Tag Archives: Courage

A Spiritual Bucket List.

Thousands of people created a bucket list following the release of the 2007 hit movie by the same name, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. For those unfamiliar with the film, the bucket list represented a collection of activities and experiences two terminally ill characters wanted to enjoy before their pending deaths. Only the most extreme, adventurous, and extraordinary undertakings made the list; nothing was run-of-the-mill.

For example, they don’t just visit the Great Wall of China; they ride motorcycles on it. They don’t just visit historical sites of local significance; they travel to India and Egypt to admire the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids. They don’t settle for visiting a regional peak to climb; they journey to the base of Mount Everest. I could go on but you get the point.

Imagine how much we could impact our communities, nation, and world, if Christians pursued a similar exercise with our faith – a spiritual bucket list, if you will. Only distinctly Christian activities would qualify – those that draw us closer to Christ, advance His kingdom, or fulfill His will. Similar to activities on the secular bucket list, these undertakings would require a significant commitment of time and resources, and involve a degree of adventure, discipline, and courage. Such a process would certainly stretch our faith.

Of course, you should pray for God’s guidance as you create the list. In fact, this exercise might open your heart and eyes to an assignment (or two) God has communicated in the past but you were too busy or distracted to hear. Here are ten possibilities to stimulate your creative juices and ignite your imagination. No doubt readers will think of hundreds more.

1) Memorize an entire chapter of the Bible.

2) Worship with believers in an under-developed country.

3) Spend one summer of your retirement volunteering with an organization that fulfills the Great Commission or meets basic human needs.

4) Start an orphanage overseas.

5) Throw a lavish dinner for the homeless and destitute in your community. Make it an annual event.

6) Share the good news of Jesus with one thousand people and follow-up with them to answer questions and offer encouragement.

7) Fast one day a week on behalf of the persecuted church, an unreached people group, or for revival in this country.

8) Spend your vacation in an area hostile to Christianity and encourage local believers with your presence.

9) Donate twenty percent of your 401(k) this year to fund evangelism efforts in places where Christ’s love and sacrifice are unknown. Then travel to those places and participate in the sponsored activities.

10) Shift careers to work for a Christian or non-profit organization in desperate need of your God-given talents.

Take time this week to begin creating your spiritual bucket list. Add to the list as the Lord lays on your heart more extraordinary activities and assignments. Put the list in a conspicuous place to keep it top of mind. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Act with the same urgency the characters in the movie did to fulfill each item on their list. And don’t be afraid to include activities that seem too enormous, ridiculous, or farfetched. Those are exactly the types of undertakings God honors.


Gratitude for God’s Gifts.

Many of us will express gratefulness to God this Thanksgiving holiday for family, health, employment, and life. Others will make mention of God’s provision in providing a home, healing a sickness, or resolving a difficulty. Of course, some blessings are universal to all who place their trust in Jesus. Regardless of circumstances, those who surrender their lives to Christ are the recipients of many promises from God. Here are seven of those remarkable gifts.

1] Love: God loves you unconditionally. Nothing you do will ever increase or decrease that love. Irrespective of your failures, shortcomings, or mistakes, He loves you. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how despicable, He loves you. In fact, the Bible tells us, “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). His love is substantive, not theoretical. He offers us reconciliation with Himself through the death and resurrection of His sinless Son, Jesus. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

At the moment you may face circumstances filled with pain, confusion, rejection, or suffering, and may wonder whether God loves you. The apostle Paul addresses that question in his epistle to the church in Rome. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35, NLT). He answers with an emphatic, “No!” and explains “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT).

Know that God loves you and nothing can separate you from that love. Nothing!!

2] Peace: Many people experience stress and anxiety when current circumstances create difficulty. Often, they fear the future. But believers need not undergo such angst no matter the situation. Jesus tells us: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, NKJV). What a powerful promise. Jesus offers His people peace in their hearts and minds, such peace the world cannot offer. His peace calms us as we surrender our problems to Him, so that we are no longer troubled by the present or fearful of the future.

Those without Christ often fear death and what the future holds after they die. It is a mystery, an unknown, that frightens them. They realize they have not made their peace with God and it troubles them. But we have confidence in our future after we pass from this world. Jesus gives us assurance that all those who place their faith in Him will spend eternity with God; we have been reconciled to Him. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NKJV).

The world will scoff at the suggestion that God brings peace to those who follow Him, especially in our world of chaos, violence, and uncertainty. It makes no sense to them that peace can exist in such an environment. His peace is beyond our comprehension as well, even though we experience it. The apostle Paul explains: “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NKJV). God’s peace protects us from the disquiet that plagues the world as the global landscape becomes increasingly frightful. We may not understand how that happens but we have proof in our hearts and minds.

3] Hope: Because our purpose in this world is clear (to love God with all our hearts and share His love with others) and our future is certain, we have hope. We need not suffer through the despair that afflicts many of those around us. Unable to control the events that spiral their lives out of control, the depressed and despondent often turn to artificial sources for meaning (e.g. success, riches, prestige) or to drown their pain (e.g. drugs, alcohol, hedonism). But not so for those who place their hope in Christ. He frees us from such acts of desperation. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13, NKJV). We don’t just possess a measure of hope, we abound in it. What an encouraging truth!

4] Joy: On the night of His betrayal, Jesus encouraged His disciples to abide in Him and keep His commands. After which, He said: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, NKJV). One of the many benefits of following Christ is partaking of the joy He imparts. Unlike the fleeting and momentary happiness the world experiences, which ebbs and flows depending on circumstances and results, our joy is present in all situations. And it is overflowing.

Even in the midst of difficulty, trials, and tribulation we retain the unshakeable joy God has given us through His Son, because our joy is predicated on our relationship with Jesus, not our present circumstances. In fact, the apostle Peter encourages us to “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13, NKJV).

5] Power/Strength/Courage: God has equipped us with boldness to do the right thing in a world that increasingly rewards and praises those who do the wrong thing. He calls us, and expects us, to leverage the power of the Holy Spirit to act courageously and remain faithful to Him and His standards, to protect the weak, intervene for the oppressed, and speak on behalf of the exploited. As we do He will strengthen us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NKJV). God’s presence is with us when we act on His behalf to confront evil, speak truth, and show mercy to the downtrodden. Never forget that.

6] Good triumphs over evil: In this present age that seems unlikely. Evil flourishes across the globe, not only in grotesque forms like terrorism and human trafficking but also in more benign forms like greed, arrogance, and selfishness. Many of the skirmishes between good and evil appear to result in victory for the wicked. It can seem overwhelming at times, and discouraging if you don’t remember the big picture: in the end, God wins! That is a key message of Revelation. God defeats Satan and his army of evil, and establishes His kingdom in the New Jerusalem. What an encouragement to know that despite appearances to the contrary at the moment, God eventually dispatches all vestiges of evil.

7] God never changes. In a world of chaos where change happens at supersonic speed, it is comforting to know God never changes. As the world’s standards evolve (or devolve), society redefines truth, and God is disparaged as a relic from an era of ignorance, we need a foundation that can withstand these seismic shifts. We need an anchor that keeps us from tossing to and fro in the ocean of moral relevance, where good is demonized and evil is glorified. That anchor, that foundation, is God’s immutable permanence. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NKJV).

Happy Thanksgiving!