“Then the LORD passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness);” Exodus 34:6 AMP
The Lord is gracious. He is gracious with healing. He is gracious with supply. He is gracious with support. He is gracious with encouragement. He is gracious.
His gracious nature pours into us when we spend time with Him.
There have been many gracious men and women that have walked alongside in this life. Riding an elevator up with a young worker, she appeared impressed with one of our executives. It was a good moment for a lesson. The executive got off on one floor after he and I had a conversation and the young woman, who worked for me, continued on the elevator with me. I turned to her and noted. “People don’t become gracious when they rise in position and stature. Gracious people rise in position and stature.” Many rise through greed and polititics and they never become gracious. Gracious people tend to rise even through environments of greed and politics.
His gracious nature pours into us when we spend time with Him.
Meeting with the CFO of a retail chain, we had a few moments waiting for the next member of the group. The CFO’s secretary came in with coffee. As she exited, the CFO thanked her and turned to me. “If people just said thank you more often, the workplace would be so much nicer.” He is right. Here is a gracious man in a position of power and he stays gracious.
God is gracious. So can we be in Him.
We are family You are loved Jesus is Our Strong Tower
Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action.” Ezra 10:4 NLT
When a leader has a faithful following he/she is empowered to take action. Straight or crooked, it is time to act. A leader reaches the point a decision must be made and action taken.
Parents, teachers, pastors, business owners, and government officials need to take action. Extra had been in prayer over a disturbing situation. There was great disagreement. Any action would be painful. He assessed, prayed, wept, mourned and waited. There was no clear word from the Lord. People were waiting. Families were on hold. The people came to him and demanded a decision.
The decision wa as hard. Many disagreed. But the decision was carried out. It split families and focused the people. Any decision would be tough and have similar results. Ezra stepped out I. Confidence that he committed his path and the path of the people to the Lord. Enough prayer. Time to act.
This verse jumped at me in my morning prayers. When I came across it, it seemed to be on fire. Get up and take action.
In a few minutes I am walking out an action for which I will be cursed and blessed. There is no word from the Lord, but a decision must be made and it has been made. It is committed into His hands and He will bless it not because it is straight or crooked, clear or complicated, but because it is committed in prayer and wise counsel. Many avoid weighing in on the decision because they are not given the authority. Others are fearful. Others have self serving interests.But it is in my court and commission of the Lord and therefore it is in my scope to decide.
What lies in front of you that needs a decison and action? Maybe today is the day to cease waiting.
1. Pray and study until you have sufficient information. Notice I did not say full information. Sufficient. 2. If the Lord speaks clearly, great. If He doesn’t, great. Go with Him either way. Be confident He is with you. 3. Get ready to be misunderstood. Communicate, communicate, communicate. And be ready to be misunderstood. Listen. Apply adjustments if appropriate. Stand tall. 4. Get ready to be praised. Ignore it. You did not make the decision for goosebumps but because it needed made and action taken. Listen. Apply adjustments if appropriate. Stand tall. 5. Set a course. Make a plan. Walk it out to completion. Do the tough stuff first and fast.
So this morning, I am doing the toughest part of my decision. No one will be there for this Moment. Sometimes you walk alone while others watch to see if you are serious. Walk it out. You are not doing it for their love and appreciation but for their good and your obedience to the call and commission.
Do you have a decision? A hard one? It might be time to leave the prayer room and get cracking. You have sufficient information and prayer. Do it.
We are family You are loved Jesus is Our Strong Tower
“Among Benjamin’s elite troops, 700 were left-handed, and each of them could sling a rock and hit a target within a hairsbreadth without missing.”
Judges 20:16 NLT
Consider a fighting force with 700 hyper accurate, trained, focused soldiers on target. Now, consider that they are only 10% of the soldiers as left handed are only 10% of the population. A fighting force of 7000 spot on soldiers good at what they do because they are targeted and trained. What can you do if you are on target?
