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Changing Direction for an Intentional Future

with Bob Buford | January 22, 2009

His mid-40’s brought unrest for Bob Buford—until he radically changed his life’s direction. Listen as Bob shares his journey from building his business to the emptiness that success and achievement brought—and finally, to his decision to change his personal and spiritual goals with a new life purpose in mind.

His mid-40’s brought unrest for Bob Buford—until he radically changed his life’s direction. Listen as Bob shares his journey from building his business to the emptiness that success and achievement brought—and finally, to his decision to change his personal and spiritual goals with a new life purpose in mind.

Changing Direction for an Intentional Future

With Bob Buford
|
January 22, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob Buford: I think everybody is going to face a final exam when we really get to the end, and I think there are going to be two questions – the first question is what did you do about Jesus, did you buy in or walk on down the road?  And the second question is what did you do with what I gave you to work with – not what I gave Billy Graham to work with or Mother Theresa to work with, but just you individually?

Bob Lepine: And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  Before we dive into what we want to talk about today, this is Day Number 18 in our 40-day Love Dare.  We're almost at the halfway point between the first of the year and Valentine's Day.  We thought it would be a good idea to go through the 40-day Love Dare that was featured in the movie, "Fireproof" that was out in theaters last fall, and it's going to be out on DVD later this month. 

And so each day we are taking the assignment that comes from the bestselling book, "The Love Dare," which, by the way, we have available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, if you'd like to get a copy of the book to either catch up or follow along or dive into your own Love Dare.  Just go to FamilyLifeToday.com and you can order a copy of the book from us online.

Day 18 – the verse is Proverbs 3:13, which says, "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding."  If we're going to really love one another in marriage, we have to seek to understand our spouse.

So your dare for today, your assignment, is to prepare a special dinner at home for just the two of you.  It doesn't have to be tonight if that doesn't work in your schedule, but sometime in the next seven days prepare a special dinner for just the two of you.  It can be as nice or as simple as you prefer.  You want the focus of this time to be on getting to know your spouse better and perhaps talking about some areas that you rarely talk about.

If you need some help with that, get a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey's book, "Moments With You," because there are great topics every day in the daily devotional guide that you and your wife, Barbara, have written, which, by the way, we are making available to listeners this month if you make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. 

But – back to the assignment.  You need to plan the dinner and determine to make the evening as enjoyable as possible for both you and your spouse.  So that's your assignment and, again, we have posted the assignment on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can also contact us if you're interested in getting a copy of the book, "The Love Dare" from us.  That's available in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.

Now, you are pretty excited about what we're going to talk about today, aren't you?

Dennis: I am.  We have a friend who was one of our first guests on FamilyLifeToday, going back more than a dozen years ago.  Bob Buford joins us on the broadcast.  Bob, I'd like to welcome you back.

Bob Buford: I couldn't be more pleased to be here.

Dennis: Many of our listeners know of Bob through his book, "Halftime."  He is the founder and chairman of the board of Leadership Network.  He is also the founder of the Peter Drucker Foundation, which is now called Leader-to-Leader Institute.  He and his wife, Linda, live in Dallas, and I'm embarrassed to say, Bob, I don't know how many years you've been married, but I'm guessing it has to be 45?

Bob Buford:  Forty-six.

Dennis: I missed, but I was close.

Bob Buford: Forty-six – I just had a conversation with  on our anniversary we went out to dinner, and I asked the waitress to guess how long we'd been married.  She guessed 20, and I said, "Why did you guess that?"  And she said, "It's because you're still talking to one another."

[laughter]

Dennis: Well, what I want to talk about with you, Bob, because you have invested your life, over the past – well, I guess, 14, 15 years around this theme of halftime and engaging men and women around finding the sweet spot of their lives; how they can best be involved in God's work and His Kingdom work. 

I want to pull you all the way back to the beginning – just how you even stumbled onto this in the first place.  You compare life to like a football game, and I just want to know – how did you come up with that idea of a first half, a halftime, and then a second half?

