Give Up Your Small Ambitions

What drives us? Will it outlast us?
 

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

About 500 years ago, a missionary-monk named Francis Xavier exhorted European students to "give up your small ambitions" and change the world.

What exactly is a small ambition? It doesn't have to be an activity that is sinful or easy. A small ambition is one that's simply not eternal. You could work ceaselessly at becoming the #1 sales rep in your company. And I hope you are. But are you doing it for God, or for personal glory and worldly "success?"

"Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven." -- Matthew 6:19-20

Work is important and spiritual. And there's nothing wrong with a round of golf or a walk in the park. But we should do it all with the end in mind. 

What are our ambitions? What drives us? Are they things that will outlast us?

It's never too late for a u-turn.

Let's give up our small ambitions and change the world.

Forget Resolutions: Time for a Revolution

 Courtesy of  Arkadiusz Sikorski  via Flickr

Courtesy of Arkadiusz Sikorski via Flickr

By Dr. DAN and CATHY ERICKSON

We’re not even a week into the New Year and many of us have already lost our resolve to change.

Could it be that our ambitions for 2016 are actually too small?

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, let’s seek a revolution that will change each of us and our world for eternity. 

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus gives us the marching orders:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it; love your neighbor [everyone] as yourself.”

Let’s ask God to change us from the inside out so that when people see us, they see Him. When we’re squeezed, we should exude Him. When we’re cut, we should “bleed” Jesus. Whether we’re at work, church or home alone.

This revolution is nothing to take lightly and it can’t be done in our own strength or willpower. There is an enemy who wants to beat us back down every time we rise up. We need God and one another to fight and win this daily battle of loving, forgiving and overcoming.

But it’s worth every scrape and drop of sweat and blood.

Let’s get ourselves out of the way so God’s revolutionary love can flow through us. Then  imagine His possibilities!

Dr. Dan Erickson is chief servant leader and Cathy Erickson is president of People Matter Ministries.


This month, only one thing matters

flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/

At Christmas, cling to this conviction

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

The sights, smells and sounds of this season both delight and deafen.

  • “Ho ho ho!” from an army of robotic, electronic Santas seeking the ear of frantic shoppers.
  • The seducing aroma of shortbread cookies and other decidedly-unhealthy baked goods.
  • The “ring-ring-ring” cadence of the Salvation Army volunteer.

Despite this assault on our senses, there is one thing we must cling to during the chaos and joy of this month: God became man. In the real-life historical person of Jesus, God got dirty, messy and eye-to-eye with the human race. Now it's our turn.
 
Christmas is a reminder that God came in skin for us. Then He passed the baton and said, “Now you represent me in skin.” The Jesus in you is the only Jesus people will ever see.
 
Forget yourself and let people see Him this month.
 
Then never quit.

Join me in a jailbreak

Let’s bend the wires, leave the cage and live out our destiny.

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

Eagles weren’t meant for cages. And neither were you or I.

This fact hit home when I was visiting the Omaha zoo a few years ago. A magnificent bird of prey was reined in by a cage, cut off from experiencing its potential and destiny.

Many of us are like that eagle. Deep down, we know that life should be more exciting, our work more satisfying and our relationships more fulfilling. We begin to view our circumstances as cages keeping us from true happiness: If only I had a better job. If only I could break this addiction. If only I had more money. If only I was single (or married, or married to someone else).

After years of frustration and despair, many of us give up — on our marriage, career, family and even our faith. 

How many of us are doing the work as adults that we dreamed of doing as children or students? Our big dreams fade away. If they come to mind, we dismiss them as “not realistic” or say “it’s too late.” 

I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late. God hasn’t given up on you. He hasn’t taken your destiny and given it to someone more worthy.

Christ did not die on a cross only so we could go to Heaven, but so we could have “life — life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). 

God made you, and he doesn’t make junk.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

The eagle had no choice but to live in a cage. We have a choice. Consider:
•    What God-given dreams have you suppressed?
•    If you could attempt anything for God and had unlimited resources and freedom to fail, what would you do?
•    Have you submitted yourself fully to His plan and purposes?

Think on these things, then determine the next concrete step you need to take. Don’t give up, and imagine the possibilities.

Yesterday's Gone, Tomorrow's Elusive: Let's Live in the Right Now

We miss the present moment when we long for the past or strive too hard for the future.

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

Why is it so difficult to find a person who is well balanced?

I’m know I’m not one of them.

We seem to gravitate toward extremes. 

When it comes to the way we view the present, most people fall into one of two camps. The first looks back with fondness on the “good old days.” This is more than enjoying fond memories. It’s a belief that, if we could only go back, things would be better than they are now.

The other group is always looking ahead. This is more than responsible planning. It’s a tomorrow-driven obsession that causes us to miss the present.

The problem with both extremes is that today – actually this very moment – is all that God has given us. No matter how we might wish it, we can’t fast forward to tomorrow. It’s also clear that we can’t go back.

This moment is your life. As a noted author has said, “Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

As I get older, I realize that the only way to slow time down is to cherish each and every moment. James called time a vapor. I don’t think I have time to seize the day – I need to seize the moment, realizing that every second can echo in eternity.

