Monday, September 30, 2013

OMTL Day 30: "Game On"

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
      --Jesus, in John 10:10

And so we come to the end of the 30-Day "One Month to Live" challenge. 

But hopefully it's only the beginning of the "One Month to Live" lifestyle

The goal of this 30-Day challenge has been to help us clarify our priorities by giving us a sense of urgency. If you knew you only had one month to live, you would...

  • Live Passionately: You'd step out and take risks. You'd try things you've never tried before. You'd notice and enjoy the little things, the simple pleasures of life. And you'd get serious about pursuing those dreams you've placed on hold. 
  • Love Completely: All of a sudden you'd realize (if you don't realize it now) that love is the most important thing there is. You'd make sure to spend time with those you love. You'd forgive people who have hurt you, and you'd seek forgiveness from those you've done wrong. 
  • Learn Humbly: You'd have a new perspective on suffering. You'd realize that God uses suffering to make us spiritually mature. He uses struggles to form us into the character of Jesus. And as you looked at the end of your life, you'd have a new appreciation for character, because you'd realize that it's one of the only things you can take with you. 
  • Leave Boldly: If you knew you had a short time to live, but you still had some time to prepare, you'd want to be sure you're leaving behind a positive spiritual legacy. And you'd want to be sure you've made peace with God by trusting Jesus for salvation. Then you'd be ready to leave boldly. 
So here's the question: Why not start doing those things now? 

Jesus came that we might have life. Rich, full, and satisfying (not necessarily easy). Living out the priorities that we've considered over the last 30 days is one way to claim that life and experience it. 

Game on! 

Pray about this question: "What's the most important thing I've gained from One Month to Live?" It might be something you learned, a decision you made, an action you took, a new relationship you started, or an old relationship that you repaired or renewed. 

Now: Consider that ONE THING and write down the next step you need to take. (Don't try to do a bunch of things--you'll just get overwhelmed, and you won't do any of them.) Maybe that next step is to incorporate the thing you learned into your daily life. Maybe it's to act on that decision you made. Maybe it's to revisit that action you took and figure out what to do next. Maybe it's to go spend some time with the person with whom you formed a new (or renewed) relationship.

Read any blog posts that you missed, and listen to any of the sermons that you didn't hear. 

Click here and give me some feedback on this series and what it meant to you!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

OMTL Day 29: "Game Over"

A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.
       --Ecclesiastes 7:4, New Living Translation

What? A wise person thinks a lot about death? What kind of wisdom is that? 

Today's Scripture was written by King Solomon. Even though he made some HUGE mistakes at the end of his life (a good lesson for us all), in his best days he was considered the wisest person who ever lived. And Solomon says that wise people think seriously--and often--about the end of their days. 

Sort of like Psalm 90:12, the Scripture we started with on Day 1 of this challenge: 
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
I rarely play video games, but when I do, there are two words that I see a lot: GAME OVER. When I'm playing against one of my kids, they don't see those words nearly as much as I do. Because they're good. They keep racking up points and earning extra turns or reaching the next level or whatever. But me--a minute or two into the game and I've lost all my lives or used up all my magic arrows, and my little man on the screen keels over dead and those big ugly words appear: GAME OVER.

That's fine for video games. I either start another game, or (more likely) put the controller down and find something else to do. 

But what about when the game of life is over. Then what? 

Thinking about the end of life is important because it impacts what you do now. When that day comes, you want to be ready to face it. For one thing, you want to know that you're leaving behind a positive legacy. That you've invested your one-and-only life in things that are worthwhile and lasting. 

For another thing, you want to be prepared to "meet your maker," as they say. You want to be prepared for what lies ahead. 

All week long we've been talking about leaving a legacy. If you've missed the blog posts from this week, let me encourage you to scroll down to Monday's post and check them out. 

On the other thing--preparing for what lies ahead--if you're not sure where you're going when your life is over, please CLICK HERE. 

