Release and Catch

fish goldRELEASE AND CATCH

   In the world of fishing, there’s a thing called “catch and release” in which folks catch fish and then release them back into the water. It’s also a thing in the criminal justice system where criminals are caught and then released back into society. I won’t get into whether that’s good or bad—that’s not the point here. The point is that in the spiritual realm, it works the opposite way: we’re to release things into existence from the spiritual realm and then catch them—receive them—into the natural realm to affect whatever situation or circumstances we’re praying about.

   Recently the Lord spoke to me to proclaim release of things in the spirit realm because they’ve either been delayed, tied up or because it’s simply not been their season of release. Until now. Now the Lord is saying that it’s time to release those things that we’ve been waiting for. That’s the good news. And as far as I know, there is no bad news.

What’s It Mean to “Release”?

   To release in the spiritual realm means to use the authority we’ve been given to free those things which have not, to this point, been available to us in the physical realm. However, in order to do that, we need to understand the authority that we have already been given. The key is “Christ IN us, the hope of glory.” That means that because we’re “one with Christ” as he is with the Father, we now have the same authority that he has to free those answers to prayer which have been delayed or bound up in the spiritual realm. But that’s a whole other teaching. The point is that when we exercise that authority, things break loose. And how do we do that? We make proclamations of release. We speak into the spiritual realm and command those things for which we’re praying to be released in the name of Jesus.

   There is a thing (I don’t know what else to call it) in the spiritual realm called an “ungodly delay”. What that means is that some answers to prayer or other events that the Lord wants to release are held up or bound in the spiritual realm. This is almost always a tactic used by the enemy to keep God’s will from being accomplished on the earth. Granted, not everything is an “ungodly” delay; sometimes we’re required to wait for something which is not yet in God’s timing to have appropriated. However, when the enemy can delay answers to prayer, he certainly will. Why would he not? And as long as we don’t understand the authority we have to release those delays, they will stand.

   Remember Daniel’s dilemma? He was praying and fasting for understanding regarding an earlier prophecy. However, the answer didn’t come until the 24th day when an angel appeared to him and told him that while God had heard his prayers on the first day of his fast, the angel had been delayed in getting the answer to Daniel because he had been held up by the demonic prince in charge of the stronghold over Persia. The angel said that he wasn’t able to deliver the message to Daniel until the archangel Michael arrived to help him fight his way through the opposition.

The key? Delays of any kind apart from God’s timing are released by proclamation of the Word of God in the name of Jesus Christ.

What’s It Mean to “Receive”?

   The bottom line is this: in order to “get” anything from God, we need to actively receive or accept it; it won’t be dumped on us some night when we’re asleep without  our cooperation. In other words, we can pray for something all day long, but if we don’t take the present off the shelf and open it, it stays on the shelf.

   “Receiving” is not a passive thing. Rather, it requires a deliberate response from us to take that thing which God has promised and to “receive” it—to catch it—to believe that it has been released.

But What If We Don’t See It Happen?

   We’re talking about a release in the spiritual realm which must happen before anything can be visible in the physical realm. For example, if someone is ordained by God to be released into ministry, that happens in the spiritual realm before they’re ordained on the earth. Moreover, the ministry itself won’t be full-blown immediately, it will need to be developed. That means that when we release something in the spiritual realm, then it is freed to be implemented on earth although it might take a period of time before it’s evident to us. But don’t be discouraged. The Lord wouldn’t tell us to release in the spiritual realm if it were a pointless activity.

What Do We Do While We’re Waiting for It to Happen?

   Prepare. Farmers prepare the soil before they plant. Parents prepare for the baby before it’s born. Teachers prepare lessons before they teach. People prepare for ministry before they launch it. Preparation after a proclamation of release is like watering a seed. Moreover, it demonstrates faith and God always rewards that.

   Right now, it’s time to begin to proclaim the release of that which God has for us, for our families, for our nation, and for our world.

   If not us, then who?

 

 

  

 

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Get Ready to Go Deeper.

Casting Nets

GET READY TO GO DEEPER.

   Every new year, we make resolutions, one of the most common being to ditch that thing that didn’t work out so well in the past and move on—especially if it’s something we’ve been trying to succeed at for a very long time but “crash and burn” is all we know.

