Tag Archives: Abundant life

Shipwrecked no more

Spring is here and thoughts of summer already upon us. My neighbor has his boat out, anticipating great times with his family at the lake. It reminds me of a time when my sister and her husband invited us for a lake outing. We were sailing in his craft when we came upon two guys in shallow water. Yelling and screaming, they frantically kept diving into the water. Trying to help, we discovered these guys were desperately trying to save their three best friends whi had fallen overboard. Only it turned out the friends’ names were Jim Beam,  Johnny Walker, and Bud Weiser.

Unable to carry on a  coherent conversation with the guys and assured they we’re as safe as they wanted to be, we went on our way. But it caused me to remember, I’ve been there before – living for the fun of it with no thought of who I was becoming or who I was meant to be.

Suppose you came across me in such a state and, at the risk of your own life, you rescued me from my shipwreck situation, saving me and resuscitating me to a new life. I would be forever indebted to you, wouldn’t I? Imagine inviting me to your home and caring for me until I was recovered. Over time we come to enjoy each other’s company more and more, sharing both the celebrations and the real challenges of life together.  Picture a scene where, instead of being the rescuer and the shipwrecked, we become full partners in the business of life. And we marvel at how a dramatic rescue effort turned into a fulfilling lifelong friendship.

An amazing piece of fiction or a true story?

Isn’t this actually the story of our lives, constantly buffeted by the waves of life, with no rudder to guide us and seemingly at mercy of the sea? Unable to save ourselves by our own efforts, we find ourselves tossed against the rocks and shipwrecked, without hope. But then a rescuer came to save us. Only instead of risking his life, he actually gave his life so we might be saved. Saved not only from being eternally shipwrecked but saved also from a life of meaningless and fruitless effort, tossed this way and that. Not only saved, yet also redeemed and restored… renewed into a vibrant and fulfilling relationship with our rescuer, who as it turned out, overcame death itself!

How do you picture yourself in this story?

Actually, there are four of us in this story. One of us feels like it’s smooth sailing and everything is under control – at least until the threatening storms come our way.  Another sees themself in the midst of a stormy life, desperately clinging to the sides of the boat, trying to weigh anchor and find a secure hold, hoping beyond hope to be rescued. Yet another has already experienced the throes of a disastrous shipwreck. Whether it be relationships, finances, business and life goals, or our own deteriorating bodies, we find ourselves tossed against the rocks. And finally, one of us finds themselves rescued from the disaster that came upon us. In fact, impossible as it seems, here we are surrounded by the broken pieces of our lives, but not alone. It would have been enough had we been rescued from the stormy seas, but our rescuer came to take us from this hopeless place to a place of restoration and forever celebration. And as we wait, we find ourself miraculously changing from a miserably lost, shipwrecked fool, to become known as friend and beloved son or daughter. Not only that, but our redeemer regards us as so valued he gives us his inheritance, even the right to become his child.

How do you see yourself in this story of life? Are you the captain of your own destiny, the lost soul in stormy waters, the hopelessly shipwrecked, or the rescued, restored and redeemed? Jesus is the one who longs to rescue us all; and not only rescue us, but bring us into a place where the broken pieces of our lives become fully restored. Reach out for his lifeline and inherit a whole new life!

Shipwrecked no more!


Waiting to die

Marcia and I enjoyed our visit with friends in a care center. Diagnosed with terminal cancer and no treatment options remaining, he is waiting to die. It’s inspirational to witness his positive attitude and it’s clear he is at peace with his pending future. In fact his wife says he’s like a kid before Christmas and can’t wait for that special day to arrive. Except in this case, that special day is the moment he steps from this life into his heavenly home. And like the child before Christmas, it’s hard to wait. “Why can’t Christmas (heaven) come right now?!” He tells me how is body is deteriorating and doesn’t understand why he has to wait for his heavenly home. I know how he feels.

We seldom dare think of it but we all share the same mortal diagnosis. None of us get out of here alive. But unlike the countdown of days before Christmas, we don’t know when our final day will arrive. It could be tonight. Passing a bad accident on the other side of the interstate today, we prayed for those involved and pondered how they had no clue what was in store for them this very day. Neither do you or I.

And yet we live pretty consistently in a way that denies our pending end of this life’s journey. We make plans for a future that may never arrive. And so we must. Bills have to be paid, laundry done, and work tasks accomplished. There are children to raise, friendships to foster, relationships to mend, and investments to be made. We can’t truly live as if this were the last day of our life, but shouldn’t we live with that very reality in mind?

