Category Archives: Spiritual Life Coaching

“Why We Think God Might Love Us”

(Bible in Chartres Cathedral)

What are you doing to know God and God’s love for you better?

Answering this question is critical for the person who is seeking to know God’s will, because, as we said last week, discernment requires personal transformation, and our ability to be transformed depends upon the quality of our relationship with God.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to look at several of the most powerful spiritual practices that can help you to grow in your relationship with God. Today, I want to start with something you already know, but—if you are like nearly every other Christian on the face of the earth—it is something that gets minimized or neglected.

No matter how intelligent, experienced, wise, or knowledgeable you may be, you simply must be reading the Bible for yourself, if you want to hear the voice of God and to keep growing in your relationship with God. Even if you’ve already mastered the content of the Bible, read it existentially: ask God to reveal God-self to you in fresh ways.

For example, right now I’m reading through the Torah and asking God for new insight into who Yahweh was for ancient Israel—and for what I need to come to grips with better in my own understanding of and relation to God. Yet, no matter what passage I turn to, I pray, “Speak to me, Lord. Show me what I need to see. Take me to a place of understanding that I cannot get to on my own.”

Psalm 103 is one of my favorite passages for reflecting on who God is and the relevance of God’s love for me. David writes:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

…from everlasting to everlasting

the LORD’S love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

and his kingdom rules over all. (103:8-13, 17-19)

As a complement to the paternal and sovereign characterizations of God in Psalm 103, the beautiful maternal imagery for God in Isaiah 66:13 helps me to see that God of the Old Testament is tender as well as intense:

As a mother comforts her child,

so will I comfort you;

and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

And then there’s the amazing teaching that God decided before the creation of the world to love us and to make us his children:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who … chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Going forward, we’re going to look at how we can move from knowing about God to knowing God in ways that are more and more personally transforming. This week’s article was simply a reminder to get back to the basics in order to develop a stronger relationship with God.

It’s only by reading the Bible that we know that God loves us even beyond the capacity of the most loving father or mother. Though he knows our weaknesses and failures, he loves us and helps us. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be his children, dearly loved by him. And God sent his son, Jesus, to save us and to bring us to live by God’s side forever.

The Point: The most intuitive among us might be able to guess some of God’s characteristics, but there is no way we would know God’s character, the magnitude of God’s love, or the significance of God’s activity in history apart from the teaching of the Bible. So what’s your plan for reading it?

A Prayer: “Dear God, please remind me every day to keep looking for you where you reveal yourself. Lead me to the biblical passages that will most help me to see what I need to see about you so that my relationship with you will keep growing stronger and stronger.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

Photo: © Jill K.H. Geoffrion.

To sign up to receive a personal email every time a new article is posted, please email me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org. Simply write “add me” in the subject line.

1 Comment

Filed under Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life Coaching

“Discernment—Where to Start?”

"Seeking God" (Easter Vigil, Chartres)

How do you discern the will of God for your life?

This is one of the most important spiritual questions to ask, yet one of the most difficult to answer. Just as you have to develop your own personal relationship with God, no one can do your discerning for you.

While there are no sure formulas, here’s a good place to start your discernment process that I have found very helpful in my own life:

1. Humble yourself before God.

“Let go” of your attachment to certain, set outcomes and ways of being in the world. In gratitude for God’s mercy, grace and love, open yourself to however the Holy Spirit may want to use you to serve Christ.

Jesus is our example. He surrendered whatever impulse he may have had to further his own self-interest. He voluntarily “emptied himself” and took the form of a servant, even to the point of giving up his life to obey God’s will and purposes for his life. (Philippians 2:5-11)

2. Offer yourself to God.

At the same time, bring yourself fully into the discernment process. You may think that surrender means emptying yourself of all your desires and everything that makes you “you” in order to discern the will of God. Not so. Discerning the will of God is not done in a vacuum.

