Tag Archives: destiny

That Thing That Matters

Teddy Bear Looking out of Window

   Today I looked around my classroom and my eye caught some words posted on my board: HAVE, DO, and ARE. (For the record, you “have” a noun, you “do” a verb, and you “are” an adjective.) Those words got me thinking—are we defined by what we have, by what we do, or by what we are? And who defines us? Or—does it matter?

   It should matter because who defines us and as what shapes how we see ourselves, which, in turn, determines whether we believe we can fulfill our destinies—or not.

   So—are we defined by what we have?

 Do we have a car? What kind? New or not new? Pretty or not pretty? Luxury or basic? Don’t tell me people don’t “feel” a certain way when they buy a vehicle. Proud? Ashamed? Envious? Disappointed? And what about our clothes? Do we “feel” the same way when we’re wearing our finest suit or dress as when we’re dressed in casual clothes? And let’s not forget money. Lots or little? Savings in the bank or living paycheck-to-paycheck? Retirement pension? 401K? Or not? Do we feel secure or scared? Grateful or frustrated? Do we own a house? How big a house? Where is it located? Is it as nice as our neighbors’ houses? Or—do we not have a house?  Where we live often has something to do with how we think about ourselves. Not always, of course, but can we honestly say that nobody judges themselves of the basis of where they live? I know that once upon a time, I did…

   Are we defined by what we have?

   If so, let me mention a few of the best people history has ever known: Take Jesus, for example. He didn’t have much and what he did have, he lost. In the end, all he was left with were splinters and thorns. And there was Mother Teresa—I don’t know what she had before she moved to India but once there, she gave it all away. I could cite dozens of others but the point is that neither of these people let what they didn’t have keep them from fulfilling what they did have—a destiny.

   We are not defined by what we have.

   Are we defined by what we do?

In a world where we’re pushed to “become something,” the world often defines for us what we “should” do. And that’s reinforced when we meet someone. Small talk usually includes a “So what do you do?” or “Where do you work?”

   Does it matter?

   Are we better people if we’re dentists rather than dental assistants? Do we have better character if we’re professors rather than teacher aides? Have we accomplished more in life if we’re the CEOs of corporations rather than small business owners? If we lose our credentials or our titles or our paychecks, are we lesser people?

   We are not defined by what we do.

   Let me repeat that—and not for those who don’t have the lucrative positions or incomes, but for those among us who might: we are not defined by our achievements. In other words, if we were to lose that position tomorrow, our circumstances might be different but we’re not—unless we define ourselves by what we do.

   I remember my father telling me that he’d once met one of the richest men in the country and that that man was one of the humblest, most down-to-earth people he’d ever met. Why? Because that man did not define himself by his money or position.

   Are we defined by what we “are”?

   There’s a question that haunts many: What are we? Are we rich or middle-class? Are we young or elderly? Are we married or never-married or divorced? Are we black or white or yellow or brown?

In a world where we are increasingly defined by our outward appearances and/or statuses, those things can too often determine how we think we should think, behave, and even feel.

   To complicate the problem, the dawn of DNA testing has some people finding that they are not who or what they thought they were. But does DNA really define what we are—or are not? The culture, traditions, and values that we’d grown up with—are they null and void if the DNA doesn’t line up?

   Can our DNA really disqualify us from belonging?

   And here’s the bigger question: What if (not like this could ever happen) we’re treated differently because of what we “are”; does that really make us different? Are we more or less of a person because we’re rich or poor or married or single or black or white or tall or short or blue-collar or white-collar?

   The fact is—and this is so often repeated that it’s almost a cliché (sadly) —we’re all children of God. Period. It doesn’t matter whether there’s money in the bank account or whether there’s even a bank account at all; it doesn’t matter whether we have a low IQ or we’re Albert Einstein; it doesn’t even matter whether we have wrinkles or not (honest!). Our identity never changes. But if we allow it to change, if we’re swayed by the opinions and prejudices of others, then we’ll never fulfill the destiny that we’re called to tackle. Look at it this way: How we were created was designed to perfectly equip us to accomplish that one thing we were created to do.

