Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now or Later

I'm thinking more this morning about the struggle to go to the well of God to quench our thirst without stopping along the way and settling for with false substitutes.

Men lust for many reasons but the unfulfilled desire in them will never be fulfilled with sex, or any woman, or pictures of women. These things will only leave them wanting more. An alcoholic, or drug addict, or workaholic will never be fulfilled by any of their addictions. A depressed person will never be fulfilled by adding to their lives something they feel they can't live without. In all of these scenarios there is a misplaced focus. The desire in us was created by God for God. And, only God can fill the emptiness and quench our thirst.

Why is it that so few people, even Christians, choose to ignore the distractions and find God to fulfill their desires? Our entire western culture lives with a "Me Now" attitude. We want our desires fulfilled now. We don't want to wait for anything.

I don't claim to have the answer for all of this. I choose wrong every day. I would love to make it through and entire day without any sin or thinking that is not focused on God. Heb 12:1 points out that we must not only avoid sin but also the things that easily entangle us. These are the things that take our eyes off Jesus.

I love Hebrews chapter 11. It contains a summary of all of the biblical heroes and how they were commended for their faith and perseverance. The entire chapter talks about remaining faithful under tremendous odds.

A few days ago I wrote about how I wanted my life to count for something even if I didn't see the results in my lifetime. And here it is in verse 13. It says they were still living by faith when they died and they did not receive all of the things promised (before they died). This is the kind of Faith we need to make it to the well to quench our thirst with the living water.

I think I need to read this chapter regularly to challenge my faith.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drinking From the Well

Watched the sunrise this morning across the horizon of the ocean. Very peaceful and quiet. Good God time. You just cannot look at the vast horizon and not see God. I'm reading a book called Desire (not a romance novel) this morning. It's really connecting with some of the things already on my mind.

We are born with an innate sense of desire or longing. It is what ultimately draws us to God. In order to find God we must first realize that there is something more out there . . . that our mere existence is not all there is. But that desire is not hard-wired to God. It seems elusive to most people; even Christians. True peace and contentment comes from drinking deeply from the well of God. Most people are not even at the well. Some know where it is but they pass it by again and again. To drink from the deep well takes thought, and work, and patience. We are thirsty. We know that we are thirsty. We know that we must quench our thirst. Some of us even know that what we really need is to drink deeply from the well of God. So we start out on a trek to the well. But somewhere along the way we find ways to temporarily satisfy our thirst and kill our desire to make it to the well.

In today's culture we are all very imitative people. We learn language by imitation. In fact we learn just about everything in life that way. There is a never ending number of prominent people whose live look pleasing to lead us to temporary and counterfeit solutions to quench our thirst. But the thirst is never quenched. Where are all of the mentors and icons who have drank from the well.

When that thirst is never quenched there is something in us that makes us feel hurt or angry that life did not work out for us the way we planned. We feel we will never get to live out our dreams, especially the ones shaped by watching the lives of others. So we end up depressed or addicted or both. Is it any wonder that in a world full of people with a God shaped whole and no end to cheap substitutes, that most people suffer from some sort of depression or addiction? Everyone is obsessed with something.

Temporary pleasure is not enough though. What we need is real life. Not life as we know it, but new life. The life that Jesus came to offer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I want my life to count for something.

As I sit here on the beach looking out over the ocean's horizon, I realize how small my life is. I think most people function better in life when we view it from 30,000 feet. Our lives are so small and finite, but when we focus on ourselves we miss out on so much of life. We may actually miss where God is working if the only thing we see is our own little world is ourselves.

I don't want my life to be insignificant. When I look out at the vast ocean, I think of how big this world is and I want to impact all of it . . . not just a tiny section that is easy for me. I know that I might not be able to, or might not be called to, but I want to dream and plan big. I don't want to just be a good person, or minister, or church planter, I want to have an impact on an entire culture or generation or country. I don't know how to do that but I do know that it is about so much more than me, my fame, my comfort, my success.

A cause that has that kind of impact is a cause worth dying for. But more importantly, it is a cause worth living for. Most of us don't really live for the things we say we would die for. It must be worth committing my life too even if the fruits are not realized in my life time. Many of the greatest figures in history, did not know of their impact before their death.

What is worth all that?

I confess that my mind is usually preoccupied with the here and now; with self gratification. But these preoccupations are meaningless. I want my life to count for something.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Culture Struggles with Faith

Been thinking a lot lately about understanding culture and how to reach people who are far from God. I read a lot of books, but I cannot find one that is better at explaining the barriers between our current culture and the Christian church, than No Perfect People Allowed, by John Burke. I have read this book at least 3 times and it is a regular reference book. This guy has some incredible insight into understanding the unchurched.