““For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.”
Isaiah 50:7 NKJV
The aspect of being set on a task, a skill, a direction and not being easily swayed is called targeted. Jesus was like that. He set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem and the cross of sacrifice that we all might be accepted. Paul was like that. He set his target on the Gentiles whether it meant prison or persecution. Moses was like that. He set his target on the land on the other side of the Jordan and pursued through pain and problems for 40 years to see it done. David was like that. Determined to build a temple, he insured the finances and plans were ready for his son, Solomon, to carry through. Get a target.
“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. ” —Norman Vincent Peale
A goal is a target. A worthy goal is worth honing a skill, stepping away from distractions, sacrificing to become excellent not just good, and developing the value out of the pursuit. Good is the worst enemy of great. Yet, it does not take great to be great. A good goal with a good pursuit with a good energy with a good skill produces a great result. Every piece does not need to be great, but the focus and the targeted character through persistence produces great. The word is target.
Countless calls for prayer and counsel come to me for jobs. When I ask what type of job, the answer is usually in terms of money, prestige, or anything that pays well. That is a useless pursuit and a useless prayer. Why spend a major portion of life with no goal in mind?
My career has taken many twists, but the goal has always been the same. My career target is to support my family and have enough to be generous to help others. My target has been to do that in a way that develops others and gives value back to a company for which I work. And throughout my career in management, I have done that.
My life target is to worship the Lord with all my heart and all my soul and all my might and be a faithful disciple. And throughout my life in Christ, I have done that. Every time I am discontent, I find someone has added to my goals and disguised the target for their own benefit so that I sway off target.
In my latter years, my sight on the target sharpens and others want to use my skill but not assist the call and character of the Lord in my life. It is not that they are wrong or selfish as much as they do not wish to support the target the Lord has given me.
Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong. Abraham Lincoln
When Lincoln spoke those words, I believe he looked to his target and found others had distracted him to a different path. It is time to get back to the path the Lord sent you to walk. Walk with good partners. But, If they veer to the right or the left too long and keep you off the Lord’s path, you must get back on target. They might have good intentions and a good path, but is it your path in the Lord and the Lord’s intentions?
Lifelong Dads. Forever families. Kids Need ‘em. Delivering Solid Life Foundations. Developing Healthy and Safe Relationships. Distinguishing Generations of Greatness.
There it is in a short, sweet nutshell. If it builds that, then that is what I do. If one more family moves in that direction, my target will be achieved. I hear my Father say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s joy.” Every day that I work on the target that affirmation of my Father is mine. If I am doing something that isn’t working to achieve that target, then I need to part with it as soon as I see that it goes wrong. Good counsel, Abe.
What is your target? Can you state it in simple format?
These last weeks have been wonderful. For months, I have labored to cut away distractions to get down to the essentials my Father wants for me. I’ve allowed too many good-hearted voices to distract. Constant pain and problems lessen my grasp on the target. My throws seem a little off. My strength is tested. That is the time to begin cutting away and honing skill to get to the target. With the slowing of the economy there has been a slowing of voices distracting. Target.
The target seems more in view than at any time. My obstinate pursuit takes me into hours of prayer a day. I’ve thrown out four large trash bags from my office this week and carted out boxes of books no longer needed. The target is tightly in view. I called my marketing group and told them to cancel distractions. I called support groups that have similar targets and made new agreements that fit. All of this happens as the world spins off target, the economy crashes, disease explodes, and people weep. Target.
Target is a verb. It means get focused and pointed toward the goal.
Target is a noun. It means the item to which you are pointed.
Are you targeted? That is where God wants you. Some are targeted early in life like Solomon. He was targeted to wisdom as a young man. Some take decades like Moses, who only understood the target being the nation free beyond the Jordan after 80 years of processing. Some get the fine points of the target like Elijah, spending a life as a prophet, to become targeted to train other prophets not just be one in his last years. Elijah was mostly a loner until the Lord targeted him in his last years. Paul was a murderer until the Lord targeted him at the peak of his life to be a disciple maker. Are you really targeted? Maybe you are just now getting to be targeted. Maybe all the years you have had bring you to a sharpened focus. Target.