   It’s not about what we have, what we do or what we are; if it’s about anything at all, it’s about the character we display. And that’s the one thing that transcends all races, all statuses, all ages, and all abilities. To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, Jr., we look forward to the day when we are not judged by the color of our skin… or [may I say] the ages of our bodies or the images in our mirrors or the bottom lines on our tax returns, but by the content of our characters.

   In defining ourselves, our character should be the one thing that determines what we have, what we do, and what we are.

   Our character is the one thing that matters.

 

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You’re the Mirror On the Wall.

Ghost girl   Recently, two things happened that made me think. I was listening to a student lamenting, in tears, that her boyfriend had just broken up with her. What to say? Can’t really say he’s a jerk (might’ve thought it) and probably shouldn’t suggest that she’ll be over him in a month (a week?). So I said the only thing I could think of (that was true): “You’re such a pretty girl—he’s going to regret this!”

   Her response? “I am not pretty!”

   Me: “Are you kidding?? Yes, you are!” (And she is.)

   Her: “No, I’m ugly.”

   Me:  “Trust me—you’re beautiful! I wouldn’t lie about that.”

   Now before I get tons of hate mail for being so shallow as to focus exclusively on her outward appearance, we all know (and let’s not pretend we don’t) that when a breakup happens, a girl needs a little boost to her confidence—and “you’re such a nice girl” doesn’t quite cut it. So I told her the truth: that she’s a beautiful girl and that whatever the breakup was about, it wasn’t about that. What amazed me was that she not only didn’t know she’s pretty, but she truly thought of herself as ugly.

   Fast forward to a different day—I was working with another girl who was trying to make up work for a failed English class so that she could get the course credit and graduate. In the course of our conversation, she informed me how “dumb” she was.

   Me: “No, you’re not!”

   Her: “Yes, I am. That’s why I failed English. I’m dumb!”

   Me: “No, you failed English because you never went to class or did enough seat time to learn the material. That’s very different from not being able to learn the material. So—what did you learn from not going to class?”

   Her: “That I can’t pass English?”

   Me: “See? You’re not dumb.”

   Lesson to me? So many people see themselves as inadequate or unworthy or “dumb” or “ugly” or useless or “bad” or as epic fails. And these destructive self-images have led to an epidemic of depression, despair, hopelessness, and even rage. Then, because of attempts to lessen or mask those feelings, we’ve seen an exponential explosion of alcoholism, drug abuse, “relationship hopping” and worse.

   It’s tragic that the only moments of relief, “happiness” or seeming hope some people ever experience is from a needle in the arm or the bottom of a bottle.

   And so?

   And so it’s time for us to step up and share with people what they obviously don’t yet know: “You have a destiny. You were born for a reason, and you have a purpose to fulfill.” Period. ”

We don’t need a PhD or a biblical degree or permission from our mommies, our pastors or the U.S. Senate to do it. If we have a voice, then we are qualified to encourage another human being.

   And know what else?

   That’s your destiny.

   We may each encourage others in different ways, but we can all do it. Maybe it’s a written word of encouragement—a card or a text; maybe it’s a plate of cookies or a simple thumbs-up. Maybe it’s a present—a paint set because you see a talent for art or a set of tools because someone is a budding builder. Maybe it’s an encouragement regarding some personality trait that’s somehow not being used as intended…

   Many times I’ve pulled aside a disruptive student and told him that he has leadership skills—he’s just using them the wrong way. Or the kid who loves to argue—a future lawyer? Just today I informed a student that he has the potential to make a lot of money someday in a courtroom because of his ability to argue the spots off a leopard. (Although I did have to break it to him that that wasn’t happening today.)

   We can all do it—tell someone they have a destiny; too many people just don’t believe that they’ve been planted on this rock for a reason, for a specific purpose that no one else will ever be able to fulfill. They simply don’t think they really matter all that much.

   Still, I can hear it now—dismal echoes of doom wafting across the miles: “But I can’t! I’m no good at that!” However, the truth is that you could be. How much talent does it take to pat someone on the back and tell him “great job” or to write a note letting someone know you’re thinking of her or to cheer someone along as he does the scary job interview thing?  The point is, you can do it. And you should. Someone, somewhere, needs you.

