Focus

“What I think about, I bring about.”

That was a statement made in our companies Annual Meeting in August. It’s stuck with since that day, and I even have it written in my office to look at every day.
The nature of entrepreneurial business is that your success is solely dependent on your production. If you don’t perform at a high level, you likely won’t get paid. It can be stressful, especially when you launch your business two months before a global pandemic sweeps the globe.

Yet, those profound words were like gasoline to my internal fire. It resonated with me in more ways than just with business. It spoke to my life, my fears, my insecurities, my limitations.


Here’s what it said to me, “I cannot allow myself to worry about things that are out of my control. I must only focus on the things I can control.” Suddenly, I changed my focus. No longer can I focus on the uncertainties, the fears, or the insecurities that attempt to distract me from my purpose. No longer will I allow the darkness to suppress my faith in my future.

Aristotle once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
David found himself in a dark place. His account says that he was in the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, when surrounded by the haunting sounds of death and darkness, David said, “I will fear no evil.” How? How could David find such unwavering faith and confidence in the darkest valley of life? He changed his focus. While most of us would’ve found themselves overwhelmed with the circumstances and succumb to the darkness. David instead chose to focus on the light. “The Lord is with me.”
I can’t always control the darkness. However, in the darkness, I can focus my attention on the light.


What I think about, I bring about. I choose to focus on the light.

Samson: The Strong Man’s Weakness

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein.

A lot of attention focuses on character, but few people ever stop and think about how our character is developed. You aren’t born with character. Our character is our natural temperament modified by factors like childhood training and environment, thoughts and feelings from specific experiences gathered in life, or a more generalized consensus of life. Your character is not stagnant and unchangeable; it is shaped by how you choose to respond to everything that happens to you throughout your life. You get to decide to strengthen or weaken your character by choosing your response to everything in your environment.

This is what makes the story of Samson so captivating. Without question, Samson is the strongest human ever to live. He was blessed with divine strength, and God used Samson and his power mightily. Over and over again, we see the might of Samson on display.

Many preachers and scholars alike claim that Samson’s greatest weakness was Delilah. It wasn’t. His greatest weakness was his attitude. Albert Einstien was right, “weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”

As strong as Samson was, his propensity to show off his strength got him into trouble. Samson thought he was invincible. It’s the classic tale of a man’s gift being his downfall. He tempted fate and used his talent to exalt himself rather than God. Everything Samson ever accomplished was selfishly motivated. He did what he wanted and just expected his strength to remain. Samson never feared consequence because often, his power was enough to overcome his flesh.

Yet, Samson was developing a dangerous habit. A habit that would lead him to do something unimaginable. Most have wondered why Samson would tell Delilah where his source of strength resided? Was he so infatuated with her that he fell under some emotional spell? I think not. Samson made a mistake many leaders make; Samson soon believed that HE was strong.

Every time Samson tested the limits, and his strength bailed him out, he becomes more emboldened to sin. His attitude reeked of pride, and his character followed suit. His choices and his eventual responses created a disastrously prideful man. There is a difference between poor choices and poor character. Poor judgment is just that, a momentary lapse of judgment. We’ve all been guilty. On the other hand, poor character is a selfish behavior pattern, ego, arrogance, and making excuses for wrongdoing. Here the person never “owns” and feels responsible for mistakes and often defends them as “not that bad.”

Samson didn’t suffer from poor judgment; he had poor character.

No wonder the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” The moment we forget that we are frail human vessels in the hands of an omnipotent God, we are in danger of falling. Samson forgot that it was God who strengthened him, and when faced with the opportunity to prove how strong HE was, he was left blind, bound, and broken. A mockery for sport to those who once feared him.

Every human is faced with choices and responses. How you choose to live your life and how you respond to the giftings God gives you will ultimately determine who you become. If weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character; then the flip side must also be correct. Strength of attitude becomes strength of character.

Every one of us has the opportunity to develop a strong character. The daily attitudes towards life and the things of God are the foundational components to building a character God can use.

