Regaining My Life

During the latter part of 2020 and now into the start of 2021 I have been getting my life in order. Oh, in many ways it was not out of order. So, let’s say I have been spending time setting new priorities and adding more balance into a very active and busy life. I have been thinking through what I do and why I do it. Are there more important things I could be investing my time in? Are there things that once were great but are now no longer beneficial or necessary? What needs to change to bring life – both in the inner life as well as the regular daily routines of life – back into balance?

Life out there in the mad world remains what it is, spinning into greater frenzy. As a result I believe I need a series of gentle reminders – signs, symptoms, barometers – that let me know if I am living a sane life, giving my time where God would have me invest my life, taking the time to be healed, be filled, be refreshed, be renewed. This world we live in demands a life saturated with God, and this world is the perfect storm to prevent our souls from having it. We must shepherd our own heart and soul with kindness and compassion so that the springs of life may flow freely, up through the fountain of our being.

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)

“So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are.

Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” (TPT)

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” (MSG)

I know I’ve been sucked back into the madness when I flinch at a request for any kind of help: the text of a friend asking for my time, the email seeking some counsel. Or when I don’t even want to look at emails, because I know there are demands waiting for me there. The flinch, wince, long hesitation, unhappy sigh; the avoidance, the inability to enter in — these are symptoms that I am running on fumes again. 

Our capacity for relationship is a wonderful gauge. We are created in the image of a profoundly relational God, created for relationship. Am I available for relationship? Not with everyone all the time of course — I’m not meaning the entire social network with no boundaries whatsoever, not 24/7 access. I’m talking about the people in my life: loved ones, colleagues, neighbours out walking their dogs. If I’ve lost the capacity for, and the enjoyment of relationships, I know that things are deeply off in my soul.

Sugar and caffeine are always warning signs. Have I moved from enjoying them to needing them, relying on them to get me through the rest of my day? What about a simple pause? If I decide to take a break for a few minutes do I feel guilty and on edge, concerned that something important may not get the attention I think it deserves? Or if someone comes in and takes a few minutes out of my day unexpectedly, do I feel irritated and hassled? Do I feel like my day has been disrupted? 

But there are positive barometers, too, wonderful things; these are so much better to watch for. Have I spent time walking my dog and enjoying the outdoors with him? Was I able to pay attention to what my wife was saying this morning? Am I making room for the sunrises and sunsets and the act of simply taking time to love God? Positive signs and reminders are better for us to watch for, because these slip away before you begin to really sink in the mire. If I have reached the point that I don’t want to play with my grandchildren, I’m not well. But way before that happens, I can tell how I’m doing if I’m neglecting the simple practices that bring me healing and inner peace … like daily quiet time, maintaining some personal time and space, and even a simply walk to reconnect with my heart and soul.

The Harvard Business Review published a list of “The Daily Routines of Geniuses.” The author compared the schedules and lifestyles of “161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers” and discovered they all shared some things in common:

    • A workspace with minimal distractions
    • A daily walk 
    • A clear dividing line between important work and busywork
    • Limited social lives

I know it sounds idyllic — something from a bygone age or era. Maybe. You can’t get out for a walk? You can’t cut back your social life, which in this culture means cutting down your social media and texting? Both are very doable. I like the idea of making your home or apartment a place that feels restorative to your soul. You want your “space,” whatever it is, to be your sanctuary and haven … a place where you can find yourself and get back in touch with the you that is deep inside. A place where your soul feels good to be in. 

It is the start of another year – a year where we are all experiencing a faster and faster pace of life. Maybe at the start of the year – like right now – we need to take a good look at what we are doing and make some changes that will allow us the regain and reclaim our life. 

Being and Doing 2021

Many years ago the Lord spoke very strongly and clearly that I needed to realize that I was a human being and not a human doing. That He created me to ‘be’ first and then to ‘do’ second. That He was more interested in my character (be) than in my activities (do). And, that what I do should flow out of who I am (be).

Up until that time I was what you would call a workaholic. Someone who was task oriented. If there was a need I met it. If there was something that needed attention I was your man. I got my sense of self worth from what I did. I gained value from what I accomplished. And, in reality, I did not really know who I was because I did not spend time on the inside working through feelings and thoughts … I simply pushed them down as they were in the way of accomplishing all the stuff that needed to be done.

