Did I Miss God?

I took a walk tonight through town. I have been walking a few days a week over a stretch of town to get some exercise in, to pray, and to gather my thoughts. Tonight, I walked by the place that we had hoped and prayed that we would own. This was going to be the place that we would open a well of opportunity for our community to come together. It was going to be the dream of operating a coffee shop. I had this dream for over a decade. I had the business plans all ready to go, had the opportunity to buy the property, and then our world came crashing down.

It was January of 2017 that the cracks beneath our foundation began to surface in my career. Nearly a decade of serving a world-wide organization, I had prayed that God would open doors for promotion, for an increase, for whatever it would take to grab hold of our dream. I would find myself by the end of that month unemployed and wondering what I would do to provide for my family. The dream that I had slowly drifted away.

Did I miss God?

That was the question that I asked myself during the last year and a half. That was the question that I desired to see answered. After all of this time of believing, I honestly had doubts. Tonight was no different. I walked down that road and by that building with that very question. That answer wasn’t a thundering response nor was it a rebuke from God for asking. A still small piece of me was still seeing what I had seen over all of those years.

Did God Answer?

I did not hear God’s audible voice. I know, often you read these stories and the author tells about an epiphany or a sign from God that this was or was not to be. I did not get that.  I believe it can happen. But my experience wasn’t the same.  I did have a small sense of peace. It didn’t answer my question. However, it did answer the struggle. It gave me a peace of knowing that God is listening. In James 1:5, the author writes;

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I find comfort in knowing that I can ask God and without finding fault in me or in my questioning, he answers. The when is not defined. The how is not told, but the Who is. I may not know.

 

 

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Your Problem May Seem Smaller than It Appears

“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” -Unknown

I had a revelation one day while driving to work. I looked over at my passenger mirror and it read “Objects may be larger than they appear.” How often do we look at our situation and think that it’s huge? In 1 Peter 5, the apostle wrote about the worries of the saints being cast upon the Lord. In verses 6-8 we are instructed to “humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Whenever a situation arises that I find overwhelming or too big for me to handle, I look around for the lion. I imagine him “like” a roaring lion. The vision I have for him is a large, overgrown, fat cat with no teeth and a blow horn. “You mean, you don’t fear him? You mean, you’re not afraid of him?” Let me answer this in an easy way.

In the book of Isaiah 14, the prophet Isaiah tore the devil apart with prophesy of what God will do to avenge His people. In verse 16, we read “Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble?” I don’t worry about him because we will look upon him and realize how “big” he really is. Our God is far bigger in comparison to the enemy. Friend, your perspective of the problem will weigh how big you believe that your God is to handle it. There’s an old saying that when your problems tell you how big they are, remind them how big your God is. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus was speaking to the disciples about salvation but it also includes everything in life. Jesus said “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” God is so big that everything is possible.

It is easy to look at the problem that you and I are facing but when we realize that our God is bigger than the problem, we relinquish the power to be in fear. I received this quote while I was working on this chapter that reads “You must realize, that fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do no misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.” Fear is a choice that you and I make when we arrive at a situation or problem. I have a way to remind me the truth about fear that I use often. Fear is truthfully “forgetting everything about reality.” Fear reveals an emotion that often is a lie. You and I both know that the situation isn’t going to be the end of us.

As you and I navigate this life, we are often found guilty of having our noses down because our problems weigh us down. We tend to look at the negative and at the glass as half-empty. Our problems are often smaller that they really are. When we see that there are starving people in third world countries, we are less likely to complain about the wait at a restaurant. When we hear of the unemployment lines, we are likely to embrace our jobs with more enthusiasm. When we witness the injustices of people who can’t get a broken arm fixed, we are less likely to complain about the headache that we have. And the list goes on and on. Recently, I came across this letter online (netjeff.com) to help you and me to get a bit of a better understanding;

Dear Mom and Dad,

It has now been three months since I left for college. I am sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date but before you read on you had better sit down. Okay? I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and concussion I got when I jumped out of my apartment window when it caught fire after my arrival here is pretty well healed. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get these sick headaches once a day.

Fortunately the fire and my jump were witnessed by Roger an attendant at the gas station, and he was the one who called the fire department. He also visited me in the hospital, and since I had nowhere to live he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. He is a very fine man, and we are planning to get married. We haven’t set the date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show. His divorce is final now, and he shares custody of his 3 children. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that Roger has a minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests, and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am taking daily.

Now that I have brought you up to date I want to tell you that there was no fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I do not have syphilis, and there is no divorced man in my life. However, I am getting a “D” in Art and an “F” in Biology and I wanted you to see these marks in the proper perspective.