I kiss my wife before she leaves the house and remind my grandchildren how amazing they are as I hug them each time we meet. There are so many to-do lists that scream for attention and many that have no real lasting value but call to us just the same. But we must not let the tyranny of the merely urgent control what is really important. Isn’t this what living a full abundant life is about? Walking each day’s tightrope, aware of both the threatening perils of a fatal fall and also the immense joys waiting for us at the end of the line.

I don’t have it all figured out. Mostly each day seems a hot mess; you never have it all together. But in the midst of that struggle between fully living and being at peace with dying, there exists a certain level of contentment and  satisfaction – a peace that surpasses all our common understanding.

Just as it’s hard to wait for Christmas Day on earth, so it’s hard to wait for a glorious heavenly life. Here’s to keeping both in mind throughout this very day!


Inviting the thief into your house

imageYou’ve heard about Save the Whales and Save the Rainforests. Perhaps you know a Global Seed Vault exists as a fail safe protection against natural or man-made disasters. The Harvard Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts even houses the world’s rarest pigments to make sure their distinct colors are not lost. Whether it’s Save the Pygmy Frog, Save the Pigment, Save the World, or Save the Child, you’ll find groups of people to rally behind a cause they deem worthy of protection.

Closer to home, we lock our doors to protect our belongings and loved ones. At the same time, how often do we leave the doors wide open for the enemy to come charging into our homes and our lives? We warned our children about the subtlety of movies and books that could influence them in a harmful way.  They would sometimes argue that a little bit of cussing and swearing wouldn’t bother them. They said it just goes in one ear and out the other. It was the same with movie scenes that were unfit for children or adults.

The truth is, what goes in, stays in. Our brains are hard-wired to remember things, especially things that are atracked to emotion. Be it grief or pain, horror or enticement, emotionally laden words and images chemically imprint themselves on our memory. Maybe you know from experience how seemingly impossible it is to “unsee” a gruesome or unwholesome image; how challenging it is to “unhear” coarse talk that works is its way into our vocabulary.  The deeper the emotion, the more firm the imprint and more difficult to erase. Inviting some movies, books, talk, and habits into our lives is like leaving the door unlocked and wide open when we leave on vacation. We might as well put out a sign, “Thieves, help yourself.” Jesus himself warned, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Are you tired of having your joy and peace stolen by the chaos and corruption around you? Are you tired of marriages and families being destroyed by what seems to be the norm in an immoral culture? Have you sometimes found Jesus’ promise of a full, abundant life buried somewhere under an avalanche of pressing forces and influences that run contrary to your deepest values?

Consider the antidote:

Above all else, guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Of course, you know all these truths, don’t you? But are you applying them to protect your heart against bitterness, anger, greed, and corrupt thinking? (I’m examining myself as I ask.) Having asked God to make us a “new creation” and purify our heart and set it after his, are we guarding against the very things that threaten our peace and joy, or are we inviting divisive and coarse talk, immoral thinking, wasteful activities,  and greed to establish strongholds within us? It’s one thing to know we should lock our doors against intruders. It’s another thing to actually do it and also guard the doors to our heart.

Perhaps our children thought we were being prudish in protecting them from the horribly bad influences of the world. But protecting your heart is not about being prudish. It’s about being prudent. It’s about protecting what is most valuable. It’s easy to be seduced by the dark side. It happens so subtly. One small indiscretion leads to another and then another, until we find ourselves thinking or doing what would earlier have been unimaginable to us.

If you’re looking for a good cause to support, something worthwhile to protect, then first protect your heart from the thief who threatens to steal your joy.  Ask God, “Search my heart O Lord. Reveal what strongholds need demolished in my life. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Then actively guard your heart by what you let influence it.



Beyond the curse in your life


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10


Are you enjoying a rich abundant life, full of passion and purpose, blessing in each day, a cup overflowing with goodness? Or do you feel lately that too much joy and prosperity have been stolen from your life and see life as a glass less than half full? If we find our days abundantly filled with goodness, it seems that it doesn’t take long for something to come along and threaten to steal that away from us. It’s the nature of the life we live in a world that has been cursed since the fall of man. In Genesis 3:14-17, God cursed the devil for deceiving the woman and because man did not listen to God, he cursed the ground as punishment, making life one of toil. You might wonder, “Will it always be that way?” Thankfully, the answer is NO.

While it seems Satan foiled God’s good plan for you, nothing could be further from the truth. From the very beginning, God promised he would send a rescuer, a redeemer, the very one we desperately need to restore and renew our lives, to recover and return us to how he designed us to live.