Jesus’ core ministry on earth was less than four years. In those years, He built a team, died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit. Thirty years were taken to get ready for the Target. He is still working on the Target, the Church, 2000 years later. Targeted. Immovable. Unshakeable. Targeted.
The Lord wants us targeted.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
James 1:5-8 NKJV
There is no value in having a good target. There is value in having a God target. My mind goes to a friend, who has built a solid business producing significant profit. The profit is buried back in the business to build capital. He smiles and claims no profit and gives no honor through tithe or offering to the Lord. Why? Well there is no profit. Bigger and bigger barns are built that one day will have achieved nothing of value. The Lord will call for his life and the barns will be given to others. It is a good thing. It is not a God thing.
Another friend takes of his meager earnings and gives back to God. He will never amass millions of dollars, but he stacks memorials in heaven that will stand for eternity in changed lives. One lives the letter of the law and profits himself. The other lives the life and spirit of the law and profits all. Get a good target that is also a God target.
In the end there are no moving vans in the grave yard. But there is great treasure laid up in heaven. Targeted.
“Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”
Exodus 17:9-13 NIV
Every decision in business right now is critical. Every choice has a direction and an outcome. People’s financial futures are at stake. People’s health futures are at stake. Fear and aversion to battle can engage us in wrong choices. Entering into a battle without proper support structure and leadership in place can engage us in wrong choices that lead to disastrous outcomes.
The people had just tested the Lord and pushed Moses into a corner. Complaints rang out concerning water. Complaints were not the problem. The problem is the attitude and the unbelief. The people as a whole were disbelieving that the Lord and Moses as His chosen leader were committed. Moses, under the Lord’s direction, struck a rock and out came all the water needed. A miracle of great proportion showed the people how committed God was to them. Now there was an additional challenge. A local tribe threatened to kill them.
In this moment Moses had to make choices. Who could he trust to follow through and fight? The Lord had specifically taken them to this place and settled them there for a time. Now the challenge came. Joshua had the right heart and Moses trusted his leadership and decisions. It was a choice. Moses trusted the Lord that they were in the right place and needed to make a stand. It was a choice. Moses surrounded himself with Aaron and Hur for support. It was a choice.
All of us make choices. In these days, I pray for choices. I pray that I make right choices and listen to right voices. Those that surround us and support us sustain us. It is important they be the right people fit for the task ahead of us. Leaders learn from trusting and being betrayed or bolstered. It is the risk. It is the challenge. Some choices will turn out not so well, but that does not mean they are the wrong choice. Choices reveal what we need to see and who will walk with us and who will walk apart. Each choice steps us closer to our goals.
At my lake lot, I have a few prayer patios constructed of native stone. Walkways connect the cabin to a patio to a fire pit across a half acre. Each stone was found, carted, and laid by hand. They represent a journey of prayer and choices. May our choices be guided in prayer founded on the Lord’s direction.
Mose’s battle turned out okay. It seems Joshua and Aaron and Hur were all good choices. His dependence on God was a good choice. His standing and fighting was a good choice.
As you make choices, may the Lord of all power and wisdom guide.
“Fill your sphere, brother, and be content with it. If God shall move you to another, be glad to be moved; if he move you to a smaller, be as willing to go to a less prominent place as to one that is more so. Have no will about it.” (Spurgeon)
“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” Psalms 131:1-3 NIV
What amazing changes press against our businesses! The interruption of a pandemic is something no normal business conceives. Plans are made for interruptions by fire, storm, or even a loss of market position. Yet, who would plan for a total disruption of the economic engine?