   You do know that, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Moment of Destiny

Esther 2

   THAT MOMENT OF DESTINY.  At least once in our lives, there comes a moment when we have to say something that, once said, will change everything, forever. Moreover, we know that once we say that thing, we can’t unsay it or take it back or get a do-over. We may fight with ourselves over saying it—but we lose. We may try to talk ourselves out of it—but we fail. We may try to delay the inevitable—but we can’t. We may wish that things could stay the same—except we know that they’ll never be the same again.

But we also know one other thing—the only thing worse than things changing forever will be if they don’t.

   I’ll never be able to prove it but I believe Queen Esther felt that way. Do you ever wonder why, after inviting King Xerxes to the very special banquet she’d prepared to set the stage to petition him to save her people and herself, she didn’t say a word that night—except “’Will you come to another banquet tomorrow?’”

   Backstory: King Xerxes, world ruler of Persia, is persuaded to make a rash decree that, on an appointed day eight months from then, anyone who cared to could go on a killing spree to slaughter and obliterate all Jews anywhere in the Persian empire (all 127 different countries of it). The man behind that suggestion to the king was the wicked Haman who hated all Jews everywhere. Little does he know, though, that Queen Esther is Jewish. The problem is that the king doesn’t know it either. And the bigger problem is that, were he to find out, he still wouldn’t be able to cancel the decree because, according to Persian law, once a king made a decree, even he could not revoke it afterward. So—Esther sets out to educate the king as to what this means for her and her people: unequivocal annihilation of the Jewish race. However, in order to plead her case, Esther must approach the king in the throne room uninvited, which is simply not done. Queen or no queen, she could be executed for such presumption should the king not extend to her the scepter of mercy. But she knows that.

   Nevertheless, Esther approaches the king and he extends the scepter and promises to grant her petition, even up to half his kingdom. But does she tell him of the plot against herself and her people? Not quite yet…

   Many believe that Esther held her tongue because Haman was such a powerful political figure, even more powerful than she—which meant that she wasn’t out of danger quite yet. So instead of accusing Haman in the courtroom, she moves the battle to her own turf, to her own private apartments. Fair enough. But having done so, then she still doesn’t tell the king that she, his beloved queen, is about to die. (And don’t think Haman wouldn’t have had her killed.)

   Why doesn’t she?

   I don’t believe Esther was silent because she was afraid of dying; she’d already come to terms with the possibility that her destiny might require her to sacrifice her life when she resolved that “’If I perish, I perish.’” I suspect rather that Esther postponed the conversation simply because she knew that no matter what happened after she told the king her story—whether he believed her or not—things in the kingdom would never be the same again. And Esther wanted just one more night of intimacy, of peace, of normalcy with her husband.

   Have we ever done that? Have we ever avoided that moment of destiny because, no matter how we respond, nothing will ever be the same again?

   That “moment of destiny” is often our greatest test. When faced with the most challenging moment of our lives, what will we say?

   A chaste, unmarried, Jewish virgin is told by the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah. Wouldn’t that be every young Jewish maiden’s dream? Maybe. But Mary knows what happens to unmarried pregnant women: outcast, abandoned, even stoned to death—so what will she say? It’s her moment of destiny, and Mary responds, “’Let it be done unto me as you have said.’” Regardless of her answer though, Mary knew nothing could ever be the same again. She would either be the most honored woman of all time—or the most disgraced.

   Abraham was commanded by God to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him on the altar. As he takes his son and goes, Isaac asks him why they weren’t bringing an animal for the sacrifice. That moment—knowing his beloved son was the sacrifice—was the most heart-shattering moment of Abraham’s life and his greatest test; what would he say? “’God will provide the sacrifice.’” Even so, Abraham knew that, regardless of his answer, nothing would ever be the same again. I suspect he might have feared that he would go home either without his son or without his God.

   And Jesus. When faced with his moment of destiny in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asks God to take the cup of crucifixion from him but then says, “’Not my will but your will be done.’” He knew full well what would happen if he submitted to his Father’s plan of salvation—he would die an excruciatingly painful death. And he knew full well what would happen to us if he did not. One way or the other, he knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

   You will have your moment of destiny. What will you say?

 

 

 

God Is Watching.

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

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

   “Jesus is watching.”

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

   “Jesus is watching.”

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

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

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

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

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

   The voice croaked again. “Meet Jesus.”

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

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

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

   But God was watching.

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

   But why?

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

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

   Maybe you’ve ceased to dream at all.

