Thursday, November 29, 2007

Role Models

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the commentary by Pamela Hale-Burns in the Saturday Long Beach Press Telegram religion page. She was talking about how she had been criticized for her commentary's on celebrities not being good role models for our children, and for speaking out against how some middle school's were providing birth control for girls without their parents knowledge.
She said: "Well, in the midst of the calls and the e-mails there were two that stood out that I felt deserved a response.... In regards to the celebrities, I was told by a fellow Christian that I shouldn't criticize the world and just love them. I didn't criticize anyone...I encouraged parents to be the example of a good role model for their children so they wouldn't have to look up to these celebrities... Another reader says that when it comes to children and birth control I should take my head out of the sand...Today's children are going to have sex regardless of how they are raised... Pamela Hale-Burns then says: 'Let's stop telling our children that they are going to fail no matter what and encourage them that it can be done. Let them know they can succeed by making right choices...My head is out of the sand and my ears are cleaned out and what I'm hearing and seeing is the world is giving up on our kids...'"
As I read this article, I was saying "amen" to what Pamela Hale-Burns was saying. Unfortunately, people no longer want to speak out, because they are afraid of being attacked by those who don't want to abide by how God calls us to live. God doesn't want us to give birth control to our teenagers; God doesn't want our kids to look to celebrities as their role models! God wants parents to be parents, and to give their kids high morals and standards. God wants us to encouraging each other to raise our kids right. As Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
I want to challenge anyone who reads this to be willing to be bolder, and to speak up for who God is, and for how God wants us to live, especially when it comes to our children!
Tell me what you think. (

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What is most important?

In the Billy Crystal movie "City Slickers," there is a scene where Billy Crystal is riding with Jack Palance (who plays a wild cowboy). Billy Crystal has taken a 2-week vacation on a dude ranch, but the vacation is more than he bargained for. In this one scene, Jack Palance is telling Billy Crystal about the secret of life. He says it is about one thing; the one thing that is most important to you.
There is indeed “one thing” in our lives that should be most important; one thing that brings perspective to our lives; one core desire of the soul. And the sad truth is that most people never discover their “one thing.” People desperately long to find it, but they’re not sure where to look. God has programmed us with this “one thing” into our lives like computer software. The apostle Paul talks about it like this in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This good work is that most essential part of you.
The easiest way to discover this one thing is to see what you are most passionate about. What is it that stirs your soul? What is it that energizes you? What makes you tick?
This "one thing" is the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. I can’t tell you what your “one thing” is. You have to discover that for yourself. But I can tell you that if you take the time to take stock of your life, and begin to move your faith into action, and start living out your passions, then you will find where you need to be, and will have a significant and meaningful life.
Everyone has a passion in their soul. It may be helping kids. It may be making things for others. It may be teaching. But we all have "one thing" that we are created to do. I encourage you, if you haven't discovered it already, to begin to search out what is that "one thing" you need to pursue. If you could do anything, and know you would succeed, and that you had available to you everything you needed, what would you do?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Successful or Significant: Part 7 (Being at Peace)

Religious Philosopher Blaise Pascal once said: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room…What people want is not the easy peaceful life that allows us to think of our unhappy condition, nor the dangers of war, nor the burdens of office, but the agitation that takes our mind off it and diverts us. That is why we prefer the hunt to the capture. That is why men are so fond of hustle and bustle; that is why prison is such a fearful punishment; that is why the pleasures of solitude are so incomprehensible. I believe that what Pascal is saying here is that we want to be busy, because when we are busy we don’t have to think about our lives; we don’t have to think about how we are unhappy; we don’t have to stop and reflect upon how we are not accomplishing much with our lives.
Soren Kierkegaard said: “The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.” We need to have regular times in our lives when we are quiet, and at peace, so that we can try to seek out what God wishes us to do. It is interesting that at the Harvard Business School, there is a workshop called “Age of Options.” This workshop is designed to ensure participants “that their next career phase is fulfilling” and has purpose. People are seeking for purpose in their lives, but the only real place to find purpose is to know God through Jesus Christ, and to do what God has created you to do. And to do this, you need to ask questions like: What is my passion? Where do I belong? What do I believe? What will I do with what I believe? What are my values?
The first step is to “make peace” with our past. Making peace is about learning how to get over the regrets of our past. We all have things that we have done in the past that we are not happy about; that we are not proud of. But we can’t dwell on the past. Since we can’t go back and undo past mistakes, the best thing we can do is to give the past to God, and know that God can use our past to help our present and future to be meaningful.
The next step is to "take time."
Too often we don't take enough time on the things that are really important. One area where we need to “take time” is to get away from the crowd so we can regularly reflect on what is important in our lives. We can’t make time for the important things if we don’t know what the important things are.
Next we need to "be honest."
In regards to moving forward into the life God has for you, you have to seek what is real. So to move forward, you have to learn who the “real you” is. This is also where a trusted friend can be invaluable. They will help us to discover our genuine self.
Last, is to "have faith." Our faith is important to us and will help us to have the strength we need to trust God as we move forward. Our faith also is what leads us to answer the important question, “What will I do about what I believe?” Letting our faith guide us will help us to listen better, and will help us to have a filter through which we can make the right decisions for our lives.
This idea of taking stock is what the psalmist was doing in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Tell me what you think (

