A Change of Fate


In Disney’s latest animated blockbuster, “Brave”, the movie’s heroine Merida is described as “impetuous” and “determined to carve her own path in life.” She defies her parents and the custom of her day in order to determine her future’s course. Because it had been promoted relentlessly, my whole family could quote lines from the movie before it was ever released. And my son has a knack for imitating other people’s voices and accents so every time the movie trailer comes on TV, Scott says in a thick Scottish accent, “If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya?” I’m laughing now as I write this because I just had him come say it for me and it cracks me up every time.

There was a time in my life when I was very much like Merida. I was free-spirited, independant and believed I was in control of my destiny. And just as the impulsive red-headed Merida, I would make rash decisions based on my emotions. Although I believed I was in charge of my destiny, I spent little time considering the consequences that the choices I was making would have on that destiny. And many times, just like Merida, my hasty, emotional decisions unleashed chaos in my life.

Today the idea of trusting in myself and attempting to control my own fate is something I want no part of. The old “been there, done that” comes to mind and believe me, where I was going and what I was doing was was not working. Back then, the way I figured it, the outcome of my life was inevitable and I didn’t hold much hope that is would be a favorable one. But I thought that I, alone, could change that fate – I honestly believed I had the power to change the course of my life. But what I didn’t know then was that as long as I continued to live in sin, the course my life was taking would never change and I lacked the ability to change it no matter how hard I tried.

The other problem with thinking I had the power to change fate was that I didn’t take into account my impulsive nature and my emotions that always got in the way. So even though I tried hard, things seemed to be headed toward the fate I thought I had the ability to alter. I had put all my trust in myself to overcome the hand that I had been dealt. But after several poor choices and their negative consequences, I began to believe that I really didn’t have any control over my fate and my life was spiraling toward the end result I had once believed I had the power to change.

It was fifteen years ago when I reached my rock bottom and I decided it was time to quit trying to run my own life. I had messed it up to the point that I had almost lost my marriage, I was in debt, and I had no hope for the future. It was in those darkest moments I realized that I really was in control of my fate – only it was definitely not in the way that I had imagined. I finally understood that in my attempt to control and thus change the course of my life, I was actually steering it in the exact direction I wanted to avoid. And I can now see that if I had continued, my life would have turned out just like I had come to expect it to. But thankfully God had a different plan for my life. He had created me with a destiny and a hope. But until I surrendered control to Him and sought His will for my life instead of my own, I would never reach the pre-ordained, perfect destiny He created me for.

What I learned in that difficult and challenging season of my life was that my fate was still dependant upon my choices. But at that point, I made a choice that would put my destiny in God’s hands, not my own. My future would no longer be dependant upon a predetermined outcome influenced by my choices, my circumstances, my family history, or what someone else negatively spoke over my life. It would be based on my faith and trusting in God’s promises for my life. In the spring of 1998 I chose to surrendered my life to Christ and began to put my trust and my faith in Him to determine the course of my life.

Fate implies an inevitable, usually unfavorable outcome. I learned the hard way that when you believe in fate you are saying that your life course cannot be changed and there is no hope to overcome your wrong choices, your mistakes or your misfortunes. The course has been set and you’re living each day moving toward an unavoidable conclusion. You may believe you can change your fate but as young Merida and I both discovered, taking your fate into your own hands only produces chaos. While there are those who are able to temporarily alter their fate by the choices they make, they will never be able to change the final outcome when they choose to live in sin. The bible says the wages of sin is death. If we choose sin over God our fate will always be eternal death (Romans 6:23). Our fate is ultimately determined by our unwillingness to surrender control of our lives. But God alone determines our destiny.

But when you live by faith, you are not affected by circumstances, past mistakes and wrong decisions. Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not based on our negative thoughts or how things appear to be going in our lives. Faith means we are trusting that God is in control even we we cannot see the evidence of it. And when your faith is in Him you have hope in a destiny He predetermined for you, one that will have a great and noble end.

