Simplify: Ten Practices To Unclutter Your Soul

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels

My wife put me on to this one after hearing Hybels interviewed on Moody Radio one day and I’m glad she did. It’s an enjoyable read, with lots of anecdotes, outlining ten practical ways to unclutter your soul.

Most helpful chapters for me were chapter one on sustainable energy levels, chapter two on scheduling, and chapter seven on friendships, the latter being my favorite and the area I’d like to work on most.

If you read it all in one sitting (as I did) then you’ll probably feel a bit overwhelmed and your mind will be more cluttered than ever. Probably better to read a chapter, think about it, discuss it with your husband/wife/friend, and try to implement one or two action items per chapter. Then go on to the next one, maybe a couple of weeks later.

My Favorite Quotes

On God’s Call
Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created.

On Energy Levels
If you choose to live with more energy reserves in your life, you will without a doubt disappoint some people. Trust me, you have to fight to keep your life replenished. No one else can keep your tank full. It’s up to you to protect your energy reserves and priorities.

Of all the leaders I’ve had the opportunity to meet—from CEOs to nonprofit execs to politicians to church leaders—guess which type is most likely to have a problem with being overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted? Senior pastors!

If you look at what’s underneath the skyrocketing use of pornography these days, a lot of it is connected to depletion, isolation, and exhaustion.

Spending time with God each day is the antidote to one energy-killer in particular: image management

Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.

On Scheduling
My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become. Let me repeat: My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

How would you spend your time if God were in charge of it?”

I’m of the opinion that the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendars is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake.

On Friendship
By evaluating, pruning, expanding, bordering, and deepening your relationships, you can maximize the energy and joy they bring to your newly simplified life.

If I were to wrestle friendship in all its complexities down to just a few short words, I would define it like this: to know and be known.

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels.

Triple Your Beauty Intake

The Apostle Paul commands us to think upon whatever is beautiful, lovely, and praiseworthy in order to enjoy the peace of God which passes understanding (Phil. 4:7-9).

But in a day when many of us live among steel and concrete boxes of varying sizes and shapes, it’s often very difficult to locate beauty in our immediate surroundings. At best our eyes feast on the mundane and the monotonous, at worst on decay and brokenness. Our noses are blocked with dust and grime, our ears are assailed with traffic and jackhammers, and our taste buds are dulled with mass-produced junk food.

We need to get out of the city, see the stunning mountains, savor the fragrance of the forest, taste the thrill of fresh and healthy produce, and listen to the exquisite bird songs.

Or if that’s too difficult, then get a BBC documentary like Planet Earth or Deep Sea. Travel our beautiful world, and plunge into our magnificent oceans from the comfort of your favorite armchair. Find ways to increase your intake of beauty through your various senses.

Let me help get you started with this stunning film of Danny Macaskill cycling the Cullin Ridgeline in the Isle of Skye. It brought back a lot of memories for me as I started in the ministry in these same Western Highlands in similar stunning scenery.

But it’s not just the beautiful scenery, it’s also the beautiful camerawork, and even the beautiful cycling skill, surely an incredible example of having dominion over the earth and subduing it. Feast your eyes…and your soul.

Love Japan

I don’t know if any of my regular readers live in Japan, but maybe you know someone there or perhaps you might find yourself in the area next weekend. If so, here’s a conference that you should know about.

From October 11-13, our Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ are coming together for a three-day conference held simultaneously in three of Japan’s most influential cities: Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.

They will be joined and encouraged by keynote speakers John Piper and D.A. Carson, as well as other Christian leaders from Japan, South Korea, and China.  The conference serves to celebrate and proclaim the glorious love of God as well as to equip Christian leaders in the area to continue their Gospel missions in a notably difficult mission field.

Registration ends on Monday, 10/6.  Join me in praying for our friends in Asia as they come together to love Japan.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit the Love Japan website at  or see the following articles about Japan, including an interview with Love Japan’s conference leader, Michael Oh.

Signs of Spiritual Awakening in Japan

Love Japan Conference: An Interview with Michael Oh

And here’s one written by Nathan Eshelman at Gentle Reformation: The “Go En” and the Land of the Rising Son.