When the Lord spoke to me about “being” before “doing” I realized I needed to make some major changes. I needed to take personal time and make personal space to get in touch with the real me – who I was on the inside. And that was a very painful process because there was a lot of accumulated garbage in my heart and mind . You know, things like unforgiveness, resentment, anger, bitterness, judgemental attitudes, pride … the list could go on. But, you know what I mean. So I began to wade through the garbage tossing what I could and seeking help to do so when I needed help. 

In the midst of this process – and it took a number of years – I came to a point where I realized that I needed to discover who Jesus saw when He looked at me. I needed to discover who I was “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who did Jesus say I was? Who did Jesus create me to “be?” Another part of the journey.

So, I was removing the world’s influence and a lot of the pain and clutter from experiences and past relationships… while discovering who I really was based on God’s Word and His plan for who I am. During this process character became a focus along with discovering and experiencing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Over the years a completely new foundation for my life was laid upon which He then began to build my ministry and what He had called me to do. 

Now I don’t find my identity nor my sense of self-worth in what I do. I find my identity and self-worth in who I am – in my relationship with Jesus and who He has created and called me to be. I know who I am “in Christ.” That’s different than “Christ in me.” And, equally important. 

Out of this identity, knowing who I am, I can then set out a direction for my life with greater wisdom and insight than before I discovered this truth. I can look at the coming new year and determine where the Lord wants me to go and what He wants me to be involved in. And, none of that effects my identity as they are in the “do” category and not a “be” issue. As a result change is much easier; criticism is not personally destructive, I am not devastated when people don’t like me or reject my ministry … I am secure in who I am. And open to whatever the Lord wants me to do. And, because of this transparency I continue to see growth in the area of my character, gifts, calling, skills, and talents. 

So, before you set your goals for 2021 it might be a good idea to review who you really are separated from what you do for a living. Who are you “in Christ.” Then begin to set some goals that enable you to be the best you that you can be. Leave the “do” for later… first things first. Major on the major issue and not on the minor issues.

That will, of course, bring great honour and tremendous pleasure to God, your heavenly Father. 

The Coming New Year

Well we have managed to get past Christmas and are now heading into a brand new year. So, my thoughts turn to the future and what it is that the Lord would want me to focus on in 2021. Oh, I set personal goals in many areas of my life … financial, relational, friendships, spiritual, family, personal growth and development, and on the list goes. But, before any of that is examined and goals set I first want to know what the Lord has for me to be doing – my involvement with Him in 2021. Once that is settled and agreed to then I can fill in the other areas of my personal life.

Of course, whatever the Lord calls me to focus on is first founded upon the call that is on every disciple’s life. That is to “follow Him” (Matthew 4:19). Our task is to walk closely with Jesus in a personal love relationship. This is a daily walk. And, as we walk with Him we will find Him bringing changes to the way we think, what we believe, and how we live. These changes are part of the process of Him “making us into fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This is the foundational call on every believer’s life. 

So, I am focusing on building a deeper relationship with the Lord than I have experienced in 2020. Every year I work to do more than stay in touch with the Lord. I work at changing whatever needs to change to deepen my relationship so as to know His heart better and to hear His voice more clearly. Often this means changing routines, adding something after removing something. I try not to get hung up in the structure as it can and does change … different time, different version of the Bible, different place, different approach to prayer, different way of reading and studying the Bible. Everything is up for grabs as these are all just tools to get to know Jesus better. Sometimes we see them as rules – read 3 chapters a day, pray for an hour… But really they are simply tools to build a better and deeper relationship with the Lord. 

Then the second thing I focus on is evangelism or sharing God’s love with others. I first examine the track record from the current year and see what apparently worked or didn’t work. Again, the methods are not sacred, just the message. So, I look at the methods I have used and fine tune some while tossing others and adding new ideas. Then I have a look at what I should be doing to become more effective and even more efficient in this task of winning the lost. This is the mandate of the Church and we are the church. So, everyone of us is called to “seek and save the lost” as Jesus did (Luke 19:10). He expressed it in Matthew 28:18-20 when He said, “Go into al the world and make disciples.”

Only then do I then concentrate on what He has called me to do for Him. I look at my apostolic ministry and see what changes need to be made. Some changes and adjustments are made because of the leading of the Lord. Others simply because society has changed and adjustments need to be made so as to continue to influence and impact the culture. This is much more than the message and how it is presented. It involves the upcoming changes the Lord is making in His Church worldwide and my role in announcing and implementing those changes. After all, this is foundational to the Church that Jesus is building (Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11-15).

