Guarding the Mind of an Artist: Excerpted from God and Your Talent

The mind of an artist can be an interesting place. Artists throughout history have gained a reputation as tortured, volatile, and just plain crazy. These stereotypes however, don’t have to reflect the mind of a Christian artist. God has given us the mind of Christ. He has given us the gift of a sound mind.

Continue reading “Guarding the Mind of an Artist: Excerpted from God and Your Talent”

The Hidden Factor of Success That No One is Telling You

I recently met with twenty-two-year-old Jordan to coach him in some life decisions. He had found himself in a pit through the accumulation of his decisions over the last five years of his life.  Jordan is a healthy, bright, talented, and hard-working young man.

Continue reading “The Hidden Factor of Success That No One is Telling You”

Finding Vision

Hikers

While working as a youth pastor, I attended a fair amount of high-school graduation ceremonies. I took interest in class themes and commencement speeches. One senior class theme stunned me however. Not because it was crass or somehow offensive but because of what it stood for – nothing. It represented one of the greatest deficits of this generation – vision. The senior motto proclaimed, “We’re here, we’re not somewhere else, so we might as well be doing what we’re doing.” Exciting isn’t it?

One young man came to our church with a t-shirt his graduating class created. It was blue and said, “ut vinceret.” I asked him what it meant. He said proudly, “We will conquer!” I followed up, “What will you conquer?” He looked quizzically up at me, paused, and said, “I don’t know.” and walked away. This generation wants to conquer but has no idea why they are here. They recognize life is important because you only get one shot (YOLO!), but they can’t find their place because they have no idea that there is a story that God is unfolding. John Eldridge likened this generation to a person walking into a movie half way through. They notice the action unfolding on the screen but they cannot put the pieces together. They are on a stage, they know a play is unfolding, but they don’t know their lines. This culture has removed them from the greater story. They have no connection to the meta-narrative that will ground their story in something bigger.

Their science class tells them they are simply evolved animals propagating a species with no real purpose other than passing on your DNA. The priests of evolution proclaim,

“There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” Will Provine, Evolutionary Biologist, Origins Research

Richard Dawkins preaches hope to them in his book River out of Eden. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” p132-133

These philosophies will sap the vision out of anyone. But God proclaims that before he formed you in womb, he knew you. He created you to know Him and enjoy Him forever. God is unfolding a redemption plan and each unique person was created to play a key role in that plan.

Vision: Vision is possessing an unfolding revelation of your purpose and destiny and having the courage and fortitude to pursue it. If life is ultimately purposeless, you will never connect with a greater call. Life can then easily degenerate to living for the moment.

Proverbs 29:18 famously declares that without vision, people cast off restraint. Vision constrains our wandering and intemperate hearts.  So first, we must get a sense of God’s unfolding redemption plan and our place in it. This will help us see that the world does not revolve around us but was meant to be impacted by us. Our story is a part of the unfolding story that went on before we arrived and will continue on after we have spoken our last line.

The key to finding our dreams begins by discovering what God dreams about. Our most fulfilling dreams will only come to the surface when we immerse ourselves in the flow of God’s dreams. This will unlock the door to finding why God put us here in the first place.

What does God dream about? He dreams first, that all would come to know his love lived out through Christ. (John 3:16) He dreams second, that those who receive Christ would grow to their full maturity. (Ephesians 4:11-14, Colossians 2:1-10) Thirdly he dreams that his kingdom, his rule, his wisdom and love will manifest on earth as it is in heaven. When we begin to ask ourselves, how can we best reach people who have never heard about God’s grace? How can I help people grow strong in their faith? And, how can I best live out heaven in my earthly life, we will begin to gain ears to hear God’s unfolding plan for us. Life begins when we lose ourselves in the unfolding redemption plan of God. When we try to control our purpose apart from the larger story, we lose both.

Inviting Chaos

Image
Inviting Chaos

I’m in the people business. I try to help people do life well.

