Tag Archives: vision

Solar Eclipse: Don’t Blind Yourself (to the facts).

Eclipse Eye   Don’t think a solar eclipse can cause eye damage or even blindness? Neither did Lou Tomososki. But it did.

   During a partial solar eclipse in 1962, Tomososki was walking home from school with a friend when they spotted the moon sliding over the sun during the eclipse. They’d heard the warnings in school from a science teacher: “Do not look directly at the partial solar eclipse!” But, being teenagers, Tomososki and his friend figured that peeking at the eclipse for only a couple of seconds couldn’t hurt. Right?

   Wrong.

   Tomososki’s first indication of a problem was while watching the eclipse; he saw flashes of light before his eyes. He didn’t worry though. The flashes were so similar to a camera flashbulb’s that he didn’t think it was any big deal. But Tomososki later confirmed that he and his friend were both burned at the same time and both, to this day, have permanent eye damage.

   “We were just doing it [watching] for a short time,” he said. “I have a little blind spot in the center of my right eye.”

   Types of eye damage from watching an eclipse include loss of central vision (solar retinopathy), distorted vision, and altered color vision.

   PREVENT BLINDNESS (preventblindness.org), a highly respected resource for eye health professionals, is sounding the warning about looking directly at an eclipse, partial or otherwise. In an article entitled “Solar Eclipse and Your Eyes,” Prevent Blindness (PB) explains how our eyes are adversely affected by looking at a solar eclipse.

   “Exposing your eyes to the sun without proper eye protection during a solar eclipse can cause ‘eclipse blindness’ or retinal burns, also known as solar retinopathy. This exposure to the light can cause damage or even destroy cells in the retina (the back of the eye) that transmit what you see to the brain.”

   The article warns that eye damage can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to appear.

Many people who’ve glimpsed at an eclipse may think they’ve dodged a bullet if they don’t experience symptoms immediately.

   Other people may not realize they’ve damaged their sight because eclipse-related eye injuries occur without pain. Nevertheless, eye damage, including blindness, can be permanent.

   But it’s not just gazing up at the sky that can cause permanent damage. PB warns about other ways not to watch a solar eclipse.

Do not use a Smartphone: Think about it: We all have to line up a pic when we take a photo with any camera, including a phone. What we need to take seriously is that even those few seconds when we take a peek at the eclipse to frame the shot is enough time to do the damage. And it’s enough time to damage your phone as well.

Do not use a camera viewfinder: The optical viewfinder on a camera is no protection for your eyes, either. Why? It’s just glass. And it has nothing on that glass to protect your eyes from the rays coming through it. The fact is that looking at an eclipse through a viewfinder is essentially the exact same thing as staring at the eclipse, and it can cause the same kind of damage to your eyes.

Do not use unsafe filters: Many—too many—people think that some kind of filter will shield them from the dangerous sunrays. Not so. PB says that “…unless specifically designed for viewing a solar eclipse, no filter is safe to use with any optical device (telescopes, binoculars, etc). All color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters are unsafe filters to watch a solar eclipse. Also, solar filters designed for eyepieces that come with inexpensive telescopes are also unsafe. All of these items can increase your risk of damaging your eyes.”

   In addition to the PB warnings, use common sense.

Do not rely on sunglasses. Note above that sunglasses are not deemed proper gear for viewing an eclipse; they simply cannot filter out the concentration of damaging rays that an eclipse throws down. And wearing more than one pair of sunglasses is not going to help, either. (That would be like wearing two pairs of socks when you go swimming instead of one because you don’t want your feet to get wet. It’s still not going to work.)

Do not look out of a window. Sunlight is, obviously, not deterred by windows. Unlike wind, rain, sleet or snow, simply being on the other side of the glass is not going to protect your eyes from the damage done by looking directly at an eclipse.

Do not forget your pets. Our pets’ eyes are as susceptible as ours to the damage caused by looking directly at a solar eclipse. Since we can’t tell them that, probably the wisest course of action is simply to keep them indoors.

Do not forget to warn and/or supervise your children. Experts say that children are at even greater risk of eye damage because protective barriers in their retinas are not yet fully formed. Make certain that children and teens understand all of the risks involved in watching a solar eclipse, specifically that they cannot rely on phones and/or sunglasses for protection.

   For more information on how to watch an eclipse with any degree of safety, visit preventblindness.org for a comprehensive list of safe viewing options. Remember: one unguarded moment can change your whole life.

   Lou Tomososki knows that.

