When Your Vision is Too Small

When your vision is too small, you focus on what you do not have.

When your vision is too small, you tell others about all of your limitations.

When your vision is too small, you make your children even smaller, by assuring them they cannot rise above your inadequacies if even their own.

When your vision is too small, you are found complaining about everyone around you who seems fulfilled.

When your vision is too small, your excuse list exceeds your “to do” list.

 

When your vision is big, you focus on possibilities.

When your vision is big, you encourage others, and constantly communicate a bigger picture.

When your vision is big, you pack a lunch for your child, so in case he is in a crowd of 5000+ hungry people, he will have something to offer Jesus to feed the whole multitude.

When your vision is big, you run out of time for complaining because you are so busy being about your Father’s business.

When your vision is big, you realize that you are only a sail on a boat, but that God is the wind, and with Him you can go anywhere and accomplish anything.Jamin and Sitka

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What if You Went Out for Lunch?

Caution:  This post will cover a rather gruesome event that happened in Israel’s history, so be sure your food has digested before reading.

Let me set up the story:

The Children of Israel have passed through the Red Sea, have received the 10 Commandments from God, and are in the midst of establishing themselves as a nation in the lands that God has promised them as an inheritance.  God begins to speak to His people, reminding them of His provision, His blessing, and His design for the way they are to live.  Deuteronomy 28 begins to speak of the blessings that will follow their lives if they obey the Lord, and then in verse 15, God enumerates the curses that will fall upon them if they instead choose disobedience.  It is verses 49-57 that set up the story we will look at in 2 Kings 6.

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

God’s words to His children sounded disgusting and ridiculous to the people just freed from Egypt who had followed God through a desert.  The thoughts were so far from their imaginations.  Who would stoop so low?  Who would be so perverse as to eat their own child?

Well, as sure as God’s word, a few generations later 2 Kings 6:24-31 takes place.  Go ahead and read that passage before continuing by clicking on the reference above^.

This story is astounding, grotesque, horrible, and so full of despair, and it is a true story.  Before you dismiss it as something you have nothing in common with, let me paint another picture:

You are struggling.  You are trying to put one foot in front of the other, but life seems to keep knocking you down.  Your mind becomes a city that has been besieged by voices.  The voices say things like:  “You will never get better.”  “You are just like your good for nothing father.” “This is what your life is all about now–you are a failure!”  “You will always be an addict.”  “No one wants to hear your whining anymore.”  “You are better off dead.” “Why are you so stupid?”  “No one will ever want you.”

Have you been there?  Are you there now?

The enemy of our souls, Satan, comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Those are his main objectives.  One of his great tools on mankind is the siege of the mind.  If he can keep his “loop of lies” running through your head, he can get you to give up the very things that are the most precious to you.  He can convince you to sacrifice the most sacred things at the altar of addiction, murder, or suicide.  It all starts with lies that form a continuous loop in your head.

Now take a couple of minutes and read 2 Kings chapter 7.  Go ahead, you need this!

My question that I want to pose to you is this:  “What if you went out to lunch instead?”

What if those women, desperate for food, would have decided instead to pack up their babies and head out of the city for lunch, like the lepers did instead of forming their destructive plan?

Of course a siege feels scary.  You’ve been threatened by your enemy.  But the truth is–“Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”  When you step out of your siege, your feet sound like the thunder of  an army.  Your decision to break the cycle, get help, humble yourself, and change your environment starts an earthquake in the camp of your enemy.  Your God goes before you.

What does it mean to leave the city?  It might mean going for a walk, calling someone to pray for you, making an appointment with a counselor, checking yourself into rehab, following through with your medications, and spending time in God’s Word.  Whatever you are most afraid to do–whatever you keep talking yourself out of in exchange for a quick solution, is likely what you need to do.

When you live in a siege mentality, you will make poor companion choices, you will look for quick fixes, you will become desperate, and you will eat your “baby”.  You will trade in the precious for a fix.