Sunday, November 18, 2007

God is Merciful

Do you believe that your life is your own, or do you believe that it is a gift from God? How we answer this question will determine how we receive the attributes of God that God has for us. Many people believe that (and live like) their lives are their own. They might say that they believe in God, but they don’t give ownership of their lives to God. We are told by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

It is clear in the Bible that God has given us life, and by Jesus dying on the cross has bought back our lives. So the challenge for us is whether or not we can give up ownership, and accept God as the merciful, gracious, faithful, sovereign God over our lives.

In life, we have many encounters with others that cause us to be hurt, or angry, or disillusioned. In essence, it creates a hole in our hearts. For some, the wound of the heart has been there a long time. For others, it might be a new wound. There are many things that can cause us hurt.

Maybe a friend borrowed money, and hasn’t returned it, but has since purchased new things. And you are angry. Or, maybe you told a friend a secret, and that friend told someone else. And you are angry. Or, maybe there was a gathering of friends, and you weren’t invited. And you are angry. Maybe a child you have raised doesn’t acknowledge you or love you, as they should. And you are hurt.

Have you ever experienced any of these emotions? I’m sure we all have. The problem is, that if we let resentment gain life, it turns from hurt to hate. It begins to take on a life of its own, until it consumes you. But resentment can never have a positive outcome. Resentment will lead you down a dark path.

Bitterness can only be removed in one way, and God gives us an example of how this can happen: it comes through forgiveness and showing mercy. As we are told in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” The mercy we receive is in direct proportion with the mercy we give.

What if you had to list all the times you were selfish? What if you had to list all the times you hurt another? The point is, that your list of wrongs would be far greater than the list of things you have done for God.

EX. There is a story of a man who died and found himself at the gates of heaven. He was told that he would be asked some questions, and that he would receive a certain amount of points for each answer. Then he was told that he would need 100 points at the end of the exam to earn his way into heaven. So the questions began:

“What have you done with the life God gave you?” The man stammered for a moment, “Well….I…” Then he thought of something, “I was an elder in my church.” “Good,” said the angel, “that is worth 1 point.” The angel continued, “How have you served others?” The man thought, and then smiled as he remembered some of what he had done: “I volunteered at the Rescue Mission once, and I helped to build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Then there was the time when I volunteered in the youth program for a year.” “Very good,” the angel replied. “That will be worth another point.” ……. At this the man was surprised, and responded: “At this rate, I’ll never be able to get into heaven.” ….The angel looked at the man for a moment, and then said: “That is exactly right. I’m afraid to tell you that you will never be able to get into heaven on your own. However, the good news is that all who believe in Jesus Christ, will receive eternal life.” The man’s expression changed as he shouted out: “Oh, I do believe; I do believe.” And the angel smiled and said, “I know you do. Your name is written in the book of life. Come, enter into heaven for all eternity!”

