Category Archives: Principles of Success

“Angels of Light”—Or Not…?

Full Moon Castle“ANGELS OF LIGHT”—OR NOT…?

   Did you know that 40% of Christians believe in psychics? (Protestant—38%, Evangelical—33%, Catholic—46%) Are you aware that one in three (29%) Christians believes in reincarnation (P—26%, E—19%, C—36%)? And did you know that 26% of Christians believe that spiritual energy can be located in physical objects (think mountains and trees) (P—32%, E—24%, C—47%). The bottom line? Six in ten (61%) Christians hold at least one New Age belief (Pew Research Center, “Facts In the Numbers,” October 1, 2018).

   The problem is that not one of these New Age or occult beliefs is, in any way, shape or form, compatible with the Bible or any doctrine or principle in it. But why should we care? After all, we should be tolerant of the beliefs of others, including Christians—right?

   Wrong. Very wrong.

“UNDER COVER OF LIGHT—Occult, New Age and False Religions,” Sunday, October 21st at 10 am, Cornerstone Community Fellowship, 7793 Brewerton Road, Cicero—JOIN US!

   The Bible is very clear about occult activity and our participation in it. In fact, God says, “I will oppose anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists [spirit guides, psychics] to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people” (Lev. 20:6).

   That’s pretty explicit. My concern here: No one I know, Christian or otherwise, wants to have their destiny opposed by God. Yet He will—He said so. And do you really want that? Do you really want all of your years of dreaming and planning to go up in smoke? Do you really intend for all of your blood, sweat and tears to be wasted? Do you actually want to see all those nights of burning the midnight oil evaporate into thin air? Or worse?

   Do you want to fail?

   Many people don’t believe God means what he says in his word. The ironic thing is that some Christians stand on his word for the things they need to fulfill their destinies and then discount his word when they don’t like what it says.

   Did you know that that kind of picking and choosing from the Bible is a mainstream New Age belief?

   Of course the main objection when people hear what God says about occult activity is always some version of “but what’s the big deal with checking out a psychic or having a séance or playing around with tarot cards or Ouija boards? It’s all just fun and games; no one gets hurt.”

   You get hurt. The word “occult” means “hidden”. And occult activity is hidden by Satan expressly for the purpose of destruction—yours. In fact, his goal is right there on the printed page: “’The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…’” (John 10:10). And it’s so much easier for him to do that when we cooperate with him and engage in the occult. But we do that because the primary strategy Satan uses to destroy us is deception.

   The fact is, you’re not the exception to his little agenda; none of us are. It doesn’t matter whether we know the occult is Satan’s territory or we don’t. Satan doesn’t say, “Oh, well, you didn’t know I intend to destroy you, so I won’t. Go ahead and play.” Sorry. Nor does it matter whether we visit a psychic, chant a mantra, participate in “past life regression,” or talk to grandma through a séance—we’re treading on territory patrolled by demons. (Btw—if anyone shows up at the little get-together with grandma, we need to be aware that it’s not grandma. It’s what’s called a “familiar spirit”—a demon who appears as someone we know so that we’ll engage with it.)  

   Deception.

   “Spirit guides” are another entity to stay away from. In fact, run from. I used to know a psychic—a spirit guide— who’s job it was to contact spirits from the “other side” and give advice based on what the “spirits” would tell her. But the advice was not helpful; in fact, it was destructive. But all part of the plan. However, she was a “nice” person—she didn’t look like a Satanist or anything—so people believed her.

   To their peril.

   “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness…” (II Cor. 11:14-15).

   Deception.

   I know, I know. You’d be able to tell if you were being deceived. But that’s the tricky part about deception—you really can’t tell.

   As to reincarnation, that’s another lie from the pit of well, you know where. How do I know? Think about it—if we could all go to heaven just by coming back until we “get it right,” then Christ really wasted his time on the cross, didn’t he? I mean, if we could be saved from the fiery pit any other way, then we wouldn’t need a Savior, would we? It’s not rocket science.

   It is deception.

   “But,” (you say), “what about Harry Potter and Casper the Friendly Ghost and the Ghost Whisperer and the Good Witch—they’re all good people, they’re all nice.” They are but can I just tell you? There is no such thing as a “friendly” ghost; a “ghost whisperer” is simply another name for a spiritist/psychic/spirit guide; and God didn’t differentiate in the Bible between “good” or “bad” witches. What he did say was, “Now a man or a woman who is a medium or spiritist shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 20:27).

   Now, why would God say that? That just sounds mean. But God has a reason for being so unequivocal about witchcraft. He says, “’Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God’” (Lev. 19:31). The fact is this: God is prohibiting occult activity for our sakes; it “defiles” us. That means it makes us “polluted,” “unclean,” even “foul” (Strong’s). And a holy God and his Holy Spirit cannot commune with us if we are polluted by the enemy.

