Archive for January, 2015

Have you ever considered the mindset of the early explorers? What thoughts ran through their head as they pushed off from civilization in a relatively small boat sailing toward an unknown, uncharted destination?  I am confident that many possessed a significant degree of bravado, excitement, and courage to motivate them to undertake such a risky act.  For some there was simply need and desperation that drove them.  A few probably did not exert much energy considering risk and reward but simply looked at it as a job to be done, a wage to be earned.  However I can’t imagine that they didn’t have some fears and anxiety.  I expect that through the course of the voyage, particularly when storms would rise up or when the doldrums were encountered, that everyone had to wrestle with the thoughts, “Why is this happening?” “Why did I come on this voyage?” or worst of all, “I shouldn’t have come on this trip.”

I believe our intrepid explorers have a few lessons for us that when applied to life, can make a huge difference in our level of peace and contentment.

1) Hold on to the vision of the distant horizon.  We all need a vision of the something better that we are striving toward.  For the explorers it was to discover new places, find treasures, become famous, possibly become financially secure.  But it was all tied to reaching that distant shore.  Success and fulfillment was predicated upon finding and reaching the coastline of an unknown land.  That it was out there was only a hope for the earliest of explorers.  For later explorers the fact that the distant shore existed was no longer an issue.  However the certainty of reaching it was still in doubt and subject to the skill of the captain and crew, the accuracy of the maps and information of the few who had gone before, and to a very large degree the obstacles that they would have to overcome to reach their final destination.

2) Continue to look forward.  Do not waste time and energy looking back.  I have read a number of books about sea-faring in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  The most dangerous attitude aboard ship was the nay-sayer.  This attitude was like a virus that could quickly spread and infect many in the crew.  The “I should never have come on this voyage, we’re doomed” mentality often becomes self-fulfilling.

3) Be prepared.  Practice and hone the skills that you will need in challenging situations before you need them.  Don’t wait until the battle with marauders and pirates to learn how to fight effectively.  Know how to quickly and efficiently secure the ship should a squall rapidly descend upon you so you are not capsized.  This takes vision, planning, and hard work, but it is worth it.

4) Sail with the right captain.  Ultimately the capabilities and decisions of the captain and his leadership will determine the success of the voyage.  The best captain knows his crew well.  He understands what will be required of the ship and crew.  He is able to gauge the gap between where the crew is in its capability, where it needs to be, and what it takes to get to where it needs to be.  And then he is able to take them there.  Discipline, focus, and hard-work are a few of the keys to achieving success and the right captain sets the perfect tone to achieve this.

There are parallels between those who set out upon the sea to search out new worlds centuries ago and people today.  Life is best lived with a fulfilling destination in mind.  Some life goals (distant horizons) are better than others.  A secure retirement is enough for some.  Seeing their children marry well for others.  While these are not bad things, I think they fall short of the type of distant horizon that infuses a person with hope, courage, and the commitment to persevere when the way gets hard.  I wrote about a Life Well-lived the other day.  That is my distant horizon.  It is my deepest desire to hear my heavenly Father say – “Well done my good and faithful child.  Enter into the rest prepared for you.”  I admit to you I am not even close to being the person who should expect such a greeting, but I know God is working in my life and I believe Him when He says to trust and follow Him.

We have to look forward and not spend our time wallowing in regrets.  Grace is so amazing.  When we make mistakes, when we sin, we can KNOW that we are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  We simply need to confess and repent (turn away from the sin) and turn back to the Lord.  He promises to forgive us and wash us of all sin stains.  In fact the bible goes so far as to say that the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to His followers.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around that at times, but when we humbly come to Jesus and seek His forgiveness, He so freely gives it and embraces us that all that is visible is His righteousness.  Since we have this amazing grace lavished upon us, how can we then wallow in regrets.  We should not.  We must look forward to what God is calling us to.

Life is not always easy.  In fact for some much of life is demanding and challenging.  For others of us, life is often “good” much of the time with challenging seasons.  At church last night one member of the care team described how her mission trip to Africa completely changed her.  She saw so many people with so few earthly possessions, so little comfort, seeming nothing really to be joyful about and yet they radiated joy as they heard and received Jesus in their lives.  She described the exuberant, over-flowing joy as these believers rejoiced in their Lord and Savior.  Regardless of whether you are in Kenya or South Carolina or anywhere else, you will experience challenges and it is best to prepare before you are in the difficulty.  For believers that means to have read and studied the bible so it is in your heart already.  It means to have an active prayer life so you are connected to the One Who is your anchor in the storm and the wind in your sails when it is time to move.  It means being connected to the body of Christ in real and tangible ways.  You have people you can turn to in times to trouble who can be Jesus’ hands and feet when you desperately need comfort and guidance.  It means daily seeking to grow closer to Jesus and to model your life after His.