If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya? Your answer should be a resounding YES! The first step is coming to the realization that you are not in control, God is, and that you are in desperate need for Him to be both Lord and Savior of your life. And while He does give us free will to make our own choices for our lives, our choices will never lead us to the destiny we were created for. We will simply become overwhelmed and frustrated as we hurdle toward a fate we were never intended to encounter. The next step is to surrender your life to Christ and to put your faith and your trust in the One who determined your destiny long before He ever created you. No outcome you can imagine in your wildest dreams will ever compare to His good and perfect will for your life. So break free from the burden of trying to determine your own fate and let God lead you into your destiny – your life will never be the same!

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Going In the Basement


One of my favorite radio hosts of all time is Jim Rome. He’s the host of a syndicated sports talk radio program and has also hosted a sports TV show on ESPN. He is probably best known for the quirky phrases he uses regularly on his show. One of the funniest is when he says he’s “going in the basement ” in place of saying he is going to be on vacation. Going in the basement simply means he wants to get away from everyone and will be unavailable until he reemerges from the so-called “basement”.

One thing I’ve noticed in people is their tendency to “go in the basement” whenever they believe they’ve disappointed God. They believe they cannot return to church, their small group or communicate with other believers because they’ll be judged. So they respond by isolating themselves from the very place and people who they should be running to, not from. The bible says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The word used is all, not some, but all. But when we sin the enemy wants us to believe that we are the only one who is not living a holy and perfect life. We shy away from the fellowship of other believers because we wrongly think that they will know what we’ve done and will judge us. We also falsely believe that we must perform a certain way for God and that if we don’t measure up He will not love us anymore and we will no longer be close to Him. Once you are born again you are never separated from God. You may feel separated because of sin in your life but you are never really separated from Him. But so many people believe the lie of the enemy that says “if you don’t behave the way God expects you to then God will disown you” so they isolate themselves, hide from God and won’t come back to church out of fear of being judged. There are no guarantees that there will not be those who may pass judgement because believers are called to judge fellow believers (not unbelievers) by their fruit and to hold them accountable in love and grace (Matt. 7:16-20, John 7:24, 1Cor. 5:12-13). But the response to that form of judgement is not to run from everyone. It’s a good thing that there are those who want only God’s very best for your life and who will help you to return to rightstanding with God. The church is filled with Godly men and women who understand they are not in a position to judge as they themselves are sinners too but are willing to share their wisdom and experience with new believers.

The “basement” is a dark and lonely place where we isolate ourselves from the encouragement, accountability and life-giving prayer and support of fellow believers. And this is exactly where the enemy wants you to be. If you ever watch animal shows on National Geographic you’ll notice that the animals travel in herds or packs. They do so because there is safety in numbers. The same is true for us. There is safety in the accountability and support of the local church and spiritual family. But when the predators attack an animal herd, their strategy is to isolate an individual from the group. They do so because the individual that is separated from the group is a much easier target to take down than when they are connected to the rest of the herd. Typically it is a weaker, younger animal that tends to separate from the group because they lack the experience and knowledge on how to safely stay with the rest of the herd. The enemy of our souls seeks to isolate us from our spiritual family because he knows we become an easy target when we are on our own without the support and help of a group of believers. And he targets the newer believers who have not yet had the opportunity to firmly lay the spiritual foundations in their lives that will give them the knowledge and experience they need to know how to call on others and to use the tools God provides for us during a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:11-18). Because they are a target of the enemy, it is even more vital for newer believers to run to God and their spiritual family when they battle sin and to firmly resist the temptation to remain isolated and alone.

If you feel separated from God the first thing you must realize it that you are not, you only feel that way because of sin in your life. You will never be perfect and you will continue to make mistakes along the way. You must accept that. But you don’t have to stay that way. And you can be assured that God’s love for you is not performance based. You do not have the ability to make God not love you. And you can never do anything so great that God will love you more than he does now. Likewise, you can never do anything so bad that He will love you less. His love for you is immeasurable and it will endure forever so stop trying to make Him love you more and stop believing the lie that He loves you less because of something you’ve done. When you sin your response must be to repent and turn away from that sin. Then you have to get out of the darkness of the “basement” and back into the light of God’s house and fellowship with other believers. You will find protection, encouragement and support when you are firmly connected to other believers through the local church. In spiritual family you will find people willing to stand alongside you and to battle the enemy on your behalf through prayer as they help you bear the weight through difficult seasons. It’s time to emerge from the basement and reconnect with the God who never left your side by returning to church and the fellowship and support of other believers. You weren’t created to battle alone so now’s the time to stop trying and rejoin your herd where you’ll find there truly is safety in numbers.