Over the years I have watched a trend (first in my own life), then in the lives of others. Most people want peace, however, far too may live with chaos. A quick trip through the news headlines or a Facebook timeline will bear this out. Almost weekly, I pause in my home and marvel at the peace we have. Now we have our battles with chaos (we have three teenagers and a nine-year-old) but we come out winners most of the time.

The fallenness of this world creates chaos. And living in this world will affect us. However, we can INVITE chaos into our lives. We invite chaos through ignoring reality. God created the universe to work a certain way. When we ignore this reality by flouting God’s principles, ignoring wise counsel, and selfish living, we say to chaos, “Please come and live with me.”

The Scriptures plainly tell us that God is not mocked. We reap what we sow. If we sow to the Spirit, we will reap life. If we sow to the wind, we will reap the whirlwind. The Proverbs tell us, “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed.”

Life can be arranged into seven important categories:

  Faith – What we believe about God influences the rest of our beliefs. If you get this one right, you will walk with the peace knowing you are doing life with your Creator and Sustainer.

Attitude – We can choose our attitudes. If you have a good positive outlook, it will color the rest of your decisions. A life filled with hope, faith, love and a can-do spirit attracts peace. Winners find a way, whiners find an excuse.

Authority – Authority is everywhere and rebellion is painted as a glorious option. But rebellion steals discipline…and discipline brings freedom from chaos.

 Pleasure –More people are destroyed because they could not handle the pursuit of pleasure than are destroyed through the pain of adversity.

 Relationships and Sex – People matter and sex is a great gift, but a misuse of the people in our lives and the powerful, procreative gift of sex causes much pain and chaos.

Production – God made us to make a positive contribution to this world through our education, work, time, and money management. We can invite a lot of chaos into our lives by misappropriating our time and talents.

How we handle these seven critical areas will lead to either peace or chaos in our lives.

Making decisions that align with God’s will doesn’t make us immune to pain or chaos, but it certainly creates peace in our hearts and translates to a more stable life on the outside. In these chaotic times, a stable, peaceful life will be a great billboard toward the God we serve.

(For a full treatment of these topics, pick up a copy of Pursuing the Best, the How’s and Why’s of Living Life to the Fullest on Amazon)

Inviting Chaos

Image
Inviting Chaos

I’m in the people business. I try to help people do life well.

Over the years I have watched a trend (first in my own life), then in the lives of others. Most people want peace, however, far too may live with chaos. A quick trip through the news headlines or a Facebook timeline will bear this out. Almost weekly, I pause in my home and marvel at the peace we have. Now we have our battles with chaos (we have three teenagers and a nine-year-old) but we come out winners most of the time.

The fallenness of this world creates chaos. And living in this world will affect us. However, we can INVITE chaos into our lives. We invite chaos through ignoring reality. God created the universe to work a certain way. When we ignore this reality by flouting God’s principles, ignoring wise counsel, and selfish living, we say to chaos, “Please come and live with me.”

The Scriptures plainly tell us that God is not mocked. We reap what we sow. If we sow to the Spirit, we will reap life. If we sow to the wind, we will reap the whirlwind. The Proverbs tell us, “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed.”

Life can be arranged into seven important categories:

  Faith – What we believe about God influences the rest of our beliefs. If you get this one right, you will walk with the peace knowing you are doing life with your Creator and Sustainer.

Attitude – We can choose our attitudes. If you have a good positive outlook, it will color the rest of your decisions. A life filled with hope, faith, love and a can-do spirit attracts peace. Winners find a way, whiners find an excuse.

Authority – Authority is everywhere and rebellion is painted as a glorious option. But rebellion steals discipline…and discipline brings freedom from chaos.

 Pleasure –More people are destroyed because they could not handle the pursuit of pleasure than are destroyed through the pain of adversity.