   This is the same situation Peter, Jesus’ disciple, found himself in after net fishing all night in his boat and catching nothing. He was not only disappointed, he was worried. Fishing was not just a hobby—it was his livelihood, his bread and butter, the provision for his family. Just not that night. But as he dragged his net to shore, exhausted and frustrated, Jesus meets him and says,

   “’Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

   Still, Peter wasn’t so sure. “’Master,’” he says, “’we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’” But then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

   So what does that mean for us? This quick exchange between the Lord and Peter contain four extremely essential keys to the successful fulfillment of our dreams and destinies.

KEY #1: “Now Go” = Obedience.

   Notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out…’” The key here is to obey the Lord and to do it immediately. If Peter hadn’t obeyed the Lord at that moment, he would have had no provision or success. Here’s the bottom line: When God says “now,” it’s best to move. We’ll never achieve provision or success if we are not willing to obey—and to obey “now”—not later. Moreover, considering that God often saves the “now’s” until we don’t expect them, expect to be surprised by a “suddenly”. Peter didn’t see God’s directive coming but he was prepared to obey. Here’s another fact: the more we obey when we don’t see anything happening, the more prepared we’ll be to obey the moment God says, “Go!”

KEY #2: “Deeper” Means “Bigger”. 

   Sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it often means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity—to go big!  At the same time, however, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and will require more faith. However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter. And as a victory principle in the kingdom of God, it’s huge.

KEY #3: “To Let Down” Means “to Work”. 

   The Lord tells Peter, “’Let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky, but rather Peter had to work; he had to actually fish. The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to have to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to work with us—but that means we will have to work.

KEY #4: The Timing Is the Thing. 

   Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish, but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned or even ridiculed. Yet often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong. However, it really helps to remember that He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not. As the story goes, Peter’s nets became so full that they began to break. If Peter had argued that the timing didn’t make sense, then he’d have failed.

     So—even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to do—or God wouldn’t have called you to do it. But you hardly need me to tell you that. So get ready to “let down your net” again. Don’t be afraid. 2019 is the year to achieve much bigger things than you “can even think or imagine”.

   Get ready to go deeper.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Word for 2019…

Angel - FREE

A WORD FOR 2019…

   Every January, we hear the same things said about the new year: It’ll be a year of prosperity and success, bondages broken, long-awaited prayers answered, new relationships, et cetera. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that—I pray for those blessings as well. But here’s one thing we have to keep in mind no matter what happens this year, good or bad:

   Our pursuit of God and His presence has to be the priority—or none of the rest of it matters. Nor will any of it work out.

   Now I know what you’re thinking: “Been there, heard that.” But have we really heard it?

   What If You’re Not Happy?

   Have you ever had an experience where you got that thing you’d dreamed about and prayed for and waited on forever—and then it doesn’t bring the fulfillment or happiness or peace you thought it would? There’s still an emptiness deep inside, a longing you can’t explain? Sometimes even disappointment sets in (which, if not dealt with, is a dangerous thing). If so, that means one thing: we’re depending on that new opportunity or new assignment or new relationship to fulfill us. The problem is, it doesn’t work that way. The presence of God is the one thing which will give us that sweet peace and fulfillment and joy we crave. Sure, the new job or heart-throbbing relationship or bigger bank account will certainly give us some satisfaction, but those aren’t the end game. No assignment or amount of money or person can give us peace for the long term—nor are they supposed to. Rather, it’s God’s job to provide us with peace and fulfillment; however, it is our job to spend time in His presence to access it.

   Let’s be honest, shall we? It’s easy to get desperate about seeking God when we desperately need something from Him, but what about when we don’t? What about after He gives us that opportunity or prosperity or destiny we’ve been crying out for? After we get it and we’re not quite as desperate, is seeking His presence still really as much of a priority now as seeking His provision was back then? 

   “But seeking God’s presence is hard!”

   Or not. Seeking the presence of God does not have to be complicated—although we think it does. We often think it requires hours of prayer or Bible study or some other work to get God to pay attention to us or to “show up”. But guess what? God is waiting for us to show up; He’s already there.

   So where is “there”? It’s any quiet place you can find to go and sit and just be.

That’s what God means when He says, “’Be still, and know that I am God.’”  He means be still.

   He doesn’t mean we have to write a thesis or read the whole Bible in a week or pray for three hours a day (although you can if you want). It does mean we have sit down and listen. Or go to the park and listen or take a long drive and listen… simply find any place where you’re alone and quiet, and it can be just you and God. That’s all.

