When All Else Fails… ‘Rouse YOURSELF’

I hope you are doing well today. But if not, there’s a good chance you’ve found someone else to blame for your malaise.

You know what I mean. You’re in a bad mood, so you blame it on the lack of affection you’re receiving from your spouse. Your bank account is empty, and you’re convinced it’s because your employer is too stingy to pay you enough. Your spiritual life is bone dry, so you claim it’s the result of your pastor’s uninspiring preaching. You don’t like your situation in life, and you say you’re waiting on God to fix it someday.

But perhaps you’re looking in the wrong direction for your spiritual, emotional, or financial revival. The person to blame may be a lot closer than you think…

One day the prophet Isaiah cried out to God in despair: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities”  (Isaiah 64:7). Isaiah’s observation holds a vital key for whatever breakthrough we seek in our lives today: We must “arouse ourselves” to take hold of the Lord!

While the Bible also commands us to “stir up one another to love and good works”  (Hebrews 10:24 ESV), this is not ordinarily where a spiritual awakening begins. You see, it’s not primarily the responsibility of other people—your spouse, your friends, your employer, or your pastor—to rouse you from your lethargy. Even God Himself won’t bring you to a place of renewal and restoration until you rouse yourself  to take hold of Him.

Make no mistake about it: Rousing yourself isn’t a one-time proposition but something you must do on a regular basis. Paul told Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you”  (2 Timothy 1:6). Other translations say we must “stir up”  or “fan into flame”  the gifts and callings of God in our lives.

Before the day is over, I encourage you to spend some time with the Lord to arouse yourself and take hold of Him in a fresh way. And once that happens, you’ll be in a position to also  stir up others to a renewed passion for their calling in God.

There’s no need to wait for someone else!

 

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Photobombed by Jesus

If Jesus was walking the earth today, I bet He would love  to engage in the “photobombing” craze. In case you’re not familiar with photobombing, it describes the practice of unexpectedly inserting yourself into someone else’s photo.

Of course, Jesus didn’t have to wait until any modern fad to start photobombing people. He has been inserting Himself unexpectedly into people’s stories and pictures for millennia. And He does so with great delight.

I’m not sure why we’re so surprised when Jesus photobombs us. After all, He promised  to do so (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5-6).

Jesus was the original photobomber. When people throughout history least expected, He inserted Himself into the frame of their picture.

No matter what you may be going through today, remember that you are not alone. Whether you’re dealing with an illness, the loss of a loved one, a financial setback, a broken relationship, or a bout of depression, you can count on Jesus to insert Himself into your picture.

Although the pain may be great, you might as well smile as the picture is taken. Your photo could even go viral as people around you see that Jesus was there all along.

But don’t let Him just remain in the background. He wants to embrace you, celebrate with you, and wipe away every tear from your eyes. When you invite Him to the forefront of your picture, your story is bound to change.

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Surmounting Your Past to Find Your Future

Sometimes we’re on the brink of our breakthrough, but something is holding us back. Can you relate?

After Moses’ death, Joshua found himself on the banks of the Jordan River, overlooking the Promised Land on the other side. God was telling him to take the Israelites over the river and into their destiny—but there was a problem.

Forty years earlier, Joshua had been one of the 12 spies sent to view the Promised Land before the Israelites entered (Numbers 13 – 14). The spies all gave a glowing report about what a wonderful land it was, but 10 of the spies said there were fierce enemies and “giants” in the land. It was much too dangerous to risk entry, they warned.

Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who said the Israelites should obey God and trust Him to give them the land. But their report was rejected, and more than a million people chose to wander in the wilderness rather than enter the Promised Land.

Now Joshua had come full circle, right back to this place where he had boldly proclaimed God’s provision—but where he suffered an agonizing and humiliating defeat when his message was rejected. Forty years had passed, but he still was traumatized by the memories.

Perhaps you find yourself in a similar place. You are on the brink of the Promised Land. You have tasted its fruit before, and you know it’s an incredibly good land. Yet you also remember the painful experiences associated with this. Fear and apprehension rise up within you when you consider the prospect of taking a step of faith to cross over and face the giants.

God has brought you to this place, not so He can torment you, but so He can heal you. He is telling you, just as He told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”  (Joshua 1:9).

You’ve the Promised Land before, and here you are again—right on the brink. The Lord has brought you full circle so you can face your fears and find your destiny.

