How to Chart A Course to Your Purpose

rocket shipTrust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

When the Lunar Modular of Apollo 11 landed on the moon, do you image that scientists set a course and never wavered?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  All along the way, the astronauts monitored their location and used the ships burners to push it a little bit this way or that to head it back toward the moon.  Each maneuver took the ship a little too far or not quit far enough and so corrections were made to the corrections.

Because the men on the mission were aware of the need for constant vigilance, they were not frustrated or defeated.  They did not give up and they made it to the moon.  They reached the goal by using the following process:

  • They knew where they were going;
  • They expected to get off course;
  • They took appropriate action to get back on track;
  • They repeated this action as many times as it took to reach the destination;
  • They didn’t give up and simply go wherever the ship was pointed;
  • They didn’t get discouraged and abandon the ship.

You are like a space ship on a mission. You must know where you are going.  If you don’t have a destination firmly in mind, you will not reach any goal.  Circumstances, moods, and emotions will come along to distract you, push you in a new direction, or rob you of energy and motivation.  If you’re not aware of these dynamics or don’t know how to redirect yourself toward the prize, you will drift—ending up wherever the current of life pushes you.

Most people do.  They settle for lives of mediocrity because they think getting off course means the end of their dreams so they go with the flow or give up altogether.  But you don’t have to.  Drift is the normal state of events.  Stuff happens.  Deal with it and keep going.

King David was a man after God’s own heart.  He slay the giant, won many battles, and ruled a prosperous land; but David didn’t always feel powerful and upbeat.  Many of his Psalms begin with his expression of defeat, fear, and discouragement, but they don’t end on a down note.  He reminds himself of the love and mighty power of God and it turns him around.  At one point before he became king, his army was ready to stone him because of the the loss of their wives and children.  1 Samuel 30: 6 KJV tells us that David was very distressed, but he encouraged himself in the Lord.  Rather than giving up and running away, David asked God what he should do and then he got up and did it!  He and his army were victorious!

When you know in your heart where you need to go, but find yourself off course–defeated, depressed, confused–depend on God to put you back on the right track.  His power and guidance are like the boosters of Apollo 11—He will correct your trajectory. Though we sometimes fail, we can get up and begin again because his mercies are new every morning.  Begin to look to Him, trusting His love for you to always be there leading you to the very place of which He has painted such a vivid picture in your heart.  Refuse to look to the right or to the left.  Always keep your eyes straight ahead on the Master.

No matter the destination, He is the Way.

How to Change Your Thinking for Inexpressible Joy

Joy to the world illustration. Vector life style banner. Sketched text quote illustration.
Joy to the world illustration. Vector life style banner. Sketched text quote illustration.

“You love him even though you have never seen him.  Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1: 8-9 NLT

 As Christians, we often read passages like this one and believe that it refers to our eternal destiny.  If we love God and trust the finished work of Christ on the cross, we will go to heaven when we die.  We have assurance for the sweet by-and-by.  Good luck with the rough here and now!

This belief comes from a view of the word “soul” which some consider synonymous with the word “spirit.” Word studies show that this is not consistent with the biblical use of these terms.  The Greek word most often used for “soul” is “psyche.”  This translation makes it easy to understand that our soul is our mind, will, and emotions.  Loving and trusting God will save our soul—that frequently unhappy place where our negative thoughts wreck havoc on our lives and keep us from enjoying the blessings all around us.  If your mind, will, and emotions need a rescue, putting your thoughts in order with God’s Word is your lifeline.

The trouble is often that, when we are negative and down and could profit the most from the truth about God’s steadfast love and care, we are least inclined to want to hear it.  Friends quote scripture and we are offended. “Those platitudes won’t work for me! My situation is serious!”

Richard Carlson, PhD is a psychologist who has written several books on changing your mindset in ways that can make you feel happier.  He has even been so bold as to write a book entitled, You Can Be Happy No Matter What.  In this book Carlson asserts that the first principle of happiness is realizing that you are the thinker of your thoughts.  We have learned to interpret our thoughts as if they are reality, but this is not always true (Carlson, 2006, p.13). I f we accept God’s Word as truth, we must examine our own thoughts to see if they line up with what God says.

The Apostle Paul exclaims in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (AMP), “We lead every though and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ.”  What this means on a practical level is that, if I am moping about my finances, convinced I will end up as a bag lady living in the street, I must let those thoughts go!  At that moment, my soul needs salvation.

