The Great Adventure

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At age fifteen in February 1973, I prayed a very simple prayer asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to come live in my heart. I thought I was asking Him to come with me, but I didn’t realize He was asking me to come with Him on a great adventure called the Christian Life.  My life changed immediately. I felt such love and acceptance from God. I quit doing a lot of bad stuff because I wanted to please my new friend Jesus. My new identity was in my relationship with Jesus. I wanted to be like Him and follow wherever He would lead.  

It truly has been a great adventure with Jesus these past forty-one years. He helped me to be a better husband and father than I would have ever had the ability to be. Now he is helping me to be a grandfather and maybe even a great grandfather someday. He has given me some amazing opportunities to sing and speak to people across the United States, Canada and even Guatemala. Life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries, but Jesus kept His promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:6b). Even while having a heart attack a few years ago I felt His love and presence with me. I’ve experienced my share of heartbreak and disappointments, but nothing has ever separated me from His unconditional love (see Romans 8:38 & 39). His love for me is not dependent upon my circumstances or how I feel.

I can relate to the psalmist who said, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11 NIV). Jesus, my good shepherd, has been faithfully leading me on “paths of righteousness” for over forty years. Biblically “paths of righteousness” are also referred to as “straight paths.” You may be surprised to know that there is nothing straight about a shepherd’s path for his sheep. Paths are narrow and often difficult to walk on. It’s easy to stray off the “narrow path.” The big rocks (major life events) along the pathway can slow you down, but it’s the small stones (small offenses at people or even God) that can really trip you up! My shepherd has gently guided me though some rough terrain. Proverb 3:5-6 ESV says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” I’ve wondered about that passage because my paths have been anything but straight. I’ve come to see this verse as the “rearview mirror” of life. When I look back over my life I can see how God miraculously smoothed my crooked pathway into a straight road.

I love the words to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Long Way Home.  “I set out on a great adventure the day my Father started leading me home. Said there’s gonna be mountains to climb and valleys were gonna go through. But I had no way of knowing just how hard this journey could be. Cause the mountains are steeper and the valleys are deeper than I ever would had dreamed.” He continues, “I got some rocks on my shoes, fears I wish I could lose, that make the mountains so hard to climb, and my heart gets so heavy with the weight of the world sometimes. There’s a bag of regrets, ‘should’ve beens’ and ‘not yets’ that keep on dragging around, and I can hardly wait till the day I get to lay them all down. Here’s the good news found in the chorus, “But I know were gonna make it, and I know we’re gonna get there soon. And I know sometimes it seems like, were going the wrong way, but it’s just the long way home.”

I’m still on a great adventure with Jesus. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future. He said, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9 NKJV). Even in death He will be there. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Ps 23:4 NKJV). Proverbs 4:18 promises, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” My future with Jesus is looking so bright; I’m going to need sunglasses! 

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Seasoned Saints

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I get a kick out of the names of senior ministries. Some are straightforward like Senior Adult Ministry (SAM). Other names like O.A.S.I.S. remind me of a secret government counter-intelligence agency you might find on the old “Get Smart” TV show. O.A.S.I.S stands for Older Adults Still In Service. Keeping with the slogan “you’re only as old as you feel,” some cute senior ministry names are FYI (Forever Young Inside), JOY (Just Older Youths), and the ever popular Young At Heart Senior Ministry. No good acronym for that one! The Golden Eagles Senior Adult Ministry sounds a little like a commando squad. I picture a team of old Rambos armed to the hilt parachuting into the enemy’s camp bellowing, “Never fear! The Golden Eagles are here!” Another great name one senior ministry calls itself is simply, “The Classics.” I love that name. It reminds me of a doo wop oldies group. I picture older men in sleeveless muscle shirts and black leather jackets, and women wearing poodle skirts, all posing like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Speaking of seasons, the Seasoned Saints is a very popular name. I don’t know exactly what they are seasoned with. I hear salt is a very good preservative. Another senior ministry group name is Prime Time. I guess if you are not old enough to join that group it would make you “Not Ready for Prime Time.” I hope you know that I’m just having fun, especially since I fall into the 55+ crowd myself.

