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In his book, “The Last Arrow”, Erwin McManus expounds on Luke 9:57-62 with the observation, “Jesus clearly imparted to all of His disciples: You cannot follow me into the future if you are holding on to your past.” I wonder how many of us are hamstrung in seeking to do new things within God’s Kingdom because we are refusing to let go of the past?

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We’ve been holding onto some things so long we don’t even realize we’re doing it. They have simply become an extension of who we are. If we want to move into a future containing all God has for us, we’ve got to stop dragging the past along with us. The past simply has no place in the future. It’s too bulky and gets in the way.

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In his book, “All Things New”, author John Eldredge writes, “Where we take our fantasies is a helpful way to know what we are doing with our Kingdom heart”. Which begs the question, “What is it about which you are fantasizing?” Said another way, when you daydream, about what are you dreaming? We go in the direction of the things about which we think. Indeed, we grow in the direction of the things about which we think.

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Our fantasies and daydreams reveal the deepest desires of our heart. Far from fancy or whimsy, and regardless of their implausibility, fantasies and daydreams reveal what we would be if we were God. What are your fantasies and daydreams revealing about you? Are they revealing a God-focused, others-centered disciple? Or are they revealing a prideful and self-centered individual?

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For followers of Jesus, daydreaming can be both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side, what we daydream about offers significant insight into what God created you to do for His Kingdom. If you aren’t certain where your passions lie, pay attention to the things about which you daydream. We tend to dream about those things which captivate and fascinate us. One of the great joys in life is figuring out the intersection between your passions and God’s mission.

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On the flip side, daydreaming can be an insidious thief of your time and energy. We can waste hours daydreaming and not accomplishing anything for God’s glory. As disciples, we know it is our duty to be good stewards of our time, so we must be careful our daydreaming does not inhibit our Kingdom building.

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In her book, “Passport through Darkness”, Kimberly L. Smith writes, “who of us wants to give up our notion of what we think our lives should look like so that we are available for Him to use?” Read that again and let it sink in. I think it hits at what lies at the root of our reluctance to fully surrender our lives to Jesus. We all have dreams and ambitions, a vision for what we want our lives to look like. Quite honestly, serving Jesus tends to get in the way of the pursuit of those dreams. Following Christ necessitates that we let go of all of our ambitions and plans; all of them, no exceptions.  That’s a heavy cost that most are not willing to pay.

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Remember when we were kids how we had dreams of the person we wanted to be when we grew up? Some dreams were based on what our parents did, some were based on what we saw on television or in the movies, and still others were inspired by our comic books. As we grew older, the fantastical dreams of youth began to fade and were replaced with less imaginative dreams that we deemed possible. Once we entered adulthood our focus shifted to those dreams that would make us the most money or secure the lifestyle we wanted to live. Many of us simply stopped dreaming all together. Our dreams became swallowed up in the drudgery and responsibilities of everyday tasks. Life came calling and we sacrificed the aspirations of our youth on the altar of rational expectations. We became what we were expected to be, rather than who we were created to be.

Is this all there is? Is this the abundant life that Jesus promised to those who would follow Him? Where in Scripture are we commanded to pursue the things of this world in order that we might obtain a more comfortable lifestyle? What I see instead is a challenge to live life with a faith so focused on Christ that we don’t worry about what we will eat or drink, or about what we will wear (Matthew 6:31-33); loving God with all of our heart, soul and mind is what drives us forward each day, the beauty that compels us to serve others for His glory (Matthew 22:37-38). We are commanded to love God and love people. Within this context we find all we will ever desire from life. As we set out to serve those around us we rediscover creative means to utilize long hidden gifts and passions. Each of us were created to do good works for the purposes of Christ (Ephesians 2:10). As we fulfill those purposes we find ourselves discovering true abundance in life.

The dreams of our youth were placed inside us to inspire thoughts of what could be accomplished in the world if we would only dare to believe. Too many of us let others talk us out of the possible in order that we might pursue only the probable. There was nothing ordinary about the way Jesus lived His life, nor is there anything mundane about the life He calls each of us to live. We are called to love and to serve in extraordinary ways. The actions in which we engage on Christ’s behalf need not necessarily be some grandiose demonstration; rather, simple acts of kindness and service can have an impact beyond our wildest dreams. A simple smile for one who is normally overlooked can change the course of their life forever. Taking just a moment to make eye contact with a homeless person, to share a kind word or a couple of dollars may convince them there is a reason to go on. It may communicate to them that they are loved by someone and perhaps this would be the catalyst that allows them to encourage others or even to set a new course for their life. One moment, one smile, and you can alter a life forever.