Do what Solomon says. Think about the end of your days. Ask yourself, "What will I be leaving behind? And what will lie ahead?" Then spend some time thinking and praying about what you need to do to have POSITIVE answers to those questions. Again-if you're not sure about the second one, CLICK HERE. Or give me a call, and let's talk. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

OMTL Day 28: "Footprint"

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
        --2 Timothy 2:2

Did you see the movie "Evan Almighty" starring Steve Carrell and Morgan Freeman? It was fun to watch, but it didn't receive rave reviews.  What was notable about that film, however, is that it was the first major Hollywood film that claimed to leave zero carbon footprint. 

The producers of "Evan Almighty" used all the green technology they could to reduce the amount of carbon emissions they released into the atmosphere. They bought 400 bicycles for the crew to ride to work. Every script was printed on 2 sides of the paper. Every cup and plate was made of recycled material. All the wood for the massive ark that was built for the movie was donated to Habitat for Humanity to be used to build houses for the needy. 

After reducing all the carbon emissions they could, they then calculated the carbon they still emitted and offset it by planting trees. Crew members were required to plant over 2,050 trees to offset the movie's carbon footprint. (Another 15,000 trees were donated through the movie's website.)

In these days of environmentalism, we're trying to reduce our carbon footprint. That's a good thing. 

But as we move towards the end of "One Month to Live," we want to figure out how to increase our spiritual footprint. We want to leave a lasting impression that makes a difference long after we're gone. 

So how do you increase your spiritual footprint? By pouring your life into people. Relationships. You've heard this over and over throughout One Month to Live. Relationships are what life is about. People are where you should invest your time and energy. 

You make an impact on the world by making an impact on people. 

Kerry Shook writes: 
Think of someone you love who has passed away. How would you describe his or her spiritual legacy? What would you like to emulate about this person's legacy of character? (OMTL, p. 214)
And I would invite you to consider this: When you have passed away, how will the people who love you describe your spiritual legacy? What will they emulate about you (for good or ill)? 

Who are you pouring yourself into? For whom are you making a lasting difference by spending time with them, sharing your life with them, lovingly guiding them? 

If you have a family, that's where you should start. If you don't have a family, then a good place for you to start might be in the children's or youth ministries of Covenant Community Church. Or maybe in a mentoring program like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Or your nearest public school. Call the guidance office and ask if they could use a volunteer tutor. 

In tomorrow's sermon, I'll be talking about the Apostle Paul. Today's Scripture comes from a letter he wrote to his young friend Timothy. Paul left behind a HUGE spiritual footprint, and one of the ways he did that was by pouring himself into this young leader. Notice in the Scripture how the legacy is passed on. Paul teaches Timothy. Timothy teaches others. Those people teach others. 

And the legacy continues. 

What could you do to increase your spiritual footprint by investing in relationships? 

Friday, September 27, 2013

OMTL Day 27: "Starfish"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
       --Romans 12:1-2

You've probably heard the story. A young boy is walking along the beach. The tide has come in and gone back out, leaving thousands of starfish washed up on the beach. They'll die if they don't get back into the water. 

And so the little boy starts picking up the starfish one by one and putting them back into the ocean. Eventually a businessman comes along and sees what he's doing. "Son, let me tell you," he says. "You're doing a noble thing, but you can't save all these starfish. There are thousands of them. The son's getting hotter and they're all going to die. You might as well run along and play. You really can't make a difference here." 

At which point the boy picks up another starfish and flings it into the water--and then looks at the man and says, "It made a difference to that one." 

The needs of the world are overwhelming. Hunger. Poverty. Epidemics. Natural Disasters. Countless people who have never had a chance to experience God's love in Jesus Christ. Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands in despair. There are so many needs. How can I possibly make a difference? 

But here's the thing: Even if I can only help one person--to that person, it makes all the difference in the world. 

