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1. LIVE IN GRACE, WALK IN LOVE.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
I remember learning to ride my first bike, but my favorite bike memories are when I taught my kids. Without fail, at the beginning, the front tire would wobble back and forth more and more wildly just before one of them bit the dust. And they all bit the dust. Sometimes they would try again; sometimes they would call it quits. Learning to ride a bike at first is completely unnatural. Once it clicks—the balance, pedaling, steering—it’s hard to imagine not knowing how to do it. With enough practice, you don’t even think about riding a bike anymore. You just do it.
Jesus talks about taking up a challenge to live differently. It’s sort of like riding a bike. He wants us to live in grace and walk in love, but at first it is a gangly, wobbly wreck. We might even get banged up a little. Then, after a while, you just know how to do it. The Bible describes it as a rhythm, like breathing itself, where we are taking in grace for ourselves and holding out love for others. It is not natural, and it takes some practice. But Jesus showed us the way. Maybe one day we’ll look a little more graceful and pull off some cool tricks—hop a couple of curbs, do a wheelie or a bunny hop. Not unlike Peter and John, who healed a man in Acts 3, Jesus wants us to stick with Him through the awkward learning parts so we can learn to ride like He does. He wants to take our mind off of falling so we can pedal more fearlessly. Sure, there will be some scratches and scrapes. But we can pick each other up and help each other get back on for another go.
What habits and rhythms do you need to practice to help you naturally experience God’s grace in your life?
2. PLANS WORK OR THEY DON’T. LOVE ALWAYS WORKS. GO WITH THE SURE THING.
The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What is it about January 1 and making New Year’s resolutions? I think they’re terrific because they get people inspired to move toward the person they want to be. Later in January, I go around asking people if they made any resolutions—it gives you a window into what their hopes and dreams are. One predictable recurring theme is friends who want to go the gym on a regular basis. They say their gyms are like ghost towns in November and December, then January hits and they get as busy as a New York City subway. They also say the crowds begin to trickle down as the month goes on, and by February they’re back to the familiar faces they see throughout the year. If only we could make our commitments surefire bets, right? Here’s the thing. Plans are a toss-up: sometimes they work out and sometimes they wither. Love always works. What if we simply commit to love?
Don’t plan on doing it or make a resolution to do it the way people hope to go to the gym. Just do it. No plan, no agenda. Just Jesus leaking out through you into the world. Our lives are a series of positive experiences and more than a few negative ones. Make your life about people and you won’t regret it. There’s no gym to join, no pounds to lose. Our hours and minutes are what make up our lives, and God never intended relationships to be an afterthought. Make this year about people. We won’t give our friends the love they deserve if we try to work them in when our lives slow down. We’ll wake up one day and realize we never really got to know the people we bump into every day, even if they’re the ones who sit across the dinner table from us each night. If you have to choose between your plans and your loved ones, go with the sure thing and choose love.
Who do you need to focus your love toward today?
3. GOD HOPES WE’LL DEVELOP A GREATER FEAR OF INACTION THAN OF FAILURE.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Have you ever heard a plane break the sound barrier?
About 768 miles per hour—that’s how fast you have to go to outrun sound itself. Modern planes can do it pretty easily. Around World War II, though, scientists and engineers thought Mach speeds might be impossible in a manned aircraft. Their hesitance had everything to do with what happened at 767 miles per hour. Just before a plane breaks the sound barrier, all the created energy is pushing against the plane. Think of riding an old, rickety roller coaster in midair—all the shaking, jerking, and rattling made more than a few pilots throttle back.
When we’re chasing our dreams, all the turbulence we face shouldn’t scare us into pulling back, though. The shaking, jerking, and rattling in our lives are telling us we’re getting close to the breakthrough.
If there’s anything to fear, often it’s pulling back, not pressing forward. Is fear of failure holding you back from breaking your personal barriers? You might be at 767 miles per hour. Throw the throttle down, because once you push through fear produced by the rattling, you find the next-level experience you’ve been hoping for. God hopes we’ll develop a greater fear of inaction than of failure, because then, we’ll experience with wide-eyed excitement what it’s like to cruise, doing what we were made to do.
Where is fear holding you back right now?
4. LIVE A LIFE OF CONSTANT ANTICIPATION.
[Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”
The city where I live is known for one of the best fireworks shows on the planet. It’s no secret either. People from all over fly into San Diego to witness the spectacle. The city loads four barges down with munitions, parks them in different parts of the bay, then synchronizes the launch with music as hundreds of thousands of people assemble to watch an hour of explosions. Thousands of fireworks are put on display. It’s a pyromaniac’s dream. The question isn’t whether the show will burn your retinas a little bit but if you’ll get there early enough to get a parking spot and a good seat.
One year, instead of a perfect symphony of pyrotechnics and patriotism over the course of an hour, someone made a mistake and hit the wrong button. Every single firework went off at once. It was all over within thirty seconds. It was nine o’clock at night, but the sky was as bright as noon for a brief moment as thousands of fireworks all exploded on the decks of the barges. It was awesome! More than a few people in San Diego lost their eyebrows that night. The people with the best view were the dudes who pushed the button. Sure, they lost their jobs, but I bet they thought it was worth it.
When we’re really walking with Jesus, our lives look just as expectant as people in San Diego do now every Fourth of July. There’s no question that something awesome is going to happen. It might be a big success or an epic fail; the only question is how close you’ll be when all the fireworks go off.
Live a life of constant anticipation. Is it possible your big idea will blow up? You bet. Do it anyway. Trusting Jesus is like watching a lit fuse; it’s only a matter of time before He’s going to do awesome things in your life. Quit playing it safe. Press the button.
Where in your life are you playing it safe? What could you do to press the button?
5. DON’T LET WHAT YOU’RE AFRAID OF KEEP YOU FROM WHAT YOU WERE MADE FOR.
[Be] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Before Bill Gates was one of the richest men in the world, he was a Harvard dropout with a failed business. He cofounded a business called Traf-O-Data. Have you heard of it? Of course not. Me neither. It was started in the 1970s, and this company generated reports about roadway traffic to help cities know where to put traffic lights or which roads needed improving. It was far from a head turner. Here’s why it’s interesting. The company and its ideas crashed and burned.
Bill Gates was born with a gift, though, and he didn’t bury the gift just because his first attempt was a failure. He and his business partner learned from their mistakes, started Microsoft, and changed the world.
Failure tops the list of greatest fears for most of us. It’s vulnerable to put our passions into action because we can’t play it cool if it crumbles. If others see us go all in, they’ll certainly see us if we fail. We’ll be embarrassed, broke, and our friends might be awkward in the way they handle it all. What if they see that our best wasn’t enough? What if we hear that dark voice inside us again that says, You’re not enough?
We can’t win the game from the bleachers. We’ll never succeed unless we get out on the field and go for it. Whether it’s starting a business, putting music to your poems, or braving rejection from the girl who makes you lose your words, you won’t get the gold if you’re too scared to work the mine. God created you with unique gifts and ignited the passions He put in your heart for a reason—don’t let fear steal your opportunities and leave you on the sidelines wishing you’d tried. Do what you believe you were created to do. Is it possible it won’t work? You bet. Fail trying, don’t fail watching.
What do you need to hear or believe from God in order to find the courage to step out on a big dream you have?
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