Fulfilment

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12 ESV

No one likes waiting. It feels good to get what we want. Nevertheless, when our expectations are delayed for a long time, we can experience disappointment, disillusionment, and hope loss. In some cases, prolonged waiting for what we eagerly desire can become such an affliction to us that it differs little from a lingering sickness. This scenario is the exact meaning of Solomon’s words, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

The term deferred in the passage means “to put off” or “drag out,” as in a long, drawn-out process. It speaks to the agonizing season of life when it seems our hopes and our dreams are nothing more than a figment of our imagination. Hope deferred can be a debilitating experience. Unanswered prayers. Prolonged sickness. Lost loved ones. Even the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations in relationships or careers. As we eagerly hope for something, and it keeps being postponed, the longing we feel can make our heart sick.

The heart in this passage speaks to the mental and emotional state of man, the inward person. To “make the heart sick” causes despair and affliction. The Good News Translation renders the verse like this: “When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed.” 

Many people find themselves in this hopeless prison. Staring into the empty abyss of their hopes, depression, anxiety, and even physical sickness wreak havoc. We lose touch with God, we sink into apathy, and we become vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. 

Good people from good backgrounds make terrible decisions when their hearts are sick. In our zeal to meet these desires, people can turn to sin and rebellion to end the misery they find themselves in. While getting what we desire can be an excellent thing, we must not allow the pursuit of fulfillment to become a temptation to sin.

I often think of John the Baptist and his incredible faith in Christ and how he forsook an everyday life, dedicating himself to the cause of Christ’s mission. It was this man, John, who proclaimed to the masses who would listen, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” This same John unequivocally declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

However, when John found himself in prison, things begin to change. There is an eery scene that unfolds in Matthew 11. John, realizing that his time on earth has come to an end, sits alone in a dark prison cell contemplating everything he has preached. Imagine the wrestling match of the mind with which John was struggling.

John had announced judgment, but Jesus was doing deeds of love and mercy. John had promised that the kingdom was at hand, but there was no evidence of it so far. He was perplexed about God’s plan and his place in it. 

In Luke’s version of this account, we see an even deeper glance at John’s predicament. John’s disciples are relaying information to John of the exploits of Jesus’ miraculous ministry. John’s disciples were there when Jesus healed that Centurion’s servant. They were there when Jesus raised a widow’s son from the grip of death. They enthusiastically tell John, and it is as if John heard nothing they said. 

Imagine the despondent look in John’s eye, as John looks up at his disciples and says, will you go to Jesus and ask Him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” I find it interesting that instead of Jesus giving John a word of encouragement, he tells John’s disciples to go and tell John AGAIN, of all the things you both see and hear. 

Then Jesus drops a bomb. Before John’s disciples could return with Jesus’ message, he stops them and arms them with one more message for John. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” I am sure John’s response was, “I’m not offended!” John had deceived himself into believing that. The truth was that John had lost confidence in Jesus. When John’s EXPERIENCE no longer matched John’s EXPECTATION, John became offended. When life turned out different than what John had hoped, John got offended. 

When John’s hopes were crushed, and his heart got sick with disappointment, John became disillusioned. John, who, as an infant, leaped in his mother’s womb in acknowledgment of Jesus as Messiah, now asks a haunting question. “Are you whom you said you were? Or do I need to find another savior?” 

Sure, we have never explicitly said this to God, but our lifestyle and choices have reflected it. When people venture outside of the will of God to find something that only God can give them, our hearts are sick, and our spirits are offended. 

Like John, often, our expectations do not match our current experiences. When this happens, the temptation is to think God lied or betrayed us. When we wrongly interpret evidence, we can come to the wrong conclusion. We always see what we are looking for. This can lead to mistrust. Suddenly, everything we view through those spectacles of mistrust causes us to see things wrongly, and only appears to confirm our suspicions. We think that God is testing us, or worse, punishing us. If we have the wrong interpretation of life, this can impact the way we view our life, our relationships, or see God. We can then begin to project our feelings of resentment onto Him, or those closest to us. We will turn and blame God or those around us for our misery. 

Perhaps that is why Solomon continued and said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” The tree of life represents the renewal of life. When our hopes and desires are fulfilled, we, in turn, are refreshed. Here is the real question. Where should our hope be found? In an answered prayer? In the desired outcome? In a job promotion, or a new relationship? No! The Psalmist asked this question in Psalm 39:7, “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?” He then answered his own question and said, “My only hope is in you.” The Lord alone is the true fulfillment of our longings. As long as we search for external things to satisfy our souls’ emptiness, we will remain sick. However, when we learn to trust in Jesus, regardless of our circumstances, and when we find our fulfillment in him rather than external sources, we will have access to the tree of life. A never-ending renewing source of peace, joy, and contentment. 