Check Out

Best Books

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung ($0.99)

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester ($0.99)

Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley ($2.99)

Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America by Anthony B. Bradley ($0.99)

A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering by Michael S. Horton ($0.99)

Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George ($2.99)

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile ($0.99)

Why Business Matters to God: (And What Still Needs to Be Fixed) by Jeff Van Duzer ($2.99)

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken ($0.99)

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson ($8.49)

Best Blogs

How to Get Things Done: Productivity Catechism | Tim Challies

How to Get Things Done: Define Your Areas of Responsibility | Tim Challies

What It Takes to Survive and Thrive in Ministry | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

The 3 Things I Miss Most About Pastoral Ministry | TGC

What are ten characteristics I look for in an aspiring pastor?  Practical Shepherding

1 in 4 Pastors Have Struggled with Mental Illness, Finds LifeWay and Focus on the Family | Gleanings |

What Our Pastoral Interns Read | TGC

Twelve Benefits of Team Leadership

Was Jesus a Law Hater? A Law Corrector?

Making Gay Okay | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Coercing a Christian couple to host a gay wedding | Denny Burk

How the News Makes Us Dumb | TGC

3 Ways to Love Negative Nancy

3 Dozen Quotes of Note from Gospel-Centered Counseling

Helping People with a Difficult Financial Past | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

Suicide Awareness: Answers About Teen Suicide & Depression | Yellowbrick

6 Steps to Wise Decision Making About Psychotropic Medications | Brad Hambrick

Why a leading professor of new media just banned technology use in class – The Washington Post

Best Videos

Why is Jesus’ Genealogy Different in Matthew and Luke?

How to Read the New Testament in Greek

Only Two Religions: A Google Hangout with Peter Jones

SPARKED – A Live Interaction Between Humans and Quadcopters

Beautiful Scotland

The Incredible Power of Concentration

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Obamacare Architect Wants Us To Die Age 75

In Why I Hope To Die At 75 Ezekiel Emmanuel, one of the primary architects of Obamacare, argues that we, our families, and society would be better off if we all died about age 75.

Needless to say (and thankfully), his family don’t share with his desire and have pointed him to numerous people aged 75 and older who are doing quite well. They think that when he gets nearer 75, he’ll push the desired age back to 80, then 85, and so on. But Emmanuel’s not budging. “I’m sure of my position, ” he insists.

He accepts that death produces loss.

Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But he says that “living too long is also a loss.”

It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

Reassuringly, he’s not planning suicide 18 years from now, nor does he support euthanasia. He just wishes that when he reaches 75 his life would end. He’s already planning his own memorial service to be held before he dies, along the usual lines of many modern funerals: no crying, lots of funny stories, a celebration of life, and so on.

The American Immortal

Throughout the article, Emmanuel contrasts himself with “the American immortal.” He writes:

Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.

If I had to choose between Emmanuel’s “75-and-no-more model” and the “American immortal” model I think I’d go with the former. Because, while there’s something bizarre about Emmanuel’s desire, in some ways it’s more realistic than the “I’m going to live forever” mentality that never really faces up to personal mortality and the need to prepare for the end of life.

A Modern Problem

Large proportions of the population living into their seventies and eighties is, of course, a relatively recent “problem.” In 1900, the life expectancy of an average American was 47; it took until the 1930′s to reach 60; and today a newborn can expect to live an average of about 79 years (76 for men and 81 for women).

Emmanuel recognizes that on the whole this has been a wonderful blessing to society, to families, and to individuals. The increased productivity has also been the main factor in driving the economic boom of the last 65 years.

As Christians, we thank God for His common grace that has produced the knowledge, medicines, environment, and technology that has not only lengthened so many lives, but also improved their quality. But there’s still much for the church to do in adapting to this new reality of so many living so long and how to minister better this increasingly large group of people.

A Confirmation of the Bible

Emmanuel cites oodles of statistics to prove his argument that living past 75 produces more loss than gain. Apart from the obvious physical losses, there are huge mental, social, and productivity losses that impose burdens on others. The Bible agrees with Emmanuel’s observations, although it sets the “turning point” at 70:

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Ps. 90:10).

But the Bible disagrees with Emmanuel’s conclusion: die healthy. We are to submit to God’s timetable, and we’re to do so with the faith that every single day God gives us has a purpose and a meaning, even when every sense in our bodies may be saying, “My life is pointless and worthless.” No, we are to glorify God in our weakness, demonstrate that we trust Him in sickness and health, in old age and youth, when weak and when strong, and so on.

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand (Ps. 31:14-15).