So, it is a week of looking back, forward, up and inward as I prepare for 2021. 

If you feel like sharing what you do to prepare for your New Year of life … please comment.

Something Is Missing!

Everyone in the world is searching. Each of us is searching for something that gives meaning to life. To bring purpose to our work. We all know this; we’re familiar with this emptiness, this longing for more.

We’re looking for a story to make sense of, a role to play that has meaning. Despite our best efforts, activities and adventures barely touch the tip of the iceberg. We sense we were made for a great purpose, some cause to make the world a better place. Maybe it’s as simple as the realization that our lives aren’t a total waste, or maybe it’s something more. Whatever the case, most of us despair of ever finding it. It feels so distant, so unattainable.

We begin life with a simple understanding — that our lives are tales worth telling and we have an important part to play. Children understand this: what it means to live and love without condition, to be delighted in. Their lives are full of reckless abandon and no one has to tell them so. They don’t need to be reminded of the crucial roles; they know intuitively. Without prompting, kids know how to dream up adventure and slay dragons. To embark on epic journeys and live out idyllic scenes. To spend hours in the backyard with nothing but their imagination.

As children, most of us needed no prompting to play, to engage in the grand experience of life.

But as adults, many of us do. Somewhere along the journey we lost our way. We get caught up in the pursuit of trivial things. For some, it’s money; for others, sex or fame. Some get stuck in the cruel cycle of moralism, endlessly striving to be “good enough.” Whatever our fixation, we obsess over it. We give our lives to this pursuit of a promise that eludes us. And we wind up years down the road wondering what happened and why we feel so empty. This happens at age twenty, forty, or even sixty. Emptiness knows no boundaries.

We would do well to remember that this is strictly an adult problem. Children do not wait all year for two weeks of vacation. They don’t spend their lives doing things they hate so they can earn the right to do what they really want. They live life to the full, children do, and somehow we have to regain that innocence.

Something is missing. Something important. Something necessary to making a difference in the world. And most of us are afraid to find out what it is. Because we know. It’s the secret we’re afraid to admit; this will cost us our lives.

Jesus told us this… if you want life, you must die. If you play it safe and protect life you will lose life. God has created us to move into areas that are unfamiliar. To step out of our comfort and security and touch others with His love. To “go where no man has gone before” as Star-trek so kindly reminds us. 

As believers we should be willing to go wherever there is pain without explanation, hope amidst despair, redemption in spite of tragedy. That’s where God wants us to be. And, that is where believers — disciples of Jesus — want to be. But to ‘be there’ we must let go of living life on our terms and the whole notion that as followers of Jesus it is okay to be safe, secure, and comfortable. 

Once you have experienced an adventure outside your comfort zone and touched a life or lives with the love of God there is no going back. Your life will be changed forever and there is no returning to how life use to be. Your paradigm will have shifted. Your focus has gone from you to them, from church to kingdom. Your worldview is infected with a contagion that spreads to ever facet of your life. You simply will no longer be able to go back to who you were. You will have changed.

This is what the Christian life is really all about. An adventure beyond what we can imagine. And, a purpose to live out that is greater than ourselves. But to live this adventure we must first leave this life — self-centered and egotistical life — dying to self and then learning to serve others outside of your personal comfort zone. To ‘get a life’ as Jesus sees life.

Just a thought!

Asking Yourself The Hard Questions

Early in my life as a believer I knew that God had called me, and every believer, to “go into al the world and make disciples.” When I read about God’s desire to reach the entire world with His love and grace, I quickly saw that I had a personal responsibility to fulfill that mission. And when I opened the book of Acts and encountered God’s desire to reach the nations, I concluded quite simply that God intended for me – and every born again believer – to play a part in that. 

Early in my life as a believer, it was so matter of fact: this is what God offers His people; this is what God intends for His people; this is what God expects from His people — and His people, obviously, will respond with obedience and trust. I am not suggesting that I always got it right, because I did not. But, still, the way to be obedient and trusting seemed so clear. And the need to be obedient was beyond question.

I am not sure if I ever heard it said out loud, but I also picked up the idea that obedience to God’s call would result in a life of safety and security. Obedience, it was implied, would lead to effective ministry and measurable results and even success. “The safest place to be,” I was told more than once, “is right in the center of God’s will.” And that sounded both true and reassuring.

