Missed Destiny

In this election year the political rhetoric and attacks are running high, especially among the Republican candidates campaigning in primaries. The most common form of attack I’ve notice in the advertisements and during the debates is when the focus is on the candidate’s past. They dig up every inconsistency in their opponent’s past, every word they misspoke, and every personal mistake they ever made. The attacks on their personal life are the most vicious and cruel but unfortunately seem to carry the most weight among voters. Focusing on a candidate’s past is so widely used among the candidates because it’s proven to be effective in selling short the political future of the one under attack and in many cases causing them to never reach their longterm dream.

Focusing on the past and attacking someone for who they used to be instead of who they are now is as old as time – it’s creator is the devil himself. His most effective method of attack is to keep us focused on our past so we’ll fail to move forward toward our destiny in Christ. When we are preoccupied with looking back to events and people who have caused us pain, hurt or anger then we cannot look forward to see what our future holds. We become blinded to the promises of our future by the obstacles of our past. When we become obsessed with the past in the form of unforgiveness, guilt, hatred or consuming sorrow, we miss the opportunity to be set free from that which keeps us held captive to the past. And when we fail to move forward in these areas we become an easy target for spiritual attack. The enemy will begin to constantly remind us of who we were in our past in order to ensure we keep looking back instead of keeping our focus forward on God. Staying focused on the past is the single most common cause of people missing their destiny in Christ.  

But God’s plan is to keep us moving forward toward the destiny He has called us into. And Jesus is the key to our being released from our past and being able to move forward. He is the key that sets us free from the weight of our past that holds us back. Many try in their own strength to break free from their past but find the chains that hold them there are too strong. And each time they start to make forward progress the devil is right there to remind them of their failures and shortcomings.  He uses doubt, insecurity, unforgiveness, guilt and even hurtful reminders from others to keep us looking back and focused on our past. But when you reach the point that you realize you are powerless to break free from your past on your own and you surrender your life and your past to Jesus, He can give you the power you need through His Holy Spirit to have the strength to forgive and to begin to heal from the hurts of your past. Then you can begin to move forward into the destiny you’re called to. You no longer have to fight the distractions of your past. And you have freedom from the chains that have kept you bound. It’s time to stop looking back and focus on your future in Christ. You have a destiny awaiting your arrival.

Who’s the Boss?

One of my favorite TV shows in the 1980’s was the sitcom “Who’s the Boss”. As the title eludes, the show was about the clear role reversal of the two lead characters, where a woman was the breadwinner and a man (who was her live-in housekeeper) stayed at home and took care of the domestic duties. As their friendship and trust in each other grew and the lines became crossed, there was an underlying tension between the two of them of who was really in control of the decision-making in the home.

We live in a world that constantly attempts to remind us through all forms of media that we are in control of our lives. That we are the ones with the power to direct our path in life. Actress Drew Barrymore once said “I don’t want to sit around and hope good things happen. I want to make them happen.” She clearly believes she is the one who ultimately determines the outcome of her life. We all have seen or experienced marriages in which husbands and wives fight for control of each other. Or parents who try both successfully and unsuccessfully to control their children. In the workplace and in the school classrooms it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s in control. And while it’s true that we are, for the most part, in control of the choices we make, it is in those choices that we are ultimately giving up control. We falsely believe that because we are free to make our own choices then that means we are in control of our lives. There are much bigger forces at play and much more at stake than we realize.

I am a self confessed control freak. I get it when people tell me it’s hard to give up control and to trust in someone else to guide their decisions. I was one of those people who held on to control of all areas of my life (my marriage, my work, my money) even as I was watching them all slowly spiral out of control. People who were far wiser than I ever will be told me to surrender control of my life to God. To trust in Him to “fix” all the areas of my life I was incapable of fixing myself, as long as I was relying on my own strength and abilities. I held on tight-fisted to control until I almost lost it all. I believed that I knew what was best for my life and thought “how in the world can I just release all this to God? It’s too hard!” Even though I believed that I was the one in control and that the choices were either “I’m the boss” or “God’s the boss”, the truth was that I was never in control. Either I was going to surrender and allow God to be in control or I was going to continue to give into my own desires and allow the enemy of God to be in control. We are extremely deceived if we believe we are ever truly in control.