So I challenge you, when that loop begins playing in your head–even from the first couple of sentences, recognize it as the voice of your enemy.  Call out to God for help, and then grab up everything that is precious to you and take a walk.  Walk away from the lies, take steps towards your freedom, and don’t stop until your enemy is scattered.  If you have to do it 14 times a day, do it.  Your footsteps out are weapons against your adversary.  Keep going–

get out of jail

The Final Straw

It’s the excuse that flies out of my mouth to justify my reasons on almost everything.  It’s the same excuse I hear from others around me.  It is the final straw, the deciding factor, the ultimate justifier.  “I just don’t have the time.”  It’s why we don’t exercise, eat well, plan for the future or live in the present.  It’s the reason we get rid of our pets and sell our toys.  It is the culprit behind the broken marriage, the unfinished project, the long-lost hobby, and the stressed-out student.  We just don’t have the time.  Sadly, it is the reason for our flailing faith, and our absence from our Father’s House.

In Micah 6:3 God, in an attempt to show Israel how far she has strayed from Him, asks a weighted question:  “How have I wearied you? What have I done to you?

I still hear this same question from the Spirit of God in the lives of my generation.  “What have I done to weary you?  Where are you going?”  I have found very few people who have accusations against God that they can articulate and point to in their lives, but more often than not, I find that the answers to ones drifting away from God are buried in an ambiguous ocean that carries them away slowly, quietly saying, “I just don’t have the time.”

You don’t know how far you can drift until you learn to make “time” your excuse.  The truth is that we you and I will always make the time for the things that are important to us.  Always.  So maybe our problem isn’t “time”;  it is just our excuse.  Our problem is more likely that our value system is constantly being skewed towards convenience, and the things that have become the most valuable to us are the things that come easy.

God still stands on the shore of our hearts asking us to evaluate our excuses, and prove our reasoning for rejecting our only source of oxygen.  While we live in this age of grace we can hear his voice and choose for Him or against Him.  There will be, however the day that our choices run out and we will stand before Him without excuses or options.  There will be no time, only eternity.

Isaiah 55:1-7

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon

alders

Caught Up in a Story Pt. 2

One of the greatest existential questions asked of the human race today is the question, “What is the purpose of my life?”  Somehow we know that we are alive (although some still wonder if they actually exist), but our reason for being alive and our reasons to continue living aren’t always obvious to us– So we ask.  We ask the mirror.  We ask our family.  We ask our neighbors, our peers, our heroes, even our countries, and each answer is different.  So how do we go about finding the answers to life’s questions?

“What is the purpose of my life?”  is a question that within itself assumes at least three things:

1.  There is such a thing as purpose.

2.  This purpose can be discovered, revealed, and known.

3.  Inherent in my being alive is a need, or at the very least, a desire for purpose.

sunsetWhat is purpose?

pur·pose

[pur-puhs]  Show IPA noun, verb, pur·posed, pur·pos·ing.

noun

1.  the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2.  an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.

Starting with the first assumption, “there is such a thing as purpose”, You and I will have to conclude that purpose precedes existence.  Existence occurs because of a reason.  Something or Someone has “wanted” you into existence.

If your life and mine is merely an accident, or a series of random universal events, this question of purpose is a moot point.  There is no reason to ask the question because there will be no purpose to be discovered.  If you are a Naturalist, or an Atheist, your search has just concluded and your question has become invalid.

Let’s just say then, for the sake of this article, and for the sake of validating the question that there is purpose in life and that purpose was determined before you existed.  Then it would behoove you and me to find out the source of purpose and existence.  This is where all roads lead me to God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is living, both seen and unseen.

The second assumption that purpose can be known and/or discovered can only be true if the author of your purpose can be known, or if He disclosed this knowledge to those of us existing and asking the questions.  This is where many other world religions will drop you off.  If the deity who knows all will not reveal himself/herself to you, or refuses to be known, or requires that you go through a series of re-births and live multiple lives to begin to know, you will have no determiners to know if your life is full of purpose and if you are living within its potential.

