Have you ever heard someone say something and immediately thought, “Wow! That was profound! I wish that I’d thought of that.”
Come on, be truthful. That’s never happened to you? Well, it has to me, and the most recent occurrence is what I want to share with you today.
A few months ago my best friend (other than my wife Jackie) Rusty and I attended an ARC (Association of Related Churches) Conference in Dallas, Texas. The conference is attended by Pastors, church planters, and ministry students from various parts of the country. What draws me there is two and a half days of on-fire worship sessions and messages from the pastors who have been invited to speak.
During my first ARC Conference last year, I received several “nuggets” that opened my eyes and my heart, and I got some clarity on a decision that Jackie and I had been wrestling with for months. As a result of last year’s experience, I awaited this year’s conference with great expectations.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I was lifted to unbelievable heights by the worship sessions and blown away by the messages given by some clearly anointed men and women. The last message, on the last hour of the last day, delivered by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Edmund, Oklahoma, was the one that “hit me in the mouth” and left me a bit awestruck. And of course, that’s the one that I want to share with you today.
I’m going to offer you my version of Pastor Craig’s message, because I couldn’t give it to you verbatim, and because I wouldn’t do him or his message justice if I tried to! Besides, I’ve taken the gist of his message and made it a part of my fabric, a part of me. His message has taken what was on my heart and elevated it to a “nutha-whole-level!”
Making a difference.
My intention, my aim, my purpose in life since I declared myself to be a soldier of Christ in 2006 has been to make a difference, regardless of how large or small, in the world. My “difference” has nothing to do with material possessions, business achievements, or personal accomplishments. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
At the core of my “making a difference” is helping people in whatever way possible to improve their walk in life, to grow their careers, and of course, to strengthen their relationship with God.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that much of what has happened in my life during the past several years is a direct result of several individuals who tried to make a difference in my life. A couple of these people were long-time acquaintances, but many were people that I’d just met!
For reasons that I just didn’t “get” back then, they took the time to invest in me. From my perspective, it’s a perfect example of the “paying it forward” principle that we always hear about, but seldom take the time to do. I believe that at times our reluctance to pay it forward is because quite often, doing so is an inconvenience. You see, sometimes you have to go out of your way, or give up your time or your resources to make a difference.
At any rate, as best I could remember, I’d never been a recipient of this act of selflessness, and to be quite honest with you, it kind of rocked my world. I just couldn’t figure out why a stranger would take the time to invest in me, but to this day I remain grateful that they did. And I guess that has been and continues to be my motivation for paying it forward.
After hearing Pastor Groeschel’s message and turning in over and over in my mind to view it from every perspective, and to get the “fit and feel” of it, much like a new suit, I decided to raise the bar for my daily expectations.
Now, it’s just not enough for me to want to make a difference in the world each day. I’m aiming higher.
If God will help me (I can do nothing without Him), I want to make history every day.
Okay, before you jump to the conclusion that I’m really cocky or full of myself, check this out…
Those people that invested in me several years ago changed the course my life. One of them instilled in me a confidence that I’d never had. One awakened business skills that I never knew that I possessed. One of them led me to the Bible. One of them…
I could go on and on. The point here is that those people changed the course of my life, and of my wife Jackie’s, and of all the people that work in our hair salon, and God–only-knows how many others. Those people made history, because they changed my life. Make sense now?
One and the same.
Okay, I’ll concede that “making a difference” and “making history” mean essentially the same thing. In essence, both translate to paying it forward in the lives of others, so what’s the big deal?
To be quite honest with you, the answer has nothing to do with what others may or may not receive from me. I like to think that I’m going to share what I have with others with the same passion and intensity, regardless of whatever “label” that I may put on what I’m trying to do.
The answer has to do with me, or more specifically, with my mind.
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to put more effort into doing the things that I perceive to be more important. It’s my own perception of what I’m trying to do that raises the bar for me.
In my mind, God gives me opportunities to share my testimony about my life before Him and now with Him in it because that what He wants me to do. And I want to approach every one of those opportunities, not from the aspect of just talking to someone, but with the expectations of improving their lives; of changing their lives. Making history.
The prospect of “making a difference” fills me with anticipation. The notion of God allowing me to “make history,” to changing the course of someone’s life the way that others did for me, puts a fire in me that cannot be extinguished. In the words of a credit card ad, the internal and spiritual rewards of making history are, quite simply put, priceless.
If you find yourself in a position to pay it forward, to invest in someone, to lift them up, to speak truth into their lives, or to share what God has done in your life, do both of us a favor and try it.
It may be an inconvenience, and it may take up some of your time, and it may put you out of your comfort zone, but believe me when I tell you that God will bless you for it in ways that you can’t begin to imagine.
So go on. Ask God to give you the opportunity to be a history maker.
Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent-
the Lord detests them both. Proverbs 17:15
There’s a bad tendency that many of us have, and it’s addressed in no uncertain terms in this passage from Proverbs. In fact, it lets us know that there are two things that God cannot stand. Let’s take acloser look at both of them, but in the reverse order in which they were written.