I admit, however, my surprise when, many years later, I found myself living a life that was neither safe nor secure. I was stunned when, despite what I considered to be a life of obedience – even, at times, sacrificial obedience – I could point to very little in my ministry that appeared “effective.” In certain situations there were simply no results to measure. And ‘success’ was a word that I would have never used to describe what I had done.

It might, in fact, be safe to be in the center of God’s will — but we would be wise to stop and think about what it means to be safe. I feel that I have lived a life in response to the call of God. But as I look back on certain situations and ministry opportunities, I don’t see a lot that I would call effective ministry that brought long-term results. And, I certainly have not always felt ‘safe.’

So, this honest evaluation led to a number of questions that I needed to answer:

    • Does God, in fact, promise His children safety?
    • Does God really ask us to sacrifice — and to sacrifice everything?
    • What happens when our best intentions and most creative ideas are not enough?
    • Is God at work in the hard places? And does He expect us to join Him in those hard places?
    • Isn’t it possible to love God and to pretty much keep living the life I already have?
    • What does it mean for God to tell us that His ways are not our ways?
    • Would He really allow people who love Him dearly to fail? And, if so, is this a God who can use even holy failure for His purposes?

All of these questions and others I have struggled with, boiled down to: Would I choose to trust this God who I could not control? Would I be willing to walk with this God whose ways are so different? Would I, once again, lean on this God who makes impossible demands and promises only His presence?

When I began to honestly ask these questions – it was the start of the real journey of faith. A journey where I discovered what I truly believed. A journey where I learned to trust and to follow without knowing all the answers or even all the questions. A journey where I discovered the joy of serving – and even more, the necessity of dying. A journey where I discovered who I really was “in Christ.” A journey where I became secure enough to begin to reveal the real me and express myself openly because I discovered God accepted me for who I was. A journey where I was able to see the Kingdom of God expanding in the nations where I worked. And oh so much more.

I don’t have answers to all of my questions. In fact, I have even more questions as I move forward in my journey. I am not sure where this journey might lead. But I am sure that the questions are worth asking — and I am certain that the journey is God-given and God-lead. That He is patient with me and walking with me as I ask the questions and seek His answers. 

I continue to give myself permission to ask myself the hard questions!

A Slower Walk

We are well into the fall season and stores are beginning to put out Christmas decorations and signage … fighting for space with the large Halloween displays that are up in most stores. Interesting to see them side-by-side in some of the larger stores. Not an ideal time to mention slowing life down and living life at a slower pace. 

We are so use to living life in the fast lane that we fail to read the Gospel stories of Jesus, His life and ministry, in the context of the first century. We fail to see all the in-between times when Jesus and His followers were walking from one town to another. When the record states, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee (John 1:43), we project our own pace upon it, not realizing that it took the disciples three days by foot to get there. 

Three days just strolling along, talking, or sharing the silent beauty; the pauses for lunch or a drink from the well; the campfires in the evenings. Even as I write this, it sounds luxurious. Christ does not move immediately from one dramatic story to another; there was down time, transition time between these demands. Time to process what had happened (these are the moments you see the disciples asking questions; “what did you mean by…?”). Time to catch their breath before the next encounter.

That was the pace Jesus felt was reasonable for people engaged in important things and wanting a life with God. Time we would categorize almost as vacation time, for those are the only periods we allow ourselves a stroll, a lingering lunch, a campfire conversation. We highly progressive moderns try to keep up without any of these intervals and transitions. 

The things that we require of ourselves — we go from a tender conversation with our eight-year-old anxious about going to school to an angry phone call with our insurance company as we drive to work, followed by a quick chat with our sister ending a decision about our aging parents’ “memory care unit.” Then it’s straight into a series of business meetings (during which we multitask by trying to bang out some email), firing an employee, interviewing another, making dinner reservations for our spouse’s birthday, fitting in a conversation with our boss because we can’t say no, and showing up late and haggard for dinner.

And we wonder why we have a hard time finding God, receiving more of Him, feeling like we’re overflowing with life.

The EMS technician, who leaves the scene of a terrible accident, races to get to his Bible study group, but wonders afterward why he couldn’t find God there. The school teacher, who come home exhausted from a day herding a riotous classroom, tries to be present to her own child, but can’t seem to find the right gear to do so. The modern pastor, who needs to be a real estate expert on one meeting, a brilliant trauma counsellor in the next, and a caring friend over lunch, only to shift gears into the role of savvy corporate CEO for the meeting that follows.

