All posts by Cindi Noble

Fearless

Lydia Darragh   Most Americans have never heard the name Lydia Darragh but if not for her, the American Revolution might have ended very differently, and we might be paying taxes to the British royal family to this day.

Liberty’s Spy

   During the Revolution, Lydia Darragh operated as a member of Washington’s spy network in Philadelphia where she owned a home. Her spying career began when the British took over her house as a meeting place, a move which inspired Lydia to begin hiding in a closet and eavesdropping on their conversations. Afterward, she’d send her son to relay the enemy’s secret plans and strategies to the colonists. One such intel interception is said to have saved the life of General George Washington himself.* Lydia Darragh knew she was risking her home, her freedom, and even her life to spy for the Americans, but she didn’t care; liberty was infinitely more precious than safety.

   There’s power in not caring.

The Most Hated President

   History has demonstrated that, throughout the ages, there’s absolutely no limit to what a person can accomplish if they simply don’t care what other people think. Take, for example, Abraham Lincoln. Here was a man who had lost election after election—over a dozen at least—and yet still ran for president. He didn’t care that there were many who mocked him, called him a “loser”, and made him a national laughing stock. Then later, once in office, President Lincoln was apparently not obsessed with amassing power or being voted “most lovable” because he pulled the plug on slavery, knowing full well that millions would despise him for doing it. Moreover, he had to know that he was putting his very life at risk. But he didn’t care. He only cared about doing what he knew was right.

The Shepherd King

   The same is true of King David in the Bible. David, scorned as a lowly shepherd boy, nevertheless faced down a giant because Goliath had dared to mock the living God. David was so horrified by Goliath’s blasphemy that he was willing to endure ridicule: the jeers of the whole Israeli army and the outrage of his own brothers who accused him of arrogance for having the audacity to believe he could do what seasoned warriors feared to do. Yet David didn’t care what they thought; he did what he had to do.

The Orphaned Queen   

   Then there was Queen Esther who breached protocol and approached the Persian king uninvited to plead for the lives of the Jewish people (Esther 4:11). And while such an emergency might seem to be an extenuating circumstance and so trump the royal protocol, it wasn’t—one simply did not appear before the court without a royal summons. In fact, such insolence often ended badly for the poor, misguided reprobates who’d attempted it in the past. Still, Esther’s attitude was, “‘If I perish, I perish.’” She didn’t care enough about the consequences of her “presumption” to compromise her mission. And because of that attitude, she saved the entire Jewish race.

   That’s the power of not caring.

The fear of man and his opinion is the death of many a destiny.

   Who is willing to face down ridicule, rejection, ruin and even death to accomplish that thing they were born to do? On the other hand, how many people have caved to the pressure of another man or woman’s opinion and abandoned their destinies?

   We’ll never know because their names have been lost in the dark void of compromise and fear.

Friend of Sinners

   Jesus never caved. Even when the Pharisees called him crazy, a fraud, a criminal, demon possessed—whatever they could conjure to destroy him—he never flinched. In fact, he struck back, exposing them as hypocrites, “white-washed tombs” and even murderers. Why? He simply didn’t care what they thought. As a result, he revealed corruption in the highest ranks of the Jewish leadership and shone a bright light for the poor, deceived people of Israel.

   But what if Jesus had cared about what people thought of him? He certainly would not have chosen to hang naked upon a cross or to be spit upon, mocked and humiliated before throngs of people. Moreover, he knew that scripture pronounced a curse upon anyone “hung from a tree” and that that curse included the family of the condemned; therefore, he would never have consented, by hanging upon that wooden cross (tree), to bring shame upon his family—that is, if he cared about what man thought of him.

   Not that that decision was easy for him. Just imagine what his notoriety did to the reputation of his mother, his brothers and his sisters. Did they live in shame forever after? Did his sisters have a difficult time finding men who would marry them—daughters of a cursed family? Possibly.

   Even so… Jesus could not afford to care about what people thought about him or even about his family; if he had, he would have quit. Thankfully, he did not.

Popular vs—Not…

   I daresay that behind every tale of success throughout history from the ancients to this very hour, there comes a moment when a person has to decide which he (or she) cares more about—his popularity or his destiny. If he fears the opinion of man and caves to the detriment of what is right, then destiny is lost. But if he moves forward past the “group think,” not caring about his critics or their speculations, then history is made. Fear of man has never inspired anyone to set a new trend or to blaze a new trail but instead, sadly, only to follow behind—even if it’s over the cliff he goes. 

   There’s great power in not caring what others think—and freedom. It’s the freedom to express yourself, to explore all opportunities, and to be who you were created to be.

   It’s the end of fear.

 

  • Kyla Cathey (“9 Women Who Helped Win the American Revolution”)

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Watch the Attitude.