We are cleansed by washing our hearts and minds with the Word of God found in the Bible (Ephesians 5:26).  When “dirty” thoughts bring us down, we can clean them up with the Truth:  “And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 AMP).  “[God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. (Hebrew 13:5 AMP).

We must be willing to hear and accept the truth–no more, “Yeah, but…”.  I like the anonymous quote, “You decide every moment of every day who you are and what you believe in.  You get a second chance, every second.”  You may feel mired in the bag lady theory of your existence, but at any moment you can decide that God is true even if every man (and your bank account) is a liar (Romans 3:4 NLT).  You have and will have everything you need.  This principle will work with any of your negative, scary thoughts.  Search the scripture to find out what God has to say on the subject and counter your thinking with truth.

According to Dr. Carlson, the key to happiness is in your thoughts.  When we fill our hearts and minds with the hope and promises of God and trust in Him as Peter urges us to do, we will rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).  Sounds like happiness to me!

How to Create An Eternal Legacy

success concept on digital tabletThinking about the speed at which 2015 is breezing by got me wondering what I have done with my life of any importance during this year, and really my entire 62 ½ years.  I, like most of us, have a list of things I want to accomplish in my time on earth.  The one thing that always comes up short on time and attention is writing a book.  Writing a book, I imagine, would be a lasting monument to the things that I have discovered; a way to pass on to future generations the benefit of my experience and acquired wisdom.  I want to be a help to others on the journey. Its part of the human condition to want to leave a mark on the world, but life—read “people”–always seems to get in the way.  This morning, however, it occurred to me that we leave our stamp not so much by what we create, but who we are.

Take Jesus as an example.  He was a carpenter by trade.  I’m sure he built a lot of stuff.  Houses, maybe?  Furniture?  Not sure what his specialty might have been, but more than 2000 years later, some claim to have splinters from The Cross, but none display their Jesus-built coffee table.  It is His relationships, His way of being in the world, and His revelation of the Father that resonate throughout the centuries.  His love changed the world.  He wasn’t focused on building a monument to Himself to mark his place in time on the planet.  Acts 10:38 (KJV) says He “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.”  He never wrote a book, but He inspired many, including the biggest seller of all time.

God gives each of work to do, of course.  We were created anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things he planned for us  (Ephesians 2:10).  If He is directing you to write a book, build a company, create a ministry—whatever you feel is your calling—then you must follow His lead.  The desire to complete the task burns inside you and will not go away.  But if you, like me, find that the demands of the people in your life interrupt your best laid plans to fulfill your LIFE PURPOSE don’t despair.  Instead, live and love, take one day at a time.  Trust and rely on God, listen for His voice directing you, just as Jesus did.  It is small, daily acts of love and caring that make the biggest impact for generations to come and, indeed, for eternity.

Don’t Wait Until You Die to Be Happy

Key to happiness

 

When I opened my ipad today I found that Apple had been perusing my music choices and had made suggestions of songs I might like based on what they found in my library.  One choice proffered was a tune by the group Acappella titled Everybody Will Be Happy Over There.  I listened to the snippet provided and the peppy, harmonious ditty did indeed make me feel significantly happier so I downloaded the song and played it many times on repeat.

Listening to the lyrics extolling the joys of heaven–being with Jesus, trouble-free–I realized that Christians have these blessing available to us right now, on this side of glory.

We know the Savior and He invites us to intimate relationship.  While most of us think of eternal life as what happens to us after we die, the Bible tells another story.  Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3, KJV). He told us that He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10) and that, though life has it’s problems, He is greater than them all (John 16:33).  He invites us to ask for all we need and if we believe, we will receive it (Mark 11:24).  (And, just in case we feel there must be a fancy, spiritual motive to these requests, we notice that Jesus’ example was to ask a fig tree to shrivel up and die because it didn’t produce the figs he was looking for!)  We can cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

Of course, our earthly existence does not compare to the wonders that await us when we see Jesus face-to-face.  Revelation 21:4 tells us that God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, or  sorrow, or crying, no more pain–those things will be gone forever.  But enjoying fellowship with Jesus, trusting in His promises, and knowing our final destiny is to be united with Him and the other precious souls we loved in this life (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) should make us very happy indeed!

 

Are You a Casual User of Kingdom Knowledge?

Learning with Touch Screen TabletThe kingdom of God is like a computer.