On the other hand, the 50+ age group is no joke. They are massive and they are mighty. Most are referred to as the Baby Boomers. The first boomers are now 68 and the youngest boomers turn fifty this year. In American someone turns fifty years old every 7 seconds! AARP estimates 45% of the U.S. population will over fifty by 2015. Show me the money! Three-fourths of our nation’s wealth is controlled by the 55+ age group. Guess what? They like to spend it too! In fact, they outspend all other generations. They spend 50% of all vacation dollars and outspend the average consumer in almost every category. They are not afraid of new technology either. One-third of Internet users and 44% of smartphone users are over fifty. Boomers rely heavily on the Internet for information to make major purchases. They’re not sitting at home becoming couch potatoes either. Americans over 55 are now the fastest group to join a gym.1

The next generation of retirees will live longer, healthier lives and are the most educated generation in American history. They are not taking retirement lying down and they don’t view it as an endless summer vacation either. They want the second half of their life to be just as productive as the first half. They want their work to count for something. The 55+ group like volunteer work. Nearly half of this age group did so at least once last year. Here’s the kicker though; they need to be asked. The number of older adult volunteers could grow substantially if they were simply asked.2 Older people are ready, willing and able to help, if only asked to do so. They would be a valuable resource to their church, civic organization, and community.

I’m glad God thinks senior saints are special people too. It’s true “outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16 NIV). Age may slow us down a little, but we are still dancing wildly on the inside. Growing older doesn’t need to be a depressing thought. The Bible promises that “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18 NKJV). God has good things in store for His people regardless of their age.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11 NKJV). There’s no reason we can’t be productive in our latter years. “They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (Ps. 92:14 NKJV). The good news is God will be with us even in our old age. “I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Is. 46:4 NLT).

                           1                   “Resources – 50+ Facts & Fiction.” Facts and Fiction. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2014.   

                  <http://www.immersionactive.com/resources/50-plus-facts-and-fiction/&gt;.

                           2                   “Demographics.” Experience Corps. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2014.

                  <http://www.experiencecorps.org/images/pdf/Fact%20Sheet.pdf&gt;.

TenThings

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I’ve read some interesting blogs recently about things people wish they knew when they were younger. One blog had the clever title of “21 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 21.” Those blogs got me thinking of things I wish I knew when I was younger. Here’s my list of ten things I wish I knew when I was 21.

  1. Faithfulness is better than talent. I learned that lesson the hard way. I needed a lead guitar player for our church’s worship band. One young man was available to play every Sunday. He was good, but still a little rough around the edges. I wanted our church band to be the best in town, so I recruited another young man who was extremely talented. I politely informed the other young man that I no longer needed him in the band. Trouble started immediately.  The talented guitar player wasn’t reliable. After not showing up for several services in a row, I called and asked him, “Are you going to play for us or not?” He told me he was no longer interested in playing in our church band and could not make a commitment. I immediately called the other guitar player and asked him to come back, but he was hurt that I had replaced him and he had joined another church band in the meantime. I learned the valuable lesson that faithfulness is better than talent. The “not-as-good” guitar player developed into an excellent musician and he would have never missed a Sunday service. Choosing someone with talent and who is faithful would be the ideal choice, but if I had to choose only one, it would be faithfulness.
  2. Honor and value all people. I had no problem honoring “important” people, especially people who had influence and could possibly advance my agenda. However, if I could do it over, I would have honored and valued all people at all times. Even those who are considered un-honorable. Every person is special to God and that makes them valuable. I wish I had learned early in life to treat everyone with honor and dignity.
  3. Education. Not just getting a degree or two, but really learning. I have a couple college degrees and I have made learning a lifelong pursuit, but I wish I had taken advantage of every single educational opportunity and not let the cost or time requirements stop me. I should have striven to pursue as much quality education as possible.
  4. Fear has the power to paralyze your life, but only if you allow it. It’s a self-imposed prison. Fear prevented me from doing many things that I now wish I had done. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “Don’t be afraid,” or “If you are afraid, do it anyway.”
  5. Your spouse and children are precious gifts from God. I’ve come to realize that getting blessed with a spouse and children is like receiving a delicate and valuable tea cup; which should be handled with care. Only a fool would take a fine piece of china and throw it around, allow it to get dirty, let it sit out for someone to steal or damage, and treat it like a common Styrofoam cup. Handle with care.
  6. Spiritual health is of utmost importance, but physical health cannot and should not be ignored. It would have saved me a lot of grief and unnecessary pain if I would have taken my health more serious, even at a young age. Once I asked my 93 year old grandfather what was his secret for a long life. He shook his head and replied, “If I knew I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” At the time his statement didn’t make sense to me―now it makes perfect sense.
  7. Simple Kindness. It doesn’t cost anything to give, yet those who receive it feel like a million bucks. Mark Twain said,” Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
  8. An Attitude of Gratitude can change your life. An attitude of entitlement can ruin your life. I wish I had learned the power of practicing thankfulness early on.
  9. Perseverance. Not my strong suit as a young man. When the going got tough, I got going! I should have “hung in there” more. I really think my life would have been richer in every way for doing so.
  10. If I could go back in time I would shout to myself, “Calm down!” I would tell myself over and over, “Relax dude. Let go and let God.”