Leadership Key

Watching the events of 2020, I can’t help but remember something the Lord told me a while back: Those in authority over others are responsible for how they treat those they are in authority over. This applies, not just to law enforcement (the big debate lately), but to all facets of leadership—from politicians, church and corporate leaders to parents, teachers, and caregivers. Everyone one of us who leads others—whether a nation or a classroom—will be held accountable for our treatment of others. That is the measurement tool, in God’s eyes, of a faithful leader.

LADYBUGS vs. WASPS

The fact is that no matter what realm we function in, we’re subject to leadership training of all makes and models—theories and policies and “best practices”—oh, my—by which we all must abide. And they are as distinctly different as a ladybug from a wasp; both are insects, but that’s about all they have in common. Leadership training is the same way; there are endless models but there are three common types under which most fit.

THE “TOP-DOWN” MODEL.

This basically means that one person or a small group of people make the rules and the rest follow, with little or no input. This model runs the gamut from government to family relationships and everything in between. And while that might be the job description for a CEO or Supreme Court Justice, it doesn’t work everywhere. Where it does work is in places where the people in charge, even with the final say, listen to others and treat them compassionately, even when “encouraging” compliance.

THE “DEMOCRATIC” MODEL.

This type of leadership is designed to seek input from other people or groups and allows for the majority to affect the decisions made by recognized leaders. Leaders are then responsible for implementing those decisions, having the authority to assign consequences to those not abiding by them. Entities using this model might establish committees, host elections or answer to a board of directors. Government, churches, businesses and institutions are often supposed to run this way, but it all boils down to one question: Will the leaders take the input solicited or is the requested collaboration simply for show?

THE “FREE-FOR-ALL” MODEL.

This type of leadership is simply a kind of “mob rules” approach which has a figurehead for a leader but often the bottom line is that the loudest and/or most disruptive people usually take the wheel. This type of “leadership” is usually the default when true leaders are afraid that their decisions might be unpopular; therefore, rules are either mythical creatures or enforced only sporadically or not at all. We’ve all seen out-of-control classrooms where a teacher has simply lost command and the mob rules—usually because the teacher fears any confrontation by naughty students who’ve never met a rule they liked.

Sadly, we’ve also seen this recently in cities where the rule of law has been abdicated and chaos reigns. This is where we get the old adage, “The inmates are running the asylum.” It’s not necessarily that the “inmates” have no legitimate claim or request but rather that they’re simply not equipped to manage whatever they’re seeking—usually because they have no conception of leadership—good, bad, or indifferent. Pretending they do never bodes well.

True and effective leadership only happens when two things coexist: A rule of law and leaders who consider those under their authority to be more important than their own careers, reputations or bank accounts. 

Jesus might have mentioned that when he pointed out that true leaders are servants first.

GOD’S MODEL OF LEADERSHIP.

In his Word, God very succinctly states his requirement for leadership: “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

One doesn’t have to be a Bible scholar or even a Christian to recognize the wisdom in that short admonition. If, as leaders, we “do justice,” we will not judge according to economic status, race, religion, gender or any other criteria, but only according to the standard of the law.

If we “love mercy,” we will make the decision best for the individual—within the confines of the law—and if consequences are required, we will implement them with compassion.

If we “walk humbly with our God,” we will recognize that we are not, by any means, perfect or incapable of error, and we will submit our will to his. We will also accept that we are accountable for how we treat others and ask God for an attitude adjustment if necessary.

I believe that in order to be wise, righteous, and compassionate leaders, we must look to that simple verse in Micah—and follow it. It’s not a complicated principle; it doesn’t take a college degree or a month of “leadership training” to comprehend, but it is the most effective leadership model we will ever find.

That is—if we really want to be effective leaders.

 

 

The “Unprecedented” 

Business with Closed Sign

   We’re living in “unprecedented times”. The phrase itself has become a cliché and we toss it around like it means something—but it does. It means we’re going through something with this pandemic that has no precedent—no prior example—as to how we should think, talk or behave in the midst of it. And when that happens, when we have no idea how to respond to difficult circumstances, we often default to one question:

   “How can I …?” (fill in the blank)

   How can I… pay the rent/mortgage…? keep from getting sick…? feed the kids…? save the business…? find another job…? take care of the parents…? et cetera…

   The problem is, we’re asking the wrong question. And we’re not the only ones.

That’s “Unprecedented”.

   Once upon a time, a young girl named Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel who told her that she would become pregnant with the Son of God and that he would be the hope of Israel. However, Mary’s very first words were not amazement that the baby would be the savior of Israel or even the Son of God, but rather, “’How can I have a baby? I’m a virgin.’”

In other words, “How can I do something that is both impossible and has no precedent for me to follow?”

