“The Wait” or the Counterfeit? Your Call.

Hold Button GoldSeveral years ago, I needed a teaching job. I had switched careers and already had kids, meaning I needed a full-time job, not part-time, and I needed permanent, not temporary. So – I searched and searched, but without experience, it was slow going.

     Nevertheless, one day I got a call from a principal to interview for a high school  English position. I was, of course, all in and set up the interview but then, as we were ending the phone conversation, he said, “By the way, the position is full-time but it’s a temporary maternity leave for the fall semester. Are you still interested?”

     What was I supposed to say? No?  “Of course. Thank you.”

     Well, I have to tell you that for the next two days, the left side of my brain and the right side of my brain did nothing but fight.

     RIGHT SIDE: “Of course we have to try for the job. We have two children to feed!”

     LEFT SIDE: “But we need a full-time, permanent job and this isn’t it.”

     RIGHT: “Yes, but we’re running out of time! They only hire for teachers once a year. They won’t be hiring again till next year!”

     LEFT: “Right, but if we took this job, we’d have to start this whole job-hunting thing all over again in January. And there’s never anything then.”

     RIGHT: “I know but in the meantime, it’s a paycheck.”

     LEFT: “True, but we could miss the job we’re really supposed to have.”

     It was at this point that I finally stepped in and shut them up. But, I had to admit, Lefty had a point: I could miss the job I was supposed to have. I’d been praying for a full-time, permanent job and this job wasn’t that. Where was my faith? Was I going to trust God or was I going to “settle”?

     I picked up the phone, called the principal and thanked him for the interview opportunity but explained that since I really needed a permanent job, I didn’t want to take up his time interviewing for a job I knew I couldn’t take. He thanked me for calling – and that, as they say, was that.

     I was nervous. All I could hear was Righty saying, “That was dumb.”

     Until the phone rang again. I was offered an interview for a full-time, permanent job which, I’m happy to report, I got and have had for sixteen years.

     Truth: if it’s an important decision in your life, the enemy will often fix you up with a counterfeit thing before God offers you the real thing.

     A “counterfeit” is, by definition, a fake or phony something or other intended to deceive and/or derail. In this case, it was a counterfeit job. Think about it: not only would I have had to begin the whole long, arduous job-hunting process all over again in January, but the job God had intended for me would have been taken by someone else. 

     Fast forward to 2012: I wanted a pre-owned Camry Hybrid with no rust and at an affordable price. I know – tall order. And I learned one thing: there aren’t too many Camry Hybrids out there – rust or no rust.

     So I shopped around, found one and it looked good (even though it was gray) so I got set to make an offer. But before I did, I took it to my mechanic to get it checked out. (Can’t buy a car not checked out.) Turns out there was some rust on the undercarriage. It wasn’t much but there weren’t any other Camry Hybrids around so I had a decision to make: take this car or take a chance and keep looking? (Did I mention that I had promised my son who needed a car for college that he could have mine when I got my new one? All I heard for three months was, “When are you going to get a new car??)

     And then I remembered the job and so I prayed, “Lord, I’ve been believing you for a car with no rust, I know that’s not too hard for You, and so that’s what I’m going to wait for.” (Son wasn’t happy about that.)

     Long story short, shortly afterward, I bought a beautiful, rust-free, red Camry Hybrid from a dealer in Pennsylvania (where they don’t use road salt). And I picked it up one week before son left for college.

     Lesson? The enemy will often offer the counterfeit thing before God reveals the real thing. Why doesn’t God come through sooner? I asked Him once while in the middle of “The Wait,” and He assured me that things were “in the works” but that the other people involved weren’t yet ready. In the job situation, I found out later that the opening didn’t happen until nearly August when another teacher waited longer than usual to announce her retirement. I got the job right before school started. Listen – the Lord will often test our faith and allow the waiting to go right up until the last minute. But, as they say, “He’s rarely early, but He’s never late.”

     So – if you’re sick of waiting to see your dream realized, your vision fulfilled, your destiny unfold, understand that God has the perfect thing (or person); he/she/it simply may not have their circumstances aligned yet.

     In the meantime, remember Abraham who got tired of waiting and took matters into his own hands. Now we have war in the Middle East.

     Do not fall for the counterfeit. Your destiny is well worth “The Wait.”

