The ‘Life’ You’ve Wanted [v130]

DECEMBER 2009

THE ‘LIFE’ YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED
Like the “big ideas” put forth at that “TEDx” gathering I attended in Detroit back a month or so ago, a ‘big idea’ in today’s culture seems to be the interest in ‘spiritual transformation’ (over 5 million hits available in my Google search). Whether it’s on Oprah, a ‘reality show’, being “Touched By An Angel,” or in the church, it’s all the ‘rage’—and the new ‘buzzword’.

So, with all the information available about how to go about this, ‘where’ should we look for guidance? Well, for one, ourselves.

When we honestly reflect on who we are, we realize that no matter what we’ve accomplished, we can’t escape the ‘nagging’ feeling that something is missing—something is not quite as it should be. We bear a sense of disappointment in who we are, what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and what we haven’t done. We realize we could be better friends, neighbors, and spouses.

But…there’s good news. There’s a ‘source’ that’s been around for thousands of years, that has a lot to say about this, and is purported to be ‘inspired’ by our “Creator”—the Bible—and if that’s true, I’m thinking that it would be one of the better ‘sources’ to consider.

The Christian gospel proclaims that God is in the ‘business’ of TRANSFORMING ordinary people so we can express His character and goodness in our whole being—changing the essential ‘nature’ of a person.

This transformation involves learning to think like Jesus would think, to feel what He’d fell, to perceive that He’d perceive, and therefore, to do what He would do.

If we are serious about spiritual transformation, we must ‘train’ for it just as we would train for running a marathon or to become a concert pianist. Training involves practicing spiritual ‘disciplines’, which can be any activity that opens us up to God’s transforming power, and helps us to live life as Jesus taught and modeled it. These practices help us grow in the ability to do what we cannot do by willpower alone. So, it’s “morphing time” (remember the “Power Rangers”?).

My church just finished a six-week congregation-wide study entitled, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” by John Ortberg. It discussed, at length, some of the “disciplines” that are necessary in developing a spiritual life that will continue to grow stronger as we mature, and something that can “transform” the human personality into something most people have always wanted.

The six topics were:

– Transforming the Human [spiritual] ‘Heart’
– Slowing Down and Celebrating
– Prayer and Confession
– Seeking God’s Guidance
– Serving Others
– The Well-ordered ‘Heart’

One of the ‘methods’ that was used to illustrate each of the concepts were short dramas (2-4 minutes for each topic), so I thought I would also use them as an ‘introduction’ to my discussions.

So, click the following link to view a 2-minute drama on “transformation”:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_1_Drama.html

I think all of us is familiar with the notion of “morphing” or transformation—it’s what happens to a caterpillar after a while when it emerges from its cocoon as a butterfly, or more recently in the movies when machines turn into warring robots (“Transformers”). Morphing is all about becoming something else.

Ortberg starts by conveying that all of us have an idea of what the best possible life ‘looks’ like—and he suggests that most of us realize we are not yet living that life. We all have aspirations, many of which concern the kind of job we would like, places we would like to visit, or things we would like to have. It seems that if we don not get exactly what we want, we experience a level of discontent (and for some, that discontent ‘drives’ them even more to achieve their desires).

So, I hope you have a ‘healthy’ amount of discontent with your life right now, one that would motivate you to seek for something more—especially in the ‘spiritual’ context.

To pursue some kind of ‘transformation’ doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing good about your life right now, or that you have no sense of meaning or purpose. Your life doesn’t have to be a joyless ‘drudgery’ to profit from some transformation. Rather, it’s because you could be experiencing much more that you presently are that should ‘motivate’ you to further your growth.

The ‘good news’ is that the Bible tells us that God very much desires us to have a genuine ‘hope’ that our lives will grow into something remarkable!

The author concludes this topic by suggesting that what’s most important is the “state of our hearts”—that is to say it’s what’s inside that matters most—and that’s what God ‘looks’ at.

Just as an athlete transforms his or her physical body by following some ‘disciplines’—like eating a balanced diet, visiting the gym, and getting plenty of rest—we too can transform our spiritual lives by focusing on disciplines that help us discover a ‘way’ of life that would be pleasing to God. Real “transformation” IS POSSIBLE!