It is not easy to keep trusting God in difficult times, especially when we feel disappointed by Him. If you find yourself struggling with mistrust or cynicism, come to God with an open heart. Lay your bitterness, confusion, mistrust, and cynicism at His feet. Let Him renew your hope for your future.

Going Somewhere?

In Lewis Carrol’s classic, Alice in Wonderland, we find a tale of a young girl who has captured adults and children’s imaginations since 1865. The book tells of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world. In this fantasy world, Alice discovers peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures who entertain us with tales that defy logic. 

In this incredible story, there is one particular character that stands out above the rest. It’s the Cheshire cat. This grinning cat is somewhat of a spirit guide for Alice in the book. He is by far the most helpful of anyone in wonderland, as long as one asks the right questions, and he guides Alice toward the March Hare’s house and the mad tea party, which eventually leads her to her final destination – the garden.

As Alice engages the cat in conversation, we find a compelling dialogue. 

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”

Alice: “I don’t much care where-“

Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,”

Alice: “So long as I get somewhere.”

Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

Although written in fantasy, one cannot ignore the simplicity of the message being portrayed here: a lost girl, a brilliant yet insane cat, and a question of basic human instinct. “Where do I go from here?”

Without question, the most significant journey in life is the journey for purpose. All of us are on a quest to discover who we are and why we exist. Your life’s purpose is the reason why you exist. It’s the reason for being. 

There is something profound I’ve learned about my mission. Finding your purpose is more about the journey, not the destination. 

Unfortunately, too many people find themselves in Alice’s shoes. Lost and in need of direction. Yet, when faced with the question, “where do you want to go?” – too many people reply like Alice, “I don’t much care where.”

You won’t just wake up one day and have the life you always wanted, or be the person you hoped you’d become. Without clear direction, we are just wandering around life aimlessly, searching for a destination that does not exist. 

So many of us walk and walk and walk, but find we’re never getting anywhere. We wanted to be SOMEWHERE, but we never thought enough about where that should be. Where do you want to go? You only have so much time in life. What do you want to say you’ve done with it? Ponder these questions, and ask yourself genuinely, “where do I go from here?” 

Who Am I?

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I know what you are thinking. I’m not pretending to be anyone. Yeah, I’ve said that too. 

I used this quote to make you pause and think for a moment. We all pretend to be a different version of ourselves daily. To deny that is to lack awareness, which is fine because I did for years. Think about it, we all wear masks, facades, of the person we think other people want us to be. We pretend around friends and families because they both expect us to behave in a certain way. For the most part, societal pressure is the most influential factor in forcing us to pretend. 

There is a phenomenon called masking. Masking is a process in which an individual changes or “masks” their natural personality to conform to social pressures, abuse, or harassment. We become the person other people want us to be. 

Moses dealt with this. Perhaps this is why he struggled so mightily with his identity. As a child, he was nurtured to be a Hebrew. Then, he was nurtured to be a Prince. As an adult, he was nurtured to be a shepherd. Always conforming to the identity other people projected on him. How do we know that Moses had no idea who he was? Scripture tells us. 

In the forty years that Moses was a shepherd, Israel’s plight intensified. So much so, God said he heard their cries and became concerned about their circumstances. God visits Moses on the backside of the desert in a bush that is on fire, but not consumed. When God knew He had Moses’ attention, He called Moses by name. He tells Moses that he was right all along! You are a mighty deliverer! You will bring my people out of Egypt. 

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11 NIV

Moses had spent his entire life pretending to be the version himself that everyone else wanted him to be, that he forgot who he was. So, Moses asked a question that has plagued humanity forever, “who am I?” 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Many people cannot answer that question because they have spent their entire lives pretending. The warning of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote is simple: don’t become so immersed in our façade that we lose our real identity. Please don’t get so used to wearing the mask, that the cover becomes who we genuinely think we are. If we are not careful, we can become nothing more than a mimicry of other people’s thoughts. 

Moses had spent so long wearing a mask that he no longer could see himself for who he was. 

Notice the sequence of events that transpired at the burning bush. Moses had a negative self-image. After the years of trials, doubts, and fears, Moses created a negative self-image. His self-image was built in his insecurities, not in facts.  

Moses, you have a negative self-image. I can’t use you in the capacity I’ve called you until I change your perception of yourself. 

