2018: Hope and Future

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It’s interesting when one reads the book of Joshua, chapter two reads like a sidebar. As a chapter, it is unnecessary in telling the story. If you read chapter one then skipped chapter two and picked up with chapter three you wouldn’t miss anything in the progression. So why is chapter two included? What is the purpose of Joshua 2 and the story of Rahab, the prostitute? Was it so we would be grateful for the past? Was it so we could look back with amazement at what God did?

The purpose of Rahab’s story is not to tell us what God did. The purpose of Rahab’s story is to tell us what God does.

This is not a Sunday School story. It’s not a romantic fable. This event is a historic moment in which a real God enlisted the help of a real person to bring real hope and a future to his people.

But that’s not all. The story of Rahab does not end at Joshua 2.

  1. She started a new life. Not only did she survive the battle of Jericho, but Rahab also became a member of the Israelite community. She packed up and moved on with the people of God. She started completely over. The Bible informs us that she later married a Jewish boy name Salmon and raised a family of her own. She gained respect in the community.
  2. She also established a godly lineage. The first chapter of Matthew chronicles the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Guess who’s on that list? Rahab. Her descendants became the kings of Israel and Judah. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, was of a former prostitute’s lineage.
  3. She confirmed a legacy of faith. Jewish tradition holds that Rahab was one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived. She’s renowned as a hero of Israel even today. The book of Hebrews lists men and women set apart for their great faith. Look who shows up: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Heb. 11:31 NIV).

How has God used you? In what ways has God tapped you for service? When has God looked past your flaws because he loved you and chose to use you as a part of his unfolding plan? Look closely, and you will see how God has worked giving you a new life and a lingering legacy. God doesn’t want you to forget how he could use a prostitute named Rahab, and he doesn’t want you to forget how he can use you. You have a hope and a future.

May your life in 2018 be filled with extraordinary blessings and unparalleled favor.

Start your days off right in 2018. We often obsess on the life we want as obtaining certain possessions or higher status. But the life we want is much loftier than that. It hinges on undeniable traits, disciplines, and characteristics that define the soul and heart of a person. I write about this life in 21 Days to the Life You’ve Always Imagined. The book contains twenty-one daily readings to help you focus on what matters most for a life that matters. The daily assignments that follow each chapter will help you implement what is lacking in your life to discover and enjoy the life you’ve always imagined. Click here to claim your copy.

 

 

 

 

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The Cradle and the Cross

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A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable. And after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She felt what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year. Overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally, the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of gifts. When the doors closed, she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.”

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, “Don’t worry, we already crucified him.”

All born will die. Jesus was born to die.

It was the reason for his coming. Without a Good Friday and Easter, Christmas is just another holiday and not a holy day. To appreciate Christmas, we have to understand the relationship between the cradle and the cross. The most accurate picture of Christmas has a crib with the shadow of the cross looming over it. Jesus did not come into the world just to provide beautiful pageantry. He did not come so people could “Ooh and ah” over the precious baby. The essence of the Christmas season is not that Jesus was a baby. That’s important only in so much as it helps us to understand that he entered into the realm of humanity, that ultimately, he might save his people from their sin. The bottom line was that this baby would die, providing salvation for all who would believe.

In fact, his name—Jesus—means Savior. Jesus came to save. To redeem a fallen humanity. To make way for sinful people to approach a holy God. The only way he could accomplish that feat was through his death.

Christmas, therefore, is not just about a baby; it’s about a cross. See Jesus on the cross. Because he was 100% God and 100% man, he reached up with one hand and took hold of the Father, and he reached down with the other, taking hold of sinful humanity, and by his unique nature, he brought us together at the cross.

The whole purpose of his coming into the world was to die. His death fulfilled prophecy accomplishing God’s will, and conquering sin.

I fear at the Christmas season that we get caught up in the pageantry, the lights, the spectacle, the parties, the gift exchanging, the decorations, and all of that, that we forget that the baby would die for the sins of all humanity. Not that we shouldn’t be joyful and celebratory, we should. But, we should also have one eye on Good Friday when Jesus would hang from a rugged Roman cross. Without the cross, the birth is meaningless.

Jesus was born into the world to be our Savior. And, for that to happen, he had to die. Don’t forget that this Christmas.