As part of my responsibilities for many years, I was involved in disaster planning. At one point, I even spoke at conferences concerning such. In the middle of the night, I’ve climbed a ladder with an open container of diesel to keep a shop running because of an ice storm. In another situation, we ran operations out of a warehouse while waiting for reconstruction due to a bombing. One hospital electrical fire put us out of commission for hours as we shifted and shuffled operations. A retail operation entered bankruptcy and all systems had to be reengineered. But never have I had to respond to an entire economy in disarray.
These moments turn me deep into territory unknown and my dependence on God’s word and Spirit are tested. What about you?
A few years ago, all of my solid foundations quaked. A successful career overturned in a flash. The Lord had prepared me and a new career birthed. The journey has been amazing and fraught with invention and innovation. Some bread crumbs have helped me maintain and move forward.
David was surely in such a moment when he wrote this Psalm. He left us a path. He must have been in one of those moments that defy logic. For years, he lived in seclusion. His faithfulness was rewarded with persecution. He served the king and the king chased him out and wanted to kill him. Another time, his son attacked. Yet, another time he and his men returned to their home city to find all their families and possessions taken by an opponent. David was acquainted with great success interrupted with great loss.
1. Stay humble. Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal. When we find ourselves outside of all we have planned and believed, it is easy to get prideful and say, “Well I am better than this.” That is a dangerous position. Take the day as it is. Take the assignment of the Father to function in disaster as honorably as to function in great prosperity. Be contented in change.
2. Stay focused. Don’t get balled up in the problems. Be able to be content with a lesser income and profit position during rebuilding. Get focused on the most important items in life, which are not financial. Build family and friendships. Build relationships. Build a new world birthed of the change. Be contented in change.
3. Get quiet and calm. Concern, worry, and anxiety lead us into wrong choices and wrong voices. Many come up with instant answers and quick solutions that have not been tested under such circumstances. Dependence on old ways that worked in a different economy can get you into a position of no retreat. Get quiet. Get calm. Talk to the Lord a lot. Listen. Take secure steps and don’t rush. Be contented in change.
4. Get disciplined in faith. Faith is meant for challenging days of change. Really turn to the Lord and take the time to shore up core discipleship. Prayer, praise, serving, thanksgiving, witnessing, study, meditation, and fellowship keep us going through every situation. The Lord outlined these for disciples, followers. In the tough spot do a spot check. Where are you in each area? Strengthen the weak spots. Good counsel is to play to your strengths, cover your weaknesses, and develop your disciplines. Disciplines of faith hold you in place and move you forward when all else is crashing. Be contented in change.
Your world might be upside down and standing on the secure is needed. My home has been turned into a training center for both my wife and me. Workshops for struggling families and tumultuous teens sometimes are ongoing one upstairs and one down. She has mastered new skills and this week taught 8 workshops for teens online with tools she had never seen up until two weeks ago. I coach her in these modes and modify adult workshops to be online interactive with live sessions. Nothing is normal. Not one hour of one day is the same. Except.
Except my early morning disciplines are the same and more. I spend more time on the disciplines of prayer and study and meditation and serving and thanksgiving and witnessing and fellowship and praise. Depend on what works in any waters.
The challenge of change is to not go back to the way you were. If we go back to where we were we come back to where we are. I say that phrase over and over to struggling men and women. Everyone is struggling right now. The ground is level. Go forward in faith.
By faith, we prevail. The Lord is not surprised. This is not the end of progress. Through these pains we become stronger men and women. We learn lessons that prosper us and our children and our children’s children. A few notes scribble in a Psalm by David, who surely walked through greater challenges, serve us well. You can do this. The Lord is on your side.
Don’t let your accomplishments be the ascent that leads to descent. Lucifer learned hard. The angels that became demons learned hard. Those that follow the same path learn hard. Money, power, and fame are fashions for a season that lead to a descent.
“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.”
When Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for His finale at the cross, the Samaritans spurned Him. This area had been reached through the woman at the well and Jesus honored the Samaritans for eternity with His parable of the Good Samaritan. Yet, they spurned Him at a critical point. He purposely wanted to bless them and they rejected Him. Join with Jesus. Don’t get caught up in your own agendas. Find the place to say, “Amen, I agree, so be it”. There is power in His promises when we agree and connect and disregard our own agenda.
“He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.”
At the point of ascending into heaven, Jesus promised power. In the good news of Matthew, He tells us He has all authority and we are to go with it and get the kingdom expanded. Luke quotes Jesus on the power of the Holy Spirit. Mark quotes Jesus on the explosion of miracles. John quotes Jesus on the acceptance of love and forgiveness and unity. All of these are on the road to His ascension. He delegates and empowers so that we will lift Him up for all to see.
This week has been good as the Holy Spirit prepares us for the next steps in His agenda. It is not about our agenda or our ascend. It is about His ascend. He wants to lift Jesus higher than any time in our history. Every step of the Holy Spirit from the ascension of Jesus into heaven to this moment is a crescendo building. He has been ascending in history to yet another high point in the kingdom.
This morning as I look out the kitchen window cooking bacon and eggs and tortillas, my mind goes back to 1994. Snow is falling here in Oklahoma City in April. That is rare and comforting. And it takes me back three decades and even four.
It was May and my family camped in the mountains of Hesperus, Colorado. That morning, I rose around 5am. One of the families had set up a cook tent and had fresh tortillas, beans, and pork chops. The smell stimulated. My wife and kids were solid asleep as I joined the others in some early morning laughs. I had not laughed in a while. Snow still slept in the shadows high in the mountains where we camped and snow still slept in the shadows of disappointments in my life. Rain took the weekend by surprise and we were constricted to the tents. It felt good to get outside.
Spring was on the way, but not quite here. That weekend I was leading a family camp for a congregation located in the four corners area in Farmington, New Mexico. Friends pastored there. These friends stood with us. We shared life as we trained together at the Christian Outreach School of Ministries in 1980-1982. We shared life again. We graduated together and here we were together again. Many seasons had come and gone. Spring was on the way, but winter grabbed.
From 1982 to 1990, ministry and family and job intertwined. There were many miracles. A church had grown out of small groups. A church had crashed and gone. Four children grew our family. Companies folded and disappointed in the days of the oil busts. In 1994, it was Winter, but Spring was on the way.
For a few years, I retreated from ministry outreach in the community. It was strange to respond to great success with great disappointment. But that is where I was. The mix of family and work and ministry just pushed me beyond my strength. Ground recovers in Winter. My soul recovered in Winter.
After great harvest comes time for fallow land. Our hearts need rest. Spring comes.
Cooking bacon and eggs and tortillas in my kitchen another Spring comes. This COVID comes on top of many crashes. Children are grown and have children of their own. My wife and I work with struggling families teaching life and relationship skills. The business career days are over. The community campaign days are back. We are fully engaged some 4 decades later in similar pursuits to when we started. My knees are weak. My heart is strong. Companies have come and gone. Many seasons of ministry have come and gone. We have had a great life and more is coming. Springs and Summers and Falls and Winters come and go. Spring is on the way. Winter still has a grasp from the last crashes of the prior years. Spring is on the way.
Spring is on the way. Over all the ups and downs, the triumphs and tragedies, I’ve learned. Spring is always on the way. Great harvests require the soul to lie fallow for a season. Winter is my friend. Spring is on the way. I’m only 64. There is snow on my roof and Spring is on the way. There is a lot of new life ahead of me.
Phil Larson serves as the SW Director of Benefits and Conferences for GrandKidsMatter.org and GrandParentBenefits.org. He and his wife, Dian, have four children of their own and many that call them mom and dad from the community. Three of those children are married giving them a mix of six grandchildren of multi-racial background by both birth and adoption. You can contact him at 405.494.0637 or email@example.com