Now, if God operated with us the way we do with others, He would have responded to Moses’ identity crisis in Exodus 3:11 by trying to pump up his confidence, build his brand. Didn’t Moses realize what a great guy he was? Handsome, smart, talented. Well-educated, rich in experiences. 

Here’s the thing, God doesn’t want us anchoring our identity in the strength of whatever gifts and good things are part of your success. 

“What do you have that you did not receive?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights”- James 1:17. 

Your identity is found in Him, the Giver, not in you as the receiver.

So when the Lord saw him struggling with a negative self-image, He knew what Moses needed was not a more positive view of Moses. God’s answer to your and my identity issues are not statements about who we are but about who He is, not about what we can do but about what He can do. “I will be with you,” He said to Moses (Exodus 3:12)—not “You are so awesome, Moses”—because when God says, “I will be with you,” this single issue should settle every problem you face with your identity and insecurity.

The central promise of the Bible is not “I will forgive you,” although that promise is there. It is not the promise of life after death, although we have that as well. The most frequent promise in the Bible is, “I will be with you.” 

God gave Israel the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, manna, the temple, a pillar of cloud, and another pillar of fire, like so many Post-It notes saying, “Don’t forget. I am WITH YOU.”

When God Himself came to earth, His redemptive name was Immanuel – God WITH US.

When Jesus left the earth, He promised to send us His Spirit. Why? So that, “I am WITH YOU always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

At the end of time, when sin is a distant and defeated memory, and forgiveness is obsolete, it will be sung, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell WITH THEM. They will be his people, and God himself will be WITH THEM and be their God.” – Revelations 21:3

God had said to Abraham years before, “I will be with you and will bless you,” – Genesis 26:3. 

He said it also to Jacob: “I will be with you” – Genesis 31:3. 

He said the same thing later to Joshua: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” – Joshua 1:5.

Here’s what I learned through my own experiences and the experiences of Moses. You can’t have the right view of yourself until you have the right view of God. He is where your identity begins and ends. You can’t know who you are unless you know who God is.

When God told Gideon that he was a mighty man of valor, Gideon’s response echoes Moses’. Gideon’s initial reaction is, “God is with ME?! If God is with me, then why is all of this going on?” 

Gideon was allowing where he was to determine who he was. Where he was, that’s a seasonal experience. The season he was living in was a season of loss, despair, and defeat. That was NOT who Gideon was. Yet, his identity was connected to his circumstances. Here’s the truth, you cannot believe what God says about YOU until you accept what God says about Himself. 

When Moses questioned God, God responded with an emphatic statement, “I will be with you.” That should’ve been enough for Moses, but like Gideon, Moses struggled with His true identity. Moses had to learn that this was not about how great He was; it was about how great God was. As long as God is with me, I can do anything He asks.

Moses, when you were in a Hebrew camp being nursed by your mother, I was with you. When you enjoyed the lavish lifestyle of the Egyptian palace, I was with you. When you fled to Midian and tended Jethro’s flocks for forty years, alone on the backside of a desert, I was with you. 

As with Moses, God is with you too. 

The Danger of Unrealistic Expectations

“Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.” – Author Unknown

Unrealistic expectations tend to be disconnected from reality in significant ways. Expectations are tricky because they have both affective/emotional content and cognitive content. In other words, how we feel and how we think.

Often, our emotions sprint ahead of our rationale. What one wishes and hopes for becomes what one expects. One awaits or looks out for what one wants, hopes, and imagines. This wishfulness, along with the imaginings, tends to smother the rational/cognitive dimension, resulting in unrealistic expectations. These unrealistic expectations are the ones that can generate huge resentments.

How can people avoid being trapped in this cycle of expectation-disappointment-resentment? We can look to the ancient philosopher Epictetus, who offers wise counsel on recognizing and respecting the line between what matters are up to us and those that are not.

Epictetus advises, “Do not seek to have events happen as you want then to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well.”

Adopting this manner of living short-circuits the expectations-resentment loop and positions a person to appreciate what does happen.

Unrealistic expectations of the way it SHOULD be, prevent us from ever being happy with the way IT IS.

You can’t start a new chapter in your life, while you keep re-reading the last one.

You can’t start a new chapter in your life, while you keep re-reading the last one. Sometimes you have to turn the page and move on.

Often people find themselves wondering when things will change when life will be better, or when they will no longer feel the pain of circumstances gone by. I read a quote that staggered me;

“To heal a wound, you have to stop touching it.”