  

 

  

 

 

 

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To Walk Alone

Policeman with BB Team

   What is leadership? In a nutshell, it’s the ability and the willingness to walk alone – whether anyone goes with you or not. Leadership is courageous; it’s the will to go where others fear to go – regardless of the consequences. Leadership is visionary; it’s the ability to perceive or imagine a trail that no one else yet sees or even believes in. Leadership is honorable; it’s the determination to stand for what’s right in the midst of temptation, compromise, and corruption.

   True leadership is rare.

   Alas, however, not everyone who possesses the persuasive ability to attract followers uses those skills for noble purposes. Many times over the years I’ve had to pull aside a strong-willed, classroom trouble-maker and inform him that he has leadership skills – which means he has a choice. Either he can use his leadership abilities to lead others down the wrong path or he can influence them to do right.

   One who has leadership skills and yet is afraid of his followers is dangerous. He or she will always do whatever is necessary to please those followers without regard for whether what pleases them is right or wrong.

   True leaders, on the other hand, don’t worry about whether or not they have followers; real leaders naturally attract followers.

What real leaders are truly concerned about is their own faithfulness to their followers even when that faithfulness is not popular with – yes, those followers.

   Are you a parent? Have you ever had to say “no” when everything inside of you wants to say “yes”? Have you ever had to deny yourself or watch your own behavior for the sake of your children? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employer? Have you ever had to roll up your sleeves and set the example of hard work and commitment to your employees hoping that they’ll one day make that same commitment to your business? Have you ever had to sacrifice yourself in terms of hours, energy and even pay so that they’ll benefit? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employee? Have you ever had to take a stand among your colleagues and co-workers for what you won’t do: gossip around the microwave, “borrow” office supplies, fudge a timesheet or expense voucher? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a teacher? Have you ever had to require students to do the hard work that they just don’t want to do? Memorizing math facts when the calculator is just “easier”, rewriting a paper even though it’s not necessarily fun, studying for a test rather than simply cheating on it? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a student? Have you ever had to stand up to a bully for your own sake or that of another when everyone else just stands by and cheers on Goliath? Have you ever taken a stand to behave in a classroom when others think it’s funny to disrupt the class? Then you’re a leader.

   If your decisions are not guided by fear of what others think, then you’re a leader.

   If your sole concern is not what’s best for you but what’s best for everyone, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to look into the wind to cast a vision for the sake of the greater good – regardless of what’s visible to the greater masses, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to walk alone for the sake of what’s right, then you’re a leader – even if no one’s ever told you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Time for A Revision of Your Vision?

hamlet-i
Mel Gibson as Prince Hamlet

     As many of us have realized as we travel the road through life – especially if we’ve been on that road for any length of time – sometimes the road deviates and we find ourselves on a different path than we expected to be on. Sometimes we find ourselves on little bunny trails which end up leading right back to where we wandered off in the first place, and sometimes the road takes us someplace entirely new. The thing about that is we never know how it’s going to turn out. But you know what they say about the “road less taken”? Take it.

     Having said all that, some of you noticed that I didn’t post on Monday – which I normally do. And I was going to – I had no plans not to – until Sunday evening when I sat just listening for what the Lord might say to me for the new year and suddenly, there it was: “Cut the posts back to once a week.”

     “Really?” I wasn’t certain I’d heard right. “Is that really You, Lord?”

     “Yep. It’s really me.”

     I won’t verbatim the whole conversion but the gist is that God wants me working on a revision of a book I’ve written and, in the interest of complete honesty, I was trying to avoid that. Really trying. Hard. It’s going to be an epic task requiring lots of changes and rewriting and frankly, I just wanted to do something new.

     Have you ever gotten to the place where you’re just tired of working on something you’ve been working on for a long time and you just want to move on? Probably. We all have. But we learn endurance and all that – you know the drill.    

     However, I think (scratch that – I know) that the real reason I didn’t want to do any revision on the book was because I simply didn’t know what to do. I knew it needed some changes but, as I said to the Lord, “I got nothing.” And then He showed me something that changed everything.

     He said, “Look at the word.”

     Me: “What word? Your word?”

     “No, the word ‘revision’. You like taking words apart. Take it apart.”

     “Okay. Hmmm…root word: ‘vision’. ‘Re’ is a prefix meaning ‘do over’ – as in “review,” “restart,” “renew”. So… ‘revision’ means ‘do the vision over’?”

     “I’m going to give you a new vision for this book.” 

     And so it’s begun. I sat down on Monday, January 2nd, and worked on the book until after dark, trusting God for the new direction He wants to take it. The funny thing is, as I was listening and writing and listening, I realized that it was on January 2nd several years ago that I first received the idea for this book.