   Let’s face it: the desire to engage in the occult, the “hidden,” is intriguing. There’s a mystery about it; people want to know more about the secret spirit realm. That’s the lure.

   Deception.

   The truth is, there’s nothing mysterious about the occult if we read our Bibles. God fuels all that is holy, and Satan fuels all that is evil. God works out in the open, the light, and Satan works in the hidden, the darkness. God will tell you the truth so that you can choose who or what you want to follow, and Satan will deceive you so that you don’t understand who or what evil you’re “choosing”. God will never override your free will, and Satan will destroy your free will. God brings freedom, and Satan brings bondage.

   God has come to bring you life, and Satan has come to bring you death. That’s all.

   “’When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?’” (Is. 8:19).

   Do you want to know what your future destiny holds? Ask God, he’ll tell you. But one thing I can tell you: What your destiny holds depends upon whom you’re following.

   Choose wisely.

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The “A” Words: Authority and Accountability

Riot IV

THE “A” WORDS: AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILTY

   Let’s face it—even wolves have an authority structure. The Alpha dog is the one who keeps the others in line. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a pack, there’d be chaos. And we see lines of authority all throughout nature. There’s a “pecking order” in the barn; the geese follow a particular goose; rams butt heads to find out who’s in charge; and I’m pretty sure lions have some sort of show down to determine the Big Cat. (I did see The Lion King.) Even families in nature have a structure; all the little duckies follow the mommy duck in a no-nonsense line. Lion cubs get swatted into order, and I’ve never seen a calf or colt bucking the bull or stallion.

   Unfortunately, not so among humans—in families or in society. The result? Chaos in families and in society. The parenting trend in our culture over the last several decades has been to allow children to “rule the roost” (which, by the way, would never happen in the henhouse). We’ve all seen parents who are too intimidated by their children to stand up to their naughty behavior. This means that the authority structure in the home has broken down, and therefore, children (in these homes) are not taught even to acknowledge authority much less respect it. This then translates into meltdowns in our classrooms, workplaces, churches, courts, and even the streets of our nation; without respect for authority, it’s difficult (impossible?) to contain people who are not getting their way, much less to accomplish anything productive.

   So how do we offset this? There’s only one way: We have to recognize and comply with the need for both authority and accountability. And if that recognition does not begin with us, it has no hope of spreading to anyone else.

   But does submitting to authority and accountability mean that we subject ourselves to horrific abuse by those who wield their authority like Attila the Hun? Does it mean that, like browbeaten doormats, we silently quake in fear in the wake of bad leadership? Does it mean the return of slavitude and the breakdown of civil society?

   No.

There’s a time and a place to address abuses by authority, but it’s not by burning, looting, accosting, and assaulting those in charge. There are means of protest which do not erode or decimate a nation.

   So—what can we do to preserve civility on our turf?

   Suggestion #1: At least consider respecting authority. Granted, some people don’t deserve the positions of authority they hold, but instead of starting with the assumption that all authority is corrupt or incompetent, how about we at least wait until they prove that before we accuse them of it? In fact, why not begin with the opposite perspective—that all authority deserves to be respected? For example, let’s just assume that policemen and women have our backs and deserve to be respected for—what again? Oh, right—risking their very lives to protect—us. And ditto with the military; let’s not assume they’re all evil warmongers but rather selfless people who love their country and—us. Not to mention pastors—it’s actually possible that they do have better things to do all day on Sunday than the care and feeding of clueless sheep. (Wait—did I say Sunday? I meant Sunday through Saturday…) And let’s not forget teachers. Let’s just pretend for a moment that they’re not just in it for the big bucks and summers off and that they might actually like a kidlet or two. Besides, who doesn’t love arguing with teenagers for a living? Every. Single. Day. Almost.

   Suggestion #2: Consider being accountable. I know, I know—there’s a medieval concept. After all, being accountable to anyone would certainly imperil all our freedoms and rights as homo-sapiens. Right? But when you think about it, is it really such a horrific idea—especially if there is no one else to speak into our lives with just the right blend of wisdom, truth, and love? We’re usually blind to our own faults or we would’ve already dealt with them, so what’s wrong with getting another perspective? (And if we prefer to ignore our faults, then there’s a reason for accountability.) If we have an accountability partner, we can make character adjustments a lot sooner rather than later; we can get another viewpoint on potential decisions; or we can simply have that rock-in-a-storm to talk us off the ledge when we think the world is ending.

   Being accountable doesn’t mean we’re signing up to be raked over the brimstone every time we have a little chat with our partner. It can actually be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And the Bible does say that “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) and that “two are better than one…” (Ecc. 4:9-12).

