Today we resume our walk through the scriptures. You may not remember but we are in Isaiah and today we pick up on chapter 18. This chapter is short and sweet but says a couple things we should ponder. First there is a warning that we need to “look” and “listen” as we live. God is not a constant noise machine. One of the things I use when I travel is one of the white noise machines that keeps a constant noise which drowns out all the slamming doors, people talking and bellmen knocking on doors. But God isn’t like that in how He communicates with us. It isn’t a continual flow of information we should just ignore. When God speaks, we need to listen. And in order to do that we need to know how to identify “a flag flying on the mountain”. We need to be paying attention so we can “hear the trumpet blow” and know it is His voice. I wish there was an easy way to always hear God. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if He would just call me up on the phone and tell me what I need to know. But God’s way is much less intrusive than that and requires us to be involved in the process. We have to tune in and pay attention and spend time with Him. And part of that means we have to be still and listen. That is a very different way to pray and have relationship time with God. Most of the time we spend with Him is all one way – us telling God what we need. But effective relationship means we also need to be quiet and listen to what God has for us – to “be still and know” that He is God and has a plan for us which we need to hear. That means receive His word without saying one. Big change from how most of our prayer time is spent, but so critical if we want to hear His voice.
The other thing that jumps out in this short chapter is the harvest. God is clear that even though things have come along nicely, pruning still has to happen. “The blossom has turned to a maturing grape” – things are almost done here – but God still has to “step in and prune”. Seems like once we are that close – when the harvest is in sight and the work for the year is almost done – God could cut some slack doesn’t it. But that isn’t how things get better next year. Without pruning, new growth in the future doesn’t occur. Without preparation for next year, the harvest won’t be as good. So know that God is always looking for ways to help us grow and continue to bear fruit. God is about the long haul, not the short crop. He wants us to mature and become like Jesus and knows it will take a lifetime. So He makes those investments in us year after year to help us bear more fruit and achieve His plan for us. Don’t resist His pruning shears. Know that we serve a mighty God that loves us enough to be focused on what we can become. And know He is committed to doing whatever it takes to get us there. We just need to listen and cooperate with His plan!
We are wrapping things up today on our 30 day event. It has been a great adventure and the book has been challenging and very impactful. Today we talk about game on – and how to live it up as we deal with the most exciting and extraordinary gift we all have been given – life. I know far too many times I take this gift for granted, or at least I used to. Not so much anymore. Amazing how a couple big issues in life, particularly health ones, makes one take a second look at just how lucky we are to wake up each morning, be able to get out of bed and live. One of the major goals of OMTL is to get us to live passionately. God desires us to live passionately and it starts in our relationship with Him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”. That put another way like it has it in the Message version, we need to “love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy”. Do any words jump out at you from these verses? ALL seems rather intense to me. God is not content with anything less than all from me. He wants me to live life completely and totally engaged and focused and it starts in my relationship with Him. Of course it quickly needs to spread to others we are to love – spouse, kids, family, brothers and sisters in Christ and on it goes. Can you imagine if we really began to live with ALL being our goal. It would change everything. The game would be totally different. People wouldn’t know what to do.
Our book has talked about four key ingredients to having passion in life. We need to ponder just how we will deal with these as we wrap up our 30 day focus. Here they are again:
1. Love – the foundation of a passionate and purpose filled life
2. Integrity – uniting what we way we believe with the way we live
3. Forgiveness – we have to learn to forgive others and let go
4. Enthusiasm – literally means “God within” and cultivating our relationship with God is the only way we will every have it truly
When we go ALL in with these four areas we will experience LIFE. That is our goal – to squeeze every ounce of life out of every second in a very intentional way so we can make an impact of significance for the kingdom. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness”. If we really want to experience the life God has created us for, then we need to have Jesus right in the center of it. That was the mission He was on when God sent Him to the earth. He alone will help us achieve what God desires – a very full and exciting and blessed life.
So how will you live the dash in your life. Your date of birth has happened. We are now living the dash before the final date is written when you leave this earth for eternity. Remember that how you life the dash determines what eternity will be. It is a very important thing for each of us to consider. God wants our eternity to be secure with Him. It can be if we deal with the things of the heart and get life in order. Live passionately. Live ALL in. Start right now!!