What are you waiting for? Let me know here.

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Pick Your Pain.

Girl's Eye In WindowWe increasingly live in a world where people are separated into two camps: there are those who understand that for that “dream come true” scenario to happen, you have to work – and there are those who either don’t know that or don’t care to know that. Their dreams are just “supposed” to happen.  

     The fact is, you are your own fairy godmother; you’re the one with the wand. If you choose not to use it, then the dream won’t happen. Period.

     Why do people not want to work? Because work is, well, work. It requires sacrifice: it requires doing things we often don’t like, it requires long hours, it requires inconvenience, it requires putting up with unpleasant circumstances or (dare I say it?) people, it requires going without. It isn’t always fun. And it’s sad how “fun” seems to be the new standard in terms of which activities are of value and which are not.

In short, work is painful. We give up something now in order to get something later. That’s how it works.

     Or it doesn’t.

     We can play now – and then have to work twice as hard later. That’s painful – especially when everyone else we know is reaping success now because they didn’t play when it was time to work. Working to save money comes to mind – or at least not spending gobs of it when you don’t have it to spend or you’ll need it later in life. We may not have enough to save early on but then we shouldn’t be spending what we don’t have. Want a reason? Because “later” always comes.

     Pick your pain.

     We can play now – and then regret a missed opportunity later. I’ve said it before and I’ll hammer on it again and again: there’s no pain greater than regret. Skipping that job opportunity or business op because it would require too much work. Or missing that opportunity to go to school when you had the chance – or (here’s a thought) to learn something while you’re there. (I always tell kids that if you’re going to college to party, stay home; it’s stupid to take out loans to party.)   Opportunities take work!

     Pick your pain.

     The ridiculous idea that we can go through life without pain is more than just a stupid concept; it’s destructive. More and more people are becoming angry at the concept that they must work to achieve. When people can’t handle the voluntary pain and sacrifice of hard work, then they end up with the inevitable pain and heartache of having declined the opportunity to work.

     Here’s the bottom line: you can endure good pain and reap the satisfaction and profits of it or you can suffer bad pain and reap the sorrow and tragedy of it. There aren’t any other choices.

     Pick your pain. And choose wisely.

Myth #33: “Fear of Success”

No Fear 2Have you ever heard someone say that they just can’t do “it” (whatever “it” is) because they’re being held back by “fear of success”?

Let’s face it – fear of failure is a thing; fear of proving you can’t do something is a thing; even fear of becoming successful and then losing it is a thing. But “fear of success”? Can I just be perfectly blunt about that?  There ain’t no such puppy.

Who’s afraid of success, really? Think about it. If you’re truly afraid of succeeding, then what’s the point of even trying? You might succeed. And that would scare you.

No, the fact is that people might be afraid of a couple of things connected with success – but not success itself.

Thing #1: Some people are afraid to try that thing they’d really love to try because – what if they can’t? That would be the end of the fantasy that “I could if I really wanted to – I just don’t want to. But I could . . .” We’ve all had those fantasies. And so we don’t try that thing because we don’t want to prove to ourselves (and everybody else) that we really are not capable of doing it.  Entering that contest, starting that diet, trying out for that team . .

Actually, I see this type of thing with students all the time. “I can’t write,” “I can’t do math,” and – everybody’s favorite – “I can’t give that speech!” (meaning “if you make me, I won’t just fail, I’ll die”).  So because they believe they can’t, they simply won’t – and they’ll fight you not to have to try.

Is it okay to mention that trying won’t kill you?

Sure, you might be embarrassed – who hasn’t been? But what will kill you in the end is regret – regret that you never did try.

Thing #2: Some people are afraid of achieving success – and then losing it.

“What if I’m successful and then I’m not good enough? Or I can’t maintain it? Or . . .”

You start that business and it’s going well. Success! But then, well, not so well. Or you apply to that college and get accepted. Success! But then you fail some courses, or run out of money, or even flunk out entirely. Or you actually start a relationship with that cute girl or guy. Success! But then it crashes and burns . . .

That’s not fear of success, that’s fear of losing success. But it’s truly true what they say: “You win some and you lose some.” And sometimes you win some and then lose. It happens. Don’t let the fear of it hold you back.