   Seriously, King David would never have become king if he had not continued to honor King Saul’s position as king even though Saul was trying to kill him. David said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Far be it from me to touch God’s anointed.” Granted, I know better than many that sometimes it’s not easy or even safe to respect the authority we’re under, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it—at least from a distance. Can we not at least pray for those in authority, if nothing else? Can we not at least be polite, even if we don’t have the greatest parent/boss/political representative, etc.?

   Respecting authority does not mean that we always agree with those in authority, nor does submitting to accountability mean that we’re relinquishing our free will if we choose to listen to someone wiser than we are. One thing I do know: If more people in our society were willing to do those two simple things, everything would change.

   Unity would happen.

 

  

Kingdom vs. Democracy

Crown-Constitution

KINGDOM VS. DEMOCRACY

   Living in a democracy is far different than living in a kingdom. Agreed? In a democratic republic, we vote in our leaders and, if we don’t like them, we vote them out. Simple. However, in a true kingdom (without a parliament), people have no say in who rules; whoever occupies the royal cradle is who they end up subject to. Sometimes that works out. Nevertheless, given human nature, most of the time, not. (You know what they say: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) Still, subjects of a monarchy are often at an advantage when they become Christians. Why? Because they view Christ as a king and not an elected official.

   Of course, your average American Christian would argue that point; the party line (whichever party) is, “We know Jesus is King!” Maybe. We even sing songs to that effect. But still, knowing it and acting on it are two different things entirely.

   Now, to be sure, it’s not our fault that we don’t know the difference between a kingdom and a democracy. Moreover, those of us in said democracy believe that we have the advantage over a kingdom. After all, all we know of kings is that tyrant King George back in the day who taxed our tea without a thought as to what we’d drink with our crumpets. Or mad King Ludwig of German fame—proof positive that you can’t impeach a king. Or King Herod, the murderer, or King Henry the VIII, the adulterer/murderer, or King Louie XIV, the oblivious—and on and on it goes. (King Arthur, of course, was the exception, but alas… that was long ago…)

   The point is this: much of the confusion for Christians is that we give lip service to the idea that we are the subjects of Christ the King but, having little understanding of the difference between a kingdom and a democracy, in our ignorance, we presume much. So—here’s a little primer on the differences:

   Thing #1: Leaders. In a democracy, we elect our leaders, and those not directly elected to their positions are appointed by elected officials. This means that virtually all of our leaders in the United States are subject to We the People. In a democracy, our leaders serve us. In a kingdom, on the other hand, leaders are members of a monarchy who are born to their positions, not elected; therefore, they are not subject to any of the people. Rather, the people exist to serve the king. In terms of the Kingdom of God, this translates to this:

Christ is our king, not our president. As such, He is not subject to We the People nor can He be voted out. Period.

   Is that fair? To those raised in a democracy to whom everything is about “rights,” maybe not. Which brings me to…

   Thing #2: “Rights” and “Fairness.” In short, in a democracy, we have some rights. In a kingdom, we don’t. End of story. And unless and until the king decides we do have some, that will never change. Therefore, as to the above quandary regarding whether it’s “fair” that a king can’t be voted out, doesn’t matter. A kingdom concerns itself not in least with what’s fair to you or me. “Fairness,” in a kingdom, is not a doctrine. This is not to say, however, that all kings are ruthless or unfair. Christ is not, fortunately for us. Although, if He chose to be, that would be fair because “fairness,” in a kingdom, is defined entirely by what the king believes is fair. And there is no discussion about that nor is there any filibustering. In a kingdom, one protests the king’s view of fairness to one’s own peril.

   Thing #3: Laws. Kingdom laws are determined the same way as kingdom “rights” and “fairness;” the king is the one who determines what the laws are and he then decrees them. Furthermore, once a king establishes a law, no one, including the king himself, can negate the law. In the Bible, we have the (unfortunate) example of King Xerxes who carelessly decreed a law that the Jewish people could be slaughtered by whoever wanted to on March 7th of some year. However, when confronted with what a stupid idea that was, even he couldn’t cancel the law; the best he could do was to issue a new decree which would give the Jewish people permission to fight back. In the Bible, God says that His Word—His laws—are established “forever”. They will never change. In a democracy, on the other hand, laws can be protested, amended and even revoked.

   This particular difference between a kingdom and a democracy is the one which causes the most confusion and anger among Christians.

Some in the body of Christ think that if they don’t like a law or principle in the Word of God, they have the right to protest and/or ignore it entirely. Not so.

   In a kingdom, the only real freedom we have is whether to obey the laws of the king or not. However, the consequence for disobeying the laws is always punishment, and there is no appealing that.

   Thing #4: Subjects. In a democracy, We the People are called “citizens” because we are all equal members of a civil society (at least in theory). In a kingdom, people are called “subjects” because they are subject to the king, meaning that they are, essentially, at the mercy of the king. Hopefully, the king is merciful.

