visioncgbc | May 29, 2008 05:44
Holly asked me if I could combine Focus and Vision last night, simply because of everything going on with Janice. We sort of have that understanding. Anytime something comes up on my end, I know I could do the same with asking her to let Vision come in. I'm going to attach the lesson I taught last night. Maybe you need to hear it. Read it if you think you do.
At the beginning of the lesson I passed out rubber bands and told them that throughout the lesson anytime they thought a negative thought about themselves, I wanted them to pop themselves. They were a bit shocked at first, but then they understood.
This lesson was sparked a few weeks ago in Sunday School when our lesson was on the story of David and Jonathan. A story of a complete absence of jealousy in which I myself would have struggled to not be jealous. Let’s look at the story.
I Samuel 20
1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" 2 "Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" 3 But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." 4 Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you." 5 So David said, "Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, 'David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.' 7 If he says, 'Very well,' then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8 As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?" 9 "Never!" Jonathan said. "If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn't I tell you?" 10 David asked, "Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?" 11 "Come," Jonathan said, "let's go out into the field." So they went there together. 12 Then Jonathan said to David: "By the LORD, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself. 18 Then Jonathan said to David: "Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I say to him, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,' then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever." 24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon festival came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, [a] and Abner sat next to Saul, but David's place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, "Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean." 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David's place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?" 28 Jonathan answered, "David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, 'Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.' That is why he has not come to the king's table." 30 Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don't I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!" 32 "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?" Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David. 35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, "Isn't the arrow beyond you?" 38 Then he shouted, "Hurry! Go quickly! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing of all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, "Go, carry them back to town." 41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. 42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
Why was this story successful?? How in the world could Jonathan be this selfless??
Matthew 22:36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
If you’ll look in the story of David and Jonathon at verse 17 Jonathon loved David as himself. In Matthew Jesus says that after loving God you are to love your neighbor, but how does it say to love your neighbor-that’s right as yourself.
Matthew 7:12 12"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get.
But what do we do if we don’t love ourselves? Here in lies the problem for many of us. We don’t love ourselves, and we don’t expect that we deserve anything good, or are worth anything good, so that is how we portray what we give to others. This is not just a little problem; this is a cancer eating away at the purpose God has planned for your life.
Tonight what and who is keeping you from loving yourself? The truth of the matter is you’re being prideful. I know what you’re thinking “Wait a minute, I have low self esteem, that’s the opposite of pride.” But low self esteem, and self hatred, and listening to what others say about you is putting your opinion and beliefs above those of God and that is pride.
139:13-18 13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
and female he created them in the image of God
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.".
I have come to the conclusion that the only opinion I should care about is the opinion of God. If the opinion of someone else doesn’t line up with God’s opinion, then God’s opinion always overrules. I’m not suggesting that any person not be in submission to their parents or authority figures. In those situations you must see you as God does, and then know that He will guide you on dealing with parents or friends who aren’t Christians, or living outside God’s will, But no persons opinion overrules God’s. Are you living that way tonight? I’m not, but I want to.
This has to be dealt with. Our relationships to others can’t be what God intended if we don’t believe we are exactly who he wants us to be. EXACTLY. Do you believe that tonight?? So I’m left to believe this. Who we were created to be is who God wants us to be. I don’t believe there is trickery on the part of God. What I mean by that is- did God create you to be a serial killer? Did God create you to be a drug addict? Did God create you to be cruel? I’m tiptoeing around some things, but the bottom line is if you are involved in gross sin and it’s become your way of life, don’t tell me that’s how God made you. What I’m trying to say is there is a clear line of right and wrong and some people will use this as a platform to sin, and that is not what I’m talking about. God didn’t create you to sin. If He can’t tolerate it, then why in the world would he have created you to live in it? That’s crazy I Corinthians 10: 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. If you are having negative feelings about yourself because of sin, that’s not low self esteem, that’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit. You’re not getting by that easy by me patting you on the head and saying “it’s ok.”
I’m talking about you. Who you are. Your personality. Your appearance. Your intelligence. Your abilities. Your inabilities.
I want to stop for a minute and say this is not only about physical beauty and you’re struggle with that. I know some of you do, and I know some of you struggle with many other things as far as how you feel about yourself.
2 Timothy 3:7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.Is this us tonight? We learn this lesson over and over and over but can’t acknowledge it.
Do you have relationship problems tonight? Do you have a problem with yourself? Do you have problems with your creator?
If I love others based on the love I have for myself, and I hate myself, that’s what I give to others. Do you remember the story of Jonathon and David? We can be fulfilled in relationships and do things that in our own power and opinion of ourselves we could never do. You will struggle in friendships, marriage, parent-child,-child-parent if we don’t accept the mystery of being created in the image of God.
You can’t be happy or experience true joy and peace, if you truly don’t believe you are who God says you are, you can NEVER be and do everything in His plan. You will stop and start a million times because every time someone tells you who they think you are, you will believe them. The devil sends messages in the form of the people whose support you crave, and when they say something negative, we often listen and forget it’s contrary to what God says. The flip side is happiness and true joy and peace in the middle of any situation when we do believe we are who He says we are.
We must deal with this if we ever want to get beyond spiritual infancy. There are times we will be alone except for God, but it’s better to alone with God then surrounded by the support of everyone but Him. Are you putting the approval of others and yourself above what God says?
Tonight I want us to realize that when we say “God you made a mistake. God I’m no good. God you couldn’t be pleased with your creation of me” we’re calling God a liar. We are.
I want you to gather every negative thing that you think of yourself, or others have told you and you continue to believe and bring it to Him. If you have low self esteem because you’re in sin, bring it to Him. I want us to pray tonight, and you can bow if you want, but please do real business with God tonight.
Throughout the lesson I could see people popping their rubber bands. Some over and over. After the lesson, I had the lights dimmed, and we played music. I encouraged us all to deal with not loving ourselves. People came forward. Some knelt. Some sobbed. When it was over, many had their hands lifted.
But that was last night, and this is today. I told them all that we may have to get up every day for the rest of our lives and remind ourselves God loves us. That's ok. I encouraged them to wear their rubber bands and use them when those negative thoughts come in.
Do you love others as yourself today? Or do you hate others as you hate yourself? Or do you criticize others as you criticize yourself? Or do you expect the impossible from others as you expect the impossible from yourself? Deal with this today. You have to.
One last thing I said last night, "If we believe we are who God says we are, shouldn't the expression on our face change?? to
visioncgbc | May 27, 2008 07:37
Our hearts are breaking right now. Janice (Richard's mom) it appears (unless God chooses to intervene) will be leaving for eternity soon. Richard and Holly as well as their children, Janice's other family members and Janice will be embarking on an entirely new life for this last part of hers. She wants to die at home. Someone will have to be with her at all times. 24x7. There are about 4 or 5 people taking this task on. Two being Richard and Holly who will see very little of each other. I don't have the wisdom to know what to pray. So, I'm praying what's in my heart and asking God to do whatever is His perfect will. Rachel and Rebekah will no doubt need our prayers. I remember when my mamaw passed away, I was grown (33) but I was still crushed. I knew she was in heaven, but I also knew I wouldn't see her until I was in heaven. Rachel and Rebekah are 10 and 6 and Janice has been very involved in their lives on a daily basis since each of their births. Please lift them up.
