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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What Matters Most

Some of you know that I was asked to speak at the local high school baccalaureate last week. I thought you might find it mildly interesting to peruse what I had to say that evening. Admittedly, this text is a little choppy; I designed it more as an outline. But maybe this is for you...

When I was asked to speak, I thought about what I might say to you to really make a difference. All the speakers I've heard at this kind of event say "You won't remember anything I say." Which I find ironic, because I always remember them saying that line.

So I thought that rather than simply giving you some advice about your future that you'll probably soon forget, it would be better to talk about where you're at in life, right here, right now.

There's probably a few questions you're tired of hearing these days:
Where are you going to school?
What are you going to major in?
What are you going to be when you grow up?
The world around you is subtly and not so subtly telling you that what really matters is that you go and become something!

And it is great to go and become something, but what about who you are right now? Because the truth is, who you become is directly linked to who you are, right now in this moment.

I want to tell you about a man, with whom most of you are probably quite familiar. But see if you can tell who this is from his bio:

Born in Crowheart, WY- town of 163. Raised on his father's cattle ranch. Wore cowboy boots, chewed tobacco, and lived the cowboy life, working hard by day and partying hard at night. After his graduation, he went to small private boarding school in Massachusetts. His football skills there earned him a small scholarship to attended Columbia University. While at Columbia, he played on a football team that lost 44 straight games. He wanted to work on Wall Street selling stocks, but had to borrow a friend's suit just to go to work. His friend was 5.8, he was 6.2. It was after a week of being mocked for wearing "shorts" that he finally turned to the world of modeling and acting.

As a child, he suffered from aquaphobia- fear of water. Which is ironic since he grew up to play the lead role on a TV show where his little island is surrounded by water. Mathew Fox- Dr. Jack Shepherd on LOST.Nothing about his story suggests that it was his dream to become the star of LOST. And that should tell us something, that while it is good and right to think about what we will become, the truth is that we will likely end up somewhere very different than we intend.

So what really matters? If what our life really does look like 10, 20, or 30 years from is far different than what we set out to do, what is most important?

Swiss physician Paul Tournier once said, "The greatest tragedy in life is that most people spend their entire lives indefinitely preparing to live."

How we live right now, who we are right now, is all we have. On your journey of a thousand steps and a million decisions, the one that matters most is the next one.

There's a guy in the Bible who had this figured out. He had learned a secret and I want to share that with you here briefly.

Philippians 4:10-14.
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

Three points:
1. What you have in life won't fill you up.
-So no matter how hard you work in college and beyond to become something really great, your level of success or income or accomplishments won't be the difference maker in whether you are satisfied or not.
Tom Brady, the winner of three Super Bowls, has millions of dollars, and a super model girlfriend. But before the most recent Super Bowl, he was interviewed by 60 minutes about his life. He looked right into the camera and at a national audience and said, "There must be more than this." If Tom Brady is saying that, a man who has "everything" the world says you need, what does that tell us?

How do I know that what you have isn't enough? Because what you have right now probably isn't doing it! Your cell phones and cars and incomes aren't enough, and so we're hoping and looking for more. And more won't make it better!

2. Jesus Christ makes all the difference right now.
Paul was in a horrible spot, and had experienced even worse. He'd been beaten nearly to death on several occasions, and here he is, from jail, saying I've got everything I need. Why? Because Christ was filling up his life.
Earlier in this book, Paul lists off all of his great accomplishments, only to say they are rubbish compared to the friendship he has with Jesus Christ. Paul had discovered that Jesus was everything he needed, because through Jesus, Paul was made friends with God. Through Jesus, Paul was forgiven of all his past mistakes. Through Jesus, Paul was empowered to live life differently. And this was far greater than anything he had accomplished on his own.

When I was graduating, I thought I had it all. I had the 4.0, valedictorian, 3 sport letter winner, scholarship anywhere I wanted to go. And for awhile I pursued those things. But I have come to find that nothing satisfies like Jesus.

And the more I try to find joy in being successful, or having stuff, or making money, the less satisfied I am. But when I lean into Jesus, he is enough.

3. You can't give him your future; you can only give him your right now.
Paul wasn't waiting until he was out of prison to follow him.
And some might think, when I'm older I'll worry about spiritual things. When I have a family I'll take them to church. Those are good intentions, but the only life you can offer to God is the one you are living right now.

The moment that matters most is the one you're living right now, and the best thing you can do with your right now is give it to him.
Say to Him, "Jesus, my life is yours. I believe you are God's Son, and through you I can experience real life." And when we bend our hearts to him in this way, the Bible promises that he comes in and fills us, and in the words of Paul, "gives us all the strength we need."


"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Eliott, missionary to the Auca Indians of the Amazon jungle.

You can't keep stuff. You can't keep the future, because as soon as you get there it becomes your past and it's gone.
But if you are willing to give it all up for a friendship with Christ, you gain something that you cannot loose- this moment, being made fully-alive with Christ, and an eternity of living with Him.

And so, class of 2008, Becoming something is great. But who are you, right now?

Meet Him in this moment, and live joyfully in the the journey,

Nick

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

UNEXPECTED

As the parent of a three-year old daughter, I am learning to see life through a new set of eyes. At times, I find my daughter's innocent perspective to be refreshing and challenging. On other occasions, her perceptions can be very humbling as she accurately points out issues that I am otherwise unable to see.

For example, the other day I was reading her a story before bedtime, and in the book a parent had just said to her son, "I love you." Alyssa interrupted my reading, as she often does, with one of her questions. "Daddy," she said, "Sometimes when you are mad, do you stop loving me?"

Talk about being stopped in your tracks. I think my mouth dropped open as I tried to reason through how her young mind understood this question. I was grateful for this opportunity to affirm that I love her no matter what, but I will tell you- being convicted about your actions and attitudes by a three-year old is pretty unexpected. And yet for me, this was a moment to evaluate my own behaviors, and how I parented, to make sure that even in the tough times where discipline and sternness are necessary that I am still acting in love.

I believe that the unexpected things in life hold the greatest potential to change and shape us. This summer, we are going to be looking at the life of David in the Bible. You do not have to get very far in David's story to realize the unexpected circumstances of his life. He was the youngest of eight sons, all of whom were strong and able men, and yet God had chosen David to be king. David could lead armies of men, and yet at other times he struggled to lead himself. He was the head of the greatest nation of his time, and yet he frequently failed miserably as the head of his own family. And yet in each circumstance, in his glorious highs and his wretched lows, David's heart was being formed. By the end of his life, David was referred to as a man after God's own heart.

What I find most encouraging is that David's story mimics our own, perhaps more than we realize. We live in different eras and face different pressures and trials, but God's ability to use every circumstance in our lives to shape us remains unchanged.


Enjoy the journey you are on,

Nick