   Among the king’s subjects are his “gentlemen-in-waiting” and, for a queen, “ladies-in-waiting”. These are the king’s and queen’s closest confidants, his/her best friends, and the ones most influential to the monarch. However, this does not mean that these nobles are equal to the king or queen; they are appointed by the monarch and can be dis-appointed as well. Their job is to “wait” upon the king or queen.

   In terms of the Kingdom of God, we are Christ’s gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting. However, we are more than that; we are co-heirs with Christ; we rule and reign with Him. However—and this is key—we still wait upon Him. He is still the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we exist for His delight.

   I love the tale of King Arthur because I believe he is a visible type of Christ. (History suggests he was a real Roman commander-turned-king who reigned in England, establishing Christianity, in the pagan days of the druids.) He ruled over his kingdom but he had elevated his knights to a “round table”—an outrageous concept in his day. In other words, they had equal input into his decisions. And while he had the final decision, he listened to them. They were his companions and best friends and he loved them. He was, like Christ, a benevolent king who ruled in the best interests of his subjects and friends.

   In the Kingdom of God, the enigma is this: we serve in total subjectivity to Christ the King. Yet, because of who He is—a loving and benevolent king—He has chosen to elevate us to a higher position than we could ever achieve in a democracy. We are His co-heirs, His companions, His very friends.  

   And we are the most privileged of people to be so.

 

 

 

No Worries—It’s Not On You.

Fall Road I

NO WORRIES—IT’S NOT ON YOU.

   How do we keep doing that thing we were born to do when the odds are against us ever succeeding at it? Whether it’s beginning a business, competing in a sport, writing a book or song, going for a scholarship or any other thing—how do we keep from caving to the fear that it’ll all be for nothing? We look around and see the competition—there are a dozen other companies out there offering what we’re trying to do in our new business. Or there are already 400 books on the market on the topic we want to write on. Or 200+ resumes were received for that one position we just applied for. Et cetera.

   How do we keep plugging along when it all just seems so futile?

   A year ago, I struggled with the same questions. What difference does it make if I ever write my book? It’s probably already been done or the odds are against it ever getting into the hands of publishers or if it does, they’ll hate it. Or even if it gets published, no one will buy it, anyway. So, I concluded, what’s the point?

   That when I had a God moment. John the Baptist said, “’God in heaven appoints each person’s work’” (John 3:27).

   This was brand new revelation to me: God had appointed me to write. And if God appointed me to write, then it just makes sense that there’s a reason for it. It might not be the reason I think it is but—and here’s the key—my writing is not futile; I’m not just wasting my time when I pick up the pen. I’m doing that thing that God has appointed me to do.

   And so are you.

   When things don’t work out the way we think they should, we often conclude that we’re not “supposed” to be doing that thing. But if it’s in our hearts to do (and it’s not immoral, illegal or fattening), then we are supposed to be doing that thing. It’s our appointed work from the Lord.

   Jesus said, “’My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing HIS work’” (John 4:34, emphasis mine).

   This scripture contains three crucial truths. First, doing the work God appoints us to do is “nourishing” to our souls; it’s the thing that fulfills us in this life.

   Second, the key to that fulfillment is finishing that work. In other words, we can’t quit. Regardless of what the purpose for our work turns out to be, we complete our assignment.

   Third—and this is the revelation that totally set me free—Jesus said that doing God’s will (which is our assignment) is His work.

My assignment is His work—which means it’s totally on God as to where it goes. It’s not up to me to make it succeed—and it’s not up to you.

   It’s just like planting a seed: I can dig the hole and bury the seed, but I can’t make it grow. That’s God’s job.

   Now for the disclaimer: Part of our assignment is to do the very best we can at that assignment. For an author, for example, that means part of the assignment is promoting the work. But here’s the key—if I do the absolute best I can to write the book, to write the proposals, and to promote the book, then the rest is up to God. Whether it gets published or not is up to Him. I wrote the thing and I did the proposals but I can’t make anyone publish it. Or maybe I do get published. Then I do my best to promote it with all the hard work that that entails. But having done the best I can, whether it sells ten copies at church or 20 million around the world is not my problem. I can’t make people buy it. That’s God’s work.

   God wants to be in partnership with us. His part is to pass out the assignments, our part is to complete our assignment with excellence, and then His part is to take our work wherever He wants to take it. Period. The key thing is, if we’ve truly done our best, then we can’t beat ourselves up if our work doesn’t “go” where we think it should go. “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

   Or we don’t. It’s a choice.

   Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “’Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’” (John 5:8). When I read that scripture, I heard the Lord say to me, “Stand up, pick up your pen, and write.”  And He’s saying the same to you: “Stand up, pick up your assignment, and get moving.”