We spent the entire weekend in preperation for yesterday. Meagan's graduation party. Mother and me and Chloe headed out Saturday. We ordered trays and bought drinks and lots of other stuff. Sunday we decorated (no evening service). We put out pictures from birth up until now on each table. Yesterday was just flat out crazy. But, when 5:00 rolled around, we were ready. My father-in-law had a huge poster made of Meagan that said "Meagan grows up" with pictures of her from birth until now. She invited our youth group and some friends from her school. Her family came out to support her in full force, including Adam who came home from college. I think the funniest thing from the entire night was when I was welcoming everyone and started boo-hooing, and my lil' cuz Miles started making fun of me. It helped me get my crying under control. I think everyone had a good time, most importantly Meagan. I have to thank my mother. She and I were together for three days in a row constantly and she really worked hard to help me. I have to thank Mark who put up with my "not nice" moments for three days as well as put up every bit of the stuff when we got home. Now you might think that was a simple task, but it was not. Megan Blanton helped out from literally 12:00 until the party was over and beyond. Tracy T. and Leah also helped clean up. Thank you to them as well as every person there as well as every person who's impacted Meagan. I said it last night and I'll say it again, I can't take credit for the person Meagan is. God's has flooded me with mercy in the young lady she's become.
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
Last night I was talking to Meagan's uncle Kevin. Thanking him for the impact he and Meagan's aunt Stacie have had on Meagan's life. He talked about how much time he felt has went by so fast. He's in the Air Force and has been gone quite a bit, for not only Meagan, but things in his own three children's lives. I told him that I believe they know our hearts. They know if we are doing are best.
So as I'm thinking about letting go, and looking ahead, I want to know the condition of each and every person God wants me to have any sort of an impact on.
God help us all,
visioncgbc | May 22, 2008 05:52
I don't if you've heard or not, but Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest adopted daughter was killed yesterday. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,357046,00.html Ran over by her brother who didn't see her playing in the driveway. This is tragic in every possible way. Steven and his wife have three adopted children from China, and have started a foundation to address the enormous cost of overseas adoption. These are good people who love God, who are doing His work. Why? Why did this happen?
Tonight at our church we are having a women's worship event called "Sonflowers in Bloom." http://www.chapelgrove.com It's in memory of Jennifer Beam who died suddenly and unexpectedly at a young age. She was a wife and mother of two young daughters. Why? Why did this happen?
In my own life, in the life of those around me are many different struggles and problems. Ranging from sickness, to mental problems, to marital problems, to family problems, to financial problems, to loneliness, and many other things. All of us have said "Why? Why is this happening?"
I will not be arrogant or smug and say the usual "Trust the Lord." We should trust the Lord, but sometimes a person needs you to go down to that dark place with them and cry, not stand up on your spiritual ladder and tell them what they should do. As I told you in my last blog, I'm a different person than I was a few years ago. A few years ago it would have been easy for me to say "just trust" and go on about my day. Now that I have been broken I can see that unanswered questions and tragedies leave you very wounded, and to pat someone on the head and say "You'll be ok" provides little comfort or hope."
I just read Romans 9 in the message translation and I'm left feeling hopeful and very comforted.
6-9Don't suppose for a moment, though, that God's Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn't Abraham's sperm that gave identity here, but God's promise. Remember how it was put: "Your family will be defined by Isaac"? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, "When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son"?
10-13And that's not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don't do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, "The firstborn of your twins will take second place." Later that was turned into a stark epigram: "I loved Jacob; I hated Esau."
14-18Is that grounds for complaining that God is unfair? Not so fast, please. God told Moses, "I'm in charge of mercy. I'm in charge of compassion." Compassion doesn't originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God's mercy. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, "I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power." All we're saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill.
19Are you going to object, "So how can God blame us for anything since he's in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?"
in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one
moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay
doesn't talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, "Why did you
shape me like this?" Isn't it obvious that a potter has a perfect right
to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another
into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery
especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style
carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn't that all right?
Either or both happens to Jews, but it also happens to the other
people. Hosea put it well:
I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, "You're nobody!"
they're calling you "God's living children."
Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled "chosen of God,"
They'd be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn't count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus.
Isaiah had looked ahead and spoken the truth:
If our powerful God
had not provided us a legacy of living children,
We would have ended up like ghost towns,
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:
Careful! I've put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,
a stone you can't get around.
But the stone is me! If you're looking for me,
you'll find me on the way, not in the way.
Arithmetic is not His focus. My goodness how this speaks to me!! This is almost contrary to the modern day church. We're looking at arithmetic, in every way. It's not that God doesn't want to do great things with great numbers. But that's not His only focus. His focus is on the individual person. We often miss the individual person for the sake of the numbers. Get it?
How can we sum this up? All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road.
What he's saying is "The church people missed Jesus." We are left to think "How can that happen?" It's happening, today. Maybe in your own church.
So today as we ask our "whys?' we can read this passage, and talk to God, more importantly let Him talk to us and pray that He will carry us until we can walk again.
Please pray for the family of Steven Curtis Chapman. Please pray for the "Sonflower" worship event, as well as Jennifer's family who will be attending.
visioncgbc | May 20, 2008 07:31
When Chloe had her first birthday party the theme was Veggie Tales. I remember having subs and all the toppings out displayed 'cause they were veggies. I decorated the tables with little flower pots and had her 1 yr. picture in each pot. I always loved Veggie Tales. I remember 106.9 had a contest in about 2002 (I think) for tickets to see a Broadway style show. I won the tickets, and we took Rebekah. It was an awesome show. I think my favorite Veggie Tales was George and the Duck. Veggie Tales took the story of David and Bathsheba and turned it into a cartoon that was about a rubber duck, and the king who wanted what someone else had and wouldn't stop until he had it. Brilliant. Entertaining. They even had the story of Jonah on in theaters.
I wrote a song last week and posted in on the lyric section of the Write About Jesus discussion board. It's titled "Give it all up". In the song I say basically "If everything you've done right has turned out wrong, give it all up to God." I also say it's not about giving up on your dreams that were given to you by God. I post lyrics pretty often on the board, and very often get no comments on lyrics. See if my friends see something I write they'll say "Oh that is so good." From another songwriter though, comments usually involve help in trying to better the song. There's not much "Wow, that's great, go record it". Well yesterday I got an email response about the song. This is relatively unusual. I have a few friends who see something and email me, but usually people leave comments on the board. In my email I was told that the title caught his eye because of a book he had just finished reading. He liked the song, but he felt like a turn in the underlying message in the song might be even better. He suggested that through reading this book that he'd realized the ultimate goal through trials and even life was our relationship with Christ. That whether a situation changed or didn't change that the goal of our life is to live in relationship with Christ. He felt that if I communicated that in the song that it would take a person even further than to just say "Lay it down." He also said that it might be better to write the song in 1st person instead of 3rd, meaning instead of saying "You should do this or that"; I'm saying "I should do this or that." I wrote him back and thanked him for his thoughtfulness in his response and the time he'd spent. I explained to him that I'm going through a lot in my life and wrote the song really to and for myself, as if to read it back to myself and say "Do this!" He emailed me back and said "I don't know exactly what you are going through, but I'm going to attach the key chapter in the book I told you I was telling you about." The book is Me, Myself, and Bob. It's about the rise and fall of the creator of Veggie Tales. I was totally unaware that this had even happened. I read this chapter and reality of things hit me and I can't deny it anymore. I realized that I have my hands clasped holding so tightly to things that if I'd open my hands I'd see they aren't even there anymore. I realize that the purpose of my posting that song had little or maybe nothing to do with the song. God's ways are always higher. I invited him to co-write with me or rewriting the song if he was interested, since he seemed to have ideas.