To start this discussion on “slowing down and celebrating,” the following link to view a drama:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_2_Drama.html

Though a Senate subcommittee estimated it in the 1960’s that by the end of the 90’s, because of the predicted dramatic technological advances being affordable to the masses, most would be working fewer hours per week, and fewer weeks per year.

Well, even though they were right about phenomenal technology being available to all, buying the newest ‘gadget’ that does save us some time and effort, it seems we are just ‘absorbed’ by more things on the “to-do” list, and we continually strive to do more, and to do it faster—‘haunting’ us daily that there are not enough hours in the day to do all that needs to get done (recent studies show that the average worker has added 50% more activity to their day, and is ‘active’ for almost 16 each day!). It’s no wonder that a Sunday school teacher reported hearing a 5-year-old, who was very much into video games and computers, recite the “Lord’s Prayer,” and ended it by saying, “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from e-mail, Amen.”

How often do you find yourself hurrying through your days and feeling ‘harried’ as a result? We tend to pack out schedules too tightly, and end up running from one thing to the next without even remembering what we had done the previous day—or even the previous hour! (Some parents feel like they are running a taxi service).

So, when your schedule is too hectic, relationships usually suffer—since they need time to be nurtured. After the job responsibilities (which can be ‘ultra’ demanding these days), the kids’ activities, other meetings and appointments (which are good in and of themselves), there is precious little time to really ‘connect’ with those who are closest to you—much less ‘connecting’ with God.

Ortberg suggests that most of know that hurry prevents us from living and loving well—and is the “great enemy” of spiritual growth. Although Jesus was always ‘busy’, He was never ‘hurried’. He regularly took time to nurture His ‘life-giving’ connection with His Father, so His priorities were always ordered according to His Father’s will.

The good news is that life ‘patterns’ are learned, so even ‘old dogs’ like me can be taught a thing or two—so start by “ruthlessly eliminating hurry” from your life, and you will find that you won’t even remember what you missed. Then, once you have a bit more time to connect with God, you will also find that it will produce more than a “well-ordered life,” it will PRODUCE JOY in the here-and-now, and the anticipation of a day when you can experience God’s “indescribable joy” to its fullest.

Remember when your parents told you “confession was good for the soul”? Well, at least it’s good for being forgiven:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_3_Drama.html

This might be one of the most difficult ‘disciplines’, because none us really likes to confront the stuff we do that isn’t pleasing to others—especially God. Yet, our lives are an ‘open book’ to Him—there’s nothing we say or do that He doesn’t know about. Sometimes, you don’t have to be God to know what someone is trying to hide.

Recently, a 19-year-old from Fort Louden, Pennsylvania burglarized a home in a nearby community in late August 2009. He rifled through cabinets and drawers, and finally found two diamond rings. At that point, he was satisfied with the ‘stash’ and started to leave. On the way out, he noticed that his victim’s computer was on, so he stopped to check his Facebook page. However, in a hurry, he neglected to log off the site, and it was pretty easy for the police to track him down. The ‘moral’ of the story is that he didn’t get away with anything, and in the end, neither do we.

I believe that a humans were created with a conscience, and we all experience ‘guilt’ when we do something wrong (and we really know that confession IS good for us).

A few years ago, a man named Frank Warren felt there should be a ‘spot’ for people to be able to confess to things that were bothering them—so he created a web site blog called “PostSecret.com.” Each week he receives ‘secrets’, from all around the world, in the form of an anonymous “postcard.” He then ‘posts’ them on the site for all to see. People who’ve been too scared or embarrassed to talk about their ‘guilt’ have found that they felt better after posting their secret because their sense of isolation and shame were removed! Mr. Warren said, “Sometimes, we believe we are keeping a secret, but it can be just as true that the secret is keeping us.”

We all have problems and make mistakes—and therefore, we all need forgiveness. We need not keep secrets—especially from God. We need to be the ones to initiate the confession—and if we do, it will open the ‘door’ to God’s liberating forgiveness. We NEED TO CONFESS not only to ‘wipe away’ our guilt, but also in order to ‘heal’ and become the transformed people we long to be.

