Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feb 28 - DAY 16 - What Matters Most

Day 16
What Matters Most

No matter what I say,
What I believe, and what I do,
I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:3b MSG

From the moment my boys were born, they had distinct personalities. Take my first two, for example. Paul was compliant. (So much so that Mary Louise and I thought that we were the perfect parents. Jay changed that.) Jay came out defiant.

The saving grace with our little Jay-Bird was that he liked to cuddle. (That was God’s grace! After all, it took a lot of cuddling to heal the divisions from all that defiance!) Compliant Paul, on the other hand, was impossible to cuddle. He was always stiff as a board!

We’re all unique. And by nature we do things our way. Another way of saying, “doing things our way,” is to say that all of us are naturally self-focused. Babies come into the world demanding. They cry, “Feed me,” “Change me,” “Cuddle me,” “Entertain me.”

Some of it is nature. Some of it is nurture. But ultimately it’s all self-focused. Paul wanted what he wanted. Jay wanted what he wanted. I still want what I want. You still want what you want.

The journey of maturity is learning to stifle our selfish nature, and to put first God and his wisdom. Scripture says that one of the ways to do that is make loving God and neighbor our highest priority -- see Mt 22:37-40.

Rick Warren says, “Learning to love unselfishly is not an easy task. It runs counter to our self-centered nature. That’s why we’re given a lifetime to learn it.”

One thing we love about our daughter-in-law is that she has loosened up our board-stiff-Paul.

We can change our nature!

One of our best days as a family involved another change. It was when Jay finally channeled his defiant nature! After a couple good weeks with our ten-year-old son, Jay told us why, “I just decided that it would be easier to do what you said the first time. I always wind up having to do it anyway.”

Why don’t we consistently spell joy (and love) “Jesus-Others-You”? It’s because we’re defiant. Our selfish nature continually thinks, “Me-First.” Like Jay, we need to say, “I’m deciding that life will be easier to do what God suggests the first time.”

And maybe we need to be like Paul too. Maybe we need to entrust our lives into the hands of a good wife – wait, in this context, into the hands of truly loving and truly God-centered Christians – to loosen us up and teach us to love with our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind!

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who went through seminary, saying,
“My kids teach me more about theology
than many of my professors!”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feb 27 - DAY 15 - Formed for God's Family

Day 15
Formed for God’s Family

Jesus replied, "I assure you,
unless you are born again,
you can never see
the Kingdom of God."
John 3:3 NLT

What’s the only thing you can take with you to heaven?
  •      It’s not silver and gold.
  •      It’s not house and cars.
  •      It’s relationships! It’s our relationship with God and our relationship with other believers.

Rick Warren says, “Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational, and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son, and Spirit.” There are family benefits when we are (re)born into his family. First of all, we get the “the family name.” There’s also “the family likeness, family privileges, intimate family access, and the family inheritance.”

Then Rick Warren says something truthful … but hard for many. He says, “Your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever.”

Do you believe that?

In the teen version of Not a Fan, Pastor Kyle Idleman told of sharing the Gospel in a remote village in Africa. The next day, two young men showed up at the door of his missionary host. They had suitcases in their hand. The missionary explained that when they converted, their family disowned them.

Living in a culture that doesn’t disown people, that’s hard to imagine. But these men saw themselves as transferring from the path to destruction to the Kingdom of Light. And they counted the cost. They weighed it. And they determined the life in Christ – here now, and eternally – was worth the cost.

Now … these new converts will certainly hope that their closest relatives follow them on the path to life. I have a Japanese pastor-friend for whom this happened. The light of his faith inspired his whole family. Nevertheless, throughout history and throughout the world today, people are making a hard but life-giving choice: They’d rather be earthly orphans yet children of God … than the other way around (worldly children who are estranged from the eternal Father).

It doesn’t cost us much in this culture to change. So what’s holding you back? … or more likely, since you’re reading this: What’s hold you back from sharing your love and faith and testimony with someone you love?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s greedy
… not for silver and gold
… but for a lot of relationships
to take with me to heaven

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Feb 26 - DAY 14 - When God Seems Distant

Day 14
When God Seems Distant

O Lord, why do you
stand so far away?
Why do you hide when
I need you the most?
Psalm 10:1 NLT

Let me remind you of one of my favorite illustrations …

Three people are walking
along the top of a narrow wall.
Facts. Faith. And Feelings.
In that order.