   And the Point Is…?

   So what’s the point of this whole little commentary? It’s simply to ensure that when your prayers are answered and your dreams do come true and you have discovered your destiny—that you’re happy. And you will be if the Lord is at the center of those things. That’s all I want for you. So here’s the Word of the Lord for 2019:

   Just. Be. Still. 

 

  

  

 

The Ghost of Christmas Present(s)

Scrooge-Marley

THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT(S)

   Imagine, on Christmas Eve, being visited by a terrifying and tormented apparition warning you that if you don’t change your ways, you’re headed for the same eternal torture that he endures. That would make your Christmas, wouldn’t it?

   This happens to old Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when his long-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, returns to haunt him. But Scrooge is not convinced regarding his warning; rather, skeptic that he is (and to change the subject), he challenges Marley as to why he’s bound in heavy chains.

   “’I wear the chain I forged in life,’ Marley says. ‘I made it link by link and yard by yard. I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it.” Marley sadly confesses that each link in that heavy chain represents a selfish or evil deed he performed while on earth—or a good deed he neglected to perform.

   Scrooge is stunned. “’But you were always such a good man of business, Jacob.’”

   “’Business!’ Marley cries. ‘Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business! The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’”

   Mankind is our business as well. And in the mass press of Christmastime when we’re up to our ears with shopping, wrapping, eating, and making merry, it’s easy to confine our concern for others to our own families and friends.

   But what if we went further? What if we gave something of ourselves to those we don’t know well or even at all? Giving is, after all, the heart of Christmas. We’ve all experienced the true joy of giving to someone and watching their face light up in delight at our gift or visit or other act of kindness. So what if we did that for total strangers? I have to tell you—it’s a ton of fun.

   There are lots of ways to surprise people with love and kindness at Christmas. I have a soft spot for people who are required to work outside in order to do their jobs—full-service gas station attendants (yes, they do exist), mail delivery people, and especially volunteers like the Salvation Army folks who ring the bells in the freezing cold. You know what’s really fun? Bringing them a hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts or McD’s. They’re so happy!

   There are all kinds of other things you can do, too. Ever have someone pay for your order in a drive-through? Sometimes that even starts a chain reaction: Someone pays for yours, then you pay for the next person, and so on (although that can drive the cashier crazy so buy her a donut). Or you could bake goodies for a nursing home, for your kids’ teachers and staff, or for policemen or firefighters. (Hint: before you do, call and ask if it’s okay to bring food. Sometimes these orgs have rules about random people bringing edibles. It’s often best to serve an organization where the people in charge know who you are.) Or you can remember those in your doctor’s/dentist’s office, your auto mechanic’s shop, or your salon.

   Another random act of kindness is to send a pizza to someone who’s working a long, lonely nightshift or to give a small token of appreciation to the frazzled store clerks who have to put up with not-so-pleasant people in the last days of the Christmas shopping rush. Maybe it’s just a candy bar that you give, but even if they don’t end up eating it, it’s just the idea that someone cared enough to take notice of them that will bless their hearts and let them know they’re appreciated. And don’t forget food banks which always need, well, food. Many grocery stores have bins where you can drop a few non-perishable items on your way out the door. Don’t think it doesn’t matter—every can and bottle adds up.

   Appreciate the folks who serve in the military? Send a holiday package to a military person and include a card saying, “Thank you for your service.” Military families serve as well so you might send them a gift card. Unfortunately, many military families don’t make a lot of money—especially young families—and an anonymous Christmas gift might help to make their Christmas a little brighter. In fact, I pretty much guarantee it.

   Know a single person who could use some company for the holidays? Invite them over for dinner sometime. And please don’t forget single parents—many of them struggle to give their children a decent holiday. (Not all single parents have financial struggles, though, so do your homework before you make assumptions.) But if that’s the case, imagine the joy and relief that a single mom or dad feels when they receive a gift card to help them to bless their own children with a gift that otherwise they may not be able to afford. We all love giving gifts to those we love—why not help someone else do that? And along that vein, here’s another idea for a single parent family: Take their child or children Christmas shopping so that mom or dad actually gets a gift. What can be more fun than that? Single parents often feel forgotten during the holidays.