I'm going to attach the chapter, and I hope that at some point you'll read it.
Holly and I were talking a few weeks ago. We both questioned "why?" Why didn't things fall into place when we seemed so sure about ideas that were going to take off? Why had God allowed us to be in depressing, and what seemed the wrong environment for what we were best capable to do. We decided that back then we weren't broken, and now we are, and to quote a famous author, "That has made all the difference in the world." I must see that God is the same God, no matter who I am or what level in life I’ve achieved. It’s not about me, it’s about Him.
I'm gonna post the chapter in the blog below
visioncgbc | May 19, 2008 20:42
Dreams, Part II (Chapter 21)
I've blabbered on for hours now about Bible college puppet teams and MTV and polygons and pay scales. I hope you're still with me, because it's time for me to ask you one simple question again: Have you ever had a dream?
Boy, I sure have. I wanted God to use me to make a difference in the world. I wanted somehow to single-handedly offset all the lousy messages immature rock stars were packing into their music videos on MTV My dreams got a bit more specific as I got going, of course. I wanted to make movies and TV shows filled with biblical truth. I wanted to build a theme park. I wanted to create the next Disney. Be the next Disney. And my dreams were all going swimmingly for a while. Everyone loved the shows. Letters poured in from around the world, telling stories of the impact we were having. Kids conquering their fears. Dads deciding Christianity wasn't that "dorky" after all and returning to church with their families for the first time in years. Whole families coming to Christ. All because of VeggieTales.
Inside Big Idea, however, things were not so rosy. My life had become so unpleasant that my Christian background suggested one of two scenarios must be true: (1) I was doing something horribly wrong, or (2) I was doing something horribly right, and, as a result, was coming under withering spiritual attack. My pride insisted it must be the latter, but deep inside I wondered if that were the case. Time and time again I sat down to journal, and invariably I began by writing, "What am I doing wrong?"
And then, finally, it was all over. Finished.
After the bankruptcy sale, Classic Media set up a new company called "Big Idea, Inc." to continue the production of VeggieTales under the direction of Terry Pefanis, the finance executive who had, ironically, tried to buy Big Idea Productions on behalf of Gaylord Entertainment six years earlier. I had brought Terry to Big Idea as a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy after parting company with my second president and CFO in early 2003. For whatever reason, Classic Media decided the "new" Big Idea would be located 'in Franklin, Tennessee, not far from Terry's home. Both of my positions-chief executive officer and chief creative officer-were eliminated. Classic's executives asked me to continue providing voices for my characters and to write one script per year under the direction of the new company's managers. Lacking any other clear direction from God at that point, and in need of income, I agreed to a two-year creative services contract. I was now a freelance writer for the characters I had created.
God did not kill Big Idea. I never for a second blamed God for the collapse of my dream. I dusted the body for fingerprints, and they were all mine. What I wrestled with, instead, was the fact that God could have saved Big Idea Productions. He could have stepped in, erased my mistakes, and kept Bob and Larry in my hands for the sake of the kingdom. I mean, he's God, right? He can do anything. But he didn't.
He could have stepped in when Jonah hit theaters and doubled our opening weekend box office. He could have done that. But he didn't.
He could have shown up when Jonah hit stores on DVD, doubling the sales. That wouldn't have been hard for him to do. It would have saved Big Idea. But he didn't do that either.
And finally, of course, he could have swooped into federal court in Dallas to assure the jury would see the truth in the lawsuit between Big Idea and Lyrick Studios. The case seemed painfully clear to me-it wouldn't have taken much effort. Especially for God. He could have easily done it, and it would have saved Big Idea. But he didn't.
I left the courtroom that day deeply confused. Numb. How could God have let that happen? Why hadn't he shown up? Didn't he care about the work I was doing? The families that were being blessed? How could he just stand back from something that was doing so much good and watch it fall apart?
When I was about five years old, my younger brother fell down our stairs in his walker. They were linoleum-covered stairs with metal edges, and he tumbled down the full flight, head-over-heels in his walker. Amazingly, he came through with only five stitches in his upper lip. My grandmother and my mother both saw it happen, though, which must have been absolutely terrifying. They lunged to try to stop him from falling but couldn't get there in time.
But God can always get there in time. God never arrives "too late." What confused me so deeply is that I knew he saw me fall, and I knew he had the capacity to catch me-to prevent my accident from happening. Yet he didn't. He just stood there, watching me tumble down the stairs.
What kind of God would do that? That is the question this book is ultimately trying to answer. Beyond all the business implications, beyond the interpersonal dramas and the thrill of seeing something wonderful come to life, I'm really chasing the answer to this question: What kind of God would stand back and watch a dream-a good dream, for ministry and impact-fall apart?
It's time to back up again. What we believe about God has a lot to do with how we were raised and the sort of messages we heard when we were kids. As you know by now, I grew up pretty deep in the evangelical Christian subculture. My childhood was filled with potlucks, church picnics, Bible conferences, and missions festivals. Growing up in such surroundings you bump into certain evangelical sayings that stick with you, sayings like, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past-only what's done for Christ will last." As a kid, that phrase really hit me. If the only things that mattered were the things I did for Christ, well, that's what I wanted to do. But there was another saying that stuck with me: "God can't steer a parked car." These phrases may not have been Scripture, but they sure smelled like it. Pithy little sayings like these were so frequently bandied about in my formative years that my personal theology may have been shaped as much by these bumper sticker sentiments as by the Bible itself. As a result, I entered adulthood (1) absolutely committed to spending my life doing things for Christ, and (2) determined not to be a "parked car." I had to get going. I had to get busy.
But busy with what?
Mine was not the sort of Christian family accustomed to "hearing from God." Growing up, I don't believe I ever heard an adult in my family or my church begin a sentence with the words "God told me .. ." That sort of talk was for charismatics. We were logical Christians. Intellectual Christians. God had given us brains, and we were supposed to use them. So rather than asking God directly, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my work for Christ might be. Missionary conferences pitched mission elds at us kids like travel agents pitching vacation packages. latch the slides-make a commitment. But overseas missions idn't seem right for me, so I kept looking. Eventually, I found a lace where my storytelling gifts seemed to line up with a need 1at was tugging at my heart-a need to express God's Word 1rough popular media. And that would be my work for Christ!
That issue resolved, I got busy. I built, and built, and built. ven when I wasn't building, I was thinking about building, dream19 up the things I would build next. And in the midst of it, God 1.0wed up, blessing my efforts. Great! I thought, Look at all the good m doing! But I was just getting started. If I could do that much Dod just by making a few videos, think how much good I could do . I made movies and toys and books and TV shows and theme arks! Think how much good I could do if I built the next Disney!
And so; I got busier.
And the good kept piling up, along with awards and accolades )r my "goodness." God must be pleased, I thought to myself, because sure am doing a lot of good now. I hoped God was pleased, anyray, because all the work was taking a toll on me-on my health, lY marriage, and the good people that had joined my chaotically expanding company.
And then, in the midst of my great goodness, everything started to go wrong. Everything. "Ah! My good work!" I screamed. pedaled and steered furiously to keep my little car on the road - rocks looming on one side, a sheer drop-off on the other-just like 1 the movies. Good thing I was the good guy, I thought, because the good guy never goes over the cliff.