I love this quote from Edward Everett Hale: 
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Part of "Leaving Boldly" is leaving behind a legacy. Making a difference with your days on earth. An important key to making a difference is found in today's Scripture. Offer yourself to God. Become a living sacrifice. Let God guide you to the "Starfish" that He wants you to save. 

First, offer your body to God as a living sacrifice, to be used by Him. Then, be on the lookout for one person that you can help. You can't do everything--but you can do something. Find that something and do it today.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

OMTL Day 26: "Collisions"

Trust in the Lord and do good; 
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this.

      --Psalm 37:3-5

Do you have collision insurance? You know, car insurance that pays for damage to your own car in a crash?

Before this summer, I wasn't sure if I did or not. Lorie is the person in our house who handles that stuff. I knew we had insurance, 'cause I have an insurance card, but I wasn't sure if we had collision or not.

Here's how I discovered the answer to that question.

One day in August, I was driving Lorie's car. A 2001 Honda Oddysey. A great big honkin' Mommy-Van. I was driving into the garage. Just as I was pulling in, I looked out the driver's side window at something lying in the driveway, and...BAM! I hit the passenger's side fender on the side of the garage!

I made a humongous dent in the side of Lorie's car (The side of the garage was fine.Thanks for asking. Oh, and I was fine too -- until Lorie got home.) I took it to the body shop and discovered that I did $800 worth of damage. (OK, I was definitely not fine at that point!) This was going to be expensive. 

And that's when I found out that yes, we have collision insurance! 

You know the thing about the side of the garage--it wasn't moving. It is a fixed object. It was me that was moving, and I was out of alignment. The collision happened because I was not in line with the garage. 

Collisions happen in our lives when we are not in line with the will of God. 

Sometimes it's a collision of values. We don't care deeply enough about the things God says are important. 

Sometimes it's a collision of wills. God wants us to go one way, but we want to go another. 

Today's Scripture points to three ways to stay lined up with God's will: 

  • Trust - "Trust in the Lord" -- When I get on an airline, I trust the pilot to fly the plane. I figure he knows more about operating an airplane, choosing a flight path, and responding to weather patterns than I do. He knows best, so I just sit back and trust him. When we trust God like this--when we really believe that he knows best--then we'll want to let Him "fly the plane." 
  • Delight - "Take delight in the Lord" -- The word "delight" means "enjoy." The more we delight in God -- the more we enjoy His presence (through worship, prayer, and spending time in the Word) -- the more we will find ourselves wanting what He wants. The "desires of our hearts" will line up with the desires of God. 
  • Commit -- "Commit your way to the Lord" -- This is where the rubber hits the road. You discern God's will, and then you do it. Sometimes it doesn't feel good at first. That's our human nature. But here's the thing: If you've been learning to trust, and you've been delighting in God's presence, then commitment isn't such a huge leap
I got Lorie's van fixed, and I think she's just about to the point where she will speak to me again (just kidding). If she ever lets me drive her vehicle again, I will try to make sure as I pull into the garage that I am in the center of the door. 

And as I go through life, I will try to make sure that I am in the center of God's will.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OMTL Day 25: "Sticks and Stones"

But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.
              --Matthew 7:26

Jesus told a story about two builders. They were both building the same thing -- a house. They both faced the same problem -- a storm. But in the end, one house stood and the other fell. The difference? Where they built. The house that stood was built on the rock. The house that fell was built on sand. 

Sand is soft and comfortable and easy to work with. Rock is hard and uncomfortable. Sand conforms to your shape. Rock requires you to conform to its shape. 

It's tempting to build your life on sand, that is, to hear the teaching of Jesus and go your own way, do your own thing. That way of life may look easier and more comfortable at first, but later, when the storm hits, it's not so great. 

Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul talks about building again. This time he's talking to Christ followers -- those who are building their lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ:
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames (1 Corinthians 3:12-14 NLT). 
Imagine your life as a house--a house that you are building. Your first choice is where to build--on the rock (Jesus) or on the sand. 

