Archives For Vision

It’s been well said that hope never goes out of style. Who doesn’t need hope? I’ll bet you wonder about that at times. Because all of us sure need it.

You even wonder what it would be like to not need hope.

While all may need hope, some are in desperate need of it.

What’s the difference?

You desperately need hope when you feel…

Helpless. You don’t have the answers or the resources to alleviate your current pain.

Overwhelmed. You feel like you are drowning in debt, emotional pain, or on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Paralyzed. How many times have you sat and thought for hours only to realize that you have not accomplished anything? Pain affects our productivity.

Exhausted. You are at the end of your rope and you know it.

You are not alone. In my next post I want to share a story from the Old Testament where we will meet a woman who was in need of hope. Her pain was about to do her in. She wondered if life would ever change.

It did.

dunking a basketball

Anyone who has ever played basketball has dreamed of dunking the ball.

But for people like me, who tend to suffer from height challenges along with reduced jumping abilities, it’s out of reach. The basket, that is. But I can jump high enough to touch the bottom of the net. Granted, that’s over a foot away from the rim. And you can’t just touch the rim, you must be able to elevate above the rim.  That’s beyond me.

So I was pretty impressed when I ran across a video of a guy who is only 5’2” dunking the basketball. That is unheard of. It’s rather incredible, really. Most people at that height would assume it was impossible.  Maybe not even try.  Obviously this guy went above and beyond expectations.  It would be so easy to be like everyone else.  To assume it couldn’t be done.  But he didn’t sell himself short, and now he amazes everyone who sees him at his game.

Let’s move outside the arena of basketball. In fact, let’s go back to a guy named Moses.

I bet you have heard of him. Did you know that he almost sold himself short? Thankfully God stepped in and made him go for it.

It all started when God showed up one day and asked Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Most would have jumped at the opportunity. Not Moses.

He balked. Big time!

Moses’ first response was to fall back on what others thought about him.  At least his perception of it.

First, he was a “nobody.” Because of that he didn’t think anyone would listen to him or follow his leadership. He had no credentials.

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Exodus 4:1 (ESV)

And there was more to his insecurity issues.  Apparently he didn’t have the gift of public speaking. And since leaders have to speak on occasion, he was convinced he was the wrong guy. So he “said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Exodus 4:10 (ESV) 

And then he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13 (ESV)

Now stop and think about it for a moment. You have heard of Moses because he eventually relented and did what he thought he could not do.

He did what he was not qualified to do.

He did what he thought someone else could have done better.

Thankfully Moses trusted God to use him. But what if God had allowed Moses to sell himself short? Many today consider Moses to be the greatest leader in the Old Testament.

I often wonder what Moses thought about when he went to bed at night.

Did he ever think, “I almost sold myself short.”

Perhaps a good question to ask is “Where am I selling myself short.” Maybe it’s time to go out and try to dunk that basketball.

Photo By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As a guy I typically don’t like to read instructions. Which means I sometimes get it wrong and sometimes it takes longer to accomplish the project.

Bottom line: I needed the help the instructions provided.

But the greatest help we need comes from people. (Yes, I do believe our greatest help comes from God, but God Himself often provides help in the form of people).

The city of Cleveland just won their first championship in 52 years because Lebron James had help.

Let’s back up. Lebron had earlier played for Cleveland seven years with no help and no title.

So Lebron left and headed for Miami. Why? He was chasing a ring. A championship ring, and it was obvious that no help was coming to Cleveland. Miami already had a star player and Lebron invited another friend to join with him in Miami. Now there are three superstars in Miami, just the kind of help Lebron needed. Two championship titles soon followed.

But Lebron’s heart was always in Cleveland — he grew up in nearby Akron. However, when he left earlier there were a lot of hard feelings. People even burnt his jersey. When Lebron was gone, Cleveland was terrible. So terrible they were awarded high draft picks. And they used a number one pick in the draft to draft a star player, Kyrie Irving. (Note: When Lebron was at Cleveland, they were a decent team, which meant they never were awarded high draft picks, which mean Lebron never got the help he needed).

After two championships in Miami, Lebron headed back to Cleveland with one goal: bring the city a championship. He knew Kyrie Irving was already there.  And he invited a couple more players to come with him. Why? He knew he needed help.

And let’s not forget that Lebron James is considered to be the best basketball player in the NBA….for the last ten years.

Even the best need help.

As a result, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship, and Lebron James was voted the Most Valuable Player of the series.

The best of the best needed help.

So where does that leave us?

In need of help.

In need of others.

