Your one- word commitment

Bill Hybels builds on his discussion of drafting a new proactive, holistic schedule in Chapter 2 of Simplify by stating you must begin with the right question.  That question needs to reflect your most important life goals.  Pastor Hybels emphasizes being intentional- not just thinking, but doing:

“Anyone can change direction in life, add or subtract priorities and activities, or reshuffle the matrix to put priorities in a better order.  That’s the transformative power of a schedule.”

There is the power of even a single word that’s written on your schedule and lived out.  American novelist John Grisham was an unhappy attorney who wanted to become an author.  He started by writing a one- word commitment to himself on the early-morning squares of his monthly calendar: “Write.”  He began by coming to work one hour early and writing one page per day.

Pastor Hybels encourages you that a one- word commitment on a calendar can change your life.  To do so, you should analyze and list the parts of your life in need of a do-over or makeover.  By using the calendar as a holistic tool for every area of your life, you can be certain your calendar is centered on things that matter to you.

Next, the author examines places in our lives that could benefit from holistic scheduling.

Today’s question: What is your one- word commitment?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Chair time with God”

Discerning wholeheartedness

“Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.”- 2 Chronicles 25:1-2 (NRSV)

“I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”- Acts 13:22 (NIV)

In Chapter 6 of All the Places to Go, John Ortberg quips that he can’t imagine a coach standing before his/her team and saying, “Now go out and give it . . . most of what you’ve got.”  However, Pastor Ortberg observes, at times people try to “walk through high-challenge doors with low-level commitment.”  Just the opposite is needed- greater wholeheartedness.

Yes, there could be an expectation that we’ll voluntarily suffer loss, sacrifice our comfort, give up our time, or humble our pride.  Sacrifice is involved when we must choose one thing over another.

One hundred percent commitment really boils down to where our hearts truly are.  Finessing commitment, as Amaziah did, won’t work.  John concludes with five questions to help us in discerning wholeheartedness:

1.  Do I talk about commitment to other people to create a kind of public accountability for my actions?

2.  Do I own the responsibility to grow?

3.  Do I complain about difficulties in a way that can subtly rationalize a halfhearted involvement?

4.  Do I deal with discouragements by talking with God and asking for strength to persevere?

5.  Do I recognize and celebrate even small steps in the right direction?

Today’s question: Which of Pastor Ortberg’s five questions holds the most significance for you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Jesus’ instructions”


Overcoming discord

“Submit yourselves to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”- James 4:7

Sara Horn concludes Chapter 7 of How Can I Possibly Forgive? with a discussion of six Steps to Overcoming Discord, based on James 4:7.  The first two steps are presented today.

1.  Submit to God.  We don’t like the word submit.  We don’t like using it to define our relationship with other people.  Sara adds that, if we’re honest, we’re sometimes uncomfortable saying it about our relationship with God.  Yet, God not only wants our love, He also wants our obedience.

Sara emphasizes that the secret to being able to forgive is learning how to submit our will to God.  God wants the best for us.  For this reason, God asks us to trust Him enough to follow Him wholeheartedly.  Although we don’t know what the future may bring, God walks with us every moment and step of our journey.

2.  Resist the devil.  When submission to God is our goal, many distractions are thrown at us in an attempt to convince us we need to concentrate on what we want to do.  While it’s tempting to harp on a situation that has hurt us, such fixation only sucks us down into a pit devoid of mercy, grace, and life.

When we are firmly planted with God, Satan can’t do anything about it.

Today’s question: Which of the first two steps have been problematic for you in overcoming discord?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, “Entertaining angels unawares”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Draw near to God”

The battle is not yours

“Do not be afraid, and do not be dismayed by this great horde, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”- 2 Chronicles 20:15

As Sara Horn continues Chapter 2 of How Can I Possibly Forgive?, she emphasizes that when we are intentional in living each day for Jesus and praying our way through it, something powerful happens.  This is important because not every moment of life is spent on a spiritual mountaintop with God.  At some point, every Christian has to return to the reality known as life.