After you make that first important decision, you continue to build for the rest of your life. The choices you make about how to invest your time, talent, and resources are like additions to your house. If you invest in things that are of no eternal value, then you're building your house with sticks. The problem with sticks is they don't last. They will burn up in the fire of God's presence.

But if you invest your time, talent, and resources in things that last forever--like people--God's Word--God's Kingdom--then you're building your house with stones. Stones don't burn when exposed to fire. They last forever. 

The point: There are things you can do now (in this life) that you'll appreciate then (in eternity). Following Jesus is not just a matter of saying the Sinner's Prayer and then biding your time until you die and go to heaven. You still have a life to build. And you can build a life of God-centered choices and Spirit-empowered actions that will follow you into eternity; or you can build a life of self-centered choices and flesh-driven actions that may feel great now but will be revealed as worthless when you get to heaven.

There are things you can do now that you'll appreciate then.

What could you do today to invest time, talent, or some of your resources in something that will make an eternal difference? 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OMTL Day 24: "Seeds"

One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.

        --Psalm 145:4

Some years ago, my family and I took a trip out west, where we witnessed some of the most beautiful sights of God's creation. The Rocky Mountains. The Grand Canyon. The Star Trek experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. (OK, maybe that last one wasn't exactly a "beautiful sight of God's creation" -- but for a geek like me, it was a blast!)

One of the things that made an impression on me was a group of orchards maintained by the National Park Service. The rules were simple: You could pick and eat all the fruit you wanted, but you couldn't take any fruit out of the orchard. Ladders were provided, and there were places where you could sit and enjoy the fruit. When we were there the cherries were ripe and ready. Have you ever tasted cherries right off the tree? Wow. 

But here's what really impressed me: Those orchards had been planted over 100 years before we were eating from them. The people who planted them were long gone. But they had left something behind that would outlive them. They had planted seeds that would bear fruit for years to come. 

Are you doing anything with your life that will outlive you? 

Are you planting any seeds that will bear fruit long after you're gone? 

Today's Scripture points to one very important way to leave a legacy: Invest in New Generations. At Covenant Community, that's our vision. You can join in that vision by volunteering in our children and youth ministries; or by volunteering at a local school; or by helping us feed the Reynolds High School football team; or simply by giving to the church. Your financial gifts make our ministries to New Generations possible. 

If you're a parent, the most important way you can invest in New Generations is to actively model faith for your children. If you bring them to church on a regular basis, we'll have around 40 hours a year to influence their lives for Christ (52 Sundays minus days off for vacation, sick days, etc.). You, on the other hand, will have around 3,000 hours a year to influence your children. What happens at home is more important than what happens at church. 

Invest in New Generations. Help plant seeds of faith in those who are coming after us. Do something that will continue to bear fruit long after you're gone. 

Think of a way you can Reach New Generations. Look at the suggestions above, or come up with an idea of your own. Do it - today - or put something on your calendar to do by the end of this week. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

OMTL Day 23: "Sandcastles"

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
        --Ephesians 5:15-17

Today we move into the final principle of the One Month to Live lifestyle--"Leave Boldly." 

Have you ever built sandcastles on the beach? If you've ever gone to the beach as a kid--or with a kid--chances are you have. 

It doesn't seem that long ago that I was building sandcastles with my two kids, David and Mary. For a long time, Mary loved the sand much more than the water, so she would spend hours digging and piling up sand. David and I would swim first, and then join her later in creating a masterpiece of sand architecture. We had these little plastic bucket-thingies that molded the sand. We would fill them up and turn them over and make turrets for the castle. We would build windows and archways, dig a moat (with actual water), and decorate the castle with sea shells and pieces of driftwood. We would work diligently until lunchtime, and then stand back and admire our creation. 

