Raising the Bar in Our Lives

By Evan Bartholomew.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV).

Madison, a child in our church, tries to climb across a set of monkey bars. (photo by Chris Directo)

For many of us, memories of the day we got baptized still play vividly in our minds. It was the day our lives were radically changed, the day we began a new life, and the day we were no longer going to let the devil win. We were filled with so much excitement and so much anticipation for what new things the Lord would bring. As it says in scripture:

“Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17 NIV.

We had so many dreams and visions for how God could use us in powerful ways. We couldn’t help thinking about all the people we loved and cared about that we were going to help become true disciples. Yet, very much like Paul, who immediately preached the word after baptism and then was lowered in a basket through an opening in a wall to avoid the angry crowds (Acts 9:25), we found that it would be harder and more challenging than we thought.

For many of us, those dreams, that high bar of expectation we had set for ourselves dropped down a notch. Then, feeling relief from the “discomfort” of being totally committed, we dropped it once more. By the time we were finished, we had forsaken our first love, we had abandoned our dreams and high expectations for ourselves, and just like the church in Ephesus, we had forgotten the height at which the bar was once set. We even ceased to be aware of the “height from which we had fallen.” Spiritual amnesia had set in. But thanks be to God who gives us a chance to rekindle our dreams.

What are your dreams? What are your visions? Are they even bigger and greater than the day you were first baptized?

It is so sad to see that there are so many disciples who have lost their dreams. Some who had once given their whole hearts, and were so excited, and full of zeal, and now, they are afraid to give their hearts, and afraid to dream again. Has the bar been lowered in your life?

For myself, growing up in Hawaii all of my life, one of my many dreams is to see all of the Hawaiian Islands evangelized, and with healthy, vibrant churches full of sold-out disciples. Hawaii is truly blessed as, in just a few weeks, a small mission team from the City of Angels International Christian Church in LA is being sent to Honolulu to help restructure and build the Honolulu International Christian Church. I am so excited that my dream of evangelizing the Islands of Hawaii is just one step closer to happening.

Secondly, since becoming a disciple in 2001, I have always felt a strong desire for God to use my life exclusively for his purposes. I wasn’t sure what that meant, or how God would use me. In September of 2007, I was asked to lead the Hilo church. Ironically, like a lot of us when the bar is raised in our lives, I started to think of all the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t lead the church. Kelly and I were building a house, I was working at a full-time job, and Kelly was also working at a part-time job. We found out that we would not be able to switch our jobs while we were building the house because we would not be able to refinance the house when completed. However, through prayer, we took the challenge. It took us seven more months to finish the house, and one month to get the financing, and just last week I was given a full-time position with the church. I am so incredibly grateful to God, and for all the disciples who sacrificed to allow this dream of mine to come true.

One of my favorite quotes:

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Robert F. Kennedy.

Why can’t we set that bar high? Why can’t we dream big? It has been said that “little dreams get little results” and that “if you aim for nothing you will hit it every time.” I dare each and every one of us to start dreaming once again for the Lord. To return to your first love, and set that bar high in your life.