Sometimes I Am Not Positive

I am working at being much more positive

My personality is not naturally positive … But I am working to change my approach to life and daily circumstances

After all, with God nothing is impossible

I read the other day:

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort”    Herm Albright

So, I am working at ‘being a warrior and not a worrier’

‘A fountain not a drain’

A VPP and not a VDP … Very Positive Person / Very Draining Person

I have discovered that it takes a positive attitude to move forward

And, I don’t mean all the self-help, positive-thinking teachings that are out there

Most of the ‘Have a positive attitude’ self-help  preaching and teaching is not biblical

Conceive it, believe it, achieve it

Health and wealth

Name it and claim it

Blab it and grab it

Lots of motivational speakers and self-help preachers make lots of promises without preaching the whole gospel — or any of the true gospel

The self-improvement industry has become a kind of religion that says, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”

We should guard ourselves against any self-help ideology that pushes God to the sidelines, magnifies human abilities, and doesn’t tell the whole truth

But there is a positive, hopeful, joyful, optimism that is totally biblical in its essence and comes from Christ alone

You can be a Christian and an optimist at the same time — and you should be

Faith adds a positive power to your life

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

That sounds pretty positive, doesn’t it?

The man who wrote those words was an optimist with a capital O

Read his story in the book of Acts and study his thirteen letters

 

They are packed with optimism

His words reveal to us his powerful secrets for resilience, optimism, and positive thinking and belief

By stepping into his story at critical moments, we can understand how he lived a life of positive accomplishment despite hardships and adverse life circumstances

1> Be Positive in Your Convictions

Paul’s optimism started with his positive convictions

He lived with “conviction”

A CONVICTION is a fixed belief

A deeply held set of certainties that lodges and lives in the center of your mind and heart

It is critical that your convictions be sound and true – in other words, biblical

Pauls’ certainly were!

He wrote his convictions down and his letters are a journal of his life and his belief system – his convictions

Paul’s core convictions were the foundation of his incredible life and ministry and the basis of his positive attitude 

Paul had two very positive core convictions that motivated him and provided directions for his life

A> Be Positive About God’s Love For You

The most basic conviction in life is rooted in understanding the nature of God

Because, without a good, powerful, loving creative, eternal God, there is no basis for optimism 

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Great reasons to be optimistic and positive in your life

Not only is God real but He loves us

Not only does God love us, but nothing we might experience in life can separate us from His love

The ten things Paul lists in these verses could each be a potential barrier between you and God

But Paul says, with absolute assurance, that none of them can separate you from God’s love

The loss of hope around us today is rampant – especially as we enter the second year of fighting the Covid pandemic

And lack of hope is lethal to a joy-filled, positive life

Added to the pandemic – hope has disappeared in many aspects of life because of a growing ignorance and even rejection of God’s love

Without an understanding of God’s love

Without an experience of God’s love 

Without an encounter with God’s love

There is little to be positive about in every day life

These powerful words in Romans 8 about God’s love are reinforced by a blessing Paul offered toward the end of the same letter

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

You can make that a personal prayer by switching a word or two…

“Now may the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

That prayer, prayed often, can adjust your mindset in any given season of life

Deepen your core convictions

Strengthen your belief

Allow you to be much more positive regardless of what is happening in your life

God loves you and wants you to overflow with hope and optimism!

Never forget that

Let that conviction dwell in the very core of your being

In his book The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning tells the story of Edward Farrell, a man who decided to travel from his hometown of Detroit to visit Ireland, where he would celebrate his uncle’s eightieth birthday.

Early on the morning of his uncle’s birthday, they went for a walk along the shores of Lake Killarney. As the sun rose, his uncle turned and stared straight into the breaking light. For twenty minutes they stood there in silence, and then his elderly uncle began to skip along the shoreline, a radiant smile on his face.

After catching up with him, Edward asked, “Uncle Seamus, you look very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”

“Yes, lad,” the old man said, tears washing down his face. “You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”

In that moment Uncle Seamus experienced how much he was loved by his Father in heaven, an overwhelming sense of joy flooded his heart, and he began to dance along the shoreline.

Have you ever had a moment like that?

Have you ever awakened and said, “He really does love me”? 

 

Do you know what it means ti overflow with hope and optimism?

Hope, optimism, and joy – a positive outlook on life – can become a habitual attitude if we remember that God loves us 

A conviction: Be positive about God’s love for you

B> Be Positive About God’s Plan For You

The second core conviction or people who view life and live life positively — they are optimistic about their exciting future

They embrace tomorrow with enthusiasm and anticipation!

