Case Studies: Points from Paul. Stay Focused …

Do you remember driver’s education?  I do.  It was one of the most exciting teenage experiences I can recall.  We learned so much in that class, but one lesson stands above them all – keep your eyes on the road.  In other words, stay focused.  Shifting your attention while behind the wheel could be disastrous for you and other motorists.

God’s extreme makeover is like driving, and the devil is the master of distractions.  He’ll do whatever it takes to shift our focus.  For Paul, he enlisted the help of some “recyclers,” you know, those people who resurrect your past at the most convenient times.  I love Paul because he didn’t let their immature and insensitive comments deter him.  He stayed focused.  In fact, he used their remarks as motivation to succeed.  Acts 9:22 notes that his preaching became more and more powerful after their remarks!

One of my friends wrote this on Facebook, “Only the devil remembers your past … remind him of your future” (thanks Pastor Frank).  Again, the message is clear – stay focused.  When the devil tries to divert your, don’t abandon God’s extreme makeover.  Rather, forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead (see Philippians 3:13-14).

Case Studies: Points from Paul. Change Your Scenery …

Have you ever been exposed to the “naysayers?”  They’re kind of like Joseph’s family – whenever you share your dreams, they say, “Are you serious?  You certainly can’t do that.”  My fifth grade teacher was a naysayer.  When my parents decided to enroll me in a magnet middle school, she said I wouldn’t succeed, based on my test scores.  I’m glad they didn’t listen to her.  Several years and two degrees later, I’m a witness that her words weren’t prophetic.

Whenever you decide to change for the better, it’s important to change your “scenery” as well.  The truth is, all company is not good company.  As I read about Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, one detail leaped off the page.  After Jesus informed him of the inevitable extreme makeover, He changed Paul’s company.  Notice who Paul was hanging around – believers!  He placed him around people who made it easy for him to be the man God wanted him to be!

One of my favorite quotes says, “Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl.  Your friends can either stretch your visions or choke your dreams.  Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.”  As you strive to be the person God has called you to be, make sure you inspect your friends.  It’s better to be alone than in the wrong company!

Case Studies: Points from Paul. Stop Fighting It …

Have you ever watched one of the law enforcement reality shows like Cops or America’s Dumbest Criminals?  I’m always amazed by how far the suspects will go to avoid arrest.  They’ll run, initiate high-speed chases, fight, kick, scratch, or whatever it takes to remain free.  Interestingly, they never escape.  They waste energy and incur injuries, only to end up in handcuffs.  If they would just give up, they could avoid unnecessary embarrassment.

Ironically, we often treat God the same way.  When He calls us to a new level of service or devotion, we resist arrest.  We develop excuses or adopt the lifestyle that is the polar opposite of where He’s trying to lead us.  But, like Jesus told Paul, “It’s hard to kick against the pricks.”  We can’t outrun God; He’s omniscient.  We can’t hide; He’s omnipresent.  The best decision is to give in, sooner than later.

I’m not sure what God has called you to do, but I encourage you to stop fighting it.  You only make things worse when you resist Him.  Stop making excuses and justifying disobedience.  Put your hand in His, and let Him lead the way!

Case Studies: Points from Peter. Trust the Process …

Have you ever thought the road to your destiny would be smooth sailing?  Maybe you thought God would put you on the escalator of ease, and, miraculously, you’d arrive at your preferred location.  At some point, we’ve all had these thoughts.  More often than not, however, God takes us on the “scenic” route to our destiny.  This path has hills, valleys, and other obstacles that develop our faith.  During these stretches, we must keep our hand in His, believing He has entered our destiny’s address correctly into the spiritual GPS.

Just think about Peter’s journey to his destiny.  I’m sure he expected a thrilling experience, and initially, it was.  He witnessed and performed miracles and had first hand experiences with the power and presence of God.  Later, however, he experienced the “rough side” of the mountain – failure, disappointment, rejection, and eventually, a criminal’s death.  After the smoke cleared, Peter said, “… So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, New Living Translation).  In other words, if you trust the process, God will take you to the place He’s shown you.

This email is an encouragement to those whose journey hasn’t been what you anticipated.  If God is leading you, then keep trusting the process.  All things still work together for those who love Him.  God will turn those rough places into reasons to rejoice!

Case Studies: Points from Peter. Try It Again …

Have you ever felt like quitting?  Have you been so frustrated with a task that giving up was your only solution?  If so, If can relate.  I remember preparing to cut the grass one day, and the lawnmower just wouldn’t cooperate.  I kept pulling the string, but it wouldn’t start.  The more I pulled it, with no success, the less motivated I was to pull it again.

Imagine how Peter felt when Jesus told him to launch out into the deep to catch some fish.  He had failed all night long.  Every time he dropped the net, he caught water.  But something about Jesus’ words gave him a fresh outlook, a new determination.  He trusted Jesus’ words, and, by faith, dropped the net again.  And this time, he wasn’t disappointed.  He caught so many fish that the net broke, and they needed two boats to carry the fish back to shore!

There’s something about the Word of God that makes the impossible absolutely possible.  By the way, when I was about to put the lawnmower back in the storage, God said, “Try it again.”  I did, and it started.  He’s given me the same message for you – TRY IT AGAIN.  Don’t let disappointing results deter you.  Stay where you are, and give it all you have one more time.  God will move on your behalf this time!

