Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil.
Henry David Thoreau
"Change Your Autopilot, Change Your Life"
Imagine riding in a speedboat on a lake with an automatic pilot set to go east. If you decide to reverse and head west, you have two possible ways to change the boat’s direction. One way is to grab the steering wheel and physically force it to head in the opposite direction from where the autopilot is programmed to go. By sheer willpower you could overcome the autopilot, but you would feel constant resistance. Your arms would eventually tire of the stress, you’d let go of the steering wheel, and the boat would instantly head back east, the way it was internally programmed. This is what happens when you try to change your life with willpower: You say, “I’ll force myself to eat less…exercise more…quit being disorganized and late.” Yes, willpower can produce short-term change, but it creates constant internal stress because you haven’t dealt with the root cause. The change doesn’t feel natural, so eventually you give up, go off your diet, and quit exercising. You quickly revert to your old patterns. There is a better and easier way: Change your autopilot----the way you think…Your first step in spiritual growth is to start changing the way you think. Change always starts first in your mind. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.
“The Great Exchange”
I will exchange…
My weariness for His strength
My weakness for his power
My darkness for His light
My problems for His solutions
My burdens for His freedom
My frustrations for His peace
My turmoil for His calm
My hopes for His promises
My afflictions for His balm of comfort
My questions for His answers
My confusion for His knowledge
My doubt for His assurance
My nothingness for His awareness
The temporal for the eternal
The impossible for the possible
They taught us a little trick when I was a child in the choir, and I have used it ever since. In order to hit the note you want to hit, you need to aim slightly above it. It really works. If you do not consciously do this, you tend to fall in the crack between high E and D sharp, just short of that sweet spot that divides the Maria Callases from the high school opera divas.
I am noticing a similar phenomenon in the spiritual life. Unless I keep straining upward all the time to greater faith, I do not keep even the level of faith I am at. Even as I think I am fine, the high water mark is imperceptibly inching down.
I was feeling blah today. I could think of many reasons to feel that way, but in truth I wasn’t really thinking, just moving on autopilot. I was going to just give myself over to it, like a hundred thousand times before. It is a well worn rut; everybody does it. It would not have been sin exactly. I was not complaining, nor saying anything either good or bad.
But I went for the higher note. I said to the Lord, out loud, that I believe He loves me and I will see His goodness in the land of the living. The “out loud” part is very important, for some reason. Call it training wheels, if you will, until I get the hang of pushing back all the voices of mediocrity and low expectations. But I notice that the psalmists don’t drop the habit of praising God with audible voice. There seems to be a supernatural kick to it; perhaps it releases extra grace from the throne. You might want to try it yourself when you’re blah.
“I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).
"Your Mind's Eye"
Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life.
"The Very Consummation"
The Christian, in relation to Heaven, is in much the same position as this schoolboy. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly discipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it at all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. Just in proportion as the desire grows, our fear lest it should be a mercenary desire will die away and finally be recognized as an absurdity. But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, Gospel replaces Law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.
"One Vast Need"
...a man's spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God...it ought to be growing - [an] awareness that our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.
"Bring To Full Growth"
Man's only legitimate end in life is to finish God's work - to bring to full growth the capacities and talents implanted in us.
Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Hold Fast. And Progress."
There can be change without progress, but not progress without change.
"Like Turning A Horse Into A Winged Creature"
'Niceness'- wholesome, integrated personality - is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up `nice'; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world - and might even be more difficult to save.
For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders - no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings - may even give it an awkward appearance.
A capacity to change is indispensable. Equally indispensable is the capacity to hold fast to what is good.
John Foster Duilles
"Hardening Muscle And Sharpening Wit"
What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind, where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretense leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children's games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups - playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretense of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.
Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
"Kites Rise Against The Wind"
A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with the wind.
He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
"Do Yourself Proud"
Would the boy you were be proud of the man you are?
Laurence J. Peter
"Grow Or Pay"
There was that law of life, so cruel and so just, which demanded that one must grow or else pay more for remaining the same.