Except that I did. I fell. My dream and I fell all the way to bankruptcy court, where a gaggle of lawyers picked through the wreckage, packed up all the good parts, and mailed them to Franklin, Tennessee, leaving me alone, with nothing. Nothing but my oId Big Idea office chair, my thoughts, and the God who had watched me bounce down the stairs without raising a finger.
For a while, of course, I just lay at the bottom of the stairs and moaned. Then I started asking questions.
"Why did you let that happen, because-I mean - wow - that hurt!"
"And I was doing so much good! Didn't you notice? Didn't you see it?"
And then, very quietly, he started whispering to me.
To be honest, God's whispers had started about eighteen months earlier when I received an e-mail from a woman I had never met. She congratulated me on my tremendous success and complimented me on all the impact I was having. But then she closed by advising me to keep an eye on my pride. "That's a little forward," I thought to myself, "considering we've never even met."
The e-mails from the mystery woman kept coming - every month, every other month. For more than a year. ''I'm glad things are going - so well for you," - of course, they weren't, but she didn't know that - "but keep an eye on your pride."
Humph. I filed the messages away as the rantings of an uninformed fan. So God decided to turn up the volume a bit.
Prayer meetings at Big Idea were interesting affairs, because, unlike most churches, the Christians at Big Idea came from many backgrounds-Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, and Pentecostal, in addition to a big bunch of generic, white, suburban evangelicals like myself. We white, suburban evangelicals typically organized the prayer meetings and kicked them off with an opening prayer, which, in typical white, suburban, evangelical fashion, were usually short, polite, and pleasantly earnest-heartfelt, without expressing too much passion or expectation of divine response. Given my background, this didn't strike me as anything but typical. Until, that is, one of our Pentecostals stood to pray-an African-American woman from Chicago's southwest side. Suddenly, I was at a different meeting entirely. Words and emotions and heartfelt petitions rolled through the room, surrounding and enveloping and lifting us all about a mile closer to heaven-so close I was sure I felt God's warm breath on the back of my neck. My music major wife learned early on about the difference between singing from your nose and singing from your diaphragm. For the first time, I was learning about the difference between praying from your head and praying from your heart. The generic suburban evangelicals kept organizing the prayer meetings, but the real praying never started until the Pentecostals showed up.
But that last prayer meeting-the one right before the Lyrick trial-was different. There were only thirteen of us, huddled wearily together like the last survivors in a town under siege, and our prayers were marked more by fatigue and desperation than passion. The company had been battered by five rounds of layoffs and was now nervously considering what further horrors the lawsuit could bring. And so we prayed desperately for God to save Big Idea, to keep Big Idea going, to keep the team together. We prayed that God would give me the wisdom to preserve the company we all loved so much.
But not everyone was praying.
One of the women there that night was a good friend of my wife's and an amazing prayer warrior. But she wasn't praying-at least not audibly. She was sitting there silently, as if she wasn't quite comfortable with the tone of the evening-or something. We finished our desperate petitioning, and folks started filing out. She remained in her seat as the others left, then approached me.
"I think God has something for me to tell you," she began, I tensed up a bit, though hoping internally it was good news-I haps a prophetic word about the court case or the amazing I God was hatching to restore Big Idea.
"I don't think this is about God and Big Idea," she sail think this is about God and Phil."
My throat tightened. This wasn't the word I was looking She wasn't done, though.
"Before it's over," she continued, "I think you might need to say good-bye to all of us."
She turned and walked away. I couldn't breathe. Why would she say something like that? What a horrible "word from God. Besides, it made no sense. How could this crisis not be about Big Idea? Big Idea was my dream-the work I was doing for Christ. Big Idea was so much more important than me-more important to the world, more important to God. No, this crisis had to be about Big Idea. Walking out to my car, I tried to set her statement aside and focus on the work ahead of me.
It was at this point that God apparently got tired of whispering and decided instead to speak plainly. I mentioned my great-grandfather's Bible conference in northwest Iowa. A few years before the bankruptcy, my mother had assumed leadership of the conference. My wife and I hadn't attended in years. We'd just gotten too busy. "You should come this year," my mother implored "the speakers are going to be great." For a moment I consided it, but then I thought, Oh, I'm going bankrupt, and that really takes it out of you. No Bible conference for me, thanks. Not right now. So my mother went, and upon returning, handed me a tape, saying, “I think this was for you."
It was a sermon preached by an old family friend, a pastor named Richard Porter. He opened his talk by saying, "What does it mean when God gives you a dream, and he shows up in it and the dream comes to life, and then, without warning, the dream dies? What does that mean?"
He had my attention.
Rick went on to tell his story. He was, at that time, senior pastor of a large church in suburban Vancouver and had spent eighteen months spearheading an area-wide revival effort. Churches had come together, and a revival service had been staged in a large stadium. The event was a huge success. God had showed up. The Spirit moved. Thrilled to see his hard work paying off, Rick immediately began planning follow-up meetings and couldn't help but wonder if, before long, folks down in the States would start hearing rumors of "something big happening in Vancouver." The revival effort had become his life. His dream.
And then, without warning, 9/11 happened. Everyone got distracted, and the whole thing just died. Dead. Rick was so emotionally and physically exhausted that he couldn't get out of bed. His doctors told him to take twelve months off. His elders told he could have nine. Day after day, he lay in bed searching for answers, finding himself saying to the God he had served his entire life, "If this is what it's like to work for you, I'm not sure I can do it anymore." After a lifetime of tireless Christian service, the emotion of seeing God bring a dream to life, only to let it die, was more than he could bear.
In the middle of that dark period, he attended his daughter's church one Sunday and listened as the young pastor spoke on the story of the Shunammite woman - a story that, for Rick, would change everything. In case you aren't familiar with the story of the Shunammite woman from 2 Kings 4, it goes something like this (Yes, I realize most business books or autobiographies or whatever this is don't delve into deep scriptural analysis. Especially when written by Bible college dropouts. So sue me. It's relevant.)
The Shunammite woman was a wealthy woman in Israel who would prepare a meal for the prophet Elisha whenever he passed through town. Apparently she was a good cook, for soon Elisha was visiting so frequently (here my friend Rick inserted a joke about pastors and "free meals" that I will not repeat), that she went to her husband one day and proposed they build a room on the roof for the prophet. (Which, at the time, was not an insult.) Now when Elisha passed by, he could stop in for a meal and a nap. Well, Elisha was so appreciative of her kindness that he called the woman before him and asked, "What can I do for you? What do you need?" "I don't need anything," the woman demurred. "I have a home among my people."
But Elisha's servant approached him later and said, "Sir, her husband is very old, and she has no son." Meaning, in that day, before long she would have no one to provide for her. She would be destitute. Elisha called the woman back and proclaimed, "A year from now you will hold a son."
Her response to Elisha's promise shows how deep this longing must have been. "No, my Lord," she said, "Do not lie to me." She wasn't calling Elisha a liar, of course. What she was really saying was, Don't go there. Don't touch that. Don't play with my emotions. It has taken me years to put that dream to sleep. Don't wake it up.
But true to Elisha's word, the next year finds her holding a baby.
Even if you have never struggled with the unfulfilled desire to have a child, you still can imagine how much she loves this baby. Not only is he her son, he's also her dream! Her future! Her promise from God! He's everything!
The boy grows and one day walks out to his father in the fields complaining of a headache. "Go to your mother," his father says. And the young boy goes to his mother, curls up in her lap, and dies.