The Best Memory

Unlike Emmanuel who expresses the wish to be remembered by his children and grandchildren as “active, vigorous, engaged, animated, astute, enthusiastic, funny, warm, loving” and “not stooped and sluggish, forgetful and repetitive,” Christians want to be remembered for their faith in Christ whatever their physical or mental abilities.

Emmanuel wants to be “remembered as independent, not experienced as a burden.” Christians want to be remembered as dependent on God and casting all their burdens upon Him. 

Emmanuel says that leaving our family “with memories framed not by our vivacity but by our frailty is the ultimate tragedy.” No, no, no! The ultimate tragedy is to leave our family without the example of a Christ-like life and without a well-grounded hope for our eternal life.

I’m sure many of us remember with fondness the beautiful example of a godly grandfather or grandmother who despite physical and mental weakness demonstrated strong and steady faith in the face of years of sickness and eventually death. The memory is not of an ultimate tragedy but of an ultimate triumph.

If Emmanuel would come to know the One who bore his own name 2000 years ago, he’d be able to face his days of aging, weakness, illness, and death with a hope-filled spirit, knowing God was with him.

One Advantage

I do agree with Emmanuel that having a set age to die might focus the mind better on spiritual and eternal realities. As he said:

75 defines a clear point in time: for me, 2032. It removes the fuzziness of trying to live as long as possible. Its specificity forces us to think about the end of our lives and engage with the deepest existential questions and ponder what we want to leave our children and grandchildren, our community, our fellow Americans, the world.

The Bible, though, calls us to consider existential questions not in our latter years but in our earliest years. We are to seek Christ and His salvation in our childhood and youth. And when we find Him it transforms our life and our death. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Where’s the loss there? However long we live, there’s gain. And whenever we die, there’s gain.

That’s Christcare, not Obamacare.

Acute Mental Illness: What Can the Church Do?

Here are some further statistics from the Lifeway/Focus on the Family Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith I started summarizing last week. I hope to offer some commentary on these stats in the coming week, but have a read of them and maybe use them to start a discussion in your church or small fellowship group.

Pastor’s Experience with Acute Mental Illness

  • Most pastors indicate they personally know one or more people who have been diagnosed with clinical depression (74%), bipolar disorder (76%), and (45%)
  • 59% of pastors have counseled one or more people who were eventually diagnosed with an acute mental illness
  • 22% of pastors agree that they are reluctant to get involved with those with acute mental illness because previous experiences strained time and resources
  • 38% of pastors strongly agree they feel equipped to identify a person dealing with acute mental illness that may require a referral to a medical professional
  • The most frequently used learning resources for pastors have been reading books on counseling (66%) and personal experience with friends or family members (60%).
  • 23% of pastors indicate they have personally struggled with mental illness of some kind

How Well Churches Are Caring for those with Acute Mental Illness

  • The response of people in church to individuals’ mental illness caused 18% to break ties with a church and 5% to fail to find a church to attend
  • 17% of family members in a household of someone with acute mental illness say their family member’s mental illness impacted which church their family chose to attend
  • 53% of individuals with acute mental illness say their church has been supportive
  • Among individuals with acute mental illness who attended church regularly as an adult 67% say their church has been supportive
  • 75% of family members in a household of someone with acute mental illness say their church has been supportive
  • 39% of individuals with acute mental illness agree that their local church has specifically helped them think through and live out their faith in the context of their mental illness
  • Among individuals with acute mental illness who attended church regularly as an adult 57% agree that their local church has specifically helped them think through and live out their faith in the context of their mental illness.

Church’s Role in Caring for Acute Mental Illness

  • 56% of pastors, 46% of family members in a household of someone with acute mental illness, and 39% of individuals with acute mental illness strongly agree that local churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support to individuals with mental illness and their families
  • Top areas local churches should assist individuals with acute mental illness: 69% of individuals with acute mental illness indicate churches should help families find local resources for support
  • 68% of pastors but only 28% of family members in a household of someone with acute mental illness indicate their church provides care for the mentally ill or their families by maintaining lists of experts to refer people to
  • 65% of family members in a household of someone with acute mental illness believe local churches should do more in talking about mental illness openly so that the topic is not so taboo
  • 49% of pastors rarely or never speak to their church in sermons or large group messages about acute mental illness
  • 70% of individuals with acute mental illness would prefer to have relationships with people in a local church through individuals who get to know them as a friend

You can access the full report hereFocus on the Family have set up a helpful website with many resources to equip pastors and the church to better serve Christians who suffer in this way.