Why Your Negative Past Is Key to Your Awesome Future

Have you ever been paralyzed by your past? Have you ever wanted to do something that made your heart leap, but then dropped the idea because your past disqualified you? Maybe you were an addict or had an affair. Maybe it was an abortion or divorce. Fill in the blank for you.

The truth is, not only can God forgive and heal your past, but your past is actually key to God’s calling on your life. There are two important points here.

First, our past doesn’t derail God’s calling on our life.

But we can derail ourselves. Sometimes we sabotage our own destiny.

“I can’t write that book because I dropped out of college!”

“I can’t lead a marriage Bible study because I’m divorced!”

Sometimes our sabotage is subtle, unconscious, and just under the surface:

“I don’t deserve a healthy relationship after what I’ve done!”

But the good news is our past does not disqualify us from our future for one big reason. That’s not how God sees us. Check out this story.

Ok, so we’re in Damascus, first decade AD. A Christian named Ananias is out watering sheep, or doing whatever they did back then, when God shows up in a vision and calls him by name.

Ananias thinks this is awesome, until Jesus says, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He’s praying and I’ve given him a vision of you restoring his sight.”

Now Ananias thinks, “Snap, not so awesome.” He answers, “Lord, I saw this dude on Jerusalem Today. He was going house-to-house, dragging off Christians and throwing them in prison! And he’s come here to do the same thing! Look, I’ll show you on my iPhone. I’ve got it on YouTube right here.”

Ok, now this is where it gets interesting. Here’s what the Lord never said:

  • “Wow, I hadn’t heard that! I guess I picked the wrong guy. Must be a mix-up in the front office.”
  • “Thanks, Ananias, you really saved me from a big blooper there!”
  • “I sure am glad you’re on my team, Ananias! Way to be on the ball!”

Nope. Instead, the Lord gets a little testy with Ananias: “Go! Don’t you be talkin’ ‘bout my servant like that! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their Kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Ok, I took some creative license here, but you can read the real story in Acts 8:3 and 9:1-19.

Here’s the thing: Everything Ananias said about Saul was completely true. And the Lord completely ignored it. Instead of arguing with Ananias over Earth’s truth about Saul, the Lord responded with Heaven’s truth about Saul. “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their Kings and before the people of Israel.”

Earth’s truth defines us by what we’ve done. But Heaven’s truth defines us by our calling, and that’s how God sees us. Heaven’s truth trumps earth’s truth every time, which is why your past doesn’t disqualify you. You are not what you’ve done.

When we agree with Heaven’s truth, admit the wrongs in our past, and turn from them so we don’t practice them anymore, like Saul did, that’s called repentance. Repentance totally blows our past away so it has no more power over us.

Second, our past is key to God’s calling on our life.

Back to Saul, soon to be the Apostle Paul. God knew the most challenging controversy in the first century church would be the confusion over whether Gentile converts had to be circumcised and keep the whole Law of Moses or not. There were some very persuasive Pharisees who became Christians and insisted they did. God felt otherwise, but who could stand up to the legalistic and opinionated Pharisees and logically make God’s point to the contrary? Certainly not some uneducated fishermen who could barely read or write!

What God needed was somebody who was himself circumcised on the eighth day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, somebody zealous for the Law who knew it as well as or better than the Pharisees causing all the trouble. If fact, God needed an ex-Pharisee.

Enter the Apostle Paul. He’s wasn’t just an ex-Pharisee, but an exceptional one. He studied under Gamaliel, the greatest Rabbi of that day. He excelled way beyond his peers and was extremely zealous (Galatians 1:14, Philippians 3:4-6). Paul could run circles around the other Pharisees with the Law. He was perfect. Paul’s past was key to God’s calling on his life.

After we repent and go through a season of healing, like Paul did, our past can be key to our future. We have authority over what we’ve been rescued from.

Dropped out of college? You’ve acquired real-life wisdom that makes you perfect to write that book.

Been divorced? You’re perfect to lead that marriage Bible study. You know where the traps and pitfalls are.

Had an affair or abortion? You’re perfect to lead others through the healing you’ve received. You know the pain they’re feeling.

And when you set others free from what you’ve been set free from, that’s revenge. Sweet revenge. Make the enemy sorry he ever messed with you! Make the devil need therapy! Woof!