He lays out five struggles that people have that effect their response to the the Christian faith: trust, tolerance, truth, brokenness, and aloneness. There are deeper issues within a persons soul like the need for relationship, meaning and hope, but the struggles that John talks about are crucial to that conversation.

When I read John's responses in the book to people level some of these struggles at him, he seems to have some great responses. He probably has a few not-so-great responses too, that didn't make the book, but you see over and over that the right response to these struggle opens door for people to begin a journey of faith.

What has struck me this morning is that a church must plan to deal with these struggles. Talk about them. Develop a culture around how you would handle them. Most people will never get the chance to ask the pastor one of these questions, so it is our responsibility to build these responses into the culture of our community of faith.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God's Presence in Me

I was thinking this morning about the fact that we are the temple of God and what that really means. It seems pretty simple, but it is more a question of the consequences.

The temple, and the tabernacle before it, represented the presence of God. God was not the Temple, but God's presence was in the temple. Even in the old Testament, the Israelites knew that God was not confined to the temple, but He clearly identified His presence with the temple, the cloud and fire above the temple, the most holy place in the temple, and the Ark of the Covenant kept in the temple.

Here's the question. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that we are to be the temple in which God dwells through his spirit. Do people see me as a person in which God dwells through His Spirit? I know the answer to that is that most poeple do not.

How can I change that? Just thinking out loud, here. There are no easy answers to that question or more Christians might ooze out the presence of God. Maybe I will camp on this question for a while.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Experience - Chasing Dreams

You've heard it said that experience is something you don't get until just after you need it. But what about experiencing failure? No one is really looking for someone who knows how to fail, right?

In a previous post I talked about how Abraham Lincoln experienced failure numerous times in business and several unsuccessful political campaigns. Yet he would not give up. He ultimately became the president of the United States of America. That shows great tenacity and determination. That would make a good business anecdote if it ended there. But it doesn't. He went on to lead then nation during the deadliest war in American history. A war between brothers. A war of historic consequences.

Imagine where we would be today if slavery were not abolished in the 1860s.

America has been a deciding factor in several wars with a global impact. It has been the greatest humanitarian contributor to third world nations. It has been the leader in technology and innovation for the industrialized world for over a century.

Imagine what would have happened if we had had a president during the Civil War who did not have the strength of character and determination to fight the necessary battles to keep the country together. Imagine the global impact if the United States had split into two independent and antagonistic countries.

I suspect that his earlier experiences of failure were instrumental in preparing him to take on arguably the most difficult presidency in US history.

Isn't it interesting that King David, the greatest King in the Bible, faced more adversity before becoming king than any other king in the Bible. He was God's anointed man. God could have protected him from all of this, but He didn't. God's greatest act of kindness was to prepare him not protect him.

In the Army we used to say that more sweat in training meant less blood in battle.

If you are facing tremendous adversity and even failure, take heart. Maybe God is preparing you for a greater calling than than you realize. Difficult experiences are the training ground for good decisions when the consequence of failure are the greatest.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Suffering - Chasing Dreams

This post comes from Vince Antonucci.

God promises us we will suffer. For instance, in (2 Corinthians 1) we're told that the sufferings of Christ will flow into our lives. Paul shares that he has suffered to the point of death, and wishing for death. So why are we surprised by suffering?

Not only does God promise we will suffer, He tells us that suffering is one of His greatest tools in chiseling us into the people we need to become. So we should welcome and take joy in our suffering. But we don't. Actually, we get upset with God when we suffer.

So maybe we need to stop praying for our marriages to be easy, for our churches to be a joy, for all our desires to be fulfilled, and start inviting suffering, and praying for the comfort God provides when we do.

See the complete post.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

In Honor of D-Day - 65th Anniversary

In honor of the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. This is a picture of me with a cross of an unknown soldier in Normandy in 2005. It says

Here Rests in Honored Glory
A Comrade In Arms
Known but to God

On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed 73,000, including 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed.

Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, included 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead in that one day.

Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with approximately 53,714 dead.

Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9386 American, 17,769 British, 5002 Canadian and 650 Poles.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.

Our Freedom was not free. It cost these heroes their lives.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Waiting - Chasing Dreams

Mark Batterson had some great insights into waiting.

The longer you wait the more you will appreciate
We hate to wait. Right? But it's gratitude insurance. Waiting insures that we won't take for granted whatever it is that we were waiting for. If the process had taken half as long I honestly think we'd appreciate it half as much.

