The Legacy of a Simplified Life

November 18, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  I’ve loved being a pastor all the years that God’s enabled me to be in this role. But there’s one part of my job that’s pretty tough and that is to be with people near the end of their lives. When you’re near the end with someone, it can be quite dramatic. There some people and I’m sure many of you have seen this, that are so afraid to die, they’ll grab onto peoples arms, bedsheets, tables. They are terrified to go into the next reality. And I’ve been with many people in their final moments and I saw a level of fear that takes a while to get over.

On the other hand, I’ve been with a lot of people whose final minutes are beautiful. They’re like a little graduation event, in miniature, where they graduate from this life to the next. Where they’re holding the hands of loved ones gently. Where they’re smiling. Where the verse about the peace that passes human understanding – you know you think of that when you look at the peace on their face and in their spirit.

If you follow God’s Word and you make the decisions that the scripture exhorts us to make, it’s going to lead you toward a path of reconciliation with God. You’ll be good with God at the end of your life. You’ll be in a relationship with Jesus Christ. You’ll believe His promises. You’ll know that He has a place prepared for you. You’ll anticipate it and that leads to that sense of peace.

But for that to happen, at the end you gotta back up weeks and months and years to these days. The days right here and right now where every day you have decisions to make at the intersections of life.

The Word of God says over and over again, “Please my son, please my daughter – choose the path of wisdom, choose the path of truth, choose the path of faith, choose the path of faithfulness. Because it leads to a kind of harvest that honors God and that is deeply satisfying throughout the rest of your life and certainly at the end when you look back at your life and you realize it was well lived. It wasn’t perfect, but even those imperfections get covered by your Savior. When you simplify your life, in essence what you’re trying to do is to remove the clutter so that you can live in freedom and with focus on things that really really matter.

God’s the kind of God who is eager to bestow His honor and blessing on His kids. If we were to make those kinds of courageous decisions at these critical intersections, I think God would just open the windows of heaven and pour out that kind of blessing on your life. And it would affect not just you; it would affect your children if God graces you with children. It would affect their children and this is the way God’s blessing has been designed through the ages from one generation to the next and the next. I wish that for all of you.

See Part 7, Your Life Verse from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Your Life Verse

November 3, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  A long time ago I decided that I needed a life verse. I looked at hundreds of different verses to decide which one was I going to hang onto and kind of put over the mantle, of the door of my life.

And I decided I was going to go with 1 Corinthians 15:58 because that verse has resonated with me from the moment I read it. I’ve preached on it before. It says be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that your work is never in vain if it is in the Lord. I love that first part of the verse – be steadfast, be a pillar person, be immovable, never cave-in. And then it says be abounding – be abounding in the work of the Lord. Don’t go at the work of the Lord halfway.

Be all in. Full on. Fired up about the work of the Lord. And the part that I really, really like is it says that if you live your life that way, nothing will be in vain. You won’t get to the end of the day and say, “that was a waste of a day.” You won’t get to the end of the year and say, “I blew an entire 12-month period of time.” I love the verse, and it motivates me to stay dialed into the purposes of God. It helps me know that I’m not wasting my life and it goes through my head many times a day pretty much every single day.

So if you choose a life verse or even a series of verses that are really gonna guide your path in an area of your life and if you start going down that path and you feel the honor and the blessing of God on your life for going down that path some of your friends might think you’re being a bit extreme. I’ve had this happen in my own life.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if every Christ follower would find a life verse and be motivated by it throughout every day of their Christian life. Can you imagine the decisions that would be made? And the kind of values that people would uphold? The commitments that people would make and keep because they had the word of God kind of whispering in their ear all the time. How quickly people would express their regrets if they did something wrong. How quickly people would move toward reconciliation if there was some rift in a relationship. When you have a scripture-driven consciousness, it motivates you to make decisions that align with God’s will in this life.

See Part 6, Your Choice – Forgiveness or Bitterness from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Your Choice – Forgiveness or Bitterness

October 15, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS: You can tell a lot about a person by what they do after they‘ve been wronged. Jesus knows us well, and His counsel to all of His kids is when you’re wronged, be very, very careful. Try to just hold off on that reflex reaction for retaliation and revenge. Just hang on and then think through the alternatives that come to mind. And then maybe by faith, follow the counsel that Jesus gives for all of His followers, which is to eventually, appropriately, and honestly, forgive.

Not all of us, but many of us at some point in our lives will have what I call a “Category 3” experience. It’s a life shattering loss or betrayal of some sort. It’s when your world just gets knocked over. And somebody knocked it over. And you can kind of tell who the offending party was.

I’ve been a pastor for forty years, and I’ve heard stories that defy the imagination. They just make me want to break down crying at the injustice of it all. And often times I listen to stories for hours on end, and sometimes people tell me their betrayals for an hour this week and then an hour the next week, and an hour the next week. And I try to be a good listener. It’s important for people to get their feelings of betrayal out of their system.