So what’s Heaven’s truth about you? The Lord has a mission for you. Do you know what it is? It’s connected to your past. You are his chosen instrument for, what? Fill in the blank for you. What’s the passion that rises up in your heart when you think about it. Your past does not disqualify you from it. Your past is actually key to it.

Does this possibility make your heart leap? Does it resonate? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share on social media if you think this would help or inspire someone else.

[Note: This post was inspired by Graham Cooke’s Living Your Truest Identity 3-CD audio series. I highly recommend it. This is not an affiliate link; we get no commission if you click the link or buy from Graham.]

Peace Making vs Peace Keeping

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 are pretty self-explanatory, if very counter-intuitive. But there’s one in particular that’s often misunderstood. At least it was by me for a long time. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). But there’s a world of difference between peace making and peace keeping. I had them confused the majority of my life, and I’ve paid a high price for it.

When we mistakenly think Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace keepers…” we live by the ungodly principle of Peace At Any Price.

But wait a minute, I thought peace was a good thing! It is, that’s why peacemakers are blessed in the Kingdom and called sons of God. But Peace At Any Price is not a good thing at all. Peace At Any Price sacrifices the plan, wisdom, and calling of God to avoid conflict. It brings unity around a false peace. And false peace is not really peace at all – it’s oppression.

Peace making is bravely going into an interpersonal conflict and bringing the plan and the wisdom, not to mention the calling and the purpose, of God to it. If God’s wisdom is accepted, it brings true peace to the situation. However, if God’s wisdom is repeatedly rejected, then it’s time for godly conflict.

But peace keeping is quite different. Peace keeping is acquiescing to the situation. Peace keeping compromises (or outright silences) God’s plans and purposes. We trade God’s calling for peace in our interpersonal relationships. I confess I did this for a long time, and my family paid dearly for it.

By my observation, many husbands live by Peace At Any Price. It takes one to know one – I did for a long time. Too often we trade our vision for our family, and our place of leadership in our household, for peace in our home.

Now common sense here, that’s obviously not an excuse to lord it over your wife. And wives have a significant role and get valid downloads from God just like husbands do. But, c’mon guys, we need to be the spiritual leaders of our home, not our wives.

Peace At Any Price is institutionalized in the culture, even in the church, with regard to home and family. How many times have you heard people, even Christians, say one of these re-phrases of Peace At Any Price:

Happy wife, happy life. Translation: “Sell out your vision for your family in order to keep your wife happy.” Or you could say it this way: “Lack of conflict in your home is worth more than God’s calling on your family.” Sorry, but not true.

If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Translation: “If I don’t get my way, I’ll make my entire family miserable!” This is hardly the manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit in a godly woman’s life. Anybody out there still think this isn’t demonic?

Now please don’t flip out on me. This doesn’t mean a husband should just impose his vision on his family. It’s just as demonic for a husband to expect his wife to roll-over and practice Peace At Any Price. None of us, husband or wife, parent or child, teacher or student, should compromise or abandon what they know is God’s wisdom, calling, plan, and/or purpose on their lives or in any situation.

It comes down to this. Peace at Any Price, a.k.a., peace keeping, is just getting bullied, pure and simple. If you are living Peace At Any Price, you have let your God-given identity get shut down by a bully. You need to repent and stand up to the bully.

In a marriage, when we come out of being bullied, we don’t impose our calling on the other person. We don’t want to become the bully. Instead, we invite: “This is where God is calling me to go. I’m going there, and I’m inviting you to come along.” And we walk toward God’s calling on our life with an open hand back to the other person. They may take it or not; that’s on them. But we are walking toward our calling, and that brings true peace, in our heart if not to the situation.

Blessed are the peacemakers (not the peace keepers), for they will be called sons of God.

Does this hit home to you? Tell us your story in the comments? Are you living Peace At Any Price? Did you used to? How did you come out of it? Tell us in the comments, your story will help others. And if you think this article would bless someone else, please share it with the buttons below.

What’s in Your Hand?

“What’s in your hand?” That’s what God asked Moses (see Exodus 4:2). God was calling Moses to do the impossible – return to Egypt and lead a couple million people from slavery to freedom. And Moses was trying to get out of it.

