s life
        • Some of the good and bad will find me
        • If I have a positive life stance the good and bad will become better
        • If I have a negative life stance the good and bad will become worse
        • Therefore I choose a positive life stance

To a large degree in life, you get what you expect – not always, but most of the time. So why would I want to expect the worst? 

2> Embrace and develop your creativity

There’s a story about a chicken farmer whose land was flooded nearly every spring. He didn’t want to give up his farm and move, but when the water backed up onto his land and flooded his chicken coops, it was always a struggle to get his chickens to higher ground. Some years he couldn’t move fast enough and hundreds of his chickens drowned.

After the worse spring he had ever experienced and losing his entire flock, he came into the farmhouse and told his wife, “I’ve had it. I can’t afford to buy another place. I can’t sell this one. I don’t know what to do.”

His wife replied, “Buy ducks.”

The people who make the most out of bad experiences are the ones who find creative way to meet them, like the farmer’s wife in the story. They see possibilities within their problems.

Author Neale Donald Walsh asserted, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I believe that creativity begins at the end of your comfort zone as well. When you meet the pain of bad experiences, creativity gives you the opportunity to turn the pain into gain. The secret to doing that is to use the energy that comes from either adrenaline or anger and use it to solve problems and learn lessons.

When you have had a bad experience, instead of letting it discourage you or make you angry, try to find a way to let it prompt your creativity.

More next time…