"Satisfied With Just A Cottage Below?"
Are you looking to Christ as an add-on, someone to spruce up the cottage, clean out the gutters, slap on some new paint? (And all the time we don't realize that God plans to make the cottage a palace.)
Marvin Olasky/Tim Keller
"Highs And Lows"
Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.
"How To Gain A New Outlook"
All appears to change when we change.
"Like Body, Like Spirit"
Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance, with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance. . . . The overload is constantly increased to facilitate adaptation. . . . The body adapts to exercise and needs to be constantly challenged in order to continue to grow and change.
"Will He Not Give His Children Good Gifts"
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself,
my unspoken prayers
among all men,
most richly blessed.
An Unknown Confederate Soldier
"Get The Big Picture: From It Flows Health"
The nature of reality is that there are different levels of it. This is patent and does not need to be argued for. Consider the yawning spectrum of reality that at one end is the boundless universe of stars (10 billion galaxies each with 10 billion stars) and at the other end is the atomic (10 to the 28th atoms in the human body). Consider the factory of activity in a domain that our naked eyes will never see—the single cell:
'Molecular highways haul cargo from one place to another along ‘highways’ made of other molecules, while still others act as cables, ropes, and pulleys to hold the cell in shape. Machines turn cellular switches on and off, sometimes killing the cell or causing it to grow. Solar-powered machines capture the energy of photons and store it in chemicals. Electrical machines allow current to flow through nerves . . .' (Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box).
Within this ponderous layering, you and I and our daily trips to the supermarket would seem to be found somewhere in the middle. Immensity stretches above us and below us. We go about our business for the most part unmindful of these parallel universes in the macro and the micro of life.
All of which is to set up the subject that is really on my mind this morning. It has seemed to me for some time that we tend to mistake where the real “action” is in the Christian life, as we erroneously direct all our focus to certain “layers” or “levels” of Christian reality that are not, at the end of the day, as consequential—or as emphasized by Christ—as other layers.
If I may illustrate by example: I have a friend who worked for many years for a well-known Christian ministry dedicated to laudable Scriptural, cultural goals. But what actually kept my friend awake nights was the hurtful office backbiting and power plays. So there you have it: two strata of reality, one the all-consuming focus, the other ignored.
The danger is always that the “macro” strata (sweeping cultural goals) tends to be more visible and to swallow up the “micro” strata (love of the brethren in the organization). The latter grinds on under the radar, under our noses, invisible. We forget about the elemental human relationships. We forget about love...
All of this dovetails with what the Lord has been teaching me in my own little life of children and neighbors and laundry and blog posting: In the dizzying array of stimuli that we call our lives—the macro and the micro things we do—I believe that the cellular level is where it’s at. This present moment’s choice to love God and to love the brethren is the most elemental and consequential of all. And from it flows the health of every other enterprise.
"The Law of Spiritual Progress"
By helping yourself, you are helping mankind. By helping mankind, you are helping yourself. That's the law of all spiritual progress.
"As The Flowers Do The Sun"
Keep your face upturned to [God]as the flowers do the sun. Look, and your soul shall live and grow
Hannah Whitall Smith
"Growth Trumps Continuous Security"
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security
"How To Keep From Slipping Back"
Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up, a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right.
"Created To Become Like Christ"
God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to become like Christ…Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality...God’s Word provides the truth we need to grow, God's people provide the support we need to grow, and circumstances provide the environment we need to practice Christlikeness. If you study and apply God’s Word, connect regularly with other believers, and lean to trust God in difficult circumstances, I guarantee you will become more like Jesus...How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God’s Spirit to give us His (strength), love, faith, and wisdom to do it…Don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears and feelings...Each metaphor requires active participation: Seeds must be planted and cultivated, buildings must be built- they don’t just appear- children must eat and exercise to grow...Spiritual maturity …is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.
Only dead fish swim with the stream
"Watch And Learn"
Learn from others what to pursue and what to avoid, and let your teachers be the lives of others.