Bob Buford: Well, I knew something was changing dramatically in my life in my mid-40s – actually, before that.  My story was, in the first half of life, just like most of us, I had this intense kind of warrior season where I was building a company and building a family and raising a son – the most unforgiving and demanding kind of occupation one could have.  And a lady came into my office one day where I was general manager of a television station, and said, "You're a frightening person."  She said, "You are so intensely committed to driving this business and growing it that you're just frightening."

I had a little moment of silence, went aside and asked, I guess, the Holy Spirit "Does that sound accurate?"  And it sounded real accurate.  So I asked myself two questions – one was "What are you going to lose that's really important to you in all this concentration on success and achievement and focused, almost target-locked activity, I mean, almost like a fighter plane chasing another plane trying to get in the target zone.

Dennis: You were a Type A personality?

Bob Buford:  I was a warrior, and to do that you need to be strapped real tight in the seat, and you need to keep your attention on what you're doing.  And the second question I asked was, I asked Steven Covey's question, which is if you were to begin with the end in mind, what would be the elements of that life?

And this was at age 34, and I went aside, sat down and wrote down in a Daytimer – that I still have – two family goals, two money goals, and two personal goals.  The two personal goals were to serve God by serving others.  I'd been a Bible teacher for years, and I might not know much, but the whole New Testament says that when you grow up, you're supposed to go serve other people to glorify God in that way – that I knew.  I didn't quite know what it was going to be, but I knew that's what it was going to be.  The second personal goal was to be a lifelong learner, and I'm still awfully curious about a lot of things. 

The family goals were to stay married to the same person I married in the first place, and to still be in love with that woman and for it to be rich and robust at, really, all the levels that a marriage could be.  And I have been married 46 years, and I am more in love with my wife than I had any sense to be when I was 22 years old when we got married.

Bob Lepine: And you're still talking to her, right?

Bob Buford: And I'm still talking to her, just like that waitress said, she – the next one was for my son to grow up with a high self-esteem, which I thought would equip him better than any other single thing to get on in life, and that had a lot to do with his view of the Kingdom, his view of himself.  Every night after we'd read a Bible story, he used to say, "Lord, I look forward to seeing what you've prepared for me." 

As anybody knows who read "Halftime," I lost my son at age 24, and he is now doing what God prepared for him.

So there was that, and then I had two money goals.  I wanted to grow my company at 10 percent or at least that's what I wrote down.  I actually meant a lot higher than that, but it seemed almost obscene to write it on a piece of paper.  And if I did that, I'd come up with a certain net worth toward the end of my life. 

And then the last question was, "Well, if you're fortunate enough to make that much money" and, you know, you compound anything, and after a while it's a million here, a million there, and it turns out to be real money, and I said, "What am I going to do with that money?"  And I resolved to reinvest it in the work of God's Kingdom in my lifetime.

Bob Lepine: Those are pretty – how should I say it – pretty mature goals for a 34-year-old.  Most of the 34-year-olds I know today haven't thought through life at that level.  Why had you?

Bob Buford: It just made sense.  It's the way I'm wired.  The verse that really rings in my life right now is Ephesians 2:10.  We all know Ephesians 2:8-9 that we're saved by faith and not by works so that none of us could be prideful or boastful about it.  But most people don't go on to 2:10 that says, "We are saved for a group of good works" and the right translation says that we are prepared beforehand.  In other words, this is something that's designed before our birth that's a life task for us to do.  And I really felt that way.  There was something for me to do – kind of like a spiritual DNA that's just like the DNA that makes us male or female or black or white, and I wanted to live into that destiny.

Bob Lepine: So when this employee of yours came and said "You're a frightening person."  You called a timeout, looked at those goals in your Daytimer, and that's when you said "I need to make some adjustments?"

Bob Buford: Yes, and I – I didn't want to succeed in the one thing and lose the other five.  A small example is for the past seven years, I've employed the director of the Dallas Institute for Humanities, who is a believer and a wonderful literature professor, to take me through all the literature I missed while I was chasing girls and playing football in high school.  I heard all those things about Shakespeare in the first place, I just was busy watching something else, I guess, at that time.