I wrote a poem that embodies this truth entitled “Born to Die.”

People crowded tiny Bethlehem; it bulged at all sides.
The census brought visitors from far and wide.
“No room, no room,” was the Innkeeper’s cry.
The guest in the stable was born to die.

Touching him, Mary must have known,
By the Holy Spirit, his seed had been sown.
With swaddling clothes in a manger, he lies,
The little baby was born to die.

The wise men visited from afar,
With gifts so precious, led by a star.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the best money could buy.
But God’s gracious gift was born to die.

The shepherds gazed into the moonlit night.
An angel revealed an unbelievable sight.
Quickly they came, kneeling in the straw so dry,
Caressing the innocent lamb born to die.

Years later the child was nailed to a cross.
Down the splintery beam, his blood trickled like moss.
Onlookers passed uttering but a sigh.
Didn’t they understand? The Savior was born to die.

Nineteen centuries have passed the corridors of time.
Many celebrate Christmas but fail to comprehend the crime.
Merely recognizing his birth is no alibi
For adoring the eternal king born to die.

And, the good news is that Jesus died for you. It is the gift of Christmas. Jesus had you on his mind from the very beginning. Celebrate that. Then, you will understand the real meaning of Christmas.

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Do You Pass the Integrity Test?

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Integrity is to our character what health is to our body, or 20/20 vision is to our eyes. A person of integrity is whole; their life put together. In other words, who that person is when people are watching is the same as who that person is when no one is watching.

A person of integrity is like an oak tree. Strong. Tall. Deeply rooted. Growing upward. Fruitful. And, yes, exposed to life’s storms. In a thunderstorm, which tree is most likely to draw the lightning strike? Lightning, more times than not, strikes the tallest object. Consequently, we can expect that those who stand tallest for God will draw fire.

Daniel
Daniel is one of those biblical characters we usually associate with just one event. For Daniel, it is the lion’s den. But instead, we need to remember him because of the bottom line message of his life: his integrity. It flowed out of every pore of his being. It was the reason he was thrown into the lion’s den in the first place. The story of Daniel communicates that sometimes life throws us a curve ball when we least expect it. Our integrity will determine how we respond.

“So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den” (Dan. 6:16). Daniel was not in the lions’ den because he had done something wrong but because he had done something right. That’s a little bit confusing, isn’t it? We are under the impression that, when we do what is wrong, we will be punished for it and that, when we do what is right, we will be rewarded for it. That makes good sense, but it isn’t always true. Sometimes, when we do things wrong, we are rewarded for it (as far as this world is concerned), and occasionally, when we do what is right, we pay a terrible price for it.

Bob
A few years ago, my friend Bob faced a real dilemma. Bob, part of a management team at work, is responsible for cost and schedule management. “In other words,” he explains, “it’s my job to make sure my company delivers whatever we’re developing to our client on schedule and for the price specified in our contract.” Working with the space-station program, Bob realized a few years into the contract that his company could not deliver on their promise. He went to his superiors.

They told him to massage the figures. “Make it work.”

“But I can’t do that,” he said. “It wouldn’t be right.”

“Either do it, or we will find someone else who will do it.”

Bob wrestled with his decision over the weekend. He was in a real lions’-den predicament. What would he do? On Monday, he faced the threat of losing his job because of doing what was right. As a matter of fact, on Monday he was fired.

Daniel was not the last man to suffer for doing what was right. It cost him to keep his integrity intact. Likewise, Bob suffered. And we will suffer. And it will cost us. Count on it. Integrity always draws fire.

Atticus Finch
One of my favorite movies is To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, an Alabama lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white girl in the early 1930s. Upon taking the case, Finch immediately comes under the abuse and the scorn of the people in the town. The man was innocent, and Atticus Finch capably defended him; but when the jury came in, nobody was surprised that its verdict was guilty.

The lawyer’s two children were at the courthouse. Unable to find seats downstairs, they had gone into the segregated balcony and had sat next to the town’s black preacher. As the judge retired and the spectators filed out of the courtroom, Jean, Atticus’s daughter, was engrossed in watching her father. He stood alone in the room, transferring papers from the table into his briefcase. Then he put on his coat and walked down the middle aisle toward the exit—a beaten man but with soul intact. Jean felt someone touch her shoulder. She turned around and noticed that everyone on the balcony was standing. The black preacher nudged her again and said, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’ by.”

