Thursday, January 19, 2017

Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known in My 20's Part 2

Here are 10 more things I wish I had known in my 20's.  You can read the first 10 right here, if you missed it.

11. Your Character is Always More Important Than Your Accomplishments … this is true because who you are will always show up in what you do. It’s easy to set the goals and think about how much money you’d like to make, how far you’d like to get in your career, what you’d like to accomplish 5, 10, 15 years down the road.  It’s not wrong to have those dreams and goals, but it’s always more important to focus first on who you want to be instead of what you want to do.  If you allow accomplishments to get ahead of your character, that’s when you get in trouble.

12. Guard Your Heart … Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  What that tells me is every word, every action, every thought … all of what we do highlights what is in our heart because whatever is in control of our heart will direct our actions.  What needs to be transformed in our lives is not so much our situation or our relationships.  What really needs to be transformed is our hearts. Long-term transformation always travels the path of the heart. We need grace to transform what we love, what we crave, and what we serve. And, that’s the beauty of the Gospel!  Even though I've given myself over and over to an endless list of God substitutes, even though I've loved myself more than I’ve shown love to others, God comes to me in grace offered through Jesus Christ and begins a process that will result in the total transformation of my heart. (Tripp) Which is why a prayer like David’s in Psalm 52 … “Create in me a clean heart, oh Lord” … is one of the most powerful prayers we could pray. As I allow the Holy Spirit to work on my heart, He will always lead my heart to Jesus.

13. It Really Is Better to Give Than to Receive … Jesus said it Himself … “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  I’m no certainly no brain surgeon or rocket scientist, but given the option of choosing to be more blessed or less blessed … I’m probably going to choose to be more blessed.  And, in God’s economy, the way I can choose to be more blessed is simply by choosing to be more generous.

14. It’s OK to Be Single … singleness is not a sickness.  For some the scariest thing in the world is to NOT have a boyfriend or not to have a girlfriend.  And, the reason it’s so scary for is because it’s easy to wrap your identity around someone of the opposite sex.  Singleness is not a sickness.  Moving from guy to guy or from girl to girl … that’s the sickness.  That’s unhealthy.  You are not defined by who you date.

15. Don’t Get Involved with the Wrong Person or at the Wrong Time … nothing will derail a life faster than getting romantically involved with the wrong person or getting involved with someone at the wrong time.  Be patient when it comes to relationships.  Don’t rush in to them.  Rushing now usually leads to regrets later and you’ll find yourself saying a few years down the road, “I wish I would have handled that differently.”  If you rush in to something, you’ll usually do it with the wrong person or you’ll be stepping in to something at the wrong time … which can be just as damaging.  Be patient.  Wait on God’s timing and be strong enough to walk away from the wrong person and to wait for the right time.

16. I Will Not Just End Up Where I Want to Be … you can hope and you can dream and you can have the best intentions … but if you do not deliberately set yourself on a path that leads to where you want to be, you’ll end up somewhere else. 

17. Stay in Touch with People … it doesn’t take long to lose contact with some of your closest friends.  Life happens.  Things get busy.  And, the reality is that some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a certain part of your life.  But, if there are friends you do not want to lose contact with, you’ll have to be intentional about that.  If you’re not, don’t expect to stay in touch with them except for the annual Christmas card.

18. Live on a Budget … money has a funny way of getting spent.  If you don’t keep track of it, you’ll never know where it’s going.  A budget helps your take control of your money and allows you to make your money work for you.

19. Don’t Hold Grudges … you never win when you hold a grudge because the grudge ends up holding you.  Life is short.  Move on.