Dennis: Right.

Bob Buford: He assigned me a play or a work or a short story or a piece of a novel every two weeks.  I'd read it and make notes, and he comes to my office, and we discuss it for two hours.  That's pretty compulsive about that goal, and I'm equally compulsive about all the other goals.

Dennis: One of the things, Bob, that you've written about in your book that I found particularly stimulating was you said, "I began to think about what I would do about what I believed."  Now, I really like that statement because I think a lot of people never get around to deciding what they're going to do based upon what their system of beliefs are about God and about life and about what the Scriptures say and Jesus Christ claims upon their lives and their existence.  But you did.  Was it a halftime experience at 34?

Bob Buford: No, it was – I was given the gift of faith as a child, and I really received Jesus as a child and didn't have all these wrestling matches wondering who God was and what He was like. 

But the second question is what are you going to do with what I gave you to work with – not what I gave Billy Graham to work with or Mother Theresa to work with but just you individually in your lifetime?

Bob Lepine: Well, that's the parable of the talents, isn't it?

Bob Buford:  Exactly.

Bob Lepine: The taskmaster gives five talents to one person and three to another and one to the third.  The last guy buries his, and he gets in trouble, the other two invest it, and they are rewarded by the Father.

Bob Buford: And they double what was given them, and I've always wished I'd known what the period was there, because you could figure out the compound return on invested capital.  But that's not in the parable.

Bob Lepine: This is the Type A in you wanting to know if you're beating the averages.

[laughter]

Bob Buford: Well, the other parable that's been the significant parable in my life is the parable of the sower, the seed, of course, being Christ, and it falls on four different kinds of soil – hard soil where it doesn't penetrate; rocky soil where it takes root among 200 other things that you've got on your mind.  The place where I think most contemporary Americans are is the thorny soil where it says the word that is Christ, or the seed that's Christ, has taken root, but it's kind of a pygmy plant, and why is that so?  Because it's choked by the cares and concerns of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches.

And Jesus uses one word almost every time He talks about money, and the word is "deceitful," and that word – Ray Stedman once told me that that word was, if you look it up, that money appears to do something that it really doesn't deliver on.  It appears to make you bulletproof; it makes you independent of God and independent of others and gives you a great feeling of self-sufficiency, and that's not accurate, either.

And Jesus goes on to say that the good soil is the broken soil, the broken and contrite, I believe the Old Testament has it, and that that seed grows thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold.  That's caused me to believe that every human being listening to this message today has the capacity, if they are but open to it, and I think availability is what God wants, and I think everybody has the capacity to multiply thirtyfold, sixtyfold, hundredfold.  Of those three, I am drawn to 100.

Dennis: What does a hundredfold look like for you, Bob?  Do you know?

Bob Buford: It looks like – I'll tell you an interesting story.  When I sold my company at age 60 – I mean that gets way ahead of the story – I put most of the money in a foundation.  This was on July 28, 1999, at 9:38 in the morning, which was the timestamp on the wire transfer.  I had mountains of money, and they had my company, and that was an irreversible fact.  At that time, I decided to make some more money where I'd have more money to invest for God's Kingdom. 

The markets promptly reversed in 2000.  I lost 20 percent of the money that I had planned to put into Kingdom things.  I sat down and had a little prayer time with my Lord, and I said, "I don't think I got this right.  So help me out here" and here is what I heard, as they say, not in an audible voice, but I'm – anyway, here is the answer I felt like I got – that God said "Would you please just keep the money safe and let me make the return?"  And I did that.  I basically indexed and allocated everything – just – you know, I wasn't trying to beat the market or do anything like that, and the returns I've seen that come from my investing myself, my time, talent, and treasure in the Kingdom are so much more profound than the returns that are available in financial instruments.  It's just astonishing.  There really are hundredfold returns.  You don't get that kind of return in Wall Street.

Dennis: Give us an idea of what one looks like.

Bob Buford:  Well, Leadership Network has this mission – we look for the innovations that are going to move churches ahead in kind of a quantum way.  In other words, we'll jump the curve.  We employ, someone defined, the very best people working in that field.  We get them together, they agree to be together four times across two years and teach one another what they're doing.