Faith stays upright as long
as she faces Facts.

But whenever she turns around
to look at feelings,
she teeters and falls.

Rick Warren begins today’s chapter with the words: “God is real, no matter how you feel.”

In his words, do you see faith turning around, looking at feelings, and beginning to totter? “You won’t always feel close to him.” “Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance.”

Scripture is our best friend in seasons that seem distant. God’s Word is Truth. It holds the timeless Facts that will keep us walking forward, even in times of distance, doubt, and despair.

David is a wonderful mentor through all of the seasons of life. He’s honest. He has feelings. And sometimes life in this world snaps his head around. His feelings are swallowing him. So what does he do? Today’s verse gives us a clue.
  •      First, David is honest. He is honest with himself and he is honest with God: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?” (Ps 10:1).
  •      Second, he wills himself to turn from his feelings. In crying, “12 Arise, O Lord. Punish the wicked,” David is acknowledging the Facts in his head, even though he’s not experiencing them in his immediate circumstances. He’s saying, “God, I know you’re real. I know you’re active. I know you care. Act now. I’m desperate.”
  •      Finally, by acknowledging the Fact of an active God – even when he can’t see the results yet – David’s tottering faith begins to swell. Finally he is able to cry out again: “16 The Lord is king forever and ever! 17 LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. 18 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed…”

Did you see the pattern?
  •      When feelings and fears try to topple you, be honest with yourself … and with God. 
  •      Will yourself to face forward. Scripture’s promises are Facts. Face them. And will yourself to say, “Lord, I will trust in you.” 
  •      Praise God, trusting that your Faith will continue to swell the more you focus on him.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who loves pointing to the Facts
and pointing people forward

Monday, February 25, 2013

Feb 25 - DAY 13 - Worship that Pleases God

Day 13
Worship that Pleases God

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and
with all your mind and
with all your strength.
Mark 12:30

Have you ever said (or heard someone say), “I like to think of God as …”

That’s what I grew up with. Therefore, that’s what I often did. I defined God based on my priorities, my passions, my politics, my priorities, and my opinions. My God was lenient on the sins I committed and stricter on the sins that I didn’t like in others.

A few years ago, a new member didn’t like the stand we were taking on a particular social issue. Then he went to a Bible Study. He learned a principal he never thought of: It doesn’t matter what I think; it only matters what God thinks.

Rick Warren say that the first step to “worship that pleases God” is worship that is “accurate.” We worship him as he is … not as we (from our limited perspective) think he ought to be. (And learn that accurate picture of God through scripture.)

There’s a reason that this is the first step. If we’re worshiping an inaccurate picture of God, we’re not really worshiping God.

Next he wants our worship to authentic. Especially as a kid I went to church because it was dutiful. My wife doesn’t like dutiful expressions of my love (“I got you flowers because I thought I ought to on our anniversary). No. She likes the spontaneous, honest, and authentic expressions best. And sometimes it’s as simple as washing the dishes when she’s tired.

God simply desires a relationship with us. One that’s honest, spontaneous, authentic, and accurate.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants his spontaneous worship
to occasionally erupt into spontaneous combustion --
a life and faith that’s one fire for God!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Feb 24 - DAY 12 - Developing Your Friendshp with God

Day 12
Developing Your
Friendship with God

Draw near to God, and
He will draw near to you.
James 4:8

You’ve probably heard me say before that “some of my favorite people are recovering alcoholics.”

Why? “Because they’re the ones who learned they have to be honest to survive.”

Most of us can pretend. We hide our sins and faults and weaknesses. We wear a mask.

Perhaps the second most important line in The Purpose-Driven Life starts today’s chapter: “You are as close to God as you choose to be.”

And the most important step in growing closer to God is “choos[ing] to be honest with God.”