   Stand up. Pick up. Walk.

   Someday, we’ll stand before the Lord and give an account of our faithfulness. If, when that happens, we can truly say that we’ve completed our assignment, Jesus will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If we’ve been faithful, we won’t be judged on the success of our assignment because that’s God job. We will be evaluated on whether we completed it to the best of our ability.

   Jesus knew that. The very last words He spoke before He died were, “’It is finished.’” He had completed His assignment.

   In the end, may we be able to say the same.

 

The Double-Edged Sword

big-bang-5   THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

   I’d say “once upon a time,” but it was back before there was time, before the genesis of barren rocks called planets spinning along invisible courses, before flaming stars wheeling across the dark annals of space—before even there was space—but after the Fall. This Fall, of course, was the downfall of the angels, led by one proud and upwardly-ambulant Lucifer, but that’s not the matter here. The matter is the establishment of the Laws—and one in particular—decreed somewhere between that Fall and the founding of Creation.

   To be fair, and to acknowledge those who think they were there when all of this mayhem happened, there may have been a universe before the Fall—one utterly and irreversibly ruined by the ambitious rebellion of that Lucifer and his underlings. In fact, according to annals of history and lore and just plain gossip, our current creation may simply be the miserable leftovers of that ruthless war. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But regardless of when our current world was begotten—before or after that infamous Fall—God, in His divine and perpetual wisdom, decreed Laws upon which His creation was to be eternally established.

   Of that I am certain.

   We humans, divinely inspired and intellectually gifted as we believe ourselves to be, are aware of most of these laws. They encompass mathematics and physics and astrophysics and life sciences, as well as philosophies worldwide—laws regarding behaving and all of that, although, admittedly, we have yet to agree as to which among those creeds is the Absolute. Nevertheless, we do tend toward trouble with the spiritual laws established long before the Fall and before, perhaps, even the creation of the angels themselves. We struggle, in particular, with the idea of words.  

   Words, as we humans know them to be, are means of communication—whether for good or for evil—and that is the end of it. Words, as far as we are concerned, hold no further purpose. However, the scientists among us have discovered that words are comprised of things called “sound waves”. Now, these sound waves are formidable, echoing endlessly throughout the universe, ringing across galaxies, through the very matter which comprises them and, more probably then potentially, are eternal in nature. In fact, rumor has it that these sound waves—the very ones which comprise words—have never had any recorded ending. Our very own godlike technology has never trekked the end of a sound wave. These waves hurl toward earth from who knows where, are recorded by our scopes, and then streak on by, uncontained, into eternity. We have only some vague idea of where they came from and even less idea where they go. In addition, scientists have conceded that, while able to be recorded, sound waves are otherwise invisible.

   And that’s all we know about them.

   Nevertheless, these sound waves are the building blocks upon which God chose to establish His laws. Astonishingly, according to Biblical account, words were the sole instruments of creation.

The words “Light be!” triggered a blinding eruption of radiant color—yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and then white—the spectrum exploding throughout the frozen darkness, exposing the nothingness that was, and glittering with fire and heat and light.

   And that was how it all began.  

   Now there might be nothing more incredulous than the concept that matter has its genesis in sound waves and that God has used those very waves to speak creation into existence. One would think. But there is one thing more inexplicable even than that: that God would even conceive of bestowing upon mankind that same dominion over sound waves and thus give him the power to create through words.

   Imagine what mankind could do were he ever to grasp that truth—even a little. Destinies would be fulfilled, worlds would be conquered, and death in all of its manifold forms would be decimated—in this lifetime.

   Sound waves are powerful—words wielded for good or for evil, for prosperity or for poverty, for blessing or for cursing—our choices, of course. But who among us really understands the power that we wield?

   The spoken word is ours to command—but a double-edged Sword, to be sure.

   Use it well.

  

 

 

Responsibility = Authority

Scepter IVRESPONSIBILITY = AUTHORITY

   Recently a friend told me about a company having trouble hiring people who regularly show up on time for work (and this company pays good money). So how are they solving this little dilemma? They’re giving an extra $75 per paycheck to people who actually show up for work on time. Every day. Like they’re supposed to. (My head is ready to explode.)

   One of the saddest things I see in our culture, whether it’s in school, in the workplace or on the news, is people refusing to step up and take responsibility for the everyday things people are supposed to do. Far too many students don’t do their work in school—and forget doing homework. Of course, why should they? They get promoted to the next grade regardless of whether they’re passing or failing. And don’t think I’m kidding; I see it every year. I’ve even seen parents requesting that their children stay behind to catch up and districts simply won’t allow it. Seriously. That’s a thing. It’s called “social promotion”.

