Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Unremarkable Yet Unforgettable, A Significant Insignificance

My 2017 look into the life of Jacob continues....

So, is there anything about Jacob's life that was especially 'heroic'? No glorious battles won. No giants defeated. No exploits of supernatural episodes. In fact, the memorable things in Jacob's life are God encounters which God Himself initiates and with no crowd of witnesses.

Is there a message here?

As unremarkable as Jacob's narrative may seem to be.... the lasting impact and power of the story is deep and everlasting.

As a young man growing up in an enthusiastic sports culture, I got a taste early of the glory of competition and 'highlight, movie moment' narratives. I have mentioned this before, but seeing my name and picture in the paper after a thrilling Friday night football game was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. I got wrapped up in the 'glory of the story'. 

If I could talk to myself back then, I would do my best to say...' this is the fluff part of this experience... not the meat of it'. It emphasized the wrong things about what I was doing. I became more selfish, more self absorbed, prideful... to be honest it is hard to describe. It was a dramatic shift change... a complete paradigm restructuring that in the end stole away significant benefits of the opportunity.

There is nothing wrong with a dramatic narrative... especially a God directed one. We all get the thrill of seeing Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire victory and thousands of other contra mundum moments, especially in slow motion and set to music. We all love the heroic narratives even in the Bible- Moses and the Exodus, David and Goliath, the walls of Jericho, Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Let me drill down one more layer... with great glory becomes a great name. The weightier the story.. the more reverent the name. Sports heroes carry those weighty names... Ruth, Nicklaus, Jordan, Tiger, Brady, Lebron.... 

How weighty is the name 'Israel'? Pretty important... agree?

But it wasn't a dynamic movie moment that cause this name change. However, it was a moment of HUGE significance and meaning.

And there is nothing heroic about Jacob here... he is his same old conniving, manipulative self. His name, "the deceiver', fits him like a glove.

You know the story in Gen. 32. Jacob is 'escaping' Laban and is facing a terrifying reality... He is going to have to face his brother, Esau, who as far as Jacob knows... wants to kill him... with reason.

And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” [7] Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed

And Jacob continues his scheming....

He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, [8] thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”

To commend Jacob here... he does pray... and in the prayer he says the right things... but we know so much of Jacob that all of us question whether he is adding an expedient to his plan (who knows).

 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ [10] I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. [11] Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. [12] But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Jacob still works his plan- waves of presents to possible appease his brother....

[13] So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, [14] two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, [15] thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. [16] These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” [17] He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ [18] then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” [19] He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, [20] and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” [21] 

So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.

Then he added even an extra layer of protection.... wife and children

The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. [23] He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. [24] 

And Jacob was left alone. 

And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. [25] When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. [26] Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” [27] And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” [28] Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” [29] Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. [30] So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” [31] The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. [32] Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.

[1] And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. [2] And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. [3] He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

[4] But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. [5] And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” [6] Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. [7] Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. [8] Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” [9] But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” [10] Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. [11] Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it.

The hero of Jacob's story is God, God is actually the hero of every human story.

What we are called to do is not to worry about the audience or 'magnitude' of the story... we are just called to 'strive'. The funny thing is... I don't even think we are called to win.  We just need to keep walking, keep breathing, keep trusting.

And God is glorified and satisfied even in the small, seemingly insignificant victories.

Life is a series of trials and battles, there is no way around it. The story of Jacob is all of the circumstances God used to change him from the inside out. Jacob’s name means “schemer” or “deceiver” and he spent much of his life as a manipulator. He would lie, cheat, steal or do anything to get his way.

Then, through a series of hard circumstances, Jacob was left to struggle. The struggles began producing the fruit of character. It finally culminated in this epic story of Jacob wrestling with God. In this struggle, Jacob is given a new name and a new destiny. But the road of progress always includes pain.

Have I experienced hard times in the Lord?  To be honest, I am ashamed at what I call ‘hard’- my suffering is nothing compared to what many others have had to endure. But I have felt betrayal and disappointment, loneliness and despair. There have been dark moments where I believed my whole life was going to crumble.

As a competitor, I have had some bitter losses and deep, painful experiences.

There are two very important points in this process. The first one is to keep striving. Jacob wrestled with the Lord all night. In the darkest moments when all seems lost, we need to keep fighting. We need a rugged disposition to fight to the bitter end.