That is only possible if you know your future is guaranteed to be exciting, eternal, meaningful, and useful

Only one Person can assure you of that — the Lord Himself

And only one Book can provide the sure and certain details — the Bible 

The apostle Paul constantly referred to the future

He put the past behind him and strained toward what was ahead

(See teaching: Sometimes I Lose My Focus)

Even when he was near death, Paul was excited about tomorrow

Think about it! While waiting on death row for his martyrdom, Paul was eager for tomorrow

The last known letter Paul wrote was to his friend Timothy, and it was written from a Roman prison as he awaited a certain death

Listen to what he said in the final chapter to his final letter (book):

2 Timothy 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

Paul had an incredible perspective on dying

Years before, he told the Philippians, 

Philippians 1:21-24 NLT “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”

Perhaps Paul’s remarkable perspective flowed from the time he was caught up to heaven and glimpsed the glories that await us there (see: 2 Corinthians 12:4)

But we have a blessing Paul didn’t have: We have the Book of Revelation

Written after Paul’s death

The final two chapters describe our heavenly home in great detail for us

(See: Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22)

The more we study those chapters, the more excited we should become about tomorrow

How long has it been since you were really excited about the future?

When you went to bed last night, were you excited to see what today would bring?

          • Remember when you were a kid counting the days until your birthday?
          • Or a graduate looking forward to your next step in life?
          • Or engaged to be married and eager for your wedding day?
          • An expectant parent waiting for the baby to arrive?

A psychologist wrote:

“Although we often think the past dictates our behaviour, the future is what really motives most of our actions”

As a follower of Christ, I’m ready to die and willing to live

And in either case I can’t wait to see what God will do next

I live constantly curious about what God will do tomorrow …

Romans 5:2 TLB “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.”

So, to be positive and excited about life:

1> Be positive in your convictions

A> Be positive about God’s love for you

B> Be positive about God’s plan for you

2> Be Positive in Your Conversations

If you are positive in your core convictions — you will become more positive in your daily conversations

In the book of Ruth, when the landowner Boaz went out each morning to check on the harvesters, he greeted them by shouting, “The Lord be with you!” 

And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!” (Ruth 2:4)

What a positive way to start the day!

Sometimes we have no one to encourage us at the break of day, so we have to speak to ourselves, saying something like: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24)

Try saying that aloud with enthusiasm when getting up each morning

It will make a difference

Outside of praying, your most important words are the ones you say to yourself

These words are silent but significant

Self-help advocates call this ‘self-talk’ but I want to skip the psycho-babble and go straight to Paul’s words in Scripture

Did Paul ever talk to himself?

He said, he strove to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

He said, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22 NIV)

He said, “I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12)

And, as we have learned, he also said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)

Paul is saying…. When it comes to negative thoughts:

      • Don’t curse them
      • Don’t nurse them
      • Don’t rehearse them
      • Disperse them

Push out your negative thoughts – worry, anxiety, fear, pessimism

Push out the self-talk tapes from your past – you dad, your family, a friend

A doctor a Christian – who has run double triathlons (two triathlons back-to-back with only a twenty-four hour break) six times … the last time when he was 59 years old

When asked how he did it, he said, “I have learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself. If I listen to myself, I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I’m too tired, too old, too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself, I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

In Psalm 42 the palmist said to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)

We don’t know the author of Psalm 42, but it might have been King David, because he knew how to preach to himself when needed

As a young man, a series of disastrous problems had befallen David in a town called Ziklag

His family and the families of his men had been kidnapped, and even his own men were turning on him and talking about stoning him to death

What did David do? 

He preached to himself — He “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6)

And, in that strength he rose up to tackle his problems with a positive spirit that came from his belief in God’s watchful care for his life

Jeremiah did the same

After watching his city go up in flames and his nation go down in defeat, he said:

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-22)

This is what we must do

If we listen to the negative tapes looping around in our thoughts, we will sink into the pessimism of the devil  (depression)

We will hear ourselves saying:

          • How could I have been so stupid?
          • What is wrong with me?
          • Everything is falling apart!
          • This is a disaster
          • Why is this happening to me?

Stop the tape!

Here’s a better one:

“I know in Whom I believe, and I am persuaded He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. Why are you cast down? Hope in God. I’ll soon be praising Him again, for He is the health of my countenance. I’m going to recall something and keep it in mind — the Lord is merciful, and His compassions won’t fail me. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Dr. H. Norman Wright … a great believer wrote:

“Depending on how active your mind is, you may produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. Whew! It might be compared to a flock of birds flying in and out of your mind.”

To complicate our minds more, noted Dr. Wright, not all these are conscious thoughts, and sometimes they pass so fleetingly we barely notice them

But listen to what Dr. Wright says next:

“Every time you have a thought, it triggers an electrochemical reaction in your body … Each thought sets off a biological process — about 400 billion at once. Because of that thought, chemicals surge through the body, producing electromagnetic waves. Those setoff emotions, which affect how we behave … Science simply confirms what Scripture has been saying all along: We are shaped, in large part, by our thoughts.”