And there she is, holding the dream God gave her, dead in her arms.
If anyone tells you the Bible is "dry," they aren't reading it.
The woman takes her dead son up to Elisha's room and lays him on the prophet's bed. Then she takes a donkey and heads quickly for Elisha. When Elisha sees her in the distance, he calls out, "Is everything all right? Is your husband all right? Is your son all right?"
"Everything is well," she replies. She explains what has happened, though, and Elisha immediately springs into action. "Take my staff and my servant," he says, "Go and lay my staff on the boy."
But the woman refuses. "As surely as the Lord lives and you live, I will not leave you."
So Elisha returns with her. Upon arriving at the woman's home, Elisha enters the upper room alone and prays. He then lays down on the lifeless child, hand to hand, foot to foot, nose to nose. The boy sneezes and opens his eyes. Elisha brings him downstairs and hands him back to his mother.
That is the story of the Shunammite woman.
I know what you're thinking because I thought the same thing myself: What is the point of all that? I mean, why put the poor woman through that exercise?
The young pastor concluded his sermon by saying, "If God gives you a dream, and the dream comes to life and God shows up in it, and then the dream dies, it may be that God wants to see what is more important to you-the dream or him."
The Shunammite woman's response is clear. What does she do when her dream dies? She heads straight for the man of God. When he sees her coming and asks, "Is your husband all right? Is your son all right?" she says, "Everything is well." When he asks her to return home with his servant, she says, "As surely as the Lord lives and you live, I will not leave without you." She doesn't understand what is happening, but she is going to hang on to God no matter what.
C. S. Lewis said, "He who has God plus many things has nothing more than he who has God alone." Now, I have no problem with that statement when I think of it like this: "He who has God plus a big, shiny car has nothing more than he who has God alone." Sure. I'm fine with that. Or "He who has God plus a fancy house has nothing more than he who has God alone." No problem. But if God is infinite, we can't add anything to him. Nothing, added to God, can meet our needs any more than God alone. So we need to put everything in that blank.
"He who has God plus a wonderful, healthy marriage has nothing more than he who has God alone."
And the one that really got to me: "He who has God plus an amazing ministry impacting millions of lives around the world has nothing more than he who has God alone." Nothing more. As I came to the end of the tape, sitting in my car in my garage, Rick said this: "If God gives you a dream, and the dream comes to life and God shows up in it, and then the dream dies, it may be that God wants to see what is more important to you-the dream or him. And once he's seen that, you may get your dream back. Or you may not, and you may live the rest of your life without it. But that will be okay, because you'll have God."
I couldn't get out of the car. I couldn't speak. God was enough? Just God? Even without all the work-all the crazy pedaling and accomplishing? Just God?
I started thinking about Abraham. He, too, had a "dream." God had given him a promise, in fact. "From you I will bring a great nation - your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens." Whoa. Cool. But somewhere down deep, a little voice in Abraham's head was saying, "Well, that's great, God ... but I don't even have a son!"
"Okay," God replied, "first I'll give you a son."
Fifteen years later, here comes Isaac. Like the Shunammite woman, we can only imagine how much Abraham loves Isaacafter all, not only is Isaac his son, he's his dream! His promise! And then one day God shows up and says, "What do you love more, your dream or me?"
Abraham replies, "Sure, God, that's easy. You!"
"Okay then-put him on the altar. Kill him."
Long pause. Abraham's stomach drops. His eyes dart frantically around the room.
"But God-he's my son. He's my dream! The promise you gave me! He's how you're going to impact the world through me! He's everything!"
"Put him on the altar. Kill him."
And what God learned about Abraham that day was that he would let go of everything before he would let go of God.
And God said, "Okay, now I can use you."
As this truth sunk in, I found myself facing a God I had never heard about in Sunday school-a God who, it appeared, wanted me to let go of my dreams.
But why? Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin. The more I thought about my intense drive to build Big Idea and change the world, the more I realized I had let my "good work" become an idol that defined me. Rather than finding my identity in my relationship with God, I was finding it in my drive to do "good work."
The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail-a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream. My eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish. My role here on earth was to dream up amazing things to do for God. If my dreams were selfless, God would make them all come true. My impact would be huge. The world would change. Children would rise up and call me blessed, and I would receive a hero's welcome into heaven. The most important thing, though, was to be busy. Industrious. Hardworking. A self-made man - er, Christian. The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. The Christians my grandparents admired - D. L. Moody, R. G. LeTourneau, Bill Bright-were fantastically enterprising. The Rockefellers of the Christian world. Occasionally I would read about different sorts of Christians that would confuse me, like, say, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa seemed like a great woman, but her approach struck me as highly inefficient. I mean, she was literally feeding the poor. One at a time. Didn't she see that her impact would be much greater if she developed some sort of system for feeding the poor that could be franchised around the world? She could be the Ray Kroc of world hunger! Wouldn't that be better?
And then there was Henri Nouwen. A Catholic priest with a brilliant mind, Henri was invited to teach at Harvard. (Yes, that Harvard.) As a teacher, could you possibly have any more impact than that? God was clearly positioning Henri for some major impact. And then in 1985, after just three years at Harvard, Henri walked away to spend the rest of his life living in a community for the disabled, devoting a significant portion of his time every day to the care and feeding of a severely disabled young man named Adam. Why? Because he was convinced that is what God wanted him to do.
When I read Henri's story for the first time, I thought he was a loon. How could he think God was calling him from his high-impact position at Harvard to a low-impact life quietly writing and caring for one handicapped man? God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact! Impact is everything! How many kids did you invite to Sunday school? How many souls have you won? How big is your church? How many videos/records/books have you sold? How many people will be in heaven because of your efforts? Impact, man! Clearly, Henri was a loon. Mother Teresa - she was pretty good-but think what she could have done with an MBA and a business plan.
That's what I thought anyway, until I watched God stand back and allow my "world-changing good work" to fall apart. And now my friend Rick and C. S. Lewis and the Shunammite woman and Abraham were telling me that I was off track. Out to lunch. It was like a recess pile-on, and I was at the bottom. But God wasn't done yet. He was about to throw Henry Blackaby on the pile.
Henry Blackaby is a lifelong Baptist pastor and church planter who unexpectedly became a successful author in his late sixties after penning the devotional study Experiencing God, based on his own life experiences. My wife had enjoyed the book immensely, though I was too busy with my world-changing to pay much attention. Still, I was aware of Henry Blackaby and his book, enough so that it surprised me to see his name on the spine of another book tucked casually into a stack of books in our bedroom. It was a study of the life of Samuel. I would later learn my wife had purchased this second book - a devotional about Christian leadership - as a gift for me, then, mindful of prior failed attempts to play the role of the Holy Spirit in my life, had set it aside for a later date. And so here I was, minding my own business, sitting quietly and somewhat lackadaisically on the bench at the foot of our bed, when God decided it was time for Henry to jump on the pile.
"Hmm-didn't know Blackaby had written another book," I said.
I picked it up and opened it to week one, day one. A few paragraphs down I read these words: "If you start something and it does not seem to go well, consider carefully that God, on purpose, may not be authenticating what you told the people because it did not come from Him, but from your own head. You may have wanted to do something outstanding for God and forgot that God does not want that. He wants you to be available to Him, and more important, to be obedient to Him."
Dang. I glanced around to see if Henry was sitting in the room somewhere, chuckling at me. Over the next few weeks, I dug into Henry's study of the life of Samuel with a zeal previously reserved only for my own "big ideas."