Thing #3: Fear of imperfection. That’s right. What if you can’t do “it” perfectly the first time you try?? OMG!

Seriously, some people get stuck on this. Again – I have students who will try once (if they try at all) and if it doesn’t work perfectly, game over. Period.

I used to have this problem and sometimes still do. But I didn’t realize it for the longest time until I had a student who would pitch a royal fit, swearing and throwing things, if he couldn’t do something flawlessly the very first time he tried it. And in the middle of his rant, he would yell, “I’m so stupid, stupid, stupid!!!” 

That’s the day I realized why I got so upset when I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time: I felt really stupid; I felt as though there was something actually wrong with me.  I personalized my failure instead of simply chalking it up to “just not my thing; I guess I’ll have to work at this one.”

Frequently, I have students who hate to write because they find it hard and so they have this mistaken idea that if they were any good at it, it would be easy. So I get out my notebooks and show them how much writing and re­-writing I have to do before I get a story or an article right. It’s true. Writers write – and re-write. Musicians practice and then practice some more (except for Beethoven – he never practiced). Athletes work up to that 500lb weight or that four-minute mile or that 200th pull-up. No one ever starts out doing “it” perfectly. And that’s okay.

The bottom line is this: before you can achieve your dreams and fulfill your destiny, you have to face your fears. And before you can face those fears, you have to identify what they really are. If nothing else, remember this: your failures are not a reflection of who you are. They’re simply an indication of what you need to work harder at doing. That’s all. And if anyone ever tells you anything different, just tell them they need more work on their social skills.

The only real failure is never trying.

Let’s Ride.

 

Arthur and KnightsYou’ve probably not given it much thought lately, but a warhorse is an amazing thing. They’re not just what the warrior rides on – they are the warrior. They have, of course, strength, they have incredible instincts, and they are fearless. Why am I rambling on about warhorses? Because they weren’t born that way.

Warhorses are made.

I’m reminded of a scene in the best rendition of the King Arthur legend that I’ve ever seen called, not surprisingly, King Arthur (starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley). In a nutshell, Arthur is a Roman commander and all of his knights, before they were knights, were Sarmation boys who were forced into 15 years of brutal servitude in the Roman army. Essentially, because the Sarmations were known to be valiant warriors, the boys are taken from their homes and become slaves.

Nevertheless, they come to love Arthur because, unlike other Romans, he believes all men were born free “from their first breath”. These men fight alongside Arthur for 15 years until the day comes when they’ve all earned their freedom; they have the papers and everything. The problem is that the Saxons are invading Britain from the north and the Saxons are evil. Everything and everyone they don’t murder, they burn. However, now that his knights are free, Arthur will not order them to fight the Saxons. They ride off to return to their homes, taking the townspeople to escape with them, and Arthur rides off to face the Saxons alone (with a little help from Merlin’s druids but how much good will that do?). But as the knights are riding merrily away from the battle, the sound of the Saxons’ war drums can be heard in the far distance. The Saxons are coming closer. Nevertheless, the knights ignore them and keep riding south.

Except that their warhorses don’t.

Their warhorses hear the sound of the drums in the distance and begin to fight their riders to turn around. The knights have a hard time reining them in as the horses are pawing and snorting and trying to gallop away. The horses are fearless.

They hear the sound of the battle and they want to run to it.

Horses don’t become warhorses the moment some warrior throws a saddle on them and rides off into battle; warhorses, like the warriors themselves, are trained. They’re taught to run to the battle and through the thick of it, never slowing down. They’re taught commands, battle maneuvers, and defensive strategies. They’re trained in battle skirmishes so that they get used to the sounds, sights and smells of the battle. And they’re taught to keep on fighting – even when they’re wounded.

Warhorses begin as wild horses – whether they’re captured in the wild or born in a stall. And yet it’s that wild spirit that’s not broken but honed, trained and refined. The warhorse learns who its master is and, when submitted to the master, then becomes a partner with him and the two accomplish more together than either one could ever do alone. Submission to the training of its master does not beat the horse into a wimpy little nag; rather it makes the horse into a warhorse – more fearless, powerful and magnificent than it could ever hope to be in the wild.

You and I are like those wild horses. We may have some skills on our own, but submitted to the Master, we can become more than we’d ever have dreamed – fearless, powerful and valuable resources in the war for the Kingdom on earth.