   This year, give a gift to someone who might feel left out or who needs to be encouraged—it will mean so much to them. Or here’s a mindbender: Give a gift to someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve a present and see what bridges that might build (and it shouldn’t be that fake candy coal you can buy to put in someone’s stocking). Giving will put you and everyone else in the true spirit of the season. As the reformed Scrooge promised: “’I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.’”

   You can do that—just be the Ghost of Christmas Presents.

 

 

The Night Jesus Left Home

Bethlehem Star IV

THE NIGHT JESUS LEFT HOME

   Jesus stepped into the throne room. Multitudes of blazing angels dropped to their knees, bowing their faces to the jeweled floors, wings covering their bodies. The symphonies of heaven—myriads of strings and flutes and voices from a dozen dimensions—all faded to a sudden hush. Crashing peals of thunder echoed to nothingness, and lightning flashed in blue and gold, then dimmed and winked out.

   All was silent.

   “Come here, Son.” The gentle words reverberated among the stars.

   Soft footsteps approached the throne. “This is the hour, Abba.”

   “I know, Son.” God raised his hand and he and Jesus walked along a beach, quiet waves lapping the shoreline. A gull soared on the air currents high above the water, its lonely cry drifting on the breeze. Jesus stopped and watched. Then he turned, his eyes blurred with tears.

   “Will I know you—at first, I mean?”

   “I’ll always be with you, Son, but at first, no. You’ll come to know me, as every other baby grows to do. You’ll grow in grace and truth and in my favor, but it will take time.”

   Jesus bent his head.

   “I’ll never leave you,” God whispered. “You know I love you, Son.”

   Jesus looked up and smiled through his tears. “’How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…’”

   God chuckled. “Holy Spirit will release those words one day.”

   “’I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach.’” Jesus paused. “Do you think I’ll remember that poem?”

   God slowly shook His head. “No, Son. You’re leaving behind your omniscience to live in the flesh, with all of its limitations and weaknesses. Your knowledge will be confined to what your senses tell you, and to what you’ll learn on earth and through the Spirit as you grow, but you’ll not take your foreknowledge with you. You’ll live in one dimension in time.”

   Jesus stooped and drew in the sand.

   “Are you certain you want to do this, Son?” God’s voice was gentle. “I’ll not force you.”

   “I know, Abba,” Jesus murmured. “I know.” He stood and brushed the sand from his fingers. “I only want what you want.” He scanned the water and the beach and the mountains beyond. “I want to remember this—somehow.”

   “Your father on earth loves beaches, too, Jesus—he watches the sun set over the sea almost every night. You’ll watch with him.”

   “Is he—is he like you, Father?” Jesus brushed a sandy tear from his cheek. “Please tell me he’s like you.”

   “Ahhh, Joseph. He’s a truly good man, Son—the best I could find. He doesn’t yet know he’s about to become a father, but he’ll be a good one. He’ll train you, protect you, provide for you, and he’ll love you as I love you.”

   “Is that even possible—that a human being can love so much?”

   “It will never cease to amaze you, Son, what the human heart can carry, and what it can bear. There are realms of beauty you have not yet fathomed within the heart of man.”

   “More beautiful than you, Father?”

   God smiled. “The heart of a human being is his most precious crown. And when he offers it to you, it’s priceless—worth far more than anything else in all of creation.”

   “I’ll miss you so much, Abba.”

   “I’ll miss you, too, Son. I’ll be with you every moment of every day and night, but I’ll miss talking with you and—” God waved His hand, “this—with you.”

    He held out his arms. Jesus rushed into them, kissed his father’s cheek, and buried his head in his shoulder. Then he pulled back, cleared his throat and looked into his father’s eyes. “I promise I’ll talk to you every day, Father. I’ll find a spot, far from everyone else, and we’ll talk, just like we do now.”

   “Call on me whenever you need me, Son,” God said, His voice low.

   For a moment, neither spoke.

   Lightning flashed, and a giant archangel dropped from the sky, his wings tinged crimson in the twilight.

   “Here’s Gabriel. It’s time. I’ll send him to Mary first, then Holy Spirit will embrace her. Then… you’ll go…”

   Jesus closed his eyes and nodded.

  God motioned and Gabriel spread his wings and slipped through a portal to earth. A moment later, a shining silver streak of light bolted across the sky, and Holy Spirit splintered the portal and disappeared.

   Jesus touched his fingers to his lips. His face began to shine, growing brighter and brighter, until a blinding light burst into the night—a brilliant star shimmering in the darkness far above the earth.