One of the groups is called Externally Focused Churches.  There are 60 churches in that group.  They have now gotten together, you know, for two years each, and in that two-year period, the 60 churches have increased the number of volunteer service hours for people from their congregations outside the four walls of the church not inside – in the community by three-quarters of a million hours.

Dennis: Wow.

Bob Buford: Every time I think of me going down and spending my one hour at the soup kitchen or some odd – versus the multiplication in that activity, I mean, it's way more than 100, and they taught one another how to do it.  One of the things I'd say all the time is "the fruit of my work grows up on other people's trees."  It doesn't multiply through me.  I doubt that anybody knows in those congregations or, particularly, in those blighted neighborhoods where those people work and serve others in God's name, anybody knows that I exist and there is no particular reason they should.

Dennis: And yet you helped create the forum or the dialog and the discussion among those 60 churches that ultimately caused a collaborative effort to reach out into the community.

Bob Buford: Exactly.  We had another group who met across a period of six years, started 3,000 new churches; 1,500 in the United States and 1,500 outside the United States, and put on 1,400 teaching conferences for other churches.  I mean, think of the multiplier on that.  So it's way beyond 100, and I would submit that you can't get those kinds of returns any other way than in God's Kingdom.  It's remarkable. 

Dennis: Yeah, you know what I appreciate about what you're saying, Bob, is it's a heart that desires to give, and I think within the Christian community, Bob, you and I have talked about this many times off-microphone, that if there is a quality within the Christian community that needs to grow, it's the idea of giving and having a mindset to invest in Kingdom work – not just what we're doing here, but lots of different efforts that are being deployed not only here in the United States but around the world.

Bob Lepine: Yeah, you're talking about somebody having, as a priority for their life, the Kingdom.   I mean, I think of Matthew 6:33 where we are to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."  It's really determining why we're here, what's important in life, and then focusing our lives around that which, as we've said, doesn't mean that you necessarily make a jump out of the business world and into some other world, but it means that you approach everything in life with a perspective that says, "How does this – how does what I'm doing advance the work of the Kingdom?"

That's what's at the heart of the book, "Halftime," that our guest today, Bob Buford, has written that we have in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and more than half a million copies of this book have been sold throughout the world as a lot of people have resonated with what you're talking about.

Again, we have the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can to go our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, the information is available right there on how you can order a copy of the book, have it send to you.  I might mention that we're also highlighting the book that your wife, Barbara, helped write called "Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest."  It's co-written by Susan Yates, and it's designed to help women think about – I don't know if you'd call it "halftime," but you'd talk about it as that era of life after motherhood.  I don't want to say it's over, but after the corner has been turned on the mothering years and what does a woman do to invest her life at that point?

So, again, both of these books are designed to help men and women think about spiritual priorities for your life, and you can find information about them on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call toll-free for more information about how to order copies of these books – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number.  1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Ask about the book, "Halftime" by Bob Buford or "Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest," and someone on our team can let you know how you can have either or both of these books sent out to you.

Speaking of books that your wife has helped co-write, the two of you wrote a devotional guide for couples that came out recently that we are making available this month to our listeners who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  The book is called "Moments With You," and 365-day devotional designed for couples to read through together.  There is a discussion question on each day, and a suggested prayer topic, and the whole goal of the book is to help you draw closer to one another in marriage and to help you draw closer to God in the process.

Again, we're making the book available when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  We are a listener-supported ministry, and your financial support is what keeps us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.  So if you can make a donation of any amount this month, be sure to ask for a copy of the book, "Moments With You" by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.  You can request a copy when you make a donation online by typing the word "moments" into the keycode box that you find on the donation form or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone, and just mention that you'd like a copy of the devotional guide, "Moments With You," and, of course, we are happy to send the book to you.  We do appreciate your financial support of the ministry and your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.

Now, tomorrow we're going to talk more about how we invest our lives for the Kingdom and especially how we do that in the second half of life.  Bob Buford is going to be back with us, I hope you can be back as well.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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