Finally the right captain makes all the difference.  I know a lot of people who believe they are the captain.  Eventually this will always goes bad at some point.  We were not created to live life separate from God.  He is the only One Who can fill that role perfectly.  My life radically, wonderfully changed when I made a conscious decision to get out of the captain’s chair of my life and ask Jesus to take over.  Jesus puts His Holy Spirit within His followers when we relinquish control of our lives.  It requires perseverance to stay away from the captain’s chair since our minds (and all the pressure of the world) tell us we need to be in control, but the Lord truly knows and wants the best for us.  One of the most important traits of a believer is humility.  Humility comes when we recognize that we cannot do life on our own, we cannot reach the distant horizon when we push the true Captain out of the captain’s chair, and our role – whatever it may be, is what we need to focus upon.  When we are humble there will be times when the Lord gives us the helm, but we must never forget that He is the Captain we must follow.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little voyage today.  A good deal of the naval knowledge that I was thinking of as I wrote this came from the novels by Patrick O’Brian.  The first novel in the series is Master and Commander which was also made into a movie with Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey.

Have a wonderfully blessed day and may your sails be full as you sail to the distant horizon God has called you to.

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Perfect Peace

There is a term that occurs fairly frequently in the bible that bears deeper consideration – “Perfect Peace”. I read in Isaiah 25:3 today.  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.  I don’t know about you, but there are times when chaos, stress, and difficulties bear down upon me and anything resembling peace – especially perfect peace, seems like a distant dream.

The past year has contained a number of extremely challenging events – unbelievable work stress, health issues, a heart procedure, job losses within the family – you get the picture.  When I think back it is interesting to note that there have been windows of light and peace throughout this time that were not related to external circumstances at all, but rather they were related to fixing my mind on the Lord and putting my trust in His eternal goodness and love.  In fact some of the most blessed and peace-filled periods have also been when the external situation was the most dire.

I recognize that this is because when things get so bad that I have no recourse, I turn fully to God for help.  You’d think I would learn to stay in a posture turned to Him, but I must admit, I am sometimes a slow learner.  Way too often I proceed with a “I’ve got it from here, Lord” attitude.  I recognize this for what it is – sin.  In my own self-sufficiency I stray from God’s calling upon my life to walk with Him.  Instead I often want to run ahead and do it my way.  As I write this I repent and turn to the gracious Lord and ask His forgiveness.  Because of Who He is and what He did on the cross, I can rejoice that He has forgiven me and I am empowered to walk with Him.

Because I have experienced the Lord’s perfect peace for periods and seasons in my life, I have identified a few primary keys to achieving this.  They are the tools He has given us to keep our minds steadfast on Him.

1) Read, study, mark, and obey the Word of God.  God has chosen to reveal Himself through the bible.  This is the chief means of understanding His will for us.  It is the instrument He gives us to weigh our thoughts and concerns against.  The writer of Hebrews under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave us this admonition.  “For the Word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

2) Become engaged in a local church.  We are made to be connected to one another in the body of faith.  In fact God has created us to be members of His family and that family is the Church.  We need to have persons we can emulate and learn from within the church as well as people we are peers and friends with.  As we mature we will also become mentors and coaches of others who are younger in their faith.  For this to be a tool the Lord uses there are two characteristics that must exist.  First it must be a church that is passionate about Jesus and sharing the gospel.  Second it must be bible-based.

3) Consistently talk with God.  While many people understand that this is prayer, I specifically use the term talk with God because my experience is He wants to have a conversation with us.  Granted His side of the conversation is not usually in spoken words, but the Creator of the Universe is able to communicate to us… through His creation, in gentle impressions in our heart, through an appropriately timed comment by another, through just the right reading at just the right time – God is able and wants to be engaged in our lives.