Case Studies: Points from Peter. Listen to God …

Have you ever noticed that other people are full of advice for you?  You don’t even have to ask them for it; they often volunteer it because “it was just on their mind.”  They’ll tell you how much money you should be making and what degree to pursue.  They’ll tell you what you should be doing with your life and what they’d do if they were “in your shoes.”  If you’re not careful, people will live vicariously through you, using you to accomplish all of their unmet goals and ambitions.

So, here’s my question: if their advice is so great, then why haven’t they benefited from it?  The danger in listening to people is that their advice can fail.  The Bible says it like this, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, New King James Version).  That’s why it’s important to hear from God.  Peter heard God’s voice.  Better, he listened.  Surely other voices were active in his mind, but he put his trust in the One who holds the future.

If you want to be the person God wants you to be, then listen to Him, and Him alone.  That means muting the other voices, including your own, that are contrary to what He says.  “The Lord directs the steps of the godly” (Psalm 37:23, New Living Translation); make sure you’re doing what He’s called you to do!

Appreciate Progress …

Last year, I wrote about my foam roller.  It’s just a hard, cylindrical piece of styrofoam used to relieve muscle soreness and tension.  Initially, using it hurt my muscles so bad that I wanted to return it.  But, the person who convinced me to get one showed me the “trick.”  He said instead of seeking a painless session, try to bear the pain a little longer each time. He simply encouraged me to appreciate progress on my way to perfection (pain-free use of the foam roller), to get a little better each time.

Again, God gives us a noteworthy example in appreciating progress.  As I read the creation story, I noticed that God didn’t wait until He had completed the extreme makeover to celebrate His accomplishments.  Instead, He paused periodically, observed His creations, and concluded it was good.  God celebrated progress in pursuit of perfection.  If He had enough sense to do that, shouldn’t we?

The last step in God’s extreme makeover is to appreciate progress.  On your way to perfection, take time to appreciate the small victories.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; rather, it was built brick by brick.  Every great feat is a series of small accomplishments, so make sure you celebrate your progression.  Each victory gives you encouragement to keep getting better.

God bless …

Expect Change …

In the book “Becoming a Person of Influence”, Dr. John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan note, “People rise and fall to meet (a leader’s) level of expectations for them … If you believe in them … they will go the extra mile trying to do their best.”  In other words, a leader’s expectations affect his or her followers’ behavior.  I’ve learned that our expectations affect our behavior as well.  If you approach a task with a positive attitude, then the task is usually enjoyable.  I think the late Rev. C.L. Franklin said it best, “If you think (have the expectation of) a grasshopper, then you are a grasshopper.”

One of the things I love about God is that His actions always align with His expectations.  Whatever He speaks, that’s what He expects!  When He said, “Let there be light,” He didn’t look for trees and animals to appear.  Instead, He expected light to emerge from the curtain of darkness that covered the earth.  And sure enough, He got what He expected!

We must follow God’s example and upgrade our expectations!  The third step in God’s extreme makeover is to expect change.  When you start speaking before you see it, expect what you’re saying.  Faith without works is dead, so make sure your expectations align with your faith in God!

Say It Before You See It …

On Thanksgiving, I played Nintendo Wii with my girlfriend, her family, and some of their friends.  While we were bowling, one friend had some difficulty performing skillfully.  She started complaining about how she couldn’t get a strike.  Instead of letting her have a pity party, we decided to encourage her.  We gave her some positive affirmations, and persuaded her to try it again.  She started talking about getting a strike, and on her next attempt, she did!

The connection between words and tangible results is not a novel concept.  The Bible clearly asserts, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21, New Living Translation); our words are a bridge to our destiny.  In Genesis 1, God gives us a great lesson on the word-result connection.  While the earth was still a mess, God began thinking about what He wanted to see.  Then, He talked about it, “Let there be light, land, trees, plants, etc.”  And after He spoke about it, He saw everything He had said.

The second step in God’s extreme makeover is say it before you see it.  God has given us power to call those things which do not exist as though they did (Romans 4:17), but it’s up to us to use it!  So, once you confess your areas for improvement, start speaking about the change you’d like to see.  Remind yourself that you’re a conqueror, that this will be your best year yet, or that you will get that habit under control.  When your words align with God’s will, then change is inevitable!

Get better, with God’s help!

Be Honest …

Once again, I’ve been led to one of my favorite passages – the first few verses in the Bible.  As I read the description of the earth in Genesis 1:2, I couldn’t help thinking it would have been a great environment to film the next episode of Style Network’s “Clean House” or ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”  I’m still amazed by how God described the earth to Moses.  He could have said, “In the beginning, Moses, the earth was perfect.  It had beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters.  The entire landscape was breathtaking.”  But, He didn’t.

Instead, God gave Moses an honest assessment.  The earth was a mess – formless, empty, and underneath water.  It needed His touch.  In a subtle way, I think God is giving us a pattern for remodeling our lives.  The first step in God’s extreme makeover is to be honest – admit where you are.  Your honesty gives Him permission to stop hovering over, and start intervening in, your situation.

John wrote, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9, New Living Translation).  In other words, if we’ll be honest with God, then He’ll help us.  Now, here’s your opportunity to be honest.  What areas of your life are a mess?  Be honest with God, in prayer, and let Him know you need His help.  If you put your mess in His hands, then He’ll mold it into a masterpiece!