2B> Speak Positively to Others 

Learn to talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself

Learn to encourage yourself in the Lord

It will change the way you speak to others

Your mood and message will be different, even in the midst of difficulties

This was another of Paul’s secrets

Once he was caught in a vicious storm with a terrified crew on a sinking ship

The typhoon threatened to rip the ship into  matchsticks — and even the captain gave up hope of survival

But Paul rallied their spirits, saying, “Keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God” (Acts 27:25 NIV)

Nevertheless the storm grew worse

It was the deadliest storm the sailors had ever seen, and there were 276 souls on board

 

Two weeks of unbearable strain drained the crew of their last drops of hope, and none of them could eat or rest through the wild hours of the worst night

Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. (Acts 27:33-36 NIV).

Do you know someone struggling to keep their head above water?

Think of the power of saying to them — in the right way at the right time — “Kep uo your courage! I have faith in God. Take care of yourself. You’ll get through this storm. Believe God and His Word.”

There is power in an attitude that is positively biblical — and biblically positive

As London recovered from World War II, a prominent minister, Leslie Weatherhead, wrote a book to help his British congregation recover from the emotional trauma of the conflict.

He warned his people to avoid talking all the time about what was wrong with them

We all need a very few close friends, of course, to whom we can unburden our hearts and share our troubles, he said. But telling everyone we meet about our troubles gives our woes “persisting power.”

It’s tempting to share our difficulties, because we crave sympathy

“But we must realize that every recital of our woes and every brooding hour etches on our minds the picture of the weaker, not the stronger, self.”

The more we talk about our troubles, the more we rehearse and reinforce them, and the more we spread the pessimism that’s endemic to our culture

Instead, focus on others.

Spread optimism 

Help those around you to take courage

Help them to believe

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Our world is wrecked, and as we work to accomplish what God wants us to do — the last thing we need are endless critics

Instead, we need to camaraderie of Christ-centered people who say what is good and helpful so our words will be an encouragement to many

We need people who believe and who inspire belief. 

3> Be Positive in Your Crisis

Only after you have learned to be positive in your CONVICTIONS and in your CONVERSATION can you learn to persevere with a hopeful attitude through CHALLENGES that will inevitably come

During times of conflict and crisis, you can be optimistic and positive — this was true of Paul the apostle

In fact, he was very positive and thus resilient — always getting up after hitting a crisis or a tough circumstance in his journey with Jesus

He said in Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

The apostle lists seven persecutions he had constantly endured

It felt like “being killed all day long”

But, he said he was “more than a conqueror”

The phrase more than conquerors is a translation of a Greek word: hypernikomen. 

Notice the letters “nik” are in the middle of the word — hypernikomen

‘Nike’ is the Greek word for victory, which is why a great company chose it for its name

It means “overcomer”

And look at the first part of the term — hypernikomen

You know the term ‘hyper.’

It means extra, obsessive, over and above, over the top

So the phrase more than conquerors is a super-term

It means super-overcomer

Paul isn’t just overcoming his difficulties

He kept overcoming them again and again through the power of Him who loved him — the Lord Jesus Christ

We can’t control everything that happens to us

We have little say in the affairs of the world

But we can choose our response to what happens

We can mope, cope, or hope

I’m here to tell you that biblical hope is the greatest source of optimism in the world

It is relentless, rewarding, and bring new life to our heart and soul

At this point I want to shout:

On the authority of Scripture and because of the love of Jesus Christ, be an over-the-top overcomer

Believe! Trust Him!

And, be positive in your CONVICTIONS, your CONVERSATIONS, your CRISIS, and #4 – in  your COUNTENANCE

4> Be Positive in Your Countenance

Your mood is always reflected in your countenance

When optimism is in your heart, a joyful countenance is on your face

Someone said, “What’s down in the well comes up in the pail.”

The Bible states:

“Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11)

Unfortunately, we don’t have a photograph of the apostle Paul, so I can’t prove his face was radiant

But it would be hard to doubt it

His positive attitude infiltrated all of his writings

For example, he told the Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)

People see your face before they know your heart

Psalm 34:5 “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faced were not ashamed”

“A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 NIV)

That inner wisdom comes from believing

It’s not believing in positive thinking or the power of a positive attitude

It isn’t even believing in ourselves

True optimism comes from deep biblical convictions about the nature of God

Knowing He loves you and has an exciting plan that is uniquely yours

It comes from reminding yourself and others of His goodness and of the incredible future He has for those who trust Him

A firm belief in the God of Scripture will bear you through the crises of life and put joy on your face

Your faith will make you radiant.

Some wise advice as we conclude …

A smile is an asset; a frown is a liability

Some people grin and bear it; others smile and change it

Being happy and enthusiastic in life is always a choice

Both enthusiasm and pessimism are contagious

How much of each do you spread?

Story to end the teaching…

In November 2007, a tough old Alaska fisherman named Alan Ryden took a month-long trip at sea in his forty-two-foot boat

The trip became a nightmare when the boat capsized in a terrible storm

Ryden managed to get into a raft wearing his survival suit and fleece jacket, and he got off a Mayday signal to the Coast Guard. But the weather was wicked, and the little raft tossed around like a cork.

