No Regret Living

Today’s my birthday. It’s not really a “big deal” day for me, except I enjoy being able to get together with my family and friends.

The Bible tells us that God has set the length of our life —

You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. (Job 14:5, New Living Translation)

I woke up this morning singing the lyrics to Mark Schultz’s song Time That Is Left.

What will you do with the time that’s left?
Will you live it all with no regret?
Will they say that you loved till your final breath?
What will you do with the time that’s left?

I want to live until I die.

Duh, right? Not really. There’s a lot of people who coast to the end, who check out long before their last day. But life is too precious to me… I have too much to do… too many to love. If God has given me a set number of days, I’m going to live everyone with excellence.

A great way to celebrate my birthday today is living with no regrets!

Sharper Thinking

Yesterday I was challenged to do a lot of thinking. To think about things I’ve not considered before, and to think about things I have considered before but from a different perspective.

Yesterday Nate Elarton convened a Pastor’s Leadership Thinking Lab. The purpose was to use Warren Bullock’s book When The Spirit Speaks as a springboard to talk about the vocal gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation in our church services (see 1 Corinthians 12-14). At the outset we all reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to our fellowship’s fundamental truths — those were non-negotiable. The challenge was to think about and discuss the practicalities of the how’s in our services. (You can read some of the real-time quotes from our Lab here — they are tagged with “PLTL.”)

It was a bit intimidating being in the room with such smart people. These are guys with way more education and experience than me… guys who have had the privilege of studying and discussing this topic with some of the greatest Pentecostal thinkers of our generation. I felt a little out of place. In fact, during the lunch break one of my friends commented, “Have you ever felt like that in a roomful of tuxedos you’re the one brown shoe?” My feelings exactly.

But King Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, New International Version). The iron of my colleagues definitely sharpened me yesterday.

I also like what John Maxwell said, “Some of my best thinking has been done by others.” In other words, these really smart guys have thought about some things in ways I haven’t; they’ve been exposed to some great thinkers that I haven’t; they’ve experienced some things that I haven’t. But spending the day with them was like getting that education they received, having those conversations with great thinkers they had, and experiencing those things they experienced.

Did I agree with every thing that was shared? No.

Was I challenged to think differently? Yes.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The truest test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

If you really want to sharpen your thinking, get around some people smarter than you. Spend time with people who see things differently than you. But most of all, make sure these folks are one in purpose with you. All of the guys in this Lab shared the same passion to see God glorified and people drawn into a deeper relationship with Jesus. That’s what made yesterday so rewarding for me.

Do you have some “iron” friends in your life that are sharpening your thinking?

 

Anti-Sudoku Theology

I really enjoy Sudoku. It’s a challenging game of logic, and I’m (for the most part) a logical guy. I like knowing exactly where the digits one through nine are supposed to go, using logical deduction and inference to fill in all of the squares.

If I had my choice, all of life would be this logical. Simple. Neat. Well-defined. Clear. Easy. But, much to my dismay, it’s not.

If I’m following the example and teaching of Jesus, life with Him is anything but logical. Think about some of the paradoxes Christ taught and lived —

  • To advance, be humbled.
  • To have more, give away more.
  • To possess everything, desire nothing.
  • To connect with people (social), spend time alone with God (solitude).
  • To bring people in, go out.
  • To be a leader, be a servant.
  • To fill up with God, empty yourself of yourself.
  • To come first, come last.
  • To gain wisdom, become foolish.
  • To gain strength, become weak.
  • To live, die.

A.W. Tozer wrote about a godly man: “He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything.”

It isn’t logical, but it’s true — God loves me. And the greatest of all paradoxes: when I was the least worthy of God’s love, that’s when Jesus came to die for my sins.

God’s love for me — the greatest of paradoxes — helps me live these paradoxes Jesus taught. And His love will help you, too.

What other biblical paradoxes have you discovered?

How Far?

How far are you willing to go to make sure someone learns something from you?

I’m reading a biography about Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. As you may have heard before, Annie taught Helen how to communicate using her hands and fingers to spell out words. But after Helen heard about a deaf-blind student in Norway who was learning to speak audibly, Helen was determined to speak this way as well.