Just as all actions need not be huge in the grand scheme of things, sometimes we must engage in the utterly absurd in order to live out the mission of Christ. Perhaps there would be no hunger in the world if we would simply stop being obsessed with our salaries and 401(k) plans. Maybe it’s time we let go of the things we perceive to be our security in this world, throw caution to the wind and recklessly devote ourselves to an impossibly big challenge just to see what God might do with our leap of faith. Whether we are compelled to deceptively small or extravagantly large acts of service, together we will discover the life we were created to live, and together we will further the mission of Christ.

What dreams have you long ago abandoned in order to live what most would perceive to be a responsible life? What passions have you buried so that you might fall in line with the expectations of culture and society? Jesus didn’t call us to be part of the status quo; He called us to live a life that looks like His. He called us to follow Him. What might become of our lives if we returned to the imagination of our youth? How might we creatively discover fantastic new ways to serve others and reflect His love to the world at large? What have you left behind that should be retrieved and used for His glory?

Our only true responsibility is to become the person He created us to be. I encourage you to let go of the expectations of others, the opinions that confine you in a life of mediocrity. Embrace the work He created you to do; shine with the passion He placed inside you to accomplish all He has put before you. In this way you will find the abundant life; in this way you will discover what it truly means to be His hands and His feet in a world that cries out for the love of Jesus. Rediscover and start living your dreams today. Do it for the world, and do it for His glory.

Somehow we lost our way. At some point in time we decided that the things of this world were more beneficial than the things of God. We traded eternity for temporal, spiritual for material. Inexplicably we lost our awe of God and in turn became enamored with ourselves. I’m not sure exactly when it happened or what we possibly could have been thinking; I only know that we now find ourselves mired deep in the mess of the results. God spoke, we heard, and we ignored; instead we listened to the siren song of the American dream. We saw that it was desirable and we took of it, just as our oldest ancestors did in the Garden of Eden. We have learned little in the past six thousand years or so, and yet God continues to call us to Him.

Our modern apples of temptation are money and pleasure. We seek to fulfill the longing in our hearts with physical instead of spiritual means. At our core we are created in God’s image which means deep inside we are spirit beings. One cannot fill the spiritual with the physical; it simply will not work. The only way to fill the deep gnawing in your soul is to seek what is important to God, those things that further His kingdom on earth. No amount of wealth, fame or entertainment can satisfy the hunger inside. Only by surrendering to Jesus and living a life of service to Him will we find any peace and comfort for our longings.

We have been conditioned to believe that happiness is based on what we achieve and acquire. Jesus taught instead that true meaning is found only through how we serve and sacrifice. Instead of hoarding for ourselves, we are to share with anyone in need. Rather than do whatever it takes to get ahead, we must humbly put others before our own desires and dreams. This is the only goal worth pursuing, because this goal leads to the life found only in Jesus Christ. We can’t achieve our way to Heaven, nor can we reach there by climbing up our pile of stuff. The way to Heaven is the way of Jesus; His is the way of humility and service to others.

We all have dreams, passions and abilities; it is not that we must put these aside, but rather we must use them to achieve the purposes of Jesus rather than our own aspirations. Of course, it is a beautiful thing when our dreams align with His. This is where our life begins to resemble that of Christ; we begin to want what He wants, and to act and love as He does. We are all uniquely gifted and prepared for accomplishing good works for God, but we will not live out our calling as long as we continue to pursue the wrong goal. The goal is not the American dream but rather the mission of Christ. The goal is to give rather than get, to serve rather than be served. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus; this is the mark to which we must all aspire.

We have a lot to unlearn. All our lives we have been taught to grab all that we can, to chase after all we deserve. As a reminder, the Bible teaches that what we deserve is a life spent separated from God, an eternity in hell. Do you really wish to chase after what you deserve? By the grace of God we have an alternative way; we can choose to follow Him and obtain a life that is far beyond what we deserve, a life filled with His love and mercy. It is not an easy life, but it is one of infinite worth and satisfaction. Turning your back on the American dream will be difficult; you will be ridiculed and perhaps even cut off from your friends and family. No longer will you want what others want; no longer will you live life for yourself. The reward is beyond words. Only when you let go of all you think you want will you truly find what you’ve been seeking.

Are you ready to pursue the mission of Christ? Can you let go of the goal of the American dream, the seeking of wealth and entertainment? Jesus said there was much work to be done but few willing to engage in it. We have been squandering daylight and the night is coming. Darkness continues to invade our world and we must fight back with the light of the love of Jesus. We must pursue Christ at any cost. Our mission is straightforward and clear: love God and love people; serve God and serve people. Are your goals in line with God’s? Are you pursuing things of eternal worth? Or are you seeking that which you cannot keep, clutching to what you must leave behind? Jesus is the only way to peace and fulfillment. Pursue Him with all that you have; make Him your sole focus. This is the only goal worth achieving.