Perhaps you have a little down time over the next few days now that Christmas is over. This is a good opportunity to read some inspirational stories or biographies. I can recommend several that you may find hard to put down once you begin. The following people have incredible stories that have impacted me, so I want to share my list:
John Wesley – the founder of Methodism in the 1700’s and one of the most influential people in all of Christianity.
John Newton – a former slave trader who converted to Christianity and is best known for writing the hymn Amazing Grace. His ministry was in the late 1700’s.
Adoniram Judson – an American missionary to the country of Burma in the early 1800’s. It took him three years to learn the language, and converts were slow in coming. Lots of fascinating stories.
Hudson Taylor – an incredible story of a man who was totally committed to ministering to the Chinese culture. He spent over fifty years as a missionary in China. Keep in mind what life might have been like during that time period.
George Muller – one of the most inspirational stories you’ll ever read. He cared for over 10,000 orphans in England without asking for money. You’ll read some amazing answers to prayer.
Bill Bright – perhaps the greatest evangelist outside Billy Graham in the 20th century.
Through Gates of Splendor – This book is about five guys and their wives who went to Equador and lost their lives trying to reach a tribe no one else had been able to approach. Note: You may not be able to put this book down. I read it in one sitting years ago.
That’s enough to keep you busy and is way more entertaining than a movie at the local theater. One of these books could actually change your life, while most movies won’t have that kind of impact.
Choose one and enjoy.
In the NFL about this time of year, dreams die. That is, another team loses and is knocked out of the playoff race. Their dream of making it into the playoffs and hopefully getting to the Super Bowl can vanish in a weekend.
However, does that mean that the dream really died? Not at all. Pretty soon every team will begin to strategize for the next season, the next run. And the dream will live again.
Think about Joseph and his dreams in the book of Genesis:
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words (Genesis 37:5-8).
Then through a series of incidents he found himself in an Egyptian prison. The years passed. As he sat in the prison cell I can imagine his dream continually surfaced in his mind.
I wonder, did his dream ever die? After a series of providential circumstances Joseph not only got out of prison, he rose to an unprecedented level of authority. Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground (Genesis 42:6).
Maybe your dream didn’t die. Maybe its just not the right time. As you get ready to begin a new year, maybe it’s time to dream again.
Think about it. When He was under stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, what did Jesus do?
Mark 14:34 says, “And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful (deeply distressed), even to death. Remain here and watch.”
Three times Jesus came back to his friends for moral support. In other words, when you are under a load of stress, share it with your friends. Do not carry the burden alone.
Stress is going to take a toll on you. It took a toll on Jesus as He admits it was almost killing Him.
And as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Clearly there is a gap between our lives and the life of Jesus. Typically, we attempt to close the gap by increasing our knowledge of the Bible. Or we resort to more time in prayer. Or we attend church more. But have not then unintentionally reinforced the GAP???
When I was growing up there were people who would rededicate their lives to Christ on a regular basis. It never seemed to help.
It’s not about decision making, but about practicing the habits of Jesus.
Here’s some homework that will help: Read through the Gospels, and write down 25 responses of Jesus in various situations. Then start practicing some of them until you work your way through the list.
We have already mentioned one. What did Jesus do when under a heavy load? He went to His friends. If Jesus could not rely on His own inner resources, you likely can’t either.
Here’s another assignment: Find Ten Things Jesus did in His relationships that visualized love…then PRACTICE THOSE.
When Jesus met a woman at the well He turned the conversation to spiritual things. Follow His example. For instance, a common conversation is about what you did with your weekend. How about saying something like, “I had a pretty normal weekend, went hunting on Saturday, and went to church on Sunday…do you attend church anywhere?” See how easy that can be?
Now it’s your turn. What would Jesus do? Live your life purposefully following Jesus’ example.
I worked for my dad’s steel erection company for years, from the time I was a teenager on into my 30’s. Being the boss’s son had its privileges, but sometimes it sure didn’t feel like it.
It was not unusual for some of the guys to hurry on a job, leaving lots of little things undone, so they could head on to the next job. Unfortunately for me, my dad sent me in after them to wrap up loose ends.
This was often very challenging. I may have to burn some welds loose, cut new holes in the roof, or move a roof vent. Sometimes I had to set up a 36′ foot ladder and climb all the way to the top.