There’s a reason Jesus will ride to victory in the final battle on a warhorse instead of in an F-22 fighter jet or an Apache helicopter. A warhorse is His partner, it fights with Him and for Him. And a warhorse never runs.

If we listen, we can hear the sound of the war drums. Are you ready?

Honing Your Vision

purpose
POST BY STACEY LACIK

With all that’s going on the world, it’s good to take a moment and reflect on why having a purpose in life is so important. Without a vision and a plan, it’s all too easy to wander and waste time, and from the looks of it, we don’t have a lot of time to waste. The things that are happening at home and abroad speak to the fact that the world as we know it is quickly coming to an end.

 

These world events are going to separate those who are serious about their faith from those who just want to avoid the Highway to Hell. To say that we love God, but refuse to live His principles out in our daily lives is to take the Lord’s name in vain. (Many believe that this phrase refers to cursing, or swearing, but what it is actually referring to is the shallow, half-hearted [lukewarm] professing of Christ without the whole-hearted consecration of the person). There will be no reward for those who don’t take this seriously;  those who squander the time and resources they have at hand. We are all guilty of this:  heading out into our days with a vague sense of what we want to accomplish, but with no set plan for actually making it happen. Eight hours later we’re wondering where the time went – where our money went. These are our resources. We all get [roughly] twenty-four hours to spend. How we invest it is a measure of both our character and our values. How we invest it after professing Christ as Lord is supposed to let the world know that we are different.

Becoming a Christian requires a complete re-orienting of your life. We’re not to be chasing the cultural icons of success – luxury automobiles, granite counter tops, designer labels. We’re called to be a diligent and sober-minded people. This isn’t condemnation for those who have nice homes, and cars, and can afford expensive vacations, but it is a reminder that if you have them, hold them loosely. It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your life, or have times of fun and relaxation with your family. But there’s a time for that, and then there’s a time to rise up, pick up your tools, and go to work. To abandon the relentless pursuit of “the end-time transfer of wealth” and fight for our faith;  for our families, and the people in our communities. We forget that God measures wealth in souls, and He measures us by our concern for the eternal end of those souls. We don’t love our neighbors because we don’t see them. We’re too distracted.

God sees this. As He sits in the heavens and looks over the ways of mankind, the good and evil together, all working out a purpose larger than any we can come up with in our meager attempts to live a “purpose-driven life”. He sees us. Worrying and scurrying to buy up and hoard the things that make us happy for a moment, but leave us feeling empty in the end. Forgetting, while we do so, to actually look at the people waiting on us;  the cashier behind the counter, or the teller at the bank. We’re not seeing people.

In the pursuit of your vision; your goals and your dreams, don’t forget to love the people around you, who matter more to God than anything we can put in our shopping carts. True success cannot be measured in dollar signs and buildings. These things won’t last. They are a means to an end, and they do serve our purpose, but that purpose has to ultimately be about reaching people before it’s too late.

Success is the progressive realization of God’s purpose for my life. (Source unknown)

Be serious about this. Time is running out. Take the time this week to figure out what your role in this end-time scenario is, and write it down. Write your vision on the actual pages of your planner. In fact, as you fill in your weekly or monthly calendar, or make your list of Things to Do Today, pray and ask God if these are the things you should actually be doing. Then pick up your tools and get to work.

Spiritual Warfare vs. Your Destiny – Part II

Keira Knightly
The bigger the destiny, the greater the battles. And how can we handle the bigger battles for the greater destiny if we can’t handle the smaller battles?

    Last post I shared my memorable last week and the barrage of “unfortunate” experiences that just kept coming – a.k.a. “fiery darts”. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s in reference to enemy attacks launched in the spiritual realm, in short, “spiritual warfare”. 

I shared how things had begun to break and needed to be replaced or repaired. Quick review: the electric stove kept shocking us; the pool motor shut down and had to be replaced and installed (idk which was the bigger pain); the car had chlorine spilled all over the trunk; the car was splattered with tar all over – not the usual spatter, mind you; this particular mess gave me a two-toned car; had to buy a new phone (the other one just quit) and then lost all of my contacts and had to input them manually; and, last but not least, my computer shut down and wouldn’t fire up (panic!). Turns out I needed a new charger. (Did I forget anything . . . ?) Oh, right – it all cost lots of money. However, all of that happened in context of making real progress on the book on – guess what? Spiritual warfare.