Day 29 is about game over – dying to live. This day is in your future, and for some, it is coming sooner than later. Maybe not in the next 30 days, but maybe in the next 30 minutes. I don’t have a crystal ball to be able to tell you when. But I can say with 100% certainty your day will come. Death will happen. You will face your Maker face to face. 81% of Americans today believe in life after death. Not sure what the other 19% think, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is life after we die – there is a heaven and a hell – it is for eternity and that is a very long time. So what is life all about? It is completely and totally about determining where we will spend eternity. That boils it down pretty well. There are two very important facts that each of us have to deal with:
1. What I do with Jesus determines WHERE I will spend eternity
2. What I do with what God has entrusted me (time, talents, and treasure) will determine HOW I spend that eternity
If you haven’t read anything during these thirty days, the most important stuff is in this post today. Heaven is a perfect place for perfect people and the problem is, you are not perfect. You and I are sinners. We will not get in on our own. When we expire life on this earth and stand before God at judgment day, our ticket to heaven is determined by our ability to be holy and perfect and completely obedient to His commandments. I guarantee we both will fail that requirement. We are not perfect and we have a problem called sin. The Bible teaches us that Jesus came to deal with our sin problem. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, our sin problem is washed away, white as snow, and God no longer looks upon our sin but only on the cleansing blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s cross. Once we know where we will spend our eternity, it is time to focus on how that very long time will be spent.
That is why how we live matters so much. That is why the principles and challenges of this 30 day challenge matter. Because we have to live every day as a preparation for eternity. We have to focus on things that last. Anything less is really just robbing our future. Unfortunately many of us act like we are going to live forever. We seem to think that we have plenty of days to spend our time, talents and treasures the right way – that is for another day. But you all read the paper every day and realize that life is fragile and there certainly is no guarantee. Your last breath could come today. Are you ready? Have you secured your future and the way you will spend that future? We are not living a game here. Life matters. It will determine eternity. And that is why we have to be very diligent to make sure we help others see that too. God has given us a very important task – to help people deal with their eternal future. Are you doing that? Who will you talk with today?
Today’s chapter is about footprints and leaving a lasting impression. The authors compare the current “green” focus on the environment with our need to leave a lasting spiritual footprint in the lives of those around us. I love that analogy. In order to do that we have to get “incredibly intentional about the kind of impression we are making on other people’s lives”. Those words are so very true. Legacy is intentional. Legacy requires us to really focus and be intentional with our 168 hours every week. But that does not mean we are intentional by focusing on what we have done. A spiritual impact comes from God, and what God does through us, not from me, myself or I. Sometimes we lose sight of the way a spiritual footprint happens.
If we are not careful, we begin to think that making an impact is about us. While we are a very important part of that picture, a spiritual footprint is all about God. And it deals with the verse from God’s word that really puts it all in focus. We are sinners, every one of us, and we can be cleaned up by the power of God’s hand through Jesus Christ if we will only accept His grace. That is how we make a spiritual impact and leave an eternal legacy. We lead people to the cross. We help them experience the love of God and show them the power of the throne. It is never about you or me really. It is about what God has done in my life and yours, and helping another see how God could do the same in their life. That is the greatest legacy we could leave. It isn’t about us – but our way of leaving footprints is to live life in a way that others come to see the power of God at work in our lives. That is how we make a difference – that is the way we leave a spiritual legacy – we live our life in a way that others can see and join into the experience we have with Jesus as our personal savior and Lord. We invite them to do life with us and we make investment into them day after day sharing God’s power and love. I leave you with the famous words I am sure most of you have already read many times over. But the reminder is so very true – Jesus does carry us – and we need to share that truth with those in our circle of influence…..
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Mary Stevenson, 1936
Today’s chapter is about Starfish and making a world of difference. Those of you who read my daily journal know that I camp on this topic a lot. I believe God has put each of us on this earth for that purpose – to make a difference in the lives of those around us. God has created us for that very job. Today it is easy to think that is not possible. The problems are too big – wars, suffering economies, starvation, disease – not much I can do about any of that is there? But that is not how God wants us to look at it. What His desire is would be that we look at our circle of influence and let Him use us to make a difference and be a blessing in the lives of those we touch. We are not charged with fixing the world – that is His job – we are tasked with making a difference where we live every day – at home and work and church and in the supermarket – when we rub shoulders with other people.