Or I may have to throw a huge oxygen tank over my shoulder and hike up several flights of stairs. Only to return and get the acetylene tank. And then return and get the hoses. You get the idea. Sometimes I spent more time getting ready to work than actually doing what needed to be done.
But don’t miss the bigger picture. At one time someone was on the roof with all the equipment at hand. But they chose to move on before they were completely done. It took at least three times as much effort to come behind them and finish the job.
It seemed to be never ending at times. But that’s the job my dad gave me for a period of time.
One day I had just about had it. I needed a break. So at the end of the day I went by my dad’s office. I walked in and complained, “Why am I stuck with all the junk work?’
And he replied, “That’s how you get good.”
Enough said. Now I understood. After all, who doesn’t want to get better, or in my dad’s words, “get good?”
That day my complaints ended. Yes the junk work continued, but now I enjoyed it.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the mundane tasks of life to the real reasons you do what you do. And that makes it all worthwhile. The power of WHY.
Just two decades ago if you wanted to meet someone for lunch you had to plan well in advance. Not anymore. And chances are you will not call. You will text. Yes, you are only a text message away from a lunch date.
We call it a phone, but in truth it’s far more. In fact, few of us actually talk on it. But with all the positives comes the negatives.One downside is that now you can easily find out what people are saying about you. That is, if you are fairly well-known. Sports players regularly check their phones to see what others are saying about them.
Now you know that’s not healthy. After all, if you are famous, the haters abound.
Which leads me to Kevin Durant, unquestionably the second greatest basketball player in the world at this time.
“Second best!” How would you like to be the second best in the world? At anything?
However, as with every other thing on social media, things get magnified. Apparently, Kevin Durant is sulking and emotionally hurt by all the negative comments about him on social media.
So why is he reading those things? Makes no sense.
And he is not the only one. Even NFL players have been known to check their phones during halftime! Things have gotten totally out of hand.
But the only remedy is for players to avoid their phones, or at least the “mentions” about them. Otherwise their confidence will plummet and they will spend needless hours distressed by all the negative comments.
Social media can destroy the confidence of even the greatest stars of our time. So what about the rest of us? Bottom line: proceed with caution. If you sense harmful effects after your time on social media, maybe you need to think about changing how you use it.
God can turn your life around because He is “The God of Great Reversals.” We can see God work in Hannah’s life in the book of 1 Samuel.
Did you know the story behind the well-known song “It is Well With My Soul”? The song has comforted millions over many years.
Joseph in the book of Genesis sat in a prison cell for well over a decade, but he eventually became a ruler in Egypt.
In the 1600s, John Bunyan sat in a prison cell for twelve years because of his preaching, but it was there that he wrote one of the greatest Christian classics of all time, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
And there are perseverance examples outside the church world.
In history and archaeology, King Tut was almost not King Tut. What I mean is today he is known around the world…but only because one guy persevered.
In 1904 at the age of 31, Howard Carter had no job and no money, so he left the field of archaeology. In 1907 a series of fortuitous events got him connected to the wealthy Lord Carnarvon.
At the same time another archaeologist, Theodore Davis, assumed there was nothing to be found in his search and gave up his rights for his digging area. Carter took over the spot and began years of digging.
In 1922 Lord Carnarvon told Carter he was done. You have to have money, so Carter pleaded with him to reconsider.
Carnarvon agreed to ONE MORE SEASON.
So on November 1 they started digging again. And on November 4 they found the stairway that led to King Tut’s tomb!
One of the greatest discoveries of all time was made possible ONLY BECAUSE OF PERSEVERANCE.
How do you handle it when your life is a mess? Especially when it’s not even your fault. Do you hang on or do you bail? The Old Testament story of Joseph gives us a great example of what to do.
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I write this after the first days of the playoffs. Many have predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in the finals. Time will tell. But you have to win to get there.
In Cleveland’s first game they were humiliated, losing 98-80. It was a lopsided game from start to finish.
Yet Cleveland has Lebron James, who is considered to be the best player in the NBA. Without a doubt he is the King of Basketball.
So why did Cleveland lose?
Simple. No help. Winning is a team effort. You could be the best at what you do, but if you are not getting help from the people around you, it’s a no-win situation.
That’s how it is in sports and in life. Unfortunately, many will never reach their potential because they don’t have the help of others. Which means we all have the opportunity to help someone go further in life.
Today, this week, you can help someone win. Who will it be?