   And on the job site: people either don’t show up for work on a regular basis or they don’t show up on time or they don’t work when they get there. Don’t think so? Ask any business owner how difficult it is these days to find employees who are responsible enough to do all three of those things—and on the same day. But again—why should they? They were passed through school without doing any work so why should they be expected to do any after graduation? If they graduate.

   In the past several months, I’ve seen signs at fast food places saying, “Help Wanted—High School Diploma Required”. Why? Is it because it takes four years of social studies in order to be able to flip burgers? No, it’s because these places want to hire people who have the work ethic to finish what they’re required to do.

   In short, to be responsible.

The fact is, the more responsibility a person steps up to, the more authority he or she is able to hold.

   And I don’t mean that simply in the sense of someone doing a good job so they get a promotion with more authority—although that naturally happens. But have you ever seen a person who just exudes an air of authority? You know them when you see them. They’re comfortable being leaders, the people they lead are comfortable following them, and things get done. This is what I call “earned authority”. People take on responsibilities, fulfill them, and the ability to hold authority is the natural consequence.

   On the flip side, have you ever seen a person in charge who really doesn’t belong there? They don’t know what they’re doing, they demand their own way, and they “pass the buck” whenever something goes wrong. Consequently, people don’t respect them and resent having to follow them. Why? Because they were given authority before they learned how to handle responsibility and so they simply are not able to bear the weight of that authority. This is called “fast-track authority”.

   “Earned authority” you work for and are ready for when you get it. “Fast-track authority” is either inherited from someone or you demanded it and “took” it because it’s “owed” to you. Think about the age-old tale of a rich kid who blows daddy’s wealth because he never had to work for it. Or the person rioting in the streets because he or she wants something and will pitch a fit until it’s handed over to them. And why? Because they were never given responsibilities and then required to fulfill them.

   There’s a lot to be said for working your way up from the small time to the big time. It builds know-how and experience, which builds wisdom, which breeds self-respect, which builds the confidence to step into leadership, and finally results in the capability to wield authority in whatever realm you operate. Working your way up the authority ladder also breeds humility because you can’t help but recognize that, along the way, you could never have achieved any heights of responsibility and authority on your own.

   What’s the point? Simply this: If you’re a parent, do your children the favor of giving them responsibilities and making them accountable for them. It’s not going to hurt them if they struggle a little to figure things out. In all seriousness, it builds character and confidence. If you’re a leader, be the kind who gives others responsibility and then is patient with their mistakes, helping them to achieve success in fulfilling duties. If you’re an adult, take on responsibilities and be faithful to fulfill them; then take on the leadership to raise up other responsible leaders.

   Fulfilling your responsibilities to the best of your ability is the only way to grow in and hold the authority you’ll need to win at whatever you’ve been called to do.

   You have a scepter of authority. Use it.

 

  

“Permission Granted.”

Traffic Light II

“PERMISSION GRANTED.”

   Have you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God if you could—you were essentially asking permission—and then you waited? And waited. And waited. There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night. God didn’t give you a prophetic word—even though you hit ten prophetic meetings in two weeks time (you know you did). And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’. Got it.” And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

   Ever been there?

   Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that upon his return, he would expect to see a return on his investment. Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities. But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them was the point.

   The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents—and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.

The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents—as long as the results benefited his kingdom.

   So what did they do? The best they knew how to do. Except for one of them.

   When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back. The master, not pleased, asked him why. The man’s response?  “I was afraid.” Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

   Want a message from God: He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

The light is green until it’s red.

   In other words, go.

   The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something).

   One time, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point. I’d decided I wanted to take an on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. So—should I or shouldn’t I? I checked in with the Lord, but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close. So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it. By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it. Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

   Red light.

   Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving. As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

   “But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?”  You probably will. Everybody does. (It builds character). But then you get back up and try again.

   Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams—regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer. However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY. No harm, no foul. I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.” The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

   An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t work out?  If not, then don’t do it. If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light. I once turned down a job as a promotional director at a television station because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

   Red light.

   Here’s a guideline: if you’re considering doing something life-changing that can’t be undone without a lot of damage and casualties, don’t charge in where angels fear to tread; seek God— and, yes, wait. (We all end up there from time to time.)

   So—if your dream is an acceptable risk—meaning you can fall down or even fail without irreparable damage—then why not try? As Nathan once said to David, “Go and do all that is in your heart for the Lord is with you” (I Chron. 17:2).

   Does that mean you’ll never fail? Of course not; you’ll have a bad day or two. But don’t let that be an excuse for not using the talents God has given you. Remember that there will come a day when you’ll stand before the Lord and account for what you did with those talents.

   Until then, you have a green light. Now drive.

 

 

 

The Lonely Years

Man in Alley - FREETHE LONELY YEARS

   We all want to fulfill our destinies, to do that thing we were born to do, and to hear, in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 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.” And it’s true. We can—and will—spend years preparing educationally, spiritually and character-wise.