Day four: "It is not more head knowledge we need; it is a heart relationship we must develop."
If he sounded a bit like Yoda, the analogy was fitting. My friend Dick Staub recently wrote a book called Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters, inspired by a conversation he had with a frustrated young Christian friend in Seattle. After hearing the young man describe his longing for an older Christian mentor, Dick adroitly responded, "So you're saying you long to be a Christian Jedi, but my generation failed to produce a Yoda." Yep, the young man nodded. That was it exactly.
Suddenly I felt as if I were Luke Skywalker, running through the swamps of Dagobah with a seventy-year-old Baptist church planter on my shoulders. I had found my Yoda.
Day five: "It is not what is in your heart, nor what you want to accomplish for God, nor what you want to see in your church, nor even what you want to see in your group of churches. The key is not what you want to see (your vision), but what is in God's heart and what is in His mind."
visioncgbc | May 19, 2008 10:20
Ow. Now he was hitting close to home. My life had been all about vision. I was, after all, a visionary, chasing a long line of visionaries like Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs. I had grown up in a culture where church leaders were starting to look more and more like visionary CEOs, reading books like Built to Last and crafting far-reaching BHAGs for their ministries. "To evangelize the world by the year 2000." That was a good one. And yet here was little Yoda Henry Blackaby, standing alone in the corner of his swamp making such radical statements as, "We have no business telling God what we want to accomplish for him or dreaming up what we want to do for him." And "The people of God are not to be a people of vision; they are to be a people of revelation."
What? That's blasphemy! Or at the very least, highly unAmerican! Of course we're supposed to be people of vision! There's that verse-Proverbs 29:18-"For lack of vision, the people perish." Ha!
I was big on that verse. I'd even been introduced with that verse. '''Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint!' Here's Phil Vischer!" Yet Yoda Henry was ready to skewer that one with his little green light saber, quickly pointing out that when we quote Proverbs 29:18, we always quote the King James Version. Check a modern translation like the New International Version, he advised, and you'll find the verse reads, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint."
What? Why so different? Because the King James Version was completed in the sixteenth century, long before the word vision had become a descriptor of creative brainstorming. Think about it. Who in the Bible had a vision? Well ... Peter. Peter had a vision for taking the gospel to the Gentiles. What was his vision? He saw a sheet come down from heaven filled with every kind of animal, and a voice said, "Get up, kill, and eat." That was Peter's vision for taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
I know what you're saying "That's not a 'vision' like we mean today! That's more of a, well, a divine revelation!" Exactly. What we have here is a linguistic issue. Proverbs 29:18 has nothing to do with the children of God being "visionary thinkers" and everything to do with the children of God falling into chaos and sin when they ignore what God has revealed to them through his Word.
Yoda Henry was rocking my world. But I didn't seem to be alone in my delusion. Megachurches, megaministries, megaChristian celebrities-we all seemed to be drinking the same cocktail. We were all casting our visions, emblazoning our BHAGs on banners, lapel pins and Power Point presentations. And quite often, as the crowds cheered, we were standing behind entirely inaccurate interpretations of one little verse in Proverbs.
"So what are you saying, Phil? That we aren't supposed to do good works? We aren't supposed to strive to help others?"
Of course we're supposed to do good works. Good works are the fruit of our faith. As the apostle Paul put it to the church at Ephesus, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works" (Ephesians 2:10). There you go. Gas up the car! Let's get busy!
Wait a minute, Paul wasn't finished: " ... which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).
That second part of the verse is kind of interesting. According to Paul, God had in mind even before I was born the "good work" he wanted me to do. I don't have to dream it up, I don't have to read a hundred business books and craft a "vision paper," I don't have to try a bunch of stuff and see what works. I just have to stop and listen.
The problem with the saying "God can't steer a parked car" is that, while it's cute, it isn't biblical. When people of great faith in the Bible don't know what God wants them to do, they don't just run off and make stuff up. They wait on him.
"Wait." Wow. You can't get much more un-American than that. Now. Bigger. Faster. More. Very American. "Wait." Hmm. The word brings to mind Russians shuffling in line for toilet paper and meat. Is it any wonder young Christian kids can't wait to do something big? I've met hundreds of them, fresh from Bible college or film school or art school, eager to get busy and write that one hit Christian song or make that one hit Christian movie or start that one hit Christian ministry that will change everything. That will save the world. You know, like Noah. He actually got to "save the world"!
"Where's my ark? I wanna save the world too!"
Yes, Noah was given "a vision." Or more accurately, a revelation. It came with blueprints and everything. But how old was Noah when God tapped him on the shoulder and gave him something big and dramatic to do?
He was nearly five hundred. Five hundred years old.
I think we need to focus our attention a little more on what Noah did with the first five hundred years of his life. "Well, waitwe don't know what he did!" No, we know exactly what he did. Genesis 6:9 says, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." What did Noah do for the first five hundred years of his life? He walked with God.
"That's it?" Yes. That's it. That's it exactly. There at the bottom of my Yoda Henry Blackaby, Abraham, the Shunammite woman, C. S. Lewis, my friend Rick pile, I started to get it. The Christian life wasn't about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God. It wasn't about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn't about making stuff up; it was about listening. Noah didn't hit the groun running and get "busy," sketching out visionary ideas on his whiteboard. He didn't spend five hundred years randomly building things - whacking pieces of gopher wood together and saying, "It kind of a ... rowboat. And look! I made sort of a helicopter-ish thing .... Need one of those, God?"
No. Noah walked with God. He waited on God. He shared the love of God with every single person who crossed his path. He lived righteously, following God's commands. Even the little ones. Especially the little ones. And when God needed someone at a specific time in history to advance his will in a specific and dramatic way, he knew who to call, because he knew who was listening.
As I write this, I am growing increasingly convinced that everyone of these kids burning with passion to write that hit Christian song or make that hit Christian movie or start that hit Christian ministry to change the world would instead focus their passion on walking with God on a daily basis, the world would change. What is "walking with God?" Simple. Doing what he asks you to do each and every day. Living in active relationship with him. Filling your mind with his Word, and letting that Word penetrate every waking moment.
So why do I believe a thousand kids walking with God w have more impact on the world than one kid making a hit movie. Because the world learns about God not by watching Christian, movies, but by watching Christians. We are God's representatives on earth-his "royal priesthood." We are his hands and feet. What I put in my movies is more or less irrelevant if it isn't corning out in my life. I realized I had become so busy trying to "save the world" with my visionary ministry that I was often too stressed and preoccupied to make eye contact with the girl bagging my groceries at the supermarket. And where does Christianity actually happen? Where does the "rubber meet the road," as it were? Up on the big screen in a movie theater? On TV? No. Across the checkout line at the grocery store, between me and a girl who makes a fraction of what I make and assumes I don't give a rip about her life. That's where it matters. And that's where, I realized, I was blowing it every day.
Week two, day four: "When God encounters His people ... sin is exposed immediately. People cry out to God, 'Oh God, forgive me!'"
Yoda Henry struck again. In the quiet of our attic, as the remains of my company were being packed up and carted away, I realized my total preoccupation with my own dreams and ideas had rendered me virtually useless to the people around me. Useless. I was failing to demonstrate God's love. I was failing to walk with God. "Oh God, forgive me," I said, falling to my knees. On my next trip to the grocery store, I made a point to smile at the checkout clerk and ask how she was doing. I meant it too.