In the Bible Moses had Aaron, David had his mighty men, and Jesus had his twelve disciples.

The best and the brightest realize their dreams need help.

Perhaps today the only thing standing between you and your dreams is help.

Timed excuseSo far we have only introduced a couple types of wisdom. Clearly you can be wise and unwise at the same time. Which leads us to the final aspects of wisdom.

In my last post I talked about planning well and persuasively presenting your plan. But that alone will not guarantee the outcome you want. So let’s press on.

3.  You also need philosophical wisdom. This is not the Greek idea which was often simply theory. That sort of wisdom is all bark and no bite. Here I am using the term to describe the ability to think clearly, concisely, and concretely. That will come before the type of behavior that will honor God. True wisdom is knowing and doing. Of course, our thoughts should line up with biblical teaching. Too often someone will voice an opinion and say, “Well, I don’t have a verse to substantiate my belief….” Let’s be honest. That may be an indication that it is not true wisdom.

So why did Absalom side step Ahitholphel’s effective plan and turn to Hushai’s plan? Absalom lacked number 4.

4. Perceptive wisdom is similar and also desperately needed. When the woman shared her story, as persuasive as she was, David soon smelled something fishy. His perception was right on target. However, not long after that when Absalom came and feigned spirituality, David lacked the perceptive wisdom to smell disloyalty in the air (2 Samuel 15:9). Granted, whenever someone plays the God-card, it can be very difficult to argue with them. But this only underscores the need for prayer.

What if Absalom had this? He would have gone with Ahitholphel’s superior plan and not lost his life as a result of his poor decision.

5. Most of us on a daily basis need practical wisdom. During the day some of us are not the best at execution. We plan well, but at the end of the day we fail to get stuff done. We’ve all had wasted days. Which means we could all use a little more practical wisdom and thereby have more productive days.

6. Last, but not least, is proactive wisdom. David seems to have lacked this at times. As proactive as he was on many occasions, often it was his lack of proactivity that cost him greatly. Sometimes he, like us, failed to act. Absalom was recalled home, but for two years the king never went to see him. That proved to be unwise.

7. At this point I would like to talk about a seventh type of wisdom that has more of a wide angle view.  It is panoramic wisdom. It may seem a little redundant; however, it does underscore our often limited view of what wisdom actually entails.

For instance, on my phone I have the ability to take a panoramic photo. That is, I can take a picture that will take in the entire scene rather than just a part of the scene. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a very wide angle or inclusive photo. After all, if it involves a group of people, who wants to get left out? The same is true with wisdom. Which aspect of wisdom do we really want to dispose of?

Wisdom involves a host of virtues like knowledge, insight, understanding, learning, and discretion. Wouldn’t you agree that we should be praying for all of those? Also, because it’s often hard to possess all the wisdom you need, it is helpful to seek the counsel and advice of others. David did, and Absalom did.

Within these chapters you will find a mixture of wisdom and a lack of wisdom. Isn’t it amazing how we can be so wise and yet unwise all at once?

Full of wisdom, yet devoid of wisdom?

Which underscores the need to pray for wisdom.

What kind of wisdom are you praying for today?

Timed excuseIn my last post I introduced the subject of wisdom. Wisdom is one of those traits that can be used for good or evil. Our goal is to use wisdom to benefit ourselves, others, and even the organization or business we are associated with. We are gleaning our thoughts from 2 Samuel 17 and 18.

Here’s the storyline in a nutshell. Absalom, David’s son, has been living in exile and Joab wants him to be recalled home. However, as the story continues into chapters 17 and 18 more examples of wisdom and the lack of wisdom will illustrate even more how much we need to pray for wisdom. Six kinds of wisdom pop up in the story. Six kinds of wisdom you can and should pray for. And then a seventh which encompasses all six.

1. So Joab comes up with a plan. To get from here to there you will need planning wisdom.

Joab planned well in the sense that he was successful in getting Absalom recalled. Yes, you may read the story and would rather call it a scheme, and you would be right. However, I simply want to point out that his planning ultimately worked.

In chapter 17 Ahithophel also comes up with an effective plan.

Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek. Then you will be at peace with all the people.”This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel (verses 1-4; NLT).

2. The plan was acknowledged to credible. However, as good as the plan was it lacked something, which we shortly see. And it was ignored because of what it lacked. So keep in mind that you may have the right plan, but it never gets executed because planning wisdom alone is not enough. Ultimately, you have to sell your plan.How was Joab going to convince the king to recall his son? He needed to make an emotional appeal. And who better than a wise woman who feigned to have her own family issues? So in comes the woman who was able to grab David’s attention and persuade him to act. She had persuasive wisdom. Granted, many use this type of wisdom to manipulate crowds or individuals for selfish reasons. In 2 Samuel 15:6 Absalom deceived the people. There is somewhat of an art to be persuasive. You must you the right words, tone, style, and even environment to persuasively move people.