When that reality hits, Christ’s joy and peace and kindness don’t always flow so easily from us.  We may wonder if those virtues are present at all.  Our natural tendency is to hold on to slights and offenses for dear life- if we let go something might change, and we won’t like it!  Sara explains the necessity of giving every day of our life to God:

“If I can intentionally give Jesus my days in any given week, I can be intentional with giving him every day of my life.  I can be deliberate about giving him the relationships in my life, even the hard ones . . . especially the hard ones.”

Sara asks one significant question: “Are the battles we chose the battles God has chosen for us?”  Even so, Sara stresses that the battle we really need to focus on in the battle within ourselves.  Only through God’s power can we choose the better way.

Today’s question: What battles do need to give up to the Lord?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation for Holy Week/Easter- “We all, like sheep”

Highly Forgiving People

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”- Luke 6:27-28

Sara Horn follows her study of highly resentful people with the Seven Habits of Highly Forgiving People in Chapter 2 of How Can I Possibly Forgive?.  The first three habits are discussed in today’s post.

1.  A highly forgiving person is intentional about living in peace.  Sara states that “forgiveness . . . requires stepping out of your comfort zone and letting go of your wants and expectations.”  The powerful actions Jesus describes in Luke 6:27-28 can produce peaceful results.

2.  A highly forgiving person is kind.  She cares more about doing the right thing in a given situation that what is in it for her.  Sara asserts that it is possible to practice kindness and get in the habit of being kind when  you do it often enough.  When we practice the characteristics of kindness, we are prepared to offer forgiveness when needed.

3.  A highly forgiving person is generous with her time, her money, and her life.  A generous spirit and offering forgiveness go hand in hand.  When giving becomes our default setting, it is easier to give grace and second chances as well.

Today’s question: What Scriptures have helped you develop a forgiving attitude toward those responsible for your vocation loss?  Please share.

Coming Wedesday: the new Short Meditation for Holy Week/Easter- “We all, like sheep”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Benefit of the doubt”


The posture of the soul

“I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper (The Emancipation Proclamation).  My whole soul is in it.”- Abraham Lincoln

John Ortberg begins Chapter 13 (“The Soul Needs Blessing”) of Soul Keeping by noting that the soul makes itself known when it reaches out in love.  The word the Bible uses for this is blessing.

Dallas Willard once told John that the Bible uses two great words to describe the posture of the soul to other people- one is to bless, the other is to curse.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“We are creatures with wills, and in every encounter with people we will what is good for them, or we fail to do so: we will what is bad.  We cannot help ourselves.”

Blessing, John emphasizes, is not just a word.  Blessings signifies the projection of good into the life of another person.  We must think, feel, and will it- we must be all in.

The soul bestows blessing.  In Genesis 27 Isaac told Esau to prepare a meal for him to eat, so “that my soul may bless you before I die.”  Because the blessing comes from Isaac’s soul, not simply Isaac, it carries such weight that it cannot be revoked once it is given.

Next Pastor Ortberg discusses how we truly can extend blessing to others.

Today’s question: What people have been a true blessing to you following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Souls were made to be blessed”

Soul- survival

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 12 of Soul Keeping by considering the second and third levels where the soul gets trapped.

2.  Sinfulness. The next ring on the target, sinfulness, has to do with our orientation.  Pastor Ortberg defines the difference between sinful acts and sinfulness:

“Sin is a deeply entrenched pattern way below the surface- insidious- like a disease that just leaks out of us without any effort.  My sinful acts are premeditated; my sinfulness is more like a habit I can’t control.”

John notes that our willpower can override a sinful habit for a moment or two.  Ultimately, he quips, “Habits eat willpower for breakfast.”  Our only hope lies in a new set of habits, not more willpower.  The goal is soul- survival.