Anyone can accept computers and most people do. A smart phone seems to be attached to the end of every arm. These tiny computers have been simplified to the point that even toddlers can make them do their bidding.

Tablets, laptops, desktop models. Articles are appearing now about how we use multiple devices at once–talking on our phone, checking email on our laptop while streaming video on the tablet. We get a tremendous amount of productivity out of these devices with only a passing knowledge of how they work.

There is massive information and science behind this easy interface. Programmers, electrical engineers, and others who bring us computer technology, completely understand and apply these principles to make using them seem like child’s play.

The majority of Christians know and accept Jesus as Savior based on a few sermons or the say-so of parents or friends. When our lives are perking along within acceptable boundaries, Sunday School stories and cursory prayers bring us peace and comfort. Our faith simmers on the back burner, scenting our days with a pleasant aroma.

When things so wrong, however, it’s a different story. The unwatched pot is scorched and it’s contents–the refrigerator verses, the congregational prayers read from the wall at church–are useless and even stink! It’s as if your friendly, useful computer were

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suddenly attacked by a virus and totally turned into your worst nightmare. The average user hasn’t a clue where to go from there–and neither does your average church-goer.

When life hands us serious problems–unending pain, death, loss–we have two choices:

  1. Discard the things we have learned about Jesus as worthless, as we might a broken or out-of-date computer, or
  2. Believe that every promise, every word is true and dig in like an engineer to find our own mistake.

Engineers know that computers work on physical laws and principles.

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If something isn’t working, the law didn’t change. It’s a matter of finding the fault in the coding, the wiring, the component, and fixing it.

There are spiritual laws and these are eternal. Psalm 89: 1-2 declares:

Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.

James tells us that God never changes (James 1:17)

Casual faith and minimal knowledge will get you by in the good times, but they will not be of much use when everything breaks down.

We can go to those who’ve studied and learned God’s spiritual laws to help us in our crisis, but in the end, we must each learn them for ourselves and apply these principles to our own lives. Studying the Bible–the manual for God and how He works–and developing a deep personal relationship with Him through quiet time and prayer are the best ways to be prepared for the hard times.

Imagine the excitement of a software guy upon meeting Bjarne Stroustrup, the father of the programming language C++ or of the hardware engineer with

an opportunity to pick the brain of Charles Babbage, the first person to come up with anything like a modern day computer. We each have the opportunity to talk to and learn from the Creator of all things. He will explain it all.

God has wonderful things in store for you. Like computers, the key to getting the most out of life requires knowing the hows and whys and the what-to-dos if we are to make it past the difficulties and frustrations. Our heavenly Father has a wonderful tech support system in Bible study, prayer, meditation, and relationship with other believers, but unlocking the mysteries requires believing and diligently seeking.

Is God’s Word true for you in your crisis?

We All Need A Little Mercy!

A helping HandO, Lord, have mercy!

This is a phrase I heard often in my childhood and I think it’s

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context illustrates the meaning of “mercy” pretty well. It was my mother’s tired plea to escape the consequences of her decision to have four daughters! As an only child, her fantasies of life in a large family were out of sync with the rowdy, fighting bunch of girls she dealt with every day. When asked what she had expected, her reply was a weak, “I just thought we’d sit

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around and love one another.”

When we think in terms of our sin, forgiveness is letting it go, cancelling the

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debt and allowing us to be in favor with God. Mercy is more.

Forgiveness removes the spot of sin from our lives. Mercy relieves us of the consequences as well. It is because of His mercy, His desire to bring us back to Himself that Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness.

So many times in my life I have received God’s mercy. Though the Bible teaches in Galatians 6:7 that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, I often think of the crop of bad choices I’ve sown and realize that God must have sent his angels to pull up the tender shoots before they grew to maturity! Without God’s mercy as well as His forgiveness, my life would look like an overgrown weed patch instead of the blessed and beautiful garden that it is.

Most of the time, we roll through life, blissfully unaware of God’s mercy. Run the “yellow” lights, waste a little money here and there, indulge the occasional sinful impulse and we get by—nothing tragic happens. We’re drifting away from safety and being careless with our lives and our relationship with our Heavenly Father, yet because His mercy upholds us, we don’t see the cliff ahead.

One day, however, we find the chasm too wide for us to jump and we fall into the ditch—literally or figuratively. That’s God’s mercy, too, because He knows He can lift us up from the lowest place when we reach out our hand to Him. He allows us to experience some of the consequences of sin—both our own and those of the fallen world we live in.