So, if we are trying to become “transformed,” whom should we get this ‘guidance’ from?:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_4_Drama.html

Whenever one heads off to a new place, most of us try to get a map, some clear directions from someone, or ‘punch’ it into our GPS system, so we arrive at our intended destination safely and in the least amount of time.

A good friend from my church, Steve Ormond, was a member of a team in an eight-day sailing race from Newport News, Virginia down to the British Virgin Islands a few weeks ago, and got the most up-to-date weather forecasts and the best nautical navigational equipment available before they left. Because, for one, they didn’t want to get lost, and two, they wanted the best information to help them get to their destination

[Note: It so happens their boat WON their class! — aboard the “Lady” in the Rally Class III of the “Caribbean 1500 Rally”: http://www.aboardlady.com/aboard_lady/2009/11/sunny-days-and-rummy-nights.html ].

As with airplanes, their boat was probably ‘off course’ most of the time—they had to continually ‘correct’ their direction based on what their navigational equipment was telling them.

This also goes for our lives, too. First off, we need to know ‘where’ we want to go, and secondly, we need something to help ‘guide’ us to that destination—and it needs to be ‘trustworthy’.

Might I suggest that the Bible is just such a ‘guidebook’, since, it is my belief that it is inspired of God, and I’m thinking He is ABSOLUTELY TRUSTWORTHY, and wants us to enjoy our ‘journey’ here on Earth. He does this in a couple of ways.

– He wants to guide us along the ‘right’ path, but won’t ‘force’ us against our will—so we have to decide if we are going to ‘submit’ to His leading

– God will help us ‘clarify’ our big purposes in life, since He has given us particular ‘gifts’ to use to accomplish our purposes

– God has given us His ‘counsel’, the Bible, so it should be reasonably clear what His ‘guidance’ is

– We should also seek, and heed, the wise advice of those who have an intimate knowledge of the Bible

The Bible reminds us that God is not as much concerned about ‘where’ I should be, or ‘what’ I should be doing, but WHO He wants ME TO BECOME. He also desires that we desire to learn how to hear His ‘voice’—His leadings and promptings—so we live the most ‘fruitful’ life we can.

Contrary to what some people think, seeking god’s guidance is not being passive and letting circumstance dictate our direction—nor is it a last-minute ‘shortcut’ to decision making. Seeking God’s guidance includes praying, exercising good judgment, seeking wisdom, and taking initiative and responsibility. Pursuing His guidance means to continually ‘listen’ to His promptings, and learning to live as Jesus would have if He were in our place.

So, trying to heed the ‘advice’ of what our culture is telling us it takes to be successful, we need to make as many people as possible aware of our capabilities—so we need to ‘blow our own horn’:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_5_Drama.html

With all the media choices available today, and the instantaneous nature of them, we are constantly being bombarded with ‘messages’ on how we should be living and what we need to do to ‘achieve’ that life—and to become ‘successful’, we need to learn how to use as many of these ‘outlets’ as we can to tell everyone we can how ‘capable’ we are, and what we are looking for so we can become more successful.

The thing is, this tends to result in confusing our ‘performance’ in some aspect of life with our ‘worth’ as a person—and we live in ‘bondage’ to what other people think of us. The good news is that there is a way to be ‘set free’ of what some call “approval addiction.” Just to be of SERVICE TO OTHERS.

Several years ago there was an article in a nationally known business magazine that told the story of JetBlue CEO and founder, David Neeleman. At the time, his company was number one in the Airline Quality Rating. You might think that he would take the time to bask in the glory of such a prestigious honor, but instead, Neeleman was too busy exercising what he called “servant leadership.”

Neeleman regularly flew around the country taking the role of a crewmember. He passed out snacks, blankets, and beverages. Then, when the passengers have deplaned, he joins the clean-up team. When asked why he does this, Neeleman replied, “You can’t ask employees to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.”

This is exactly the example Jesus gave us when He lived on this Earth—that of a “lowly servant,” though He could have called for “legions of angels” to do his bidding.