Your loving daughter,

Jane

If you or I received this letter from our child, the failing grade would be a relief. However, if we only got the call that they were failing, we would be upset and find it unacceptable. What changed in this scenario to help make the parents see things in a different perspective? If we take a moment and look at the situation from afar, it doesn’t seem all that bad. It actually may be so minuet that we miss the point. However, when we are right in the middle of it, the situation seems so impossible to get out.

To us, it would seem like rocket science to look into the cockpit of a plane. The dashboard would intimidate us with all the gears and buttons. More importantly, we would have a hard time being able to navigate with the gauges. To a pilot, it is second nature. He sees the temperature gauge that tells him how hot or cold the engines are, the altitude to know how far from the ground he is, and the fuel gauge to know how much fuel would be left to fly the plane. However, there is a little known gauge that you and I may not be familiar with but it is critical to the operation of the plane and that is the altitude indicator. The attitude indicator reads how the plane is flying and what position that it is in. If the plane’s attitude is sinking, it is considered “nose-down” and if it’s rising, the plane’s attitude is “nose-up.” If the nose is down, the plane is destined to crash. There is no denying that it is heading down because the gauge shows that it is sinking. The only thing to do is to change course and pull the plane up to the desired destination.

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

“John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Luke 7:20

        Have you ever had a moment like John the Baptist? Perhaps you have been in a place where you wondered where God was in your time of need or where you question of the validity of what God has “called” you to do. I am sure there was a moment in time where you cried out to God and thought that He abandoned you when you needed Him most. John had been imprisoned as a result of an oath the king made to a woman who had great disdain for John. John had been preaching to the people, baptizing them, and proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah. Now, he would face certain death after being imprisoned and he was keenly aware of what was to come.
       At this time, it just did not make sense why God would allow him to be imprisoned and sentenced to death. It would be John who sent his disciples to ask ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?'” When John’s disciples approached Jesus with this question, Jesus did not respond in hysterics or great surprise that John had been imprisoned. He did not give excuses or provide scenarios that John could use to escape. He honestly did not address that John had been imprisoned. He provided the truth and that was the evidence which proved that
He was the true Messiah. He didn’t have to prove it. He didn’t have to come up with some sort of explanation as to His credentials to being the Messiah. He proclaimed the good work that was going on. After the disciples had departed, Jesus spoke to the crowd, “I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!”” What a memorial to John!
        Often, we find ourselves in the place of John the Baptist. We are imprisoned in our own issues and in our own deal. And there are times that we treat God like a genie in a bottle where we only want His input when we want our three wishes. So we call out His name and demand Him to perform. Often, we demand God to perform His word when it is His word that says that “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:6 AMP).
There is no sense in demanding God to adhere to His word when it is He who says that He will complete the work that He started. It doesn’t make sense to you or me when we are going through the storm. The word does tell us that we are to remind Him of His promises. The difference in “reminding” and “demanding” is attitude. When God doesn’t make sense is usually when the breakthrough is on the horizon. The timing of God’s promises is not found in scripture. He doesn’t promise that the breakthrough will occur in a matter of a week or so. On the contrary, He confirms that there will be trials and tribulations. The encouraging part is found later in the same scripture in the Amplified Bible which says “for Christ has already conquered the world (and deprived it of the power).” Christ took the keys of hell and the power from the hands of Satan so that we would be conquerors through Him.
       Did Jesus’ tribute to John or His encouragement to John’s disciples bring John relief? We don’t really know. When the disciples of John went back to him and passed the message along, there is no follow up. But I could imagine John saying, “This just doesn’t make sense. I have seen Him heal the blind, make the lame walk, the dead rise, and so much more yet He can’t simply come to my rescue of this pit.” You and I make the same statements when we are going through the storm. “Why would a loving God allow this to happen? It just doesn’t make sense.” I am sure that John had thoughts of doubt and perhaps was confused about the calling that God had on his life. I also wonder if John had the revelation of Psalms 18:6, “In my distress {when seemingly closed in} I called upon the Lord and cried to my God; He heard my voice out of His temple (heavenly dwelling place), and my cry came before Him into His {very} ears. (AMP)” You can’t get too much more closed in as John. Whenever God doesn’t make sense, we can always rely on calling out to Him and crying out to Him knowing that He will listen. Not only will He listen, He will respond. In verse 7-10 we read further “Then the earth quaked and rocked, the foundations also of the mountains trembled; they moved and were shaken because He was indignant and angry. There went up smoke from His nostrils and lightning out of His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also and came down; and thick darkness was under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub {a storm} and flew {swiftly}; yes, He sped on with the wings of the wind.” What? The God of all creation, of heaven and of earth, of wind and fire, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would come at your defense when you cry to Him?

         Friend, God will literally move heaven and earth as He hears the cries of the people He loves. You may think “oh, that’s for the super spiritual or for those that He has pre-ordained.” That’s not true, my friend. In Romans 2:11 in the Amplified Bible we read “For God does not show favoritism.” God doesn’t have special ruled for one group of people. His love and His approach is with all people who come to Him (see John 3:16).