3. Original sin.  Original sin is the bull’s eye- the bottom line reason for why we sin in the first place.  Our brokenness is very complex.  While our wounds, scars, and disappointments contribute, our natural inclination toward sin is at the core.

Yet we serve a perfect Savior who not only is patient with us, but stands ready to forgive when we fail.  The words Ruth Graham (wife of Billy) chose to have engraved on her tombstone reflect our loving Savior: “End of construction.  Thank you for your patience.”

Today’s question: How has Jesus’ patience been a blessing during your desert, land between time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The posture of the soul”

Indicators of soul-fatigue

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”- John 14:27

John Ortberg concludes his discussion of sustaining grace in Chapter 11 of Soul Keeping by listing six indicators of soul-fatigue.

1.  Things seem to bother you more than they should.  Personal peccadillos become massive character flaws.

2.  It’s hard to make up your mind about even a simple decision.

3.  Impulses to eat, drink, or crave are harder to resist than they should be.  When facing temptation, we are more likely to give in than if our soul was at rest.

4.  Short-term gains are favored, with resultant high long-term costs.  Because Israel grew tired and impatient waiting on Moses and God, they ended up worshipping a golden calf.

5.  Your judgment is suffering.  Poor, hasty, or irrational decisions are made.

6.  You have less courage.  When Jesus was crucified, the disciples fled in fear.  Years later, they sacrificed their lives for Jesus.  The change was not in their bodies, but in their souls.

When hurry is the default setting for our lives, the soul is not well.  Resting, on the other hand, gives the soul peace.

Today’s question: Do you have any of the indicators of soul-fatigue?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The Grace of Significance”

The nature of joy

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a while you will see me.”- John 16:16

“It is the nature of joy that all questions grow silent, and nothing needs explaining.”- Rudolf Bultmann

As John Ortberg concludes Chapter 9 of Soul Keeping, he discusses Jesus’ message to His disciples shortly before His death.  Regarding His illustration of a woman giving birth (John 16:21-25), Jesus points out that while a woman can bring the pain of childbirth to memory, the joy of giving life is greater than the pain of giving birth.  What begins in pain ends in joy.

This philosophy characterized the early church.  Even though followers of Jesus were beaten, they rejoiced.  Imprisoned, they sang songs.  Though living in poverty, they were joyfully generous.  No one, or nothing, is capable of taking away our joy!

Winston Churchill’s funeral was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  When the service was over, a bugler went up in the Dome and played “Taps”- time for sleep.  Everyone in attendance thought that was the end.  After the echoes from the last note of “Taps” died out, another bugler on the other side of the dome played Reveille- time to get up.

Pastor Ortberg concludes with these words of encouragement:

“We will see the goodness of God.  The world will be re-born.  Pain will be defeated.  There will be no more questions.”

Today’s question (since we’re still here!): How would you interpret Rudolf Bultmann’s quote about the nature of joy?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Walk with God”

Souls centered on God

“My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you . . .”- Psalm 42:6

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love . . . for to you I entrust my life (lift up my soul).”- Psalm 143:8

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 8 of Soul Keeping by stating that in the process of reaching out to God, we are lifting our souls up to Him to be healed.  When our soul is centered in God, we know in faith that our heavenly Father will hold our pain, fear, and anxiety.  Pastor Ortberg defines the spiritual life:

“To place the soul each moment in the presence and care of God.”

John emphasizes that it is much harder than it seems to keep our souls centered on God.  He adds that a very simple way to guard our souls is to ask ourselves: “Will this situation block my soul’s connection to God?”  When we ask ourselves this question, we’ll find how little power external circumstances like a ministry downsizing or vocation loss or financial problems have over us.  We will come to the realization that external circumstances cannot keep us from being with God.  If anything, they will draw us closer to Him.

Unless God is part of the equation- that is, our thinking takes Him into account- our soul loses its connection to God.

Today’s question: What Bible verses have helped keep your soul centered on God during your desert, transitional time?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The soul needs a future”