Shivering in the buffeted raft, Alan felt himself losing hope. His mind panicked and quickly sunk into deep discouragement and hopelessness. He began wondering if his life insurance would provide for his family. 

Suddenly, Alan realized his own thoughts were pulling him under more than the seas, and he made one of the toughest decisions of his life. He determined to cast out negative thoughts and to toss them out of the raft like weights.

He began quoting Scriptures to himself, speaking God’s Word aloud. He started thanking God for any good thing that came to mind. He said to himself, “Well, at least I am in a survival suit. My suit does have a top-of-the-line strobe light attached … At least I am in some kind of raft, and at least I got that fleece jacket on … I am strong, a good swimmer, and have no fear of the water.”

Ryden’s mental struggle deepened as the darkness set in, but he remained committed to hanging on with all his strength to the anchor of hope. He later said, “There was definitely a grace from God … I had to fight for every inch in my thoughts.”

Ten hours later, Ryden was rescued. Tracie Miles, who wrote about his story in her book Unsinkable Faith, said the real rescue was inward. It had been achieved during the storm when, by grace, Ryden had “anchored himself in God and embraced positive thoughts, which helped him stay buoyant.”

She’s right

Believing and learning to be optimistic requires us to stay positive in our convictions, even in the middle of a crisis

It’s an essential skill you must develop if you want to move forward in life

So, anchor yourself in the hope of Jesus Christ

Cling to the promises of the Bible

Determine by God’s grace to keep your mind buoyant and your soul unsinkable even in the storms — Be positive!

 

SOMETIMES I LOSE MY FOCUS

A true story …

The Maestro was born in the northern city of Modena. His mother was a cigar factory worker, his father was a baker and amateur tenor. It was the amateur tenor part that most touched young Luciano Pavarotti. He loved hearing his dad sing, and he spent hours listening to the family’s collection of recordings of great tenors. Father and son sang along with the records at full volume. Mr. Pavarotti wouldn’t sing in public due to stage fright, but he did sing in the church choir. At age nine, Luciano joined him. The boy loved to sing — and people loved hearing him.

“Your voice touches me whenever you sing,” his mother said.

But the question of a career was vexing. In those days just after World War II, a musical career was risky. His mother suggested Luciano become an athletic instructor, while his father encouraged him to continue developing his voice. “But you will have to study very hard, Luciano,” he said. “Practice harder, and then maybe.”

Luciano continued his musical studies and also enrolled in a teacher’s college. After graduation, he asked his father, “Shall I be a teacher or a singer?” Read more

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. 

Pedal-to-the-Metal Living

I have been asked to teach church leaders from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on the “live-giving church.” So, I have been doing some thinking and praying about the topic and how to approach it. A key word in this study would be “passion.” And, I believe it boils down to a personal level of living a “live-giving” life. 

In a small town in Kansas you will find what is certainly one of the world’s largest balls of twine. At last count, this ball of twine weighed nearly nine tons. It is a full forty feet in circumference and would stretch nearly fifteen hundred miles long — about halfway across the nation of Canada, in case you’re interested in testing it out. The originator of this ball of twine started his work in 1953, and he died just before he reached his goal of having the world’s largest one. Today, the whole town pitches in to keep the ball of twine growing.

At this point you may be tempted to take a deep breath and say, “Well, that’s . . .unique!” But you would be wrong. A town in Minnesota has what they declare to be the true world’s largest ball of twine, weighing in heavier than nine tons. And there are several other towns racing to be recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for their own monster twine balls.

Whatever else you may say about such a pursuit, you have to be impressed by the passion of those who focus the heart energies of their life on one very precise goal. What is it inside a man, a woman, or a town that would drive them to spend all their spare moments for fifty years accumulating a ball of twine? Or building a replica of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks?

For that matter, if we are really honest, what keeps you getting out of bed each morning, facing a  untidy house or a stressful business career? You might say, “That’s an entirely different matter! We’re not talking about a hobby, I have to make those beds and wash those dishes or our home will be in chaos. I have to put in a productive day at work of the cheques will stop rolling in, I do what I must — out of sheer necessity.”

There we have it. You do what you have to do, not from passion but from obligation, There’s a world of difference, isn’t there?

Yet it wasn’t always so. Can you remember the first morning in your home, when the boxes were still packed? Can you think back to your first week on the job, before your business cards were even printed? Perhaps there was a little something more that moved you forward then. Motivated you to get up and get moving. Perhaps there was excitement and energy, and you were impassioned. The time flew by as you went about your work, for this was a new life. This was the goal you had been aiming for. There were new areas to explore and new facts to discover about yourself.

Marriages begin with passion. We believe the honeymoon will last forever.

Faith begins with passion. We believe we’ll live on a spiritual mountaintop forever.

For that matter, you may experience passion — of a sort — for an object: a new wide-screen smart television or a luxury automobile with that new-car smell. It may not last long, but if one man can be passionate about a ball of twine, you can certainly be excited about your car!

The question is, Why does this intense dedication wear off? Why does the thrill fade like a T-shirt image after a few rounds in the washing machine, like a peeling bumper sticker or a sun-bleached wall poster?

Why can’t we live with passion every day of our life? If we could package passion in a can, we could make millions of dollars. If we could use it every day, then this life would bear more than a passing resemblance to the next one in Heaven.

I am absolutely convinced that life is meant to be lived with powerful emotions and heightened expectation — with joy, fulfillment, excitement, and purpose. I am convinced that when we live with passion we honour God powerfully, for it is then that we resemble Him most in spirit. He created us passionately, with joy and commitment to us, and His love for us has never worn off.

I’m not talking about the passing fancy du jour. I’m referring to something that penetrates deeper than the emblem on your shirt and a philosophy too complex for a number sticker. I’m referring to a kind of life that doesn’t eliminate the occasional blue Monday but powerfully transcends it. Passion is all about a basic mind-set and a heart attitude for embracing life — positively, energetically, full bore, pedal to the metal, wide open life.

I think the passionate life is what Jesus was talking about when He promised, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). It’s the “first love” described by John in Revelation 2:4 — a “first love” that is not designed to wear off.

Food for thought: How is your level of passion for life today? What will help you to regain the passion that you have lost? What will cause you to be more passionate tomorrow than you are right now, today? 

Life was meant to be lived abundantly, with passion and enthusiasm. If we, as believers, have lost our passion why would others want what we say we have? Maybe our lifestyle is killing our message. Just maybe. Just a thought!

Stay Focused Until You’re Finished

One of the keys to finishing well as a disciple and follower of Jesus is to “Stay Focused Until You’re Finished.” (See yesterday’s blog).

One of the great finishers of the Bible was Solomon, King David’s son. In fact, the word finish is connected with Solomon a dozen times, especially with his building of the temple. I made a list of all the references associated with Solomon completing his assignment to build God’s house, and I noticed something that escaped me in all the many time I’ve read the story.

Solomon was not only a finisher, he was a total, complete, absolute finisher. Notice the inclusion of the word all in the phrases used the describe Solomon:

    • “He had finished all the temple” (1 Kings 6:22)
    • “The house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans” (1 Kings 6:38)
    • “So all the work that King Solomon had done for the house of the Lord was finished” (1 Kings 7:51)
    • “So all the work that Solomon had done for the house of the Lord was finished” (2 Chronicles 5:1)
    • “Solomon successfully accomplished all that came into his heart to make in the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 7:11) 

When it came to building God’s temple in Jerusalem, Solomon finished it all. He left nothing undone. Perhaps that’s because his father, King David, challenged him in 1 Chronicles 28:20: “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: do not fear or be dismayed, for the Lord God — my God — will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.”

Most of us underestimate the difficult challenge of finishing. We tend to start strong and then stay strong throughout most of the task until we are close to finishing. Then we seem to put less effort into that last dash across the finish line. Maybe it’s because we feel like we are finished and only need to go through the motions to really complete it. Maybe the novelty or newness has worn off and now it is just a consistent one step in front of the other which tends to become mundane, even boring, and we lose our enthusiasm. Maybe we have proved to ourself that we can do it – even though it is yet to be finished — and so simply lose the motivation to finish what we started.

Here is what I know: You’re not finished until you’re finished. You’re not done until you’re done. Therefore stay focused and engaged all the way through, because it isn’t over until it’s over. Stay focused. Keep your eyes on the goal. Run through the finish tape and then celebrate. The apostle Paul said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Let’s all run our individual races well. But remember, we are also to finish well… So, stay focused until you’re finished.

Finish What You Start

Last time I was sharing about my personal motto: Never Stop Starting.

Today, let’s talk about “Finish What You Start” which is sort of the follow up to the blog before this one (February 19, 2021).

Let’s face it. You can have a great vision, pray godly prayers, choose the right goals, and focus on the right things. So far, so good. You can also pursue your dreams and make huge investments in God’s Word, His work, and His wealth. You can do all these amazing and wonderful things. But if you don’t finish what you start, it’s like a building that never has a roof.

Dr. J. Robert Clinton teaches in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and has devoted vast amounts of time to researching the subject of lifelong leadership development. As part of his study, he identified about a thousand men and women in the Bible who were considered leaders: national leaders, Jewish leaders, church leaders, patriarchs, priests, kings, and so forth.

Many of these leaders were simply mentioned in the text without details, and you may be as surprised as I was to learn there are only forty-nine prominent leaders in Scripture whose lives were surveyed as a whole. We know how they started and how they finished.