   So – what can you do when the darts start flying?

   First, remember that “We battle not against flesh and blood [people], but rather against rulers, powers, and spiritual forces of darkness in high places” (Eph. 6).  What that means is that even if people are involved in the attack, fighting with them isn’t going to end it. That’s because they’re not the source of it.

   Second, doing the usual is not going to work in a spiritual war. Of course problems need to be attended to but to end them is an entirely different game.  It’s similar to a soldier being wounded: one treats the wound but doing so doesn’t end the battle. We have to fight. And the fact is that we can only fight a spiritual war with spiritual weapons. So . . .

   Thing #1: Pray. Now before you say, duh!, pray the right way. First, pray Scripture. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is literally a spiritual sword – meaning it annihilates all attacks – whether in the spiritual or physical realms. A friend who sees into the spiritual realm once told me that he’d seen fifteen-foot angelic warriors come to full attention when anyone proclaims scripture. This happens because the angels don’t hear the person talking; they literally hear the voice of their commander, Jesus Christ, giving them orders. And they act on those orders. If you want to activate angels on your behalf, pray scripture and personalize it:

  “It is written: ‘No weapon formed against me will succeed; every tongue that rises against me in judgment will be condemned; and if anyone does attack me, they will surrender to me.’” (Isaiah 57).

   Thing #2: Pray in unity. Find a prayer partner and either meet regularly or as needed. The Word tells us that “One can put a thousand to flight, and two can put 10,000 to flight” (Deut. 32:30). Praying in unity is a spiritual firebomb!

   Thing #3:  If you know how, pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is willing to intercede for us and often prays for things that we have no idea we should even be addressing. I’ve heard of amazing breakthroughs coming after people spent time praying in the Spirit.

   Thing #4: Be grateful for what you do have. Bless the Lord and keep an atmosphere of praise in your home. In short, the enemy can’t stand listening to it. “Resist the enemy and he will flee” (James 4:7).

   Thing #5: Proclaim the blood of Christ upon the people and situations involved. The blood has power!  The enemy cannot stand an atmosphere “soaked” in the blood of Christ because it has defeated him and he must retreat from it.

   In short, the way to victory from attacks is spiritual warfare: the Blood, the Word, and the Spirit are our weapons. No matter what form the attack takes, it’s a spiritual attack.

   Nevertheless, some folks just don’t like conflict; they don’t want to fight a battle – spiritual or otherwise. The only advice I can give is that you’re already in it. And unfortunately, the only two choices are to fight or surrender. Ignoring it never seems to work.

   Another reason to do battle? Your destiny is at stake.  I once heard someone say, “The bigger the destiny, the greater the battles. And how are we going to handle the bigger battles for the bigger destiny if we can’t handle the smaller battles?”

   When you’re under the gun, remember what that means. Something really big is coming . . .

Spiritual Warfare vs. Your Destiny

Lightning - Single Strike   We all know it’s going to happen. You’re going along, living your life, working the dream, minding your own business, and – bam! you get hit. It’s a huge financial setback or a relationship crisis or an illness/injury/disease or a job loss or the car goes or, in some cases, a combo package.

   It’s spiritual warfare.

   And lots of times we have the same reaction: “Oh, well – I must be doing something right.” Probably. But without a more, shall we say, involved response, you may not be doing that thing much longer.

   I write on spiritual warfare when I’m not doing this. (This is fun; I call it my playground.) But sometimes, the research and the writing can get a little dark and the heat a little hot. Case in point: the last couple of weeks.

   It all started within the last seven days when I received a breakthrough from the Lord concerning a book I’ve been working on for a while. Problem was that I’d hit a wall with some plot components and just could not figure some things out. At any rate, like I said, breakthrough this past week. I sat in awe as the Lord sorted out one thing after another until all of the pieces were in place.

   Enter the warfare.

   First, my electric stove just up and started shocking us when we would touch it and it didn’t even have to be on. One of my sons got a couple of serious shocks.

    It turned out that the stove’s ground wire had become disconnected. All by itself. For no apparent reason.

   Thankfully, a friend came over and reconnected it and all was well. We could cook again!