   Sound familiar? I might have asked that question a time or two…

Role Call

   Rewind to the Old Testament. When Abraham was told by God that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age and that their descendants would be like the “stars of the heavens,” his first response? “’How can I become a father at 100…?’” 

That was unprecedented.

   Esther? “How can I go before the King without being summoned? I could die…”

   Gideon?  “But Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh and I am the least in my entire family.”

   Moses? “How can I lead the people out of Egypt? Who am I to appear before Pharaoh?”

    It was all so, well—unprecedented.

The Default Mode

   Every one of those people operated under the mistaken assumption that they were the ones who had to make it happen—whatever “it” was. Note the repeated question—often the very first words they uttered—“How can I…?” The thing is, you and I do the same thing, we ask that same question: How can I…?

   Bottom line: You can’t. Neither can I.

   Right now, in this moment in history, our “dream” might be to write a book or to start a business or simply to have the means to keep the business afloat or the family healthy and fed. And yet, we can’t. We simply can’t make the impossible happen by ourselves. But here’s the good news: Despite the fact that it was impossible for Mary, Abraham, Moses, Esther and Gideon to accomplish the promise they’d been given or to achieve the goal they were assigned, that unprecedented dream happened, that impossible goal was met.

And here’s why: It wasn’t up to them—it never was—although they thought it was. It was always up to God to bring that thing to pass.

   That’s where we often get stuck and then fall into despair—because we think that we have to make the thing happen. We don’t. That’s all. And when we finally grasp that, we can have peace in the midst of those I can’tsituations. 

   And that is not unprecedented.

  

Your “Raison d’Être” = Purpose

Woman and Lion

    Recently, a friend and I were “venting” over how bored we were. Granted, we’re both working from home but something was still missing, something we want back in the midst of this whole societal freeze. And it’s not just the finances or the isolation—although those are two huge factors—but there’s something else and we just couldn’t put our collective fingers on it. Moreover, we’re not the only ones wondering. The longer this pandemic lockdown lasts, the more many people are feeling irritable, angry, listless and especially depressed. So what’s the missing piece? Later it hit me:

   Many people are literally being deprived of pursuing their purpose in life.

   Without purpose, we wither—emotionally, creatively, and spiritually. Not having a purpose in life—or being prohibited from fulfilling it—literally sucks the wind from our sails.

What Is “Purpose”?

   The French have a phrase for purpose: raison d’être—“reason to be”. That pretty much sums it up. Our purpose in life is the reason we exist; it’s the reason we get up in the morning, the reason we go to work day in and day out for a lifetime, and the reason we don’t quit when it gets hard. Our life’s purpose is the reason we choose to become educated in a particular field, the reason we select a particular job or profession, or the reason we go into ministry. It’s the reason we start a business or write a book or pursue a passion, the reason we volunteer to advance a particular cause, and certainly the reason we get married and have children. 

Our purpose in life encapsulates all we hold dear: our hopes, dreams and destiny.

   Without that purpose in life, we often lift our eyes to the heavens and ask “Why am I here?” And when we have no answer to that question, we wander aimlessly through life and—that’s all we do.

   These days, that’s what many people are doing. The “pause” button that we hear so much about is not only pausing our society, it’s putting our hearts, minds and souls on pause as well. Even if we’re still working, if that work is limited to this isolated space or that inadequate method, then we’re still feeling the lack of freedom to fulfill that thing that gives life to our lives.

“Souls” At Risk

    We often think of the word “soul” in reference to the eternal spirit of a person. But actually, the term more accurately describes the core of our minds, wills and emotions. We have a mind to reason, a will to make decisions, and emotions to experience and express our feelings. So when our minds can’t make sense of circumstances and when our wills have no say and no control over those circumstances, those two factors influence our emotions. That’s when we feel angry, hopeless, and/or depressed. The pursuit of our purpose has been denied us and we have little or no power to get back to it.

   Even in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were assigned a job to do—their hearts, minds and souls needed a purpose to pursue. God knew that they needed to find work that mattered in order to feel fulfilled so he gave them the animals to care for. In nurturing their pets—from the lion to the lamb—they had a reason to exist. Moreover, they felt needed. The animals needed their care and so they knew their work mattered.

We were never created to be idle. In work, in creativity, we find our purpose and we thrive. Denied that reason to be, our hearts wilt.

So What Do We Do?