But I have no option than to offer the teaching of Jesus at some point in the discussion. At some point I have to say, “So what are you going to do?” What are you going to do with this heartbreak, with this injustice, with this offense that came your way. If you take the revenge route, if you take the retaliation route, well let’s go down that path and see where it takes you. And I know it’s very difficult to think about going down the other path, the path of forgiveness like Jesus taught us and that He modeled for us. Let’s think together about where that other path would lead.

I’ve known many courageous people who have resisted the path of retaliation and who have over time, with the help of the Holy Spirit, forgiven people who have done terrible things to them, who have offended them in mind-boggling ways. And it ways seems to lead a person to a better place – to a place of greater peace, greater sense of honoring God with their life. Again I stress, it is not easy. Life shattering betrayal or offenses are serious business. But if I had another alternative to offer, I’d give it. I really don’t. I think forgiveness is probably long term the only way out of a bitter spirit.

If you want to simplify your life, if you want to live with less clutter in your soul, there’s gotta be peace and resolution and reconciliation in your relationships. So I’m going to ask you to look at all the offenses that have come your way. Decide how you’re going to deal with them – how with God’s help you are going to resolve them so you can get on with a peace-filled life.

See Part 5, Faithful Friends from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Faithful Friends

October 1, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. 

A widely misunderstood word, if you can believe it, is the word ‘friend.’ We all think we know what that word means, but I find that people will say to me, “I’ve got a friend, and whenever I’m with them, we go drinking, or we go out and do this or that, and terrible things happen.” And then they go, “but they’re still my friend.”

And I go, “How are you defining what friendship really means?” The way I understand it, a friend really cares about the future and well-being of the other friend. Isn’t that really what’s at the root of it? A friend wants what’s best for you. A friend will always want you to make wise choices, not foolish choices. They’re willing to say difficult things to you. They’re willing to stop certain behaviors and patterns if they think they are contributing to your demise.

So be real careful how you use the word ‘friend.’ Be real careful about who you consider your true friends are. Do they have your well-being in mind? Do you have their well-being in mind? It’s really important to get a grasp on this.

Something that’s very painful to talk about – and no one gets any joy in a conversation like this – is the idea of actually pruning some of your friendships. Actually going to some people who you realize don’t have your well-being in mind. They’ve kind of got a different agenda for your future. And they don’t really probably care about you. They’re maybe a bit narcissistic, and they’ve got another plan.

Sometimes this leads to the breaking, the pruning, of a friendship. Very difficult. In some cases, tragically sad. Other times, this actually leads to an opportunity to reconsider the path that he or she is on, and to say, maybe I’ll join you on your path for a while and see if we can do this together. But one thing is for sure, that if you have a friendship and you are on divergent paths, it’s going to take a conversation to sort out what needs to happen.

The psalmist certainly got it right in Psalm 133:1. He says, “It’s one of the most beautiful and richest experiences in life when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” Not just the absence of division, but unity is spirit, unity in soul, unity in self disclosure where you are known and are being known, where you love and are being loved, where you are being celebrated, and are serving one another.

See Part 4, Overcoming Fear from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Overcoming Fear

September 15, 2014
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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  One might think if you get the external clutter all fixed in your life, or most of it fixed, then you can live this simplified life and it’s all good. Actually, what clutters up your internal world can really mess with your life, gang. I bear witness, myself.

One peace buster is fear. Fear can break a cycle of peace very rapidly in your life…. Sometimes you have to work a little bit to understand fear’s origin. Where did it come from, this fear, that’s making peace so difficult to maintain? We have to try to get to the origin, the roots of our fears, so we can deal with them.

I’m sure you’ve all had fear lie to you at some point in your life. Just this little idea that gets planted. You have a sore ankle and you say, “Oh, what if it’s cancer? What if some horrible thing is going to happen, and I’m going to have to get treatment? What if it’s even worse than that.”

And we start doing what I call catastrophizing – thinking of something that can go wrong, and instead of holding it in balance, you just hear this voice in your head go: danger, danger, danger.  Something terrible is around the corner. Something ominous is in the air. It’s all going to come crashing down. Danger, danger, danger. That little propensity towards catastrophizing can just play with your mind, all day every day. And it can wreck any sense of peace that you hope to build in your life.

I love the passage from the apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 1:7. It says, I’ve not appointed you to live life with a spirit of timidity. I don’t want you afraid of your shadow all life long. He said, I’ve given you a spirit of confidence, a sound mind, a disciplined thinking pattern.

When I feel fear going my way, I start going through a series of promises in God’s word. Promises like: God is for me, and not against me. If God is for me, who can be against me. And I kind of work up enough courage from the teachings in the Word of God – and the Holy Spirit reinforcing them in my mind – where I can say, “Ok, I’m going to face that fear head on.”

I’m going to do so, not because I think I can just overpower it on my own strength. But I’m going to do so because I’m a treasured child of the most high God. I’m someone that God loves and wants to accompany in this difficult situation.

I don’t know a better way to handle fear than to face it head on. You can try to dance around it but sooner or later, you just have to look it straight in the eye and deal with it.