Of those forty-nine, only thirty percent finished well. The other seventy percent fell short of God’s plan for their lives — a fact that should jolt us. Some leaders such as Samson and Eli stumbled at midlife. Others such as Noah, David, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah stumbled near the end.

But thank God for the thirty percent — for people like Joshua, Daniel, Peter, and Paul — who enjoyed walking with God in increasing intimacy throughout their days. They simply kept growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. They remained yielded to Him in all things. Like the tree planted in the courtyard of the Lord, they flourished and stayed fresh and green, bearing fruit whatever their age.

Psalm 92:12-14 “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…”

Clearly, the greatest finisher in the Bible is Jesus. His entire life and ministry was motivated by a commitment to finish the work His Father gave Him to accomplish:

      • “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work’” (John 4:34 NKJV))
      • “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36 NKJV)

And when He came to His crucifixion, who can forget perhaps the most profound words in all of the Bible: “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’” (John 19:30)

There are countless barriers to finishing well. These five seem to dominate the literature on how to finish well.

      • Stay focused until You’re finished
      • Stay resilient about retirement (don’t retire)
      • Stay connected to your calling
      • Stay vigilant after your victories
      • Stay ready for redeployment

These five barriers or challenges to finishing well could be a book in themselves. And, as I am planning a series of 32 ways to hear God’s voice for March and the start of April, I will just deal next time with the need to stay focused until you’re finished. 

Never Stop Starting

My motto: You’re Not Done Until You’re Done

If you ever get into an unfortunate scrape, you might hire Frank P. Lucianna to represent you. He’s a razor-sharp attorney in Hackensack, New Jersey, just across the Hudson from New York City. You can spot Lucianna in the courtroom daily, dressed in a dapper suit with a pocket square, chopping his hands in the air and defending people in trouble. He does it with energy and effectiveness.

Lucianna has been defending clients for quite a while. Forty-five years ago, a local newspaper claimed he was the city’s “busiest criminal lawyer.” Twenty-two years ago, the same newspaper called him “a consummate showman” and new Jersey’s “oldest active attorney.” Today, Lucianna still waxes eloquent before judges and juries at age ninety-seven.

Lucianna doesn’t rest on his laurels. “This is a very consuming profession and it has taken a lot out of my life,” he says. “I am constantly involved preparing cases, and it’s a tremendous strain, both mental and physical. Physical because when you go to trial in a case, your whole being is obsessed with trying to help the person you represent, and it places your body and mind under tension.”

When asked about his future, Lucianna said, “I hope God lets me continue doing this. I don’t want to retire. I don’t want to go to Florida. I just want to do what I’m, doing.”

I feel the same way. I hope God lets me continue doing what He’s called me to do. My name isn’t Archippus, but I take the one verse addressed to him in the Bible as though it was written to me: “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17 NIV).

You know, like me your role may change. Your assignment might evolve and your situation may alter. You may have to make adjustments. Even so, one fact won’t change: as long as God leaves you on earth, He has ongoing work for you. There’s no expiration date to this fact. You never retire from the Christian life, and you never drop out of God’s will.

I urge you — never stop starting, and do your best to finish what you start in the Lord’s will. 

In his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, Jon Acuff describes how hard this seems for some people:

“I’ve only completed 10 percent of the books I own. It took me three years to finish six days of the P90X home exercise program. When I was twenty-three I made it to blue-belt in karate … I have thirty-three half-started Moleskine notebooks in my office and nineteen tubes of nearly finished Chapstick in my bathroom.”

Acuff adds that he’s not the only one who doesn’t stick to things. “According to studies, 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Every January, people start with hope and hype, believing that this will be the New Year that does indeed deliver a New You. But though100 percent start, only 8 percent finish.”

Another statistic that is astonishing: A study by Jefferson Smith states that 63% of readers never finish the book they are reading.

So, my point is simple: You are not done until you are done and God has not said you are done

And, never stop starting new things that will help you grow and develop and “stay alive inside

And, Grab hold of each day and give it your 100% so that you will finish what you started whatever that may be. 

Feeling Stuck? – Part Six

We are talking about having a life worth living, getting out of ruts we have accepted as normal for our life when they are anything but ‘normal. And, how to get rid of that feeling that life is overwhelming. 

Last time we started to look at having the courage to choose what’s best. This involves two main things. We saw that the first one was ‘courage to embrace your limitations’. Today let’s look at the second main huddle to choosing what’s best…

b> Courage to eliminate your distractions

To get out of your rut and stop feeling overwhelmed by life you need the courage to eliminate distractions by saying “no” to bad things and even saying “no” to some good things. You only want to say “yes” to the best things.

Warren Buffett (one of the riches men in the world) has learned he can’t focus on too many things at once. He advices making a list of the top twenty-five things you want to accomplish in the next few years. From that list, pick the five that are most important to you. Now you have two lists. Buffett suggests you “avoid at all cost” the longer one, for those items may well prevent the big things from happening.