We are forcing our souls through multiple gear-changes each day, each hour, and after years of this we wonder why we aren’t even sure what to say when a friend genuinely inquires, “How are you?” We don’t really know; we aren’t sure what we feel anymore. We live at one speed: go. All the subtleties of human experience have been forced into one state of being.

Mercy. No soul was meant to live like this. 

What sort of madness have we come to accept as normal when just taking a minute to reflect and rest feels like a luxury? We need time to process as we move from one event to another, one demand to the next. We need time to transition between what we are doing now and what is next being demanded of us. Not a long time – just a brief moment or two. A few minutes to process what you have just been involved in and to prepare for what you are about to focus on. A brief pause that you take to process and reflect; to sense and to learn. And, no one is going to offer this “pause.” It is up to each of us to learn how to slow things down a bit allowing us the needed time to pause and ponder and to sense God in al that we are involved in. To walk at a slower pace allowing us to live life as God intended. 

Strength or Weakness

Did you know that we actually connect with people through our weaknesses. We may impress them with our strengths, but we connect through our weaknesses

Let me explain what I mean. Have you ever met someone, mentally looked them over, and considered the life you think they have? They’re nice looking for their age. Their spouse is attractive. They seem to have great kids. Their life seems to be together. In so many ways, it looks to you like they’re living your dreams. What do you think? “They’re just … so. … perfect. I don’t think I like them!” Right?

Isn’t that tempting to do? 

But that’s not real. You’re not really connecting with them. They’re not connecting with you. We want so badly to connect with others and we think that the best way to do so is by showing off our strengths. But it doesn’t work that way. 

Now, after you’ve spent more time with them and seen them in many different circumstances, you begin to get to know them, and you realize, “Oh. I never would have thought they struggle with some of the same things I do. They’re human after all. You know what? I really like these guys!”

Why? Because we connect through weaknesses.

However — and here’s the issue. We tend not to lead with our weaknesses. We hide our weaknesses and play to our strengths. And, at times, we hide our weaknesses and wear whatever mask we think we need to present to be accepted. We wear masks so that people won’t come to know how weak we really are and thus, we think, not want to connect with us. Not like us. 

How do I know that? Well, we only post on Facebook and other social media what we want people to see. Not the real you but the you that you would want to be. You show only your good side. In fact, you often just make stuff up and post it because you want to come across strong and in control. On Facebook and other social media we have filters that even make us look better in the pictures we post. So, we end up playing a part and playing the role we have created for ourself. But, in your heart of hearts, you know you’re not the person you present to the world. And, e know, deep down inside we are not connecting because the real “we” is no where to be seen. 

The danger is that we can become so used to showing our filleted self, so accustomed to the half-truths and exaggerations, that we don’t even know who our real self is anymore. Are you one person in one group of people and a different person in another group? Until you show who you really are, until you know and are fully known, you’re going to be longing for something more. You won’t really connect.

When we’re always filtered, when every selfie shows only our best side, we may impress some people some of the time. They may think, “Based  

Now that we’re on the same page about this, what do we do? Where do we go from here? How do we “turn off” our desire to constantly filter who we show the world we are? Well, some off-the-cuff suggestions would be:

      • Don’t use a filter every time on your photos
      • Try not to care so much about what people think
      • Just be yourself – if you still know what you are

All of this qualify as solid advice. But the truth is you can get advice like this anywhere. I’d much rather give you godly advice, wisdom that can come only from the source: God’s Word. I can give the solution to the problems with one simple phrase. Only Christ can remove the mask.

That’s it. When we turn to Christ, He removes the mask and the need to be someone you’re not.

Maybe you’re exhausted. You’re weary because you’ve already tried everything else you can think of. You’ve looked everywhere you can for affirmation. You’ve turned to one person after another, but you still haven’t found that thing you’re longing for. This is the promise you have from God, straight from His Word: You don’t have to remove the mask. When you turn fully to Christ, He does it for you!

Then you can finally drop the mask because you’re not getting your approval from Likes; you’re getting it from His love. You will no longer be living for the approval of people; you will be living from the approval of God. He will reveal the truth: you are acceptable to God through Jesus. You are the righteousness of God in Christ. His grace, His righteousness, is sufficient for you.