And of course, after lunch, when we came back out to the beach -- our sandcastle was gone. The tide had come in and washed it away. 

Now, we knew that would happen, and it was actually part of the fun. We enjoyed running down to the beach to see if the sandcastle was still there. We were fascinated with the ocean's power to wipe away the structure that we had worked on all morning. 

Spending a morning building a sandcastle, even if it gets washed away in the afternoon, is fun. What's sad is people who spend their entire lives building sandcastles -- sandcastles that get washed away after they die. 

Money can do a lot of important things. But you can't take it with you when you die. If your life is all about making money, you're building a sandcastle. 

Possessions can make life more fun. But nothing you own is going to last forever. If your motto is "The one who dies with the most toys wins," you're building a sandcastle. 

Work is important. Through work we provide for those we love and make a contribution to society. But if all you do is work-if you're a workaholic who ignores your family and destroys your relationships--you're building a sandcastle. 

And the thing about sandcastles is they get washed away. No matter how pretty they look, no matter how strong you build them--they're not going to last. 

Today's Scripture urges us to invest our lives wisely--to make the most of every opportunity--to live our lives in alignment with the will of God. 

In other words, don't spend your life building sandcastles. 

It's the first day of the week. Think of something you could do this week that will leave a lasting legacy. Maybe it's spending some real time with your family. Maybe it's inviting a friend to church. Maybe it's spending extra time in prayer. Maybe it's giving some money to a Christian charity that is making an impact for eternity. What could you do this week that will matter for the long run? Think of something and make a plan.

For more thoughts on today's Scripture, check out this earlier post

Sunday, September 22, 2013

OMTL Day 22: "Road Signs"

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
               --Mark 10:27

This past week we've been talking about "Learning Humbly" (also the topic for today's message in our worship services). We've been talking about learning humbly through suffering--seeing our problems as an opportunity to grow--allowing God to use our struggles to shape us into the character of Christ. 

As we wrap up this topic, don't forget this: God is in the business of doing miracles.  There are things that are impossible for us--but all things are possible with God. 

Sometimes the miracle God performs has to do with physical healing or financial provision. Sometimes it has more to do with emotional, spiritual, or relational healing. Sometimes the miracle God grants is supernatural strength to face a horrible situation. But don't forget: God is able to do things for us that we cannot do for ourselves. All things are possible with God. 

In One Month to Live, Kerry Shook writes:
Miracles are not only possible; they're more common than we think.  God cares for us and wants to work in our lives.  The hard part is remembering this when we come to a crossroads and must choose how to respond ... Whether we're facing a painful loss or confronted with choosing between two good options, the only way to experience the miraculous is to move in God's direction. There's definitely no formula, but in the Bible I find four road signs that can help us transform those forks in the road into a fulfilling miraculous journey (p. 166). 
If you are in need of a miracle, the "Road Signs" you need to observe are...

Actually, there are two one-way streets you have to go down. They're both mentioned in today's Scripture. The first one-way street is the one that says, "With man this is impossible..." Admit your need. Come to the end of yourself. Recognize that you can't solve your problem on your own. 

And the second one-way street: "...but not with God. All things are possible with God." Turn your problem over to God. Recognize God as the only one who can meet your need. 

Next, stop. Stop and assess what you have to work with. What has God already provided? Have you placed it in his hands? Think of the little boy with the loaves and fishes. He handed them over to Jesus and Jesus used them to feed 5000 people. What resources--human, financial, physical, etc.--has God already provided? Take these and offer them to God in faith.

Next, make a U-Turn--from a negative direction to a positive.  Our natural human reaction to difficult situations is usually quite negative. We look at everything through a dark lens. We lapse into depression. We worry. We argue. We blame others. We give up hope.  

If you're looking for a miracle, you have to turn away from these negative attitudes. While they are normal, natural, and understandable, they are not faith. As Kerry Shook says, "We can't recognize what God is doing in our lives if we're wallowing in our own negativity.  We have to make that U-turn and focus on God instead of the problem" (OMTL, p. 169). 