We understand God to be a God of mercy. We ask God for mercy on Sunday, but on Monday we cry out for justice against another. When we do not know how to give mercy, then we will not know how to receive mercy. God, through Christ, will give us mercy. But we must humble our hearts to find it. God is merciful in that He does not count our sins against us when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.
How has God been merciful to you? How do you need to better receive God's mercy?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Success or Significance: Part 6 (Leaning on God)

The reality of life, is that there are crises that come about. Often times these crises come when we find out about someone who is close to us being sick, or dying. I remember a little over 3 years ago I got a phone call about my dad. My dad had just gone to see my sister in Arizona. My dad’s health wasn’t great, but he seemed to be doing pretty well. It turns out that the trip did a number on his heart. This wasn’t completely a surprise, since I knew my dad had congestive heart failure, but it is never easy to hear this kind of bad news. My dad wasn’t feeling well, he called 911, and when the ambulance got there, they had to re-start his heart, and then put him on a temporary ventilator. Once at the hospital, he was taken to the ICU and put on a ventilator there. I got the call from my brother telling me all of this. The next day I was at the hospital. My dad was alert, but couldn’t talk. He was like this for the next 3 weeks, as my brother and I traded off going out to Hemet to see him. They couldn’t seem to get him off the ventilator. Whenever they tried, his heart became erratic, so they would put him back on. Then one morning I got the call from my brother saying that my dad’s blood pressure was 45 over 20, and they didn’t think that he was going to live much longer. So my brother went up to the hospital, had my dad taken off the ventilator, and stayed the night until he passed away the next day, at 12:45 p.m.
This is not something that you can reason away. This is only something that you can trust your way out of. In many ways it is incomprehensible. There is no way to understand it apart from an eternal perspective. Albert Einstein once said: “What is incomprehensible is beyond the realm of science. It is in the realm of God. It is in times like these that we need to lean on God. As Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Here on earth we are pilgrims, not in control. We are stewards, not owners. We are soldiers, without any security. If Jesus is most important to us, then we understand that we are not in control of our own lives, much less the lives of those whom we love.
George Bernard Shaw once said: “I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” We can overcome the crises in our lives and be a splendid torch, burning brightly, if we so choose. We do this by letting Jesus be number one in our lives, leading us to live not out of driven-ness, but by following our calling. When we do this, we let the strategic plan of our lives be guided by Jesus, and we allow ourselves to trust in the Lord in all things. By doing this, we will have significance and meaning in our lives.
What do you need to do to let yourself LEAN more on God so that He can help you to live the life He has called you to live? I pray that you would start "leaning" on God this day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Successful or Significant: Part 5 (Times of Change)

Life is full of change. In times of change, it is important to have a good strategic plan. When we seek to have a strategic plan for our lives, we are seeking to answer questions like: What should I do? How can I be most useful? Where should I invest my time, talents, and money? What are the values that give my life purpose? And, where am I going, and how do I get there?
Every plan has a mainspring.
To discover the “mainspring” in our plan we have to ask ourselves another question; the question is this: “What is most important to me?” That is a fundamental question. We come up with answers like family, work, Jesus, health. But the problem is, that for most people, while Jesus is stated in this list, Jesus isn’t really most important. Only when Jesus is most important can we really fit all the other important aspects of life into the equation! That is why Jesus said, in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
With this in mind, it is important to understand that your plan will probably not change your life drastically. You probably won't be asked by God to leave your family and live in a monastery. You probably won’t even be asked to leave where you live and become a missionary. But it will require of you to begin to give over your life to God, and be more faithful with what you have been given.
As you look at your life, is Jesus the most important? If not, then you will struggle to deal with the change that comes to your life. If not, then you will find it difficult to be significant, because you will be lost in trying to be a success. If not, then you will find yourself pulled toward serving things other than God. I challenge you to give yourself over to Christ today, and let Christ be most important.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Successful or Significant: Part 4 (Overcoming the Panic)

Life is seasonal. Just like the seasons of nature, the circumstances of life change. And because of this, we need to periodically shift our focus in order to achieve healthy growth. Before I was married, I spent much of my time doing what “I” wanted to do. Then once I was married, I shifted my focus to include Tami as well. And now that I have kids, my focus has again been shifted to make them the priority in my life. If I were to live my life like I did in the season when I was single, then I wouldn’t have a very healthy marriage or family.
But this is true in the area of my spiritual life as well. We cannot go through life doing the same things, and living the same way from year to year. As life and circumstances change, so must our focus. This shifting of our focus will help us to be successful in the way God desires of us; it will help us to overcome the panic of trying to be successful. We live in a world that likes to dwell on being successful. The problem with this is determining what kind of success you want. Many people will say that to be successful, you need to set goals. As you achieve your goals, you will be a success. In many people’s eyes, being successful means being married, having good, stable, healthy kids, having a couple of cars, a house, a good job, and good health. If you are lacking in this criteria, then you will not be seen as a success.