Why Commitments Don’t Cut It Anymore


The word commitment is so overrated today. I hear it and I cringe. It’s overused to the point that it no longer holds any value. Think about it. Our President is committed to fixing the economy but the economic outlook is worse than it was when he first made that commitment 4 years ago. Brad Pitt is committed to Angelina Jolie yet 7 years and 6 kids later we barely have a ring and no date is set according to the committed couple. Others are committed to ending the war that has no end in site or fighting obesity as they introduce bacon sundaes as their new summer treat and others offer up single portions that could feed a family of four. How many of us have committed to weight loss as we head out to the movie and eat a 5 gallon bucket of buttered popcorn and wash it down with a 200 ounce soda? Is anybody really committed to anything these days?

Today so many people are too quick to give up. They start a new excercise plan in January and by March they’re done. They quit their jobs before they find another one and then don’t have the money to pay the bills. They quit school, sports, clubs and organizations that they were once eager to begin. They try going to church when things aren’t going right in their lives and then quit going when God doesn’t change things fast enough for them. They quit their marriages when things get a little tough and their spouse doesn’t do everything exactly like they want them to.

Committment means that a loyalty and dedication exists through an emotional obligation to someone or something, it is being bound to something or someone emotionally. The problem is that our emotions change and when they do we think it must mean it’s time to end our commitment. We view commitments as something that is non-binding and holds little weight, especially when it comes to relationships. Divorce has become far too common an option among troubled marriages. In many cases one party wants to fight for the marriage and to seek help through counseling to work out the problems. But the other party simply wants out. The collateral damage can be far reaching and long term.

What is needed in marriages today is not for the couples to be more committed to their relationship. What is really needed is for couples to understand fully what they entered into when they said “I do”. Marriage is much more than a commitment – it is a covenant between two people. By definition a covenant is a promise or pledge between two parties to do something specific. It is binding and it is guaranteed. When two people stand before God and recite their marriage vows they are entering into a covenant relationship that is not intended to be broken.

I recently read this quote and thought it speaks to the seriousness of the covenant between a husband and wife. “Jesus had VERY strict standards for marriage. Why? Because marriage represents the covenant relationship between Himself and His church. The husband is meant to be a picture of Christ, His leadership and His sacrificial love for His bride. The wife is meant to be a picture of the church, responding in reverence and adoration to her Groom – following Him with total faith, joy and abandon.” – Peacefulwife’s Blog (www.peacefulwife.com)

If we, as Christians, are to model Christ-like behavior to others, it must begin in our marriages. When we have strong, healthy marriages, not perfect marriages but marriages that fight through the tough times, we become an inspiration to a lost and hurting world. Married couples are like two canoes in a river. Unless you paddle toward one another the current will cause you to drift apart. You must purposely paddle toward each other in order to stay together. How do we do that? We must honor the covenant we made before God and not be so quick to throw in the towel. In humility we must seek help when things begin to unravel. We need to have Godly counsel in our lives to hold us accountable to our vows. We need to stop thinking that it’s all about me and what I want and seek to better understand our spouse and what their needs are. We need to make sure our priorities are right and that God and our spouse come before ourselves. We need to purposely work on our marriages no matter how long we’ve been married by having date nights, communicating with our spouse when things are going well instead of just shutting down, and attending conferences and seminars on how to have a better marriage. We need to pray with and for each other. It takes work but it’s worth every bit of effort you put into it. God designed it that way.

God created marriage to be a blessing and many people act like it’s a curse on their lives. They think that the way they felt when they first fell in love is supposed to last forever and when life sets in and the honeymoon is over then they decide to bail because it’s just too hard and the feelings aren’t there anymore. The enemy wants nothing more than to destroy marriages because he knows that an attack on marriages is a single shot that has many casualities. He begins with causing cracks in the foundation through unrealistic expectations, unforgiveness, mistrust, and insecurities.