To overcome obstacles, that feeling of being overwhelmed by demands and expectations, and to move forward into the fullness of your life, you have to discover the beauty of the word “no.” The practice of a graceful “no” takes courage, but it is certainly liberating.

Here is something that I have learned in my 50+ years of pastoring … If you don’t set priorities in your own life, someone else will.

In her book Learning How to Say No When You Usually Say Yes, Maritza Manresa advises her readers that it’s all right to say no to lesser things to have room for the best things. Most of us say yes more than we should because we are taught to be available or because we don’t want to disappoint others or challenge authority. Maybe we feel guilty, or we don’t want to damage a relationship. As a result, we’re constantly overcommitted, and the greater things are left behind. 

Manresa suggests several ways to say no. The first is simply: “No!” That’s a complete sentence. But if you want to be gentler about it, try statements like:

      • I’m sorry, but I simply can’t at this time
      • I have a personal policy…
      • It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to, but if anything changes I’ll let you know
      • It looks like I’m going to have to pass this time
      • I just can’t fit it into my schedule 
      • That is such a good cause but I am already supporting other good causes
      • No, thank you

Is this hard for you? It is for me too. But we must have the courage to eliminate distractions if we’re going to live the life God intended and no longer feel overwhelmed by life on a daily basis.

Jesus often said no to others so that He could say yes to His Father. In Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees came to  Jesus, asking Him for a sign. He said no. He gave them a blunt little sermon instead and left them and went aways (Matthew 16:1-4). In Mark 1:38, Peter asked Jesus to return to Capernaum, where everyone wanted to hear Him. But Jesus said, “Let  us go into the next towns, that I may preach also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

We can’t do everything, but we can always do our Father’s will. We can fulfill His design for our days.

So, learn to say ‘no’ and mean it. Stick to your ‘no.’ Let your no be no! That takes courage but you can do it. 

Let’s review what we have learned in this series of blogs …We can live an abundant and joyful life overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed by the expectations and demands of life  and other people if we will simply:

  • 1> Consider what’s best 
  • 2> Clarify what’s best
  •      a> The priority of loving God
  •      b> The priority of loving others
  •      c> The priority of loving yourself
  • 3>  “Choose What’s Best.”
  •     a> Courage to embrace your limitations
  •     b> Courage to eliminate your distraction

Last but not least as we look at overcoming that feeling of living in a rut and being overwhelmed by all the demands of life …

4> Commit to What’s Best

When you get stuck, find some traction to get you out of the rut and moving forward in life once again. God doesn’t want you to live life feeling overwhelmed by the demands and expectations that come at you every day in your life. God does not want you spinning your wheels. Once you get moving, you need clarity to know what direction to move in, and Jesus provided that by telling you to love God, love those around you, and love yourself. Armed with that clarity, you need the courage to stay no to some things so you can say yes to the best things. And finally you need the consistency to practice what’s best. Proverbs 23:17 says, “But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day”.

Paul said that we are to be, “His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

When you do what we have been sharing about in this series of blogs, you’ll palace yourself in the paths God has promised to bless. Even when things appear discouraging, keep pressing ahead, trusting God to make a way. Stay committed to what’s best, for the Lord takes things from there and works wonders. It is not always easy but it is always good.

 

Feeling Stuck? – Part Five

So to get unstuck and get out of the life-rut you are in and begin moving, once again, into God’s plan and purpose for your life we have seen…

1> Consider what’s best 

2> Clarify what’s best

a> The priority of loving God

b> The priority of loving others

c> The priority of loving yourself

Today let’s start to look at #3 – “Choose What’s Best.”

Once you have clarified what is God’s best in your life (step 2), the next thing you need to do is actually choose these priorities. You need to make intentional, planned decisions that elevate what is best and remove what is merely good. 

Doing so will require courage.

As Moses was dying, he told his successor, Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

It takes zero courage to stay in a rut. It takes grit and spunk to rouse yourself to climb out and move forward. So, to get out of your rut – whatever it might be – have the courage to do something new. Whatever God leads you to do, move forward, grow, change, adjust, learn, conquer. Once you establish your priorities, find the courage to say “no” to some things and “yes” to others. There are two areas where this kind of courage to make life changes are required. 

a> Courage to embrace your limitations

First, embrace your limitations. Do you have any of those? We all do! Beware of living in denial. To change and adjust so as to move forward in your journey with Jesus you have to be realistic. To overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed by life you will need to embrace your limitations. Progress comes by embracing your God-given limits. Yes, they are God-given because He created you.

Some limits have to do with your age or stage in life. 

Some of your limitations have to do with the gifts God has given you or the location where He’s placed you. 

Perhaps you battle a handicap or a chronic illness, or you’re a caregiver for someone who does. Maybe you have a dysfunctional family member, or you live in a dangerous area. You might be on a fixed income or you couldn’t afford to go to college, or your job is being phased out. Whatever they are, accept your limitations; don’t use them as an excuse for not doing what God assigns you.