You and Me
One man’s integrity visibly moved those people. Likewise, people may trick us, deceive us, test us, ignore us, and criticize us. But know and understand this: one day they will stand up when we pass by because we faced life’s tests with integrity.

 

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Seven Values of Planning

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Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought eccentric because of how extensively he planned his plays before each game. Most coaches would wait to see how the game unfolded, then respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to react to him.

Walsh won a lot of Super Bowls with his “eccentric” proactive approach. He was a coach that looked into the future in advance.

The wisest person of all instructed, “The wise man looks ahead” (Prov. 14:8 LB).

Planning is the process of creating your organizational future before it happens. Like Bill Walsh, it is creating your actions in advance so that your life will respond to you. It is attempting to write history in advance.

Planning gives direction.
It’s like using a highlighter on a roadmap that indicates where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. The roadmap not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going. Planned abandonment—what you must not do—is just as important as planned adventure—what you will do. Churches, organizations, and ministries do not have the time, resources, and personnel to do everything. (God does not expect individuals or groups, including churches, to be all things to all people.) Planning helps one determine the few things that are worth doing, and worth doing well. One of the best benefits of creatively planning is that it allows you to simplify. It enables you to repack your bags, lighten your load, take the essentials for your journey.

Planning helps you to create rather than react.
Planning allows you the opportunity to create your actions in advance so that life will respond to you. At all times in your life, you are either creating or reacting. Each step along your journey you are faced with a choice either to create or to respond. Many people spend their entire days reacting. Like goalies in a hockey game, with pucks flying at you all day, you respond. You react to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges, and obstacles. But there’s a better way to live. It involves making choices and following plans. It consists of choosing to create. You create by planning, forecasting, and looking ahead.

Planning saves time.
A favorite quote of mine is: “One hour of planning saves three hours of execution.” Planning provides a time savings return. It provides me with a marvelous return on my investment. I only have twenty-four hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If I don’t use them wisely by looking ahead, I will forever forfeit those gifts.

Planning allows you to build on your strengths.
Effective leaders determine what the organization can do best and then does it. An expanded structure is built on strengths, not on weaknesses. The best resources—time, money, and personnel—is assigned to the opportunities that build on the strengths.

Planning reduces crisis.
Your life has two controlling influences: plans or pressures. When you choose to plan, you take charge and control of your days. If you fail to look ahead, you will spend your days in crisis mode. You will fall into the trap of “panic planning.”

Planning gives energy.
Failing to focus, you dissipate your energy on less important matters, improper agendas, and lost crusades. You become a dabbler, wasting your power on the trivial many. Much activity exists, but little productivity. On the other hand, when your look is focused, concentrated on the vital few, you are renewed, revitalized, and remade.

Planning is a spiritual experience.
Looking ahead cannot be done without the power of prayer. As your eyes engage the plan, allow your heart to join the Heavenly Father. Planning means praying together. It reminds me of the promise of God, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matt. 18:20 NASB). Without Christ, you can do nothing. Without him, you begin at no beginning, and you work to no end. So join Christ. Find out what he is doing in the world, and go with him.

 

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Three Actions to Take with the Truth

Witness swearing on bible telling the truth

Picture a courtroom. Now envision a woman standing before judge and jury, placing one hand on the Bible and the other in the air, and making a pledge. For the next few minutes, with God as her helper, she will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

She is a witness. Her job is not to expand upon nor dilute the truth. Her task is to tell the truth. Leave it to the attorneys to interpret, the jury to resolve, the judge to apply. The witness plainly speaks the truth—the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Throughout the Bible, we are called to the standard of truth-telling. Why? Because in telling the truth we reflect Jesus, for he said, “I am . . . the Truth” (John 14:6 NIV). Jesus was staunchly honest. Not once did Jesus stretch the truth. Not once did he shade the truth. Not once did he avoid the truth. He merely told the truth.

How do we tell the truth today?

Pursue the truth.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV). We must comprehend through diligent study and earnest prayer what God has graciously revealed in Scripture. Too many people are shallow, if not, ignorant of the biblical truth.