You are SO close, and you can succeed this time. Don’t let anything, or anyone, hold you back. I’m convinced the call toward your future is stronger than the tormenting chains of your past.

 

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Why You May Need Holy Testosterone

Years ago, I was the editor of a major Christian leadership magazine and had a brainstorm for my upcoming column. I wanted to call my article “Crushed Testicles,” based on Leviticus 21:20.

I wasn’t really surprised when my boss said he liked the article but thought the title was a bit too graphic. We ended up calling the article “Holy Testosterone” instead.

Although I was fine with toning down the title, in retrospect I wonder if we did the right thing. The Bible never shies away from graphic language in fear we might be offended. It doesn’t include any disclaimers or apologies when Leviticus 21:20 (NASB) lists “crushed testicles”  as one of the characteristic that would disqualify someone from the priesthood. Now, as then, courage and “holy testosterone” are indispensable qualities of successful leaders.

This is not an argument against women in leadership, for the New Testament makes it clear that all believers are now called upon to enter the church’s “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). And, like Joshua, we’re all called to be “strong and courageous,” whether male or female (Joshua 1:7).

In contrast, though, we as Christian leaders in America have too often become polite, respectable, noncontroversial and steeped in religiosity—very different from the Lord Jesus we profess to emulate. As if Caspar Milquetoast were our role model instead of Jesus Christ, we’ve often chosen “getting along” over being true leaders…pleasing people over pleasing God.

The implication of the phrase “crushed testicles” is not that someone was born (or “born again”) with this condition. Rather, such a condition is nearly always the result of some injury  on the way to becoming a leader or in the midst of serving. Whether this is applied to those who leave seminary with less “testosterone” than when they went in, or to those emasculated and crushed by church conflicts or satanic onslaughts while in the ministry, it’s a debilitating condition that God wants to remedy.

If you have been in ministry any length of time, you’ve no doubt been injured or bruised. It goes with the territory. To put it bluntly, our testicles get crushed by the pressures, rejections, and betrayals we encounter along the way.

Our tendency when injured is to lose our boldness and shrink back from further battle. But this is the very reaction we are warned against: “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward…My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him”  (Hebrews 10:35-39).

Many of those who went into the ministry with a vision to change the world are now staying in ministry only with a vision of retirement. Testicles crushed along the way, testosterone depleted, they set their sights only on surviving, not thriving.

Let’s face it: The ministry is not for the faint of heart. In order to be successful, we need holy boldness…courage. It does no good to have vision if we’ve lost our nerve and our will to fight.

The stress on Christian leaders in America is seldom the result of overt persecution. Sadly, most of us have not been enough of a threat to anyone to be persecuted.

Instead, the stress comes primarily from the daily wear and tear of babysitting self-absorbed believers who are more concerned about their own needs than about the gospel. Having chosen to babysit rather than confront, emasculated leaders find themselves increasingly frustrated with a ministry typified by spinning of wheels instead of changing of lives.

Those with crushed testicles not only are crippled from leading, they also are disabled from reproducing.  Like eunuchs, their castration prevents them from having normal “intercourse” and raising up a new generation of leaders. Amazingly, this lack of spiritual reproduction has become accepted as normal  by many who are in leadership today. Losing sight of the clear biblical mandate to equip new leaders, many leaders have become content to have no spiritual offspring.

Be clear on this: It is not a sin to have been crushed. But it is  a sin to wallow in an impotent condition, not letting God heal us and restore our courage to lead and reproduce.

After listing the traits that would disqualify a person from the priesthood, God concludes Leviticus 21 with this word of encouragement: “I am the Lord who sanctifies them”  (v. 23). This means that no matter what condition you find yourself in today, God is committed to help and heal you if you let Him.

Take heart! Today there can be a whole new beginning for your journey of faith.

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Jed Clampett’s 7 Surprising Keys to a Financial Breakthrough

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed,

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

– “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” by Paul Henning

For most Baby Boomers, the amazing story of Jed Clampett’s sudden wealth is well known. “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show chronicled Jed’s discovery of oil while “shootin’ at some food.” Suddenly Jed is a millionaire, so he packs up his old truck and moves his family to California.

While Jed Clampett’s story seems whimsical, if not ridiculous, it’s actually packed with some vital biblical lessons for anyone who desires a new level of financial prosperity:

1. Miracles happen. Not many people discover oil when they’re out coon hunting! Ordinarily, wealth is attained “little by little” and day by day rather than by some kind of sudden financial breakthrough (Exodus23:29-30). Those who adopt a “get rich quick” monetary strategy are usually lazy and prone to be suckers for lottery tickets and bets at race tracks.