God’s plan is to save you for an eternal life of joy with him and to give you an abundant life on earth, invincible to the circumstances that come upon you. Satan’s plan is to snatch the souls of men and women before they accept Jesus, or to destroy their joy and make them live miserable lives as defeated Christians, never feeling good enough. He wants us to give up on God, or at the very least to become so busy that we easily forget him in our daily lives.

God’s plan is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:10)  ALL things, not some. All joy and strength, love and grace, truth and hope. While God lives in heaven and we live on earth, his plan is that there be no separation between the two. Randy Alcorn states, “There will be no more divided loyalties or divided realms. There will be one cosmos, one universe united under one Lord – forever. This is the unstoppable plan of God. This is where history is headed.”

The question is not only who will reign on earth forever but who reigns in your heart right now? Does God have full dominions and authority in your life? Does he fuel your ambitions and goals? Or does he just have a tiny slice of your morning prayer and Sunday worship? Do you know anything that is able to reclaim, rebuild, restore, and redeem the woes of your life like God? Before sending his disciples out to spread the good news, baptize, and teach those they met, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Do you know why he said that? It’s because his same all powerful authority was available to them through the power of his indwelling Spirit in them.

That same authority is available to you and me – today. His authority, if we accept it, has authority over our pain, our disappointment, our sorrows, and our despair. While the day is yet to come in heaven when there will “no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3), we have victory over the power of the curse now, through themthe indwelling Spirit of Jesus.  It’s realizing the paradox that God’s answer to our prayers is “already and yet to come.” We pray confidently because we know he has already won the battle and his good outcome is secure.

My very best days are those I remember to begin by asking the Holy Spirit to take over my agenda, to interrupt my “precious” plans, and to heighten my senses so I will be aware of those around me so I can see them through his eyes.

Observes Alcorn, “Under the curse human culture has not been eliminated, but it has been severely hampered by sin, death and decay. But have hope. One day, sin and sorrow will be forever thwarted and his goodness displayed as far as the curse is found. The curse is real but it is temporary,”


While we wait with eager anticipation, let’s live with the resurrection power of Jesus in our lives now.


A better way


LIfe’s challenges sometimes seem so overwhelming we want to escape them at all costs. But often the the best strategy is to face them head on in the strength that only comes from humble prayer. The bible encourages us not to impress others, but to pray in private, humbling ourselves before our mighty God. In The War Room movie, Clara’s closet was her prayer room. It’s where she fights the battles of her life. Her character had a prayer strategy for each and every area of her life. How about you? Do you have a quiet place where you can pray, free from distractions? Are your prayers focused on your family and home, your finances, your church and its leaders, your elected officials – even the ones you don’t like? Do your prayer strategies reach out to your community and country and cross the oceans to express your concern for those who have so little and are fighting just to stay alive? Every day, you encounter employees, employers, friends, and strangers you meet in the marketplace – and do you have a prayer strategy for them? And what about the people out of sight? Those who are sick, in prison, going through financial diffciculties, dealing with de depression…do you have a prayer strategy for them?


Often we think we have no time to pray. But evidently, we do have time to fight a losing battle our own way without prayer!  How much time are you going to spend whining and complaining and crying? Let God take care of others. Let God handle your circumstances. Ask God to change you.


If this seems to step on your toes (as it does mine) perhaps it’s time to awaken the prayer warrior within you. Be the church others want and need to see, the bible others need to read. Live a real faith that stands firm and also kneels humbly before the Almighty Lord of Lords.


And in dealing with others who are difficult, in light of all their faults, do you think God still loves them? Of course he does. That’s what undeserved grace is all about. We all want it. But we can’t ask for forgiveness until we forgive others. You think you can’t or shouldn’t have to forgive them. God will give you the grace to forgive if that is your heart seeks after him. He wants to free you but there’s not room for both you and God on the throne of your life. when you face your real enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy, you have to decide who’s going to be in charge.


Pray in secret, without distractions. acknowledge God. Confess. ask, pray for whatever and whomever God brings to mind. Take your time and listen. Remember we’re not the judge of others. The theif comes unexpectedly to steal, but the Lord comes to lead you to an abundant life. Submit to God. resist the devil. Decide once and for all that Jesus is the lord of your house, your family, and your life.


Stop fighting others. Start fighting the real spiritual battle that is raging within and around you, the battle for your mind. Remember that God will fight for you. He is faithful and powerful. Whatever happens  repeat your praise: “Still I will trust you God.”


Don’t let selfish pride get in the way. learn to fight a better way… on your knees and with the power of God’s own Spirit. Experience the power he intended for you to have all along!