To relinquish your will to God, you need to know your own will. To offer yourself in God’s service, you need to know what your unique self has been prepared to do. Your personal interests, abilities, personality, passions, and experience all go into the “you” that you are offering to God as a “living (not dead, not formless) sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

You may want to lead a group, to create something, to start a new business, to do something nice for someone, or any number of other things. Don’t look for the “right” thing to do for God at this stage, but be honest with God about your will and vision, as best you know them. Ask yourself, “What is deep within my heart and mind that I want to do with my life?” (See Deut. 1:23; Luke 1:3; Acts 15:28 for a few biblical examples of leaders who sought to serve God by considering what seemed good to them, in consultation with God and others.)

3. Release your will and vision to the Holy Spirit.

Once you’ve specifically told God what you want, then release your will and vision as fully as possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to refine your thinking and heart’s desires for your life, or to replace them altogether. Pray to want what God wants, to see God’s vision for you, and to be able to align your will completely with God’s purposes for you. (See Mark 10:46-52; Luke 22:42.)

All of this calls for self-reflection and genuine openness to God’s working within you. The process requires time, prayer, and patience to learn how to recognize and yield to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Discerning the will of God, then, is more a matter of walking by faith, a step at a time; than it is about getting a complete vision for the rest of your life all at once, and then going out to do it. In other words, to discern the will of God is not about simply getting God to answer to your question, “What should I do?”

Rather, discernment is the fruit of a process of personal transformation. As you repeatedly humble yourself before God, offer your body as a living sacrifice, and seek to renew your mind by soaking up Scripture and listening attentively to the Holy Spirit, you will grow in your ability to discern the will of God for your life.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12 :1-2, NRSV)

The Point: The best place to begin any discernment process is in extended prayer. However, don’t just seek an answer from God. Seek to be transformed by God. Humbly empty yourself of your own self-interest before God, while you simultaneously offer all of your unique self to God. Tell God what you want, while you keep asking, “But what do you want, my Lord?” Keep watching to see what happens as you continue to pray and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit-within your thinking, perspective, feelings, and circumstances. And go from there.

A Prayer: “Heavenly Father, take my will and let it be completely conformed to your will for my life. Help me to see better what is in my heart and how you made me. Teach me how to offer myself fully to you, as a fully engaged individual, uniquely made and called. Teach me how to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, and use my life in ways that best serve Christ’s purposes. Amen.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

2 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life Coaching

Right-Size Your Fears!

"Fearless in Butembo, Congo"

Have you “right-sized” your fears, or are you letting them undermine your vision for your life and ministry?

Imagine, for example, that your best friend is waiting for you just across the highway. The only way for you to see her (or him) is for you to cross the road on foot. However, the traffic is heavy and you are worried about getting hit by a car. How much fear would be actually useful to you in this situation?

If you have too little fear, then you might try to cross the street without looking, and might very well get run over. On the other hand, if you have too much fear, then you might never cross at all. However, the right amount of fear will prompt you to look both ways before crossing, but won’t hold you back from getting where you want to go.

Think for a moment about your fears. Are they helping you to serve Christ more effectively, or getting in the way? How could you “right-size” them in order to make a better decision about how to handle them?

Here’s a suggestion. For use with my coaching clients, I created the Straight A’s approach to right-sizing fears that you might find helpful: Acknowledge, Assess, and Access.

1. Acknowledge your fears. For example, do any of your fears sound like this: “I am afraid that I won’t succeed.” “I am afraid that others won’t like me or my work.” “I am afraid that others are going to blame me if something goes wrong.” “I am afraid that others will think that I am a failure, and I will be very embarrassed.”

2. Assess the real dangers or costs involved in pursuing your vision. Is your fear based on fact, fiction, fantasy, probabilities, or what? Is the amount of your fear warranted? Should what you fear materialize, could you handle it? If not, what resources could you draw on to help you keep going?

3. Access God’s power. What would happen if you shifted your focus from your fears to God, and to what God can do in you and through you? What would happen if you believed that the Holy Spirit will give you what you need to serve Christ in effective, fruitful ways? What would happen if you prayed, not just for success, but also for peace, perspective, humility, freedom and power to confidently move forward in faith?