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

   Even so, God never relinquished His watch over the Israelites or over Moses; night after night, year after year, decade after decade, He never failed to see. And in the end, God delivered His people in a way far more miraculous than they could ever have  imagined and, in doing so, proved Himself to be the God above every other god on earth.

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

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

“The Wall”

broken-glassYou will hit a wall. There will be a point in the pursuit of your goals during which something goes wrong or people say you can’t do that thing or you feel overwhelmed with the scope of the task or you simply get tired of working, working, working and waiting for something to break your way. You’ll run into adversity or out of money, resources, time, energy – even faith.

 Welcome to “The Wall”.

The Wall is any seemingly insurmountable obstacle, which, by definition, simply means “game over”. So the question then becomes – then what? Is the game over? Is your dream dead? Was the vision only a mirage? Is your very destiny teetering on the precipice of doom? Maybe.

But before you throw in the proverbial towel, it’s time to hit the War Room. Now, I’m not talking about the war room in the movie War Room – although stopping by that room to pray is highly recommended. But no, I’m talking about your other war room – the one which every military general has, the one in which your strategy is conceived, planned, and from there, implemented.  It’s the room in which you “map the dream,” “plan the work and then work the plan” and, sometimes, “go back to the drawing board”.

Everybody who’s ever achieved his destiny has a “War Room”.

Don’t have a war room? Maybe you do. War rooms go by other names, too: board rooms, conference rooms, “think tank” rooms – all places where people meet to brainstorm, “hash out,” and make decisions regarding ideas, problems/solutions, and tactics. Chances are very good that you have one at work or even at home. It’s where the dream/vision/goal is tracked, nurtured and, if necessary, revised, repackaged, remarketed and re-released.

But mostly, the war room is the place where you go when you need to fight through and you need the resources to help you to fight through. It’s where you come up with a strategy to get around The Wall – somehow, some way: climb over it, dig under it, tunnel through it or, my personal favorite, blow it up.

 So what’s a war room like? Well, if you’ve ever seen one, there are maps all over the room – lots of them. That’s because winning a war requires taking territory and maps are essential for determining which territories you already possess and which you want to possess. In terms of our dreams and visions, a map then would be the equivalent of a goal chart. What are our goals? Which ones have we already achieved? Which ones do we want to achieve? These goals need to be clearly articulated and clearly visible.

Sometimes the best way to depict a goal is through a picture. Some people, in pursuing their fitness goals, post pics of people who have the waistline or muscle mass they want to have. Or someone who’s trying to save money toward a goal might post a picture of a car or house or vacation spot. Someone working toward a career goal might post a picture of someone doing the job she wants or even (you’ll think I’m so shallow) the salary she’ll earn. Use pictures or statistics or words to illustrate your goals – just make them visible.

Next you need a plan: how, specifically, will you achieve your goal? In our school district, I’m part of a team which designs and implements what we call, appropriately enough, our district-wide “Strategic Plan.” We meet in a conference room and everything. But the point is we create a plan with goals, steps for meeting those goals, and a timeframe within which those goals should be met. We meet occasionally to evaluate and, if necessary, tweak the plan.

But what if you hit The Wall – what then? First and foremost – define the problem. What is it, how serious is it, who’s involved and who or what might be impacted? Next, what are all of the potential consequences of the problem? Go to worse-case scenarios: what happens if? And don’t skip any of them. Odd as it sounds, I like this step; I like mapping out all of the potential problems with a vision and/or the ways that a dream could fail. Why? Because it’s really true that the fear of the unknown is scarier than the actual reality. In other words, in identifying the ways something could go wrong, we often find that the worst-case scenarios aren’t as bad as we might have imagined. And, as importantly, it gives us a chance to plan strategies “just in case” the worst happens.

For example, what if we own a business and we run short of money to keep it going? Brainstorm: What are worst-case scenarios? Would we have to close up shop? Would failure mean bankruptcy? What are the possible ways to get more money? Loans or investors or partnerships? What’s the game plan if we can’t get more those ways? Cut backs on products/services or staff? A raise in prices on products/services? Point? Don’t wait until you hit The Wall to try to solve the problem – especially if pre-consideration of potential problems might prevent them.