   Training: For instance, what job or ministry 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? Guess what? All of that takes time—usually years.

   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 a nation he previously knew nothing about.

   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?

   King 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.

   Character-building: 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 often corrupt themselves and then have no qualms about destroying others. Sad, but true.

   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 that that brought with it and probably (I’m speculating) had a pretty healthy estimate of himself by his 40th birthday. From forty to eighty, 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.

The serious 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 then easily 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 NOT an indication that you’re not supposed to be doing what you believe you were called to do. While the devil can’t tell the future (which is dependent upon your choices), he can see what it is you’re planning and preparing to do. Remember, his mission is to “kill, steal and destroy” and so, chances are that he’ll at least try to wreck your dream—once anyway. And the bigger threat your destiny is to him, the more he’s likely to try.

   Do not quit.

   Mindset #3: If I were supposed to be doing this thing, I’d be better at it or more talented or it would come easier. 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? Or people who had trouble in school—and God made them teachers? Et cetera, etc… 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, most likely God put it there and wants you to fulfill the destiny connected to it.

   Do the math. God + you = success.

 

  

Tantrums, Meltdowns and Nuclear Options

Stress concept - angry man with exploding head

   TANTRUMS, MELTDOWNS AND NUCLEAR OPTIONS

   My homework policy is posted, in giant letters, right up at the front of my classroom: “Just Do It.”  I like it. It’s succinct and to the point: no excuses, no procrastinating, no blowing it off – just get it done.

   Nevertheless, sometimes we have a problem getting it done – whatever “it” is. Just because we reach adult status does not mean we never have the temptation to dodge the boring, the hard or the seemingly pointless. There are all kinds of things in life that we would prefer to put off, avoid or skip entirely. Nevertheless, we can’t. Those things are not optional; they’re mandatory “must-do’s”, meaning there will be consequences if we don’t do them. And they won’t be good.

   I remember in graduate school, I had to do a final thesis paper on the influence that writing has on students’ reading. The problem was, I wanted to do that paper about as much as I wanted to spend a week cleaning outhouses. However, that mattered not. So I took a stab at it. And then another. And another. Then I raged and then I cried and then I took numerous naps. It’s not that I couldn’t do the paper; I just didn’t want to. I simply did not want to have to spend weeks wading through countless boring articles trying to find which would best prove the point, and then spend another couple of weeks writing it all up. I knew there was a connection between writing and reading. My professors knew there was a connection. So why did I have to prove it?

   That was my first excuse.

   My second excuse was that it was hard. (It really wasn’t.) My third excuse was that nobody really cared anyway. I know I barely cared. But when I couldn’t think of any more excuses, I realized there was one truth which I was ignoring entirely to my own peril: without the dumb paper, I wouldn’t graduate.

   Sometimes we simply don’t want to do that thing we have to do and what’s more – no one can make us!

   Except us.

   Sometimes we just need to push through the frustration, the tears, the rage, the pain. Still, beginning can be the hardest part of doing anything – even if it’s something we really want or need to do. But why is beginning the most difficult part?

   Reason #1: It might take some time before I see any results. The fact is, it’s hard to get up and running, doing the difficult thing and persevering when we may not see results for some time. Dieting comes to mind; many folks put off losing those pounds because it will probably be at least a few weeks before the scale tips in the right direction. Where’s the fast-track to that?? The unwelcome truth is that it takes time to do some things: earning the promotion, building the business, getting the degree, or writing the book. Building credit? Toning or buffing up? How about training those kidlets? (Ever wonder whether you’re going to survive that little endeavor?) How about building – or rebuilding – that relationship? You know what they say . . . “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

   Where would we be today if Rome – the first democratic republic in history – had never been built?

Reason #2: It’s too much work! Usually the things we want to avoid are not easy things. They might well be quick but not easy. Ever have to apologize for that thing you wish you’d never said or done? Shouldn’t take that long, but . . . Or what about the “E” word: “exercise”? Twenty minutes a day isn’t a lifetime but lifting those weights or running a mile can feel that way. Passing that course? How about cleaning the house or revamping the landscape or de-cluttering the attic, garage and/or basement? Work all. Rebuilding trust in a relationship might involve all kinds of hoops to jump through – high ones. Climbing the corporate ladder? That takes toil and endurance. Or how about this: writing the book perhaps wasn’t hard but the editing, the revision, and then rewriting the revision? And let’s not forget the querying, the platform building, and the promotion. There’s work.

   My son summed it all up rather nicely with a little sign that says, “Do what’s right, not what’s easy.”

Reason #3: I might fail. Maybe. But those who never even try have already failed. There’s failing in disgrace: never attempting that thing or quitting when it gets hard, and there’s failing with honor: you gave it your best.