If we’re honest, too many of us are afraid to share our thoughts and feelings with God. Why?
  •      For one, we’re afraid he won’t like our deepest thoughts. But think about the irony: He knows our deeper thoughts already! Sharing our thoughts and hopes and dreams – both pious and imperfect – doesn’t change God  and his opinion of us. But it changes us! It opens up a corner of hearts. It brings the secrets into the light. It helps us know him. It helps us trust him. 
  •      Other’s don’t share with God because they don’t think it’s right or permissible to argue with The Lord’s rules, plans, and guidance. So rather than arguing with God about what’s on our hearts, we’re silent (think about what that does to the relationship) … and then do what we want anyway! When our kids do that to us, we call it passive-aggressive. Isn’t it ironic … trying to honor God by not arguing, we’re actually doing worse! 
  •      Let me list one final reason why people don’t share the thoughts and feelings with God: We’re afraid he’ll ask us to change. Ahh … that’s the real problem, isn’t it? When Jonah yelled at God, he was essentially saying, “I knew it! I knew that if I told the people of Ninevah what you wanted, they’d repent and you’d forgive. But I hate those filthy foreigners, and I didn’t want you to forgive them.”

Notice …
  1.      Job tried the silent treatment, ignoring God’s will.
  2.      It didn’t work. No matter if we stop up our ears and run the other way, we ultimately can’t escape God’s will.
  3.      But notice at the end what the reluctant prophet was doing: He was talking to God. Arguing, yes! But nevertheless, talking with God! It wasn’t pious speech. It wasn’t sweet and gentle and holy. But in conversation, an eternal relationship was being knit together.

I joked a few weeks ago in a sermon: “Don’t make me pray that God humbles you.” I could have added, “or swallows you with a whale … or sends a worm to eat your shade tree.” In other words, start talking to him now. “You are as close to God as you choose to be.”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who loved
(and needed)
this chapter

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feb 23 - DAY 11 - Becoming Best Friends with God

Day 11
Becoming Best Friends
with God

All this is done by God,
who through Christ
changed us from enemies
into his friends
2 Corinthians 5:18a TEV

Two songs are running through my head today. The first is …

What a Friend we have in Jesus

Some people find it radical to comprehend that God wants to be friends with us. Old Testament Jews certainly would have! Nevertheless, that’s our theme for today in our readings from The Purpose-Driven Life.
  •      God is holy. And some who have a high view of God’s holiness find it hard (even unholy) to view God as “friend.”
  •      Nevertheless, scripture also tells us that God desires a relationship – even friendship – with us. Unfortunately, some who view God as a buddy fail to bend their knees to his holiness.

While both are true, today’s emphasis is upon God’s desire for a personal relationship with each of us. “What a Friend we have in Jesus” reminds us of God’s ever-active, ever-loving part in this relationship. Consequently, if that relationship hasn’t blossomed into abiding friendship – and even you “hearing God’s voice” – the barrier, of course, is on our end.

But don’t worry. This is a common human problem. In fact, that’s why Rick Warren doesn’t entitle today’s chapter, “God is your Best Friend” (as if it’s an accomplished fact and we’ve all got it figured out) but “Becoming Best Friends with God” (as in, “this is a practical how-to guide for greater joy!”).

That’s why I’m singing a second song today (inspired by today’s chapter) …

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

Do you know that song? Rick Warren – as one of his how-to tools – suggests breath prayers. This song is my breath prayer for today.

It’s also a confession: Pastors need to grow in faith, prayer, and relationship too. “O God, I want to know you more.”

In Christ’s Love
a singer

Friday, February 22, 2013

Feb 22 - DAY 10 - The Heart of Worship

Day 10
The Heart of Worship

offer yourselves as
a living sacrifice to God,
dedicated to his service
and pleasing to him.
This is the true worship
you should offer.
Romans 12:1 TEV

I told someone recently, “Don’t make me pray that life humbles you!”

Like the alcoholic who must first admit that he has a problem, the first step to growing in faith is being humbled.

As A.W.Tozer says – page 79 in the old book – “the reason why many are … still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.”