Last week I talked about my response to the life-threatening illness I had to deal with over 20 years ago. (See, “Get Ready. Get Set. Get Going!”) Right-sizing my fears kept the very real danger of dying from paralyzing me. I didn’t know if I would be healed, but I knew that there were many things I could do to seek healing.

Likewise, when I felt called to develop Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries, I had to face many fears that tempted me to quit before I even began. Yet, each time I start to get overwhelmed with my fears, I stop and remind myself why I am doing what I’m doing. I recall God’s faithfulness in the past, and remember that my teaching and coaching of pastors and leaders is Christ’s ministry, not mine. God must produce the needed resources and fruit. My job is to show up and do my best.

To be afraid at times is normal, and sometimes useful. But to be crippled by fear is a denial of faith and contradicts the teaching of Scripture.

Don’t let fear stop you from following the Spirit’s leading. Acknowledge your fears, assess the true dangers and costs of pursuing your vision, and access God’s power to keep moving forward.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14;29-31, NIV)

The Point: You have been called to serve Christ in ways that will take you way outside your comfort zone at times. Don’t let fear undermine your motivation and capability to create, pursue and fulfill your God-given dreams and purpose. “Right-size” your fears. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, courage, and strength to deal with them and the circumstances behind them. Stop letting your fears hold you back, and get on with God’s vision for your life.

Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for showing us by your own example how to stay focused on God’s calling and to not be held back by fear. Please help me to acknowledge my fears and to accurately assess their validity. Teach me how to better access your Holy Spirit’s power so that I will not lose heart to pursue your calling on my life.”

© Timothy C. Geoffrion, 2010. All rights reserved. Please share this article with as many people as possible, with proper acknowledgment of authorship and web-address.

Leave a comment

Filed under Spiritual Life Coaching

Get Ready. Get Set. Get Going!

(North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo)

What do you want to do with God’s dreams and vision for your life?

I was forced to answer this question at a much younger age than I ever imagined. I was 28 years old. My firstborn son had been born safely the day before. My wife and I were so relieved and excited about all that lay ahead for us.

Now the voice on the other end of the phone was telling me I had to start radiation treatments immediately. I had 10 good years left, the doctor said. After that, the rare skin disease would get nasty. Then I would die.

With one deeply disturbing phone call, the adage, “life is short,” suddenly became very personal. Not only was I not going to live forever, but, in an instant, my naïveté about my mortality vanished. My time horizon for my life had been shortened by several decades. My son was going grow up without me. My wife was going to be a young widow. I wanted to throw up.

We’ve never recovered from that doctor’s call in 1986—and don’t want to. When the shock wore off, I realized that whatever I most wanted to do in my life, I had better do it, and fast.

We stopped dreaming about what we might want to do “one day,” and became very serious about pursuing what mattered most to us while we still could. We had today. We didn’t know about tomorrow.

My wake-up call eventually led me to a long series of choices that have made all the difference in the world to my life and ministry. I sought counseling, asked others for help, did whatever I could to seek healing and wholeness. I went back to graduate school, took more risks, kept seeking discernment and leading from God, and began to relentlessly pursue my dreams and deeper sense of calling.

Today, I am completely healed from my disease. I have raised two sons to adulthood. And my wife and I are back in ministry together again, able to serve Christ in ways that are exceeding my expectations and hopes. Now, nearly 25 years after that fateful phone call, flying over the mountains of North Kivu, Congo to teach pastors in the middle of a war zone (see the photo above), I realize that God has used suffering in my life to move me to new and surprising places where the desires of my heart and God’s vision for my life intersect.

Fortunately, we are not all diagnosed with a fatal disease that causes the kind of distress and anguish our family had to go through. But for each of us, our days are still numbered. Each of us has a unique calling, with enough time to fulfill it, if we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in the midst of our suffering, and take action.

Do you have an unfulfilled dream for your life that just won’t go away? Do you have a nagging sense that there’s something you were made to do, or to create, or to contribute, but you just can’t seem to get around to doing something about it? Perhaps, you’re even really looking forward to getting to work on it…some day.

