Category Archives: Life’s Purpose

Wanted: Dreamers

Of the human experience, one of the saddest realities is the adult who never achieves his or her dreams. Statistics reveal this description fits eight out of ten of us. Perhaps even sadder is the fact that most of this eighty percent won’t even remember as adults the dreams they imagined as children. That’s a disheartening stat for a dreamer.

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Our childhood dreams are clues to the destiny God has for each of us. Yes, I believe those dreams are given to us by God in seed form. He plants them in the cracks and crevices of our soul and spirit, and over time, they sprout in our heart and mind. If we partner with God, those dreams begin to produce fruit and move from the realm of imagination into the realm of reality.

As children, we are all fitted with an aptitude for imagination—the ability to perceive something before it has become a reality. Imagination can be the stuff of far-fetched fantasy or the genesis of a reality yet to be discovered or created. Both find their residence in the heart and the mind of a child. And this imagination fertilizes and irrigates the dream God has planted in us.

But sadly, most of those dreams are stolen. We accept the limitations of others, their crushing words, our insatiable appetite for acceptance, or we bow to the altars of reason, intellect, and cynicism. Those dreams entrusted to us by God are eventually lost under the debris of unbelief somewhere deep within in the dusty, cobwebbed corridors of a no longer needed childhood imagination.

Our world desperately cries out for a handful of dreamers who will once again entertain those God-sized dreams. We long for a few visionaries, who glimpse through their imagination what God’s reality for this world looks like. We crave some romantics who will lead us out of this malaise of skepticism and back into the authenticity of a society marked by genuine love. Without the ability to transact in the currency of the imagination, the hearts of those who profess to be Christ-followers will calcify and eventually petrify, leaving the world to its own hopeless, apocalyptic implosion.

We must reclaim our God-given capacity to dream. Dreaming is not a waste of time, it is a necessity to rescue and redeem our limited time. I challenge you to ask God to awaken the dreams he’s sown into your soul and spirit so long ago. Stop gorging yourself on what culture, society, intellectualism, or business says is equitable, acceptable, and financially feasible. Stop listening to the naysayers and the doomsdayers. Blow off the dust, take it in your hands, hold it close to your heart, and nurture that dream until it becomes all that God says it will be.

Let the dreamers arise and ascend until these divine aspirations move from the fertile fields of imagination into the fruitful place of realization.

Burn Your Boats!

Burn Your BoatsTotal commitment is rare in our culture. Most people would rather duck out of it when the going gets rough or tough. Commitment is a promise to be loyal to someone or something…to give oneself totally. It means “you can count on me no matter what!”

Many would rather sit back and wait to see what happens. If something is successful then they are willing to hop on the train. And…if not, then they will hit the eject button and they are out of there. Sadly this permeates our culture. And yes, it is especially true in the church.

Yet commitment is the foundation of success in whatever one chooses to do. In 1519, Hernan Cortez sailed from Spain to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with the purpose of conquering the Aztec Empire. He landed on the sandy shore with 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 or so horses (by most standards not a very impressive military force to conquer a an empire which had withstood every invasion for over 600 years).

Once on shore, Cortez began building the courage of his force, while at the same time fueling their dreams of glory with stories of the fantastic treasures that awaited them. For several days he held seminars in which he described the richs of the Aztecs. At night he had pep rallies to encourage and pump up his soldiers. As they trained on the beach and sharpened this military skills and maneuvers, Cortez spoke eloquently of the the glory and the riches that would belong to each man once their conquest was completed. These soldiers were eager, excited, and energized!

Once the day dawned for Spanish conquistadors to march inland, Cortez gave a simple three word command…”Burn the boats!” He then repeated the command, “Burn the boats! If we are going home we will go in their boats.” As they watch from shore, 11 ships, their only way home, went up in flames.

There was now no turning back. Cortez and his little army were now fully committed. History records that this little army conquered one of the mightiest empires in the Americas.

How? They were fully commited. They had no back up plan and no other option except death.

Jesus is still looking for men and women who are willing to give him that level of commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. You are either all in or you are on the outside looking in. Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:62: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn your boats! If you plan to get home you will have to go in Jesus’ boat.

God is Passionate About You

Passion is the driving force in humanity’s pursuit of satisfaction, whether it is in a relationship, a vocation, or an activity. Passion is the fire that causes one’s love to flourish, or one’s anger to seethe, or one’s willingness to sacrifice even their life for a cause. Without passion, love wilts, anger ceases, and sacrifice becomes routine. Passion is the sole ingredient that can ignite the smoldering embers of the life’s fire and cause it to blaze with renewed intensity. The object of one’s passion determines the intensity of the desire.

The object of God’s passion is you. Don’t be startled or embarrassed; the Father loves you with an intense passionate love. His is desire for you and He is a jealous God (“You shall not make for yourself and idol, any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” Deut. 5:8-9a). You are His bride and the intensity of His passionate love is white-hot.