The last road sign is counter-intuitive, but Kerry Shook says it is the most important. Yield. Start looking for ways to serve others--to give to others--to meet the needs of others--with what you already have. 

Scripture testifies that God blesses us when we bless others. We are "Blessed to be a Blessing." God's blessings, God's miracles, flow to us as we let them overflow to others. 

Have you come to a place on the road of life where you need a miracle? Follow the road signs. Admit your need and dependence on God. Stop and assess what you already have. Make a U-turn away from negative attitudes. And start looking for ways to bless others. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

OMTL Day 21: "Mulligan"

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.
       1 Chronicles 29:17

Integrity. It comes from the same root as integerintegral, and integrated. It means "whole, complete, of one piece." Integrity means living one life. It means that who you are at church, is who you are at work, is who you are at home, is who you are when no one's looking.

When you come to the end of your life, you're going to want to look back on a life of integrity. You're going to want to be able to say, "I was honest. I was fair. I kept my promises. I didn't cheat. I didn't fake it. I did my best to live one life." 

When you come to the end of your life, integrity is going to matter a lot to you. So does it matter to you now? Are you striving to live a life of integrity? 

Golf is a game of integrity (well, it's supposed to be, at least.) If you play golf, you keep your own score. Your golf buddies trust you to find your ball, hit it where it lies, and write down honestly the number of times you tried to hit the ball. If you're a person of integrity, that's exactly what you'll do. You won't cheat. You won't move the ball. You won't lie about your score. 

But you might ask for a mulligan. 

In the game of golf, a mulligan is a do-over. You tee off and the ball goes off into the woods. You look at your golf buddies and say, "I'll take a mulligan." Assuming they agree, your bad shot doesn't count. Like it never even happened. You get to start from scratch and take a whole 'nother shot. 

In the game of life, God keeps the scorecard. And God's scorecard is completely accurate. You can't cheat, you can't move the ball, and there's no use lying about your score. If you've messed up, God knows. 

But here's the good news: You can ask for a mulligan. 

Jesus Christ offers the ultimate mulligan. More than just a chance to hit the ball again. A real do-over. A completely clean slate. 

When Jesus died on the cross, he took your scorecard--with all its bogeys, double bogeys, and triple bogeys--and exchanged it for his perfect one.

And now if you will just ask -- if you will have the integrity to admit that you've messed up--and the integrity to ask for forgiveness -- Jesus will give you that mulligan.

Living with integrity does not mean being perfect. We're all sinners. Even people with integrity mess up.  The difference is that when they mess up, they 'fess up. They don't cover up, they own up. They admit their mistake, apologize, and do whatever they can to make it right. That's integrity. 

Are you a person of integrity? Are you doing your best to live one life? Is there anything you're trying to cover up? Anything you need to make right?

Anything you need to confess and ask forgiveness for?

Why not do it now?

Friday, September 20, 2013

OMTL Day 20: "Earthquake"

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
         --Proverbs 3:5-6

Did you know there was an earthquake in our area less than a month ago? On August 28, there was an earthquake in Hendersonville. Of course, it only measured 2.1 on the Richter scale, which puts it in the category of a minor earthquake. But still -- that's pretty close to home! 

Have you ever lived through an earthquake? I haven't, so I can only imagine what it's like. But I would guess it's incredibly frightening when your entire world begins to shake and the very ground you stand on is no longer stable. 

And I would guess that when that happens, your first instinct (other than avoiding falling objects) is to reach out for something stable. Something unshakeable. A safe place to stand in the midst of the chaos. 

You may have never lived through a literal earthquake--but I bet you've lived through an emotional, spiritual, relational, or health-related earthquake. Something bad happened in your life and it felt like your whole world was shaking. Like the very ground you stand on was giving way. 