And then I decided it was time I learned how to wait on God. How did that go, you ask? For a while, very poorly. Unaccustomed to waiting on anything, my first thoughts after the bankruptcy involved elaborate plans to get it all back-to get back in the game. But then God buried me under that pile of spiritual giants and just left me there, unable to move. I kept going through Henry Blackaby's study of Samuel and reading the Bible more voraciously than ever before. I went through all of Paul's letters, writing down every instructive or directive statement. After the bankruptcy, I had taken a small office a couple of blocks from my house in the Chicago area, just for me. And every day I would walk to my office and spend the morning reading the Bible and praying. No agenda. No video to write, no sermon to compose, no strategy for global evangelism to craft. Just reading and praying.
This went on for weeks. At first I was anxiously expecting God to reveal the next "big thing"-the next mountain he wanted me to climb-the next life-changing story he wanted me to write. But after a few weeks stretched into a few months, I didn't so much anymore. Eventually it struck me that I no longer felt the need to write anything. I didn't need to have any impact at all. Whatever needs I had were being met by the Scripture I was reading and by the life of prayer I was developing. My passion was shifting from impact to God.
It took several months, but what I was starting to feel only describe as a sense of "giving up" -of "dying." It actually frightened me at first, because I wasn't sure exactly what was dying in me. And then one day it was clear. It was my ambition. It was my will. It was my hopes, my dreams. My life.
There is a scene in C. S. Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader involving Eustace, a boy so selfish, prideful, and greedy that he wakes up one day to find he has literally turned into a dragon. Life as a dragon proves so lonely and the dragon skin so uncomfortable that he soon longs to return to his friends, longs to be human again. In this scene, Aslan the lion leads Eustace the dragon to a pool. Eustace enters the pool and tries unsuccessfully to scratch off the aching dragon skin. Then Aslan says, "Lie down. This is going to hurt." And with a long, terrible claw, AsIan digs deep into Eustace's skin, ripping it wide open. It is the most painful thing Eustace has ever experienced, but when it is over, he stands up, a boy again. Reborn.
God could have spared me from the pain of Big Idea’s collapse. He could have spared me from the consequences of my own mistakes and missteps. But he didn't. And it wasn't about “God and Big Idea." It was about "God and Phil." My ambition, my dreams, my misplaced sense of identity and value were dragged kicking and screaming up onto the altar. And now they were dead. Ripped apart like dragon skin.
I realized this when I heard myself say to my wife one night, I don't want to write anything." I was ready to be done, if that's what God wanted. To just rest in him and let everything else fall away. At long last, after a lifetime of striving, God was enough. Not God and impact or God and ministry. Just God.
And then, a few weeks later, something interesting happened. I was lying in bed, pondering a spiritual truth that God had impressed upon me. Hmm, I thought, I should write that down and save it for a speaking opportunity. But then suddenly the lesson sprang to life in my head, not as a sermon, but as a story about two pigs in business suits who, though they live right next door, don't know each other's names. Within an hour the whole story was clear in my head. I walked to my office the next day and, a few hours later, had the finished text for a picture book based on a story so simple, yet capturing such a deep spiritual truth that the t time I read it to my wife, she cried. And I thought, "Oh ... is this how it's going to work now?"
And the next week, another idea came. And then another, and another. And before long, I had more ideas than I knew what to do with. Some ideas so small I could lose them in the cushions of the couch and others so big they took my breath away.
But what astonished me is that each one was either derived from or confirmed during a time of waiting on God. Each one came without a hint of anxiety about what it should be, how far it should go, how many lives it should touch. If Big Idea felt like rolling a giant boulder up a hill, this new life - this "abundant life” -felt like gliding on ice.
I took a couple of my new stories to a Christian agent to see if they should become children's books. The agent suggested I spend a day with his staff at a whiteboard talking things through. The first question they asked was "Where do you want to be in five years?" I almost choked. They were asking me for my "vision" for my new ministry. After a long pause, I gave the only answer I could think of: "In the center of God's will." The guy at the whiteboard didn't quite know what to do with that one. I insisted that he write it down at the top of the whiteboard so that it would frame the rest of our discussion.
Like Eustace, I have a new life. It is a wonderful life marked in ever-increasing measure by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is a life almost entirely free from anxiety and stress, except on the days when I let my focus shift from God to the "impact potential" of my new projects. Then I feel the dragon skin slowly creeping back up my legs. But even at those moments, I know that a half hour to an hour spent meditating on God's Word and waiting on him is all it will take to set me free again.
God doesn't love me because of what I can do for him. He just loves me-even when I've done nothing at all. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). That's wild, wild stuff.
I started a new company in 2005 called Jellyfish. Why the name? Well, jellyfish are cute and sort of silly, but there's a deeper meaning. Jellyfish can't locomote. They can't choose their own course. They can go up a little, and they can go down a little, but to get anywhere laterally-to go from point A to point B-they have to trust the current. For a jellyfish, long-range planning is an act of extreme hubris. Lunacy, really. And so it is for me. I believed I could change the world, and the weight of that belief almost crushed me. But guess what-apart from God, I can do nothing. I can't get anywhere. I'm useless. Spineless. Without form. My ability to accomplish anything good is dependent on my willingness to dwell in the current of God's will. To wait on God and let him supply my form and my direction. Like a jellyfish.
Here's the deal, and this is important, so listen closely: If I am a Christian-if I have given Christ lordship of my life-where I am in five years is none of my business. Where I am in twenty years is none of my business. Where I am tomorrow is none of my business. So our plan at Jellyfish-and it's an odd one, I'll admit-is to make no long-range plans unless God gives them explicitly. No BHAGs," no inspiring Power Point vision statements. Just a group of people on their knees, trusting God for guidance each day. -holding everything loosely but God himself.
This was my message as I stood to deliver the commencement address at a large Christian university just a few weeks after the bankruptcy sale. It seemed to me a good candidate for "worst commencement speech ever," but I was convinced it was what God wanted me to say. I was to stand in front of a thousand Christian graduates, eager to make their mark on the world, and tell them to give it up. To take their dreams and aspirations and let them go. Kill them. To find their peace in God alone. I was terrified - half convinced that the school president would pull me behind the curtain and chastise me for undoing four years of hard work in one twenty-minute talk. Nervously, I gave my speech, then returned to my seat on the platform, bracing for the fallout. But no one grimaced. No one yanked me behind the curtain. Instead, there was applause. And then one student near the front stood to his feet, and then another and another, until 2,500 students and family members stood together, applauding. A line of students and parents met me afterward, thanking me for the message. Several middle-aged men thanked me profusely, fighting back tears as they told stories of their own failed endeavors and the waves of self-doubt and confusion that had ensued. An older faculty member remarked that it was the first standing ovation he could remember in his long tenure at the university. The head of the business school vowed to make my talk required listening for all future business students. "You should write a book!" several said.
I was flabbergasted. I was the VeggieTales guy-the guy who makes silly Bible stories for kids-and now middle-aged businessmen were fighting back tears as they listened to my story, a story not about talking vegetables, but about me. A story not about my inspiring success, but about my failure. Within weeks, my speech was being passed around on CD and circulating on the Internet. Christianity Today asked for a copy for an upcoming story, then several Christian publishers called to talk about a book. "No, thank you," I said, "I write fiction for children, not nonfiction for adults." But the story kept resonating.