There is a great story in our chapter today about the little boy on the beach who wanted to save the starfish who were left of the beach and about to meet their demise. This little boy was flinging them back into the ocean like a Frisbee when a businessman came buy and suggested the job was too big – there were thousands of them lying there. He thought it was a teachable moment so after commending the boy on his efforts, he shared that the job was too big and he would not really be able to make a difference in the big picture here. But here comes the real truth – the little boy said after flinging another starfish back into the ocean: “I may not be able to make a difference for all, but I made all the difference for that one”. That captures the essence of what God wants us to do. Rather than ask why we should even try to deal with the big issues around us, the question really needs to be how we can help that one person God puts in our life that needs it today. We have to take it one starfish at a time and make a difference in each person’s life. We can’t defeat hunger, but we can feed one hungry person and make all the difference in their life. We need to become a living sacrifice as scripture tells us, giving freely of self to help others. God has called us to be in the game. We were created to make a difference – not necessarily worldwide, but in our own little piece of the world. Watch today for ways you can use the gifts God has given you, the things He has blessed you with, to make a difference for someone else. Make all the difference for at least one today!
Day 26 is about collisions and staying the course when life crashes. Pretty good topic to go along with the lesson God reminded me of last night at the movie Fireproof. Life does crash. Dreams do get broken. People fail to meet our expectations and if we don’t have a very solid relationship with the Father, if His airbags don’t go off around us, those crashes can be very painful or even fatal. The reality is that each of us will have to deal with a whole lot of curveballs in our life. Things just don’t happen in reality the way we draw them out in our mind. Husbands don’t do the things we expect, wives don’t live up to the dreams we have, kids don’t obey and do what we want all the time. There will be collisions wherever there are people. It is the reality of human nature – every relationship will have them. So the discussion is not about how to avoid collisions in life – that won’t happen. The real question is what do we do when we experience a collision. What do we do when we have a spouse that misses our mark of what we believe they should be. And that truly is the message the movie Fireproof shares.
It is so easy to know what other people should do to fix things. We all are expert counselors when it comes to fixing another person and their part of any collision. But the reality is, there really is a pretty simple solution. We need to get into the center of God’s will. We need to commit and be steadfast and immovable in our determination to get into the center of God’s will. Not based on our feelings – they often won’t line up with that. Not based on what the other person does – they seldom will respond the way we want or expect. But just because that is what God tells us to do. Scripture tells us to “trust in the Lord….and lean not on our own understanding”. We need to follow Him. That is how we deal with collisions. We can avoid some that way, but we can repair all if we only follow Him. Life does not crumple beyond God’s ability to repair it. It requires faith and obedience. It requires us spending time in His repair shop, praying and reading His word and letting Him have His way in our lives. But God can handle any situation. He can fix any relationship if we will only put Him in the center of it all. Don’t let a collision be fatal and total your life. Take it to the Lord. Put Him in the driver seat and let Him be in control. He alone can help fireproof your marriage and any other relationship you have. God is in the miracle business. Let Him do a miracle in your life.
Today’s chapter is about using eternal building materials. As we continue in our section on leaving boldly, and considering the legacy of our life, we need to talk about the dailyness of life. Isn’t it amazing how there are so many things that just happen over and over every day. Dishes get dirty, clothes need to be washed, the house needs to be cleaned, kids need to be delivered and picked up, emails need to be answered and on it goes. When we make the list of the mundane tasks that are part of each of our lives, and compare that to the 168 hours that God gives us each week, we have to consider how those tasks can become part of our legacy. Because our legacy is determined by how we use our 168 hours each week. That will determine the impact of our life beyond our last breath – what we did with the hours we had every day. Paul writes about this in our passage above. There is a kids song that talks about the wise man building his house upon the rock….the foolish man on the straw. Want a life that matters for eternity? Then we have to build on the right foundation. We have to choose the right materials to be part of the heritage we will leave behind. Remember, legacy is the momentum of life after you are gone. It is what keeps on going, like the energizer bunny. Will you life keep going and going and going even when you don’t?
There are some key things to consider when looking at the building materials for legacy:
1. Convictions – what you stand for. Those are our core values that never change – built on eternal principles. They have to come from God’s Word.
2. Character – after we die this is what the world remembers us as. It is who we are at the core, when we don’t think anyone is watching.
3. Community – the relationships we have to other people. If we want to leave a lasting legacy we have to build deep and meaningful relationships. We have to be invested in each other.
I don’t want to break anyone’s bubble here, but all the stuff we work so hard to accumulate and have stored somewhere in our crowded house or garage and never use….it all burns up in the end. No one cares about that stuff. They do care and will remember our convictions, character and community. Those are the things legacy is built from. If we are going to leave a lasting impact, we have to build with the right things. Are you doing that with your 168 hours this week?