If you want to grow in faith, there are two options …

First, we can wait until life humbles us.
  •      Even if we’re lucky enough to never have to worry about things like money and jobs, we all eventually will lose loved ones. And with time, the losses will mount. And unless we die suddenly or young, life will inevitably catch up with us. We’ll eventually grow old – withering, fading, and becoming feeble, forgetful, incontinent, and/or immobile along the way.
  •      This method of growth – stubborn waiting – works for some people. They wait until they are knocked down. They wait until they have no other choice than to reach up for help. And eventually they arrive at faith. But it sure is a painful way to grow!
  •      And it’s also a risky way to grow. Without rock of faith beneath your feet, life’s tragedies shake us profoundly (and much more than necessary). Without the experience of standing on the rock through smaller tremors, the big quakes are just as likely to snuff the embers of faith rather than fan them into a flame.
  •      It’s risky in another way too. If we wait for a sufficient number or kind of humblings before we turn to God, we may risk dying without him.

Secondly, we can humble ourselves pre-emptively.
  •      This is called surrender.
  •      And this kind of surrender is not a defeat.
  •      Surrender is the simple observation that God is big and loving and we are small and sinful. And it’s falling into strong arms.
  •      Surrender is admitting our own limitations and trusting in God’s guidance.
  •      “Surrender,” as Rick Warren says, “is best demonstrated in obedience.”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who doesn’t want to say,
“Don’t make me pray that life humbles you!”
(Humble yourself first!)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Feb 21 - DAY 9 - What Makes God Smile?

Day 9
What makes God Smile?

Noah consistently followed God’s will and
Enjoyed a close relationship with Him.
Genesis 6:9b NLT

I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed by Noah’s faith – especially the way Rick Warren tells the story!

There’s two ways that we can read the inspiring stories of the Bible.
  •      The first is as an impossible standard that mere mortals like you or me can never aspire to. (Consequently, many people don’t even bother trying.)

  •      The second way to read stories like this is as inspiration.

Christianity is not a to-do list. God won’t love you more or less on the basis of what you do or don’t do. But when we start doing what pleases God, we’ll find that our lives are increasingly more pleasing to us as well!

I don’t know about you, but I want increasingly more joy! Therefore, when I ask, “Which of the following do you want to start working on today,” I’m not listing to-do’s; I’m celebrating six potential paths to greater joy and freedom …
  •      Noah made God first in his life. What’s keeping you from putting God absolutely first?!

  •      Noah couldn’t comprehend how or why to build a massive ship, but he trusted God completely and did it anyway. What commands, calls, or invitations are you hesitating over? Why not trust like Noah?!

  •      Noah obeyed God wholeheartedly? What’s the one sin – or bad habit – that you just can’t shake? (It may be hard to kick, but it’s ultimately keeping you from freedom, peace, and joy. Ask God for his help.)

  •      Noah used his abilities … even some he might not have known he had. What skill do you think you’re called to use or develop for the sake of God and neighbor?

Rick Warren says, “God is looking for people like Noah in the twenty-first century.” Say to him – like it does in our new Lenten song – “Here I am … All of me … Take my life … It’s all for thee!”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who needs
a left-handed hammer
… it may be time to
build a boat!
(or at least tackle
an ark-sized calling)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Feb 20 - DAY 8 - Planned for God's Pleasure

Day 8
Planned for God’s Pleasure

worship him continually
Psalm 105:4 TEV

The first time I led a Purpose-Driven Life Study, I’d just arrived at a congregation that was in the middle of the worship wars – “traditional” vs. “contemporary.” Three months before I arrived, this old traditional congregation had started a new contemporary service … at the same time as another traditional service! People were coming into the church and turning left, right, and away from each other.

If worship is, as Rick Warren says, “bringing pleasure to God,” this congregation wasn’t producing much pleasure.

Pastor Warren’s words from today’s chapter eventually began to soothe those tensions. It’s not the style of music … it’s the heart behind it.

In fact, it’s not even about the music – though music can obviously play a tremendous role. So can the preaching … and the prayers … and the communion … and welcoming one another in peace … And yet, it’s not about any of these things either.