The gates of life


Dan Stone uses the analogy of passing through various ‘gates’ as we walk the path of a Christian life. First, is the gate of salvation. We don’t even make it that far until we admit that we have a sin problem that we can’t solve. We try to pass through by our own strength, our good deeds, our ‘religious’ behavior, our generosity, or by being a ‘good’ person. But none of this works. We only pass through the gate of salvation by surrendering all that we are and trusting in Jesus.


As we continue our journey through life, we begin to explore the meaning of life. Beyond the forgiveness of our sins (which we might forget is such a very huge deal!), we try to live a ‘good’ Christian life still in our power. We read the bible, we pray, we attend church and give money for good causes. We exhaust ourselves trying to ‘be good.’ And then we come across a second gate where we really experience “God with us.” We pass through this gate, realizing that Jesus really does want to help us through the battles of life. It’s a weight off our shoulders to know that we’re not alone in our struggles. So we continue our journey of trying to live the Christian life…with God.


Now there is a third gate that remains undiscovered by many. It only appears when we realize that we can’t live the Christian life. We pass through this gate when we acknowledge that Jesus doesn’t merely help us live our life, Jesus IS our life. “Christ is in you and HE will live the life.” Instead of viewing life from our perspective, we are able to experience life and its purpose through the viewpoint of Jesus living in us. As we pass through this third gate we realize what the inscription means:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)


Many of us understand why we have to pass through the first gate. We realize there is no other way to escape our sin problem, no forgiveness of sin at all, without the saving grace of Jesus. And as we devote ourselves to knowing our Heavenly Father we eagerly pass through the second gate, inviting God to help us on our journey. But we hesitate at the third gate, if in fact we think about it at all. Because this part of the journey requires total surrender into God’s hands of all we hold dear: our belongings, our career, our family, in fact our very identity. It requires dying to self, letting self be “crucified with Christ”. We think maybe we could just try harder to live the Christian life in our own power. But it’s both futile and exhausting to attempt it.


We don’t walk the Christian life. Jesus-in-us IS the life. Living with Him is not enough. The abundant life is only found by letting HIM live our life – in us. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)


“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6



Recovering a sense of meaning


We’re reflecting on the thoughts of authors Magee and Scalzo who wrote, Picking up the Pieces – Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer. Their premise is that there are four ‘corner pieces’ in transitioning from surviving to thriving and that understanding these helps us to put the rest of the pieces back together.


Nicole is a stem cell transplant survivor. Initially she didn’t respond well to chemotherapy; at one point she only weighed 72 pounds. Determined to love stronger and care more, she set her eyes on staying focused and regaining her energy. She says, “I gradually got back to living life! I was doing the things I did before, but with a greater purpose. Staying focused on the future and continuing to plan for tomorrow helped. Getting this far was not easy.” She describes financial struggles that compounded her physical and emotional suffering. “I had to stay focused, take small steps, and not let the struggles get in the way of my progress. Making it through a tough time inspires me to live each day in the moment. I am passionate about volunteering. Being an example of hope for others is what I love about survivorship.”


Have you been in that place? Maybe it wasn’t fatigue or cancer, but maybe you’ve come to that same sense of wanting – and needing – lasting meaning in life. Maybe you’ve felt a sense of disconnectedness from others or even from life itself. Maybe you’ve realized that we’re meant to be part of a ‘community’ but you feel like your piece of the puzzle is insignificant. Don’t believe it. God doesn’t make insignificant pieces. Each piece of the puzzle has purpose; none is without meaning.


As you reflect on your life, consider what insight you’ve gained from your journey. Try to see your life not only on how it impacts you right now, but how it impacts others. Looking at your life from the perspective of the whole journey, even up until your last breath, will help you find the purpose and meaning you seek. This is especially true if you consider your life as it relates to the grand plan of God.


Let your mind leave behind what was lost and even all that surrounds you. Ask yourself what you’ve gained from your life experiences. What parts are making you stronger? Out of the confusion and disappointment of trials God can bring a sense of clarity and vision that was clouded before. Ask Him to reveal greater meaning in your life as you read His Word.


Recovering your sense of meaning, or discovering it for the first time, is a vital part of thriving and living the ‘abundant’ life that God designed for you.



From routine to the edge of adventure



Do you ever have the feeling like you are stuck in a routine, doing the same thing over and over, never really getting anywhere, but instead just running in circles, and just wasting your life away?


That was the plight of Bill Murray’s character in the movie, Groundhog Day. Every day he would wake up on Groundhog Day and everything would be the same as yesterday. The same pointless routines, the same meaningless dialog, and the same boring and unfulfilled existence.