One act Jesus performed that exemplifies this was when He washed the disciples’ feet before the “Last Supper.” This was totally unexpected because not even a slave could be commanded to wash someone’s feet—that’s how ‘menial’ this task was. How ‘humiliating’ this was for Jesus—after all, He was their leader, teacher, and ‘master’. The disciples were definitely embarrassed, on their part, to see Jesus ‘lower’ Himself like this. But, after He was finished, He said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” [John 13:15].

In most contexts, serving others for no apparent reason catches people off guard—but when we do so, we ‘honor’ God, our ‘hearts’ are enlarged, and we find out that humility is a large part of the life we’ve always wanted!

We all must ‘train’ for things that we want to do well in—especially a marathon:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/FaithCovSermons/Sermon_6_Drama.html

To finish a marathon race, one must be in good physical condition, and to get in that condition, one must do intense ‘training’ (read “suffering”) to build up one’s body to be able to endure the pain one will experience during the race.

This concept also relates to what the author calls the “WELL-ORDERED HEART”—that he suggests God wants us ultimately to have before we leave this earth.

Ortberg mentions that a well-ordered heart causes one to “love what is most worth loving, to love that right thing to the right degree in that right way with the right king of love.”

Now, just like a marathon, the well-ordered heart is formed by faithful ‘training’ and endurance in the midst of suffering—something we would rather not do, but all of us know that it is in times of suffering that we usually ‘grow’ the most—and God uses this suffering to contribute to our spiritual development.

In the Bible, James says that the “testing of our faith” develops perseverance, which in-turn produces character, and makes our faith mature and complete [James 1:2-4]. During such ‘testing’, our true values, commitments, and beliefs are revealed. God’s testing is an act of love, in that it refines, strengthens, and ‘perfects’ our faith, and teaches us spiritual ‘endurance’.

I run around my lake (2-3 miles) most every day (unless it’s raining and below 70* F) to try to keep up some sort of physical ‘fitness’. I am not fast, but ‘plod’ along at a pace that keeps my heart rate up twice its resting rate for 15-20 minutes—and I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years or so. That being said, I never have had the desire to compete in any type of ‘marathon’, though greatly admire those who do so (recently my brother, Randy, Jim and Linda Martin [the bike riders in the drama], and Melissa Saxton).

I heard of a story about when the Queen Mary boat was built, that they did not test it in dry dock, they launched it out to the ocean and put it through “sea trials.” These trails were not intended to sink the ship, but prove the ship was “sea worthy.”

This is similar to the way one will know whether or not their faith is ‘real’ or not—when the pressures and trials of life come—and they will—are they “sea worthy”? As Ian Leitch well said, “Did you lose your faith or did you find you had none?”

Right now some of you are going through ‘deep waters’—it may be an illness, injury, disease, job loss, foreclosure, a failing marriage, or family issues. Tough times like these come in different ways and different times in all of our lives, but it’s in these ‘moments’ that ‘spiritual disciplines’ are of the greatest value.

All of the ‘disciplines’ I talked about are not a temporary ‘fix’ that will get you ‘pumped up’ for a few weeks, but rather are lifetime ‘practices’ that will continue to ‘feed’ your soul as long as you employ them.

At our ‘core’, we all want a life filled with joy—gratitude for a ‘closeness’ that we can develop with our Heavenly Father, and a simple thankfulness for the ‘gift’ of salvation that Jesus has offered all of us.

The hope of the Gospel is NOT JUST that you get into HEAVEN after you die, but Jesus said that He also came to “give you life”—and to have it in the ‘here and now’, and to have it with abundance!

Let me suggest that even though many ‘things’ clamor for your attention, that you ‘carve out’ some time to connect with God, and commit to being “transformed” by developing a well-ordered ‘heart’—with the help of a ‘partner’ that wants to know you intimately, and wants you to know Him intimately—for eternity!

To help you out with some of this, visit the following link for some info on what it means to “grow closer to God in the here-and-now”:
http://www.thesearchformeaning.net/sfm_pres/sp_q12_d1_1of10.html

[Excerpts from: John Ortberg; Ken Larson; Dennis Carlson]

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v130) for DECEMBER 2009

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Thanks to:
Linda Braun

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One day, after not feeling well for some time, a man went to see a doctor. The illness was nothing serious, but the doctor felt that the man needed to take some medication in order to address the problem. The doctor wrote a prescription for the medicine and gave it to the man. The man went home, and tacked the prescription on his bulletin board where he could see it anytime he wanted. He never filled the prescription—and his illness never went away.