It isn’t easy and I use the present tense because it is a daily surrender to the desires of my heart and of my flesh. But thankfully I don’t have to rely any longer on my own strength or on my own abilities to do so. And I now know that God’s ways are always better than my own. I made the choice about 15 years ago to surrender my life to Jesus Christ, to relinquish the burden of control to Him. And since that time I have learned that what our world would perceive as weakness was the single-most freeing thing I’ve ever done. I believed the lie that freedom was found in being in control of my own life and on not relying on anyone but myself to make the decisions that affected my destiny. But the truth was that I was enslaved to my need to be in control. (Gal. 5:1) Now, I no longer have to carry the burden of trying to fix everything, do everything, be everything or know everything. I have the joy of experiencing freedom from being in control – yes freedom from not freedom in being in control. It is bondage to hang on to the belief that you are in control of your life. (1Kings 18:21). Remember, either you have surrendered to God and He’s in control or you’ve surrendered to your own desires and the enemy is in control. So, who’s your boss?

Misplaced Trust

During a recent thunderstorm I was lying in bed listening to the heavy rain and wind outside. Although the wind made it sound like there was complete chaos going on just outside my window, I felt an unusual peace in the moment. I began to think about how people react when a “life storm” hits their otherwise calm existance. Do they experience that same peace I felt that night or is their response something much different. How you react during the storms of life greatly depends on who your trust lies in.

Whenever there is a big thunderstorm at our home my grandmother who lives with us reacts with worry and fear. She can’t sit still. She comes in and out of her room as she tries to stay calm but she can’t help but keep looking out all the windows to make sure everything is still ok. If she was in the middle of something and a storm comes up she stops everything to direct all her focus and attention to the storm even though she’s in the safety of our home. She prepares for the worst possible scenario by readying her flashlight and ensuring that if it gets too bad we’ll all head to the basement for safety. She wants to talk about the storm and relay all the information that the weatherman has communicated on TV. She thinks there’s no chance that the storm will quickly blow over and fully expects it to last a very long time. Even if there is no severe weather in the forecast, if she sees clouds outside she assumes that a bad storm is coming. And although at 99 years old she has been through many, many thunderstorms and has come out of them completely unscathed, she still becomes consumed by the most current one.

Even as Christians don’t we respond that way many times to the storms of life? We worry, we can’t be at rest, instead of being full of faith we fully expect the worst case scenario, we put all our focus and attention on the storm and we are fearful of what’s going on around us even though we’re under the covering of God’s protection. We expect our storm to last a very long time and we quickly forget the previous storms we’ve been through and survived. Yet we proclaim our belief in Jesus, the very One who calmed the storm by rebuking the winds but like His disciples we lack faith and are fearful when the storm hits. We put our trust in our own abilities to overcome our storm. We become consumed by it and allow it to steal our focus away from the only place it should be. We too easily brush off the promises of God’s word that says that we are to be without fear because God is with us wherever we go. (Joshua 1:9). We forget that His word also says “When I am afraid I will trust in you”. (Psalm 56:3). Our trust is completely misplaced if it is anywhere but in God and the promises of His word.

When our trust is in God, not only can we experience a calm before the storm, but we can experience complete calm during the storm. When we surrender control of the situations and circumstances in our lives that usher us into the darkness of a storm, there is an inexplicable peace that overcomes the effects of the storm. And when we can continue to rejoice in the Lord even when things are spiraling out of control, His grace will sustain us through the storm. Philippians 4:6-7 promises “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He is faithful in His promises. If you are in a storm and everything is raging around you and fear and worry are consuming you, it’s time to put your trust in the Jesus. Cry out to Him and ask Him to calm the storm. Then praise Him that He is the only One who can. The storm may continue to rage all around you but the storm within you will subside. That’s a promise.

Make ‘Em Pay

Forgiving someone means accepting their apology, right? Well, yes. But there’s a second part to forgiveness that many of us leave out, especially us ladies. We tend to forgive but we also tend to make sure that the one we’ve forgiven doesn’t soon forget their wrong against us. We are quick to forgive because we don’t want to carry the guilt of withholding forgiveness from them. But we want to ensure that there is still a price to pay – that they have to earn that forgiveness in some way.

The problem with that way of thinking is that it doesn’t fit the definition of forgiveness, true forgiveness – the kind of forgiveness that Jesus died on the cross for. Forgiveness means to release a person from punishment, to exempt them from penalty. When you truly forgive someone then you do not expect anything in return. It’s over. It is finished.