What would it take for you to turn “some day” into today?

The [servant] who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:20-21, NIV)

The Point: Somewhere within you is a God-given dream for your life, or simply a sense that God wants to take you somewhere you have not yet gone. You may not fully understand it, and it may take years to fulfill it, but you know you are being called. Are you ready? Are your heart and mind set on doing the will of God? Are you pursuing God’s vision for your life? If not, what do you need to do to get ready, to get set, and to get going?

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for calling me to serve you in special ways that fit with the unique person you have made me to be. Please lead me and guide me, so that I can faithfully fulfill all that you have in mind for me to do. Please give me all the courage, wisdom, strength, and resources I need to pursue my God-given dreams in ways that well serve Christ’s purposes.”

To realize our God-given dreams and fulfill our purpose in life, often walking with a trained pastor or spiritual guide can be extremely helpful. If you’re interested in exploring whether or not you could benefit from spiritual life consulting, please contact me at Tim.Geoffrion@fhlglobal.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life Coaching

The Daily Battle

Sons Dan and Tim on the Camino

(Weary sons on the Camino)

Every day is a battle.

I don’t mean that every day is awful. My days are often full of joy, meaning, laughter, fruitful work, and love. Yet, life is hard, too, and full of struggle. It seems that so much can so easily undermine my heart and ability to live by my highest values and convictions.

The battle I’m talking about, then, is a perpetual struggle between what we want our lives to be and all those forces that work against our hopes, dreams and commitments. In this conflict, sometimes we are own worst enemies. Even at our best, when we want to serve Christ wholeheartedly, we can usually detect crosscurrents within us—be they mixed motives, at best, or outright sinful impulses, at worst.

At other times, our struggles are not self-generated, though. Sometimes, we get some “help” in our fearfulness, our struggles with temptation, our doubts, our distractions, and our entanglements. Scripture teaches that we are in a spiritual battle with forces of evil that are working to undermine our faith and faithfulness (Ephesians 6:12).

At the same time, we are assured that the Holy Spirit within us is stronger than the Tempter (1 John 4:4). Our job is to have confidence in God’s power and then strategically engage in the battle to overcome our spiritual adversaries. (See Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18.) Likewise, we must actively draw on the Holy Spirit to overcome our sinful tendencies by daily surrendering our will to God’s and by praying for grace and strength in our time of need. (See Galatians 5:16-25; Hebrews 4:14-16.)

Six Strategies for Successful Struggling
When we know that sinful temptations, negative thinking or counter-productive reactions are going to arise within us uninvited, we are wise to get ready for them. When we expect a fight, and prayerfully prepare for it, we are much more likely to wage the war successfully.

Here are six strategies you can begin employing immediately:

1. Know your Achilles heel and do all you can to protect yourself from falling into sin. This is just common sense. However, how often do we ignore what is in our best long term interests to indulge in short term gratification?

Example: If you’re tempted to gamble away needed resources, don’t even enter the casino or make a bet. If you know that drinking alcohol is going to bring out your worst or work against what God wants to do in you and through you, find alternative social beverages, new hangouts, and even new friends, if need be. If sexual temptation is your nemesis, work hard to develop appropriate contexts in which you can get your affection and intimacy needs met. Regardless of what your specific weakness is, expect to be tempted, expect to want to engage in sin at times, and decide now, ahead of the temptation that no matter how you may feel at any given moment, sin is not what you want for your life.

2. Believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in you and cannot be ultimately thwarted by your failures or evil forces. God is a God of resurrection. Accept God’s forgiveness and seek the Spirit’s renewal and leading no matter where you may be.
Example: I spent years kicking myself for a number of poor decisions I made that took a big toll on me emotionally until my spiritual director reminded me that God is a God of resurrection. You and I are going to make mistakes—sometimes serious ones—but God forgives, and the Holy Spirit continually brings forth new life from what seems dead. To change the metaphor, the Holy Spirit is like a GPS navigation system that begins “recalculating” as soon as it detects that we have missed our turn or gone the wrong way. We may have to suffer the consequences of our mistake, but God is able to create a new path from wherever we are to lead us once again in a fruitful life of fellowship and service.