You would never do what the sick man did, would you? Of course not! Looking at a prescription for medicine can’t help anyone get better. One must have the prescription filled at a pharmacy and then actually take the medicine—for it to do the job it is supposed to do.

Still, how often do we treat our life as “Christ-followers” in a similar way? The Bible provides us with God’s “medicine” for living spiritually healthy lives. It shows us how to live. It provides us with the ultimate framework for living out God’s will. But, we’ll never know if we are doing the will of God, if we don’t know what it is. So too often, we cut corners in this one very important aspect of spiritual life—letting our time in reading, studying and meditating on the Bible—become reduced for any number of reasons.

By spending time in God’s Word on a regular basis, we take action to make sure we’re filling the prescription and taking the medicine that will make us whole.

Do you want to live a more fulfilling life as you follow Christ? Do you want to live more confidently by having a greater understanding of God’s will for your life? It’s all in the Word! Bring it into your life today!
[Jim Liebelt – Today’s HomeWord]

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In Scotland some men were sitting around drinking tea and swapping fishing stories. One man, with a flamboyant gesture of his hand, knocked the other man’s hand and his tea splattered on the white plastered wall creating an ugly brown stain. He was horrified, but the man said, “Never mind.” And he took out his crayons and started to sketch around that stain. Suddenly there emerged a royal stag with his antlers spread. The artist was Sir Edwin Lancier—England’s foremost painter of animals. He was able to take that old stain, and make something beautiful out of it.

Jesus Christ is that kind of an artist. He can take a life that has been stained and by His transforming power He can make something beautiful out of it.
[Adrian Rogers]

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In May of 2003, numerous news reports appeared about Aron Ralston—a young man from Colorado who had been hiking somewhere in a remote area of Utah wilderness. During what was intended to be a simple day hike, well within Ralston’s capabilities, he accidentally dislodged a massive boulder that pinned his arm and trapped him for five days. Having run out of food and water, and without any hope of rescue—as he had left no word about his intentions or his whereabouts—Ralston amputated his own arm with a pocketknife he had with him. By cutting off his own arm, he saved his life. Various media reports noted Ralston’s courage; some even hailed him as a hero.

While Ralston’s courage is undeniable—I don’t think I would have the courage to cut off my own arm—there can be no questioning that this young man made a basic wilderness hiking error by not telling anyone where he was going.  A simple measure of prevention could have saved him a lot of grief and quite possibly his arm.

This story provides a couple of reminders for our own spiritual journeys. The Bible is quite clear in its instruction: we are to “throw off the sin that so easily entangles us.” We are all susceptible to sin. It takes God’s transforming work in our lives to beat destructive and sinful habits. Yet, it also takes courage on our part—courage to admit our sin—and courage to repent and change our thoughts and behaviors.  Beyond this, however, we are also to take preventative measures; we are to do our best not to allow ourselves to become enslaved to sin in the first place. Simple, preventative measures like reading God’s word, prayer, fellowship with other believers and being accountable to one another are key in our pursuit of living holy lives.

I am always encouraged by stories of fellow Christ-followers who have courageously experienced victories over sin in their lives. Yet, even more heartening to me are the examples of average people, just like you and me, who take sin prevention seriously and are victorious over the many temptations we each face day in and day out.

Today, take up the challenge of using preventative measures against temptation and sin in your life. If you are struggling with a sinful habit, have the courage to act by cutting away whatever it is that holds you back from having a better relationship with Jesus.
[Jim Liebelt – Today’s HomeWord]

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‘RIDDLES’
What’s in the middle of Paris?
[The letter “r”]

What gets wetter the more it dries?
[A towel]

… and, drum roll…

What goes up a chimney down, but can’t go down a chimney up?
[An umbrella!].

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DEEP THOUGHT:
When you’re thrown into ‘hot water’, are you a potato or an egg? Do you get harder or softer?
[Received from Linda Braun]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Do not conform any longer 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 12:2].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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