If I could live life over again, I would be more thoughtful, feel more intensely, speak more tenderly and live more intentionally. But I can’t start over. So I will begin today.

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture. … Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” – Psalm 95:7-8

Let’s live with purpose in the here and now and imagine the possibilities.

Seize the day, but do it God's way

Let's start our days with His agenda, not ours.

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

“Good morning God, what are you doing? Can I join you?” 

That's how I strive to start each day. It sets the course of my heart, mind and spirit. It reminds me that God is in control and I need to join with what He is doing.  

Although I didn’t do this consciously, I used to get up with this attitude: “Good morning God. Try to keep up and if I need you I will let you know.” 

I treated him like a butler. 

I was more interested in attacking my to-do list than in experiencing life out of a personal, intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father.

I came to the realization that I could not give God my day because I did not trust Him. And I could not trust Him because I did not know Him as I should. 

I realize now that when I pray this prayer, there are certain expectations God has for me:

  • He wants daily personal time with me.
  • He wants me to trust Him completely with each moment of my day.
  • He wants me to understand that nothing comes into my life that has not first come through His hands.
  • He wants me to know that every daily interruption, intrusion, difficulty or challenge is an encounter of the divine kind.

I can’t wait to see what God is up to today. 

Join me and imagine the possibilities!

Are you soaring with eagles or pecking with turkeys?

It's time to find -- and become -- a person who sharpens others.

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

You may have heard this saying before: “You will be the same person in five years that you are today except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

Let’s set books aside for another blog. But what about the people we meet? Or more accurately, what about the people we rub shoulders with?

First of all, we’ve got to be in healthy, close relationships with others. This doesn’t happen by accident. We must intentionally sacrifice time to develop strong, meaningful friendships. If we don’t, then we’re left with me, myself and I. Yet God made us to be interdependent on one another. That’s why “two are better than one” (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Now, simply hanging out with another warm body won’t do. Proverbs tells us to “walk with the wise and become wise.” Not only that, “the companion of fools will suffer harm.” This means to choose your close companions carefully.

Everyone has flaws and faults. In relationships, if you hold out for 100% or nothing, you’ll get nothing. And while we’re at it, let’s remember all of our faults. But in general:

1.    Who is someone filled with love and grace?

2.    Who is someone who loves me enough to challenge me?

3.    Who is someone who lives consistently for Christ?

That’s the person to team with. You’re looking to soar with eagles, not peck with turkeys.

“Eagles … were not designed to walk. They fly. And when they fly, oh, how they fly, so free, so graceful. They see from the sky what we never see.” – Anonymous

Turkeys, on the other hand, are not the representative animal of any country – and that’s for a reason.

This isn’t to bring anyone down. There is a turkey in all of us. But look for someone who can help you soar.

But remember: It isn’t just about you. God gave you a gift and made you unique. You have something to offer whether you believe it or not. The idea is that we pray together, share together and soar together.

Ask God to pair you with an eagle. Then offer to buy a cup of coffee and imagine the possibilities!

Let's Get out of the cage and onto the limb

When we know God is for us, we can take a risk.

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

I’m still riveted by a scene from years ago.

It was an eagle, magnificent in every way. Except that it was confined to a cage.

“What would the eagle do if you removed the cage?” I asked a nearby zookeeper.

“It would stay put,” he said. “It was born in captivity and has become conditioned to and dependent on its environment.”

These cage-bound eagles could see the bars, but not beyond to the stars. The world outside of the box was one of mystery, fear and insecurity.

This is a picture of the condition in which nearly all of us live, at least some of the time. We fail to reach our potential in Christ – the “abundant life” He promised to bring – because we submit to fear. We settle for the life of mediocrity that comes from self-reliance and “safety” instead of reaching for the choice fruit that is out on the limb. We live in a cage of our own making.

But once we shinny out onto the limb, we discover that God can do astoundingly more than we could ever ask or imagine.

The Message calls this “a real and eternal life, more and better life than [we] ever dreamed of” (John 10:10).

What can coax us from the cage to the branch so that we can begin to fly? In short, it’s knowing who we are and Whose we are. This begins to happen when we understand:

  • God’s Acceptance He loves us unconditionally, just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us unchanged (John 3:16-17; Romans 5:8).
  • God’s Affirmation He cares deeply for us and is with us in the midst of our pain (Psalm 34:18; 1 Peter 5:7).
  • God’s Assurance He invites us to call upon Him and promises to give us answers for life – answers that matter now and for eternity (Jeremiah 33:3).

Remember, it’s all about the “Who.” We must count on a Who – the almighty God of the universe – and not a what (a bank account, prestige or position). If you can create it, control it and finance it, then God is not part of the plan.

With His backing, we can take risks, knowing that when we go out on a limb, He will not saw it off! Only then can we “mount up with wings like an eagle, run and not be weary, walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:21).

Let’s step outside the cage, take a risk and imagine the possibilities!

  The paradox of an eagle in a cage.

The paradox of an eagle in a cage.