   Until my phone went. Well, we could still cook, but I had to buy a new phone. And while I got a deal, it still cost some bucks – 300 of them. But it would’ve happened eventually. I guess . . .

   Then on Saturday, my pool motor and pump sprang a leak so off to the pool store I went and bought the part they said I needed. They were wrong but that’s beside the point. (Or maybe that is the point . . .) So we started taking the pump apart but it just wouldn’t come apart – at all, no matter what. Long story short, back to the pool store to pick up – rather, buy – a new motor and pump. More dollars.

   Now, while I’m there, I thought I’d pick up some chlorine for the pool. Smart, right? Kill two birds, etc.  Except that the guy who put the massively heavy jug of chlorine in the back of my car didn’t put the lid on tight enough. You guessed it: when I got home, I found that a good portion of the black carpeting in my trunk was now white. And did you know that breathing in chlorine can make you sick? I do. Now.

   Speaking of the car, it’s red. Except for the parts where the asphalt and tar from some brand new road decided to stick to it. And I don’t just mean some spatter; the car is now red and black.

   Then yesterday, after we got the pool pump installed and the chlorine mopped up (sort of) and I bought the tar cleaning stuff, I decided to relax and write. So I got on the computer and after a few minutes, got the “plug in or die” message. But when I plugged in, nothing happened; it wouldn’t turn on. Did it crash?? Did it overheat?? Did it go on vacation?? So, after a trip to the computer store (in the red and black, chlorine-smelling car) and forty-plus dollars later, I am the proud owner of a new computer charger.

   Seriously though, I’m grateful the computer problem wasn’t something worse. And I’m grateful that the whole enemy barrage wasn’t something much more serious. I’m grateful that I have the money to get things fixed. And I’m very grateful for the friends I have who are willing to help me.

   So – what can be done about the attacks that will come? Basically, we have three choices: we can fight them, we can ignore them, or we can run.

   Two of those strategies won’t work.

   Tune in on Monday to find out what will work in your spiritual battles. The fact is, the spiritual war is raging all around you but, in Christ, you’ve already won.

    The enemy just hopes you don’t know that.

The “Insignificant” Days of Your Destiny

           The Beginning Book Cover 2 A lifelong relationship begins with a “hello”.  A business begins with the very first customer.  A mighty oak tree begins with a small acorn.  Writing a book begins with the first word.  A concert pianist begins with “Chopsticks”. Losing pounds begins with the first day of the diet.  A dynasty begins with one man and one woman.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10).

            God rarely begins a person on the highway to his or her destiny in a big way.  Not that He can’t, but there is much to be learned on the road from small to big. And depending on what our dreams and destinies are, lessons will vary. 

            For example, how to manage people is a big lesson for anyone wanting to own their own business. Businesses rarely begin with more than a handful of employees so that owners learn how to hire wisely, manage workers with the right balance of respect and authority, and handle personnel problems.  Imagine trying to learn all of that with dozens of employees. Or a military service member – he or she begins as the lowest-ranked soldier or officer and grows into more responsibility through promotion.  To begin as an admiral or general would probably not work. Many other examples come to mind. Talents for writing or music or art must be developed; one begins small, writing for a school paper, performing in a music recital, or painting a school mural.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

            We often want to start big and then get frustrated when we can’t.  Or, we get tired of working, practicing, doing and re-doing and so we quit, thinking the dream will never happen.  But here’s a principle: the bigger the destiny, the long the prep time.  Oak trees take decades to become full grown.  Masters take decades to perfect their crafts.  Multi-million dollar companies take many years to become that profitable.

The fact is that to appreciate the value of “small beginnings,” we have to realize that all of life is about “becoming.”

            We make the mistake of asking children what they want to “be” when they grow up.  Rather we should be asking them what they want to “become.”  Small distinction but the message is huge: “becoming” takes time and work.  Fortunately, the Bible contains many examples of “becoming” from small beginnings.

            David, for example, spent years by himself learning to shepherd sheep and fight the lions and bears.  After that, he spent 16 years hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him.  What did he learn from all that trauma?  Warfare, leadership and honor. And what did he become?  A mighty warrior and a king. 