And yet, let’s say that you even do achieve all of this. The question still comes: How much is enough? And many in the world would answer: There never can be enough. And when we hear this answer, we get what is called “Success Panic.” Success panic is the feeling that you can never have enough, and you can never achieve all that you need. Success panic is not ever being able to be satisfied with what you have and what you have achieved. Success panic is not expected; it usually comes after you have reached a goal, and then you wonder: What is next?

The journey getting to our goal is often more exciting and rewarding than actually arriving. This is where the “Success Panic” comes in, because you realize that reaching your goal hasn’t fulfilled you the way you thought it would, and you panic to wonder what is next in your life. At this point, you must decide whether you will: 1. Move the finish line forward, and continue doing what you are doing. 2. Look at new possibilities and new goals. 3. Wonder whether you have really been successful and question if it was worth all the effort.

(Taken from the book "Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan From Success To Significance," by Bob Buford)

Where are you in your life? Do you feel successful? Are you feeling panicked because you aren’t as successful as you would like to be? Is the success you have had made a significant difference in the world. In my next blog I will talk more about how we can overcome the panic of having to feel successful. Tell me what you think (

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Successful or Significant: Part 3 (Transformation)

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are told, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" In Christ, we can be transformed from the old sinful ways, to the new Christ loving, Christ following ways.

Some people know the exact moment of their conversion; of that time when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Do you? I don’t remember the exact moment, but I do remember that it was in January, 1977. I had gotten one of these little personal Bibles in my locker. It has an assortment of verses about comfort, assurance, and salvation. At the end of the little booklet is a prayer to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I remember kneeling down by my bed, praying the prayer, and the signing my name to it! But many of you might not have had this kind of an experience. Maybe you didn’t have an earth shattering conversion. Maybe yours was a gentle flow of growing up believing, and slowly and steadily growing in your faith and commitment.

Psalm 37:4 tells us, "Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." In the end, it really isn't about your desires, it is about desiring what God desires you to desire. That is why Jesus could tell us that God would give us whatever we ask, because when we delight in the Lord, we desire what God desires.

As you think about your life, where do you need to be transformed? Maybe you don't even know Christ. That would be a good place to start. If you do know Christ, maybe you need to delight yourself more in Him. If you do, you will discover new and wonderful things!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Successful or Significant: Part 2

Czech writer and dramatist Vaclav Havel once said: “The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.” As I think about the picture of the sunset to the right, I think about how each day that we are given to live, is a blessing from God. Each day that we have is a gift to do something significant with our lives. Too often we become selfish and think we know what is best for us, but more often than not our selfishness does not lead us to the role, the destiny that God has for us.
You might know what you believe, but do you know how to incorporate what you believe into your life? What will you do with what you believe? God has a destiny for you, but this destiny requires that you utilize your faith in all aspects of your life. This is how Jesus could talk about coming to this earth so that His followers might have abundant life.
So we need to ask ourselves some important questions: Am I listening to God's still small voice? Is my work the center of my life and identity? Do I have an eternal perspective as a prism through which I view my life? What do I want to be remembered for? Is my life packed with significance? As we answer these questions, it should lead us to want to do more with the faith that we have.
So, if you think of life as a baseball diamond, First Base is the commitment to faith and believing what Jesus says is true; Second Base is the shift from being a ‘hearer of the word’ to being a ‘doer of the word’: it is growing in spiritual maturity that shows itself in a loving behavior; Third Base is the commitment to living out the Christian faith in Ministry. This is about doing concrete work, either in a church or a parachurch setting; Home base is the commitment to God’s mission in the world. It is being a Kingdom builder by finding the specifically designed mission that God has for us. George Gallup Jr. talks about how 84% of Americans declare themselves to be Christians. The problem is that most are stuck between first and second base not living out their Christian faith.
In 1 Kings 19:9-12, we read about how God was going to come to Elijah. Elijah expected God to come in a dramatic way, but God was not in the powerful wind, the earthquake that shook the mountains, or the great fire. When God came to Elijah, it was in a gentle whisper. We need to know that God comes to us and speaks His message to us of how we are to be significant, but we must slow down so that we can hear God's whisper. God's whisper will lead us to do things that are significant. But we must have the desire to listen, and then to act.
George Bernard Shaw once said: “This is the true joy in life—the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die…”
In my next blog I will talk more about how we can use ourselves in significant ways.