We must fill our minds with the truth of Scripture. We live in a culture that adheres to relativism, subjectivism, and pragmatism. We must make a concentrated effort to resist these influences by allowing our minds transformed by the truth of God’s Word. As we study and meditate on the riches of God’s revealed truth, we will know truth from error.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was right when he observed, “Many of you have already found out, and others will find out in the course of their lives, that truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit.”

Speak the truth.
The apostle Paul exhorted, “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25 NIV). I would encourage you to make the following commitment, “From this day forward I purpose in my heart, with the help of God, to speak only the truth, always and in every situation, for the rest of my life.” Such a commitment will inevitably improve our relationship with God and with everyone else.

Examine your heart. Ask some tough questions. Am I completely honest with my spouse and children? Does candor mark my relationships? Am I honest in my dealings in my business, at school, with friends?

Practice the truth.
If we are to proclaim the truth, we must live truthfully; otherwise, we are merely hypocrites.

Let’s take a test. Does my walk match my talk? Do people know me as an honest and trustworthy person? Can I be counted on? Do people trust me? Do I tell the truth, always?

The poem, “The Question,” asks a single question. As you read it, answer that question.
Were the whole world good as you—not an atom better—
Were it just as pure and true,
Just as pure and true as you;
Just as strong in faith and works;
Just as free from crafty quirks;
All extortion, all deceit;
Schemes its neighbors to defeat;
Schemes its neighbors to defraud;
Schemes some culprit to applaud—
Would this world be better?

If the whole world followed you—followed to the letter—
Would it be a nobler world,
All deceit and falsehood hurled
From it all together;
Malice, selfishness, and lust,
Banished from beneath the crust,
Covering human hearts from view—
Tell me, if it followed you,
Would the world be better?

Ralph Waldo Emerson was correct: “The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.” Let’s start today telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 

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Is Your Faith Different?

Businessman looking at faith door

We exercise faith every day. For example, sending our children off to school; filling a prescription then taking medicine; eating in a restaurant, depositing money in an ATM, signing a contract, driving on the highway, to mention a few ways. Faith isn’t some religious experience for the elite; it’s the glue that helps hold people’s lives together.

If everyone uses faith, what makes Christian faith different?

Faith is seeing God in every situation.
Everett Alvarez Jr. was the first American pilot shot down over North Vietnam on August 5, 1964. He spent eight and a half years as a prisoner of war, the first one and a half in solitary confinement. He was beaten and tortured.

His darkest hour came after seven years in prison. On Christmas Day 1971, his captors let him read a letter from his mother that said his wife had left him.

Alvarez emerged from captivity with a new spirit. He remarried soon after his release in February 1973. He earned a law degree in night school. He held two senior political posts in the Reagan administration. In 1988 he started Conwal Inc., the executive management consulting firm that employs over 200 people and pulls in more than $15 million a year.

In an interview, he said, “The hardest part was being alone. I used to do a lot of talking. I talked to God, and I realized I wasn’t really alone.” He scratched a cross outside his hut. Christian faith does not deny the problems and challenges of life. It does not turn away from reality. But it understands that beyond the facts of this world there is a higher reality.

Faith is no stronger than its object.
Faith is more than having faith in faith. Many have been misled to believe that if one had enough faith, they could do anything, even the impossible. But faith in what? Faith is only as good as its object. If an astronaut put his faith in a single-prop Cessna to get him to the international space station, he’d be nuts. His faith, no matter how sincere, reliable, or determined would get him no farther than the Cessna’s built-in power.

William Newton Clarke was right when he wrote, “Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.”

For the Christian, faith is in God. He is the object of the Christian’s faith. That is huge. By placing their faith in God, the Christian has all the power, guarantees, and resources at their disposal.

Faith grows out of a relationship with God.
Let’s suppose you’re shopping in a department store and a total stranger approaches you and says, “I think you should loan me $500 so I can buy a new washing machine.”

My guess is you’d either ignore him or say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t do business that way.”

Obviously offended, he would probably reply, “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me?”

I can hear your answer: “Trust you? I don’t even know you!”

Trust is a relationship that can be built only over a period. To hand $500 to a total stranger and expect to get it back isn’t faith; it’s presumption.