3. Know how God most wants to use you, expect various kinds of interference, and plan accordingly.
Example: I know that my best contributions often come from teaching and writing, but I can expect many distractions and much inner resistance to getting started on my preparation work. So, I don’t wait to feel like writing to get going. Instead, I block out time, expect to be tempted to procrastinate, and push through the resistance. Almost without fail, getting started is all I need to do in order to turn the tide in the battle.

4. Face fears head on, and don’t let them keep you doing what you need to do.

Example: My marketing and fundraising responsibilities always make me feel anxious. I’m afraid of failing and afraid of being rejected. Not a good combination. So, even when finding new clients or raising money is most needed, I can still freeze up. Fighting this battle means simply reminding myself that I must attend to this part of our ministry and that putting it off will make the situation worse not better. I then make a plan and work the plan. I start today.

5. Pick your battles and give your best efforts to fight for what matters most.
Example: On any given day I will be annoyed or frustrated with someone else for not doing or saying something the way that I think they should. If I’m not careful, I can let this perfectionist tendency produce judgmental attitudes and harsh reactions to others, undermining my greater goal of working well with others for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. Thus, I have to remind myself of my highest values and choose wisely when exerting my energy. When I choose love and serving Christ over self-righteousness or perfectionism, I usually know instantly I have chosen well, and the power of the temptation is cut significantly.

6. Ask the Holy Spirit to do in you what you cannot seem to do on your own. Sometimes no matter how much you want to stay focused and do the right thing or the best thing, you will still stumble or fail to follow through. In such cases, acknowledge the powerlessness you feel and ask for motivation, grace, and strength—or simply divine intervention—to lead you to higher ground.

Example: Sometimes when I have been hurt by someone, letting go of my anger seems beyond my ability. Yet, when I have exhausted my own effort to draw on God’s power to fight the battle, the best thing I can do is simply to let go of trying. I don’t indulge in the feeling, but I admit that I have reached my limit and I need God’s help. And I let go of my own efforts to change myself, and wait. Often my deliverance will surprise me, and I will be set free without doing anything more on my own.

Facing your own inner weaknesses and struggles may feel discouraging. Fully engaging in your spiritual struggles may be daunting. However, admitting the reality of the ongoing, daily battle is actually helpful, and is the first step toward getting the help you need from within yourself and God.

What battle are you fighting today? What’s your strategy to win it?

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV)

1 Comment

Filed under Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life Coaching

Transformation—One Step at a Time

This is the second part of a sermon I preached in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, on November 16, 2008, entitled, “Change We Can Believe In.”

The book that grew out of our pilgrimage

A Request I Couldn’t Get Out of My Mind
About two years ago, one of my sons’ friends and his parents came to our house for dinner one night. As we were flipping hamburgers on the grill, Mike (the father) and I started talking about spiritual growth. In a moment of candor, he said to me, “I would really like to grow spiritually, but I don’t know what to do. I wish someone would break spiritual growth down into specific steps that I could take.”

As I worked for the next year and a half on a book that was just published a couple of weeks ago, Mike’s request haunted me. By the time I was done writing it, I realized that I had been writing for Mike and other Christians who want to grow spiritually. Taking pilgrimage as a metaphor for the spiritual life, I titled the book, One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Spirit-Led Living (https://spirit-ledleader.com/?page_id=29, the Alban Institute, 2008).

At the heart of this book is my wrestling with the question, “How can I experience more transformation in my life?” Biblical writers teach that believers are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives, but if transformation is so elusive for so many of us, what’s wrong? Is it our theology or something we need to do differently? What could I say to help others experience real, lasting transformation in their life?

