Abundant Life

John 10:10 is one of the most precious promises that Jesus made to Believers.  He said that He came to give us abundant life!  Oftentimes I look at my circumstances and the world around me and think that this must be a promise that He plans to fulfill in eternity, but that is not what the passage says.  Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy (which he his obviously already doing) but that Christ came to give life (which he is already doing as well).

The ESV Study Bible says this in its notes on this verse:

Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.

This is my desire for my own life.

  1. To have it overflowing with meaningful activities.
  2. To live under the personal favor and blessing of God.
  3. To stay in continual fellowship with his people.

Where I struggle is in believing that I am already there.  I don’t have to strive to have this life at some future point.  What I have to do is have the mind of Christ, so that I walk daily in the awareness of his plans and purposes, so that I can see the meaning, favor, blessing, and fellowship that is already present in my everyday activities.  Even the ones that feel meaningless and without purpose.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that God has a higher purpose and calling on each of our lives.  He wants us to rise above our present commission, but the road that leads to that higher place is before us today.

We only have to take the first step down the path.

Nothing Changes Until Something Changes

I have been reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.  It is a fantastic book about habits and our need to master them so that we can produce the kind of life that we desire.  It has been both hysterical and frightening to see the results of her research and see myself in it.  Yikes!

This morning at church, my pastor spoke on ruts and how difficult it can be to get out of them.  Most of the time, it requires such effort and focus to exit a rut that we just end up staying where we are.  It is amazing to me that we can enter a rut with little effort and thinking, but it requires herculean strength to get out.  If you are interested, you can listen to the message here.

One of his key points was this:

What you think is what you speak.  What you speak is what you do.

We end up becoming what we think.  There is great power in this…we can literally reshape our future by changing our thinking and aligning our thoughts with all that God says about us.  But there is also great danger in it as well.  We can sleep walk through life and never even crack the surface of our potential.  If we are truly honest, most of us go through the vast majority of every day never thinking about what we are doing…we are simply doing what we always do.

We get up. Have coffee. Shower. Eat. Brush teeth. Drive to work.  Work. Eat lunch.  Drive home.  Make dinner. Eat. Watch tv.  Go to bed. Repeat.  No thinking required.

A truth that I learned while attending an addiction recovery group a few years ago is this:  Nothing changes until something changes.  Ever.  If you are unhappy with where you are or where you are going, then something needs to change.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, but it has to be something. And it has to change.  Now.  Not tomorrow.

Now.

Stress Response

How do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?  Let me give you an example…

I am currently in the process of training for the Publix Georgia Marathon.  I am right now about 3 weeks out from the race.  The first 10-12 weeks of my training were great.  I was getting in all of my runs; I was hitting or beating all of my paces…it was awesome.  But a couple of weeks ago, as my weekly mileage increased and my paces gradually worked down towards my goal pace, something unexpected happened:  Plantar Fasciitis.

I have dealt with it off and on in the past, but I had taken a few weeks off and thought that it was dealt with.  Sadly, I was wrong.  It was back, and while it’s not quite as bad as it has been, it definitely is there and is forcing me to rethink my strategy.

So I ask again, how do you respond when the everyday stresses of life reveal places of brokenness within you?

I see three possible responses:

  1.  You can avoid the thing that is causing the stress.  This is what I tried to do.  Since the running was causing the PF to hurt, I avoided running.  While this strategy did work to alleviate the pain that I was feeling, it did not strengthen the area and allow it to heal.  Pain avoidance is natural, but it doesn’t lead to healing.
  2. You can push through the pain.  Sure, keep running the longer and harder miles.  You might be ok, or you might make it worse.  And you may destroy much more than your foot in the process.  You might be able to reach your goal, but you will cause more damage and either delay healing, or make healing impossible in the process.
  3. You can spend some time dealing with the brokenness and actually allow the wounded place to heal.  This obviously means some things are going to change in the short-term (lowered expectations) but in the long-term, you can expect to gain these back and more.

In my case, I have decided that healing is necessary.  More clearly stated, healing isn’t a decision as much as it is simply agreeing with reality.  I have stopped running altogether and begun to do some no-impact cardio on my skier.  I am also spending some time everyday strength training and stretching to put small amounts of stress on the area.  Stressing the area just a little and then removing the stress is helping it to become stronger and heal, not just stop hurting for a moment.

One thing that I have found to be true in life is this:  What is true for the body, is also true for the soul.  We find inner healing as well, not from avoiding pain or pushing through and ignoring consequences, but by intentionally focusing on places of hurt and allowing them to heal.

donal(D) t(R)ump

I get it.  Really, I do.  I understand that a large portion of the citizenry of the United States is disgusted with the current state of politics and our country as a whole.  I get it.  I count myself among your number.

And I would consider myself at least a life-long conservative, if not even a Republican (don’t hate me).  It is enticing to consider giving Washington and all of those clowns the proverbial finger and sending an outsider to the big house.

But let me ask you a question:

What if Donald had decided to run as a Democrat?  Seriously.  He could have.  Reviewing his statements over the last decade, from wanting to impeach President Bush to supporting single-payer healthcare, to giving huge donations to progressive candidates and causes…he looks a lot more like a (D) than an (R) to me.

So as things stand, the “conservative”, “blue collar” voters are going to send a message to Washington by sending Jimmy Carter wearing a Ronald Reagan mask (plus the hair) who is the outsider equivalent of Ross Perot.  I don’t think that I’m exaggerating by much.

But you know what I don’t understand…evangelicals.  This is a group that I would call my people.  Why on earth are we as a group supporting Trump above any of the other candidates?  Don’t get me wrong; our choices aren’t very appealing.  But Trump?  I thought I understood conservatives.  Evangelicals need to read their bibles and use a little more prayer and discernment.

The sad reality is this.  Trump will most likely win the nomination.  And when he does, two things will happen:

  1.  The media will begin to systematically destroy him.  I am sure that they have an abundance of stories ready to launch as soon as he finishes his acceptance speech.  Up until now, they have been happy to sit back and watch the Republicans destroy themselves, but don’t you worry, dear ready, when the times comes, they will launch a full-scale assault on Trump.
  2. The true evangelical conservative will become disinterested altogether.  I have voted in every presidential election since 1988.  I mostly vote Republican, but I have voted Independent (Perot) and Democrat (Clinton, first term).  I can not see myself getting excited about standing in line in November to vote for Trump, or Hillary, or Bernie.  I fear that many others will probably join me is sitting back and watching the lemmings elect the next “president”.

Hopefully a divided congress will limit their ability to screw anything up to badly over the next 4 years.

 

 

 

(Un)Qualified

I had the opportunity to request an advanced readers copy of Steven Furtick’s latest book, (Un)Qualified:  How God Uses Broken People To Do Big Things.  All that I can say is, Wow!  I have been a long time fan of Mr. Furtick’s writings, but this is without a doubt his best work to date.

The basic premise of the book is that until we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and we believe that we are who is says we are and that we can do what he says that we can do, then our lives will be shallow and basically a shadow of God’s intent.

I found his discussion of names (I Am ….) to be especially compelling and convicting.  What we think when we think of ourselves really does matter.  Our default beliefs about ourselves and our potential will always overcome our attempts to change, eventually.  We have to align our beliefs up with God and his Word before we can ever see lasting and hopefully permanent change.

I would absolutely recommend this book to others, particularly those who struggle with a lower sense of self-worth.  It is a fantastic book!