You see, we are often too quick to forget what Jesus did for us on the cross. Oh, we remember the part about how He forgave our sins and so we in return are willing to forgive others. But we leave out the part of what He did before He died on that cross, the part where He paid the penalty for our sins. He received the brutal beating and punishment that our sin deserved. He never said “I’ll forgive you, but it’s gonna cost you”. Not only does He forgive us but He also paid the cost for us. (Isaiah 53:5)

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to forget the wrong that was done to you. But it does mean that you do not expect them to earn your forgiveness. If you forgive someone you forfeit your right to impose a penalty on them. When you forgive them you relinquish the need to make them pay for what they did to you by withholding affection or constantly reminding them of just how bad they hurt you. Many times as women when we forgive someone we falsely believe that we have the “right” to do what we want, spend what we want or act like we want without consequence because after all, we earned it because of what they did to us. In true forgiveness there is no penalty phase. There is no set time period that we get to treat the one who hurt us with an attitude of revenge while we practically dare them to react negatively because we’ve decided they deserve the harsh treatment as payment for their wrong.

What we all deserve is everything that Jesus endured on the cross on our behalf. But when we seek His forgiveness we receive it – no strings attached. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it with flowers or gifts and there’s no certain time period that He gives us the cold shoulder until He decides we’ve finally earned full forgiveness. He forgives our sins the moment we repent. The moment we seek His forgiveness with an attitude of Godly sorrow, it’s done. There’s no penalty phase because the penalty was paid in full for our sins.

In response to the cross, the very least we can do is to fully forgive others who sincerely seek our forgiveness with Godly sorrow. We owe them forgiveness with no expectations of them earning that forgiveness. Those who ask for our forgiveness deserve the same forgiveness we receive from God when they do so not because they were caught doing wrong, but because they know they caused us to hurt and they never want to do it again.  Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive? Is there anyone you need to completely forgive?

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

Over the Christmas holiday my family and I went to see “We Bought a Zoo”. This was a great movie for our family and we really enjoyed it. But there was one line in the movie that I could not stop thinking about. The father, played by Matt Damon, was talking to his son and told him “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” His family had been looking for a home and had found the perfect one. The only problem was that the house came with a zoo and he knew nothing about running a zoo. But in a moment of insane courage he decided that he and his family would purchase the house with the zoo and would figure it out as they went along.

I thought about how there are lots of things you can do in 20 seconds that takes insane courage. And many of them will reap huge benefits if you are willing to do something you never thought you would be able to do.

I thought about how I was not really that type of person. I’ve never done anything that really took insane courage. I’ve done plenty of things that required insane stupidity on my part but nothing that I could think of that would qualify as courageous.

Then God so lovingly revealed something to me. I had done something. Many years ago an amazing teacher of mine shared her faith and what God had done in her life. She shared that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She said that He chose to die on the cross for all of our sins so that we could be forgiven and could spend eternity in Heaven. She said that if we wanted to accept His forgiveness and to spend eternity with Him all we had to do was believe in our hearts that what she was sharing was true then raise our hands and pray a prayer asking for that forgiveness.

I was a 7th grader at the time and what my peers thought of me was crucial to my existance. I was insecure and didn’t want to be made fun of. I was terrified. But there was something in me that desperately wanted to experience the love and acceptance she spoke of. I wanted to be forgiven of all the wrong things I had done and choices I had made. I wanted to have the assurance that I would spend eternity in heaven with the One who loved me completely. I was so afraid of the consequences but in those 20 seconds of insane courage that it would take me to raise my hand I knew something great would come of it so I did it. I raised my hand and boldly chose to say “I believe”.

My life has not been perfect since that 20 seconds of insane courage. I’ve certainly had my share of ups and downs. But what happened in that moment to a scared middle-schooler forever changed my life. There has never been a moment of regret in that choice. It took courage. It took making the choice that I didn’t care what other people thought – I wanted everything that teacher told me the bible promised. I wanted to experience that kind of love and peace and joy. I wanted to change and not be the person I had become anymore. And 32 years later I still want Jesus more than anything else. It’s a choice every day that I make to follow Him and not follow my own selfish ways. But there is nothing this world can offer that will ever compare to the love of Jesus.

If you’re like I was as a scared 7th grader and you’ve heard the gospel that promises forgiveness, eternal salvation and a new life in Christ but you’re afraid of the consequences to responding, know that there is no other 20 seconds of courage decision you can make that will impact your life more than choosing to follow Jesus and make Him the Lord and Savior of your life. And the best part about it is you don’t have to step out in that decision alone. He will be right there beside you every step of the way. (Joshua 1:9). You’ve got nothing to lose and I promise you, something great will come of it.