You’ve probably heard it said that “money doesn’t grow on trees”—but that’s not true! Just ask someone who gets their living by growing apples, oranges or peaches. Even Bill Gates—the wealthiest man in the world—“planted a tree” when he started the Microsoft Corporation!

So when you ask God for a miraculous financial breakthrough, consider that He often responds by telling you to plant something that can bear fruit. Despite Jed Clampett’s remarkable story, things usually don’t happen that way. The Bible’s teaching is clear: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). If you want a great harvest, you need to sow some seeds!

Nevertheless, God wants us to know that He can, and WILL, give financial breakthroughs to His people. The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of this:

  • In mere hours, Joseph went from the prison to the palace—from dire poverty to sensational wealth (Genesis 41:39-43).
  • Mephibosheth experienced a sudden and unexpected rise from the squalor of Lo-Debar to the splendor of the king’s banquet hall (2 Samuel 9).
  • Four lepers were starving to death just before they took a bold step of faith and discovered riches more lavish than they ever could have dreamed of (2 Kings 7:3-9).
  • Job had been stripped of all his possessions before God broke through and gave him double of everything he had lost (Job 42:10-12).
  • Peter and his fishing partners had “worked all night and caught nothing” right before Jesus gave them a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11).

Like Jed Clampett, these biblical characters each experienced a special moment in time when their financial situation took a “quantum leap” forward. And if it happened to them, it can happen to you.

These characters in Scripture also have something else in common with Jed: They were suffering tremendous lack just prior to receiving their breakthrough. In Jed’s case, he “barely kept his family fed.” Joseph was in the dungeon…the lepers were starving…Job was destitute…and the fishermen were frustrated by their inability to prosper at their profession.

If you are experiencing financial frustrations in your own life today, remember this first lesson: God can do miracles to turn your situation around.

2. Do what you love  to do. When did old Jed’s turnaround occur? He was hunting—doing something he loved to do!

The TV scriptwriters could have said Jed struck it rich on Wall Street or in the real estate market, but that would have been even harder to believe than his discovery of oil! In the same way, God usually will give us our breakthroughs when we’re doing something we love—fulfilling the very thing He has put in our heart to do.

Taking your shotgun into the woods or your fishing pole to the lake may not seem a very likely way to strike it rich…but the key is to look for careers or entrepreneurial ventures that truly fit your God-given personality and passion. You will always find God’s blessing in the place He wants you to be—even if that means being outdoors, “shootin’ at some food.”

3. Accidents can be a blessing. Before Jed Clampett took his shotgun into the woods, he didn’t tell his family he was going out to search for oil!  His discovery was merely a by-product of being in the right place, at the right time, doing the thing God wanted him to do.

Likewise, many of the greatest scientific and medical discoveries in history were made entirely by accident!

  • Christopher Columbus wasn’t looking for the New World—he just wanted to find a shortcut to India and China. His “accident” turned out to be quite a blessing!
  • Coca-Cola was invented by Dr. John Pemberton in May 1886—as a headache tonic. When Coca-Cola was first marketed as a beverage at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, sales averaged just nine servings a day, and Pemberton lost money on the product. But today more than one billion drinks of Coke are consumed each day, and the Coca-Cola Company receives trillions of dollars of annual revenue.
  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928, when Alexander Fleming noticed that mold spores from an open window were destroying harmful bacteria samples he was experimenting on.
  • X-rays were accidentally discovered in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen when he was studying cathode rays.
  • Post-it Notes were made possible when a researcher at the 3M Company was trying to improve adhesive tape. He came up with a semi-sticky adhesive that at first seemed worthless.

These stories show that God can use our mistakes and accidents to be a blessing, but it’s crucial for us to recognize the blessing when it comes. Jed somehow realized that the “bubblin’ crude” was a valuable discovery.

Don’t miss this vital lesson: We must be alert to God’s blessings, even when we stumble upon them by mistake or during a time of apparent failure in what we set out to do. We’re not told whether Jed ever succeeded in shooting any food for his family that day…but that didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

4. God gets the credit. Supernatural breakthroughs are truly super-natural—a matter of grace rather than human effort. Jed obviously couldn’t take much credit for his financial windfall. God had sovereignly blessed him, and Jed merely stumbled into his newfound prosperity.