Here was the transformational part of today’s chapter for me – even as a seminary-trained pastor. Until Rick Warren said it, I don’t think I ever fully grasped that worship is not about me!!!

I pray that every Sunday you personally receive a blessing (or two … or twelve) out of worship. But that’s not the point of worship. Worship is about God – not you or me. Our focus should be directed at God – not our own wants, needs, or preferences.

Wait … all of the last paragraph is true. But reflexively, I subtly introduced a stereotype and error into this last paragraph.  Do you see it? I said, “every Sunday.” Rick Warren’s final – transformative – truth is that worship is not about Sundays! It’s 24/7 and 365 days-a-year. We are called to “worship him continually.”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who thinks
this could be the most
important chapter
in our lives!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Feb 19 - DAY 7 - The Reason for Everything

Day 7
The Reason for Everything

You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created everything.
Revelation 4:11a NLT

God’s glory has been on my mind lately.
  •      In the Old Testament, God often met with Moses in a cloud. Why? If God’s glory hadn’t been “clouded” or “veiled” Moses would have been overwhelmed. He probably would have disintegrated!

  •      God promised to be with his people. Therefore, by his command, they built a tent of meeting and eventually a great temple. But a veil – a literal huge curtain – separated the Holy of Holies where God dwelled from the place mere mortals could enter. Again, it was a protective, anti-disintegration measure.

  •      Moses, nevertheless, wanted more of God, so he cried, “Show me your glory?” (see Ex 33). So God actually gave him a glimpse. But to do so, God hid the prophet under a rock. God then covered him with his own hand. Then God said, “Wait until I pass. Look only at my backward parts.” The implication: If we see God’s full glory face-to-face … poof! Disintegration!

The miracle of the incarnation – Jesus’ coming to earth in love – is the re-integration. Re-integration has nothing to do with fire! It is a knitting together of what has been torn apart. Sin separates us from God. When God came in human flesh and when Jesus, the Messiah, died upon the cross to conquer sin, what was torn apart was stitched back together. Through Jesus Christ, we have a path back to God.

Better yet, we can stand now in God’s presence without evaporating in flames! Mere mortals – like Paul and John – say, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory [and] we have seen his glory … full of grace and truth” (Hebrews 1:3, John 1:14).
  •      God is glory.

  •      Our purpose is to bring God glory. (God actually says that in Isaiah 43:7 – “I created them to bring me glory.”)

  •      I love therefore, Rick Warren’s explanation of how to do this: “When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God.”

This begs the question: What’s my purpose? That’s what the rest of this book and these next 35 days of lessons are about – discovering God’s purpose and discovering greater joy.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who likes
2 Corinthians 3:18 …
All of us have had that veil removed
so that we can be mirrors that
brightly reflect the glory of the Lord.
And as the Spirit … works within us,
we become more and more like him
and reflect his glory even more.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Feb 18 - DAY 6 - Life is a Temporary Assignment

Day 6
Life is a Temporary Assignment

Friends, this world is not your home,
so don’t make yourself cozy in it.
Don’t indulge your ego
at the expense of your soul.
1 Peter 2:11 MSG

What is your life metaphor?

As life has progressed, my life metaphor has increasingly been … Life is a gift!
  •      I’m realizing that everything comes from God. Therefore, my proper response is thankfulness.

  •      Like the fruitcakes I’m given at Christmas, I’m realizing that this gift of life on earth has an expiration date. Therefore, I need to cling less to the things of this earth.

  •      Because gift of life on earth is temporary, I’m also learning to embrace – or at least laugh about – the increasing limitations of this earthly shell called my body. These limitations point me forward gratefully. Rather than clinging desperately – and futilely – to earth, they help me look forward to the promise of eternity.

  •      The previous understanding of this gift actually adds adventure to life. Has anyone ever given you a gift and inside is a clue to the next gift. The gift includes a treasure hunt, and with each clue the excitement mounts. But the greatest gift is waiting at the end. I’m learning to view blessings as clues. They point me to the greater gift of heaven, meaning that all of life is lived with more anticipation and joy.