So That’s What a Meteor Shower Looks Like

In the very, very early morning hours on Wednesday my two sons and I went outside to watch the Quadrantid meteor shower. Because there was no school the next day it was the perfect time to stay up and view our first one. I didn’t know a whole lot about meteor showers but I guess I expected that the word “shower” meant they would be coming down like rain and would be very visible. The peak time to see them was 1:30 am so we bundled up and headed out to stare into the northeast sky because according to space.com that was the direction to be looking. We looked to the northeast from the back of the house. Then we looked from the front of the house. We rechecked our compass. We looked in different directions. Nothing. We checked social networks to see if anyone was talking about it. Nobody was saying anything except “I don’t see anything”. We looked some more. Nothing.

So we decided to go inside. It was cold and there was nothing to see. Maybe next time. We turned away from the northeast sky and headed inside. When we were almost to the door I turned to look back one more time. Then I saw it. I saw a shooting star streak across the sky. I almost screamed, “Oh my gosh! Did you see it?!” My youngest son exuberantly said “Yes!! I saw it”.

We stopped in our tracks and stood staring at the sky for 45 more minutes. We didn’t say a word except when one of us would see one we would ask if the others had seen it too. It was beautiful and peaceful. We forgot we were cold. We forgot our necks were hurting from staring up in the same position for so long. We forgot how long we were out there. We just wanted to see another one.

It’s like that when we’re waiting on God to “fix” our situation. We pray. We get an idea in our mind what His answer to our prayer will look like. We wait as we look for His anwer. But the waiting is uncomfortable. We decide it’s not worth it and we give up. It’s too hard to wait.

If we give up before He answers in His perfect timing we may just miss something spectacular. But if we will just wait it out a little bit longer and keep our focus upward we might just get a glimpse of what we’ve been waiting for. It could be so subtle we may miss it if we don’t stay focused. It may not look like we expected it to. If we don’t allow others into our lives, those who we can count on to say “there it is – that’s what you’ve been waiting for, did you see it!?” we may miss it.

But if we’ll wait and keep our focus on Jesus, He will give us a glimpse. We don’t always get all the answers at once like we may have expected. But we get enough to make us want more. We get enough to make the continued waiting worthwhile. We just have to hang on for that first glimpse.

In the cold, quiet morning I thought about how I almost missed it. I told God “thank you”. I thanked Him that I didn’t miss it and that He gave us just a glimpse. A glimpse that made us hungry for more. I thanked Him for the beautiful show He put on for us. I thanked Him that I got to share that moment with the ones I love. I thanked Him that He loves us so much that He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. I thanked Him for just enough to keep hanging on.

In a World Full of Options

We live in a world that is full of options. When we are faced with challenges there are many available solutions. And for most of us, when everything is going well we would probably all agree, that in the world we live in it seems that there are options for most any circumstance or situation that we may face. With the resources available today there is options you may never have thought possible. In most cases it’s just a matter of deciding which is the best option.

But for some reason when things are not going so well and we hit difficult times in our lives many of us are quick to come to the conclusion that there aren’t any options. I hear people say “divorce is the only option”. Or their excuse for making a wrong decision that caused their life to be a huge mess is “I didn’t have any other option”.  Why do we place such limits in our lives when things are not going according to plan? The reason is because we falsely believe that it’s up to us to fix everything that we’ve messed up. That things will only get better through our limited abilities. And when our own selfish choices are the reason for the mess, we feel incapable in our own strength to fix it because we already failed by allowing it to happen in the first place.

Whether it’s a marriage in crisis, children who are out of control or financial debt so deep that we cannot see a way out, we see no other option but giving up. People will say “I’m at the end of my rope, I can’t take it any more”. Many of these are people who believe in God. They know He exists and they believe that He is the creator of the universe and is capable of healing the sick and giving sight to the blind. But because they think it’s up to them to fix their situation, they don’t see our God, the God of miracles, as an option to bring a miracle to their situation. So they give up hope.

But when you are out of options, you’ve reached the end of your rope and you see that giving up is the only option left, then you are in a perfect place for God to step into your impossible situation and do the miraculous. When you think all hope is gone and you’ve exhausted all that you in your own power are capable of, then God is just waiting for you to say “God, I surrender! I can’t fix this!” It’s in that moment of surrender when you are willing to turn the situation over to Him that the doors can begin to open for your miracle to happen. The marriage that you thought never stoood a chance, the impossible financial situation, the hurt inside that you thought you would always have to live with or the addiction you can’t seem to overcome can begin to turn around. The key is surrender.

In a world seemingly filled with options, there really is only one foolproof option that works every time and that’s trusting God with every area of our lives. The best option will always be to surrender control to the One who has the world in His hands, including your world. He is more than able to make a miracle out of your mess. But in order for that to happen you must see God as an option in the first place then you have to be in a place where He is your only option. When those two things happen then nothing is impossible because with God all things are possible. Are you ready to surrender?