 Does all of those “presupposing” make you a worrywart or pessimist? Not necessarily – unless after considering what might happen, you walk around expecting it to happen. For example, before I bought any stocks (not that I have a lot), I considered the possibility that, given the market’s history, it might crash before I retire (someday). What if it does – will my entire retirement be destroyed? No, because since I considered the possibility of loss, my entire retirement is not in the market. Does that mean I expect it to crash; do I go to bed scared at night? No. It simply means I haven’t invested more than I can afford to lose.

 “Acceptable risk” – another war room strategy: What can you afford to lose without resulting in total failure or ruin? Think resources: money, time, energy? Are relationships or health at risk, etc.?

 All of these considerations are why we need a war room to offset The Wall. Obstacles will happen. Even Jesus said tribulation would come. So get ready for it.

What’s going down when you and The Wall collide? Will it be you – or the wall?

 

Prayer Wreckers

Man in DespairWe all spend a lot of time and energy praying for all kinds of things – and some of those prayers are urgent, desperate prayers. But what if we’re sabotaging our own prayers? What if we’re doing something, even unconsciously, to negate them? Would we want to know that? Why wouldn’t we?

In my last post, “Ten Ways to Blow Up Your Destiny,” I introduced three things that will shipwreck our prayers. Today, I want to discuss the rest of the principles that we should know in order to not sideline our prayers.

Thing #1: Put God first. In other words, we cannot and should not put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus tells His followers, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs . . . Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well . . .’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter – same principle applies: the big “if-then” – if we put God first, then we get whatever we might need. Period.

Thing #2: Unconfessed sin. David proved that after he sinned with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now, if anyone should have their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all of those things. But David repented of his sin (with a little persuasion from the prophet, Nathan). David pleaded to God: “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me . . .’” (LB, Ps. 51:9-10). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again. Remember, Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look on evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look on sin’”.  And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died – but that’s another post entirely). So – unconfessed sin = unanswered prayers.

Thing #3: Wrong response to authority. We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. If they will submit to authority, then they will be blessed. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because societies fall apart when people begin to blow off authorities.

(Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And aren’t all answered prayers considered blessings? I know mine are.

Thing #4: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad – no surprise there. For example, take Naaman who came to the prophet Elisha to petition (pray) for healing from leprosy. When Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River some times, Naaman thought that was ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his prayer for healing answered until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

Thing #5: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another problem if you’d like your prayers answered. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining – all of these can hinder prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah warns, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk . . . then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing] . . .’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and keep your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

Thing #6: Have faith in God, not in faith itself.  It’s not up to us to manufacture our faith and moreover, “having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Why is this important? Two reasons: first, sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. Doesn’t work that way. Second, the essence of faith is the question: “Do I trust God – whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

Next post I’ll finish this up; there are three more principles for praying effectively and, if disregarded, will negate our prayers. In the meantime, lest we become overwhelmed with all of the ways we can shipwreck our prayers, let’s simply remember to begin our prayers with a sincere, “Lord, I’m sorry for . . .”

 

To Quit or Not to Quit? That is the Question.

Grandfather Clock           Ever feel like you just want to throw in the towel? You’ve worked, labored, toiled at some particular thing for a long time – weeks, months, even years – and suddenly, you come to the realization that it was all a waste of time. Or you think it was. Isaiah thought so. Isaiah knew that the Lord had called him to speak for Him and yet still, he doubted the impact of his calling and labor: “’I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing . . .’” (49:4a).

            Isaiah felt like many of us when we give years of our lives to some dream and then it all falls apart. It’s devastating. It could be sowing into a career, a ministry, a business; it could be something we’ve been striving to create or to build – it could be any dream or vision fused with our hearts.

           And the emotional train wreck is not the only problem. After we hit the Big Wall, we find ourselves stuck on the question: “Is this just a temporary setback in the will of God or have I been on the wrong track the entire time?”

Because if it’s the “wrong track,” that means we’ve wasted the only real commodity we’ve got in this life: time.

            The problem is – which is it? The distinction is huge. The difference makes all the difference.