Let’s jump back to chapter 17 and look at Ahitholphel’s plan. Once again, it was a very good plan. However, it lacked persuasive wisdom. Hushai came along and offered another plan. Actually, an inferior plan. But his plan had metaphors and appealed to Absalom’s emotions. Which plan was accepted and adopted? The one that was more persuasive.

So while you may be praying as you plan, don’t forget to pray for the ability to effectively communicate and persuade.

It may make the difference in whether or not it is well received.

In my next post we’ll look at four more types of wisdom.

Timed excuseJames 1:5 (NLT) exhorts us, “If any of you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

Most of us probably approach the subject of wisdom from only one angle.

We simply want to know what to do next. Let’s call this particular wisdom. Perhaps you are looking to buy a new car and you want to make the right choice. Or it could be a career decision or any number of current decisions.

However, let’s expand our thinking of wisdom. For some good illustrations of the various kinds of wisdom read through 2 Samuel 14 and the beginning of 2 Samuel 15.

For starters there is popular wisdom. In many ways this is not wisdom at all, but if we have bought into the surrounding culture’s mentality, we think we are wise. I’m not sure you want to pray for this type of wisdom.

Many have unknowingly bought into the flavor of the day. But anyone can go along with the crowd. Absalom was all style and no substance, which incidentally makes many politicians, celebrities, and sport’s stars our modern-day heroes.  But Absalom proved to be deceptive, and he hurt a lot of people.

With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper.  Perhaps a good place to start is to read and reflect on the two chapters mentioned above. Here’s the bottom line: We can be wise and unwise at the same time. Full of wisdom and devoid of wisdom at the same time. Seems paradoxical, but a very real reality.

There are four main characters in those chapters, and they all possess wisdom. Not all wisdom is used wisely or for positive reasons. Some actually use their wisdom in order to manipulate others. Sad, but true.

That in itself calls for wisdom.

We’ll come back in the next post to discuss the types of wisdom you need to pray for. Until then read and reflect upon the two chapters mentioned above.

Stress - business woman running lateFor the sake of clarity I want to distinguish between being busy and being in a hurry.

Jesus seemed to always be busy, yet never in a hurry.

What about Moses? If he had been running red lights he would have surely missed the burning bush.

Just those two examples alone seem to indicate that if you are in a hurry you are not fully present.

When you and I (assuming you too have found yourself always in a hurry) are in a hurry we:

* run red lights.

* want others to hurry and finish their story.

* fly around corners on the roads and in the stores.

* don’t have time for others.

* skip our Bible reading and our prayer time.

* miss things, opportunities, and valuable lessons.

* listen less attentively.

* don”t call others when we should.

* fail to carve time out just to think.

* change lines in the store…more than once.

* are obnoxious to others.

You get the point. Hurry needs to go!

No wonder the late Dallas Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

So for the last couple of weeks I have tried, somewhat successfully to do just that.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the ACC Basketball Tournament. That meant that I had to buckle down and attack my upcoming message as I would be gone for three days. When it came time to leave Carol and I did not have to hurry to get there. I had allowed plenty of time.

When it came time to leave early Sunday morning I once again left early enough so I would not have to hurry back. Life is stressful enough. Why hurry and add to it?

Also just the other day I had to go to Lowe’s for two small items. First though I needed to take care of something in the customer service line. The woman in front of me had several items to return and it got complicated. Typically when in a hurry I’m sure I show it. However, I looked at my daughter Heather and said, “Let’s go get the two items and come back.” So we did. No stress. Minutes later there was no one around and we breezed out of the store.

It actually felt good to not be in a hurry.

Have I arrived? Absolutely not.

But I have learned why Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

So that’s the challenge. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Starting today.

Daisies on green nature background, stages of growthOne of life’s recurring questions is “What should I be doing with my life?”. Perhaps a better question is “How has God designed me?”.

What if we looked at our makeup from six vantage points? That is, what if we could discern in a practical way how God made us?

Let’s take a closer look at David and see how this plays out from a practical viewpoint.

Desire. All of us have desires or passions. When David met Goliath, David had a passion for the glory of God. He simply could not tolerate anyone disparaging the name of God.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NLT)

45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that theLord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is theLord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

David was frustrated that someone would speak about God the way Goliath did.