  •      Because all earthly gifts have an expiration date, I’m learning to prioritize my time and focus more on the only things that will last for eternity – relationships. My relationship with God and my relationship with people of faith are the only things I can carry with me into eternity. Therefore, my greatest priority needs to be nurturing relationships and encouraging faith.

Rick Warren says our life metaphor should be that life is a test, a trust, and a temporary assignment. My life metaphor – life is a gift with an expiration date – fits most of these.

What’s your life metaphor? And how does it shape – for good or not-so-good – the way you live your life?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who rips
right into the gift
and doesn’t save
the wrapping paper

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feb 17 - DAY 5 - Seeing Life from God's View

Day 5
Seeing Life from God’s View

God withdrew from Hezekiah
in order to test him and
to see what was really
in his heart.
2 Chronicles 32:31 NLT

Rick Warren says, life is a test.

There was a time in my life when I would have limited God, when I would have said, “God is too nice to test us.”
  •      One, that’s me limiting God.
  •      Two, that doesn’t gibe with scripture.
  •      Three, that doesn’t gibe with our daily experience of life.

As Rick Warren says, life is a test. Every hour. Every day.
  •      How I use my time – moment-to-moment – is a test.
  •      How I respond to the inevitable – to change and grief and loss – is a test.
  •      Will turn to him and live … or will I strive for selfish-gain? That’s the ultimate test. We have but one life to make this eternal decision.

Testing is not my favorite life metaphor. (I’ll share my personal life metaphor with you tomorrow.) But I can’t deny that each moment tests me.

But here’s the good news amidst all of our tests. God does not have a smite button! In fact, he does not have to engineer trails – life in a broken world engineers quite enough already, thank you.

Life itself challenges us, and perspective returns when we realize that every life-test is an opportunity for personal  growth. Will I cling to God or turn to my own way? Will I trust and love or will I grow hard and bitter?

When I was a kid in school, I hated tests. But if I’m honest, the tests forced me to study They pushed me to learn. The tests help me grow and allowed me to become what I am today.

In retrospect, I’m thankful for the tests. Indeed, one of the secrets of life is to be thankful for life’s tests – sometimes even as they’re occurring. They help us to grow – grow in character, grow in perspective, and best of all, grow in faith.

In Christ’s Love,
a student
(test me if you have to!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Feb 16 - DAY 4 - Made to Last Forever

Day 4
Made to Last Forever

God has … planted eternity
in the human heart.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Pastors like funerals.

That always seems strange to people.

We hate death. We despise losing friends. We grieve when we see families grieve. But …

I remember my first funeral. A wonderful man named Allan died suddenly. He was a leader in the church. We called him, “Mr. Lutheran.” I couldn’t sleep at all the night before the funeral. It seemed like the hope of an entire family would be resting on me and my feeble words the next morning.

I’ve done a hundred funerals since. And while the pastor plays a role, hope definitely does not rest on me. All I have to do is point people to the cross and the empty tomb. The wonder of a funeral is that people are finally hungry for truth … and light … and hope … and the gospel. The cross heals. The empty tomb restores hope.

Even the best orators are accustomed to some droopy eye-lids. But a funeral is the only time when every ear is attentive. Every heart is cracked open a little more open. Clever words aren’t necessary. All we have to do is point people to the Savior, reminding them, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

And what is the effect of a hundred funerals on me? After each funeral, I’m more and more certain about the reality of heaven. Each time the scriptures of hope that we proclaim come more and more alive. Each life of faith that we celebrate gives me glimpses of how God’s grace repeatedly intersect with human lives.

Each funeral, therefore, personally encourages my faith.  And after a hundred funerals, I agree with C.S. Lewis a hundred times more …

If you focus on heaven,
you get earth thrown-in.
If you focus on earth,
you get neither.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s learning
to focus on heaven
… and is living life
more confidently

Friday, February 15, 2013

Feb 15 - DAY 3 - What Drives Your Life?

Day 3
What Drives Your Life?

You, Lord, give perfect peace
to those who keep their purpose firm
and put their trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 TEV

Have you ever shouted – maybe to your kids – “You’re driving me crazy”?