            As Christians, we put a great deal of stock into “seeking the will of God” – as well we should. However, when things don’t pan out, then we’re often in doubt: Was it ever God’s will that I pursue this dream? Or was it not? (Of course the assumption is that we did ask first.) Nevertheless, whether it was the will of God or not, we have the same two choices: We can persevere – or we can quit. However, if we know that pursuing that thing is the will of God, then quitting is not an option. We’re going to push through because the encouragement we have is that we’re not on the wrong track – we’ve just hit a temporary obstacle. But if it’s not the will of God, it would be stupid to persevere with something that God was never in to begin with. So then the fundamental question remains: was it God or was it not God?

            What if we really just don’t know?

            Back to Isaiah. Granted, Isaiah had the advantage of having heard from the Lord in the first place that what he was doing was what he was called to do. So knowing that, he was able to say, “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward’” (41:4b). But when we haven’t heard directly from the Lord about what we’re doing – and let’s say we did sincerely ask – then what? Do we fight through or do we back up?  Fascinating question.

            There’s always the option of putting “the dream” on the shelf. If it’s God’s will that we get back to it, then we won’t have to dig through the trash to find it. If it’s not God’s will that we ever pick it up again – well, then, it dies on the shelf.

            I have to believe that somewhere along the way, God will show us which it is. And really, isn’t that what Isaiah did?

            Sometimes it’s time to leave a dream behind, to move on, to begin a new thing. And sometimes it’s time to persevere, to fight forward, and to keep that thing alive. In the meantime, dealing with the devastation of loss is excruciating – whether it’s temporary or permanent.

           “’Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand . . .’”

           The critical thing is this: do not quit moving forward. If you’re not be able to move forward with that vision, then seek God for a new one and move forward with that. Just do not let the loss take you completely out. Because then, guess who wins?

           It’s not you.

Let the Race Begin.

horse-herd-fog-nature-52500Would it make any sense to give a six-year old an algebra problem? Perhaps not. Learning to count would probably be a prerequisite. How about scheduling a med student to do brain surgery? What if it were just a small brain op? Or what if couples skipped all the long years it takes to have kids and just went and picked out a whole litter at once? Say, maybe a baby, a couple of two-years old – oh, and they wouldn’t want to miss the whole teenage experience – maybe a fourteen-year old? (Fourteen is such a wonderfully expressive age.)

The point is, we can’t just be thrown into the middle of challenges – especially big ones.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, aka “the weeping prophet” (because he was always weeping for the people): the day came when Jeremiah had just had enough. He was tired of people sinning against God and refusing to repent; he was fed up with the unrighteousness and idol worship that had so completely polluted the nation; and he was done with people plotting to kill him. (Who wouldn’t be?) So he went to the Lord with a complaint:

“’Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but in their hearts they give you no credit at all. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like helpless sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! How long must this land weep [from sin]? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. Yet the people say, “The Lord won’t do anything!”’” (Jer. 12:1-4)

Now Jeremiah had a point: the people were evil – and they were good at being evil. In addition, they were mocking God and saying, essentially, “We can sin as much as we want and God won’t do a thing about it!” Jeremiah didn’t like that. One bit.

God’s response? “’If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?’” (Jer. 12:5)

Point? If the job training is more than you can handle, then how will you handle the job?

But – here’s what we say: “Lord, when is my destiny going to happen? Why is everyone else living the dream and I’m still struggling? You know my heart! You see how sincere I am! Why do they get to be happy and prosperous and not me?? They don’t even give You the credit for their success!”

Now, here’s what the Lord might say: “If you can’t balance a checkbook or stick to a budget, how will you manage great wealth? If you can’t give when you have a little, how will you give proportionately when you have much? If you can’t discipline yourself at your job when you aren’t solely responsible for everything that happens, how do you expect to be able to discipline yourself when you’re the boss or self-employed? If you can’t honor your mother and father now, how do you expect to honor a husband or wife later? If you can’t handle the ordinary spiritual warfare and attacks of the enemy in your own life, how do you expect to fend off the enemy if your destiny makes you visible to the community or to the nation or to the world?”

Here’s what the Lord has said: “’Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given’” (Luke 12:48).

This means that the greater your destiny, the more that will be required of you. Pick any Bible character who ever did anything worth mentioning and that will be their story. However, that’s always a choice; never does God force the “more required” part on anyone.

Remember: if you don’t cave in the prep “racing against mere men”, then you’ll win in the battle “racing against horses”.

So then – let the race begin.

“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.

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 . . .