     What are the odds?

     However, even though I’m working on a book that I thought was finished, I might still have had time to post twice a week – except that, in addition to the book, I’ll be working on another assignment. I have a friend to whom, many years ago, God had given a vision for a type of ministry but, in the years since, she’s  not had time to implement it. As a result, her vision ended up “on the shelf” as so many of our visions often do. Yet it was just this past weekend when she had a sudden revelation that, after all these years, it’s now “go” time for that vision to come to life. The fun thing is that I get to be a part of it – but it will take time.

     Sometimes, a new year brings a new season. And, as with all new seasons, things change. For me, because posting on both Mondays and Thursdays takes several hours a week which I won’t have anymore, I’ll now be posting on Thursdays exclusively until – well, until I’m told otherwise. And in the meantime, I’ll be listening for any shift in the wind.

     I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite plays, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In it, Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio, tells Hamlet that if he feels he should not do something, then he should follow his instincts. But Hamlet admonishes Horatio that he’ll do no such thing because God controls everything, even “’the fall of a sparrow’”. If something is supposed to happen now, Hamlet says, it will and if it’s supposed to happen later, then it won’t happen now. (Act V, scene ii)

     What about your vision? Is the Lord saying something to you for this year about reviving it, revising it or even about moving on to a whole new vision?

     As Prince Hamlet once said, “’The readiness is all.’”

 

 

 

 

   

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.

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.

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.

It’s Time to Cast Your Net.

Casting NetsLynn had failed over and over. Not once or twice but multiple times she’d pitched her business idea to investors and each time was rejected. To say she was disappointed is hardly an exaggeration. All Lynn had ever wanted to do was to open her own business so she took business courses, researched different opportunities, and developed a business plan.  

Lynn believed!

But no one else did. Finally, after several years of trying to secure funding and failing, Lynn quit.  She was heartbroken.  It was the death of a life-long dream. Until one day when, out of the blue, the Lord said to her,

 “Now go out where it is deeper and cast your nets.”

“Who? Me?” Lynn responded, somewhat bewildered.

“Yes, you,” said the Lord.

“But Lord,” answered Lynn, “I’ve worked for many years searching for investors and failing. But, if you say so, I’ll try again.”

So Lynn set out once more to find investors for her company except that this time, she sought bigger, more lucrative investors. After all, the Lord had instructed her to fish in deeper waters.

The next day, Lynn got a “bite” from an investor saying he was definitely interested in Lynn’s company and suggested even more money than Lynn had sought. Not only that, but two other investors had heard about Lynn’s business and were interested in investing as well.  In the end, Lynn ended up with two investors and her business – Chinese restaurant trucks (just like ice cream trucks except with egg rolls, General Tao and chopsticks) was a huge success!

So okay, yes – this is the same situation in which Jesus directed Peter to “’go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

Peter, at first though, isn’t so sure. He responds, “’Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’”  Then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

What’s it all mean?

First, the Lord tells Peter to “’let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky (although I hear that’s been known to happen).  Rather Pete had to work for it.  The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to have partners.

Moreover, sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity – to go big!  At the same time, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and require more faith.  However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter.

Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish (idk) but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned – even ridiculed.  Often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong.  However, He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not.

Finally, notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out . . .’” When God says “now,” it’s best to move.  Considering that God often saves the “now”s until we don’t expect them, it never hurts to be prepared. (The virgins and their lamps come to mind . . .)

So – even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to be – or God wouldn’t have called you to be that, would He?

So get ready to cast your nets. Get ready to go deeper.

THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

           What do you call a man who, when asked for food and drink by an army of 400 warriors, deliberately refuses them and then insults them? 

            How about “fool”? Sierra Exif JPEG

             Coincidently, that was the meaning of the name of Abigail’s husband, Nabal. Backstory (I Sam. 25): David and his mighty men, hungry and thirsty, had come upon Nabal’s men shearing his hundreds of sheep (Nabal was rich) and asked them for food and drink.  Since David and his men had often protected Nabal’s herdsmen from danger, it wasn’t therefore asking too much for David to make such a request of Nabal.  What was unusual was for Nabal to refuse David – especially considering that Nabal was plenty rich enough to provide food for David and his men.  And most especially considering that it was – well, David and his men.  Four hundred of them.  With swords.

             But – was Nabal’s foolish behavior really so coincidental?

