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.

Leaving the Lure and Lie of Earthly Success

By Dr. DAN ERICKSON

I hear it all the time on television, radio and in my local coffee shop: “So-and-so is successful because he makes a lot of money, owns a big company, can jump higher, throw harder or sing a sweeter tune.”

These are the kinds of accomplishments that are considered successful. We often end up tying our identity, value and worth to something that will rust, decay or die. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “If I was asked by God to walk away from whatever form of success I have achieved, would I be willing to do so?”

The late Christian author Thomas Merton wrote: “If I had a message to my contemporaries it is surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks ... of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success ... If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.”

Don’t fear failure. Instead, fear succeeding at something that doesn’t matter.

It reminds me of the rich young man in Matthew 19 in the New Testament of the Bible. Jesus challenged this up-and-comer to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor so that he could then be free to wholeheartedly follow him. Instead, the man walked away because he had great wealth.

Imagine: This man had an opportunity to physically live and walk with the Son of God – the creator of the universe – and he threw it all away. His temporary earthly success was a competing loyalty and dependency that kept him from enjoying God’s spiritual and eternal riches. What is your competing loyalty?

Don’t fear failure. Instead, fear succeeding at something that doesn’t matter. Success that matters is eternal and is found in a “who” – Jesus Christ – not a “what” – money, power or prestige. Many spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall.

If we believe that temporal rewards (wealth, position, privilege) are the true measure of success, then we must say that Jesus and his followers were the greatest of failures. Yet they were clearly successful on an eternal scale.

When I was 9, my dad and mom sold everything we owned and moved our family to the Nevada desert. There they spent the next 38 years working and ministering among Native Americans. We had lived in a middle income house, drove a middle income car and served in a middle income church. By all standards we were doing well. Family and friends thought my parents had gone nuts moving our family to the desert to serve our Native American brothers and sisters.

Years later I asked my parents why they did it. My dad simply smiled and said, “Eternity is a very long time. You can’t take it with you but you can send it ahead.”My parents had no temporal wealth but they were the most fulfilled people I have ever met. My dad, who passed away in 2010, is already experiencing ultimate fulfillment in Heaven.

Beware of valuing temporal success. It comes to kill, steal and destroy your true potential and destiny. Jesus said that he came to give us life to the fullest.

Imagine the possibilities!

The Love Quiz: This is Your Life

Love isn't a game or a game show. It's our God. It's our legacy.

By DR. DAN ERICKSON

The Beatles sang, “All You Need is Love.” And you know what, they were right.

However, definitions matter (a lot). The pop culture brand of love is mostly based on chemistry, ooey gooey feelings and self absorption. As soon as the feelings subside, relationships can be discarded. This is not, I repeat, not the biblical notion of love.

You and I were created with a void for God’s love that nothing else can fill. We are to live in the security of His unconditional love, but that’s not all. As God fills us with His love, we are to express His love to others.

You may have heard the expression, “Love’s not a feeling.” Well what is it then? It is a verb – and one that the Scriptures clearly define for us.

"For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

You can describe God in one word: Love. To know God is to know love, for God is love (I John 4:8).

  • What kind of love do you possess?
  • What kind of love do you express?
  • Do you really want to know the answer to those two questions?

God is clear that we’re not to be known by our church attendance record, the size of (or knowledge of) our Bible or any exterior factor. We’re to be known by our love.

So how are we doing? The following is not scientific. But answer it honestly and let God use it to spur you forward, wherever you are at. It’s based on the principles of love in 1 Corinthians 13.

If you are truly a brave soul, have someone take it on your behalf.
 

The Quiz

1 = Nowhere to go but up
10 = I'm not Jesus, but close
 

1. Love suffers long and is patient.
“I am patient and will not give up when things don't go my way.” 
James 1:2-4                                           

What's your score?

2. Love is kind and tenderhearted.
“I am not stubborn, hardhearted, or continually demanding my own way.”            
Ephesians 4:30-32

What's your score?

3. Love is thankful and grateful.
“I am not jealous or envious of others.”
Philippians 4:6

What's your score?                                                                

4. Love is meek and humble.
“I seek only to practice humility and not to be prideful.”
Matthew 5:5 

What's your score? 

5. Love is selfless, is sensitive to others and puts their interests first.
“I am not selfish or demanding of my own way.”                                                               
1 Corinthians 10:23-24;33

What's your score? 

6. Love is joyful and glad.
“I am not easily irritated or provoked to anger.”                                                          
John 15:11; 17:13

What's your score? 

7. Love forgives all things and does not hold grudges.
“I will not keep record of those who have offended or wronged me.”
John 20:23              

What's your score?   

8. Love rejoices in the truth and will not believe lies.
“I will not gossip about others and seek only to speak the truth in love.”
Ephesians 4:15

What's your score?                                 

9. Love bears all things and endures all things.
“I will not give up or give in to what the world offers as love. I will always hope because I know God’s love wins in the end in every situation.”                                    
Galatians 6:2

What's your score? 

10. Love always seeks to bring peace and contentment.
“I will always seek to bring peace in every situation.”                                                     
Matthew 5:9

What's your score? 

What is one specific behavior or attitude that God has put on your heart to change? How can you submit your life more fully and practically in this area?

What do you want to be known by? I hope it is by your love. Someone once said that “LOVE, is the flag that is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.” We do not surrender to our circumstances but to His love.

Imagine the possibilities!