Paradise Lost – Or Found?

Promised Land Closed

   Have you ever wanted something so badly that you wait for it and wait for it and then when the time finally comes to get it, you drag your feet?

   The Israelites did that.

   For 40+ years they trekked back and forth through the desert, around this mountain and that mountain, up and down and back again. Imagine spending 40 years touring a dried up piece of real estate not even the size of West Virginia.

   They did that.

   And during all that time, the Israelites dreamed of the land promised to them by God decades before – a “land flowing with milk and honey,” a verdant land of tall, shady cypress trees, of juicy purple grapes the size of golf balls, and vast, golden fields of wheat waving in the breeze as far as the eye could see. And water – cold, clear, flowing streams of water wherever one might wander . . .

   Night and day for 40 years the Israelites thought about that promised land, they talked about it, and they dreamed about it. And then finally the day came when God directed them to enter. But they didn’t. They were afraid. And that’s when Joshua, their leader, posed an interesting question:

   “’How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?’” (Jos. 18:3)

   That’s a fascinating question – perhaps one we all need to examine. How long will we wait until we take possession of the Promised Land that God has vowed to give to each of us?

   I don’t know. Until God hand delivers our dreams to our front door? Odds are that’s not going to happen.

   To “take possession” of the land is not a passive activity; it requires something of us – and it’s not sitting on our padded portions waiting for it to appear. At the very least, as we sit at the yellow light of our dreams waiting for that signal to turn green, some preparation – whatever form that might take – should probably be happening.

   Waiting for that dream job? Buy the proper clothing and arrange transportation. Get the resume ready and hit the pavement. Waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right? Get out of debt. Lose five pounds. Practice patience and giving and civil conversation. Did I mention patience? Waiting for that business to turn a hefty profit? Invest in it; research what the competition is doing and do it better; advertise in places you haven’t before; get innovative; give.

   Are you ready for day one on the job? Are you ready to walk down the aisle? Are you ready to handle a huge bankroll?

   Did the Israelites sit and wait for the Hittites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Anakites and the rest of the ites to pack up and move out so they could move in and take over? No. The Israelites said their prayers, sharpened their swords, designed their strategies, and moved in and forced them out. And that was the least of what they did. Mostly they just killed them.

   Unless God said otherwise, Israel took no prisoners and spared no cities or even animals. In short, they never compromised, and they never surrendered.

   While I’m not suggesting that we kidnap a prospective spouse, burn out a competitor, or loot a bank for capital, I am proposing that in light of God’s admonition to us to “take possession of the land,” we never comprise and we never surrender.

   Are you awaiting permission to go out and appropriate the promises God has made to you?

   Permission granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are You??

Frustrated teacher  Let’s say there are five different teachers (or business owners or nurses or pastors or – pick a profession). And let’s say they have five different kinds of personalities.  So let’s take a peek at what they might be like . . .

   Teacher #1: This teacher has a very black-and-white personality. There is right and there is wrong. There might be gray but not very often. It’s not that she’s mean; she simply sees everything in terms of rules and fairness. The bottom line is justice for all.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student:  “I forgot.”

   Teacher:  “That’s a zero.”

   Student: “But that’s not fair! I should get another chance!”

   Teacher: “Johnny, this is the third time you didn’t do your homework. Would it be fair to give you another chance when everyone else did their homework?”

   Student: “You shouldn’t give me a zero!”

   Teacher: “I’m not giving you a zero; you earned a zero. Explain how I can give you points for something you didn’t do.”

   Johnny couldn’t explain it so Johnny got a zero.

   Teacher #2: This teacher sees people in terms of resources and of getting the job done for the good of all. The bottom line is – well, the bottom line.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “You’re not learning anything if you never do your homework.”

   Student: “It has too much reading! I hate reading!”

   Teacher: “How are you going to pass your final if you can’t read the material?”

   Student: “Don’t care!”

   Teacher calls across the room: “Lindsey, you’re good at reading. I’m sending this boy over to you. Partner read with him.”

   Johnny passed his final. Barely.

   Teacher #3: This teacher sees all people as fallible and believes in second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances . . .

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Why? Is something going on at home?”

   Student: “I dunno.”

   Teacher: “There must be a reason.”

   Student: “I hate reading!”

   Teacher: “Do you want to come in after school for help?”

   Student: “No, I’ll do it tonight, but will you take points off?”

   Teacher: “As long as you try, I’ll give you credit. But I expect to see something tomorrow.”

   The teacher didn’t see anything the next day. Or the next day. But she still believes.

   Teacher #4: This teacher is a “just the facts” kind of person. It’s her responsibility to teach, and it’s a student’s responsibility to learn. That’s all.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Why? Are you having trouble with it?” 

   Student: “I hate reading! It’s hard!”

   Teacher: “Then let’s see what we can do. Pull up a chair.”

   Student: “But I don’t like reading.”

   Teacher: “You will once you can do it. Now read that paragraph. Let’s figure out the problem.”

   Student: “I don’t want to.”

   Teacher: “Not going to force you. Is that your final answer?”

   Student: “I’m not doing it.”

   Teacher: “Fine. I will be calling your father. Take a seat.”

   The teacher informed Johnny’s dad of the problem and suggested Johnny practice reading at home. The ball is now in their court.

Teacher #5: This teacher believes that, with enough financial resources, any student can succeed. She believes school districts are responsible to provide those supplies if parents cannot or will not supply them.

   Teacher: “So Johnny, tell me why your homework is not done.”

   Student: “I forgot.”

   Teacher: “Where’s your book?”

   Student: “I lost it.”

   Teacher: “Where’s your notebook and pencil?”

   Student: “I lost them.”

   Teacher: “Here’s another notebook and pencil. Here’s a book to take with you – just remember to put a cover on it.”

   Student: “We don’t have any.”

   Teacher: “Here’s one. Now sit and read.”

   Student: “I forgot breakfast, too.”

   Teacher: “You didn’t have any breakfast?”

   Student: “No.”

   Teacher: “Okay, you can have a cereal bar, but you have to read the book.”

Student: “What book?”

   These five women have all had the same education and training. Nevertheless, they operate very differently as teachers. This is because each one has a different personality type (as listed in Romans 12:6-8) which colors how each perceives the world and responds to it.

   The first teacher has what the Bible calls the prophet personality. In God’s big picture, the prophet-type is the person wired to keep order by informing and enforcing the rules and laws in any given culture, organization or family. These individuals often operate as the law enforcement or judicial branches of businesses or families.

   The second teacher has the administrator personality. This person is a natural-born leader geared toward casting vision for the bottom-line goal of any organization: success and/or profit. The leader also has a natural ability to pinpoint the strengths of individuals and to use them for the common good. CEO’s, coaches, and politicians often have this personality type.

   The third teacher is the mercy person and a natural cheerleader. This personality believes in the inherent goodness of every person and that, given enough chances, anyone can succeed. They simply need encouragement. While every organization needs its encouragers, sometimes this personality sees accountability as “unloving” and so can tend toward enabling. Often the mercy person and the prophet-type do not get along.

   The fourth teacher is a natural-born teacher. (Here “teacher” is a personality type, not a profession.) The teacher personality is primarily interested in imparting information and the application of it. This personality is rather neutral; students may choose to learn or not – that’s not the teacher’s business. Imparting knowledge is. Every organization needs trainers, but don’t expect a babysitter-type.

   The fifth teacher has the “giver” personality. These are the people in God’s economy who fund other enterprises and are supernaturally generous. If taken to the extreme, these people will “give away the farm.” In the natural, they are often investors and philanthropists.

   Every person on the planet has one of these personality types coloring his perceptions, motivations and actions, and every organization needs a combination of these personalities in order to succeed. As people seeking our destinies, we need to understand which personality type we have as well as its particular strengths and weaknesses. We also need to work with the other personality types to ensure the success of our endeavors.

   After all, success is a team sport.

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

Opportunity: Take It – Or Make It?

Key in Door

   Recently I heard a story about a teenage girl in high school who had been awarded an internship with a surgical department at a prestigious hospital. She was quoted as saying that the internship was “the opportunity of a lifetime.” Perhaps it is. But her story got me thinking: We tend to view opportunity as this random thing that strikes like lightning without warning upon whomever it will. But does it really? Is it really as arbitrary as we think? Or does opportunity “strike” some individuals more often than others? And if so, is it really as indiscriminate as we think?

   Turns out that the girl who was awarded the internship had a near-perfect grade point average and she won the internship based on her academic achievements. Not surprising then that this opportunity would come her way. In fact, given her grades, it’s likely other opportunities will strike – kind of like a metal rod attracts lightning bolts. Translation:

The more we plan for opportunity, the more opportunities we get.

   But how do we plan for something that’s such a chance proposition?

   First thing: Identify the Dream. First we have to know what the heck it is we want. What vision do we have? Is it a specific job or career path? Or is it a unique life experience: a trip to some faraway continent, an adventure like climbing that huge mountain or driving a racecar 100 mph (on a track)? Maybe it’s a chance to touch other lives: to go on a missions’ trip or to work with people who need assistance or money or education or the encouragement to succeed themselves. Maybe it’s to free up our creativity and have an art show or to design our own clothing line or to publish a book or even to patent and market that invention that’s been brewing in our heads all these years.

   Simply put – we have to know what we want.

   Second thing: Research the Dream. The next thing we have to do is to answer some questions: How possible or impossible is our dream? Is it easy to achieve or difficult? Does it take talent or education or an internship or money or investors or physical labor or a partnership? Do we have these things? If not, can we get them? What’s the time commitment, both daily and long-term? In terms of business, is there a demand for our product, service, or idea?

   So – let’s say I want to become an astronaut. (I don’t but let’s pretend.) I have to answer those questions: Is it possible to become an astronaut? If I’m 20, possible. If I’m 40, not so much. Will it be difficult to do or easy to do? It’ll be difficult – no matter how old I am. (However, “hard” does not mean “impossible”.) What will it take? It’s safe to say that becoming an astronaut would take some level of ability – mental, physical, emotional – and certainly it would take education. I’d probably have to join the Air Force and become a pilot or get a PhD in astrophysics or something. Internship? No doubt. Money? Either my own or someone else’s. Do I have these things?  No. If not, can I get them? With a lot (a lot) of work. What’s the time commitment, both daily and long-term? Probably 18 hours a day for years. Is there a current demand for astronauts? More importantly, will there be a demand for them after the 20 years it takes me to become one? Hopefully.  However, if NASA’s not hiring, then maybe I can find a job piloting very rich people to Mars.

   If too many of the answers to these questions are “no,” then perhaps we should look into Dream B. For example, I’d have to end the astronaut dream at the “Is it possible?” stage. (Let’s just say I’m not 20 and leave it at that.) However, if the answers to our questions are doable – even with hard work – then the only other question is: How badly do we want it?

   Third thing: Plan the dream. The answers to the above questions will be what we’d use to devise our plan to make the dream happen. In terms of getting into college or grad school or getting that prime job afterward, grades will count so we can’t wait till the last minute to make them; “making the grade” has to be part of our long-term plan – as it obviously was for the young lady who won the surgical internship.

   And let’s face it – most dreams cost money. Whether it’s for our education and associated costs, business start-up, costs to market the business or book or art show or product – it’s all going to cost money – and probably lots of it. The two most important questions are: How much and where do I get it? Now, if mom and dad’s bank account is an option, problem solved. However, for most of us, it’s not. So – can we get scholarships or loans or grants or investors or a job? The fact is, there’s almost always a way to get money; it’s just a matter of how long it takes to save up from the job or to make the scholarship grades or to write the business plan to get the loan and/or investors.

   Fourth thing: Work the Dream. Once we have the money, we can proceed with the rest of the plan. Will it take time? Of course. It might even take a long time. But as they say, time’s going to pass anyway. Even if it takes years, if we don’t pursue our dreams, will we want to have to look back and wish we’d invested the time once it’s passed? My guess is no.

   Opportunity is often something people sit back and wait for. Then, if and when it strikes, they take it. But let’s face it – that might never happen. A far wiser strategy would be to make opportunity happen. Identify the dream, research the dream, plan the dream, and then work the dream.

   Do this and you’ll be amazed at how often opportunity just happens to knock at your door.

 

From the Ashes.

   Sunset Tree   Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

   The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

   The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

   The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

   Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain. The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.

   “Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.

   The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.

   “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

   The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

   The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

   The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail on an ocean or even a river; instead, she was taken to a little lake.

   The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” the once-tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God.”

   Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

   But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.

   “I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.

   The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.

   In that moment, the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

   One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and rain.

   The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. 

   Suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.

   One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry, jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

   But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.             (Source unknown)

  Whether you know it or not, you’re where you’re supposed to be.

   You’re in God’s plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessing. Your Destiny Depends On it.

blessing-and-curse

   When you plant a seed, would you expect it to grow if you didn’t water it? I hope not. How about a child? Does he or she grow if not fed? No? What about if they’re fed once in a while? Maybe. Although feeding them often would be helpful. Obviously, if children are not fed frequently, things probably won’t go well – for them or for you. But what if they’re fed but with only cookies and potato chips? They’d probably be okay with that – for a while. Like any human being, kids need both nutritional foods and they need them often. If either of those conditions aren’t met, a child won’t thrive and possibly, he or she won’t even survive.

   The point?

   Our dreams are our babies, and if they’re not “fed” frequently and with the right stuff, they won’t thrive either. And yes – you guessed it – they may not even survive.

   But what do you “feed” a dream?

   The proper diet for any dream, goal, ambition or vision is words – words of blessing.

   In our culture – even our spiritual cultures – we’ve completely ceased to recognize the reality of blessings – and curses, for that matter. But the Bible tells us that blessings and curses are very, very real.

   For example, right at the very beginning of everything, in Genesis, the very first thing God did after he created plants, fish, birds, animals and people is that he blessed them. He told them, “‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” And they did. However, when Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground Adam was commanded to farm and it produced thorns. Then God cursed Eve’s childbearing and that produced pain in childbirth. (Thanks, Eve.)

   After God called Abraham to travel to the Promised Land, he said to him, “‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Gen. 12:1-3). And that has happened. The people of Israel, throughout thousands of years, have never failed to thrive, even in the midst of severe persecution and many attempts to annihilate them completely.

   That’s no coincidence.

   When Jacob stole his brother’s blessing from their father Isaac, Esau cried out to his father, “‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me? . . .Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.” So Esau lifted his voice and wept.…” (Gen. 27:36-38). What is illustrated in this passage is that the blessing is a very tangible and specific reality that brings multiplication to whomever it is given. Isaac, Jacob and Esau all recognized that.

   Curses are just as real. Balak knew it when, several times, he commanded Balaam to curse the nation of Israel. He understood that the words of a curse had real power to defeat Israel. Balaam’s response? “Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it’” (Num. 23:20).

   Even Jesus, when he had five thousand people to feed, first took the few available loaves and fishes and, the Bible tells us, he “blessed them.” And what happened? They multiplied.

   What this means is that for our dreams, our families and ourselves, we need to be implementing the very real power of the spoken blessing. As we’ve discussed before, words have creative power and we know this because God created everything with the spoken word. In addition, words are eternal in the spirit realm. (The post “IF” explains this principle in detail.) That means that every word ever spoken over anyone or anything is still alive in the spirit realm and still bearing fruit. If the word was blessing, then there will be success and multiplication. If the word was a curse, then the fruit is failure and barrenness. Fruit of both kinds, of course, takes many forms. Curses are mostly associated with witchcraft which, at its core, is based in a desire for control and manipulation of circumstances. Blessing, on the other hand, while affecting circumstances, is not manipulation because it is the will of God to bring about that which is good, which is why Jesus commands us to bless even our enemies.

   The fact is that our words have power and it’s time to loose that power through blessing. Bless your dreams, visions, endeavors, and destiny. Bless your families – your spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters and their families. Bless your businesses, your investments, and your finances. Bless your health, your strength, your energy, and your peace of mind. Bless the work of your hands: your gardens, your writing, your music, your artwork, your schoolwork, your employment and certainly your employers because if they prosper, so too do you. Bless your church, your pastors, and all of your ministries.

   Blessing your destiny is like watering a plant or feeding a child; it’s not just a “nice” thing to do, it’s a necessity.

   Why wouldn’t we bless? God has.