   That’s the question now, isn’t it? What can we do to inspire hope again and to feel the joy of knowing that somewhere, somehow, our efforts matter? The answer is that we do what we can in the midst of this unprecedented “pause” when the whole world is chomping at the bit to get back to what feels normal and familiar. Essentially, we have to find another purpose. And many people have. We’ve all heard stories of people stepping up to help essential workers by making masks or sending meals to their places of work. Others are helping to secure food, pack it in boxes, and distribute it to those who need it. Others are opening their businesses to meet needs other than what they were intended for. Others are visiting friends, neighbors and community members—as it’s safe to do so—to do their grocery shopping or simply to check in, visit by phone, or give an “air hug”. I know a man who leads worship and has taken his passion to his front porch to inspire those in his neighborhood who are missing it from their own churches. And his neighbors love it!

   There is much we can do during this time for the good of others—and for the good of our own souls. Let your creativity guide you. Plant some flowers for a neighbor as you’re doing your own. Send a pizza to over-worked first responders or to a family who, right now, cannot afford such a treat. And pray for one another and for our nation—which is the most essential and effective thing any of us can do right now.

   Though it sounds simple, let’s put this “pause” to work for us—and maybe, just maybe, we’ll discover a purpose for our lives that before, we never knew existed.

 

 

What If—These Are the Days of Your Destiny?

Man in Alley - FREE

   Are you bored? Lonely? Frustrated? Do these days seem like a repeat of the movie Groundhog Day in which each day was a rerun of the one before? Every. Single. Day. Yes? Then let’s play “What If?” 

   What if these unprecedented days in history are the prelude to your destiny? What if God is doing something in the midst of this agonizing isolation which, if you can perceive it, will launch you into the very purpose for which you were born? What if these days are opportunities—if we take them.

   We all want to fulfill our destinies, to do that thing we were born to do. The thing is, we often don’t realize what we’re asking. Do we really comprehend that destiny-chasing is going to involve a prep time—probably long, most likely painful, and definitely lonely? We’re required to “learn the ropes,” “do the grind,” “burn the midnight oil,” and “stay the course”—often in the midst of confusion, fear, fatigue, disappointment, isolation and even pain. Now, are we still willing to sign on to fulfill that mission in life?

   You know what they say: “The greater the destiny, the longer the prep time.” 

Training  

   There is no job or ministry which doesn’t involve some type of training, whether it’s a formal post-secondary ed program, an internship, or simply a period of “working your way up” the ladder to more responsibility. But what if all of that takes time? 

   Joseph (Jacob’s son) spent years as a slave in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. Little did he know that he, a Hebrew, was being trained by God in Egyptian culture, language, and customs as well as in how to manage a large household (think business) and how to conduct himself around Egyptian nobility. But then it got worse. Joseph was sent to prison for years after being falsely accused of attempted rape. And what was the point of that little time-out? He learned how the “other half” lived: the working class, the poor, and the helpless. He encouraged them, supervised them, and set an example for them. All of these “chance” misfortunes were really God’s way of preparing Joseph to assist Pharaoh in leading and managing the economics of the most powerful nation in the world—a nation he previously knew nothing about. 

What if God’s training doesn’t always take place in a classroom? What if you’re in God’s classroom right now…?

Trust

   What calling doesn’t involve developing a solid and grounded understanding of who God is, a revelation of our identity in Him, a trust in Him that can’t be shaken, and a faith to move mountains?

   David, before he was king, spent sixteen years running from King Saul who wanted to kill him. And what had David done? Nothing. King Saul was simply jealous of God’s call upon David’s life. So David spent years running for his life and hiding in caves. He was often hungry, scared, and lonely.

   Nevertheless, he learned what we all need to learn in order to fulfill our destinies: an unequivocal and unshakable faith in God—no matter what. No matter that, every day, his life was in danger. No matter that he had powerful enemies, besides Saul. No matter that he was responsible for the care, feeding and safety of hundreds of warriors and their families. No matter what, David learned unwavering faithfulness, steadfastness, and trust in God.

What if, right now, you’re learning to trust God in the midst of circumstances that are frightening—even terrifying?

Character-building

   And what calling doesn’t involve everyone’s favorite: developing character and integrity? We can (and will) spend years while God “skims the dross” of our moral character until the gold shines through. Why? Because those who chase their destinies without concern for the quality of their morals, values, and principles first will end up hurting others. That’s not even a question.

   Moses endured forty years of character-building on the backside of the desert after murdering a Hebrew and fleeing for his life. He’d been raised in Pharaoh’s own household with all of the advantages which that brought with it and probably (I’m speculating) had a pretty healthy estimate of himself by his 40th birthday. From 40 to 80, he ended up tending sheep—probably not what he had envisioned himself doing; he ended up married to a shepherd girl—a far cry from the Egyptian princess he probably would have married; and he ended up leading a nation of poor, fugitive slaves—probably not the sophisticated and cultured nation he had intended to lead. But in the end, the Bible says that Moses was the humblest man who ever lived.

   What if you’re in the midst of people or circumstances which make you want to break something or hurt somebody? You might be. But learning not to is character-building.