How do you teach someone who is deaf how consonants, vowels, blends, and words are supposed to sound? Eventually Helen could “listen” to someone speak by placing her middle finger on the speaker’s nose, her index finger on their lips, and her thumb on their throat.

To get to this point of “listening” Helen had to know how sounds and words were formed with the lips and tongue. Initially Annie would place Helen’s fingertips on her lips as she made sounds, but that only works so far. One of Helen’s cousins wrote, “Many times it was necessary for Helen to put her sensitive fingers in Teacher’s [Annie’s] mouth, sometimes far down her throat, until Teacher would be nauseated, but nothing was too hard, so Helen was benefited.”

Nothing was too hard.” Not even being gagged by an eager pupil! What amazing dedication!

So how far are you willing to go to help someone learn something valuable? Can you find a new way to say it? Are you willing to humble yourself to make yourself heard? Will you find a new way to communicate? A way that’s outside of your comfort zone? Can you communicate without even using words?

The Apostle Paul communicated the good news about Jesus this way — “I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (1 Corinthians 9-:22-23, The Message)

How far are you willing to go to make sure someone hears the good news of Jesus from you?

Still Learning

I live by the axiom, “If you’re through learning, you’re through.” So I try to learn something new every day.

I just finished a class called New Testament Survey — a quick overview of the 27 books that compromise the New Testament of the Bible. Here’s a couple of interesting factoids I picked up from my studies:

  • The earliest-written book was James. Interesting since at one point James thought Jesus (his half-brother) was nuts.
  • Only Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven; all of the other writers use kingdom of God.
  • Mark uses the word immediately more times than anyone else. Perhaps because his source (Peter) was always doing things so quickly… sort of a ready, FIRE!, aim kinda of guy.
  • Luke wrote what is called “the global gospel” for everyone, so he included 45 teachings/events that no one else records.
  • John doesn’t record any of Jesus’ parables.
  • John uses the word believe nearly 100 times… more than any other writer.
  • Luke talks about the Holy Spirit nearly 60 times in the 28 chapters of Acts.
  • Romans is the longest of Paul’s epistles with 7101 words; Philemon is the shortest with just 355 words.
  • With the exception of the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) Paul’s letters are arranged in the Bible from longest to shortest.
  • In 1 & 2 Thessalonians (only 136 verses) Paul refers to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or a combination thereof more than 150 times.
  • Paul gives Timothy seven word pictures to describe the kind of pastor he should be: son, soldier, athlete, farmer, workman, instrument, and servant.
  • Hebrews is called “the book of better things” so better is used 13 times. This word is only used six times in the remaining 26 books of the New Testament.
  • James wrote 108 verses but issues 50+ direct commands.
  • In John’s three short epistles he uses the word know 33 times, and the word dear ten times.

Keep on learning! There’s a lot of good stuff out there. What have you learned lately?

Ultimate Devotion

Usually I awaken each morning with some song echoing in my mind, but this morning was different. This morning I heard the last lines of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address resounding in my mind —

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

America is still an unfinished work. She is a work which has been nobly advanced by the blood of patriots who believed in the work which had been birthed on this soil. These honored dead gave their last full measure of devotion to this nation “conceived in Liberty” by the guiding hand of God Himself.

Just 87 years earlier the Founding Fathers closed the Declaration of Independence with these words —

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Today is called Memorial Day, and it is right and proper that we memorialize the last full measure of devotion given by our fallen soldiers and patriots. It’s also a day to reflect on why they died — they were willing to shed their blood for this country conceived in Liberty under the watchful care of Divine Providence.

May we continue to honor the memory of our honored dead by upholding the values for which they died to preserve and protect. And may God continue to bless the United States of America as we remember and honor Him!

God Bless America,

Land that I love.

Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,

To the oceans, white with foam

God bless America, My home sweet home.

 

Set An Example

Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, New International Version).

I love to see young people who are setting an example. So I’m happy to recommend to you a young blogger named Sarah. Please bookmark her Through Flames blog and check it out frequently. Her musing are certainly setting an example for me.

Thanks, Sarah!

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