See Part 3, Financially Reconciled from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Financially Reconciled

September 1, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  One of the ways we get financially reconciled to God is to believe that all we have comes from his hand. If you think about it, it all comes from God, it all belongs to God.

When we were born he gave us life. He gives us talents and abilities. He gives us educational opportunities. And later on, he givesus vocation or employment opportunities. And then if we honor Him and go His way, He blesses our life and our earnings which are really just a manifestation of the goodness and the providence of God.

If you get that wrong and you start thinking that this is really your stuff, that it was all because of you that you earned it and you get to control it because it’s yours – that can be a dangerous way of thinking about money.

I like to draw a line on a piece of paper and I’ll say, if this is your current income, this is what I call God’s provision for your life during this season. Now he’s asking you to accept that and to live beneath that provision level so there’s a little margin in your life. And when people understand this they say, “But it’s hard for me to live underneath the amount of God’s provision.” And I say, “Well that’s where contentment comes in.”

Contentment is a virtue that can be cultivated in your life. You can actually come to a point like the apostle Paul who was able to say that he had learned to be content when he had a lot of God’s provision and when he had only a little of God’s provision.

Now what some people do is they say, “Hey God, I think you screwed up with my provision level.” So what I’m going to do is I’m going to use debt to add to the provision level that you should’ve given to me. I’m going to go into debt to increase my provision level. And then we all know where that leads.

There comes that day when you know you’re a slave to that debt and you feel in bondage. You look back at the time when you were content and lived within the means of God’s provision and you go, “Oh I was smarter then. That was a better move.” So if you can just keep in your mind that there is a current level of God’s provision – with contentment – you can live within that provision, live a joyful life, and stay out of debt and bondage.

See Part 2, Creating a God First Schedule from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels.

 

Creating a God First Schedule

August 15, 2014

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An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  One never drifts into becoming more the person that you feel God wants you to become. You actually have to declare that you want to become that new kind of person. And in my way of thinking, one of the best ways to declare it is to put it on your schedule.

What’s causing you all kinds of anxiety that if you took some schedule steps could relieve that anxiety? My word of counsel all the time, is just don’t put a schedule together too quickly. Take your time. Be prayerful about it.

Continually ask yourself, “What would a God-in-first-place schedule really look like in my life?”

Maybe you feel like your schedule has just gotten out of control and it’s unfixable; it’s unsolvable. There’s too many moving pieces in your life; you’re overcommitted. You’re exhausted and you don’t even know if you have the energy to try to fix all of this.

Gang, don’t forget God is for you. God is for you. And if you’ll take a step of faith – just take a couple of hours. Get off by yourself and ask the question, “Who do I want to become?” “What craziness do I want eradicate from my life?”

Slowly but surely, the Holy Spirit will give you ideas. And you can look at each day of your week and say, “How can I live it a little more sanely?” “What has to go?” “What has to be re-prioritized?” “What do I need to say goodbye to?” “What do I need to say hello to?”

If you’ll just give this a shot and take a faltering first step, you’ll experience some progress. And when you get the motivation of some progress under your belt, then you can make modifications. And then you’ll get it more fine-tuned as the weeks and months go on.

And pretty soon you’ll be done with the craziness. Pretty soon, you’ll be in route to be the kind of person that you know God wants you to become.

See Part 1, Running on Empty? from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Running on Empty?

August 1, 2014

An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS:  Often in my mentoring sessions, I’ll take a flip chart and a real thick pen and I’ll draw my infamous bucket. And I’ll ask people if their life buckets are filled to the top? If they’re filled with the love of God and the love of family? If they’re well-rested. If they’ve been exercising. And if they’re sort of refreshed or replenished in multiple ways.

I’ll say, “What is life like when you’re living it with a full bucket?” And people will say, “Well, I make my best decisions when my bucket is full.” And I go, “Yeah, me too.” And they’ll say, “I do my best thinking and praying and loving when my bucket’s full.” And I say, “I do too!”

And then to have a little fun, I’ll say, “So let’s talk about when your bucket is empty. When you’re distant from God. When you have some family riffs that are unresolved. And let’s say that your diet and exercise have not been going very well, and you’re depleted in a whole number of different ways.

What’s your life like in a depleted form? And then all of the consequences come out. They’ll say, “I’m easily irritated.” Or they’ll say, “I isolate” or “I turn into a working machine.” Or sometimes people will say, “I just want to escape from reality.” The list goes on and on of the consequences associated with living life in a depleted state.

So the question becomes – whose responsibility is it to make the kinds of choices on a day-to-day basis that keeps your bucket full? Might that be your job for your life? Might that be my job for my life?

We make the choices on a day-to-day basis to either live filled up, or we make the choices that result in us living depleted lives. Ask yourself, “Why do I let myself get this depleted? What drives me, really?” Ask God to give you insight into what’s underneath your propensity for running on empty. When you’re living this way, what inner hunger are you feeding that should be fed in healthier ways? Is there someone you’re trying to please?

I encourage you to take an honest assessment and then design a custom replenishment plan that fits you.

See Part 2, Creating a God First Schedule from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels.