As I write this latest update, we have just completed our celebration of Easter here in the US. As Christ followers, this is such a wonderful time of rejoicing and reflecting on the gift of eternal life provided 2000 years ago…. to all who believe and confess….by the sacrifice of one. I am grateful and blessed indeed to have heard the “Good News”, and accepted the gift. I continue to pray that each of you experience this love and forgiveness, and that you can feel and enjoy the rewards provided mankind, and represented by the Easter miracle resurrection. With all the sweet bunnies and colored eggs and pretty flowers, we can feel this is simply a rite of springtime…but this is truly a rebirth of our souls, and an eternal plan of salvation from our creator. It has such power to transform our lives …both here in this life, as well as the assurance of the next in eternity with Him. How can we be anything but grateful and humble and joyful?!
We left Florida last week to fly to Houston and get my feeding tube removed and see the surgeon for a checkup. All went well and I am “tube-free” now. I just need to keep up with my eating so those prayers are still appreciated…. and I am doing better each day it seems. It has been nice to have some additional time with the kids here in Atlanta and we will return to the beach in a week or so.
We are planning at this point to attempt an appearance at Global Founders Council in early May, because it is being held in Maimi Beach, and we have quite a number of N21 partners who qualify from around the world. Having these special people so close, and knowing that this is a pretty key annual event in our world where so few actually can qualify at this level…makes us want to try to be there to support and hug our teammates ….and see what the company is planning for the future. Our first appearance at any major N21 function in the USA will be at NALC in September in Washington DC……and I expect to be “ready to go” and will be working hard between now and then to stay steady in my recovery. There is a “lifestyle event” in Hawaii in July that we also are working hard to attend as it has been planned for two years and we feel optimistic that I can travel and add positively to that week in paradise. I am also looking at an extension with the family for a couple of weeks to further “assure” I am “tanned and rested and strong” for the coming year, and what God has planned for my next chapter. I remain incredibly blessed that my recovery has been so steady and I owe a that to all of your prayers and to my God who strengthens me daily. And in no small way at all, to Nancy…who has been a true champion through these months with me and my “needs”. Those of you who know her well, can see clearly what a mess I would be if left to my own decisions and disciplines regarding this healing and recovery process. So often, the real heroes are behind the scenes in families where there is illness. All “attention” is focused on the “one who is sick”, and so much of the burden (physically, emotionally, spiritually…and sometimes financially) is on others who serve quietly and keep the ship afloat. I am blessed… and this is a great reminder to all of us how much we depend on our loving families and spouses to carry us through in the real world while God does the “heavy lifting” out of sight. Be sure to pray for Nancy and all the others who, like her, are standing in the gap for their loved ones.
I also have been stunned and saddened again this past week by news of the passing of three special friends and partners in our life journey. First, many of you know Joe Badinski…an Emerald in the US along with his dear wife Marilyn….and he and we were communication lately because he also had esophageal cancer which was diagnosed about year prior to mine. Joe passed away peacefully in his sleep least week and we ask you to remember this special man and his family in your prayers. Another dear Diamond in Indonesia named Nelleke Sosromihardjo (wife of Soegardjito), also died of a brain tumor, and then we learned suddenly of the death of Emerald leader, Suwat in Thailand…the twin brother and sponsor of Founder Double Diamond Suphat…he was only 41! These are each such unfortunate losses, and for sure difficult for their loving partners and families. The God who created each of us has numbered our days and promises us His endless love and forgiveness, such that we can be assured our life here on earth is but a “breath” compared to the eternal life promised with Him through Christ. These few are by no means all of the difficulties our large global family is facing…but were brought to my attention so recently, and reminded me of the fragile and unpredictable nature of our lives. I sure hope you each are as fully engaged as we are in enjoying, and finding joy, in what you are doing and pursuing.
I was re-reading recently something written by Rick Warren, a pastor in California and author of the super best seller “Purpose Driven Life”. This book has had phenomenal international success with more than 25 million copies sold (I hope you ALL have read it!). I think it is still the number one best selling non-fiction book of all time other than the Bible. It would seem God was and is at work! Rick was provided amazing and unexpected “wealth” as a result. This is much like some of us who achieve (beyond our expectations and initial hopes) financial success in this life…and then need to “survive” the prosperity with our values and priorities intact.
Additionally, his wife Kay was diagnosed with breast cancer, and this awakened another set of emotions, and tested their faith as often life does. I thought I would include the following interview with Rick in my comments this week. When we are faced with the unknowns and losses of life, we can gain strength from these perspectives from God’s Word and Rick’s heart.
In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:
“People ask me, What is the purpose of life?
And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not
made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body– but
not the end of me.
I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of
years in eternity. This is the warm-up act – the dress rehearsal. God wants
us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t
going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming
out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one.
The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than
your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in
making your life happy.
We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life.
The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.
This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest,
with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.
I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark
time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that
Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like
two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and
something bad in your life..
No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad
that needs to be worked on.
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something
good you can thank God for.
You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:
If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is
my problem, my issues, my pain.’ But one of the easiest ways to get rid of
pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands
of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has
been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character,
given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn
her closer to Him and to people.
You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.
Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance,
this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it
made me instantly very wealthy.
It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before.
I don’t think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you
to live a life of ease.
So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and
influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to
do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.
First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our
lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases.
Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the
Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to
plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and
educate the next generation.
Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I
started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to
serve God for free.
We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?
Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am
I going to be driven by God’s purposes (for my life)?
When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I
don’t get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You
better. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more
interested in what I am than what I do.
That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings.
Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.”
As I have said many times throughout this chapter of my life, God is interested in the heart, in our character, in our obedience to His will and plan for us, in us following/accepting His son, and becoming more Christ-like as we “work out our salvation”. He often allows great prosperity (but sometimes, not), and offers us a life that is “more abundant”..even when there is loss, heartaches and suffering along the way. This is part of His mystery right? But we do always have Him with us in the storms and there are, as Rick Warren said, always “two rails”…some good and some “bad”….we can still be joy-filed and at peace and we can praise Him in all things. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems.
I am saddened by the losses I have mentioned this week, and by the many that I do not know of in each of your lives, but I am also blessed to have such a richness of relationships as I do with you all….and to have been given some additional time to stay here and see what we can do together…you, me, and our Lord. My surgery was “successful”!! Praise God indeed. My recovery is underway; my future is in His hands (as it always was)…..now it is up to me (and each of us) to seek his righteousness, and let all the other things be added.
I hope this Easter was meaningful to you, and that some of you looked deeper into your faith and your expectations of life (this one, and the one to come). I will continue to chat with you while God continues chatting with me through this recovery stage. I hope to see many of you soon somewhere.