The problem is that if we don’t know that God will spend whatever time it takes training us for our destinies before launching us into them, we can fall prey to some very destructive mindsets which can  derail us in the end.

Mindset #1: “I made a mistake—if I were supposed to be doing this thing, it wouldn’t be so hard or take so long.”

   Not true. Building knowledge of our work, trust in our God, and developing of our character takes time. Period. Whether something is easy or not is not the compass as to whether it’s God’s will for our lives. Ask David.

Mindset #2: If I were supposed to be doing this thing, there wouldn’t be so much spiritual warfare.

   Wrong. Maybe. Sometimes what we attribute to “the devil attacking” is really not. Sometimes things go wrong because we’ve violated a Biblical principle about how to do that thing. Sometimes it might be that other people are simply misbehaving and their behavior affects us. Sometimes it might be that we simply live in a fallen world and things go wrong. However, that said, it might be an enemy attack. If so, that is still not an indicator that you’re not supposed to be doing what you believe you were called to do. 

Mindset #3: If I were supposed to be doing this thing, I’d be better at it or more talented.

   Probably not. God loves to take the weak, the uneducated, the not talented (in that area) and raise them up to do what, for them, would be impossible in the natural. For example, how many stories have I heard through the years about people who were terrified to speak in public—and God made them preachers? Or people who hate to write—and God had them write a book?  Et cetera… And why does God do it this way? So that He gets the glory for what we do, not ourselves nor our natural talents. Message? If you can’t do that thing, don’t assume God won’t prepare you to do that thing.

   Bottom line: If it’s a desire of your heart, no matter how impossible or difficult it seems, it’s because God put that desire there and wants you to fulfill that destiny.

   And what if you do…?

 

  

Free Stuff vs. Freedom

Statue of Liberty

   The following is a disclaimer—I’m not trying to start a fight. Nevertheless, I do have an important observation to make and I’ll preface that by saying this: I believe this country will return to normal by the fall. I believe schools will re-open, stadiums will be packed, and stores of every make and model will return to business as usual. I even believe the Dow index on the stock market will, once again, reach the near-30k mark. There. However, here’s what I believe as well:

   If this little pandemic crisis has taught us anything, it’s the difference in lifestyle between a democracy and a socialist/communist regime.

An Objective Perspective

   Am I trying to start trouble? No. The trouble’s already begun. However, it didn’t begin with this pandemic. Rather, it began at some nebulous point in time when some citizens of the United States began to think that “democratic socialism” is even a thing and/or that “socialism” is a better way of life than a democratic republic.

   To believe that is to demonstrate a lack of understanding regarding the meaning of either one of those terms. And here’s how I know… “democratic socialism” is an oxymoron. The two concepts are diametrically opposed to one another. In other words, the terms are polar opposites—it’s very much like saying that a person is an “honest liar”.

   As a teacher trying to help students to comprehend the meaning of The U.S. Constitution and the archaic language of The Bill of Rights, I have to say—what I’m seeing today is eerily similar to what our forefathers so fervently tried to avoid in penning those documents. I find that what we’re experiencing right now—the government-mandated lockdown of our nation with all of its restrictions and prohibitions of our rights and freedoms—is a very explicit picture of what it would be like to live under an authoritarian government.

Free Stuff vs. Freedom

   Have we received any “free money” lately? Yes. Just this week, a very heartwarming $1200 per adult has magically appeared in bank accounts from sea to shining sea. The problem is, I’m not hearing the Halleluiah Chorus ringing across the fruited plain. On the contrary, I’m hearing protests rage from one end of the web to the other in articles, posts, livestreams, and podcasts as people demand to get back to work.

   But—why?

   With socialism, that’s not supposed to happen. Government-provided free money, loans and guarantees of future freebies are supposed to compensate for the trade-off: Our freedoms to roam wherever we’d like, to worship as we please, and to “pursue happiness” (short of a felony) are all forfeited for “free stuff”. However, I can’t quite comprehend why people aren’t excited about that—especially those who would vote for “democratic socialism” given the chance. Granted, many of those are young people who perhaps don’t fully comprehend the (vast) differences between democracy and socialism, but then again, that’s why we try to teach it. However, somehow the lesson isn’t translating…

“The Lesson”

   So… maybe this is the lesson—this real-life, can’t-escape-it, nightmare experiment in socialistic communism where the government behaves much like a parent: “I provide for you, so I tell you what to do and you do it.” Period.  Or, to put it another way—“I pay the bills, I make the rules.”

   Here’s the bottom line: It’s an either-or. Either we earn our own living and therefore get to protect and enjoy our freedoms OR we let the government pay for everything and our freedoms are eroded and destroyed.

There is no scenario in which the government pays for everything and our freedoms are protected. The very act of becoming dependent means we must forfeit our independence in order to be provided for.