A few months later, I was asked to speak to a crowd of 3,500 children's pastors, so I spent a day or two expanding the commencement address to a forty-five minute talk about "dreams" and "vision." Again, the response was overwhelming, and within two months I was getting letters from as far away as England, from people wanting to tell me they had heard my talk and it had changed their lives. "And by the way," they'd say, "you should write a book."
Finally, I could take no more. "Okay, God," I said in frustration, "What are you trying to pull, here? My ministry is to kids! Through funny stories!" But God was clearly working, and, as Henry Blackaby says, one of the easiest and best ways to experience God is to identify where he is working and join him there. "But I don't know how to write a book for grown-ups!" I griped. Then I thought of a story about my father, a hot air balloon, and the mayor of Muscatine-a story that might be a good way to start a book. And I thought of the first line: "Evelyn Schauland was a fancy woman." And I thought, Okay, that wasn't too hard - maybe I can do this. Eighty thousand words later, you may be convinced I was wrong. But that would be okay, because God has taught me to focus not on results, but on obedience. Not on the destination, but on the journey.
So what's the point? What should you take away from my first attempt at adult nonfiction, other than, perhaps, an inkling that I should return to my day job?
Simple. First, God loves you. Not because of what you can do, or even because of what you can become if you work really, really hard. He loves you because he made you. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you even when you aren't doing anything at all. We really shouldn't attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in him alone.
Second, when it is time to do something for God, and that time will come quickly if you're listening, don't worry about the outcome. Don't worry about "10 percent more" or "30 percent less." That's his job. Your responsibility is simply to do what he asks.
Finally, and I am very serious when I say this, beware of your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends. We all have them - longings for a better life, a healthy child, a happy marriage, rewarding work. But dreams are, I have come to believe, misplaced longings. False lovers. Why? Because God is enough. Just God. And he isn't "enough" because he can make our dreams come true-no, you've got him confused with Santa or Merlin or Oprah. The God who created the universe is enough for us-even without our dreams. Without the better life, the healthy child, the happy marriage, the rewarding work.
God was enough for the martyrs facing lions and fire-even when the lions and the fire won. And God is enough for you. But you can't discover the truth of that statement while you're clutching at your dreams. You need to let them go. Let yourself fall. Give up. As terrifying as it sounds, you'll discover that falling feels a lot like floating. And falling into God's arms-relying solely on his power and his will for your life-that's where the fun starts. That's where you'll find the "abundant life" Jesus promised-the abundant life that doesn't look anything like evangelical overload.
The impact God has planned for us doesn't occur when we're pursuing impact. It occurs when we're pursuing God.
In 2003, my dream died. And I discovered, once all the noise had faded away, what I had been missing all along.
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, a God" (Psalm 42:1).
My soul is no longer longing for the impact I can have, nor for the megachurch I could build, nor for the mark I could make on the world. Nor for the happy wife, the healthy child, the meaningful work.
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God."
Let it go. Give it up. Let it die. Let Christ shred your dragon skin and lead you into a whole new life. Trust me. It's worth it.
visioncgbc | May 19, 2008 07:46
visioncgbc | May 16, 2008 06:48
Well I'm upset. What else is new, right? The stimulus check (from the IRS) that my family was supposed to get today, ain't gonna happen today. Something about if you filed with H&R Block you get a paper check, and it will be weeks until it's here. Weeks beyond what I had planned to put that money towards. Mostly things that can't wait, and won't even though this check is waiting.
Update over the past few days:
1. Meagan ran out of gas Wed. night and got very upset and cried hyersterically. Thankfully she wasn't hurt, since it happened in the middle of the road.
2. Chloe performed last night for Kings Mtn. Choristers and did great. She even had a speaking part, and that is SO not Chloe.
3. Meagan got a letter that she did get dorm housing for UNCG-so Praise the Lord!
4. My emotional instablility has sort of become the joke at work.
5. I got a letter from my insurance saying they will not pay for the medication the Dr. put me on.
Unrelenting disappointment leaves your heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.
I'm praying this for us all. There are many stories of hope in the Bible of sudden good breaks. Where impossible situations were changed.
visioncgbc | May 13, 2008 06:06
I've said that quite a few times in the past week.
With me it's all or nothing, so if I cry, I'm gonna let it all out. Frankly, I probably needed to do that but I didn't.
Last week was tough. It felt like spiritual warfare was being waged against me, and it probably was and is right now. By the time Friday came, I was at total wit's end. Thank the Lord that my weekend was blessed. Joyful Noise was the momentary getaway I needed. Saturday was the mother-daughter event with Focus. It was so good. Holly poured from her heart, and I realized that nothing compares with sincerity. I could hold an in-depth Bible study that means nothing to me on a personal level, and nobody would really be effected. But you starting getting real with people, it means so much. That's what she did. Meagan spoke also. That did make me cry. She talked about our relationship and some of what she struggles with. She was also very honest, and spoke from her heart. I want to encourage those of you who are struggling with "life" with your kids. I can see that Meagan knows my heart. That I love her and my kids and am attempting to do the best I can. When I look at me all I see is failure. All I see is a wife and mother who's done it all wrong and backwards. But I realize that your kids aren't always looking at the outside. Sometimes they are looking at your heart, and what motivated you, and did you or are you trying to point them to Christ. Saturday night we went to my in-laws which was fun and relaxing. Sunday we spent most of the day at my aunt's and it was great to just eat and laugh and hang out.
Monday rolled around and my stress and anxiety of schedules and needs represented itself, so I picked up my bag of burdens and headed out.
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27 The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered.
28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, [a] because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
I think this is one of the most mysterious and powerful stories in the Bible. I don't understand it, but I'm praying God will reveal it to me.
But let's look at the facts in the story.
1. Jacob decided he was going to fight for a blessing, and wasn't letting go until it happened.
2. Jacob received the blessing.
3. Jacob struggled with God and man and overcame
4. He got his hip dislocated
I think this could be studied for a lifetime and probably not be fully understood.
But several questions I have are really starting to blow my mind.
Why was his hip dislocated? Was it to punish? Was it to see if he really wanted the blessing enough to fight for it?
He got the blessing, so he must have decided in advance he wanted it and deserved it. Otherwise, would he have went so far? I'm wondering at what point did he decided he deserved it?
Jacob struggled with God and overcame?? This is just beyond what I can even grasp.
And all of these questions and this entire story have left me questioning myself "What do I believe God wants for me?" The truth of the matter is I quit wrestling for my blessings a long time ago. I've resided to the place of existence and way down deep have known this is wrong, but yet I'm still here.
Will you get up today and fight and wrestle and not let go for what you believe is the right thing?? I want to.
Jacob did. Worked out pretty good for him.
visioncgbc | May 09, 2008 05:31
Eva Wilson and I wrote this several months ago. Seems appropriate today.
A Be Still Moment
(c)2008 Gina Pasour/Eva Wilson
1. Can't move from this place where I stand
'Cause there's no where else to go
All other ground is sinking sand
I'm reaching for this hope
It's a be still moment
When the choices are taken away
And me and life are face to face
It’s a be still and know moment
When the voices I hear every day
Say I have to stay ~ here forever
It’s a be still moment
2. Can't keep from holding on, my friend
Cause there’s no one else I know
Who covers me with His hand
Nothing can touch me, no-o-o
His love is more than surreal
I know He’s God, no matter how I feel
And I can hear Your voice say
I'm not gonna stay ~ here forever
But for now... it's a be still moment
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