             Perhaps not. It’s difficult to imagine the impact of growing up and hearing yourself called “fool” every time anyone mentioned your name.  Consequently, Nabal might simply have become convinced that that’s all he would ever be – whether he tried otherwise or not.  So (I’m speculating), consciously or not, Nabal began to imitate other fools.

             That’s what’s known as a “word curse”; we tend to become what we’re told we are. Jesus referred to such words as “idle words” and said that we’ll be held accountable for every idle word we speak.  Why?  Because people believe what they hear about themselves – for better or worse.

             Take Jacob, for example, who was born grasping his twin brother’s heel (Gen. 25). His parents named him Jacob, meaning “one who takes by the heel” or “supplants”.  They must (I speculate) have jokingly surmised that, at birth, Jacob was trying to pull his brother back so he could be the first out the door, the firstborn.  Thus, he was trying to “supplant” his brother, which means “to trip up or overthrow”.  Now, imagine Jacob hearing that story his whole life; possibly he came to feel that one day he would, in fact, supplant or replace his brother.  By the time he did deliberately set out to steal his brother’s first-born status, was it really a surprise to anyone?

             So – what are you saying about yourself? About your goals and visions?  Are you saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”?  Or are you saying, “I’m not good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or financially stable enough or experienced enough or – whatever enough?”

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING YOURSELF CALL YOURSELF?

             Is it fool? Or liar/deceiver?  How about stupid? Ugly?  Loser?  Worthless?  Evil?  Failure?  Hopeless?  If so, you need to get a new vision of yourself.

            “Yeah,” you say, “been there, heard that. But I just can’t.” 

            Why? Jesus died to give you a new vision of yourself. And if His death isn’t powerful enough to re-write your identity, then Christ died for nothing. 

             Of course, you don’t believe that. So do you really believe then that there is any “case” too impossible for the Lord to re-define, to make new?  Of course not.  But you have to believe that that power applies to you.  Is that always easy?  No – as Jacob proves.

            I should point out here that Jacob was not a nice person. Not only does he deliberately deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright (Gen. 27) but, after a nasty conflict with his father-in-law over wages, he decides to take all his wives and children and return to his homeland.  Fair enough.  However, on the way, he’s afraid of running into his brother Esau (!) and so packs up a bunch of presents for him and sends all of them, along with his wives and children, across the river ahead of him.

            Not exactly a model of integrity.

             But what happens next always kind of baffled me. Continue reading THE Most Important Vision You’ll Ever Have

Mission: “Possible”

Write the Vision          Have you ever felt like you’ve been called to great things, impossible things?  That would be because you have.  The problem is we say we believe that but – do we really?  The fact is that we’ve lost sight of the bottom line:  “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).  Maybe it’s time for a quick reminder.                 

          “Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son.’  Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby.  And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children, she laughed silently to herself.  ‘How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?’ she thought.  ‘And when my master, my husband, is also so old?’  The Lord then said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh?  Why did she say, “Can an old woman like me have a baby?”  Is anything too hard for the Lord?'”  (Gen. 18:10-13).

          A “baby” equals a dream, a promise, a heart’s desire.  It also represents, as with Sarah, the sign of a fulfilled covenant and the promise of a covenant to come.  The same message came to Jeremiah from the Lord.

          The Lord had instructed Jeremiah to buy a field from his cousin and to store away the deed. Odd thing to do but God meant it as a sign that, although Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Israelites exiled to Babylon, the time would come that He would again restore His people to their land.  But as Jeremiah sees the city and nation about to be destroyed, he is in despair and wonders how anyone could ever own land in Israel/Judah again, so Jeremiah questions God as to why He had him buy the land in the first place.  But the deed was a prophetic sign of a future covenant which the Lord would make with His people. 

         God had also had Abraham perform a prophetic action when He’d commanded him, “’Take a walk in every direction and explore the new possessions I am giving you'” (Gen. 13:17).  God tells Abraham to “explore” (“Walk the length and breath of the land . . .”) – to get a vision of it.  He commanded Abraham to keep the vision before his eyes in order to hold onto the dream.  And we should do the same . . . 

          As for Jeremiah, he didn’t understand the sign and essentially asks God:  “How can You do that – fulfill your promise – when Jerusalem is about to be destroyed??”  God’s answer: “‘I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world.  Is anything too hard for Me?'”  (Jer. 32:26-27).