A second important point though is seen in the process..God's tactic. The Lord jumped Jacob and wrestled with him. I imagine that early on, Jacob tried to get out of the choke hold. Then, during the night, Jacob changed his plan. Instead of fighting against God, he began to cling to Him. God said to Jacob, “Let me go” and Jacob said, “Not until You bless me”. WOW!

Are you struggling in life? Have you considered pressing into God instead of running? Do you have a battle-hardened spirit that says, “God, You may kill me, but I am not quitting until this comes through.”

You will find blessing. And you will have scars and limps. But that is OK- Jesus kept His scars too! They are marks of victory!

But most importantly... are you willing to do this in secret? Are you ok winning battles over temptation and idolatry that only God sees. Are you and I ok with God giving us a new name... but no one knows about it yet? And may never know it at all?

The call of God on my life is becoming more apparent...

John 3:30

 Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. [30] He must increase, but I must decrease.” (ESV)

Jeremiah 45:4-5

[4] Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land. [5] And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the LORD. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.” (ESV) 

And it is a joy to see that attitude growing in me and all the credit belongs to Him.

Let us all keep striving!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jacob: Process Established and Promise Continued

Have you ever taken time to read and meditate on your inheritance?

Do you radically hold to the PROMISE of GOD?

If you are a child of God, then are in a grand lineage of the great family of the history of the earth.

The grand promise? "I will be Your God and You will be My son."

The New Testament is quick to remind us of these things:

"[Christ] redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." (Galatians 3:14)

"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)

Let's take a moment to read this grand promise.... it is unfolded from Abraham to Jacob....

God to Abraham in Haran (12:2-3)

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God to Abraham at Hebron (15:1-21)

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

And Abram believed the LORD, and the Lord counted it to Abram as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”

He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
God to Abraham at Hebron (17:1-21)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell on his face.

And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.

I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
God to Abraham at Hebron (18:17)

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
God to Abraham at Mt. Moriah (22:15-18)

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

God to Isaac at Gerar (26:2-5)

And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
God to Isaac at Beersheba (26:24)

And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.”

Isaac to Jacob at Beersheba (27:27-29)

So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son
 is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed!
May God give you of the dew of heaven
 and of the fatness of the earth
 and plenty of grain and wine.
Let peoples serve you,
 and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
 and may your mother's sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
 and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
Isaac to Jacob  at Beersheba (28:3-4)

" May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham." (28:3-4)
God to Jacob at Bethel (28:13-15)

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God to Jacob at Bethel (35:11-12)

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”


Here is what I noticed....

“I am God Almighty"
"I am your shield."
"I am the LORD who brought you out from...."
“I am the God of Abraham your father."
“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac"

"Fear not" (2 TIMES)
"Walk before me, and be blameless"
"You shall keep my covenant"
"Do not go down to Egypt"
"Be fruitful and multiply"


so that
you will be a blessing
all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him
in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed
increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples
and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed

Who could ever NOT want to be a part of this wonderful stream of prosperity, promise, and eternal peace?
Start living like the conqueror you are!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Heroic Intentions and Selfish Ambition

"Those who transgress boundaries in their all-consuming life search for knowledge, riches, power, and prowess will overreach themselves until their pact with the devil destroys them. " 
Os Guinness
"A man doesn’t have to die to go to hell. 
Nashville musician, Rivers Rutherford 

In my last post, I quoted a paraphrase I had done years ago from the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem, Ulysses.

The poem creates quite a tension and is one that I believe most men struggle with. 

We are enthralled by and called to heroic narratives. Any honest evaluation of our ambitions and intentions can never disregard a desire to be the champion.

At least I did.... I wanted the ball in the last seconds with a chance to fight and win the game. In some ways, yes,  it is a yearning for significance but in other ways, it is just a recognition of how a man is wired.

The tension is palpable though.... straining through heroic desires and domestic duties. Because as much as I have always wanted to conquer in far away fields of battle, I also never wanted to be a man who had won the battles on the road, but lost dramatically at home.

I remember as early as 1996 pleading with the Lord to allow us to be a football state champions. But my prayer was always... 'Lord, if You allow this please let me see that I still have my faith, my family, and my friends." And God was gracious and faithful, He did allow that experience in 1998, 1999, and 2003. And in each case, my faith, family, and fiends were still intact.

So it is a tension, a life long tension.... Where is the battle? Where is my heart? What is the right thing to do? and How do I decide what it is and, more importantly, HOW to do it?