   Your dream: Could it take a long time? Will it be hard? Might you fail?. Probably. Yes. Maybe. But the longer it takes and the harder it is and the more risk of failure, then the bigger the payoff, the reward, the satisfaction. But regardless of any other thing you gain, perhaps the biggest bonus to you will be a brand new confidence that you can, that you do have what it takes and that, from now on, there’s nothing you can’t do. That alone makes it all worthwhile.

   Just do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Light You Think You Have…”

Beach at Night

“THE LIGHT YOU THINK YOU HAVE…”

   We’ve all been there: You just can’t tell us anything. “Don’t spend that much,” or “Don’t take that job,” or “Don’t date that person.”

   “Don’t touch that stove.”

   Why? Because we’ll get burnt.

   But we do it anyway. Why? Because we know better, we’re smarter, you’re dumber, we know people—the rationalizations go on and on. And we really believe them. Why?

   Because we’re blind.

   The problem with mental/emotional/spiritual blindness is that we don’t know we’re blind. We throttle forward, ignoring caution signs and stop signs and even rules or laws and then we hit the Big Wall. We crash. We burn. We take others down with us. And then we can’t figure out why.

   So—why? Why do we do it?

   Because we want what we want. We want that too-expensive house or car or wardrobe and so we go into debt to get it. We want that job because it it’s “fun” or it pays well or we get to travel. But we ignore the fact that maybe the “fun” puts us around bad influences or it pays well because it requires a certain, shall we say, talent for compromise or yes, we get to travel but we have to leave the fam home alone for half the year. We want to date that really hot guy or girl because, well—who wouldn’t? But then we find out we’re actually not immune to their rep for shredding hearts. But, hey—we got what we wanted. Right?

   Over the years, I’ve had my share of “what-in-the-heck-was-I-thinking??” moments. But looking back, I wasn’t thinking about anything except what I wanted. And why? Because I would be the one to make it work, to get that “thing” without any consequences, to beat the odds. I’m that good.

   That’s blindness.

   And if we look around, it’s everywhere. I see it with students making (very) poor choices, public figures saying things that make absolutely zero sense, and others violating spiritual or legal laws and yet still thinking something good could possibly happen.

   Blindness.

   So how do we keep from falling into the dark pit of ignorance, wreck and ruin? There are a few things…

   Thing #1: Listen to people who’ve “been there, done that.” There’s nothing more painful than watching someone you care about dancing merrily down a perilous path that you know from sad experience ends in devastation—and you can’t do thing one about it. So—if someone’s trying to tell us “don’t go there,” would it kill us at least to consider that they might possibly know what they’re talking about? Will we actually die if we at least hear them out? No.

Listening has never been proven fatal.

Thing #2: Look at who you’re listening to. If the advice you’re getting is coming from people with a good track record, then follow it. But if the advice you’re getting is coming from people who have not been especially wise with their own choices, then the better part of wisdom: “RUN!” The only exception to that rule would be people who’ve “been there, done that” and learned from it. (See above.) To follow the advice of others who’ve never made any good decisions themselves and yet still stand by them has a name—it’s called “the blind leading the blind.”

Thing #3: Check for Biblical principal. I know, I know—it sounds absolutely insane to suggest that there might possibly be something relevant in a book full of stuff that happened 2000+ years ago. But you’d be surprised to find that some principles never change, no matter how many blind people tell us they don’t apply anymore.

   “You reap what you sow” (Gal.6:7) comes to mind. (“You harvest what you plant,” “What goes around, comes around,” karma, etc.… You know the drill.) But some people act like they can do something harmful or stupid and something good will come from it. (I know—been there, done that.)

   “What a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Prov. 23:7). (What a person thinks about, they become.) Can we spend our days filling our minds and hearts with the stupid, the silly, the evil and not begin to think, at some point, that those things are okay? And then begin to imitate them? Short answer—no. (If you disagree, re-visit sowing and reaping.)

   “’Seek first the kingdom of God [His will and principles] and His righteousness, and [then] all these things [your heart’s desires] will be given to you’” (Matt.6:33 ). Bottom line: If we’re not asking God what He thinks about our decisions (hint: before we make them), then we can’t expect that He’ll bless what He doesn’t want us doing. That’s not hard to understand, right? You’d think. But I didn’t get it for a long time. Or wait—I did get it; I just didn’t want to do it. What if God didn’t want what I wanted? So dumb.

   We’ve all made stupid decisions but one of the dumbest is to refuse to listen to sources of good advice. That mindset is the #1 destroyer of destiny because it affects every other decision we make. The best thing we can do for our dreams and visions is to evaluate the “wisdom” we’ve been following and to consider its consequences.

   “Beware that the light you think you have is not really darkness” (Luke 11:35).