   And so it began.

 

 

  

 

‘Tis the Season—For Holiday Scams

Dark Scam

‘TIS THE SEASON—FOR HOLIDAY SCAMS

   Today I got a call from my son to warn me about some of the latest “scare-you-for-$” phone scams. Here are a few of the more popular:

   SCAM #1: Phone rings. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “Ma’am, every year thousands of children will not have a Christmas this holiday season—no food, no presents, not even a candy cane. And with—”

   “Excuse me, but—”

   “No, excuse me—with your credit card gift of just $1000, you can help a—”

   “I know—a fat guy on a computer living in his mom’s basement. No thanks.” Click.

   SCAM #2: Phone rings again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “Do you have a son named _______?”

   “Yes.”

   “He’s been arrested (or in a car crash or mugged) and needs you to get a $500 money pak immediately… hurry… he’s suffering!”

   Can I just tell you? Your son does not need bail money or money for the ER or plane fare because he was mugged, drugged, and put on a plane to Bourogue. He’s fine.

   SCAM #3: Phone rings yet again. “Hello, is this so-and-so?”

   “Yes.”

   “This is (Your Power Company). You owe the company $1200 and we’re on our way over to shut off your power right now. However, if you send a money pak immediately, we won’t shut you down.” (Seriously, this is a real thing.)

   Well, you’re smarter than that so you say, “Uhm, that doesn’t sound right.” Then you hang up, Google the number for YPCo. and—funny thing—it’s the same number the guy called from. Even funnier thing: you talked to billing and it turns out you don’t owe YPC $1200. In fact, you don’t owe them a cent. Still, the guy calls back so you tell him that. He then informs you that he was calling from the corporate office in D.C. and you called the local YPC number and the local guys don’t have current billing info because there was a computer glitch that messed with their systems (although they don’t know that) and blah, blah, blah… So (says the guy) the bottom line is that you do too owe YPC $1200 and the crew is still coming to turn you off if you don’t pay. And then you’ll freeze to death. On Christmas.

   Now I know what you’re thinking: Who falls for those scams? Right?

   One of my relatives once fell for a well-established scam targeting older people and it cost him nearly a hundred thousand dollars. Every year, thousands of people are scammed which is why, every year, thieves make millions of dollars scamming them.

The art of the con—especially targeting older folks and especially this time of year—is really quite lucrative. And that’s because the scare tactics work.

   Another big money-maker for the criminals is that the big, bad IRS is going to freeze your bank account, notify your employer that you’re about to be a convicted felon, and sell your children into slavery if you don’t cough up your credit card number. Right now. NOW!! And the clock is ticking—every minute that you don’t pay adds interest and penalties and fees to the bill.

   But take a deep breath. If you haven’t yet heard, the IRS doesn’t make phone calls, they send letters. Lots of them, if need be, but they won’t be calling you—ever. So it’s okay to hang up on them.

   During this season of giving and good will, don’t let someone take advantage of you; don’t be the victim of a scam and don’t let your loved ones be, either. Granted, sometimes these criminals are stupid and their scams are so ridiculous that even my dog wouldn’t bite. But for every five stupid scams, there’s one that’s really good—too good. And hundreds of poor souls will fall for it and lose thousands of dollars—even hundreds of thousands. However, here’s the disclaimer: I am not saying that people shouldn’t give to those in need during the holidays (or any other time). What I am saying is that giving should be done to reputable organizations which will be responsible with your gift, seeing that it goes to the cause it was advertised to help. So go ahead and give—just not to anyone or any organization that you don’t know or that you didn’t personally call.

   This holiday season, if there’s one thing you have to remember, it’s this: Once you, yourself, voluntarily use your own credit card or give access to your bank account, you can’t then turn around and cry “fraud” to the bank or the credit card company and get your money back. It’s not fraud—you gave your money away. And it’s gone.

   So—when the scammers come calling, just hang up. If it really was your long-lost Uncle Scrooge, he’ll call back.