   And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.

   For those of us who get it, who can see that what we’re living now is a delectable little taste of future socialistic recipes to come, it’s time to point out the obvious: We’re living the socialistic dream.

   The question is—do we want to wake up?

 

 

This Cat 5 Move of God

Tornado over sea.    The most frustrating thing about receiving a revelation from the Lord is being able to communicate it so that it impacts others as it did you. But I’ll try.

   This morning, I was just sitting and listening because I like the quiet, that sense of being in the eye of the hurricane, regardless of what’s swirling around inside or outside. And that’s when it hit me: Right now, God is doing something big. In this moment, he’s doing something in this world and in this nation that we cannot possibly comprehend because our idea of him “doing something” would not look like this; it wouldn’t involve a deadly virus or a screeching halt to our economy or millions out of work. But it does.

One little question kept buzzing through my head: “Do you really think I’d let this happen for no reason whatsoever?”

   In that moment, I was engulfed with—and this is the part that’s hard to communicate—an overpowering awareness of God’s purpose in all of this. I had this overwhelming sense that there was something happening behind the scenes of mankind that no human being can fathom because no human being really has a grasp on what’s occurring everywhere, all at once, in both the natural and spiritual realms. But once it’s all over, what was happening behind the scenes will be revealed and everything that’s happening now will make sense then.

   The other sense I had was that there are some people who are expecting a particular outcome in this situation but, in the end, what they’re expecting won’t be what happens.

   Do I know what’s going to happen? No. As I said, I don’t believe anyone really does. Different people have bits and pieces by revelation but I don’t believe anyone yet has all of the puzzle pieces. And a puzzle it is.

However, I do know that good will come from this.

   Granted, it isn’t easy and there is difficulty and hardship and heartbreak and I’m not, in any way, discounting that. However—at least in my life—it has helped to know that in the times when I’ve experienced loss and heartache, there has been a purpose to it.

   This is a fact: There is no circumstance in which God will suddenly find himself the victim of an unforeseen “checkmate.” There is nothing that he doesn’t know and no situation that he can’t redeem, no matter how dead it might look. Jesus had to be unequivocally and irrevocably declared “dead” before anyone would ever believe he was raised, and that holds true in any similar circumstance. Only in a very real death can there truly be a genuine and credible resurrection.

   One thing I know: At this very moment, God is doing something in this world and in this nation—and nothing will ever be the same again.

 

God Is Always Watching.

gods-eye-nasa
“God’s Eye In the Sky” (NASA photo)

   Click. The backdoor lock sprang and the doorknob turned. Flashlight off, the intruder paused, listening for the piercing scream of an alarm and hearing none, nudged the door open a tiny crack. In slow motion, he peered around the edge of the door and then crept forward, a stealthy shadow, into the house.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The man froze in mid-step, bulging eyes straining to distinguish the source of the soft, croaky voice floating from the thick darkness.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The burglar drew in a sharp breath and sighed in relief.

   It’s just a bird! A stupid, idiotic bird!

   The man clicked on his flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice.

“Birdie,” he whispered, “it’s hunting season.”

    His light beam danced around the room and then stopped, catching the reflection of a pair of red, glowing eyes and a set of very white bared fangs.

   The voice croaked again. “Meet Jesus.”

God Sees.

   God is always watching. Whether that thought brings any comfort or not is another story entirely. But it should. The knowledge that when things go from wrong to very wrong, from a  small mishap or a disappointed expectation to a long-term heartache or a sudden tragedy, God is aware.

   “‘I have seen the anguish of my people in Egypt and have heard their cries [and] I have come down to deliver them . . . for I know their sorrows’” (Acts 7:34, LB; Exodus 3:7, NKJV).

   If you remember, the Israelites suffered as slaves under the cruel oppression of the Egyptians for 400 long years. And in all that time, God was silent.

   But God was watching.

   God witnessed every whipping, every beating, every deprivation, every shameful violation, and every degrading humiliation wrought upon the Israelites by their slave masters. God heard every mournful, wailing prayer, every desperate, sobbing plea for help, and every heart-splintering scream for deliverance as His children begged to be freed from the vicious brutality of the Egyptians. He also listened as the Israelites shouted at, bargained with, cussed out, and  even forsook Him for other gods because of His silence. For silent God was—for centuries.

But Why?

   God does nothing arbitrarily. God had a plan for the birth of a new nation, a people of His own to proclaim His name throughout the whole world. But before that could happen, that  people suffered slavery for 400 years at the hands of the most powerful gods known to man at that time. Nevertheless, throughout all of those  excruciating years, God never missed a single moment of the suffering of His people; He saw it all—the shredded flesh, the indelible scars, and the tears as numerous as the grains of sand upon the earth.