"Be Ye Doers"
I believe that the collecting of neat insights that never filter down to pavement-pounding obedience is the bane of a particular ilk of intellectual Christian: “Knowledge puffs up.” ...Lest this blog post become another neat insight, I propose a homework assignment: Next time we hear a neat insight from a preacher, teacher, or friend, let’s stop and pray over it immediately, thanking God for this illumination of a little corner of his truth and asking him to help us live it. Then let’s live watchfully... People who enter the kingdom and get somewhere in it are fiercely committed enthusiasts. They participate in the adventure by following Jesus, not by just sitting on the grassy knoll and eating the multiplied fish and bread...put into practice the neat insights you learned from God’s Word. Ignore those promptings and Satan comes along to snatch them from your mind like so much seed on a path..."
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liabilities, this fatal reservation. Only God can. I have good faith and hope He will. Of course, I don't mean I can therefore, as they say, "sit back." What God does for us, He does in us. The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude, especially each morning, for it grows all over me like a new shell each night. Failures will be forgiven; it is acquiescence that is fatal, the permitted, regularised presence of an area in ourselves which we still claim for our own. We may never, this side of death, drive the invader out of our territory, but we must be in the Resistance, not the Vichy government. And this, so far as I can yet see, must be begun again every day. Our morning prayer should be that in the Imitation: Da hodie perfecte incipere - grant me to make an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.
"Grouchy, Selfish, And Collecting Toys? Or Your Image Slowly Becoming His"
Dec. 8 was the 30-year anniversary of John Lennon’s death, of course. The “of course” is for members of my generation, for whom this marked the end of an age. Though more worthy men have been whisked away in an untimely fashion, the death at age 40 of the first of four Beatles, at the hands of deranged fan Mark David Chapman, was the coda to our adolescence and the last stop on our ride on the psychedelic bus.
At the time of Lennon’s death, it seemed tragic to me that a man should die this young, that he should not fill up half the years of a normal actuarial projection. And of course, it is tragic: Even the Bible touts the blessing of a quiver full of years (Proverbs 3:16).
But my impression has changed over time as my own sojourn lengthens and yields a new perspective. As the boomers’ collective graying matter is shuffled one by one into graduated assisted living facilities (how weird it will be to see Jimi Hendrix posters on a nursing home wall), it does not necessarily seem to me to be an advantage to have outlasted Lennon—if outlasting is all we have done. Hurrah! Three extra decades to be grouchy and selfish and collect toys.
No. Long years are an advantage only if you live for Christ, only if you wake up every morning with His praises on your lips, His will on your agenda, and your image slowly becoming His. I thought as much in those lucid days when I sat alone on new grass sprouts eight feet above my husband’s casket, and the conviction only grows.
I can’t see that 30 extra years did Paul McCartney much good. Then again, while one is still in the land of the living there is hope.
"Getting Ahead Of Ourselves"
Our business in life is not to get ahead of others but to get ahead of ourselves - to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterdays by our today, to do our work with more force than ever before.
Stewart B. Johnson
"Clasping For Things Still Higher"
As plants take hold not for the sake of staying, but only that they may climb higher, so it is with men. By every part of our nature we clasp things above us, one after another, not for the sake of remaining where we take hold, but that we may go higher.
Henry Ward Beecher
"Piped In Soul"
I had a procedure at the dentist the other day, all to the background music being piped into the operatory through some unseen surround sound speakers. I feel confident that neither the dentist nor the hygienist fully noticed it was on, though, of course, all would notice its sudden absence. Silence is almost intolerably uncomfortable in modern public spaces.
A dentist’s chair is a good place to do some thinking or praying. But the carefully calculated work of the audio architects and mood designers makes it hard to impossible to follow that inclination. You find yourself in the passive position (me, quite literally) of taking in an unwanted thought bilge of worldly philosophy. And unless you make a muscular effort to regurgitate it from your soul forthwith, it just sits in there somewhere. No one knows the effect of this onslaught day after day—in the supermarket, the restaurant, the department store, the car dealership, the funeral parlor showroom, and, most famously, the elevator.