The bottom line, Our heavenly Father wants us to experience Perfect Peace.  And Perfect Peace comes from minds that are steadfast on Him.  My desire is to get to this place all the time.  The bible talks about the “mind of Christ”.  Jesus and the Father were connected.  Even though Jesus took on humanity and lived among us for a time, He never moved out of the place of Perfect Peace.  He lived in intimacy with the Father.  He invites us to do the same.  Join me in this endeavor, won’t you!

May God’s peace overwhelm and fill you today as you seek to maintain a mind that is steadfast on Him.


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I desire to live a “Life well-lived”.

I suspect that phrase will conjure different images to different people so let me give a quick picture of what I mean.  A life well-lived is one that fully hits the mark of why we were created and live on this earth.  It includes making the lives of those God places in our lives richer for knowing us.  It has as its heart beat a living, vibrant relationship with our Creator God, our Savior Jesus, and our Inspiration the Holy Spirit.  It will include minimal negative impact on others because of the things we say and do.  That is not because we live a perfect life (can’t be done unless you happen to be the Son of God and your name happens to be Jesus) but because we live a life of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  A life well-lived will be characterized by a high degree of peace even though it will likely have as many (or more) challenges and difficulties as anyone.  A life well-lived will be exemplified by intimacy with the Lord.

I guess it is important to note some of the things a life well-lived isn’t.  It is independent of worldly accolades and accomplishments.  It may include some, but it isn’t necessary.  It is not tied to worldly fame or the number of people who know your name.  A life well-lived is not one filled with tons of stuff, but rather one filled with quality relationships with the people who pass through our life.  It is possible to own a lot of stuff and still achieve the LIFE, but stuff is never the focus or priority of a life well-lived.

So periodically it is important to see how I am doing.  Admittedly it varies and I often have to make a course correction.  The past month has been one of those reflection times and a course correction is underway.  Basically it gets down to being intentional about setting and adhering to the priorities in my life.  Unfortunately I can get distracted and off-track too easily.  I relate very much to the dog in the movie UP that has a problem with squirrels.  (If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it.  It speaks eloquently to this very topic.)

So I share with you now my Priorities as I step out of this period of reflection and into a renewed life.  Other than the first one they are not necessarily prioritized.

Become more intimate with my Lord and Savior – Jesus.  Beginning every day with quality time reading and studying the Word of God and talking to the Lord.  Jesus is real, present, and He wants to be involved in our lives in tangible ways.  Beginning the day when everything else is quiet and I can focus upon Him is the best for me.

Journal or blog.  I am not exactly sure why this is so important, but I have come to find that I am buoyed when I put a portion of my thoughts and discussions with the Lord down in print.  I hope and pray that the persons who read these are edified and drawn closer to the One Who loves them more than they can imagine.

Double down on love and understanding toward the persons God has put in my life.  This begins with our spouse if we are married.  Our children follow.  Extended family and friends.  I love my wife and I know she is the greatest gift the Lord has given to me besides himself, yet I often fail to show her the love and appreciation that she deserves.  As husbands we are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church, laying our lives down for them.  Check out Ephesians chapter 5:25-33.

Be more intentional about loving everyone who crosses my path.  It is easy to take for granted the person who serves your food at the restaurant, takes your money at the check-out counter at Walmart, or cuts in front of you on the highway.  Okay the person who cuts in front of you may not be taken for granted, but they definitely aren’t the object of kind and warm thoughts.  Turn those around to be opportunities to share from the well of love and blessings God has given to us.  A nice tip, a kind word of encouragement, a prayer uttered in faith are gifts of love that we can give.

Be more intentional about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people.  Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is critical.  We’ve all met (or perhaps been) the person who wields the gospel more like a club than the precious gift it is.  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17.

Be actively engaged in the Body of Christ – the Church.  I see this manifested in two distinct ways.  Engaged in a local body of believers and within a small group.  I will probably expand upon this in the future.

Simplify and prioritize all the other things that demand and drain our time and energy.  Many of the chief priorities mentioned above can and should be practiced through our work and social interactions.  However I have had work and other activities move into the place of priority a number of times and the result has always been regretful.

Today is a new day.  I am making the decision to get back on track toward a life well-lived.  I realize mistakes I have made over the past few months and the lost focus.  I am ready to be the man God created me to be, to do the things He has called me to do, and live the life He has set before me to live.  Halleluiah! Halleluiah!  I am so thankful for forgiveness, fresh starts, and the opportunity to give my life to the Lord for Him to use a He sees fit.

Be blessed and be a blessing.


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