Maybe you feel the same way. You look back at the past year and ask, “Where did time go?” You look back over a lifetime of toil and ask, “What happened to my goals and dreams?”   You’re stuck in a rut that seems like a grave with the ends dug out. You ask, “Is there a way out?”


Maybe today is the day to drive a stake in the ground or draw a line firmly in the wet concrete that proclaims, “I’m not going to waste my life. I am going to live a life of adventure with purpose and passion!”


What does it mean for a Christian to ditch the wasted routine and start living on the edge of adventure?


Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). He said it is like one who lost a treasure and gave up everything in order to find it.


It might look like Paul who considered everything he once sought to win as becoming like rubbish, worthless compared to knowing Jesus. Not just knowing more about Jesus, but knowing Him in such an intimate way that compels you to follow Him in everything you do. As the martyred Jim Elliot said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”


Elliot’s fellow missionary, martyred by his side, summed it this way:

I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy into it.


Francis Schaefer said it is the life being visibly marked by the expression of God’s love for others. Like a mentor of mine when I was a youth said, “To have even your unconscious thoughts and desires bear the mark of Jesus.”


Maybe the question isn’t, “Am I ready to get out of a rut?” Maybe the question is, “Do I really want to bear the full mark of Jesus and live the ‘abundant life’ adventure of following Him?” The call is yours. Answer it today.



Culture of life


Reverend Franklin Graham was recently quoted saying that America is increasingly embracing a “culture of death” that reflects a rejection of the gospel of Jesus, even among Christians.


I read that nearly 15 million people tuned in to watch the latest episode of the zombie-filled Walking Dead, outranking even the Broncos-Chiefs game viewers. Even if Dracula could not see his reflection in a mirror, the godless worldview that has such a hold on our society can be clearly seen. It seems ironic that there is such a fixation on fictional death while ignoring the reality of our own death and what happens after that.


Life is short and after that – eternity, the forever and ever. Sadly, few will engage in any meaningful discussion of this reality or make preparation for it. Days, months, and years fly by in pursuit of nothing that lasts and loss of everything that does.


“Death is not a fictional television series,” said Rev. Graham.  “It is not a popular gaming topic. It is the entryway into either eternal life or eternal death. And a culture that treats it as mere fantasy and amusing entertainment does so at its peril.”


Where is our hope? Our hope is found in letting God control the remote of our lives, asking “Will this honor Him?” before we press the button. Our hope is found in standing firm in our faith and living in the culture of life that Jesus offers us, abundant life to the full – even in the face of cancer, poverty, loneliness, pain, anxiety, and depression.


None of us know the time of our last breath. For some, it comes quite unexpectedly. Don’t let your life be marked by the celebration of Hollywood’s obsession with death. Let your day be filled with real life, abundant and full. Let God’s Spirit show you the way to live a life that matters, both now… And forever!



Hope overflows





“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13



This a great verse of personal comfort, isn’t it? It freely offers what we all want: joy, peace, hope. But it is not just about you or me. It is set in the context of Paul’s letter to the Roman church, showing us how to experience a transformed life through faith in the Son of God, how to live victoriously in a troubled world, and how to live in peace and understanding with others.


Joy, peace, hope, power – all things we strongly desire. But none of these priceless gifts come from our own efforts. They freely come FROM God and the Holy Spirit WHEN we trust in Him. When we worry and fret they escape us. But when we put our daily trust in God, we are filled with God’s joy and peace, and the Holy Spirit is able to grow our hope so much that it OVERFLOWS.  God doesn’t bring us to trust in Him only so we can take refuge in His shelter. He doesn’t draw us to Him solely for our personal comfort. God’s greater intent is that our hope will overflow.


Where does hope go when it overflows in our life? It overflows into the circumstances of our life, and washes our pain and suffering. It spills onto our cancer and our despair over our children. It flows through our work. Hope floods our financial worries, drowns our doubts, and quenches our fiery thirsts. It flushes our disappointments into the deepest sea. Hope is a light that cannot be contained in a lamp but overflows into darkness. It illuminates our path filling us with understanding. The power of the Holy Spirit makes our hope to splash onto those around us and flow around the world in ways we never imagined because real hope is not just for us; real hope expands our world vision and impact.


How full is your cup of hope? If it is filled more with despair and fear than the joy, peace, and hope you desire, empty it at the feet of Jesus. Ask His Holy Spirit to fill it up again today with power to trust in The God of Hope.


As your trust grows, His hope overflows.


You can live an abundant life today and every day, by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring you overflowing hope.