If your marriage has cracks in the foundations instead of giving up it’s time to start filling in the cracks and then building on the foundation to ensure your marriage will last. Your marriage is a covenant relationship, a binding promise made before God. It is not a frivolous commitment that can be broken on a whim of emotional disatisfaction. Begin with repenting to God for your sinful attitudes and actions that have been damaging to your marriage. Then seek Godly counsel to begin to restore and repair the cracks in your foundation. Pray to God to bring restoration to what the enemy has try to ruin and then release your marriage to Him. It’s not up to you to fix it. It is up to you to put your faith in God and to trust in His promises. Don’t just recommit to your marriage, make the decision to honor the covenant you entered into with your spouse. God is faithful in his covenant promises, the least we can do to honor Him is to be faithful in ours.

Is It Really Worth It?


The funny thing about knowing that your child will be heading off to college in a few short months is that there is a sense of urgency that overtakes you to wrap up every loose end that you’ve put off until now. The wisdom teeth that should’ve been taken care of a year ago, the allergy shots that should have been started 2 years ago and sorting through clothes to donate to Goodwill have all suddenly made their way to the top of the “To Do” list. I am the quintessential procrastinator and I am sorely paying for it right now as we madly dash around town to various doctor and dentist appointments.

One of our first stops was a follow up visit to our favorite allergy doctor. We talked about symptoms and specifically we discussed nightime congestion and the use of over-the-counter medication for relief. The doctor explained how the medications work and what the trade-off is when you use them. He said “you can get almost immediate relief and breathe freely through the night but I must warn you that 12 hours later you will be more congested than before you ever used the medicine in the first place. It’s up to you to determine if it’s really worth it.” Wow, isn’t the temptation to sin exactly like that?

Every day we are faced with temptations, some carrying much more potential for damage than others. It’s one thing for me to be tempted to eat ice cream and to give in to that temptation but it’s quite another when you are tempted to commit adultery, have a drink after having been sober for an extended time or to choose to do something unethical at your workplace that could cost you your job. But we must understand that there is no harmless, little sin. All sin is devestating to our souls and leads to death. However, sometimes we are overcome by our desires and we find justification to give in to sin knowing that there will be instant gratification in doing so. But what we many times fail to consider is that the consequences that come later will cause us to be in a far worse condition than before we made the choice to sin in the first place. Even if we are already knee deep in sin it will never be worth it to choose to sin more. And long after the false sense of fulfillment that comes immediately after choosing to sin has passed, we are left with a feeling of emptiness along with the mounting damage sin causes and the weight of guilt. Most of the time we cannot foresee or possibly imagine the ultimate destructive results of our momentary choices. But in that moment we find justifications to make the wrong decision, even in the times when we have some sense of what the outcome will be. In our minds we determine it will be worth it and we choose the trade-off.

But is it ever really worth it? You may think it is at the time. I may enjoy a piece of cheesecake and think “I can work out later and burn (some of) those calories so it was totally worth it”. But the problem with that way of thinking is that I fail to account for the long term damage a little bit of indulgence in the moment can cause. Over time my giving into the cheesecake every once in awhile becomes more frequent and thus harder to overcome. It’s the same with sin. We think just a little indulgence here and there won’t hurt but over time the damage builds, our ability to resist decreases, our justification turns to entitlement and our desire to seek forgiveness fades. Each time we choose to sin instead of choosing to turn away from sin, we are placing a new brick in the wall that we are slowly building up around ourselves – a wall that keeps God and those who want to help us out. The higher we build the wall, the harder it is to tear down.

So what do we do to keep that wall from being built? We must resist sin in the first place. And how do we resist sin? We spend time daily in the presence of God. The enemy is an expert at deception and he wants nothing more than for us to fall into his traps and make sin the lord of our lives instead of Jesus. But Jesus died for our sins so that we can be set free from the bondage that takes places when sin controls our lives. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we no longer have to be bound by sin. The more we spend time in the presence of God by talking with Him through prayer, worshipping Him through music, serving others and giving, and by building our faith through reading His word, the less likely we will be to fall into the traps laid by the enemy. There is nothing wrong with building a wall in your life as long as you are building a wall of protection from temptation laid with a firm foundation of discipleship instead of building a fortress that isolates you from the righteousness of God.