Insight on the Camino
Two and a half years ago, the summer before my conversation with Mike about spiritual growth, I went on a long hike. A very long hike. Jill, my two sons and I walked 500 miles across northern Spain on pilgrimage. I was on sabbatical, and I felt led to walk this ancient pilgrimage route to seek God’s leading for the next phase of my life. Even more, I was hoping that God would use this intense, extraordinary experience to transform me in some way.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in for. The first night we slept in bunk beds, in a room with 120 other pilgrims. Our clothes got soaked, our legs were aching, we were exhausted, and this was only day 1. Some days the temperature was over 110 degrees. Jill injured her leg and nearly got heat exhaustion. My feet ached and my legs throbbed. We had to face things in ourselves and in our marriage that we didn’t want to have to face.

I was praying to be transformed every day, but all I was getting was crabbier, more tired, and more fed up with myself and everyone else. Oh, there were lots of wonderful moments, too, but I was really wondering if significant transformation was even possible in my life.

Then one day, something shifted. I started off in a particularly crabby mood. We had an extra long way to go that day, and on top of it, the rain started falling. This was really going to be a good day, I could tell!

Along the way, I noticed that the rain would come and go depending on the wind. When there was no wind, the rain just kept dripping on me. But when the wind would start up, sometimes the rain cloud above me would blow away, and we’d get a respite.

All of a sudden, I got this insight.

The Holy Spirit is like the wind. When I pray and ask for help with my negative moods or temptations or hard feelings, I am inviting God to do in me what I cannot seem to do for myself. It’s not magic, and it doesn’t work every time, but often, when I truly surrender my will to God’s, and ask for help with an open heart and mind, God produces a change within me. To go back to the metaphor, the Holy Spirit often blows away whatever is making me all wet spiritually, mentally or emotionally.

I also came to realize that the changes the Holy Spirit makes in me are seldom permanent. I trust that God has given me eternal life, but I still need the Holy Spirit to breathe into me freshly every day and every moment for me to continue to experience the changed life that comes from God.
Such an ongoing dependence on the Holy Spirit is what Jesus meant by abiding in him. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. With Jesus we can bear much fruit. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we will be our old normal, limited, unchanged selves. With the Holy Spirit, we can experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It’s that simple.

I didn’t say, it’s that “easy”, but it is a simple concept. With and only with the Holy Spirit’s active working in our lives and through us, can we experience the change we most desire, and the change we are called to as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, too many Christians have accepted the message of salvation, but have not learned how to let the Holy Spirit transform their hearts, minds and behavior on a day-by-day basis. Or, if they know how to yield to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, they often choose not to. Did I say, “they”? I meant, “we.” We all know the experience of knowing the right or good thing to do, but choosing a different course.

The Christian bookstores are full of inspirational and instructive books on living the Christian life, but not one will do you any good, if you are not willing to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit. You can listen to sermons, get videos of great teachers, and read the Bible until you’ve memorized every word, but if you are not prepared to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit on a moment by moment basis, you are not going to experience transformation. You are not going to experience the change you need, the change you hope for, and change you can believe in.

I cannot tell you specifically what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you at this moment, but I guarantee you that the Spirit has something to say to you that fits with God’s will for your life. God is trying to lead you in the ways he wants you to go, on a step-by-step basis.
We are not called to figure out God’s master plan for our life ahead of time. We are called to learn how to stay connected to the Holy Spirit, to recognize the Spirit’s prompting when it comes, and to say “yes” for the next thing God is asking us to do. Then, and usually only then, after we have said yes and have followed through on the Spirit’s leading, will we be ready to hear the next bit of instruction.

Transformation rarely happens in one fell swoop. We change as we learn to take one step after another as the Holy Spirit leads us. As we say yes to the Spirit’s leading today, we move to the place where we can say yes to whatever he wants us to do tomorrow. Then, when we add up all the days of our lives that are filled with moments in which we are being led by the Holy Spirit, the net result is a truly transformed life.

The place to start, though, is with this present moment.

What’s the Holy Spirit saying to you now?

What’s your answer?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. —2 Corinthians 13:14

Leave a comment

Filed under Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life Coaching

Hopes and Dreams

All I got was a blank stare. I had asked the group what their hopes and dreams for the future were. At first, no one knew what to say.