Your first instinct was probably to reach out for something solid--to find a safe place in the midst of the chaos. So what--or who--did you reach out to? 

Kerry Shook says that the only safe place to stand--the only unshakeable center--is God:
If you have anything other than God at the center of your life when the earthquake of problems hits--and it inevitably will--your center won't be strong enough to hold you together. If you have a solid center, you have a solid life. A weak center, and your life crumbles. If you feel like your life is breaking apart, then you need to stop and examine what's at the core of your life. It's never too late to ask God to be the center of your life and to build upon His truth as your sure foundation (One Month to Live, p. 153).
Proverbs 3:5-6 is fairly well-known as a passage about guidance. Trust God, don't depend on your own wisdom, acknowledge God--and he will "make your paths straight," i.e. guide you in important decisions.

Today think of a "straight path" as one that is safe, stable, secure--a path that doesn't move even when the rest of the world is in chaos. How do you get on that path? By submitting to God. By asking God to be the unshakeable center of your life.

Re-read the paragraph from One Month to Live above, and "examine what's at the core of your life." Who or what do you depend on when earthquakes hit? If it's something other than God, confess that, and ask God to be the unshakeable center of your life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

OMTL Day 19: "Metamorphosis"

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he restores my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

     --Psalm 23:2-3

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
         --Romans 12:2

What comes to mind when you hear the word metamorphosis? You probably think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The grubby little caterpillar spins a cocoon, crawls in and sleeps, and emerges as something completely different--a beautiful butterfly. 

This process is symbolic of what God wants to do in our lives. God wants to change us from what we are now into something beautiful. 

Notice two things about the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. First, for the transformation to happen, the caterpillar has to get quiet and still. It's the same with us. Kerry Shook says, "Spiritual growth and transformation will never occur in your life until you finally get still, until you stop moving." Commenting on today's Scripture from Psalm 23, he says, "Motion and commotion steal the soul, but stillness restores the soul" (OMTL, p. 145). 

Second, notice that for the transformation to be complete, there has to be struggle. The story is told of a young boy who noticed a chrysalis hanging on a tree branch. When he saw that a brand new butterfly was emerging, he thought he'd help it along. He used his pocket knife to cut open the chrysalis so that the butterfly could fly right out. But it didn't. It lay in the boy's hand with wet, floppy wings -- and it died.

You see, struggling to get out of the chrysalis strengthens the butterfly's wings. Remove the struggle and you defeat the process. For transformation to happen, there has to be struggle. 

And it's the same with us. 

Stillness. Struggle. It takes both of these for metamorphosis to happen. 

Quiet moments in the presence of God not only "restore your soul" -- they also give you a chance to gain a new perspective on your struggles -- a perspective that lets you see them in a new light, as opportunities for growth. So today, find some time to be still and reflect on your struggles. Take a walk in the woods, sit on the back porch, go outside at night and look at the stars, go in a room by yourself...whatever works for you. Try reading Psalm 23 several times, quietly and prayerfully. Pray the Psalm -- i.e., ask God to "walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death," and to "comfort you," etc. Ask God to show you what He wants to teach you in whatever struggles you're facing. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

OMTL Day 18: "Hurricanes"

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
        --Jeremiah 29:11

Have you lived through any hurricanes? If you were in the Asheville area in 2004, you might remember Hurricane Ivan. Ivan's high winds caused major power outages, and the intense, heavy rainfall led to massive flooding, rockslides, destruction of property, and five lives being lost. 

In 1989 I was living in Charlotte when Hurricane Hugo devastated Charleston and then made its way north to the Piedmont of North Carolina. Trees were down everywhere. Roads were blocked. Power was out for weeks. People stood in long lines to buy ice, bottled water, and gasoline for generators. It took a long time to recover from the damage. 

The worst natural disaster in our nation's history took place on September 8, 1900 when a category four-plus hurricane slammed into Galveston, Texas. 140 mile-per-hour winds and tidal surges of sixteen feet battered the island city, leaving more than six thousand people dead. 

