Are You A Game Changer?



I can almost hear you saying, “Who me?” as you read this title. Then after the question comes those other things so many of us say – “I am just a …” or “I am not…” But if we say that (I can be tempted too.), we are missing the big picture truth.


Today as I was reading a note in my study Bible, I read this fabulous sentence:


“…everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”


The note was connected to 1 Samuel 1 and the example was Hannah (future mother of Samuel, the prophet) who was just a wife and a woman dealing with the agony of barrenness crying out to God in the midst of her situation not once or twice but repeatedly.


If you know the story at all you know that God answered and gave her a baby boy, Samuel, who would be a major prophet in Israel and anoint its first two kings, Saul and David. Can you imagine waiting for a child and then dedicating that child back to the Lord after he was weaned? I am sad to say I cannot. Her faithfulness and God’s response results in her taking Samuel to minister in the Lord’s Temple for the rest of his life.


That faithfulness is then rewarded with more children – three sons and two daughters.


Hannah is not the first person you might think of when you reflect on stories in the Bible, but she was a game changer for sure. Her faithfulness changed the course of history. So did the choices of Rahab despite not being a member of the tribe of Israel. She too became a game changer and her life was spared as a result.


It doesn’t take a long time in reading the Bible to discover a lot of the game changers that altered history are not all the big-name folks that immediately come to mind.


Why is that important?


As the world around us is reeling and fear seeks to overwhelm us, sending us shrinking into a corner until this crisis passes, the Lord is looking for ordinary people whose “everyday faithfulness” change history right now. That may not be on the world stage and may receive no accolades, but it matters to the Lord and also to what He may lead you to be during this time.


I know you are hearing many ideas being offered about this very thing and they are good. Even so, that place of “everyday faithfulness” you may be called to might look quite different. Right now, we are scattered rather than together in one place or another and that opens endless possibilities to the Lord and can help us keep our perspective in alignment.


One small light in a dark place can create an incredible amount of light.


“Everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”





An Ancient Struggle Returns




Few things aggravate most of us as much as being told “no” that we cannot do something we want to do or believe we should be able to do. We delude ourselves into believing we are not selfish and demanding until we face that big little word “no.” Even though we ascribe it as an issue for toddlers, the truth is that it remains an issue for us and right now in this season of crisis around the world we can see it more clearly.


Whatever corner of the world we live in, we are being asked to cease doing much of what we do routinely even if we are currently healthy and well. And to make it harder, we are being told that it could be for longer than a few days or even weeks. Each of us is faced with what we choose to do if we are still in a place where the choice is ours.


In some cases, leaders are learning from history. They look at how cities, towns, and countries responded to the great pandemic of Spanish Flu that circled the globe in 1918-1919. What they discover is that those who took more radical steps to curtail social exposure had fewer deaths. A great comparison is looking up the difference between St. Louis, MO, and Philadelphia, PA, during that time.


Humankind has never liked the word “no” as it is sown into our DNA. Our oldest relatives, Adam and Eve, set us up for this when they could not accept “no” about only one tree in the beautiful Garden of Eden so long ago. Their rebellion haunts us and lingers in us to varying degrees.


We can be lulled into living as if all we have will always be readily available whenever we want it or need it, paying little heed to knowing we each receive life one day, one moment at a time.       person-pouring-milk-in-highball-glass-1435706


We also don’t do well preparing for things we do not have experience with at the moment. How many laughed and mocked Noah when he built an ark instructed by the Lord when humankind had never seen rain, rainstorms or any kind of flood before?


Too many among us don’t like to study history but fail to realize the gifts it offers us to help us living in the now.


The current crisis will be weathered best by those who trust in the One who only has told us “no” when it was for our own good and by those who submit to the authorities over them seeking to help us before we fall prey to a worsening situation.


Fear knocks on the doors of many hearts, minds, and spirits, but fear will defeat us if we ignore what biblical and world history teaches us. Foolishness will also defeat us if we ignore what fear is reminding us to take heed of.


As Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III wrote in 1994 in Cry of the Soul, our emotions reveal our deepest questions about God. As they write about the emotion of fear, here are some key points they offer:


“Different people fear different things with different levels of intensity, but all of us fear what we cannot control.”


 “Fear is provoked when the threat of danger (physical or relational) exposes our inability to preserve what we cherish most deeply.”


 No one would likely argue with either of these statements, but consider what else they wrote about fear:


IMG_3591“Fear can function as a warning light when danger is near. It can function to keep ourselves from harm.”


Some of us are blessed right now to have warning lights going off. We are not ill as yet and we can give up on our stubborn desires to go about life as though nothing is happening and say “no” to restrictions, or we can see those warning lights of caution as a gift of love for our protection.