One person hoped he didn’t run out of money before he died. Another was scared about getting dementia. Someone else said he’d be happy just to get enough business to make ends meet. On the other end of the spectrum, another person dreamt of winning the lottery and winning the Pulitzer Prize, even though she doesn’t buy lottery tickets and doesn’t write much anymore.

Finally, someone blurted out that he doesn’t think in those categories. Hopes? Dreams? He’s just trying to get through life!

I felt sad for the “quiet desperation” I was hearing. At the same time, I was perplexed and deeply troubled. I continually meet people who seem to have no vision for their life. I hear comments that suggest that hopes and dreams are only for the rich, the lucky, the privileged. One pastor of a large, growing church even told me realizing one’s dreams doesn’t apply to 98% of the world’s population.

What? If Christians cannot hope for a better life, to realize their God-given dreams, or to fulfill their purpose in life, what in the world is he preaching and teaching?

Now, to be fair, the people who tell me that that hopes and dreams are not for them often are thinking about all that they cannot do. They have reluctantly come to the point of accepting that some secret aspiration that they have had is beyond their reach—becoming President of the United States, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, being a world explorer, or something equally grand. Or they feel demoralized after looking at someone else who has more money, more talent, more education, or more opportunity. With a twinge of envy, resentment, or resignation, they conclude that pursuing one’s hopes and dreams is only for a lucky few.

But does realistic thinking mean that there are not hopes and dreams that we can pursue? Do the special privileges of a few mean that we should give up on hoping and dreaming for ourselves?

I don’t think so. The nature, size and scale of our hopes and dreams will vary widely among us, but cannot nearly everyone aspire to something that they desire but is not yet a reality?

Abraham Maslow argued that humans must first meet “lower” level of needs before they will be able to pursue higher ones. That is, we start with seeking to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and security. Only when these needs are met are we able to move to higher level needs, such as love, friendship, self esteem, and ultimately self-actualization. As a general rule, I think he’s right. Yet, how many people have let anxiety over lower level needs unnecessarily keep them from simultaneously pursuing higher level needs?

Here’s another problem. When we talk about hopes and dreams, so often people think in terms of wealth, status, power, comfort, or material gain. Thus, those who think that they aren’t the lucky ones, or as smart or talented as others, or who don’t have the same opportunities as others, sometimes falsely conclude that there is no point to hoping and dreaming for them.

But what about hoping and dreaming in different categories? What about a dream of closer relationships? What about building a stronger community? What about joy from serving others? What about knowing and loving God better? What about pursuing meaning and purpose in one’s life? What about simply finding peace in the midst of so many situations outside of our control? These things are not dependent on luck, financial resources, or special opportunity. In fact, some of the materially poorest people in the world are some of the most vibrant people I have ever met. Yes, they have some unfulfilled hopes and dreams, but many also have other blessings—joy, friendship, community, meaning, purpose, vitality and so forth. These qualities of life might very well be available to more of us as well—if we would learn to hope and dream in these categories.

The many people I’ve been meeting, interviewing, teaching, coaching and observing lately show me that hopes and dreams can fuel vision for almost anybody’s life—with very good results. To know what one most values and cherishes, to believe that God has planted dreams in our hearts to serve God’s purposes, and to pursue a vision for a more fulfilling and purposeful life, is powerful, motivating, and life-changing. No matter how hard the work, or how frustrating such a pursuit can be at times, I can’t imagine not living with hopes and dreams.

Next week I leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 4 million people have been killed in civil war in the past decade or so. I will be leading a Pastors Leadership Conference, teaching and speaking to people who have struggled with basic survival needs to an extent I have never known. Will I find people who still have hopes and dreams beyond survival there? Will suffering Christians still have a vision for a more vital spiritual life, for healthier churches, for caring for one another effectively, for love and friendship, and for other “higher” level needs and aspirations? I don’t know. My experience suggests, yes.

What do you think? Are hopes and dreams beyond survival and security just for the lucky few in our world?

1 Comment

Filed under Spirit-Led Living/Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Life Coaching