 

  

  

 

 

Things I’ve Learned—And Not Always the Easy Way

Teddy Bear Looking out of Window

THINGS I’VE LEARNED—AND NOT ALWAYS THE EASY WAY

  1. God uses and multiplies the thing that’s already in your hand.
  2. You can do the right thing with the wrong attitude and it counts—because you’re trying to do the right thing.
  3. “Foregiveness” means giving something before it’s deserved. That thing is mercy.
  4. Time is the most precious commodity we have. And the clock is always ticking.
  5. “Fear of success” is not a thing. Fear of losing success is a thing.
  6. It’s better to try and fail than to live with the regret of never even having tried.
  7. Instant success often leads to inevitable failure—because we haven’t learned to manage the instant success.
  8. God is way is smarter than me.
  9. Hardheadedness is not proof of courage. Faithfulness is proof of courage.
  10. There’s a huge difference between being “done” and being “finished”.
  11. A liar might tell the truth. We’ll just never know.
  12. If you’re pursuing your destiny, sooner or later you will hit a wall. Your options are to go around it, dig under it, or blow it up. Just don’t go home.
  13. God doesn’t do social promotion. If we don’t learn it the first time, we’ll just keep repeating the lesson—again… and again…
  14. Disappointment will make you bitter if you let it. Bitterness is the cancer of the soul.
  15. Toffee cookies are really good.
  16. There will always be people who have it better than you and people who have it  worse. Which you focus on will determine the kind of person you become. 
  17. If you do the most good that you can with what you already have, you’ll discover your destiny.
  18. Some days the dream just ain’t behavin’.
  19. Life is not fair. If it were, we’d all be dead.
  20. Common sense is not that common anymore.
  21. Opportunity is a gift to be handled with gratitude.
  22. Life “on the shelf” is usually prep time for life in the spotlight.
  23. You can’t out-give God. But try anyway.
  24. A heart of flesh cannot be forged apart from trial and anguish.
  25. Silence is necessary for anything to make sense.
  26. No seed, no harvest.
  27. Tea cures everything.
  28. Loneliness is part of the human condition. Emptiness is optional.
  29. What we hear ourselves say is usually what we get ourselves.
  30. Correction is not rejection.
  31. Eternity is the great equalizer.
  32. The end does not justify the means. Ask anyone in prison.
  33. Words are a double-edged sword.
  34. In the end, “good enough” is only someone’s opinion.
  35. Santa is real.      

 

 

 

Two Words That Will Change Everything

Old couple kissing

TWO WORDS THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING

   Recently I happened to see a teenager sitting at a table who was asked to get up and get a book. He never even looked up—he simply said, “Mom,” and mom, who was in another room, jumped up and hurried to get the book for him. I don’t recall that he even said “thank you”. Now, if I had to guess, I’d say that little scenario has been playing out for some time. And while I’d like to say it was rare, I can’t. We’ve all seen some version of the girl who sticks her hand out to dad and says, “Money.” There’s no real “please” involved or even if there is, it’s not really sincere. The expectation is that dad will fork over the money, no questions asked. And dad complies. Although he may have one question: “Is $25 enough?” (Probably not.)

   It’s so fun to be taken for granted, isn’t it? You’ve all probably experienced it at one time or another—having done a favor for or given to someone a few times and suddenly it becomes an expectation that your generosity will continue because—well, just because. That’s your function in life.

   Now I get the whole Christian thing about “not giving to get” and “going the extra mile” but we’re human, and when it becomes clear that another person is taking advantage of our kindness, it can sting. And that’s especially true when you’re really only trying to show love to someone and they’re just not getting the memo. It’s frustrating to say the least.

   But here’s the scary part: What if we’re one of those people? What if we’re the ones who don’t recognize the sacrifices being made for us by the people who care about us? Or even worse—what if we do know and we simply ignore them? What if we take for granted that those people who give us so much are just always going to be there because—well, why shouldn’t they? Husbands, wives, grandparents, children, friends, pastors, employers, co-workers—we don’t really need to say that we appreciate what they do—they’ll just know. Right?  Probably not. But here’s an even scarier thought: What if it’s not just people we take for granted? What if it’s God, too?

   I have to confess—more than once in the midst of worship, I’ve shifted into petition mode. Suddenly it goes from ministering to God’s heart and becomes about what I need. I drift from thanking the Lord for what He has given me and find myself asking for yet more.

But the fact is, God deserves our most sincere gratitude. And so do those who’ve been so kind to us.

   So what if this Thanksgiving, we went beyond the redundant verbal recitations of what we’re grateful for? What if we actually did something to demonstrate how thankful we are for that person, act of kindness or gift? Perhaps we could take a moment and write a “thank you” card or make that long-overdue phone call—one which really expresses our heartfelt appreciation and love for the people who’ve stood by us and helped us out? We all know someone to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Why not pay it?   