            Joseph was sold as a slave to a rich Egyptian (not fair), during which time he rose to favor for his ability to organize the entire estate and business, causing both to grow and prosper.  And what did Joseph learn?  He mastered the Egyptian language, culture, customs, and upper class etiquette as well as how to manage an estate, its staff and businesses.  God was training him to become an administrator.

            But then Joseph went to jail, accused of something he didn’t do (also not fair.) But while there, Joseph exhibited his talent for management and so the chief jailor put him in charge of all of the prisoners and prison affairs.

            But why prison?

            In prison, Joseph had become one of the “lower class,” the prisoners, and so he learned about their ways of thinking, their culture and customs.  He learned how it felt to be them.

            Needless to say, it was quite the coincidence that he’d need to know all of that as Joseph became Egypt’s second in command to Pharaoh.

            Esther is another example – my favorite.  Esther was among the young women “kidnapped” and put into the Babylonian king’s harem so that he could, he hoped, find his next queen.  But before Esther could even hope to become queen, she first had to spend a year in the king’s harem – not, generally speaking, the first pick for a virtuous young Jewish girl.  But in the midst of the beauty treatments, Esther learned the Babylonian language, culture and, I’m certain, a great deal about how to navigate the politics of a royal court and its country.  And as we later find out, she needed that intel to become the one to save her people from annihilation. 

            What do David, Joseph and Esther have in common?

            While they suffered much in the circumstances they were thrust into, each one still made the best of the situation by doing the best they could.  They exhibited humility, excellence and honor despite their long periods of hardship.  And here’s the endgame: each of them was promoted to royalty.

            They did not despise their days of small beginnings.

             Don’t be discouraged at the small beginnings of your dream or destiny. It can seem overwhelming when you envision how far you have to go so, as Michael Hyatt says, “Just do the next thing in front of you.” Then trust the Lord to grow the dream.  Remember: “the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

            Your work.

No Seed, No Harvest.

    Empty FieldOne of the most important principles of success in life is that of “seed”. To make the point, I’d like to share a picture the Lord once gave me. 

     In the pic, I saw a man standing in a field that had been plowed and had rows of fertile black soil.  The man was looking at the field and it was clear that he was waiting for growth to appear.  However, the problem was that no seeds had been planted.  The man was waiting for something to occur which would never happen. 

A field that has not been planted with seed cannot yield a crop.

     I asked the Lord what the scene meant and He showed me that the man represented many people who are waiting for a harvest in some area but have planted no seed.  He emphasized that “seed” doesn’t just mean money as we often hear it referred to by people encouraging others to “sow seed” for a “financial harvest;” rather there are many other kinds of seed in the spiritual realm exactly as there are in the physical realm.  And when we sow seed in a particular area, we reap a harvest in that same area.   This is a fact that has its source in the principle that God established at the creation of the earth when He decreed that plants, trees, and flowers would “multiply after their own kind.”  This means that maple tree seeds reproduce as maple trees, watermelon seeds reproduce as watermelon, and sunflower seeds reproduce as sunflowers.  In other words, grape seeds don’t produce lima beans nor do acorns produce daffodils.

     In the spiritual realm, then, this means that if we’d like a “harvest” in a particular area, it would be a good idea to plant seed in that area.  And this principle applies to everyone, not just Christians. While I refer to “sowing and reaping” as a “biblical” principle, it works whether a person is a Christian or not. Every day you can find examples of people who are not Christians and yet, because they’ve sowed good seed in a particular area, they’re reaping a good harvest. In the same way, many Christians are still waiting for their harvests to come in because they haven’t planted any seed. Listen, Christian or not, if I want watermelons to grow in my garden, I need to get out there and plant watermelon seeds.

     I once heard a story about a lady who had grasped this principle in her quest to have a baby.  The woman had had many years of infertility, had been to many doctors, and had begun to lose hope that her prayers would ever be answered regarding having a child.  Then she learned about sowing seed in a specific area and so began to hold baby showers for, as she said, “every pregnant woman in my church.”   As a result, she did become pregnant – twice – and now has two beautiful children. The principle is clear: giving in any particular area – whether money, material resources, or actions of a particular kind – is one type of seed.  So, if we’re seeking salvation for a loved one, for example, we can sow seed by witnessing to others about Christ.