20. What You’re Doing Now Matters … if you’re looking at pornography now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  If you’re having sex now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  If you’re going in to debt now, that will matter somewhere down the road.  Your past doesn’t just go away.  What you’re doing now has a funny way of following you around later.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known in My 20's Part 1

I know it may be hard to believe, but I’m no longer in my 20’s.  But, if I could go back to the 90’s and have a conversation with myself, I’d take off the headphones to that Sony Discman and start to tell myself a few things.  Here’s "Part 1" of what I’d say:

1. Don’t Waste Your Freedom … unless you get married very early, you’ll never have this much freedom for the rest of your life.  Soon, a full-time job, a spouse, and children will hopefully become your priority.  So, make the most of this freedom while you can.  Have fun.  Take risks. Drive across the country.  Go see something you’ve only read about. Be spontaneous because in a few years, all that freedom will be gone.

2. Don’t Be Selfish with Your Freedom …it’s true that you’ll never have this much freedom for the rest of your life.  Just don’t use all of that freedom on yourself.  Give it away. Be a servant.  Help others.  Be generous with your time.

3. Following Jesus is Not About the Rules … for years my Christian experience revolved around trying to be sure that God was happy with me.  And, making God happy meant following all the rules.  I thought that if I could just spiritually discipline myself enough then I could straighten myself out and keep the rules and then I could manipulate God into being happy with me. So, my relationship with God became a checklist of behavioral duties that, instead of setting me free, became a prison. The focus of my relationship with God was either do, do, do or don’t, don’t, don’t.  If I was doing, doing, doing … God was happy.  If I was don’ting, don’ting don’ting … God … not so happy.  And, it’s a strange thing because there’s nothing wrong with more right behavior.  That’s a good thing.  There’s nothing wrong with less wrong behavior.  That’s a good thing too.  But something … or better yet … Someone was missing from that equation:  Jesus.

4. God Enjoys Me … for the longest time I believed that God loved me, but I wasn’t so sure he enjoyed me.  How could He possibly enjoy someone who continually messed up and couldn’t get it together?  I felt like a total disappointment to Him.  I know He loved me, but I thought He’d enjoy me more if I did “better.”  What I wish I would have known is that He doesn’t enjoy the future version of me more than the current version of me.  When He looks at me, He sees Jesus and all He has done on my behalf.

5. Prayer is Not About Prayer, It’s About God … I had always thought of prayer as a way of getting what I wanted or what someone else wanted.  When prayers were getting answered, I found myself praying more in order to get more.  When prayers were not being answered, I found myself praying less because … ‘eh … what’s the point.  I was pursuing what I wanted from God more than God Himself. 

6. Be a Servant and Do More Than is Expected of You … a good reputation is worth more than gold.  My character and work ethic can help establish a good reputation with others.  There will never a traffic jam on the extra mile.  Be known as someone willing to work hard and do more than is expected.

7. Give Generously … guilt may motivate you to give, but it will never motivate you to be generous.  Only grace does that.  No one is more generous than a person who understands how much they have received from God. 

8. Live Below Your Means … just because you can buy it doesn’t mean you should buy it.  One day you’ll be thankful for the extra money in the bank, like on a day you go to put a down payment on a house.

9. Read … read for school, read for enjoyment, read to build character and self-discipline, read to engage your imagination, read to become a better conversationalist.  Reading truly does open up your mind to new worlds and new possibilities.

10. Eat Healthfully … enjoy that rabbit-like metabolism while it lasts, because you will not have it forever.  You will not regret starting those healthy habits early on in life. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 25

“For unto us a child is born

My wife and I have been blessed with four beautiful children.  In 2006 we decided to try to get pregnant for the first time … once again in 2008, again in 2009, and again in 2011.  “Be fruitful and multiply” is one of our favorite commands in the Bible!

Although we chose to bring children in to this world, none of our kids actually chose to be born.  In fact no one alive has ever chosen to be born … that is no one except Jesus.  Jesus is the only One to ever choose to be born, the only Person to choose to enter our broken world.  I believe it’s something He still chooses to do today.

As happy as this time of year can be for many of us, I know that joy and happiness are not a reality for everyone.  For some, dreams have been shattered and life has felt broken. I know people recently diagnosed with cancer.  I know people who have lost their husbands or wives through divorce or separation.  I know families that have been torn apart.  I know parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents.  I know men and women who have lost their jobs.  As merry as this time of year is for some, for others it is lonely and it’s painful and it hurts.   And it is there that Jesus wants to meet us.