Isaiah 45:5-6

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
    apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
    though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
    to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.

The God who has revealed Himself as the One and only, as recorded in His scriptures, has also recorded for our reference His purposes and design for all of the lives He created. In Caught Up in a Story Pt.1, (Go ahead and read it now, if you haven’t already) we read How God sets up our story.  Before the foundations of the world were laid, God had us on His mind.  He thought about us and made a plan to create us, redeem us and bring us to Himself.  He tells us the story of His love for us and how that loved motivated His every move.   God still unfolds His story of love and purpose and will give answers and help to anyone who calls out to Him.

The fact that you exist, means that you were purposed.  You are not here just because the DNA of two human’s fused together.  You are here because God caused you into existence.  God wanted and desired you.  Listen, He didn’t have to make you.  He didn’t have to bring you into existence in this point of history with your features and abilities, but He wanted to!

The third assumption is that “inherent in my life is the need to know my purpose”.  This is true.  The fact that you are asking the question is its own proof of relevance.   Even more than the importance of knowing your purpose is the absolute need within you to know your Creator.  You were created in the image of God which means that you have a direct connection with your Creator that you need to live a life of meaning and fulfillment.  You were made to reflect His character.  You were made to be in relationship with Him.

Without God there is no meaning.  Without God there is no purpose.  Without God there is no way to discover answers to any question existential or otherwise, because without Him, nothing would be revealed.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

You are here in this point in  history, with unique abilities, features, and character.  You have a purpose and a reason to exist.  You have a God who can be known to walk you through every step of your life.  Won’t you call on Him today?

Caught Up in a Story Pt. 1

Ephesians 1:3-14

The Message (MSG)

3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

I couldn’t have said it better…..Jamin and Sitka

My Deep Breath

Having a few physical complications from time to time give cause for me to take painkillers for relief.  Often, I ignore my condition as long as I can, and carry on.  Other times, my pain is brought to my attention by the way I am breathing…short, shallow and often.  Paying attention to the way I breathe is a clue to me about how my body is processing pain.

I have to admit that I love the feeling of the release from pain that is accompanied by a couple of “Aleve” tablets.  This is characterized by my lungs taking in a deep breath of air and exhaling slowly.  Sometimes, the big exhale is what alerts me to the fact that my body is relaxing and no longer talking about pain.

One of my favorite songs by Jonathan Stockstill, is a song called “I Need You”.  The song borrows it’s lyrics and themes from the scripture:

Acts 17:28

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Worship and prayer are our deepest breaths.  When you find you are breathing quickly, and your heart is hurried and cannot be still, you need to worship.  When your pain is overwhelming you and your hope is waning, you need moments in the presence of God where your “time stands still” and you are receiving the strength, life and breath of the One who formed and fashioned you in His image.

Take a deep breath today of the presence of  God.  Come into His presence with worship, prayer, and thankfulness.  Tell Him “I Need You”, and then wait while He breathes into you the strength you need.  Listen as He sings your victory and your hope over you today. Let Him be your deep breath.

Honoring Dishonorable People

Kachemak BayOne of the most difficult principle for me to learn over the years has revolved around how to respect and honor people who have lost my respect or behave in a way that is offensive to me.  Harder still are those who have offended me on purpose and continue the behavior that puts me on the defensive.  I am so tempted to control the situation when I am offended, that I use many dishonorable tactics. Some times I have pitted my wit against the wit of the offender–emphasizing the gulf of knowledge between us, with my knowledge being superior, and theirs being absent.  (Usually this is accomplished with heavy doses of sarcasm.) It becomes a  vicious cycle that causes both the offender and the offended to act in a dishonoring way, and washing us both away in a sea of bad behavior. So here are a couple of principles I have learned that I attempt to put into practice.