Ouch.

As humans, we have a way of “creating our own suffering.” When it comes to painful wounds from the past, we replay the event over and over again in our minds. Each time, the pain intensifies. We have toxic friends, family members, or relationships, yet we continue to accept their phone calls, their texts, and their invites to hang out. Never setting up boundaries to prevent them from dragging you back into the toxicity you are hoping to avoid. We suffer setbacks and major disappointments, and we set up camp in the valley of defeat.

Here’s how we handle these moments:

  • We REHASH it with our friends…
  • We RELIVE it in our minds…
  • We RE-ENGAGE with the very people who hurt us…
  • We never REVERSE the pain because we have yet to stop REHEARSING the pain.

When you learn to let go of the last chapter of your life, you free up the energy to embrace the new one. This is a Biblical concept. In 1 Kings 18:21, Elijah asked the Israelites a stunning question. “How long HALT ye between two opinions?” In other words, how long will you remain INACTIVE between two conditions of your mind?

You can’t move forward until you learn to stop living in the past.

  • You ARE NOT defined by your mistakes.
  • You ARE NOT defined by your pain.
  • You ARE NOT defined by disappointments and setbacks.
  • You ARE defined by your ability to dust yourself off and turn the page.

Here’s how the Bible says we should handle these moments:

  • “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” – Philippians 3:13 ESV
  • “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old…” – Isaiah 43:18 ESV.
  • “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” – Luke 9:62 ESV.

Stop touching your wounds. Stop re-reading the same chapter. Let God be your healer and the author of your new chapter of life!

The Politics of Jesus

By definition, the Kingdom of God is diametrically opposed to any political platform. I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or just Indecisive. Good. Now I have your attention. 

We live in, perhaps, one of the most politically and socially charged generations ever. The year 2020 has brought on unprecedented circumstances that have rocked modern society—a global pandemic, economic turmoil, social unrest, racial tensions, etc. People on every side are restless, nervous, fearful, and some are even angry. 

The church stands in the middle of this global crisis and should be shining as a light of compassion, love, and mercy. In this climate, the voice of the church should be bringing clarity, peace, and hope. We, in alignment with Jesus’ new commandment of love, should be the bridge connecting people of every socio-economic background. 

Yet, in the middle of the most significant opportunity the church has ever seen, Christianity has allowed the chaos and the concern of society to distract her from her mission. Instead of reaching, we have resorted to criticizing. Instead of compassion and love, we have been guilty of judgment. 

How has this happened? How did we lose focus on our mission? The answer may surprise you. 

Let’s look at the first century Jews. The Roman Empire formed the context of Jesus’ ministry. Like Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, the Roman Empire offended the Jews by publicly worshiping idols and being a constant reminder to the Jews of their unfaithfulness to God. This sort of frustration led the Jews to long for the promised Messiah who would restore them from exile; the long-awaited Messiah would act decisively on their behalf, and he would do it politically. 

So, when Jesus appeared as a carpenter’s son from Galilee, the Jews refused to acknowledge Him as their long-awaited Messiah. Why? Because Jesus didn’t fit their political narrative. 

Every time we see the crowds press Jesus, every side was determined to make Jesus fit their perspectives. Jesus refused to allow them to make His ministry fit their political or social agendas. 

First, Jesus supported the governmental systems of his time. So did His apostles. We know Jesus paid taxes and encouraged his disciples to do the same. To those living in Rome, whose government wasn’t always friendly to Christians, the apostle Paul encourages submission to the governing authorities who are “ministers of God” and to whom taxes, respect, and honor are owed. Peter likewise tells believers that part of their service to the common good is to fear God and honor the Roman emperor. The Bible also highlights God-fearing men and women who served in public office. Deborah served as a judge over Israel. Joseph served as prime minister for the Egyptian Pharaoh, Daniel served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and Nehemiah was a trusted official for the Persian king Artaxerxes.

But when it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe Jesus would side entirely with one political viewpoint over another. Instead, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.

In Joshua 5, Joshua and a military general have an encounter with an angel of the Lord. They are heading into battle, and they ask God, “God, are you for us, or them?” The answer is startling, “No…” 

This is significant. The question isn’t whether or not God is on our side; the real question is, “are we on God’s side?” 