   Perhaps, in the midst of the pursuit of the destiny that you were 1000% certain God had called you to, things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Maybe you struggle to find the strength to make it through just one more day. Or perhaps circumstances in life—your hopes and dreams—have simply not happened the way you’d hoped they would happen and every day you feel that you’re sinking deeper and deeper into the dark and formless void of hopelessness and nothingness.

   Maybe you’ve ceased to dream at all.

In the Desert of Hopelessness

   That’s how the Israelites felt. And my guess is that’s precisely how Moses felt after squandering  his identity as an exalted Egyptian prince and ending up instead a forgotten fugitive on the backside of the desert with nothing to his name except the rags on his back and a crooked staff in his hand.

   Even so, God never relinquished His watch over the Israelites nor over Moses; night after night, year after year, decade after decade, He never failed to see. And in the end, God delivered His people in a way far more miraculous than they could ever have  imagined and, in doing so, proved Himself to be the God above every other god on earth.

   If you’re in that place, that desert where dreams die and only hopelessness reigns, then hold to the truth that, in order to rise from the ashes, we must first walk through the fire. And should you find yourself in the flames, don’t lose sight of one thing: It’s all part of the plan. Nothing can happen or is happening that God does not see.

   Our God is the god of the Resurrection—and He’s watching over you.

The CoronaVirus: What the Enemy Meant for Evil

Corona Eclipse

   Whatever else you think about the Coronavirus pandemic, we can all agree on one thing: It’s unprecedented in our lifetimes. Never before, even during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, has society virtually shut down. So… what does it all mean? There must be meaning somewhere, right? For Christians, yes. We worship a God who is in control, and we know that he uses all things for his purposes—all things.

Now please understand: I’m NOT saying God caused this virus; what I am saying is that he can use it.

   There’s an often-quoted truth among Christians: “What the enemy means for evil, God uses for good.” The thing is—we drive ourselves silly trying to figure out what good can possibly come from some hard circumstances. And while I don’t claim to know that, I do know one thing: When God is moving in our lives, he often does it in some very unusual ways.

God Does the UNEXPECTED.

   True story. God will sometimes (often?) use unexpected circumstances or people to do those things that he wants to accomplish in our lives. The bottom line is this: We don’t naturally expect good things to happen as a result of bad things. Why? Because in the natural realm, things don’t work that way.

   But God doesn’t do things the natural way.

   God has his own way of doing things. Let’s rehash a few painful circumstances that he had in mind, from the beginning, for good. 

Slavery.

   Joseph was sold into slavery and that can’t be good. But what happened? He became second in command of Egypt to provide for God’s people during an historic famine. But why did there have to be a famine? So that Jacob and his family would come to Egypt. But why did they have to come to Egypt? Because they were unprotected. Since Jacob’s family wasn’t big enough to withstand attacks and assimilation by other nations, they needed to be under the protection of a superpower. That would be Egypt. But why did they have to suffer slavery? If they hadn’t been slaves, the Egyptians would’ve wanted to intermarry with them and the Jewish race would, again, have been swallowed up by another culture. All of those things—the famine, the migration, the slavery—were painful circumstances, but when God finally led the Israelites out of Egypt, there were at least a million of them—strong enough to survive as a nation. The “tragedy” of Egypt was like an incubation period for the Jewish race. God wrought good from evil.

Crucifixion.

   Christ died a brutal and torturous death on a cross. And as Christians, we know now why he did it and how that worked out, but the people of his time didn’t know, didn’t understand, and they were heartbroken. But then they received the revelation that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.” Jesus, they came to realize, was the Lamb of God—but they couldn’t see that at the time.

What painful thing might God be using right now to accomplish some greater purpose in your life—and you just can’t see it yet?

Coronavirus.

   So… what’s the good in this whole COVID-19 thing? People are sick and dying, after all, and many are out of work. Yes, that’s true and not to be dismissed, so can there be any good in this? Let’s consider:

  • People are spending more time with their families. Granted, they have to but, given what our culture has become, would that ever happen any other way?
  • People are being asked to consider what others might need, to care for others, and to begin to think in terms of “others first”. That wasn’t a big priority before this virus hit.
  • People are thinking more about God. Why? Because, perhaps for the first time, people are turning to him for protection and provision—and in this culture, many people have never had to do that before.
  • People have “alone time” and things are slowing down. If we learn to rest, to read—even the art of face-to-face communication, that can only be a good thing.
  • People are learning other things, too—to cook for example. My niece has started a FB page called Cooking from Home—check it out.
  • Parents are homeschooling their children. This means that many parents who have never been involved in their children’s education before are now immersed in it; they’re helping with homework, instilling discipline, and even doing the teaching. Bottom line: Kids are seeing that their parents value education.