If you have ever felt the need to “think” for another adult, because you do not trust them to think on their own, you will likely relate to this post.  Children of alcoholic, abusive or drug abusing parents often find themselves in this role from a very young age.  The adult in your life who was supposed to be responsible, and respectable, proves instead to be childish, and exude behavior that is senseless, and often dangerous.  As a child caught in this family, your choices are limited.  If you want to survive, you take on the role of the responsible person in the house.  You cover for the choices of the offending adult.  You talk them down from their ledges, try to coerce their car keys away, and even tuck them in their beds even when it is the middle of the day.  You find that your voice sounds very parental even if you yourself have not yet reached puberty. Carry this behavior into your adulthood and you will find that you resent it.  If the truth could be known, you want adults to act like adults.  You don’t like picking up after people.  You don’t like being their “mom” or “dad”.

As an adult, when you treat another adult as a child by thinking for them, or choosing for them, you dishonor them. Of course, I am not referring to aging parents who have dementia, or Alzheimer’s  I am referring to adults who insist on behaving like children, by shifting all of their personal responsibilities onto others.  If you do not change your role in the relationship, you will be caught in a vicious cycle that will likely leave you with bitterness.  As adults, we are each responsible for our actions, and if you have been absorbing the consequences of another adult’s behavior, or manipulating and controlling the actions of another adult, you are not doing them or yourself any favors (though at the time, you might feel like a superhero).

One way honor a dishonorable person is to let them make their own decisions and then live with the consequences of that decision.  If their decisions are childish and display bad behavior, they need to be able act like children, and you need to be able to back away.  You can say, “If you want to throw a tantrum, you can.  I however, will not stay to watch it.”  You get to stay and adult, and they get some adult choices and consequences.  “We want to have you over for dinner, but if you continue you to criticize and belittle the host, you will no longer be invited.”  Now they have choices, and you have boundaries**.  Consequences need to find their way to that adult instead of landing on you.  In severe cases where there their life or the life of another is in danger due to their actions, you will need to confront them, but I would suggest bringing in a third party into the situation such as the police, a counselor, or another professional that has the resources to help.

Sometimes adults act childish, and sometimes we treat them that way.  To make other adults feel like children by scolding, talking down to them, or heaping guilt on them is dishonorable.  When parents do it to adult children it is out of line, and when adult children do it to parents it is no different. This applies to bosses, exes, politicians, and adult relationships in general. We should not try to control another human being by shaming, guilting, belittling, or abusing.  Sometimes our words can be just as painful as our actions.  If you find that you have to guilt someone, cut them with sarcasm or critical words, or shame them to get what you want from the relationship, you are acting in a dishonorable way.

To disagree with someone is not dishonor, the dishonor happens when we mis-treat the person with whom we disagree.

In learning how to honor dishonorable people, God has dealt with my bitter sarcasm, my low evaluations of people, and my need for defenses.  He has asked me to change my perspectives as well as my actions.  Often it means I bite my tongue and trust that God will defend me.  Sometimes it means I apologize to the offender for the way I reacted to the offense. Other times, I have found that I have to disconnect the relationships with some who continue to behave dishonorably to me.  These people I choose to honor instead, by walking through forgiveness.  I cancel the “debt” of the offender, and try to move on.  I pray for them.  I choose to remember the best from them.  I grieve the loss.  Honor  is a process I began over 20 years ago, and will continue to implement for the rest of my life.

The bottom line is that God has placed a very high value on people.  So much so that He gave His Son to die for them.  That kind of evaluation shows me that I have some improvements to make in the way I treat people, and some ground to gain in the way I allow others to treat me.  I am in a life-long school, and will always be a student, but regaining respect while bestowing dignity and honor on others is what God has asked me to do.

**There are multiple books written on this subject.  One of my favorites is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  This book outlines the the basic responsibilities of adults and children and helps you place boundaries in your life that you may have never had, or known you needed.  If you have never known where “you” end and another person begins, I highly recommend this book.