Now this is where a healthy sense of self suspicion HAS to come in. Men, we HAVE to be skeptical of our intentions.

One of God's greatest saves in my life was His guidance and providence to get me home more. And early on, it was hard to do.

When I was a very young coach.... eaten up with football and the passion of pursuing championships, it was much easier to stay at the office for LONG hours, more film and more planning. And I was never alone-  we had a core group of young warriors like me who were going to climb the mountain with all we had.

Going home was harder. Going home to my house of 3 very young girls and a wife strained to the edge wasn't always a pretty picture.

At work, I was in control and the system I was working on was clean, organized, and there was a clear evaluation at the end of every contest and season. It was easy to chart growth and it was satisfying to get approval and support.

Home was harder. It wasn't organized nor clean.

But God worked a miracle in me. Early on I made myself go home... before long I wanted to go home. And I learned to embrace the tension on both sides.

Because BOTH need a ton of attention.... if you are going to do it well. 

The hardest part is that if you truly are doing it well, there will be tension and misunderstanding on both sides.

My wife still felt that football was my mistress and she and the girls needed me more. My job demanded more than I was giving it as well. The deep nuances of football along with a full time teaching position can never be explored fully.

Do NOT get me wrong... I messed it up ALL the time and there were too many times I was home physically, but withdrawn and engrossed in mental pictures of x's and o's.

The most difficult part was that I did suffer professionally at times from others who questioned my commitment to the job because I wasn't one of those who stayed at the school every night and every activity.

I think one of the worst things we can ever do  is go to someone and let them know that we noticed that they WERE NOT there. In m early years as a head football coach, I heard that too much from my supervisors. Why weren't you at the basketball game? Why did you not attend the play? Why did you leave campus so early? Please, I ask you men- don't do that. It is ok to have an honest sit down and talk through strategies....But defend your employees who are dads more and be willing to please the 'never satisfied fringe' less.

And, it can happen the other way as well. Every spouse has to evaluate when it is very legitimate to ask "Why are you working so late, so much?" - yes, that has to be asked. But there are times the questions needs to be withheld if you see that there is an honest effort to fight the tension.

The hardest thing? Now that I look BACK.... now that my youngest is graduating and my professional life now approaches 4 decades? My enemy all along has been that time never stops...

Time is the gift that doesn't keep giving.... and video images and pictures from years ago are beautiful and haunting all in one emotion.

So what to make of all this rambling?

The tension remains even as we age... as an empty nester, so to speak, what is the call? Does it change?

No- it still is the struggle to lay the passions before the Lord..... 

He is not ever calling me to bask in self-indulgence and luxury. Yes, He gives me SO many opportunities to have fun, travel, fish - more than I deserve... but He does it only in spurts and commands that everything is done in His timing and under His authority. And, thankfully, I have learned that He is the best One to trust in regarding these things.

But how to decide often ISN'T a clear road sign and I do believe He allows a lot of blessed options.....

So let's walk with our hero, Ulysses for just a little bit.

And let's wrestle with the tension.... IS HE:

A warrior hero who still desires to matter... who still feels his skills are good?


A self-centered, foolish seeker of adrenaline beyond any boundaries who sacrifices his family and domestic duties along the way?

Again, I apologize to Alfred, Lord Tennyson for the paraphrase....

What profit is there for a warrior king to sit in idleness?

My life is nothing but routine.

My wife and I are growing old and I rest in my home and try to sort out what it means to govern a people who never rise above their base natures.

My people? They are no different than any human... all they care about is to eat, drink, and gather with no regard for anyone but themselves.

My heart has always pulled me in a different way.

And my memory constantly recounts the bloody battles and glory that fade too soon.

I DID become someone- as I early on told the Cyclops with force and power- 'No I am not NOBODY... I am ULYSSES, Sacker of Cities'.

Indeed, my greek name now indicates what my reputation will always be... A person on an 'odyssey'.. a heroic and risky desire to travel, discover, fight, and prevail. As has been said, "always roaming with a hungry heart".

My life is changed now- I am part and parcel of all I have met- cities across the globe, men across all cultures and I have been honored and revered by them.

But even then, each new discovery was a bridge still to worlds unknown and battles un-fought.

I have fallen many times in the mere exhaustion of the pursuit. And though it feels so good to lay there for a time... it isn't long until I began to despise the rust and distrust the leisure.