I recently heard Andy Stanley say something profound. He said, “Are we willing to evaluate your politics through the filter of our faith, rather than create a version of faith that supports your politics?” 

It seems like today’s Christian climate is like Joshua and his military general. Regardless of which side of the aisle you stand on, we’re standing on our political platform, screaming at God to prove that He is on our side. All the while, God is saying, “no.” 

God is not a Republican, and God is not a Democrat. Jesus is the king of a different kingdom. Let’s look at how Jesus’ followers viewed politics. 

There was a wide gap in political diversity among Jesus’ disciples for a reason. Among the 12, Simon the zealot, and Matthew, the tax collector stand out. Zealots work AGAINST the government; tax collectors work FOR the government. 

You might say Simon was a right-wing “small government” guy who thought the state should keep out of people’s business, and Matthew was a left-wing “big government” guy who made a career out of collecting taxes for the state. Despite their opposing political viewpoints, Matthew and Simon were friends, and Matthew wants us to know this.

Matthew’s emphasis on the zealot and the tax collector living in the same community teaches us the value of the hierarchy of loyalty. Meaning, our devotion to Jesus and His kingdom must supersede our allegiance to any other cause, political or otherwise. 

The community of Jesus is supposed to be a diverse group of believers’ who can come together, love and support each other, and unite together. In other words, we should feel more “at home” with people who share our faith, not our politics, than we should with people who share our politics but not our faith. 

Jesus’ act of love on the cross destroyed the dividing wall of hostility that separated people based on race, politics, and social status (Eph. 2:16). 

First-century Jews missed the first coming of Christ because they were too focused on a political agenda. If we are not careful, Twenty-first-century Americans may miss the second coming of Christ for the same reason. 

Yes, Christians should vote. Yes, Christians should stand against immorality in government. Christians also must value unity over conformity. 

Let the Cherubs seated upon the mercy seat of God be our example. Wings outstretched, the angles agreed on mercy. Interestingly, they looked down and not at each other. The principle is clear; we don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, but we must agree on one thing—the glory of God. 

Our loyalty should be to Christ and His body first, politics second. Let’s get back to what matters. If a zealot and a tax collector can love each other and worship together, what is our excuse? 

Atelophobia

I’m not one to have a lot of fears. I don’t have irrational fears of sharks, spiders, insects, or wild animals. Unlike my 11-year-old, I don’t fear every storm will produce a devastating tornado. There are things I’m afraid of, sure, but I am not inhibited by fear.

My twin brother, for example, is terrified of spiders. It doesn’t matter what size of the spider, what type of spider, or even a real or fake spider. He has a fear of spiders. There are numerous stories, some of them quite comical we could tell about his “run-ins” with spiders. However, I will spare you and him.

There is one fear; however, that has plagued me most of my life. There is a phobia I harbor, though irrational, it is highly damaging. It’s called Atelophobia. I only recently learned of this phobia.

Atelophobia is defined as the fear of not doing something right or the fear of not being good enough. In other words, it’s a fear of imperfection. The term “atelophobia” comprises two Greek words: the prefix Atelo(s) means imperfect, and the post-fix phobia means fear. Thus, the word atelophobia quite literally means they fear of being imperfect. People with atelophobia often suffer and can develop debilitating depression or anxiety when their perceived expectations do not match reality.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, “People with atelophobia often subconsciously make perfection their goal. This goal cannot, of course, ever be reached. Thus, the person is left feeling miserable and useless and ineffective in his or her life. The atelophobe progressively loses self-confidence and self-esteem, reinforcing the belief that (s)he can never do anything right.”

For example, there have been case studies of incredibly talented painters who give up painting or hide their work because they believe that it is not “perfect.” In reality, their portraits are better than most; in their minds, it’s just not good enough.

This particular phobia has plagued me most of my life. I wrestle daily with this crippling mindset. I’m afraid of not being good enough. Early in my adolescent years, I chose not to try. My reasoning was this if I fail because I don’t work; at least I didn’t fail because I wasn’t good enough. I take criticism, even perceived criticism, extremely personal. If I don’t succeed at something or it seems people do not like me personally, I assume it’s because there’s something wrong with me.

I discovered this when I resigned from Pastoring last September. I learned that even I didn’t know who I am. I was so scared of not being good enough that I built an idol of perfection, and I hid inside of it. I never allowed myself to be vulnerable. I never shared my struggles. I was always the guy with the answers, never the guy with the questions. Did I struggle? Absolutely. Did I have questions? You bet I did. I was too afraid that people would see my inadequacies and that I would no longer be good enough.