Perhaps you’ve never considered passion and God together at the same time. Perhaps for you passion is desire out of control and thus evil. The passion of love out of control becomes lust, but the passion of love under control brings life. And life can never be all that God intended unless God is the priority of your passion.

Perhaps you are not totally your Beloved’s. Perhaps the object of your desire is not God. God designed your heart to burn with love for Him in the same way His heart burns with an intense love for you. But often we contaminate the fire of our hearts with polluted fuel like position, power, or prestige. Anything that excites you more than God is contaminated fuel. Oh, a heart fueled by pollution can burn with a passion, but when the fuel is gone the flickering flames slowly recede and leave only the empty smelly shell of unrequited love. Unrequited love is frustrated love. Frustrated love results when the object of one’s love does not respond in like manner.

Thus, the ultimate difference between the Bridegroom, the Lover of our soul, and everyone and everything else is that God’s love never frustrates, instead it always stimulates. God’s love is not the result of a reaction or a response; instead it is the unconditional choice of a heart that truly desires you without regard to who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. The passionate love of the Father depends on Him not you. And He has chosen you as the object of His love and He will not be frustrated in His desire for you.

When passions of like manner collide, tremendous explosions always take place. When the pure fuel of God’s love is injected into your heart, it will beat with the song your spirit was created to sing. But an intimate God will never force His love. You must invite His presence and His love to burn away the contamination of the world. It is in that moment that you will know His passion for you.

Understand this: He will not share you with another. The choice is yours, His passion or your perversion. Are you frustrated in your walk, in your relationships, with your prayers? Have you settled for less than the best? If so, open the door to the Bridegroom and allow Him to passionately love you and then respond to Him with the passion He calls forth from within your spirit. You will be satisfied and complete in His love and in His love alone.

Family Matters! A Tribute to More Than a Friend

Stunned describes the way I feel today. A phone call early today knocked the breath out of me and it seems almost impossible to catch it now. Late night or early morning phone calls are never bearers of good news. This one wasn’t either.

As a pastor, most people expect you to say the “right” things at the “right” moment so that those who are suffering might feel “right” once again. But there are no words to say that can make anyone feel “right” once their life has been marred by death.

Today, I am not the pastor with the “right” words (I never have been because those guys really don’t exist)—I am just another human being struggling with my own emotions at the loss of a dear, dear friend. I’m processing the reality of the moment and not getting very far. Shocked is another word that expresses my state of mind. All those questions we are afraid to ask, like why? and how? are relentlessly pursuing me, clamoring for an appointment in my mind, intent on way-laying my faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore I choose to write the words I can’t seem to formulate with my tongue or lips. Words come hard at times like these. They seem cheap if they come too fast. This morning I just hugged my friend’s mate and cried…there are no words that will make the moment better. But perhaps these words will remind others who knew Johnny well of the sort of stuff he was made of.

The memory of his smile has illumined my day today. Every time I thought of him—I could see his pearly whites. He was not a somber, gruff man as so many are. His smile disarmed you—made you willing to take another look. It was not phony smile of someone hiding something or the bogus beauty queen smile we all know so well. That million dollar grin mirrored the state of his soul. His smile emanated from the inside; it was not just window-dressing on the outside. It was genuine—real—one hundred percent sincere. Johnny’s smile was capable of knocking walls down and reaching into the hearts and souls of those who needed a touch of compassionate attention.

That smile was often followed by a laugh. If you knew Johnny you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t—well it was laced with a certain kind of joy and echoed a grace that is sort of indescribable. Let me put it this way—if Santa ever needed a day off, Johnny could have slid right it, taken the old guys job, and none of us would have known the difference. That laugh put you at ease. It took the edge off tough situations with its disarming tenor. It made you feel comfortable and confident. It lifted you up and made you realize that he was a real guy in a real world doing the best that he could. Perhaps that’s the best word to describe his laugh—real.

In fact, real describes Johnny the best. There was far more to him than what meets the eye. He was far more than a pretty face. Johnny had a servant’s heart. He had trouble telling others “No.” It was a word I don’t ever remember him using. If you needed something and he knew it, he made himself available to do whatever needed to be done and more. If you asked him for help, you could count on him.

Johnny loved people, kids, and animals—and not necessarily in that exact order. He treated all of them with love and respect, and in most cases the kids and the animals responded. I can still see him riding his horse Colonel in the local Christmas parades—blue jeans, big gold buckle, boots, Stetson, and having the time of his life or training his Blue Healers with their bandannas tied smartly around their necks.

My mind is alive with memories of driving through Tennessee Amish country looking for good deals on syrup and horse tack, loading trailers on a Sunday morning at the birth of a new church or chuckling together in the aftermath of rabid raccoon bite and its subsequent pain-filled treatments. I will especially treasure my memories of Johnny willingness to do whatever was needed on Sunday morning as we struggled to put together a credible worship service that would not embarrass God.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say with these inept words that keep filling my mind, but failing mightily, is Johnny was far more than a friend…he was family. And family matters!