Well, if everyone’s life is driven by something, there’ve been times in my life when I’ve been driven by craziness. Circumstances have overwhelmed me.

What’s worse are my reactions. I’ve been angry. I’ve pouted. I’ve been passive-aggressive. I’ve tried the silent treatment. Those were childish responses.

Sadly, my “adult responses” are sometimes even worse. When circumstances overwhelm me, I tend to work harder. Working harder occasionally accomplishes a good number of things, but there are two negative consequences …

  •      One is exhaustion – like a hamster on a wheel, a tired-Ed expends lots of energy, but I’m going in circles and producing very few results.

  •      The second negative consequence to working hard is pride. I begin to think it’s me producing things – not God. And the more I adopt that mind-set, the more in my haste I exclude God even from the planning.

Rick Warren asks what drives us. The answer for me is … me. Me, myself, and I continually try to drive me. My priorities, my logic, and my desires steer me. My wants and reasons are my personal GPS.

When I don’t intentionally focus on God and his purposes, I am just a poor hamster on a creaky wheel. I’m in the wrong place … at the wrong time … doing senseless things … and wondering why I’m so tired.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who doesn’t want
to be nicknamed “Hamster”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Feb 14 - DAY 2 - You Are Not an Accident

Day 2
You Are Not an Accident

You saw me before I was born
and scheduled each day of my life
before I began to breathe.
every day was recorded
in your book.
Psalm 139:16 LB

God makes appointments. He’s the master-scheduler.

Ten years ago and just an hour before I taught for the first time on Day 2’s reading in The Purpose-Driven Life, a young woman walked into my office. Her life was a mess. And it all started with her parents.

Too many people make their parents a scapegoat for their own failures. This woman didn’t. The pain and dysfunction in her family were real. She been abandoned repeatedly. Abused repeatedly. Blamed repeatedly. Scarred immeasurably.

Most days I might have floundered over what to say. But that day, the master-scheduler placed a book in my hand. “Page 23,” I said, “’While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children … God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes.’ As the title of this chapter says, ‘You are not an accident.’”

Those weren’t my words. And in a sense, those aren’t even Rick Warren’s words either. Rather, they’re an echo from heaven and recorded in scripture. Indeed, “Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, he had us in mind” (Eph 1:4a).

Indeed, long before God laid down the earth’s foundations, he had this appointment with this young lady in mind. I’d call it foreknowledge rather than predestination. And I’d call it purpose … and hope … and life … and comfort.

Watch today. What appointments does the master-scheduler have in store for you?

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s honored
to be in God’s date-book

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Feb 13 - DAY 1 - It All Starts with God

Day 1 of The Purpose Driven Life
It All Starts with God

It is in Christ that we find out
who we are and what we are living for.
Ephesians 1:11 MSG

I can still remember where I was when I first opened The Purpose-Driven Life. Mary Louise and I were driving to a trailhead in the Santa Fe National Forest. Our morning devotion – before our morning’s exercise – was a chapter-a-day.

The first line grabbed us: “It’s not about you.”

From Rick Warren’s initial sentence, it was clear this book was different. “It’s not about you.”

I once thought I’d have to write my own discipleship materials if I wanted to teach people how to follow Christ, then I read, “It’s not about you.”

In this world, there’s a whole industry of self-help books. But with the words, “it’s not about you,” Pastor Warren begins to point us away from “self-help” to “God-hope.”

God-hope – rather than self-help – involves a radical re-orientation of perspective. And even though I’m a pastor, I need more of God and hope because too often I focus on trying to help myself.

My natural tendency is to be self-focused … rather than God-directed.
I too often look in toward myself … not beyond myself to God.
I instinctively focus down on this earth … not up to God.
I tend to live my life on the ground … not with my feet, my heart, my mind, nor my hope in heaven.

How about you?

The Purpose-Driven Life, including several group studies of this book, was a piece of my re-orientation. “It’ not about me.” I needed it then. I need it again. I need more of Jesus and less of me.

It’s a daily adventure!

Indeed, it is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

In Christ’s Love,
an adventurer who’s
off to slay a dragon
… me