Of course, there’s also another side to this. Miracles often come when we take action  to obey some kind of instruction or prompting by God:

  • The four lepers took action to leave their comfort zone and visit the Syrian camp.
  • Job’s financial restoration came after he prayed for his friends.
  • The fishermen received the miracle catch of fish after they obeyed Jesus’ instruction about where to cast their net.

Nevertheless, no human merit or effort could be credited for the extraordinary abundance these folks received. As Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tells us, “It is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

5. The oil was there all along. Did God first create the oil reserve on the day Jed found it? Of course not. The oil had been there all along—right under Jed’s feet as he lived in near poverty with his family. But Jed was so preoccupied with his coon hunting that for years he failed to recognize the incredible hidden wealth that was available to him.

And don’t miss this: If the reservoir of oil could be revealed by Jed’s stray bullet, it must have been awfully close to the surface! Even though our financial breakthrough may seem a million miles away, the truth is that it’s often right under our feet and just below the surface! It has been there all along, and we simply need to dig in the right spot.

6. Jed’s breakthrough caused a ripple effect. Jed wasn’t the only one impacted by his discovery. The ripple effect of blessing touched each of his family members and an ever-widening circle of others who were touched by his bounty.

In the same way, God wants to bless us so we can BE a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Those who are generous will prosper (Proverbs11:25), and their prosperity will touch many others. God wants to bless us in such a way that people all over the earth will hear of Him! (Psalm 67:1-7)

If you woke up tomorrow morning and found that a few million dollars had unexpectedly been placed into your bank account, who would be impacted? Hopefully there would be a multitude of other people who would be touched because of your unselfish generosity.

7. Jed had to learn how to handle his windfall. It’s one thing to receive a windfall of money, and it’s quite another thing to know what to do with it. That’s why many lottery winners are absolutely broke just a few years after receiving an award of millions of dollars. They didn’t have the knowledge or character to handle their sudden abundance.

Jed’s lifestyle dramatically changed. He was used to living in the hills, but NOT Beverly  Hills! Most of the humor of “The Beverly Hillbillies” involved Jed and his family learning an entirely different skill-set from anything they had known before.

What about you? Do you have the wisdom, self-control and character to handle a huge financial windfall if the Lord gave you one? Would such a windfall be a blessing or a curse to you?

I was impressed by an interview several years ago of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.  Rick pastored a large church, but never in his life had he seen financial compensation like the millions  of dollars he received in royalties for his best-selling book.

How did Rick Warren handle his rapid financial boon? He and his wife determined that their standard of living would not change substantially. He set up a nonprofit foundation to handle most of the added revenue and funnel it toward humanitarian purposes. And Rick even decided to give the church back all the compensation he had received as its pastor over the years.

Are You Ready?

I’m preparing my heart for a financial breakthrough, and I hope you are too. It could come today  as you are “shootin’ at some food,” or perhaps it will take a while longer. It may come as a dramatic and surprising event like Jed Clampett experienced, or it may occur gradually, through the processes of wise saving and investing.

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The Parable of the Too-Short Bed

I once inherited a bed that was too short. Ordinarily, it’s not a big problem if you have a short bed, because you can always dangle your feet over the edge. But this bed came with a troublesome railing that prevented me from exceeding its length.

So every night I huddled in an uncomfortable, contorted position, unable to fully stretch out or extend myself. This wasn’t quite a fetal position, but it had pretty much the same effect.

I wonder if I might be a few inches taller today if it hadn’t been for my years spent on that too-short bed.

But it turns out I’m not the only  one who has faced such an experience. The prophet Isaiah describes exactly this condition: “You will be like the person in the proverb, who tries to sleep in a bed too short to stretch out on, with a blanket too narrow to wrap himself in” (28:20 GNT).

If you’ve been feeling restless lately, this may be the reason. Perhaps you’re trying to fit into a place you’ve inherited from someone else—a “bed” that is too small for you. Or maybe you’ve been like the frustrated baby who simply has outgrown his once-perfect crib. Or perhaps the doctrinal “blanket” that once kept you so cozy is now too narrow to cover your expanding insights.

You are not alone in your restlessness. But you can’t stay  in that kind of bed…or try to cover yourself with that kind of blanket.

One day a group of men from Elisha’s prophetic team came and complained to him: The place where we live is too small! Give us permission to go to the Jordan and cut down some trees, so that we can build a place to live  (2 Kings 6:1-2 GNT).