I’ve published four books. Yet, after each book is complete, I struggle to publish it. Why? Because I think it’s not good enough for anyone to read. To this day, I cannot fathom how I’ve sold over 800 copies of my first book, King in a Cave. The truth is, I don’t ever feel like I’m enough. I’m not talented enough. Not attractive enough. Not a good enough parent. Not enough to ever be loved. As a pastor, I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t love enough. There’s always a sea of “not enough” that drowns my mind.

Through my life’s success and failures, I’ve had to learn something very hard for me to grasp. I wasn’t created to be enough. God created us to depend on Him for everything. Alone, we are sinful, wretched people, capable of nothing good. Even our best attempts are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t do anything of value without Christ. It’s not my job to be perfect; it’s His. That’s not a disappointment, it’s a relief! I don’t have to hide in the idol of perfection I’ve created for myself. I can be weak. I can be vulnerable. I can be human. Because in my weakness, when I crawl out of my idol of perfection and recognize where I’m lacking, I discover a powerful truth – His strength is made perfect!

Also, name one person God used mightily that was perfect? Most of the greats in scripture were tragic failures. David murdered and cheated. Jonah ran. Elijah couldn’t hold himself together. Samson couldn’t control his lust. Moses struggled with his anger. It even cost him a trip to the Promised Land. Peter denied Jesus. Paul persecuted Christians. The list goes on and on. The trouble is, we focus on the good stuff these people did. We focus on their successes and their victories. Know why? Because the Bible is written to help us do just that. It’s the perfect reflection of exactly how God sees us – not as the summary of life’s failures, but as the success of His mercy and grace.

None of our favorite Bible heroes were “enough” by the world’s standards. Moses wasn’t a good enough speaker. Gideon wasn’t a good enough soldier. Eve wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. Peter wasn’t a good enough leader. It’s a good thing too because if they were perfect, we would look to them instead of the cross.

Hebrews chapter 11 captures the highlights of these incredible people. We see the exploits of great men like Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, David, Gideon, Samson, etc. Yet, Abraham lied and doubted God. Moses had anger issues and missed out on the Promised Land. Jacob was a deceiver and manipulated his father to receive the blessing. Isaac favored Esau, even though God favored Jacob. David was an adulterous murderer. Gideon built an ephod and, in turn, brought idolatry to his house. Samson struggled with women his whole life. Yes, they accomplished a lot. They also made colossal failures.

Is it any wonder that after the writer of Hebrews gives us a full chapter about the heroes of faith, that he opens chapter 12 like this:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV

This “great cloud of witnesses” is not a collection of perfect people. It’s flawed people – people who made mistakes. Yet, their lives were defined by the God who empowered them despite their shortcomings. So, in turn, we must lay aside every weight – the inadequate feelings of not being good enough – and understand the He is the author and the finisher of my faith. He makes me good enough. He works through my mistakes and my shortcomings.

It’s not because of me that I’ve been successful. It’s because of Him. At times, I still struggle with feeling inadequate. The fear of not being good enough again threatens me daily. Yet, daily I remind myself – His strength is made perfect in my weakness. When I learn to embrace who I am, He can empower me to be what I’m not.

Jacob Wrestled

The life of Jacob is uniquely defined by his ability to wrestle. Even in his mother’s womb, Jacob fought against fate. Refusing to be second place, Jacob emerges clutching the heel of his brother Esau. Throughout his life, Jacob seems to have an unmatched determination to get what he felt he deserved. 

  • As an infant, he refused to settle for second place
  • As a young man, he fought back against his father’s favoritism of Esau
  • He bargains with Esau, exchanging a bowl of soup for the birthright he fought for in the womb. 
  • He plots with his mothers in a deceptive ploy to steal the blessing from Isaac. 

As a result, Jacob finds himself having to flee. He moves to Laban’s house, where he would meet a man more cunning and deceptive than himself. Jacob works tirelessly for Rachel’s hand in marriage, only to wake up next to Leah. Jacob, so in love with Rachel, works an additional seven years for the opportunity to marry his beloved bride. 

God blesses everything Jacob touches. Yet, Jacob finds himself once again wrestling against his conspiring father-in-law. Jacob, after the birth of Joseph, requests to return to “his land” in Canaan. Realizing his promise, Jacob was ready to claim his land. Laban, in his cunningly deceptive ways, essentially tells Jacob that if he wants to leave, he has to work for it. 

