Magnificent Obsession

By Danny Lehmann

"One thing I have desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of Lord all the days of my life." Psalm 27:4

"…make my joy complete…being intent on one purpose." Philippians 2:2

"…but this one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13,14

Webster defines obsession as an "excessive preoccupation with a fixed idea". In the 90’s the term obsession has taken on rather negative connotations with images of people constantly washing their hands, taking five or six showers a day or becoming obsessed with not stepping on the cracks on a concrete sidewalk, such as Jack Nicholson’s character in "As Good As It Gets". Books have been written on obsessive compulsive behavior and various disorders that stem from some type of neurosis in our minds.

I would like to suggest, however, that there is a "magnificent obsession" that we can become preoccupied with and that is not only positive but healthy. The idea that as believers, and especially missionaries, our minds must be disciplined and kept focused.

Recently when I was stuck on the Western side of Viti Levu in Fiji through the flood I was forced to buckle down by myself for about three days waiting for my plane to fly me to New Zealand and then back to Honolulu. The time proved profitable as I was able to re-evaluate my goals form 1998 and look forward to some goals for 1999. While being aware of the danger of slipping into obsessive compulsive behavior in this area I have been increasingly finding more liberty, joy and spiritual rest in setting fixed goals and trying to keep my mind focused on those goals. Although in 1997 I only accomplished 57% of my goals, in ’98 I was delighted to say that it went up to 63%. The reason the percentages are so low is because I have a tendency to set my goals to high! Nonetheless I was encouraged as I felt God gave me a plan for 1999.

Being a preacher and I am quite obsessed with various types of acronyms and mnemonics for helping people to remember my messages, I broke my life down into ten sections, all beginning with the letter "P".

1.Piety – Simply the state of my spiritual journey as I walk with Jesus. Usually broken up into 4 areas. – Holiness – Humility – Hunger – Spiritual Health
2.Personal – This has to do with me as a person. My personal growth, areas such as improving my memory, trying to deal with the procrastination that has been a vice in my life for a few years and improving in my computer skills.
3.Physical – I have further broken this down into the acronym, NEWS. N = Nutrition E = Exercise W = Weight S = Sabbath/Sleep My body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, it is crucial that I take care of my physical body and this concern increases as I grow older!
4.Posterity – This refers to my family and my responsibility to spend time with and minister to my family as the leader of my home.
5.Preaching – This has to do with my ministry activities in the area of preaching and teaching. It also has to do with spiritual input into my life through study, prayer, development of my communication skills and praying for anointing, etc. on my preaching ministry.
6.Personal Evangelism – This has to do with (apart from preaching) my personal one on one contact with non believers, whether meeting them on airplanes or on my forays of street evangelism which I still attempt to do on a regular basis.
7.Production – This has to do with ministry materials that I produce, be it books, tapes, tracts or articles like this one.
8.Position – this has to do with my position of leadership in both YWAM and Calvary Chapel, in which I pray for the wisdom of Solomon to guide me in leadership decisions and that I may be a good example to those under my charge.
9.Pioneering – This has to do with the influence that I have on others toward missionary work, whether it be recruiting for missions, raising money, or awareness of missions.
10.Provision – This has to do with my responsibility to provide for my family not only the spiritual needs but the financial needs as well.

As I sat in Fiji pondering these concerns I felt a great excitement as I set goals for ’99. Trying to keep the goals realistic I nonetheless set them as measurable, definable objectives to be reached during the year. Below is a five-step paradigm that I have always used (Maybe I am obsessed with "P’s"!!!) that have helped me keep a philosophical perspective on why I am pursuing my goals. - - - What you actually do - - - First things first - - - Short-term goals - - - Long-term objectives - - - Core values

For instance in the area of Piety I set, Bible reading, memorization and prayer and fasting goals for the year. In the area of Posterity I set goals such as having a weekly date with Linda and praying and reading the word with David every night. In the Physical I have time goals on my yearly marathon as well as a goal to lose a certain amount of weight (most of which I gained over the Christmas holidays, having also been plagued with an injury so that I couldn’t exercise). In Personal Evangelism I’ve set a goal to win one person to Christ personally and disciple that person into spiritual growth in a local church. In Production I am planning on writing another book on evangelism as well as getting some of my books translated into various languages. Just this week I am sending off $1,000.00 (which came under the area of Provision) to India to translate my "Stoked" book into the Marathi language. "Before You Hit the Wall" will be going into Bengali and other translations are on line. In the area of Provision I am planning on trying to replace a few of the walls in our house which are infested with termites.

Although Linda has warned me these "pre-occupations" come across at times quite obsessive. I still believe that it is worth the risk as we seek to obey the Lord’s commands and to keep our mind focused on the Lord as in the Scriptures above. Beethoven was once asked as an old man who has gone blind how he was able to keep his focus and continue to write beautiful music. He replied, "I grabbed my life by the throat and refused to be defeated." In pondering my musings here in this letter I would encourage you to, as D. L. Moody once advised, "Eat the fish and spit out the bones." Apply the concept of "Grabbing your life by the throat" to whatever degree you deem to be appropriate. Some of my obsessions I’m sure have come out of a mid life desire to redeem as much as possible of the 86,400 seconds God has given me everyday in which to live my life. But I’m sure some of it has been inspired by the Holy Spirit that I might redeem the time and use this body God has given me as a living sacrifice to serve Him that much more effectively. May the Lord Bless us all in our magnificent obsession to know God and to make Him known to the nations of the world.

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