   There’s much that we’ll never understand about how or why God chooses to do what he does but that’s where faith comes in. If we believe that God loves us, then we choose to believe that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We may not see the good, we not understand the pain, but we believe there is purpose because we know that God is good.

   No matter what.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, What We Don’t See…

God We Trust   Last year, on June 28th, my son in California broke his finger playing football (boys!). The problem was the health insurance at his new job didn’t kick in until July 1st, 60 days after he was hired. Given that, he had one of two bad choices: either pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket at the Urgent Care or tough it out and wait two days to get treatment—which is where he was leaning.

   The thing is, I’d taken him off of my insurance the previous year after he moved to California and got his first job, which provided insurance. Or, at least I thought I did. Turns out I hadn’t removed him from my insurance after all—but I didn’t realize that. It seems he’d been on my insurance for a whole extra year. Of course, we decided there was no reason to take him off until July 1st when his own insurance became official, although the odds of him getting sick or having some unfortunate accident were very slim… But still—there was the football. And we’re not stupid.

   Enter the broken finger.

Coincidence?

   While some would say it was a lucky coincidence I’d forgotten to remove him from my health insurance, I’d say not. Moreover, the timing of the revelation of my mistake was no coincidence either: If I’d realized the error sooner when he still had coverage at his old job, I would’ve removed him. But if I’d never discovered it, he still would’ve paid for the Urgent Care since he wouldn’t have told them he had insurance—because he didn’t even know it. So what happened?

   God happened.

   Somehow—I don’t know how—Aaron remained on the insurance and his treatment was covered (which is a good thing because he might need surgery). But how many times, when we have absolutely zero idea, is God working invisibly behind the scenes to work out some situation or prevent some problem that isn’t even on our radar yet? Or that never even happens at all because he is working behind the scenes?

It’s Happened Before…

   Time after time, we see this scenario unfold in the Bible. Take, for example, the Old Testament story of Hannah who wanted so badly to have a child but couldn’t. Still, she never stopped praying for a son and, in her desperation, promised God that if he’d give her one, she’d dedicate the child to the Lord. As a result, she became pregnant with Samuel, raised him till he was weaned and then, when he was only three, took him to Jerusalem and left him with the priest Eli to raise. Three years old! I can’t even imagine the grief she suffered in fulfilling her vow.

   But—the story doesn’t end there. The Bible tells us that Eli’s sons, who were also priests, were very wicked. They took the best cuts of meat offered to God, “treating the Lord’s offerings with contempt,” and they seduced the young women assisting at the  Temple entrance. And Eli did nothing about it.

  Meanwhile, the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (I Sam. 2:26).

   Eventually, a prophet came to Eli with a word from the Lord that because of his sons’ sins and his own failure to correct or remove them, they would die on the same day. Furthermore, his family would never again serve as priests, and every member of his family would die a violent death before their time.

   The Bible says that in those days, the word of the Lord was rare and visions uncommon, but meanwhile, the boy Samuel was serving the Lord by assisting Eli” (3:1).

   “Meanwhile” indicates God’s silent work in Samuel behind the scenes to prepare a powerful prophet in the midst of an evil and godless culture. No one knew God was busy doing that but, for the first time in a very long time, a prophet was being raised up to bring the word of the Lord to a people who’d been in a spiritual drought for decades. In other words, when it looked like nothing was happening and God had abandoned his people, he was really quietly working the circumstances for their good.

The Prince of Egypt

   Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, is another example of God’s invisible hand. After being sold by his brothers, he ended up a slave in Potipher’s house where it looked as though he would spend the rest of his life in lonely servitude. But meanwhile, in the middle of that tragic situation, he was learning the Egyptian language, culture, politics, and the protocols of the Egyptian noble class—that is, until he was thrown into prison, accused of a crime he didn’t even commit. Once there, he was thrust into the midst of a dungeon full of Class A felons but what did he do? The same thing he’d done in Potipher’s house: operated in his administrative and leadership skills until he was eventually put in charge of all of those reprobate prisoners. And meanwhile, as he was busy organizing them, he was learning how the other half lived: the ways of the Egyptian commoners, their dialects, and their ideals as well as their problems and concerns—all things which were pretty handy to know once he was promoted to the second-in-command of all of Egypt

We Don’t Know It Until We Know It.

   The thing about the “meanwhiles” of life is that we don’t know they’re in motion behind the scenes until one day when suddenly something happens and it all becomes clear: God was always at work, even when we couldn’t see it.

   We never know…

   When it looks bleakest and it seems there’s nothing remotely on the horizon, what we don’t see is God all around us, doing what only he can do—working it all out. And he’s doing the same for you. Just believe.

   Your “meanwhile” is happening right now.