When you realize that Christ is all you have, you’ll find that He’s all you need. You don’t need approval from someone else because you have approval from Christ. When you turn fully to Jesus, you have the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead living within you. Your identity is not connected to how many followers you can get. Your identity comes from who you are following, and you are following Jesus. 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV).

Have you ever experienced the Spirit of God? Have you ever called out to Him? Asked Him to come and live inside you? When you do, you experience freedom. When we all take the masks off — because our lives are better when we’re together, when we act as the Body of Christ, when we allow each other to see the “real” us — we will truly see the Lord’s glory.

Why? Because we truly connect through our weaknesses and not through our strengths. Because it is not about you and me. It’s not about our selfies. The reason we exist is to give Him glory. When we do, this Scripture says we will begin to be transformed — not into the person we think others want us to be but into His image, bringing ever-increasing glory.

Turn to Christ.

He’ll take your mask(s) off for you.

He’ll transform you into the image of Christ, not for the approval of people but for the glory of God. 

We’re not called to elevate ourselves (John 3:30); we’re called to deny ourselves and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). The way to follow Jesus in a selfie-centered, social media world is to give Him glory in all we do.  

Surrender your selfies and social media accounts.

Let Jesus lift off your masks.

Be real.

Be you!

Monkeys Can Teach Us a Lot

Scientists once conducted a very illuminating experiment. In the middle of a room, they hung a bushel of fresh bananas half-way up a pole. They they let four moneys loose in the room. Immediately the hungry monkeys dashed toward the bright yellow bananas. As they climbed the pole, one of the scientists blasted the moneys with ice-cold water.

The moneys backed off, regrouped, then made a second attempt. As they started to climb the pole, once again they received the discouraging dousing. After several unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys became convinced that failure was inevitable and finally stopped trying.

The next day, the researchers removed one of the four monkeys and replaced him with a new monkey. What did the rookie do? He went straight for the bananas. But before he even reached the pole, the three veterans pulled him away. Undeterred the new monkey tried again. Again his compassionate roommates intervened. At last he gave up and adopted their fatalistic attitude.

Each day, the scientists replaced one of the original monkeys with a new one. By the fifth day, four moneys occupied the room, none of whom had ever been sprayed with cold water. From that day forward, whenever a new monkey was traded in, the others would prevent him from going for the bananas …without even knowing why. Four had failed, and then they conditioned the novices to not even try.

This happens a lot in life, doesn’t it? Someone gets hurt in a relationship and tells everyone else, “Don’t risk the pain. Stay single.” Someone wounded by a Christian spreads the word: “Christians are hypocrites. Don’t trust them.” A teenager makes some bad decisions, and his parents advise a younger couple, “Don’t have kids. They’ll wreck your lives.” To avoid potential failure and pain, people abort their dreams. They stop trying.

The lesson: Don’t let fear of failure make a monkey out of you. 

(Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist.) 

The lesson: Just because someone else had a certain experience, learn from it but don’t let it stop you from moving forward in your life.

The lesson: “God has not given to us a spirit of fear” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).

The lesson: Sometimes the ones you hang out with will hold you back.

The lesson, There is not always wisdom in a group of peers.

The lesson: Be careful who you hang out with.

Passionate People

Passionate people live each day to the fullest. They recognize that every day is a gift from the Giver of Life, Jesus. They know that there are a great number of problems in the world today but they see problems as opportunities for God to move and do what He is good at – performing miracles. In spite of what they face they embrace and live each day fully and passionately. 

Passionate people are not afraid of making mistakes. They learn from their failures and see them as one of life’s greatest teachers. And failure can be a great teacher is we choose to learn from it rather than let it crush us. And, passionate people make that choice willingly and quickly.

An employee in a large corporation made a mistake that cost the company a million dollars. The man was called on to see the boss, and he fully expected to be fired. But his boss had a different approach.

“Do you know the secret of making a million dollars?” Asked the boss. “It’s making good decisions. And do you know the secret of making good decisions? It’s making bad decisions and learning from them. I’ve just invested a million dollars in you, so learn from your mistake. It may turn out to be a reasonably priced lesson after all.”