 Relationships and Sex – People matter and sex is a great gift, but a misuse of the people in our lives and the powerful, procreative gift of sex causes much pain and chaos.

Production – God made us to make a positive contribution to this world through our education, work, time, and money management. We can invite a lot of chaos into our lives by misappropriating our time and talents.

How we handle these seven critical areas will lead to either peace or chaos in our lives.

Making decisions that align with God’s will doesn’t make us immune to pain or chaos, but it certainly creates peace in our hearts and translates to a more stable life on the outside. In these chaotic times, a stable, peaceful life will be a great billboard toward the God we serve.

(For a full treatment of these topics, pick up a copy of Pursuing the Best, the How’s and Why’s of Living Life to the Fullest on Amazon)

How to Succeed Without a Lead Pipe

Image

In honor of the twenty year anniversary of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, I share with you how to do life without a lead pipe.  If you recall, at the U.S. figure skating championships in – of all places – Detroit, MI, Nancy Kerrigan was walking off the practice ice when a goon, hired by rival skater Tonya Harding’s husband, whacked her in the knee with a pipe hoping to derail her Olympic dream while giving her rival a leg up.

For a large portion of my life I could relate to Harding because I was a cheater. I cheated my way through school. I invented new ways to cheat. I cheated in math, in English, physics, gym, I cheated in every subject. I used a lead pipe to get ahead. I broke into classrooms to fill in scores that I had never completed. I would sneak looks on other papers. I forged report cards. I had a lead pipe and I wasn’t afraid to use it. Then one day I went to flight school.

Problem. You can’t cheat your way through flight school. At that time, God was working in my heart to live with integrity and my flight instructors were working on my brain to establish discipline. Would you want to ride in a plane flown by a guy who cheated his way through flight school? To become a commercial pilot, you must pass a minimum of three written exams, three 2 hour oral exams and three flying tests. No way to cheat here. Either you know it or you don’t.

When they took my lead pipe away, I learned a few things that may benefit you. Cheating isn’t going away, in fact, we have seen a dramatic increase. Recently, the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls – 30 percent overall – acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative. 64 percent said they have cheated on a test.

I cheated because I wanted the easy way to performance. I used the lead pipe to get ahead. Had I known what I lost in the process I never would have done it.

First, I lost money. I spent four years in high-school under caring, dedicated teachers, many of whom I could name today. But, instead of taking advantage of the free learning opportunities provided in high-school, I had to pay college instructors and sit in remedial classrooms. I also missed out on thousands of dollars of need-based scholarships because I scored poorly on the ACT.

Second, I lost a good reputation. I realized that what people think of you really matters. Favor travels through people. If people think you’re a cheater, liar, or thief, they won’t take chances on you. Your reputation precedes you. Now that I make hiring and firing decisions, I understand how much people judge your character.

Third, I lost character. While cheating gives you quick shortcut to apparent success, it cost you the key character traits it takes to truly succeed. Cheating cost me the ability to think and solve problems. It cost me the ability to persevere and delay gratification.

Fourth, cheating cost me freedom – ironically the very thing I was looking for. Sin is like that. It steals the very thing you’re looking for. In reality, only discipline brings freedom. It’s the disciplined athlete that has the freedom to perform at a high level. Only the disciplined musician has the ability to play skillfully. Only the disciplined student has the freedom a scholarship brings. If you want freedom, gain discipline, taking shortcuts robs you of freedom. And there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.

So how do you succeed without a lead pipe? Do the hard work. Develop your talents. Do your best in every situation. Resolve that it’s better to be poor and honest than rich and a cheater (Proverbs 19:1). Discipline is the currency by which we purchase our dreams. Tonya Harding was a terrific figure skater.  She won six national class competitions, including the U.S. championships. Now she’s a punch-line. Cheating stole from her the spoils of her hard work and talent. Don’t rob the world through a mediocre you. And, don’t rob yourself of the joys and freedom discipline brings. Happy skating!