Jacob, seeing through the deception, makes Laban an offer he can’t resist. Jacob asked for only the colored or speckled lambs. Understand, most of Laban’s lambs would’ve been white. The presence of a black or speckled lamb would’ve been rare. Laban agrees. 

In keeping with his deceitful nature, Laban removes all of the animals from his herd that could quickly produce speckled offspring, for he wanted to keep Jacob around longer (vv. 35–36). But as we will see, God will give this cheater what he deserves. 

Jacob took “took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.” He placed these in the watering troughs as a visual to the sheep. God blessed Jacob mightily, and Jacob’s flocks grew!

Though it often expressed itself in deceit, Jacob’s tenacious nature was an asset to him. The way Laban cheated him with Rachel and Leah was merely a temporary setback; he dared to press on for what he wanted. Moreover, he would instead work for Laban than go away, unable to feed his family. Such perseverance is one mark of discipleship—the willingness to persevere regardless of opposition. The relentlessness to never give up chasing your purpose. Jacob had finally done it, and now it’s time to go home. Only now, Jacob’s greatest battle awaits. 

Esau made a promise that when Isaac dies, Jacob would be next. Jacob is fearful of Esau’s retribution. So he sends messengers, gifts, and even his own family ahead of him to appease Esau’s anger. Jacob is left alone. 

As Jacob is alone, in the middle of the night, a man appears and wrestles with Jacob. Jacob’s tenacious personality rises to the occasion once again, and these men fight until daybreak. The man Jacob wrestled wasn’t an ordinary man; it was an angel of God. 

The scene is symbolic of Jacob’s entire life. Up until now, everything Jacob had he had to fight to get. Jacob’s tenacity was on full display. The combative nature that existed since Jacob’s days in the womb was entangled with this angelic being all night. 

When you read the text in Genesis 32, you find an interesting dynamic between verses 25 and 26. In verse 25, Jacob was wrestling against God; as a result, God touched the hollow of his thigh, and his hip was dislocated from his socket. Yet when we read verse 26, the Bible says that God demands Jacob to let him go, yet Jacob’s response was, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” 

Something transpires between verse 25 and verse 26, somehow during the jolt of pain that was his hip being disjointed; Jacob went from wrestling with God to holding onto God. Jacob wasn’t wrestling any longer; in his suffering, Jacob was holding on for dear life. 

When Jacob stopped resisting God, he realized who he had struggled against all these years. For his entire life, Jacob depended upon his strength to overcome his obstacles. As Jacob wrestled with God, God crippled him so that Jacob would learn that the avenue to real power is through weakness! And until we learn this revelation, we will always live in a struggle. 

Think about, the angel Jacob wrestled wasn’t sent to fight Jacob. He was sent to bless Jacob. Yet, Jacob was accustomed to fighting for his destiny. As a result, Jacob was wrestling the very thing that was supposed to bless him. 

Sometimes we suffer pain, not so we can learn how strong God is; but rather how weak we are. When we depend upon our abilities, we are limited to what only we can do. When we are comfortable in our weaknesses, His strength is made perfect. Therefore, when I depend on God, I am now dependent on His power and strength. 

Jacob finally got the revelation. Jacob finally learned that his struggle was indeed within himself. When he learned to embrace his weakness, Jacob realized how powerful God indeed was. 

It’s no wonder, when Hebrews 11 lists the “heroes of faith,” that we see mighty men and incredible exploits. When Jacob’s faith is highlighted, it comes unusually. 

Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”

Of all the things Jacob overcame, and of all the things Jacob obtained with God, the one thing that makes the list of remembrance is that Jacob worshipped leaning on his staff? Understand, the only reason Jacob had a cane was to aid him in walking, because of the condition of his hip. The staff was a reminder of his weakness.

Yet as Jacob prays one of his last prayers and blesses his grandsons, Jacob doesn’t shy away from his weakness; he embraced it. He willingly leaned on the top of his staff, to show the next generation, it’s ok to be weak. Because when I am weak, He is strong. 

That night, Jacob had to lie. He would no longer be known as Jacob, but Israel. When Jacob stopped depending on himself, he was transformed

from a deceiver to a prevailer. Jacob had to die so that Israel could live.