          In the book of Luke, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to inform her that she will become pregnant with the Messiah through the Spirit of God and have a baby.  Mary responds by asking how she can get pregnant when she’s still a virgin.  (Evidently she gets that this is supposed to happen immediately and not after she marries Joseph, to whom she is engaged.  I always thought this to be very astute of her because I probably would have missed the point entirely and responded, “Why wouldn’t I have a son ? I’m about to get married.  I hope I have lots of them!”)  The angel tells her how it will happen (as soon as she gives the word), and then gives her a sign to believe in: “‘What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!  People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God'” (Luke 1:36).

          In Matthew 19, there is the account of the rich young ruler who leaves sadly after deciding he cannot give up his possessions and follow Jesus (who was testing his commitment by asking him to do that).  Jesus watches him go and comments to His disciples that it’s about as easy for a rich person to get saved as it is for a huge camel to go through the tiny city gate known as the “Eye of the Needle.”  Knowing how impossible that would be, Jesus’ disciples, astonished, respond, “‘Then who in the world can be saved?'” (vs. 25).  Jesus’ answer?  “‘With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'” (vs. 26).  The disciples were panicked at the thought that salvation would be as difficult to attain as a camel getting through that gate (which evidently had never been done before).   Continue reading Mission: “Possible”

What’s In Your Hand?

Candle in Hand“What’s in your hand?”

This is one of the most important questions we can ask . What do we already have that we can use, develop, share, multiply, or work with?  It’s a question we must ask ourselves, and it’s often the question God will ask us.

What do we have that we are responsible to use?  What strength, talent, resource, gifting, insight, or ability do we have to help people, provide for needs, solve a problem, earn a living – or whatever else the current dilemma may be?

Here’s the issue: we are so used to looking outside of ourselves for help or provision that we forget to do what God often wants us to do: to start with whatever we might have – no matter how small or seemingly insufficient – and trust Him to make it all we need.

Take David, for example.  What did David have that he committed to God to use?  A slingshot and a stone.  Even when King Saul offered to David his royal armor and sword (which is a very big deal for a king), David turned them down and chose instead to use what God had put into his hand and not what man wanted to put there.  And we all know how that turned out.

Another example is when the disciples came to Jesus, requesting that He provide for 5000 hungry men and their families.  Jesus’ response?

“What do you have?”

The disciples – very often like us – were baffled by His question.  Their panicked response was that they had only five loaves and two fish.  In other words, “We got nothin’.”

But to Jesus, it wasn’t “nothing.”  It was what was in their hands.

Can God make something out of nothing?  Of course.  When He made the universe, he didn’t even have any stardust.  And sometimes, when we truly have nothing, God works with that.  But because God is as interested in growing our faith as in solving our problems, He requires us to step up and be involved.  And we do that by offering what we have and then letting Him multiply it.

The Bible is full of this principle.  In I Kings, Elijah asked a widow for some water and bread.  When she answered that she had only “a little oil” to mix with enough grain for one last meal, the prophet told her not to be afraid and to bake him a small loaf of bread. Then he took what she had and multiplied her oil so that she and her son never went hungry again.  That wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t given what she had.

Another example is the woman who broke the alabaster jar of perfume over Jesus’ feet. In her defense (because, of course, someone had to criticize her for it), Jesus’ response was,  ” ‘She has done what she could do’ ” (Mk. 14:8).

Isn’t that all any of us can do?

 Even when all we have is very little – as was the case with the widow who had only two pennies to put into the offering at the Temple – to God it’s enough.  Jesus pointed out that widow and told His disciples, ” ‘She has given everything she has.’ “

She gave what was in her hand.

Who else?

Noah gave his time and energy to build an ark and, as a result, God saved the lives of Noah and his family.  Hannah pledged her only son to the Lord – and God gave her several more children.  Joseph gave his protection and provision to Mary and Jesus (when he could’ve walked away), and God gave him the reputation of being one of the greatest fathers in history.  Esther offered to God her influence with the king in order to try to save her people – even at the risk of her own life – and God saved everyone’s life and blessed Esther  as well.  Mary, herself, when asked by the angel Gabriel if she would consent to being the mother of the Messiah (because she could’ve said no, too) she risked everything – her reputation, her future security, her very life – with her response:  ” ‘I am the handmaiden of the Lord.  May it be done unto me as you have said.’ ”  She gave what was in her power to give – and trusted God with it.

What has God put into our hands?  It may be a resource – money or possessions; it may be a talent or ability; it may be an act of obedience.  Whatever “it” is, it’s never too small or insignificant a thing to offer to God.

The Lord has put a pen into my hand – and so, in an effort to be faithful to what He has given to me, this site, “DestinyHighway.com,” was born. My goal with it is to help you to take what you’ve been given and – make your destiny happen!

What’s in your hand?