   This Thanksgiving, let’s do the right thing and say a simple, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I can’t tell you what it’s meant to me.”

   I can tell you what it will mean to them.

The Thanksgiving Blues—Or Not…

Family Feud at Thanksgiving

THE THANKSGIVING BLUES—OR NOT…

   Ask a bunch of different people what Thanksgiving is all about and you’ll get a bunch of different answers:

   DAVID (the college kid): “It’s about the turkey! And the mashed potatoes and the green bean thingy…”

   GRANDMA: “No, no! It’s all about tradition. We always use the good china and make giblet stuffing—what?? You didn’t put the giblets in the stuffing?? But it’s tradition—oh, I feel faint…”

   DAVID: “… and the homemade cranberry sauce and the sweet potato casserole…”

   TINY TOM: “Thanksgiving is when Santa comes to the mall!”

   GRANDPA: “No, dang it! It’s all about football! And one of these years Detroit is going to win!”

   UNCLE MIKE (spitting adult beverage across the room): “Bahahahaha!”

   AUNT CLARA: “It’s about decorating for Christmas! We put the tree up and the lights on and the elves on the shelves—.”

   DAD: “It’s a vacation—five days off!”

   HALEY (9th grade diva): Sigh, followed by eye roll. “Don’t you people know anything? It’s all about shopping. Black Friday starts on Thursday and runs through Saturday and then takes a break till Cyber-Monday—except for the malls open on Sunday…”

   DAVID: “… and the pumpkin pie! And apple pie and pecan pie and chocolate pie—”

   GRANDMA: “I still feel faint… maybe a little eggnog with a wee nip… What?? It’s tradition!”

   HALEY: “… then Cyber Monday runs till April…”

   TINY TOM: “It’s about Santa Claus!”

   MOM: “Thanksgiving is all about family…”

   In our culture today, the common mantra is that Thanksgiving is “all about family”. But it’s not. Nor is it about the hundred other things it’s morphed into: football, shopping, stuffing ourselves silly or gearing up for Christmas. It’s about one thing—giving thanks to God for all He’s blessed us with. It’s about gratitude for all those things we take for granted—things that so many people in other countries would give their right arms for: peace, safety, food, shelter, heat and hot water, free education. Here’s what I thank God for everyday: a home—warm and safe. Food to eat that we don’t have to hunt or plead for. Clean water to drink that we don’t have to walk miles to get every day. And then there’s the country we live in—the United States of America—the greatest country in the world. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s paradise compared to some of the countries I’ve lived in and visited as an ex-military brat. I thank God for our freedoms: we worship as we like, we can live or travel anywhere we choose, we can vote and have a voice in our government, and we have the right to speak freely and even to protest our government officials. And I can tell you—that doesn’t happen in a lot of countries.

   It’s really eye-opening to think about how different our lives would be if we didn’t have those  things.

There will always be those who have more than we have and those who have less than we have. Which we focus on will determine whether we’re  grateful or bitter.

   Around the holidays, it might be difficult to find anything to feel thankful for. Maybe we don’t have family or maybe ours is not exactly the flawless family we see so much of on television. Consequently, we can fall for the myth that everyone else has a “perfect” holiday and so we’re left to suffer the soul-splintering pain of what we don’t have. As a result, any feelings of gratitude are often overshadowed by the grief of loneliness or other losses—and that grief can be devastating.

   But what if we took a moment to look at everything we do have? As I tell my sons and students, there are always going to be those who have more than we have and those who have less than we have. Which we focus on will determine whether we’re grateful or bitter. Whether we have a happy life or a miserable one depends on one thing: our attitude. It’s a choice.

   Choose gratitude—and have a happy Thanksgiving.

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

                   

      

  

  

  

  

Your God Moment.

Road-Pier in Fog

YOUR GOD MOMENT.

