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Time to Move Forward

November 2016
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The Gospel Cannot Be Contained

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Our Highest Priority

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Penetrating the Darkness

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Leaps of Faith

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quotation-martin-luther-king-jr-if-you-can-t-fly-then-run-if-you-canThe election is over here in America, and we have a new President-Elect. Donald J. Trump will take the oath of the Office of the President on January 20, 2017. It came as a huge surprise early Wednesday morning when it was announced he had won. Half of the population is elated, and the other half… well, not so much (and they are making their feelings known around the nation). To the protesters (especially those causing riots), I’m reminded of a song John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang back in 1969… “All we are saying is give peace a chance” (YouTube video at this link).

In every election somebody wins and somebody loses. And after every election, it’s time to move forward, regardless of whether our candidate won or not. I’m not exactly sure when we became such a “feelings oriented” society that lends itself to the rioting that has occurred in the past couple of days (or the cancelling of classes on some campuses due to the “distress” of the students who are unhappy with the outcome of the election). In an article published in September 2014 titled, A Feeling of Control: How America Can Finally Learn to Deal With Its Impulses by David Desteno in the Pacific Standard, Desteno states:

More than three centuries ago, the Dutch philosopher Spinoza pretty well encapsulated what is still the conventional wisdom about emotions in human affairs: that “in their desires and judgments of what is beneficial, [people] are carried away by their passions, which take no account of the future or anything else.”

While emotions are a very normal part of life, when did we as a nation start letting our passions rule in the public square in acts of rioting and other disruptions? Yes, we can disagree, but passions run amok can cause a lot of destruction and, as stated above, “take no account of the future or anything else.” It becomes a matter of “we want what we want and we want it now” and they let their feelings and emotions rule their lives (of course, the rioting might have another agenda going on). We may have “come a long way, baby,” but it’s definitely heading in the wrong direction if emotions are going to rule the land someday.

However, this post is not specifically about the election or who won and who lost, but since it made news around the world and there have been some riots here in America from the result, it’s a bit hard to ignore the impact. However, this post is about moving forward. Change starts with us as individuals, and I want to focus on the positive side of change.

Circumstances are what they are, whether good, bad or indifferent. We often like to think that we can control them (and perhaps for a time we can), but that is rarely the case in the long term. For example, I have tried my hardest over the past several years to find employment–to no avail. Same with the housing issue that is still ongoing. As much as we like to talk here in America about how much we can control our own destiny, the reality check is–not so much. Yes, we can pick careers or spouses or any number of things, but we can’t always control them. I certainly never expected to lose my profession after 20 years, and a decade before I planned to retire, too.

I have a friend who, on a regular basis, tells me I could change my circumstances if I wanted to change them, but that I must have some sort of “internal hidden agenda” that keeps me from doing it. Say what? We’ve allowed that kind of psychobabble to control us for far too long over the past several decades. I sometimes feel bad for the younger generations who don’t know anything different as that kind of thinking is ingrained in our society now. What will happen to people who truly think they can control their circumstances when something really awful happens that they can’t control? We are not God. God is God. And whether one believes in God or not (and I do), there is an unseen hand at work in this world of ours, and that hand is never thwarted.

all_things_possible_mark_10_27My life took a totally unplanned detour seven and a half years ago when I lost my job in Houston. My best laid plans got thrown into an ash heap. And my best attempts at finding another job never produces another job, and the search for affordable housing has been ongoing for two and a half years now, too. There is no “internal hidden agenda” of my own that is keeping me in this place of no employment and no housing options except for living in hotels I can’t afford on my own. There may be some “external hidden agendas” from external forces involved, but nothing on my side of that fence is causing it to continue. And I can’t “make” someone hire me anymore than I can “make” someone give me affordable housing (and I’ve undertaken a massive search in both areas over the past several years looking for it, too).

We’ve been sold a bill of goods thinking we can control everything in our lives and that it’s all “up to us” or else we must be doing something wrong that is causing it to not happen. There are others who can be causing it to not happen, too. Never disallow the external forces caused by others that may be at work in any set of circumstances. Too often, this component isn’t even included in the conversation. So be aware of them, but also understand that God is still the One who is in ultimate control. And we can keep on doing what we need to do, too.

So let’s take a look at this dilemma from God’s perspective (not saying I can possibly know what God is up to but I can attest to His leading in my life during this time). Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is that God’s ways are definitely not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9). He allowed the life that I knew to be taken away and replaced it, over time, with a much broader scope and perspective of what is going on in this world. And I would have never started this blog had I not been unemployed all this time, either.

With that being said, I don’t want to give the impression that we can’t have dreams and move towards seeing those dreams become a reality. Of course we can. What I am saying is that God can intervene and send us in a different direction. I believe with God’s help we can make the impossible possible, but we need to get a perspective that goes beyond what we want and the focus of it all being “up to us” as my friend likes to indicate when it comes to my own particular set of circumstances. There are some things I can definitely do (and I have done), but others things I have to leave up to God to “move the immovable” as nothing I have done has put a dent in it. However, that does not preclude me from moving forward while leaving the “immovable” stuff up to God (in fact, leaving all of the stuff up to God, even the stuff I do on a daily basis).