Navigating the Valley Just Beyond the Mountaintop Experience

For every mountaintop experience we encounter there is a valley to cross following close behind on its heels. These valleys are the lows after the highs of a life-changing encounter with God. All of us love those mystical moments in the presence of God breathing the thin air of high altitude perched victoriously on the edge of the precipice staring at the next mountain to be climbed. But between this peak and the next one is a valley—a long distance of desert land. Most of us don’t want to think about the valleys. We long for the mountaintops. Yet… these valleys enhance those mountaintop experiences even if we refuse to accept this reality.

I’m not a math major, but if I were putting a percentage of time spent on mountaintops versus valleys, the valleys would win hands down. I can only speak for myself, but 99% of my time is spent in the valley. The valleys, not the mountain-tops, are where we learn to walk with God through faith. Faith grows in much the same way as a muscle. In exercise, a muscle is tested, broken down and strengthened. Like that muscle, faith must be tested to gain potency. There in that scrub land filled with all kinds of dangers and traps, we gain the practical experience of surviving and thriving as our faith is pushed to its limits and beyond.

Valleys seem overwhelming. The terrain is unwelcoming and dangerous. Every step is fraught with uncertainty. But as rough as the landscape is, there is always a path through it marked out by God. To find the path we must concentrate on the destination while at the same time implementing the lessons we’ve learned in the past. Every past lesson learned has an instant in the future where its experience will either assist or assassinate you. A word of warning! Don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned crossing the countless valleys that brought you to this one. Every one of them has a purpose.

Let’s be honest, the first few miles of crossing a valley can be depressing and discouraging. After all, we’ve just finished a descent from a moment where our life was radically transformed. The air was fresh, the scenery was breathtaking, and the company—well, there are no words to describe what being that close to God is like. Yet, the valley looms large before us. One of the things that I‘ve learned that may help you overcome that discouragement and depression is to learn to enjoy the journey as you make your trek to your next destination.

Most of us want to travel on the interstate system. We can drive faster and get to our destination quicker, but we miss much of the scenery and beauty of the land. We miss God! That’s right! God is just as present in the valley as he is on the mountaintop. With one exception, we have to slow down to find him—we have to “faith” him out. He’s there, but his presence is manifest in different ways—the smile of a child, the eyes of a beggar, the thank-you a down-and-outer, or the simple recognition that a temptation has come and gone and we were not caught in its trap. The valley is where we learn to appreciate the small things that seem to compound into huge things on the mountaintop. The valley is where our vision is developed so that when we actually reach the peak of that mountain we will recognize God.

Don’t look past the valley you are in. Those hours in the valley prepare us for those fleeting moments on the mountaintop. Don’t waste them or your next mountaintop will look just like another valley.

No Plan B: Discovering God’s Blueprint for Your Life (Part 1)

What if you discover that you are working the wrong plan for your life and failure is imminent?

What if the very plan you are working so hard to achieve doesn’t really exist and has never existed as an option in the mind of God?

What if you were to discover there is no Plan B?

What if you are working off the wrong set of blueprints—yours instead of God’s?

The answers to these questions could be staggering if you are willing take a moment and consider their implications. All of us have been taught from birth to plan for the unexpected—to prepare just in case things don’t work out. In reality, we been taught to formulate an escape plan or another option, and call it Plan B.

God has a blueprint for your life. He only has one plan—Plan A. He does not need another option, thus he has no Plan B. He has one plan for all humanity. All of us were created to enjoy Plan A.

What is Plan A?

Good question and one that is worthy of consideration.

Plan A provides the following for every person who has ever lived:

  • A relationship with God.
  • An identity from God.
  • A purpose in God.

Plan A is the blueprint God offered to Adam—the very same deal. But Adam rejected it and fumbled it away. The possibilities that were set before Adam were mind-boggling, but they are the very same ones guaranteed to each of us in Christ.

It gets even better because these possibilities are available right now, not some up-and-coming day in the by-and-by way up yonder in the sky. They can be accessed by any believer who understands his or her identity and believes that God will fulfill all that he has promised.

Do you know who you are in Christ?

Do you understand the implications of your identity as a son or daughter of God and a joint heir with Christ?

Would you recognize God’s Plan A for you if you were to see it?

All of these questions need an answer. And their answers could change the trajectory your life.

It’s your life, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding and implementing the correct answers. You only have one life to live, why not live it according to God’s plan and purpose?

 

(Nelson’s newest book No Plan B: Discovering God’s Blueprint for Your Life released on August 15. It can be ordered at http://www.amazon.com/No-Plan-Discovering-Blueprint-foreword/dp/1939023343/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407788387&sr=1-2&keywords=No+Plan+B).