Moses was holding his shepherd’s staff. God showed Moses how to do signs and wonders with his staff; specifically, at this point, how to turn it into a snake and back again.

Now I’ve heard teachings about the theology around why it had to be a staff, spiritually what that’s symbolic of, and all that. And that’s all well and good. But I think there’s a simpler reason why God used Moses’ staff.

As a shepherd, it’s what Moses happened to be holding. And God was like, “That’ll do.”

It’s a good thing Moses wasn’t, say, a professional bowler. He’d have been holding a bowling ball and God would’ve turned it into an armadillo or something. It wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive as a big ‘n’ bad snake.

It was as much a sign to Moses that God was with him as to the people God was sending him to. God told Moses the people would believe him (see Exodus 3:18). It was Moses that had the doubts. Moses was the one who took the convincing. Moses was the one God had to sell. Sometimes others believe in our calling more than we do. Sometimes God’s toughest sales job about our calling is to us. And he uses the things he’s already given us that we take for granted.

What makes your heart sing? What does your heart gravitate to? What’s in your hand? God wants to use it to do something extraordinary in your life, for his Kingdom purposes and the benefit of many people.

What’s in your hand? God wants to use what’s common and ordinary to you to accomplish the miraculous calling he has on your life. Are you willing to let God turn it into something? Tell us in the comments. And please share on social media (share buttons are below for your sharing convenience) if this blessed you. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Living Strategically -- Hand Holding Compass

Living Strategically

HeadShot Dave 100x100What does living strategically mean? So often we just drift through life doing what we must. Go to work. Pay the bills. Put out the fires. Fix the car. Clean the house. Don’t get me wrong, those are good things that all have to get done. And we shouldn’t complain about them. We should do them cheerfully with a good attitude, serving our families as godly servants.

But our calling is bigger than that. So if that’s all we do, we’re missing it. We’ve let winning the battle keep us from winning the war. The military gets this, and uses two special words to describe it.

“Tactical” has to do with winning the immediate battle we find ourselves engaged in today.

“Strategic” has to do with winning the war – the big, long-term picture.

While tactical is important, the military understands that strategic is more important. Winning a battle does you no good if you lose the war. In fact, sometimes because of limited time, money, and energy, you have to decide which battles to let go and lose so that you have enough resources left to win the war.

So how do we go from living tactically (aimlessly drifting day-to-day) to living strategically (focused on God’s calling)? Do what the military does – have a plan. Make a life plan. Your life plan helps you say “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the best.

There’s an excellent book I highly recommend called Living Forward, by Micheal Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (both obviously Christians). It’s a quick and easy read. Although it’s secular per se, it’s got Kingdom of God principles woven all through it. (BTW, I’m not an affiliate. I get no commission or compensation or any other benefit if you click the above link or buy their book. This is an objective recommendation.)

Janet and I went through it last year. We had an “offsite” at a local bed & breakfast in December 2015 for a few days. We each have an individual plan, and we have one together. Having a life plan has helped us make strategic decisions toward the calling on our life we otherwise would’ve missed.

For example, I recently took a new assignment with my company that doubled my commute. At first, this seemed like a obvious no-brainer “no”. But I’d been having trouble finding time to work on our website (this blog). I’d get home at 5:30 or 6:00 with a couple hours of website work to do. But with engaging with family, church, and our crisis-pregnancy center volunteer activities, it just wasn’t getting done. I was winning the daily battles but losing the long-term war over my calling. I was living tactically.

However, God provided a vanpool to the new job location, and I could inexpensively tether my laptop to my iPhone. That gives me 2+ hours a day in the commuter van to work on the website. I still get home at the same 5:30 or 6:00, but the website work is done. So I doubled my commute and got more margin in my life! We could not have made this very positive, but counter-intuitive, decision without our life plan clarifying the direction in which we feel God’s calling leading our life. That’s living strategically.

Going through this exercise is a few of the most productive hours you’ll spend this year, because it focuses all the other hours on what God’s calling you do to in your life. I highly recommend it.

So how about you? Are you living tactically or living strategically? What has your journey been from one to the other? Your story can help a lot of us. Please share it with us in the comments. And share this post on Facebook (or your favorite social outlet) if you think it would bless others.