John Eldredge recently released a new free app (Pause) in conjunction with his newly released book, Get Your Life Back. The app allows you to practice a pause to reflect – first for just one minute at times you set each day and then to increase to three, five, and ten minutes. The one-minute pause shows a beautiful mountain waterfall with beautiful music in the background as John speaks these words we could all use at present:


“Jesus – I give everyone and everything to you.

I give everyone and everything to you, God.

I give myself to you, Jesus,

For union with you.

I am created for union with you, God.

I give everything in me for union with you, Lord.

I need more of you, God.

Fill me with more of you.”


When everything in us wants to shout “no”, may we submit to Him and say “yes.”


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How Well Do We Know God’s Character?



In the fast-paced “get ahead” culture of the day, I sometimes wonder if the old-fashioned virtue of character has been left at the side of the road as we race ahead. It was once taught not only in churches, but homes and schools as well. It was a time when a person’s word was their bond and deals were sealed with a handshake instead of pages and pages of a contract written in legalese.


Perhaps one of our problems is that we have diluted and individualized our definition of character. We may feel our actions or words are totally appropriate but condemn those of someone we disagree with when they exhibit the same ones.


But it isn’t just the character of our fellow human beings we fail to understand or recognize. It is difficult to be sure of whether or not we recognize and understand the character of God. And if we do not, then how can we truly have faith?


“Biblical faith rests on the character of God.”

Debbie Wilson in Little Faith, Big God


Too often from Old Testament days to the present his character has been based on whether we see Him as benevolent or doing those things that we most want from Him. To do so can easily leave us in “no man’s land” because it is tainted with our own selfish motives.


Gaining a deeper understanding of God’s character can be found by seeing how Jesus portrayed Him as He walked the earth and by more than random reading of the Bible to have a more comprehensive view of the consistency of that character from Genesis to Revelation. If we fail to look at the full scope, we will be much like the story of the blind man and the elephant – describing Him only as whatever part we touched versus the whole of Him.


“When God seems narrow, it’s safe to say we’re looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Maybe it’s better to say He is precise. He knows what works and what doesn’t.” – Debbie Wilson


One of the ways we demonstrate we fail to understand God’s character is how we respond when we mess up. Do we behave more like Adam and Eve – hiding and trying to avoid Him?  Or do we run to the safety and grace found in his arms?


If it is the latter answer we can see that we have understood the character of God that sent Jesus to earth to show us who He is and eliminate the impact of those tragic missteps in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. We understand He wants to not only be with us throughout eternity, but in the day-to-day living where we so often trip up.



I love how Debbie Wilson puts this in Little Faith, Big God:


“God does not weigh our good deeds against our bad ones. He weighs our sin by whether we’ve trusted or rejected Jesus.”


Maybe our struggle is worse because He gave us the freedom to choose the path we take. With that gift of freedom also comes the burden of responsibility and when we are honest, taking responsibility for poor choices is not an area we are especially good at most of the time. Not only do we miss how it can and will impact us, but also how it impacts others.


It doesn’t take too many pages in Genesis to see how the decisions or choices of Adam and Eve and a long list of others resulted in consequences we are living with today.


Sometimes we believe we know the character of a person only to discover we missed something later. That happens because we can only truly know the character of someone by spending a great deal of time in relationship with them. God invites that intimate level of relationship with Him so we can rest in the truth of his character, but do we really invest the time needed for that to happen?


It’s walking with someone, spending time with them through good times and bad, that we come to really know his or her character. That is how the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 came to know and understand the character of God. That list of “heroes” messed up and evidenced more than a few flaws…just like we are.


“His Covenant is greater than our commitment.”

Eric and Kristin Hill


How Did They Do It?

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As the world around us convulses as a result of the new coronavirus and the crashing world economic markets, it can be easy for us to tremble and fret over how we will cope with these current disasters. Even if you are not personally affected at the present, it is no assurance that you will not be.


These things and so many others can leave us shaking our heads if we have tried to steward our health and wealth. But you see these things are not at all new.


As I was reading in Judges today about Gideon I paused when I came to a verse that echoed what so many are wondering in these current days:


“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Judges 6:13 (NIV)


And that is just one example of many we find in the Bible if we look back through biblical history. Some of you are knowledgable to be able to identify more than a few others.


Moving up the history timeline to a time not so long ago I think of the times and seasons my parents lived in and through. It can be easy to forget the challenges the generations just before us experienced.



My parents were children when the Spanish flu ravaged the world and in 1918 in the United States alone 675,000 people died. Some of these were family members I never knew. It was happening during the same period the impact of WW I was being felt across the globe, but it didn’t stop there. From 1921-1925 a diphtheria epidemic raged and at its peak 15,520 died in one year. Then polio destroyed the lives of many and crippled others between 1916 and 1955 and a measles outbreak between 1981 and 1991 killed up to 10,000.