God is far more concerned with who you're becoming than where you're going.
And He won't get you where He wants you to go until you're ready to get there! I just read this incredibly encouraging verse in Romans 8:25. I have a feeling this is what someone needs to hear today!

"The longer we wait, the larger we become."

See the full post.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Discouragement - Chasing Dreams

Chasing dreams can be very discouraging at times, especially when things don't come together on our time table. The biggest problem I had with discouragement was feeling like I would never fulfill my dream, or be used by God, or get out of debt. I felt like I was too old and would never be who I thought I should be. It really was an issue of timing. Ultimately, I was saying, I am not there right now, so I am discouraged.

When I am in that place it helps to look at many of the major characters in the Bible.
  • Noah spent 120 building a boat to save his family and some animals from a flood.
  • Moses spent 40yrs in Egypt, 40 years as a shepherd and 40 years leading Israel in the desert.
  • Abraham waited for years to have the child he was promised.
  • Jacob worked 7 years for his wife, then had to work 7 more to get the wife he asked for, b/c his father was dishonest.
  • Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in jail for years before becoming 2nd in charge of Egypt.
  • Rahab lived the life of a prostitute, before being used to save God's people and eventually joining in the lineage of God's own son.
  • David, was chased and harassed by his predecessor, and then even some of his kids turned against him and tried to kill him.
There are more, but this is a good start. All of these people endured years of hardship before becoming some of the most significant heroes of the faith. There are some quick success stories in the world today, but you will have a hard time finding them in the Bible.

If you have been chasing a dream for a while, be encouraged to know that the character of God, is to spend years training and preparing people for the work he has called them to do. It is discouraging to be in that place, but rest assured that the above Bible characters thought it was discouraging too. Know that He is preparing you for a great plan that he has for your life. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and use this time when he is training you to grow into a deeper relationship with him. Imagine that you are in group of recruits being prepared for great missions. At some unknown time, God is going to come get one of the recruits for a great mission. Do everything you can to be the one he chooses.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Undignified and Humiliated - Chasing Dreams

It can be difficult to start on the path to achieving your dream. Sometimes it requires you to tell others about it to gain some kind of support. It can be hard to convince them that you can pull it off. If it were simple, it probably wouldn't be much of a dream.

Sharing the dream may make you look boastful or naive. And if you don't make it for some reason, you can look pretty undignified and feel pretty humiliated. Not fun. I've been there. It's reason enough to play it safe and never take on a big dream, and never believe that God could use you to do something that big. The willingness to take this risk is what separates the history makers from the rest of the world.

Abe Lincoln failed in business many times and lost congressional races. Many of us would give up before thinking we could be president. God does not promise you an easy ride, but the ride has a purpose. The majority of Bible characters had very difficult lives and spent many years of misfortune before God led them to His promises.

If God put a dream in your heart, it is His. He owns it. To believe that you can't do it is to believe that He can't do it. Here is the hard part. You may not succeed, at least in the way you think. Are you willing to follow God's plan for your life anyway? Will you say, as King David said, "I will become even more undignified than this"?

(One caveat: don't confuse selfish desires with God given dreams)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Cost of Chasing your Dreams

I listened to a message by Erwin McManus this morning. He talked about how to unleash your creative spirit and said there are 2 questions you must ask yourself (actually 3, but I never picked up the third one).

-What choices make me the most free? This has to do with wisdom.
-What actions most powerfully advance my dreams? This has to do with courage.

When talking about the courage part he said that our highest dreams require great investment and risk and many will chase their dreams and lose everything. Others will see those that lost everything and stay safe and keep their dreams on their pillows.

I quit blogging a over a year ago because I was one of those that chased my dreams and lost everything. Over time the hurt subsides and the fear dissipates. Perspective is easier in hindsight.

One thing I have learned is that there are a lot of people out there just like me. I have been meeting with a guy for about six months who is in the middle of a similar situation. I had a chance meeting with a friend I had not seen in a couple of years at a business last week who is going through a similar situation. I met with another old friend last night who has gone through a very similar situation.

I my case I quit blogging because I didn't know how to explain what I was going through or why in my understanding I had failed. I have felt for a while now that God was leading me to write again. I think it is time. I will attempt to begin to blog again. For me it is part of the healing process. So maybe I will share more of my journey here.

For now let me just say. Chase your dream! Don't let fear stop you. Having been on both sides, I can say the journey was worth it. And I can say the dream is not over.

See what you can be and then be what you see.