It is in those times that we are most fully aware of His mercy. When ceasing to exist would seem to be a good option, we suddenly feel His love and care…the breeze is cool and crisp, the Bluebonnets are finally in bloom, or we share a lighthearted afternoon with a friend.

God’s mercy is all around us, whether we escape the tragedy or it comes crashing down on us.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

As Christians, we are the Body of Christ. It is through our hands, our feet, and our mouths that He demonstrates His love and mercy to those around us. He has given us so much mercy, so much grace, and so much love. His admonition to us is found in Matthew 10:8:

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“Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Pass it on.

How has God shown mercy in your life?

Don’t Let Your Life Be Stolen By Fear!

BurglarFear is a sneak thief!

He has an especially wicked trick. This bandit manages to steal things from you that you haven’t even gotten yet. Most thieves come and take away your possessions. Fear steals your potential.

He interrupts dreams with twin terrors: fear of failure and fear of success. He doesn’t care. He’s just as happy to whisper, “You’ll never do it” or “You don’t have any talent” as he is to mock your success, “You think you’re such a big shot!”, “You’re gonna be lonely at the top.” He’s is a master at recognizing your mood at any given moment. Feeling low? Fear will take you lower. On a high? “Better watch out!”

He’s artful at disguises, too. He masquerades as legitimate reasons for not moving forward. “No time for that right now.” “Why rock the boat?” “Next year when we’ve saved more money.”

He’s not picky about the projects he takes on either. Going to the gym, starting a business, asking for help, even saying hello to a stranger who might just become a friend or partner. Nothing’s too large or too small for Fear. If something good is at stake, he will jump right in with his lies and threats to make sure nothing happens.

We think of Fear as a friend–at least at first. We nurture him, listen to him, agree with him. He makes us feel safe. He protects us from the bad “what if’s”. Trouble begins when we realize that he grows stronger and stronger each time we heed his advice. Fear started with the small stuff, but now he seems to control the show. Suddenly, we’re trapped in a suffocating cocoon built bit by bit as we allowed ourselves to believe the “False Evidence Appearing Real” and we placed another barricade up against the opportunities that came our way.

Most of the time we live in perfect harmony with this constant companion. Fear’s not stupid. He knows he’s got to give you a little space. You’ve got a job (even if you don’t love it), you have some friends and a family. You’ve got a comfortable little life–focus on “little”. But if you get too close to the boundaries of that life, if it looks like you might

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pretty far, but the push of a button snaps you back.

How can you break free? How can you arrest this crook and lock him up forever?

1. Recognize him for who he is.

The Bible tells us that the thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. 2 Corinthians 11:14 confirms that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light–sometimes things that look really beautiful and good can destroy you in the end. Don’t be fooled!

2. Make a list of all the things Fear has stolen from you.

If you were calling the police to report a burglary in your home, you’d look around to see what had been taken in hopes of getting it all back. Making a list and realizing just how much of your life’s potential has been stolen by this creep should energize you to put an end to his shenanigans and give you clues as to where to look for your goods.

3. Call him out every time!

When Fear starts his old routines: “You don’t really want that”, “You don’t have the time” pull off his mask and call him by name. FEAR. Counter his attacks: “I will MAKE time for this because I really DO want it, and I CAN have it!

4. Repeat step 3 as necessary.

If Fear has been controlling your life, he can get you to back down with only a glance. It will take time and persistence to wear this thief down and regain your footing.

5. Start small.

Reverse the grip of Fear by challenging him on everything! Say hi to homeless people on the street. Give away a chunk of money you’ve been saving to a cause you believe in. Eat lunch by yourself in a restaurant. You don’t have to start with the biggest, scariest thing on your list–JUST START!

Dale Carnegie had the best advice for getting past your fears and living the life God intended for you to live:

“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it…that is the quickest and surest way yet discovered to conquer fear.”

Don’t let FEAR steal your future!

How do you fight the culprit of Fear?

 

You Are A Valuable Piece of God’s Puzzle

blue_butterflyWhy do we so often look at the skills, possessions, and lives of others and image that they are so much more valuable than the ones we have?

I keep thinking about a video that I saw during the Christmas season. It was illustrated with enormous silkscreen prints. These panels were elaborate, colorful images created by painstakingly layering color upon color to reveal a breath-taking, light-filled scene from the Nativity story. The concepts, design, and artistry were brought to life by many, many hours of tedious work. Knowledge of this process increased my appreciation of the pieces, but did not decrease the creativity or talent required to produce them.