     Another type of seed is preparation: get ready for the harvest you’re asking for.  If you’re praying to get married, begin planning for a marriage: read books on developing a great marriage and begin putting aside items you’ll use once married.  If you’re praying for a job, make sure you’re ready for it when it comes.  Have child care lined up if necessary or get your work wardrobe in order, or whatever your preparation may require. Realize that a farmer doesn’t wait until after the harvest comes in to build the storehouses nor does a pregnant lady wait till the baby comes to buy diapers.  (That would be most unwise . . .) 

     Finally, a third type of seed is prayer: pray for others who are seeking the kind of harvest you are.  If you’re asking for healing, pray for others to be healed; if you’re asking for a promotion or an opportunity, pray for someone else who needs those things.  If you’re praying for – well, you get the idea.

     Seed is all around us and it is well within our power to plant some.  Just look around and see what it is that you can give, do, pray, or prepare for as you seek to sow seed.  And then don’t quit; realize that some seeds take longer than others to produce. Oak trees, for example, take a good deal longer than leaf lettuce.  So while you’re waiting, just keep watering your seed by praying for a harvest – a good harvest – just as you would keep watering and nurturing real seeds.  Don’t keep standing in an empty field any longer; plant the seeds of your dreams and do it today!

     Remember – it’s a biblical principle.  It can’t not work.

Destiny Nation

Flag and Fireworks     For 240 years, the United States of America has embraced its destiny, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, as a “shining city on a hill”. Proof is Lady Liberty as she’s welcomed untold millions to find refuge and freedom and, in short, a home.  Thus the United States has been nicknamed the “Great Melting Pot” as generations from countries worldwide have assimilated to become proud Americans. 

     Nor has Uncle Sam been idle, leading the fight for liberty and freedom around the world. Everywhere on earth, on every continent, America’s influence and generosity can be seen and felt.  From being the Cavalry in World Wars I and II to promoting the principles of democracy to peoples who have never been told that all men are born free, America has led the charge in the battle for good in the very real face of oppression and evil.  Country after country, people after people have the United States to thank for rescue in times of war, political unrest, famine, natural disasters and financial crisis.

That’s the legacy of the United States of America.

     However, despite all of that, America’s greatest destiny has been – and continues to be – the privilege of bringing the life-changing news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to virtually every nation on earth. Dedicated and brave American missionaries, for the sake of that Gospel, have faced persecution, imprisonment and even death from the worst of dictatorial and communist countries.  America has sown its blood, sweat and tears into the soil of nations around the globe to proclaim the good news of true freedom in Jesus Christ – and what could ever be a more noble legacy than that?

     Many say that America’s best days are behind her. However, that’s been said before.  Imagine a war in which citizens slaughtered one another in one bloody battle after another.  Surely the Civil War was the end of our nation.  Or the stock market crash of 1929 which led to a decade in which fully one-quarter of Americans were unemployed. Add to that the great Dust Bowl in which nothing would grow and it certainly looked like the end of America.  Or World War I – the most massive war in the history of the world; surely that was the end of the whole world.  Or WWII in which the Nazis reigned in Europe and the U.S. was attacked on its own shores for the first time in its history.  There was no doubt then that the Apocalypse had come . . . Et cetera.

     Certainly the United States has problems and they are broadcast far and wide for all the world to see. But the only difference between the crises of today and those of all the decades past is cable news.  Without a doubt crisis was happening; we just didn’t know about most of it.

     Is it the end of the United States? I don’t believe so.  The United States still has a great destiny to fulfill: the continued spread of the Gospel worldwide.  And until the day comes that America quits doing that, our nation will continue in order to fulfill that destiny.  No other nation on earth has even come close to sacrificing what Americans have sacrificed in order to achieve that priceless goal for mankind. 

     God has not forgotten America because, despite all of the bad press, Americans like us have not forgotten God. The United States has sown its time, its people, its strength, its money, and its resources into saving and blessing other nations and so we will, according to the Word of God, “reap what we have sown”.  We have sown salvation, blessing, freedom and hope into the peoples of the world, and so we have a long future of blessing to look forward to as one the greatest nations history has ever known.

     So on this Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me in declaring the great destiny of the United States of America:

     “ONE nation under GOD with liberty and justice for all.”

     Happy Birthday, America – and may you have many, many more to come.

DRIVE YOUR VISION.