The sound of a ticking clock begins to haunt me. There is too little time remaining.

And I am vexed beyond boundaries. I want to go and do it again, knowing full well that it is an unquenchable thirst... the knowledge I pursue is a sinking star that I will forever chase but never capture.

Yes, I am leaving my son. But he is more than capable of running the land and more suited for the task of his calling than I. Is it enough to rejoice that he has his life now and I have mine?

What is distressing me more than ever is that I see a visible opportunity in front of me... the ships are ready, the crew is set. Isn't it enough to know that if I can still go, I should still go?

I still have the skill to perform noble tasks. Isn't my work still undone?

Death and darkness are on the horizon, don't I need to launch now?

Will not my heart leap on the launch?

Do I not need to feel my face set like flint against the wind and against the odds?

It may be failure... but again, it may be the most glorious victory yet!
We may experience the golden times again of what we once knew.

True, I am not as I once was. There was a time in the past where I found the crossroad of success and achievement.

Today, I am what I am. We are what we are.

But what is the golden pursuit?

To once again find the unity of equal hearts, pushing the will when the flesh has failed, to get up after we have fallen, and press on until the very last breath.

The glory is the battle together, even more than the trophies of championships.

Tennyson said it much better... but it helps me to redraft it in my vulgar vernacular.

So what do we make of this?

Heroic or selfish? Hard to know and impossible to judge.

The biggest mistake in all of this is the absence of the Creator. Indeed, in the original poem, Tennyson acknowledges the household gods, but idols offer nothing in guidance or evaluation.

Here is another way to look at it.

This poem is HONEST... this is how we feel.

We are caught in this vicious cycle of what we are supposed to do and what we long to do. And relying only on our human passions, we have no help in the process.

The biggest problem is that we may be wrong on both ends.... what we think we are supposed to do may in fact be a human contrivance bolted down by conventional wisdom. At the same time, our heart passions are impossible to dissect between nobility and autonomy. 

Ulysses could benefit from God.

God helps in a weird way... He doesn't show us what to do... He allows and reveals over time and it is always still a step of faith. Maybe even a 'trust fall'.

Years ago, I drafted a decision making grid that encompasses what Scripture sets up as a process for these moments....

1) In making big decisions, we basically choose what we want to do. Even our prayers often are a covering of manipulation.

2) In making big decisions, what our peers think is usually more important than what God thinks.

3) When making big decisions, we often pick a position of power and pride over humility and service.

4) When making big decisions, our tentacles are up to catch the information that supports our presuppositions and we are not dissuaded by countering arguments.
See why it is important to tread carefully here?
I know I have mentioned this before, but I wish I had read the book, “The Call” by Os Guinness so much earlier in my youth. I don’t know if I was mature enough to ‘heed’ the advice there as a 25 year old- but I would have chosen differently in some big decisions if I had.
Don’t get me wrong..God’s sovereign rule and love has still stood tall over the choices- just as He does throughout Scripture- but the heart level submission to the King would have allowed me to do much more in the things that really matter.
So is there a point of application here is making a grid on how to make decisions and who to listen to?
Though I have had times where I did things my way- like a type of Jacob- scheming and pulling the strings- I did have a time where I can honestly say I did it right. And here is what I did:


It started with a ‘DECISION GRID’ that I sent to my wife. One that we could pray over AS A FAMILY.
We searched Biblical passages for HIS GENERAL WILL and the boundaries. A VERY helpful passage is I Thessalonians 4. It says:
1) God’s WORD is my authority.
It sets my motive– To Please God by:
a- spending time in prayer
b-reading the Bible
c-fellowship- especially with my wife
d-practicing discipline which honors God
e- the priority of loving others (especially my wife and children)
I Thessalonians also tells me what to aspire to:
I also had some great questions to ask:
Finally there are two big reminders:
God guides: But not like a horse or a mule (Psalm 32:8,9) He expects me to use common sense and my mind.

Be peaceful: I am His child and He will be with me…no matter what.
What if we all did this?
For me… it meant I took at times a less prestigious road, one where I put it all at the foot of the cross and trusted in the King. And I haven’t regretted those decisions.
My prayer is that you AND I will really listen to Him in our next big decision.
The biggest decision we can make is to give our life to HIM!
May we all choose wisely……….  and then not look back