But let’s suppose it is your spouse that asks for the $500 to buy the washing machine. You would give the money, not because of presumption, but because of the relationship.

The Christian faith is not based on presumption, but rather on a walk with God and a growing relationship with him.

Faith is not unique. It is as commonplace as the air we breathe. But how we demonstrate and practice that faith is unique. And that’s what makes the Christian’s faith distinct from the rest of the field of faith.

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7 Characteristics of a Winning Team

Italy players hold aloft the FIFA World Cup trophy.

In a speech to West Point cadets following the Persian Gulf War, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said: “In the final analysis, you should never forget that the airplanes don’t fly, the tanks don’t run, the ships don’t sail, the missiles don’t fire, unless the sons and daughters of America make them do it. It’s just that simple.”

Leaders must realize that the critical need of selecting the right people is more important than ever and that the importance of people is more powerful than ever. As General Schwarzkopf also said, “If they fail, their leader fails.”

Putting the right people in the right place at the right time is a critical component of leadership. Select the right people and churches, business, and organizations thrive. Select the wrong people and the door swings open for problems that stifle growth and productivity and hurt credibility.

An active leader needs to employ a selection process that puts the right person in the right job at the right time. How do we select the right people?

People who are called.

Called people have a profound purpose about their lives that flow from a divine perspective. They are not trying to promote themselves, but instead, they support a higher cause. People who are called discover something bigger than themselves, a mission, a challenge, a goal, or a movement, that draws them into an arena. Called people have a sense that God’s hand is upon them whether they are engaged in a secular or a Christian vocation. They know that God has directed them to whatever type of service or work they provide. In other words, they do not feel a sense of choice in the matter. Consequently, they do not quit, and could not stop if they wanted to.

People who have character.

Character is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn’t succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Character is to personal integrity what health is to the body. Character is not reputation—what others think of us, nor is it success—what we have accomplished. Character embodies the total of our being and our actions. It originates with who we are, but it expresses itself in the way we live and behave.

Leaders can’t compromise the need for character in the selection process. No matter how gifted, trained, or seemingly mature a person is, the actual use of those attributes will be determined by character.

People who are committed.

That is people who display spiritual authenticity. People who have made a mature, consistent, commitment to Christ and his kingdom purposes. People who allow God’s Word to impact their lives daily. People who pray and seek the leadership of God’s Spirit. People who can honestly say to others “Follow me.” Do as I do.

People who are compatible.

The selection process requires that the leader enlist people who are a job fit, a relational fit, a skill fit, and a passion fit. Vince Lombardi once told this team, the Green Bay Packers, “In terms of skill and ability, every one of you is easily replaceable; there are plenty of players around with athletic talent to equal yours.” He went on to explain that the quality that distinguished Green Bay for the other teams was their “chemistry.” The power of chemistry that developed between members and the coach transcended, in Lombardi’s view, individual talent and prior professional experience. He saw it as enabling him to get significant effort from his players.

People who are coachable.

Coachable people are aware of their limitations and inadequacies and eager to learn and to improve. John Wooden, the former basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins, said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

People who are competent.

Competent people are talented, gifted, and perform at a high level. They know their job and do their jobs well. They bring their “A” game every day.

People who are contributors.

They function well as a team player. They are self-aware both of themselves and of others. They thrive in a healthy team environment, wanting the best in themselves and others. Peter Drucker said, “All work is for a team. No individual has the temperament and the skills to do every job. The purpose of a team is to make strengths productive and weaknesses irrelevant.” Contributors work together and help their teammates perform better to accomplish the common goal.

When the leader selects the right people for the right job at the right time, then he can give them the responsibility and leave them alone to do the job.

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What to do when you’re spiritually empty

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Spiritually I occasionally run on empty. During those times I have no energy to engage in ministry. I find no enjoyment in reading the Bible. I have little peace and contentment. I have action without emotion, oratory without power, and doctrine without love.

My empty spiritual tank is an invitation to disaster, like a car out of gas, I cough and sputter and pull over to the shoulder, out of service, unable to go any farther. I am drained. Everything in my internal world is chaotic. The Bible seems lifeless. My devotional life becomes a tiresome habit. I have no desire to pray. Communion leaves me as dry as the bread I swallow. Worship is vain. Serving Christ becomes mundane.