   One night many years ago, I was praying and pleading with God for the salvation of a loved one. (I’ll call him Ben.) I’d been doing this for more than a year and suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, the Lord said to me, “Ask me for anything in the whole world you want.” Now this was quite a shock because the God (I thought) I knew just didn’t give that kind of a blank check. Still, within less than a nano-second, a couple of possibilities stampeded through my mind. But—which to pick? It basically boiled down to one of two things—should I ask for Ben’s salvation because he needed it so much? Or should I ask for my mom whom doctors had warned “might” have a very serious problem? I was torn. There could be grave consequences if I made the wrong choice, but I came to this conclusion (and don’t think it was easy): Since my mom already knew the Lord, the worst case scenario for her would be to go to heaven. (It would be the rest of us who would suffer.) Worst case scenario for Ben would be that he’d most definitely go elsewhere.

   “Lord,” I cried, “I don’t want Ben to go to hell!”

   “You got it,” the Lord said.

   “But God,” I asked (still not quite sure what was happening), “what if I’d asked you for a Porsche or something?”

   “I knew you wouldn’t ask for anything outside of My will.”

   And that was the end of the conversation. (True story.)

   Now you might be thinking that I only thought I’d heard God say that. I get that. However, in order for any of us to be able to imagine something, we first have to be able to conceive that thing as a possibility in the first place. However, in my wildest imagination, I’d never dreamed it was even remotely possible that God would make an offer like that—to anyone. Well, maybe to Mother Teresa but she hadn’t been in the room. But as for me? It wasn’t even on my radar.

   So—would God really say that?

   Yes.

   It’s strange how sometimes we don’t see things in the Bible—even when they’re right under our noses. It was sometime later that I was reading the Word and noticed that Jesus made a similar offer to people—and more than once. In Luke, a blind beggar called out to Jesus, “’Son of David, have mercy on me.’” Jesus’ response?

   “’What do you want me to do for you?’” (18:41).

   Implicit in that question is the idea that Jesus was willing to give the man whatever he was about to ask for. Otherwise, what would be the point of Jesus even asking that question? So He could say, “Oh, no—thought you wanted something else. Sorry, you can’t have that.” Of course, being Jesus, He already knew that the man was going to ask for healing, and He knew He was going to give it to him. So then, what was the point of Jesus asking the question if He already knew what the man was going to ask?

   So that he—and we—could hear Jesus ask it.

   Jesus wants us to know that which we don’t dare to think: that He would actually give us anything our hearts desire. And why? Because we’re His and because He loves us.

   But what if we misuse God’s unfathomable grace? Is His offer permission for us to run amok with any old request? No. Nowhere in Jesus’ question, “What can I do for you?” is the implication that we can ask to burn down the house and it’ll be done for us. What the Word does say is that God will give us our heart’s desires—after we first “delight ourselves in the Lord” (Ps, 37:4). It’s an offer God makes when He discerns that we can “handle” the request. The truth is that when we “delight ourselves in the Lord,” we become so changed that whatever our hearts’ desires turn out to be, they’ll be pleasing to Him and in line with His will.

   In the story of Esther, she went before King Xerxes to make a request. Now, being queen, that shouldn’t have been a problem but as court etiquette goes, one doesn’t just appear before a king without an invite—such audacity could be a capital offense. Nevertheless, Queen Esther was desperate and approached the king without a summons. Of course, that was scandalous and shocking to the court because essentially what Esther did in appearing before the king without permission was to disrespect the king’s rules. And since King Xerxes’ first wife had been disgraced and dis-appointed as queen for disrespecting an order from the king, the power-hungry nobles of Xerxes’ court were probably watching very closely to see whether the king would show weakness by allowing a “mere” woman to dishonor him (again) or whether he would show strength and put her in her place. And what did the king do? Not only did he hold out to Esther the royal scepter (which, in king-land means “I spare your life”) but he also said to her the unthinkable: “’What is it you desire, Esther? I will give you up to half my kingdom.’”

   Now there’s a man who loves his wife.

   Jesus loves us the same way. I wish I’d known that all those years ago because then I would have understood another thing, too. I would have understood that I could have asked the Lord for both of my heart’s desires: Ben’s salvation and my mother’s healing. I wouldn’t have had to choose between the two. But I didn’t know because I really didn’t understand just how much God loves me and how great His mercy is.

   When your moment comes, don’t doubt it—don’t stand around wondering if it’s really God. It is. In that moment when the heavens open up and God says, “Ask me for anything in the whole world you want,” know one thing: You. Are. Loved. In that moment, the royal scepter is being held out to you, inviting you to come boldly to the throne of grace and to make your petition to the Lord of all creation.

   In that moment, God is waiting—for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRIVE YOUR VISION.