The artist was interviewed in the video and he dismissed the talent and vision that inspired the beauty and story-telling quality of the pictures, focusing instead on the idea that he was a “hard worker”. Yes, the task was arduous, but few could conceive and execute such powerful art using this process.

How could he view his work and shrug it off as little more than tenacity?

Why do we all?

It seems that no matter what God has given us, we don’t see the value in it. We rush around trying to figure out how to gain the knowledge and skills we feel we need to do something really important, wondering how to connect with the break-out opportunity God has for us.

He, on the other hand, is wondering when you and I will wake up and see the wonderful, multidimensional people he has created us to be. You were perfectly designed to accomplish the tasks He tailor-made just for you.

I suppose the artist can be forgiven his statement because of the hours and hours of disciplined work required to bring his original idea to light. Inspiration happens in a flash. Execution is a long, hard process.

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It’s easy to let that be the focus.

The same is true for us. There are shining pictures in our heads of what our lives should look like, but creating those images is a daily slog through details and “stuff”. Just like the artist’s process, until the last colors are applied, our lives–like these artistic panels–can appear to be a hot mess! It’s not until the end that we can see all the imagery, beauty, and light the Master envisioned right from the start.

Hope, faith, and appreciation are required throughout the process. Hope is a vision of who God created you to be and a continued searching for the signposts in your life. You need faith to believe that He who began a good work in you will complete it and appreciation for each shape and color that appears in the frame along the way.

Don’t compare yourself, your life, your journey with anyone else’s. You know too well the pain involved in each tiny gain and it’s easy to see only the struggle in your own life while only noticing the gain in others.

Creating the beautiful, completed mosaic of your life isn’t easy. It’s not fast. You must step back from the canvas from time to time to see what is unfolding, to understand how the gray shadows enhance the rays of beautiful light and color.

Know this: you are valuable. You are a piece of God’s puzzle. Without the skills, effort, and love you bring to this world, a pixel would be missing from His final portrait of time.

REJOICE!

Female skillful snowboarder jumping raising hands up.I was assigned to bring a devotional on the word “rejoice”. When I thought about the word I envisioned pictures of happiness, elation, exuberant expressions of delight.

As I pondered it, the very embodiment of the concept of rejoicing came on my television screen: Jamie Anderson, high from winning the first ever gold medal for the women’s Snowboard Slopestyle competition on Sunday, February 9, 2014. She was smiling, giggling, gushing with happiness. This is rejoicing at it’s finest, right?

Is this what God expects from us when we’re instructed in Romans 5:3 to rejoice when we run into problems and trials? Are we to be grinning ear-to-ear when faced with tribulation? James tells us to consider it PURE JOY when we bump into troubles. Habakkuk ended a laundry list of sorrows with the declaration, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord”.

It’s hard to equate the sunlit face of Jamie Anderson with those hard times. But on second thought, I realized these situations have more in common than it seems.

Jamie’s first snowboarding effort didn’t occur on February 9, 2014. Somewhere a seed was planted. She was introduced to the sport. She loved it! She spent time thinking about it, practicing it–more time than anything else. When life interfered with hitting the slopes, she dreamed about getting back out there. Snowboarding was pure joy–nothing else could compete.

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Every run wasn’t perfect–in fact some were probably awful. There were certainly spills and maybe even some broken bones. The thing that kept her going though, was the pleasure of the sport and the vision–the hope–of standing on the stage one day being honored as the best women’s snowboarder in the world!

This is the same process that we must go through:

  1. Meet Jesus
  2. Fall madly in love with Him
  3. Give Him our time and attention–make Him our number one priority
  4. Keep our eyes on the vision of the future He has promised us
  5. Get up every time we fall–leaning and depending on Jesus
  6. Celebrate and remember each small victory along the way

The difference between our rejoicing and Jamie Anderson’s is that she was never assured of winning the gold medal. Lots of things could have happened along the way to dash her hopes.

In Christ, our victory is secure. According the Hebrews 6:18:

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.”

When we find ourselves buried in a snowbank of adversity–spiritual ankle twisted, physical body broken–we don’t have

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to wonder if it’s worth it to get up and put our trust in Jesus. There is no question of our success. We don’t just win our 15 minutes of fame either, we are assured of an eternity with our beloved Savior!

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:37-39.

And again I say REJOICE!