Spiritual emptiness is one of the most severe threats to Christian health. What am I to do? I have learned that I am more prone to run on the spiritual red line when I don’t care for my soul and my body. Therefore, I can overcome spiritual emptiness by adhering to some fundamental soul and body maintenance practices.

Receive Spiritual Nourishment

Without regular tune-ups, repairs, maintenance, servicing, and filling of the gas tank the car will eventually sputter out. So will my walk with Christ. Someone has said that if the intake does not exceed the output, then the upkeep will be one’s downfall. It is a spiritual law that the one who gives out much must also take in much.

The antidote to spiritual undernourishment is a consistent time alone with God—a fixed time of personal nourishment with God through the Word and prayer.

Engage in Service

A boat will rust out quicker in dry dock than when put to the test on the open seas. A car will rust out faster sitting idly in the driveway than by being run every day. Likewise, believers in Christ have been endowed and equipped to serve. For me to idly sit when endowed with gifts for disbursement, I will “dry rot” and “rust out” quicker than when engaged in ministry and service.

The antidote to my idleness is to give myself away in service and to disburse my gifts in ministry. For every quiet time, I need a “try it” time. A “try it” time is putting my faith into action. It’s what I practice. It’s taking the truths and principles of God’s Word and trying them out in daily living.

Avoid Over Commitment

In the Christian life, it is easy to become overcommitted. It’s a condition of spiritual overstrain. At times too much of a good thing can be damaging, like too much oil for the car. This situation is often expressed through the poor theology, “The devil never takes a day off, so why should I?” Who said I was supposed to be the devil?

I hesitate to share the antidote for spiritual overstrain because others may take it the wrong way and use this cure merely as an excuse for their undisciplined nature and laziness, I am compelled to share this treatment with those who are at the point of spiritual exhaustion while doing all the right things. If one is spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, it will not make sense to prescribe for that person to pray more, study the Bible longer, and attend more meetings.  This prescription would be the same as advising a person with diabetes to eat more sweets and sugar. Or to think that if a small amount of fertilizer is right for the lawn, then a more massive amount could only be better.

When I am spiritually empty due to spiritual overstrain, it is helpful to engage in a time of restraint or monitoring of spiritual disciplines. In other words, I limit my devotional time to a minimum. I pray only shortly. I abstain from reading religious books. I step back from congregational activities for a while. I limit my spiritual disciplines until the appetite for spiritual things is aroused again. And you know what? It eventually returns.

Replenish Your Physical and Spiritual Resources

A disregard of my physical body will affect my psychological health and cause spiritual drought. If I don’t come apart, I will come apart. The bow that is always bent will eventually break. The car that is forever run will subsequently “rattle, rattle, clatter, clatter, boom, boom, boom.” Then sputter and die. Even the fine-tuned cars that race in the Indianapolis 500 need pit stops. I cannot separate body and soul. They are linked together. To ignore the body will reap severe consequences for the soul with an inevitable result of spiritual emptiness.

The antidote for physical overwork is Sabbath-rest or “still” times—the times of personal and spiritual replenishment. Still times renew my spirit and my soul and my body.

The Christian life is not like a drag race. It is more like a cross-country road race. And to survive for the long haul, I need to regularly and consistently engage in those activities that keep my body, my mind, and my soul running in top condition.

 

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5 Steps to Becoming Wise

wisdom2[1]

Can you see beneath the surface of issues? Do you have insight into questions? Most matters are rarely black and white; they are usually a shade of gray. What is needed is wisdom, true wisdom.

Sometimes wisdom goes by its nickname, sound judgment. It’s the ability to make the right calls. Someone has said that knowledge is the ability to take things apart, while wisdom is the ability to put things together. Other words that fit under the umbrella of the biblical concept of wisdom are discerning, judicious, prudent, and sensible. Not very glamorous words, perhaps, but words you can build a life on.

So how do we get it? How can you be a wise person?

Understand that wisdom comes from God.

If we want wisdom, we must seek it from its proper source, God himself. A relationship with God is the beginning of wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10 NIV). Wisdom is uncommon sense. It originates with God, resides in God, emanates from God, and is given as a gift from God.