Condemning the innocent…
Quite often, far too many of us make a rush to judgment. We jump to conclusions before we know all the facts. In our eagerness to be right, or perhaps just to get our voices heard, we voice our opinions or cast a negative vote.
We don’t take the time to take a second look at a situation, or to really consider the consequences of the charges that we’re leveling, or the individual that we’re leveling them at.
Sometimes, the wrongness of our actions is escalated to a “nutha-whole-level.” On occasion, our condemnation of an individual has nothing to do with issue itself. Sometimes, it’s emotions such as jealousy, envy, or prejudice that serves as a catalyst for our judgments. When that happens, we don’t really want to know the truth, because if we did, we’d be the guilty ones after all was said and done. Just ask the Jewish nation, who unjustly condemned Jesus, and then in a bizarre twist, were unjustly condemned at the hands of the Nazis centuries later.
Acquitting the guilty…
Several years ago, National Football League veteran and Hall of Fame member O.J. Simpson was found “not guilty” on charges that he had viciously and ruthlessly murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend outside of her home.
The evidence against Simpson was so overwhelming that the majority of the American public, including several so-called “experts,” considered the case to be a slam-dunk for the prosecution. It was a no-brainer. The guy was guilty, and he was gonna pay the price for what he’d done wrong! Or at least that’s what a lot of people thought.
Guess what? A jury of his peers found him to be innocent.
Our country was immediately divided, predominantly upon racial lines. One side felt as if O.J. had gotten away with murder, while the other side considered it to be a travesty that he had been charged at all. What should have been an issue about right and wrong became an issue about black and white.
The real problem was that both sides made a rush to judgment. One side was ready to convict O.J. for what he did, and the other was going to defend him, regardless.
As unfair as this seems, we, unfortunately do the same thing all the time. We’re quick to condemn when we’re ready to, but just as quickly we’ll defend someone or turn a blind eye to their actions if they happen to be on our list of favorite people.
Is that fair? Not hardly. But at the end of the day, it’s not for us to truly judge the heart or actions of any man.
We have to leave that up to God.
Did you know that surveys have shown that the fear of public speaking ranks ahead of the fear of dying? Think about that one for a moment. The majority of people are more afraid of having to speak to a group of other people than they are of drawing their last breath! That’s almost hard to believe, isn’t it?
Apparently, several reasons lend themselves to this particular phobia, including saying the wrong thing, mispronouncing a word, being judged by others, and quite simply, for fear of “sounding stupid.”
Sound familiar to you? Are you apprehensive or better yet, terrified when given the opportunity to deliver a message or share your heart with others?
Until just over five years ago I was petrified of public speaking. In fact, it didn’t even have to be in public. When we had team meetings in the salon that my wife Jackie and I own and operate, I’d tremble for the first fifteen minutes, all the while feeling as if a bale of cotton had somehow found a home in my mouth! I just couldn’t understand why I was so afraid of sharing some information with a group of people that I worked with every day. Of course, that was before…
Consider the challenge faced by the apostles. They were charged with sharing God’s Word, not in their own homes, neighborhoods, or hometowns. The territory that they were told to cover wasn’t even in their home country!
Imagine travelling to a non-English speaking foreign country, such as Korea, to teach a class in American History. What’s that? You said that you’re not very good at American History? Well, get ready, because it gets even better. You see, you don’t get an interpreter either! You’re own your own.
That’s what the apostles faced as they set out to share the Gospel, and per Jesus’ instructions, to “make disciples of all nations.” And that’s exactly what they did. The Book of Acts tells us that they shared God’s Word with Greeks, Asians, Arabs, Egyptians, and every other nation that they visited. What’s more is that every person that heard them, because they spoke the language of each respective nation perfectly, understood them. How? They were filled by the Holy Spirit, and were given just the right words at just the right time.
Okay, I’m going to briefly touch on a subject that many people consider to be taboo, and that is praying or speaking in “tongues.” I don’t know where you are with this, and I’m not going to try to sway you in any direction at this moment. I do want to share one verse with you:
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4 NIV
There’s a footnote at the end of this passage which tells us that “tongues” simply translated, means “languages.” That explains why the apostles were able to share the gospel with all nations: there were no language barriers!
So what does that have to do with us today, and more specifically, with you? Plenty. You see, Jesus’ charge to make disciples of all nations still applies to us today. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to speak in tongues to be understood. It doesn’t mean that you have to visit another country to share the gospel with others. Perhaps the nation that you’re called to reach is the one in which you’re living at this moment. Perhaps it’s not even a nation; you can start with your state and narrow it down until there are two or three square feet in front of you. What I’m saying here is that your calling to share may be with one person at any given time. After all, there are plenty of people in this country who don’t know God’s Word, or Jesus, or God at all.
We. YOU, are called to do something about that. Obviously, in this case, speaking in a foreign language has nothing to do with it. The question is, are you willing to speak? Are you willing to share what you know about the gospel and the good news of Jesus? Are you willing?
If, so, then that’s enough. Don’t let fear stand in your way. You’ll be given just the right words, at just the right time, for just the right person. Be willing to share. Allow yourself to be a vessel of God’s Word.
The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.