Yesterday, as I closed out the 60th year, I went on a trip to the place where Bev and I invested a dozen years in fruitful ministry among dear friends. In 2013, when we visited Great Barrington, MA there was no hint of how radically changed life would be for me. But, this is life and death, beginnings and endings. I felt deep emotions – some so sweet, some tinged with regret – as I stood in the room where it was my privilege to teach the Word, walked the floors where we laughed and cried with our family, and drove past places where we carried on the ordinary comings and goings of life.
As I reflect, I am ever so thankful a collage of faces and a chorus of voices that play through my memory this morning; good people who have mentored me, loved me, rebuked me, and taught me. Dad and Mom instilled faith, teaching me the ‘awe and respect of the Lord.’ Numerous teachers cemented bricks in the foundation, each important in its place. I never met the late Ray Stedman, but his writing, especially a little book called “Authentic Christianity,” challenged me to think hard about integrating faith into every part of my life. Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” made me understand that Christianity is more than an altar experience. There are daily choices that create channels through which the Spirit flows into our lives. Harry Almond, a retired missionary, walked alongside of me for a few years in mid-life. He was one of the wisest men I have ever known, yet amazingly humble. There are hundreds more; friends who encouraged, people who came and went for a season, authors that left a pathway to growth.
Surely the Proverb is worthy of remembering –
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9, NIV) “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
The best life is formed when we are connected deeply to good friends and with solid spiritual leadership. Peers and teachers are critical in the process of bringing about our best and most productive life! In an age where there is so much image-making and superficiality, I would urge you to beware of those who talk better than they live. The Word reminds us that “God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life.” (1 Corinthians 4:20, The Message) Want to live best, enjoy life at its fullest? “Join the company of good men and women, keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths.” …Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you; take to heart my commands. They’ll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well. Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.” … You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary.” (Proverbs 2:20, 3:1-4, 13-14, The Message)
As I close these rambling reflections of a man far down the road, I offer these simple words.
Laugh often! Don’t take yourself too seriously. A friend reminded me recently that I did not make the sun rise that day. How true.
Love deeply. It’s the only thing that will really matter in the end.
Keep Heaven in sight. An eternal perspective will help you to avoid costly detours and give you hope in the darkest of days.
Know Jesus as the Center. It may sound simplistic, but adopting WWJD as a way of life isn’t a bad idea. (What Would Jesus Do)
The word from the Word comes from the final days of Paul, written to a younger man that he loved in the Lord. My desire, and hopefully yours too, is that I will be able to say this when I come to the end of my life. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NLT)