The choice is yours to make. Do you want a fortress built on the long term consequences resulting from the short term false sense of satisfaction that sin produces? Or do you want to build life long protection against the destruction sin causes so that you may have lasting peace and joy? As our allergy doctor said – the choice is yours but I must warn you, if you choose to sin in the moment, you will be in a far worse condition later than you were before you chose to sin in the first place. It’s better to begin now to seek God for the healing you need in your current condition than to continue to build the fortress that will only make it more difficult later. Make sure whatever you choose, that you consider if it’s really worth it. Jesus did when He decided you were worth dying for on the cross. He could have made the choice for instant relief but He knew if He did then things would only be worse later. He resisted the temptation of the moment and chose to suffer knowing the long term consequences of His short term discomfort, even the excruciating discomfort He suffered, would result in victory over sin for all who seek forgiveness and believe in Him. There has never been a choice more worth it than His choice on the cross. Remember that the next time you are faced with the choice to sin, and then think about the moment Jesus decided you were really worth it.

Who Do You Say I Am?


Last week my son graduated from high school. In the picture he’s the one in red 😉 I always thought it would be pretty cool when your children grow up and leave the house to enter into adulthood. Now that it’s actually happening to me I realize it’s soooo not cool. It’s really very emotional, exciting, sad and inspiring all at the same time. It was 7 minutes into the ceremony when they played the graduation march and the graduates began to file in. And it was around 7 minutes and 2 seconds into the ceremony that my typically unemotional self lost it. In that moment I became fully aware that this single event marked a finality to his childhood. It was really over. There would be no do-overs for the mistakes I had made, the opportunities I had let slip by, the lessons I had failed to teach or the moments I had missed because I was simply too busy. That season was now over and it was time to enter into a new one. I couldn’t help but wonder what Ryan was thinking as he sat there with his 310 fellow graduates. I wondered if he was thinking, as I was, that the time had come for him to be a man and that whatever had taken place during childhood was now just memories mixed with the occasional regret.

As with all graduations there are the speeches filled with inspiration and encouragement and I listened intently to each one for nuggets of wisdom. One of the most profound to me was a simple statement from the principal. He said “Everyone will be remembered for something in their life. What will you be remembered for?” I thought about Ryan and wondered – 25 years from now when he’s my age, who will the world say he is? What will people think of when his name is mentioned? What will he be known for? It’s such a simple yet significant question for us all – when my name is spoken, who do people say I am?

Jesus asked this question to his disciples in Matthew 16:13. The answers were as varied then as they are now. People thought he was a prophet, a teacher, a dead prophet returned to life, John the Baptist and even a demon-possessed lunatic. His own family even thought he was a little crazy. Today people say he was a good man, an inspirational teacher, a leader or even a fictional character in a make-believe story. But after Jesus asked his disciples who others said he was, he asked them “who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15).

As Christians the question Jesus asked is just as important to us today as it was to his disciples in the moment that he asked them over 2,000 years ago. We all need to ask ourselves:

  • What do I say when someone asks me who Jesus is?
  • Am I prepared to answer that question?
  • Do I know in my heart who He really is?
  • Does my life reflect who Jesus is to me? And if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

When asked by Jesus “who do you say I am” Simon Peter responded “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus was and still is the promised Messiah. He is the substitute for our sins, the Lamb of God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator of the Universe. He is the Great Physician and by His stripes we are healed. He is the sacrificial Lamb and the Savior of the world. He is the Great I AM and is Lord of all. He came to fulfill the law and He is the new covenant. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the One I adore and He is my Strong Tower. He is my Rock and my Comfort.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the King of Glory, the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Lion and the Lamb, the Prince of Peace and the Lion of Judah. He was, and is, and is to come and He is God with us. He is my Lord and Savior. He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Who is He to you? Only you can answer that question. But I do know that you are the world to Him. He loves you more than you can ever imagine. When you reach the end of your life it won’t really matter who others say you are. It won’t really make a difference what you are remembered for because eventually it will probably be forgotten. The only thing that will matter is how you respond in the moment Jesus says to you “who do you say I am?” Are you prepared to answer that question?