What are some of the lessons passionate people learn from their failures? Here are just a few that come to mind:

      • Failure teaches us to depend on God
      • Failure teaches us humility
      • Failure teaches us that we can’t always get what we want
      • Failure teaches us to make a correction in our course of action
      • Failure teaches us character
      • Failure teaches us perseverance
      • Failure teaches us that we can endure and survive

In terms of personal failure and defeat, I like to divide people into two categories: learners and non-learners. When learners make a mistake or fail at a task, they are less likely to repeat it. Non-learners are destined to fail again and again. When learners do something that works, they will probably do it even better the next time. Non-learners are hard-pressed even to repeat the victory.

George Eliot once said: “It’s never to late to become the person you could have been.” I would go on to say that you are destined to remain the person you have always been, lacking the passion and joy in life you desire, unless you learn from your failures and defeats.

Passionate people hang in there when the going gets tough. They persist, they persevere, they never lose heart,, and they never quit. Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.” Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Combine these two scriptural principles, and you have the idea that a person who keeps praying and keeps persisting until success is certain — an unbeatable formula. And they pray and persist because they are passionate about life and everything each day contains for them.

The apostle Paul urged that we be “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). And he said to the Corinthian Christians, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us … Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16)

The “inward man,” of course is the key to all of this. When the torrential storm comes and the outward world is in turmoil we need to realize that we can live in the the calm of the eye of the storm. This means walking in the powerful understanding and faith that even if every worldly possession was washed away, God is unmovable and steadfast. And the best part is that this “inward man” – that spiritual passion – is renewed every single day. Here is the powerful inner strength that endure regardless of what the day brings our way. The powerful inner strength that enables us to be passionate people.

Psalm 46:1-3 “God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble — more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So we will never fear even if every structure of support were to crumble away. We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea. For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves cannot erode our faith in you.” (The Passion Translation)

If you have that truth locked in your heart, you will keep coming back for more. You will be persistent and passionate regardless. You will have the passion of Peter, the Rock. During his three years on earth with Jesus, Peter humiliated himself more than once. But the important thing in the end was not his failures but his resilience. His passion for life. His passion for Jesus. His passion for the Kingdom. His passion for the Church. His passion for the lost. Peter was the disciple who walked on water toward Jesus until his faith gave out and he started to sink (see Matthew 14:22-32). Was it more important that he failed or that he was passionate enough, engaged fully, that he stepped out of the boat in faith? 

Do others consider you a passionate person? Fully engaged and excited about living life with Jesus? Someone who is fully embracing every aspect of life, every day? And, if the answer is no, what would you need to change to be seen and considered to be a passionate person?

Think about it!

What Would Jesus Eat?

Jesus made a statement that should make us pause before we order our next burger. “My food,” He said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

Wow. My food is to serve God. My food is to please Him. My food is to complete the assignment that God sent Me to do. My food is to do the will of My Father and to finish His work. That’s a different kind of nourishment. And one that caused Jesus’ disciples to stop and think, just as it does us. At first they were a little confused. Their leader had just finished ministering to a thirsty woman who needed more than water from a well when the disciples realized it has been a while since Jesus had eaten. So his buddies urged Him to stop and have a bite so He could keep up His energy.

But Jesus, never one to miss a teaching opportunity, responded, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32). Now, if your mind is a bit odd like mine, you might imagine the disciples thinking, You’ve got food we know nothing about? Have you been hiding some of those new figs and olive Power Bars under your robe? Do you have pockets in there? Sneaking lamb kabobs from the temple concessions? Here we’ve been starving for hours and you’ve got some daily bread stuffed in your fanny pack? Why have you been holding out on us, Lord?

Maybe we’re not so weird after all, because the disciples also took the Lord’s response literally. “Could someone have bought Him food?” They asked (John 4:33). Maybe when we weren’t paying attention, one of the kids in the crowd slipped Him another Filet-O-Fish and some fries. 

When the people around us are all saying, “Get all you can! It’s all about you,” God wants us to contribute rather than to consume. When all of culture says, “Fill yourself,” God tells us to fill others. God didn’t create us to be takers. He created us to be givers. Rather than focusing on our desires, we are called to focus on the needs of others. Instead of cutting to the front of the line, we are called to wait at the end. God created us to serve.

And while at first it might seem like we aren’t getting as much (have you noticed how entitled the phrase “my fair share” sounds?), when we give our lives away, we discover a new and counterintuitive truth: When we give our lives, that’s when we find them. When we serve others, we’re serving God. We are more blessed when we give than when we receive. When we stop obsessing over what we want, only then can we find what we need.

And that kind of spiritual food, that spiritual nourishment, is far better than any burger.