Even the Lord Jesus Christ had limitations. As almighty God, of course, He had no limitations. He was and is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Not even the entire universe can contain Him. His power, might, grace, holiness, and justice are limitless, boundless, and measureless. But when the Son of God entered the human race in Bethlehem, He was confined within the animal’s feeding trough. He grew up in a small hillside town. He did no recorded miracles for the first thirty years of Hid life and He lived in submission His parents.

When Jesus began His ministry, He didn’t fly around like an angel from one preaching assignment to another. He didn’t even have a horse or donkey, except on one known occasion. He said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).

Jesus’ area of ministry was limited to a little strip of land along the Mediterranean, and He never visited the great cities of His day: Athens, Rome, Milan, Alexandria, Carthage. He had a limited education, a limited income, and a limited time for His work — only about three years. Oh, and His nation wasn’t free; it was occupied by Roman soldiers.  

The limitless Son of God was financially, geographically, chronologically, politically, and physically limited. And then His limitations became far more stringent. On the cross, He became so limited by the nails in His hands and feet. He was unable to wipe the blood from His eyes or scatter the flies from His face.

Yes His limitations worked for the advantage of the whole world. Imagine that! 

Limitations should never become excuses for staying where you are. Your priorities are determined by the gifts God has given you, your stage in life, and your personal shortcomings. Doesn’t the Bible say something about God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)?

So have the courage to embrace your limitations and move forward so as to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed by life. 

Feeling Stuck? – Part Four

So, we have seen that we need to continue our journey with Jesus as we live our daily life. And, often we tend to get stuck and simply exist and not really live. And, in the midst of being stuck we feel totally overwhelmed by all the things that need our attention. Some of the solution to feeling overwhelmed that we have looked at include:

1> Consider what’s best 

2> Clarify what’s best

a> The priority of loving God

Let’s continue with “clarify what’s best” based on Jesus’ answer to the scribe as found in Mark 12:28-31

First, let’s review the Scripture we are looking at:

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

As we clarify what’s best we need to look at The priority of loving people.

Jesus continued, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Within the same priority of love there’s a second application. We’re to love our neighbours – and we have almost 8 billion of them! We can’t know or personally care for each of them, but the Lord knows exactly how to lead us to those we need to serve.

With a biblical mindset we must come to realize that God has put us here for His purposes, to carry out His mission, whatever that might be and however He might lead us.

Loving others is sharing the compassion of Christ with the people around you.

The Bible states, “”Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law … Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8, 10). And the apostle Paul wrote, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).

Well, we are all living through the start of year two of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and we realize that it has caused great disruption in life and that it has affected all of us. So, it is a good time for believers to reach out with the Gospel of the Kingdom and offer those who are feeling hopeless the hope that only God can give. 

As in all calamities and tragedies, we’ve had choices to make. And the first choice should always be to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. To give to others. The Bible states it is more blessed to give than to receive, and loving you neighbour is not something you feel … it’s something you do!

For as James 2:8 says, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ you do well.”

But keeping priorities correctly aligned is a daily challenge. The first step is knowing what’s at the top of your list. Once that’s settled, other things fall into place more naturally. What comes first is clear — love — for God, for others, and then for ourselves.

The priority of loving ourselves…

Notice again how Jesus stated this command: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). That means it’s okay to love ourselves. In fact, we are commanded to love ourselves!

Of course, we have to be careful at this point, because the devil always attempts to turn self-love into selfishness, ego, low and high esteem, conceit, haughtiness, self-importance, and all the other elements that make up sinful narcissism. I’m not recommending any of those things.

On the other hand, the apostle Paul said, “Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28).

Let me paraphrase here: take heed to yourselves and to everyone else assigned by God to your care.

If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. If you become fatigued and irritable, you can’t uplift others. If you don’t pay attention to your diet and exercise, you’ll lose the strength you need to fulfill God’s will.

You have a God-given responsibility to take care of yourself. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Your personality is the means by which God touches others. If you get in a rut you’ll pull others down into it with you. But when you have your priority — love — in its right place, and you understand these three applications, things have a way of falling into place and that feeling of being overwhelmed begins to permanently fade. 

So maybe we can conclude this part and say: “Put God ahead of everything else and He will take care of all the rest.”

Sometimes our lives need to be cleaned out. A lot of our activities and attitudes should be jettisoned. Other interests need to be tucked away in an orderly place on our calendars. It’s only possible to know what’s worth keeping when you have the clarity to know what’s best and when you understand the priority of love.

So to get unstuck and begin moving, once again, into God’s plan and purpose for your life we have seen…

1> Consider what’s best 

2> Clarify what’s best

a> The priority of loving God

b> The priority of loving others

c> The priority of loving yourself

Stay with me – we are over half way there….