Psalm 40 starts out by saying “I waited patiently for the Lord and He turned and heard my cry.”  It ends by saying, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.”  I love that!  “The Lord takes thought of me.”  I love when my wife sends me a text or a note that simply says, “I’m thinking of you.”  To be thought of, to be noticed … it feels like an emotional hug.

When we experience the brokenness on the inside of us and on the outside of us, it’s easy to believe that God has forgotten us.  But, if Christmas has shown us anything, it shows that that we are incapable of being unnoticed by God.  God has a long history of hearing the cries of His people and entering in to their hurt and longing to provide shelter in His living embrace.

Throughout the New Testament, one of the defining characteristics of the life of Christ was compassion.  When He saw the hurting, the lonely, the poor, the enslaved, the broken, He was “moved with compassion” for them … literally moved on the inside.  He was willing to allow Himself to be touched by what touched someone else and to be moved by what moved someone else.  This is empathy … a willingness to feel in to another person’s pain, to take on their perspective and enter in to their world. So often I see myself back away from the places or people that are uncomfortable or difficult, but so compassionate was Jesus that He was willing not just to see another person’s pain, but to enter in to their pain and to empathize with their weaknesses.

On Christmas, as we celebrate Jesus entering in to our world, I pray that we will remember that He’s also willing to enter our personal world … that we are not, nor will we ever go unnoticed by Him.  He’s still willing to be moved with compassion and shelter us in His loving embrace.  As He does, I believe we will find that the presence of the right Person will make all the difference in the world. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 24

“For God so love the world that He GAVE His only Son.” 

The happiest people you know are the most generous people you know.  Show me a generous person and I’ll show you a happy person.  Show me a stingy person and I’ll show you a grumpy person.  When you live a generous life, you’re truly experiencing life.  Jesus said it Himself … It’s more blessed to give than to receive.  Now, I’m no certainly no brain surgeon or rocket scientist, but given the option of choosing to be more blessed or less blessed … I’m probably going to choose to be more blessed.  And, the way I can choose to be more blessed … the way I can truly experience life … is simply by choosing to be more generous, to intentionally give, to daily sacrifice, to really feel generosity in my budget, to say “no” to some of my wants so I can say “yes” to another’s need, and to look to Jesus.  You see, a greater paycheck will never help me be generous, but a greater view of grace certainly will. A heart overwhelmed by grace is a heart willing to overwhelm others with generosity.

At the very core of Christmas we find a generous God who is willing to give to us. He saw a need, our need for salvation, and He “gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

We can never be guilted in to generosity.  We can be guilted in to giving, but we can never be guilted in to being generous. Generosity is the result of a life restored by grace. Guilt may motivate you to give today.  Grace will motivate you to be generous for a lifetime.  So, as we turn our thoughts this Christmas Eve toward a generous God who gave His only Son, may our hearts be transformed and may a generous life just be one of the results.

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 23

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)

This Christmas, remind yourself and your family that hope is only found in how much you've been loved by Jesus. It will be tempting to look for hope in the gifts that you receive or in the gifts that you give or in the people that you celebrate Christmas with, but those gifts will get old, your generosity will wrestle with your selfishness, and the people who say they love you will find a way to disappoint you once again.

The only hope that you have this Christmas is in the love that God has for you. Husbands, you won't love your wife like you're supposed to. Wives, you won't love your husbands like you're supposed to. Brothers and sisters, you won't love your siblings like you're supposed to. Parents, you won't love your kids like you're supposed to. Kids, you won't love your parents like you're supposed to. But God will always love you perfectly.

Christmas Day is a celebration of how much God loves us. Don't miss out on an opportunity to share that Good News. Remind yourself and your family to fix your eyes on Jesus and celebrate that there's eternal, life-changing hope for you!

By Paul Tripp

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