As you can see, I have moved from thinking this modern cultural reality innocuous to thinking it pernicious. I see the fingerprints of Satan all over it. The Enemy of our souls is as content to use the subtle approach as the techniques of direct terrorism; it’s all the same to him, if he may, by any means, save some from salvation. (You will recognize the anti-gospel here.)
But as Christ said, whatever doesn’t gather with him scatters, however gently and with a smiley face. A teenager plugged into an iPod walking down the street, or incessantly texting banalities, is perfect campaigning weather for keeping him from the knowledge of that thin crust below his feet that Jonathan Edwards warned about in his sermon on sinners in the hands of an angry God.
"True Progress Trumps Longevity"
Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.
“Embrace Life Now”
Our world cannot last another generation of Christian young people who fit in. The shackles of society are on our minds and hearts, not our ankles. We are held back only by the myth of adolescence and the lies of social expectations. If we would only recognize that our restraints are illusory, and then let God’s Word and all of history govern our sense of what we are capable of, we would be a force this world could no longer ignore. We face a crisis and an opportunity. A crisis, in the sense that we can no longer afford to slowly drift towards adulthood, viewing the teen years as a vacation from responsibility, and an opportunity, in the sense that we can embrace life now and make a difference for the glory of God, and for the good our family, our nation, and our world. Look down at your “ankle” and see the pathetic contrivance that has been restraining you. Now renew your mind in the light of God’s Word and take a step forward.
Alex and Brett Harris
“The Strenuous Life”
“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”
"Liberate That Splendor"
"When God planted a garden He set a man over it and set the man under Himself. When He planted the garden of our nature and caused the flowering, fruiting loves to grown there, He set our will to "dress" them...And unless His grace comes down, like the rain and sunshine, we shall use this tool to little purpose...While we hack and prune we know very well that what we are hacking and pruning is big with a splendor and vitality which our rational will could never of itself have supplied. To liberate that splendor, to let it become fully what it is trying to be, to have tall trees instead of scrubby tangles, and sweet apples instead of crabs, is part of our purpose."
"Sacrifice To Become"
The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.
Charles Du Bos
"Four Steps To Personal Growth"
Every step in personal growth needs isolation, needs inner conversation and deliberation and a reviewing with the self.
Joost A.M. Meerloo
"Chiseling Your Statue"
Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labor to make all one glow or beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.
"Take Up The Hammer"
No one achieves a house by blueprints alone, no matter how accurate or detailed. A time comes when one must take up hammer and nails. In building a house the making of blueprints may be delegated to an architect, the construction to a carpenter. In building the house of one’s life or in its remodeling, one may delegate nothing; for the task can be done, if at all, only in the workshop of one’s own mind and heart, in the most intimate rooms of thinking and feeling where none but one’s self has freedom of movement or competence or authority.
"God's Five Steps Toward Becoming"
We create ourselves. The sequence is suffering, insight, will, action, change.
"The Purpose of Life And What To Do Instead of Building Larger Barnes"
People ask me, What is the purpose of life?
And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my
body-- but not the end of me.
I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.
The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.
This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the
toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer .I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe
that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.
No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always
something good you can thank God for..
You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:
If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people. You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.
Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For for instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease. So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72. First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases. Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church. Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.
Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free. We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)? When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do.
That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.
Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.
"Striving For Excellence"
Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.
“Let The Old Self Die”
“The people who have been made larger by suffering are brave enough to let parts of their old self die. Down in the valley, their motivations changed. They’ve gone from self-centered to other-centered.” David Brooks
“Don’t Trash The Treasure”
A capacity to change is indispensable. Equally indispensable is the capacity to hold fast to what is good.
John Foster Duilles
“Four Empowering Hours Daily”
Focus four hours or so a day on consuming purposefully chosen educational and empowering books and programs, or meeting up with friends who also boost your view of life, or working through and tackling new challenges that remind you how strong and in charge you really are.