The devastation was horrendous. But in the recovery, the citizens of Galveston made a choice. Rather than give up, they decided to let the hurricane make them stronger. They built a sea wall, three miles long and seventeen feet high, to protect the island. And they actually raised the elevation of the entire city by several feet. The result? When the next hurricane came, there was only minimal damage. 

We're all going to face hurricanes in our lives. We don't get to choose which ones or when they strike. But we do get to choose how we respond. We can let the hurricanes destroy us, or we can respond in a way that allows the hurricanes to make us stronger. 

One way to do that is to start preparing, now, for the next hurricane. Before it strikes. You can prepare by strengthening your relationship with God. This relationship will become the anchor that holds you steady when the next storm hits. 

And when it comes, hold on to the promise in today's Scripture. God is with you in the middle of that storm. And His plans for you are good.

Are you in the midst of a hurricane right now? How could today's Scripture give you the hope you need to get through it? Memorize Jeremiah 29:11--or even just a key phrase from it. Repeat it to yourself throughout the day. 

If you are not currently facing a hurricane, then now is the time to prepare for the next one. Ask God to show you what you need to do to strengthen your relationship with Him. How often do you connect with God through prayer, worship, and reflection on Scripture? How often do you connect with God by connecting with His people in a small group? Commit to one step you will take to strengthen your relationship with God. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

OMTL Day 17: "GPS"

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
       --1 Corinthians 12:4-5

On the day I'm writing this, I'll be driving to Highlands, North Carolina. I've never been there, and I'm not sure I know the way. But not to worry: I've got a GPS! 

When I get behind the wheel, I'll press the button on the bottom of my iPhone and say, "Navigate to (the address of the place I'm going)." I'll put my iPhone in the little holder on my dashboard, and a sweet female voice will give me turn-by-turn directions. I'll follow the GPS and it will get where I'm supposed to go! 

Did you know that God has placed a GPS within you? Follow it, and it will get you where you're supposed to go. 

GPS. Gifts, Passions, and Struggles. Together they form a unique roadmap that reveals God's direction for your life. 

Gifts: Both the natural talents you were born with, and the spiritual gifts that God empowered you with when you gave your life to Christ. Your natural talents might include singing, baking, woodworking, fixing cars... Your spiritual gifts might include...

  • Administration: the ability to organize people and resources to accomplish God's will)
  • Teaching: the ability to explain Biblical truth in a way that others can understand
  • Encouragement: the ability to lift up others who are struggling
  • Serving: the ability to walk into a situation, see what needs to be done, and do it cheerfully and without any need for recognition. 
You can take an online spiritual gifts inventory here

Passions: What gets your heart racing? What do you love doing so much that when you're doing it you lose all track of time? What need or cause or God-honoring activity occupies your thoughts constantly, maybe even keeping you awake at night? 

What are your passions? 

Your passions are not an accident. God has planted them within you. They are part God's plan for your life. 

Struggles: I don't believe God causes times of pain and struggle--but I do believe He He allows them -- and I know for a fact He uses them.

One way God uses our struggles is to bring us closer to Himself -- to help us learn to depend on Him. Another way God uses our struggles is to bring us closer to others. God can use my struggles to help someone else who is going through the same thing. 

What are your struggles? How could you use what you have learned and experienced to help someone else? 

Turn on the GPS that God has placed within you by looking at your Gifts, Passions, and Struggles. Listen for the guiding Voice that you hear. Follow it, and you will get where you're supposed to go. 

Don't over think this. Go with gut instincts. First, pray. Then make a list of your Gifts (both natural and spiritual). Then your Passions. And finally, your Struggles. After you've written these down, look at your lists and ask God to show you what He wants you to do. If you feel utterly confused, then ask God to show you in His time. Put the list away, go through your day, and see what thoughts come into your mind.