4 Things To Do When You Go Back To School…as a Parent

 

Over the life of our marriage, I have found myself in this predicament; not only do the kids go back to school but so do I! As I near 40 with three kids and a wife, it is even more difficult for me to retain the information that I need to and have the energy to be able to be husband, dad, full-time employee, and student. At one point, I was going to work at 3 am, getting off at 230, heading to school at 4, coming home at 9, spending what time I had left with my wife, and then to bed just to start over the next day. (I am confident that my wife was ready to disown me at this point…)

I have learned, however, how to balance these things over the years because I firmly believe that we have to constantly learn to be relevant in our professions and in society.  There are 4 things that I learned during this stint in being in school while holding all the other titles that come along with being almost 40;

  1. Read.  This may be the most vital portion of this topic. Reading what you are learning will help you to understand what you need for your exams. A few things here are helpful; highlighters to highlight the important terms and definitions throughout each chapter, take one chapter at a time, write notes as you read or type them out, and re-read what you have written.
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  2. Listen. One thing that I have learned is that listening is vital to studying. Whether you are recording your professor to listen to later or listening to teachings online (including videos), your brain will absorb the information and help recall what you have learned in conjunction with what you have read. Sites like YouTube, Udemy, and your university are a plethora of resources for you to watch and/or listen to lessons to help you retain what you have learned.
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  3. Do. The problem with most courses or classes is that you don’t get the experience of doing what you learn while you are learning it. It is important to find performance-based questions, practice questions, and quizzes to test you for your readiness for your exams. Another way to do is to teach someone. Showing someone even if they don’t know or even care what you are doing will help you cultivate the part of your brain to jog your memory when the exams come.
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  4. Balance. As a reminder, you are not a superhero! Do not burn out with trying to study at all times. You have to find that balance. I have had to learn this the hard way. You cannot study 24/7 as much as you would like to.  You have to balance your time in studying, family and for yourself.  It has been proven that if you study all of the time, you will lose what you learn because your brain is in overload. In between the comings and goings, I had to make my family a top priority. Whether it was playing games while I was extremely exhausted, listening to my wife talk about the day, or whatever, I had to break down some time to be with my family and put them first. You are nothing without God and family. If you don’t have your life in balance, you will fall flat. This goes back to the first thing I wrote about.

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I am sure that I missed something. I mean, there are a lot of things that I left out. What advice would you give to a person going back to school with a full-time job and family?

 

When The Coffee Mug is Half Empty…

I try not to be cynical. It is not something that I want to do. The old adage “if you don’t believe anything good will ever happen, you won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t” kind of rings a lot in my life. Naturally, I am a negative person. I have to force myself to believe that there are good things that happen in life. I have to make a concerted effort to be a positive person. The coffee mug could be half full of coffee and I will think “well…I am almost out of coffee….” But seriously, over the years I have certainly developed this toxic gift that I am constantly working on. I don’t want to be cynical, but you guys out there in the real world make it really hard for me not to be.

When someone has been working their whole career to get ahead just to be left behind constantly, it is easy for that person to believe in the old adage that I mentioned earlier. When our finances continue to hit a brick wall, it is hard for me to be glad for the guy who was able to pay his house off and start his own business from scratch without borrowing a penny. I digress. My hope is that I can become as successful as Abraham Lincoln….without all the failures…

Time Line of Failures of Abraham Lincoln

1832- Defeated for State Legislature

1833- Failed in Business

1835-Lost his Fiancé

1836- Nervous Breakdown

1838- Defeated for Speaker

1843- Defeated for Nomination for Congress

1848- Lost Re-nomination

1849- Rejected for Land Officer

1854- Defeated for US Senate

1856- Defeated for Nomination for Vice President

1858- Defeated again for US Senate

1860-ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NLT

       I was surprised that this article did not mention that Lincoln had lost two of his four sons to death while they were children and one while he was in the White House. Not to mention that his wife was clinically insane. Lincoln had a lot of opportunities to develop an attitude that was toxic. It would have been easy for him to become cynical. It is easy to think only good things happen to certain people and the rest of us are left behind to remove the manure.

It is important that we have our eyes set on greater things and better things. I am not proclaiming some message of weird witchcraft. But I am saying that the Bible verse from Proverbs 23:7 which reads “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you are thinking doom and gloom, do not be surprised if you get doom and gloom. If you think your kids are hoodlums, do not be shocked when they are arrested for disorderly conduct…okay, that may be a stretch. But do not be shocked if they grow up causing trouble. If we can get our minds around this, what power would we have as men of God? Amazing!

Time Line Source – http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/failures.htm. Retrieved 10.01.14.