“One day” these men finally realized something that must have been simmering inside them for a long time. Their growth and fruitfulness were being confined by the place they had inherited. It once had been a wonderful  and comfortable  place for them. But now they had outgrown it, and they realized it was time to branch out and build a place of their own.

It’s interesting that these spiritual men felt they had to ask PERMISSION from Elisha before setting out on their new endeavor. Do you feel you need to get someone else’s permission  before you can fulfill your calling in the Lord? If so, don’t delay!

As this story progresses, we see that these men had the wisdom to take Elisha with them  on their journey to expand their territory, as Jabez likewise had done (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Instead of rejecting their original place of covering, they were honoring it.

What is your  story today? Have you outgrown a situation where you once thrived?

Take time to assess the bed you’ve been sleeping on…the blanket you’ve been wrapping yourself in…and the place where you’ve been dwelling. If you’ve been tossing and turning, cramped in a near-fetal position, it may be time for a change.

 

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The Ruse of Income Inequality

One of the most divisive issues in our nation in recent years is the debate over “income inequality.” Perhaps you’ve never given this much thought in the past, but the issue started bubbling to the surface in the national consciousness in September 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement launched a few months of protests in Zuccotti Park, near New York City’s Wall Street financial district. Their slogan was “We are the 99%,” and they vilified the wealthiest 1% of the American population as greedy, unfeeling, and corrupt.

Issues like income inequality are the delight of demagogues. Politicians have continued to fan the flames of class warfare with this polarizing subject, from President Obama to New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio. Look at these words from the President’s State of the Union address in January 2012:

We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.

On a surface level, much of this statement by the President seems perfectly reasonable. After all, who could oppose the grand objective that “everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share”? Can’t really argue with that, can we?

However, the President’s argument here, as on many other issues, is based on a false premise. The facts do not support his assertion that a “shrinking number of people do really well.” Nor is it true that “a growing number of Americans barely get by.” These are common misconceptions, but the data shows that MANY people are doing really well, and the poverty rate has decreased rather than increased in the past several decades.

Faulty Analysis, Faulty Solutions

Is there income inequality in America today? Of course there is! There has never been a major world power in history that enjoyed economic prosperity and freedom without some people making more than others.

Did you know that Finland has less income inequality than the United States? That may sound wonderful, but not when you find out that the per capita income is much lower for everyone  in Finland.

And a few years ago, Greece managed to substantially reduce its income inequality—because the nation was in a dire economic crisis. Instead of being a model we should envy, the citizens of Greece were faced with little money, scarcity of goods, riots in the streets, and economic opportunity limited to those partaking in corruption.

When governments throughout history have tried to redistribute wealth and create equality of outcomes, the results were catastrophic. Everyone  suffered. The only people who prospered were the corrupt politicians who ran the system. Instead of sparking widespread prosperity, the result of forced “equality” was to pull everyone down to a subsistence level.

When government inserts itself into the income inequality debate, the result is always less economic freedom and less overall prosperity. The Robin Hood philosophy may sound good on paper, but it becomes totalitarianism when taken to its logical conclusion. Stealing from the rich to give to the poor is still STEALING.

In the end, it does little good for those in poverty to be given handouts, if they never learn how to make it on their own. Of course, there are exceptions. Yes, we need a safety net for people who are truly incapable of working. But beware of political demagogues who advocate “sticking it to the rich” as if that somehow would help “the little guy” get out of poverty.

Level Opportunities, Not Outcomes

President Ronald Reagan once said, “The American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become.” Government can strive to create a somewhat level playing field where everyone plays by the same set of rules. There should be economic mobility and equal opportunities to succeed. But that certainly doesn’t mean there will be “level” results and equality of outcomes.

Art Laffer, one of President Reagan’s chief economic advisors recently weighed in on the income inequality debate:

I don’t mind inequality if people are rising in incomes in all groups. I do  mind equality when everyone’s brought down to the lowest common denominator. You don’t want to make the rich poor; you want to make the poor richer. These inequality specialists all around the place aren’t proposing that. In all the quest to achieve less inequality, they are creating equality by lowering everyone. And that’s silly.

Economist Robert Samuelson points out that the wealthiest 1% are “convenient scapegoats” for America’s economic problems. However, he says, “the poor are not poor because the rich are rich.” The economic data shows that while the income of the rich has grown faster than the income of the poor, BOTH have seen gains in the past several decades.