Perhaps the best example I can give of what I’m trying to say (perhaps not very successfully) is found in an illustration from Neil Armstrong‘s life that I read in the book, God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work (2015) by Regina Brett, a New York Times bestselling author and newspaper columnist. In Lesson #40, Brett describes how Orville and Wilbur Wright built the first airplane and took it on it’s first flight in 1903. They opened the era of aviation and, as Brett states (pp. 211-212):

They opened the door for Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) who got his pilot’s license at 15 before he learned to drive. He was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, population 9,843. The quiet, humble man was an engineer and a Navy fighter pilot who flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War. He was in college when someone else broke the sound barrier. He was disappointed to miss out on what he thought was the greatest adventure in flight. Little did he know what was ahead of him.

In 1969, he took us all to the moon with him on Apollo 11. I’ll never forget those words when he landed the lunar craft: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Or when he took that first step and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” On that flight, he carried with him a piece of the original plane the Wright Brothers flew.

Armstrong was a reluctant hero who hid from the media spotlight and rarely talked to reporters. He became a professor, bought a farm in Ohio, and disappeared back into his life. He knew he had completed his mission in life.

How do you know what yours is?

I once saw a poster at church and knew instantly it was my job assignment for life: “Inspire the world. Live your vocation.”

Inspire the world. That was it.

I keep a tiny plague on my desk that bears this definition of inspire: “To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. To stimulate action; motivate. To affect or touch.”

Underneath it is my personal mission statement: “To inspire men and women to find and use their Inner Power, to find and complete their Sacred Mission, to create a greater life for themselves and others.”

If the word “mission” scares you away, call it something else. Søren Kierkegaard described it this way: “God has given each of us our ‘marching orders.’ Our purpose here on earth is to find those orders and carry them out.”(Quote source: God Is Always Hiring,” pp. 211-212.)

proverbs-3-5-6I prefer Kierkegaard’s statement, “God has given each of us our ‘marching orders'” as opposed to referring to an “Inner Power” or “Sacred Mission” (that’s a bit too New Age for me as I believe in God and His power to work in us). The point is that walking on the moon wasn’t even on Armstrong’s radar screen when he was younger and “dreaming his dreams” until the opportunity presented itself further down the road in his life. And that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about when I mentioned God intervening in our lives. He does some amazing things when He intervenes.

Regarding the “external forces” that play out in our lives (and we all have them whether we notice them or are aware of their influence or not), I’ve learned there isn’t much we can do about them, and it is best to leave them up to God, too. The best advice we can take is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 5:43-48 (MSG):

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, ‘Grow up.’ You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Click here for NIV version).

Live generously and graciously toward others . . . even those others who are not particularly generous or gracious towards us. I read a comment in Joel Osteen‘s new book, Think Better, Live Better (2016) that applies to the external forces at work in our lives. In Chapter Nine titled, “Keep Your Crown,” (the crown in the title refers to James 1:12) he states the following:

Jesus said in the book of Revelation (3:11), “Hold fast to what you have so that no one will take your crown.” Throughout your life, there will always be someone or something trying to take your crown. People will talk about you, trying to make you look bad, to push you down. . . . Do yourself a favor. Don’t let them have it. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Nobody can take your crown. You have to let go of what was said or done to you. . . (p. 168).

The enemy’s main tool is deception. . . . (p. 170).

The definition of deception is (1) the act of making someone believe something that is not true: the act of deceiving someone; (2) an act or statement intended to make people believe something that is not true (quote source here). Deception is lurking everywhere today–just look at the recent political election process if you don’t think that is true, or just turn on the TV. And the source can come from any direction. As Dr. John MacArthur states in his Bible study on James 1:2-18 titled, Benefiting from Life’s Trials,” troubles and trials are a natural part of life:

[The Apostle] Paul said he was “troubled on every side” (2 Corinthians 4:8). So it is reasonable to expect trouble in our lives as well. We experience it in our families, from our friends, on our jobs, at school, and with our nation. It comes in the form of criticism, persecution, illness, death of loved ones, personality conflicts, or inflation. Trouble is a way of life, so don’t think you’re alone if you’re experiencing it. (Quote source here.)

What the above statements make quite clear is that what my friend keeps telling me about my own set of circumstances (e.g., being something I can totally control if I wanted to change my circumstances bad enough) is not the complete picture of my situation. And most likely it is not the complete picture in your current circumstances, either, especially if you are in the midst of trying times. There are always external elements, forces, and most likely people involved.

Always . . . .

It’s not up to us . . . it’s up to God. He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). He will guide and direct us around the landmines we don’t even know are waiting for us if we stay close to Him and depend totally on Him to guide us through life. Proverbs 3:5-6 states:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

So as we move forward, in our own lives and in the life of our nation under a newly elected President and administration, let’s remember to pray and trust God with every second . . .

Every minute . . .

And every hour . . .

Of every day . . . .

YouTube Video: “Moving Forward” featuring Israel Houghton and Lakewood Church Worship Team:

Photo #1 credit here
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