During those years just mentioned people were living and dying through WW II and the conflict in Korea and others lost all hope when most of the money and businesses were lost when the crash of the stock market happened in 1929 and the long years of the Great Depression followed.



We can watch movies and documentaries galore about these things and if we are blessed, we might also have some first-hand stories we recall of rationing, losses, and scarcity of things we easily take for granted.


These more modern examples do not show up in the heroes of the faith we read about in Hebrews 11, but perhaps some of them should. Maybe we should also take heart for what those hard times wrought in them. Many without fame or fortune rebuilt agriculture and rebuilt cities and countries and discovered vaccines and cures for so many things most of the world do not need to worry about. They also dreamed of a “better” for those like us who would come after them and sacrificed to make education and opportunity plentiful so we might not struggle in ways so many of them did.


We have such a narrow view. I love how Debbie Wilson describes this in her new book, Little Faith, Big God:


 “We view life like someone standing on a sidewalk watching a parade pass by. We see only what passes in front of us. God sees the story of humankind as one looking down on the parade from a blimp. He sees the beginning, middle, and end all at the same time. His ways are better than ours. He has information that we lack. It makes good sense to trust him. Although faith relates to the unseen, it isn’t blind.”


I benefitted from the generation who lived through some of those hard times. They taught me to steward my money and possessions and never to presume they could not be lost. They also taught me to value life and liberty and the sacrifices often needed to preserve it. Education was something I learned early on was not something to be lazy about because learning from all that came before prepared me for what was ahead and inspired possibilities for what my generation could discover or accomplish to make the world better.



From them I learned that my hope could not be in the stock market or any other financial entity, nor could it be in any politician of any ilk.


I learned that “entertainment” could be as faith-building as a “hymn sing” at our local church on an evening where anyone could shout out a favorite hymn of theirs and we would all join in singing.


“Our hope rests in a loving God. Even though we can’t see his invisible hand or understand his plan, like the wind, his goodness is evident to those with the eyes of faith.

When stormy emotions cloud your spiritual vision, focus on your Pilot. Then choose to trust him with your groundings.” Debbie Wilson



What Does Encouragement Look Like?




It seems that everyone is facing a challenge of some sort and if not, they are often feeling caught up in the mundane tasks and duties of their world. Without a doubt, most of us are either looking for or would welcome a little encouragement.


We certainly can receive encouragement from God’s Word and times with Him in prayer and reflection, but there are times when the heavens seem closed to us and the Word reads like an assignment from a literature class we are not “feeling” if we are totally honest.


What does encouragement look like?



I think it may vary depending on our personality, the season of life we are in, our gender, our love language, or the levels of relationships we have or do not have.


I probably spent a great deal of my growing up years yearning for more encouragement than I felt I received. Chances are, I entered adulthood with a deficit in that area. One of the results in early adulthood was that I often was hoping, looking, or expecting encouragement without being very good at giving it.


I also must admit that even if I tried to offer encouragement to someone else, hoping to receive some in return often tainted my motive. I am sure you guessed the result of that. They did not really feel as encouraged as they might have desired since my primary focus was on me versus them.


That nudged me to look more deeply at my motives and wants to learn what my heart was truly longing to receive. Sometimes I received words that I knew were supposed to be encouraging to me, but somehow failed to hit the mark. My primary love languages are affirming words and quality time so what was the problem? On far too many occasions, my dear husband was left scratching his head wondering why his words had not reached the place he so desired to touch with his love for me.


My personal survey enlightened my understanding a bit. Too often in those growing up years I had heard a statement such as “that’s nice” or “that’s good” followed by a qualifier of how I could have done it differently or better. As a result, the words went KLUNK!! I realized that words like “nice job” or “good work” almost made me feel worse than no words at all. It was as if they went SPLAT against a wall.



What I was looking for was positive encouragement that was specific; words that allowed me to know the person had recognized an aspect of my performance or person.


Those types of words conveyed real care for me. They also said something else: “I really see you”. The more general words of praise failed to make the mark when they came from someone who had a significant relationship with me. Those general words were ones shouted out from stadium seats to players or performers we usually did not even know. The praise was real, but did not acknowledge a relationship with the receiver.


For me, true encouragement that nourished my soul came from relationships that were meaningful to me and included something more specific. Here are just a few examples:

  • I loved when you…
  • What I liked most was….
  • I know you can do a good job on this because…
  • The color of that dress is great on you.


I could make a longer list, but I am sure you see what I mean.


The most important thing I discovered was the Lord’s whispers to me were exactly what I needed and showed me clearly that He saw me and knew me. And a funny thing started to happen, I started to encourage others by attending to who they specifically were without concern for what I wanted or hoped to get from them.


I tapped into the true source of encouragement!


“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)

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