Experience. David spent many lonely nights out in the field leading and protecting the sheep. We find out later that he had actually killed both a lion and a bear barehanded. Those experiences would soon prove valuable. He had no experience wearing the attire of a soldier, so he resorted to his experience with the sling.

1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NLT)

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again.

However, David had a lot of experience with a sling. David was able to use that experience to kill the giant.

Spiritual Gifts. Rather than paint David into a corner, it becomes obvious that he has the gift of leadership. He does things leaders do. He takes the initiative. He takes responsibility. He casts a daunting vision.

Romans 12:6-8 (NLT) lists several spiritual gifts. The list is not exhaustive, but it does give you an idea. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

I will only comment on the gift of leadership since space here is limited. As a leader David took his responsibility seriously.

In my next post we’ll look at the remaining components of your profile.

iStock_FatherSonIt’s been over fifty years now since my grandmother told me Bible stories from the book of Daniel. After my grandfather passed away, she lived with us for a while in the lower level of our split-level house just outside of Tyson’s Corner, VA.

You have probably heard of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.” Or the story of the three Hebrew guys who were put into a fiery furnace.

What you may be unfamiliar with is Daniel’s personal devotional life.

You can’t read the book of Daniel without noticing its impact on his life, and, ultimately, his influence on succeeding generations.

It not only impacted Jews in the second century who were being severely persecuted, but also my grandmother in the 20th century, and now me.

What was the secret to Daniel’s ultimate influence?

His personal devotional life. It is the KEY to his life and his influence. (Daniel 6:10; 9:20ff)

Now, Bible reading and prayer usually top the list of things discussed every New Year. You don’t know what the new year holds, and you want to have a good one.

But Daniel wasn’t focused on just the current year. He kept his mind and heart eternally focused.

As a teenager he was ripped from his home by a foreign army, the Babylonians. But that didn’t cause him to throw in the towel and try something new the next year. He stayed committed to prayer and the Scriptures even under threat of death.

As the book unfolds you notice his influence, his stability; and it is all influenced by his personal devotional life.

Sure, as we begin a New Year there are always headlines like “Have the Best Year Ever,” “Reach Your Goals in the New Year,” “15 Ways to …,” and “The Do’s and Don’t of Getting Leaner.”

And no doubt many of those are helpful.

But what about thinking beyond this year, or even beyond the next decade?

In a sense I am asking you to make a New Year’s Resolution, but not for this year.

A resolution is simply something you resolve to do.

When Joshua challenged the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), he didn’t say “…for this coming year, and see how it works out.” He challenged them to make a resolution that would give their lives purpose for generations to come.

Daniel himself purposed in his heart a course of action (Daniel 1:8), and it impacted his life along with countless others.

Daniel.

He influenced his coworkers.

He influenced his friends.

He influenced my grandmother.

He has influenced me.

That’s what I call Ultimate Influence.

And the KEY was his personal devotional life.

What will be the KEY in your life?

Romantic couple relaxing in hammockSummer time is a popular time for weddings. Lots of planning, preparation, stress, and details to work out.

Without a doubt a couple tends to put more time into planning a wedding than they do their marriage. Now I totally understand. In one sense they assume they are completely ready for what’s coming. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now I don’t want to add to the bad press that marriage gets. I only want to point out that we can do better.

However, that does not mean that marriage is destined to be hard and difficult. Could it be that too many of us make it more difficult than is necessary?

One exercise that I encourage and find helpful is to simply take the ABC’s and come up with 26 helpful principles that will add value to the marriage.

So here is a sample. But I would encourage you to come up with your own.

AAttitude. We all know that our attitudes can change for the worse quickly, even over small things. Just getting cut off in traffic can ruin our whole day. It shouldn’t. Chose to maintain a positive attitude. You will be glad you did.

BBooks. I once heard someone say that they had never encountered a problem that they could not read their way out of. So read some good books on marriage. Before you have problems. Keep one on the night stand next to your bed.

CCommunication. Some have called this the KEY to a great marriage. The reason this is sometimes difficult is that men communicate facts and women communicate feelings. Those are very different. But the only way to understand your spouse is to communicate.

DDream. Together. Plan your next vacation. Have a bucket list of things you want to do together. Start planning next summer’s vacation today. Why wait? I love doing this with Carol. She is better at some things. I am better at others. I can plan schedules, driving distances to be covered, and where we need to stay. Carol fills in the details, those things I forget about. And she is better at packing cars and suitcases. Marriage is better together.

In my next post we will look at more of The ABC’s of Marriage.

Are you ready to write your own list?