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 NLT)

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 a birthday 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 a fellow pastor 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 church services.

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). 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 everything 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 Jesus 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, because 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 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— way 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 used only 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.

Let’s Make A Deal

Have you ever seen the 1970s game show Let’s Make A Deal? Contestants were given some tricky choices to make. They usually held something in their hand that was fairly valuable and were given the opportunity to trade what they could see for what they couldn’t see.

The anxiety about making this decision almost caused some people to have a nervous breakdown on the spot! And, oh, the emotional highs and lows when the contestants discovered what they won or lost!

I was reading about a let’s-make-a-deal moment in the Bible. Jerusalem is facing an imminent threat from an incredibly powerful man (2 Kings 18-19). Sennacherib sent this message to King Hezekiah, “Let’s make a deal” (18:23).

And he made a pretty compelling argument to take the deal. Sennacherib said, “No one who has ever stood up to me has survived before. I’m undefeated. I have a bigger, meaner army than you; more horses and chariots than you; and I’ve blocked your attempts to call on someone else to come rescue you. There’s no way out of this. C’mon, let’s make a deal!”

What makes a deal like this so appealing is that it’s all visible. It’s hard to say “no” to what you can see and say “yes” to what you can’t see.

Hezekiah knew God could deliver them, but would He deliver them? Hezekiah couldn’t see God, but he could see all of Sennacherib’s forces. What to do, what to do??

Hezekiah made the right deal. He put his trust in God! Although He was unseen, Hezekiah believed that God’s deal was better than Sennacherib’s deal. And Hezekiah was not disappointed in the deal he made (19:35-37).

What about you? Are you facing insurmountable odds today? Do you feel like you need to make a deal? Is what you can see more compelling than what you can’t see? I can promise you that any deal that you might make that doesn’t throw your trust entirely on God is a bad deal. A very bad deal!

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message)

Don’t give up! Don’t make a bad deal! Trust God. His way is always the best deal!

Wise Guys

I’m facing a big decision. I have an idea of the right way to go, but I’m taking some time to run my options by some wise guys. After all, even King Solomon—who was wiser than any other man, and probably could advise himself—wrote, “The more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances” (Proverbs 11:14, Message).

I also like what George Washington Carver said, “How much of God are we missing because we don’t stop to listen to the many voices God uses to speak to us?”

Of all the voices speaking to me, how am I choosing which wise guys to listen to?

Friendship—I have to know that my counselors are my friends. William Shakespeare asked the question, “Can he that speaks with the tongue of an enemy be a good counselor, or no?” I would answer “no.” I need wise guys that want me to be successful.

B.T.D.T.—I choose wise guys who have Been There Done That. Guys who have walked through the same scenario I’m facing now. Not a travel agent to point the way, but a tour guide who knows the path and will walk it with me.

Scarred—It’s hard to be helpful to someone else when you still have a gaping wound. I need wise guys who have been wounded in the past but now have the scars to show where they’ve been healed. It’s from this vantage point that they can be of the most help to me.

Successful—Finally, I choose to listen to wise guys who are successful. I don’t need some to tell me what should work—I want to hear what does work.

There’s an old attorney’s adage that says, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” If you have a decision to make I would modify this to say, “He who takes advice only from himself is taking counsel from a fool.”

What else would you look for in a wise guy? 

More Today?

I have shared before how I often wake up with a particular song on my mind. This morning it was a 1969 classic that I added to my iPod a few weeks ago: “More Today Than Yesterday” by The Spiral Starecase. (Go ahead and listen to the song while you read on.)

So as I was attempting to wake up Betsy, I sang part of the chorus to her. “I love you more today than yesterday. But not as much as tomorrow.” Which got me thinking: How do I do this?

Betsy and I have been “an item” for 8,935 days. I thought I loved her tons yesterday, so how do I love her more today than yesterday? Let me take a couple of cues from the song:

“I’ll be spending time with you”—the greater the quantity of time I spend with her the more likely I’ll have quality time with her.

“Everyday’s a new day in love with you”—love keeps no record of wrongs. If I’m holding grudges against her or beating myself up over mistakes I made, I’m keeping a record. Forgiveness is the key to wiping the slate clean so I can love her more today than yesterday.

“With each day comes a new way of loving you”—there’s a reason why the apostle Paul talks about “growing up” in the great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. My love should be maturing and growing up every day. So today I should be able to love Betsy in a more mature way.

“I thank the Lord for love like ours that grows ever stronger”—as my relationship with Jesus becomes more intimate I will learn how to love Betsy more today than yesterday. As C.S. Lewis put it, “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”

What special relationships do you have? Do you love that earthly dearest more today than yesterday? With quality time, forgiveness, maturity, and a closer relationship with Jesus, you can truly love that special someone more today than yesterday. Give it a try!

Every day’s a new day, every time I love you.

Every way’s a new way, every time I love you!

Mixed Signals

The Methodist church by my house has a marquee that faces a busy expressway. Today, as I drove by I, read their latest message: “Pay attention to your destination, not your speed.”

“Hmmm,” thought, “I wonder how the police department feels about that?”

No sooner had the thought passed through my head and I saw the flashing lights of a police officer with a car pulled over on the shoulder! I can almost imagine the driver’s frantic plea to the officer, “But, officer, the church back there told me…!”

This humorous scene reminded me of two quotes:

  • “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” —Francis of Assisi
  • “Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.” —Dwight L. Moody

May the “signs” of our lives never send mixed signals to the people “reading” us.

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