So if the rich aren’t really to blame for the poor being poor, what are the factors that keep many people locked in the grip of poverty? I could write an entire book on that subject, for there are numerous aspects to the problem. But let me just make a rather fundamental observation, based on a study by the Brookings Institution.

According to Brookings, you can avoid poverty simply by:

 1. Graduating from high school.

2. Waiting to get married until after 21 and not having children till after being married.

3. Having a full-time job.

 If you do all three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. And you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class.

Isn’t that good news? The solution to poverty and income inequality is not a matter of retribution against the “evil rich.” In most cases, the simple solution is personal responsibility.  In addition to the three-prong formula suggested by the Brookings study, I would include a few other Bible-based traits that are important for success:

  • Abstain from illegal drugs and drunkenness.
  • Avoid criminal activity.
  • Be honest and dependable.
  • Have a good work ethic.

It’s really that simple. By just a few key lifestyle decisions, a person can nearly always avoid the trap of long-term poverty.

An Important Parable

I’m astounded by how many preachers and Christians have succumbed to the class-envy arguments of the demagogues who bemoan America’s income equality. Haven’t they ever read Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30?

You probably know the story, but perhaps you’ve never thought of it in terms of income inequality. A wealthy man was going on a long journey, so he entrusted his belongings to three of his servants. He gave one of them five bags of silver, another two bags of silver, and the third servant just one bag of silver.

You see, these servants weren’t entrusted by their master with the same amount. The point of the story is that the first two servants were faithful to invest and increase what they had been given, but the third servant just buried his silver in the ground.

Perhaps the third servant felt the master hadn’t given him his “fair share.” Yet he failed to see his grand opportunity to invest and increase what he had. His dismal condition at the end of the story wasn’t the fault of the wealthy man—it was his own  fault, based on fear and negligence.

If you don’t like your current financial condition, you have a choice to make. You can either find some straw man to blame for your plight, or you can accept responsibility for your actions and take positive steps to better your circumstances.

It’s time to drop the excuses and trust God for a new beginning. And I’m NOT just talking about a raise in the minimum wage. You need to set your sights a lot  higher than that.

 

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The One Reason for Optimism

Whether you look at the Grammy Awards, the stock market, or what was said (or not said) in the State of the Union Address, it was a very depressing week for the moral, financial, and political condition of our country.

Fortunately, there’s another place we can look if we’re trying to find a reason for optimism and a basis for real  hope and change.

Picture yourself in the shoes of the apostle John when he was exiled on the Island of Patmos. Not only were his personal circumstances bleak, but God was showing him disturbing things about the condition of the churches of his day. Have you ever felt that way?

In Revelation 2 and 3, Christ showed John churches that had left their first love, allowed false teachers, or become dead, arrogant, or lukewarm. It must have been depressing to see churches in such a dire condition, and it wasn’t even the end of the first century yet.

The book of Revelation would go on to unfold horrific snapshots of persecution, famine, warfare, turbulence in the natural realm, cosmic disturbances, and epic spiritual conflicts on the world stage.

Yet amid all of these dark clouds, John found a ray of hope and a ground for optimism:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne  (Revelation 4:1-2).

What fantastic news! No matter how distressing things may look on the world stage or the condition of the church, there is One sitting on heaven’s throne!

But notice that not everyone saw this scene. Some, no doubt, were earthbound, only able to see things from an earthly perspective. How depressing.

However, like John, God is calling us to look past the disturbing earthly events around us and peer through the “door standing open in heaven.”  He is beckoning us to “come up here”  so we can gain His hopeful, victorious perspective on how all of this will turn out in the end.

The good news is that our ultimate victory is not in doubt. The marriage feast has already been scheduled, and the theme song will be one of triumph rather than defeat: “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” (Revelation 19:6-7)

Today we may sometimes feel like boxers, bloody and sore amid a long and arduous fight against the enemy. But when the final bell rings or final trumpet sounds, we’ll hear loud voices proclaiming that it was worth it all: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”  (Revelation 11:15)

Yes, we living in prophetic times when “darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people,”  but that’s not the end of the story: “The LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you…Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy…and I will glorify the house of My glory”  (Isaiah 60:1-7).

You see, we have reason for optimism today. No matter how things may look around us, we can be stirred to action by God’s prophetic encouragement of encouragement: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”

It’s not time to quit. Let’s get up. Arise. Shine. And overcome the darkness with light.

 

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