The Bible says the opposite of wisdom is foolishness and the opposite of a wise person is a fool. Today the word fool often means someone with low intelligence, but in biblical usage, fools may have a high I.Q. and a reputation for success. What makes them a fool is that they ignore God, preferring to follow the dictates of the crowd or their own fallible opinions.

Pray for wisdom.

God has commanded us to ask for wisdom. James, for example, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 NIV). God generously gives when we ask for wisdom.

Meditate on God’s Word.

Meditation brings wisdom—the ability to see the best course of action in the midst of a problem. Meditation brings insight. Teachers show us how things work. Insight is the ability to see inside, to know what makes people and things operate. Meditation brings understanding—to see life in perspective, put it all together, and make sense of it.

When I became a Christian, I heard Billy Graham say that he read a portion of the Psalms and one chapter from the book of Proverbs each day. If it were good enough for him, then I would do it. Daily reading from God’s Word has provided me with the insight and understanding to steer me clear of folly and toward wisdom.

Hear and heed the counsel of those you respect.

Why do we listen to others and seek guidance from others? Because they have been through experiences and endured trials, we have not yet encountered. They can look at our situations more objectively and with varied perspectives. Solomon said over and over again in his Proverbs, “A wise man listens to advice” (Prov. 12:15 NIV).

God gave us two ears and only one mouth, which might suggest the proper ratio of listening to speaking if we wish to become wise. When we talk, we hear just what we already know. When we listen, we have an opportunity to learn and grow wise.

Seek wisdom with all your heart.

Sometimes God gives wisdom only to those who press after it like a thirsty deer searching for water or like a greedy man wanting to make more money. You have to go for it, want it more than nearly anything else. Then you shall have it. God has promised the wisdom to those who seek it with their whole hearts.

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Hope for the future

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We speak of hope now and in the future, but never hope for yesterday. Hope always has a future focus. Saint Augustine said, “Hope deals with good things, and only those which lie in the future, and which pertain to the man who cherisheth the hope. When hope attains its object, hope ceases to be and becomes possession.”

Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord links the future and hope. He promises the exiles who wished to return from captivity to their homeland: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29: 11 NIV). God always has our best in mind.

When we understand the future focus of hope, we are able to look at the events of life in a new light. We realize, for example, that out of suffering there is good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NIV). Hope knows to look beyond the painful realities of this life. Through suffering God is either teaching us a lesson or preparing us for something grand. He can turn our “disappointments” into “His appointments,” which hints that the thwarting of my purposes may be God’s better plan for me.

We also come to understand that out of sorrow there is life. Christian hope is securely wrapped and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle of hope, Peter, reminds us that we can rejoice even in the midst of sorrow and death. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4 NIV). Through the resurrection of Jesus, we mortals have a glimpse of immortality. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death has been translated from an ending into a beginning, from a period to a comma, from a conclusion to an introduction, from a final destination into a rest stop.

The Christian life is hope experienced. A hopeless Christian is a contradiction in terms. For our hope is based on God and his promises, is cared for in the community of believers known as the church, and is granted fulfillment in heaven through eternal life.

Yes, hope and life are intertwined.

Several years ago, a teacher assigned to visit children in a city hospital received a routine call requesting that she visit a particular child. She took the boy’s name and room number and was told by the teacher on the other end of the line, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now. I’d be grateful if you could help him with his homework so he doesn’t fall behind the others.” It wasn’t until the visiting teacher got outside the boy’s room that she realized it was located in the hospital’s burn unit. No one had prepared her to find a young boy horribly burned and in great pain. She felt that she couldn’t just turn and walk out, so she awkwardly stammered, “I’m the hospital teacher, and your teacher sent me to help you with nouns and adverbs.”

The next morning a nurse on the burn unit asked the hospital teacher as she came to help the boy again, “What did you do to that boy?” Before the teacher could finish a profusion of apologies, the nurse interrupted her: “You don’t understand. We’ve been very worried about him, but ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.”

The boy explained later that he had completely given up hope until he saw that teacher. It all changed when he came to a simple realization. With joyful tears he expressed it this way, “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?”

Hope and life are inexplicability woven together. To know the certainty of God’s heaven is to have hope reign supreme.

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