I AM inspired
As I’m coming to the end of this book, I find myself reflecting on so much that has transpired in this season… So many ups and downs, so many tests of my character, so many opportunities to “give up or GET UP”. It’s interesting for me to look back over the course of the past few years and to see how much I have learned and as a direct result, grown. It has been these God lessons that have inspired me to document the journey in a season where many times I did not feel like picking up a pen.
In a previous chapter, I addressed a conversation I had with God where I was talking to Him and asked, “Don’t you think I’ve been in this season a long time”, only to have him respond with a very direct and unexpected, “You had a lot to unlearn”.
I believe that I’m finally on the “other side” of that season in my life…Not that I don’t still have things to “learn and unlearn” but that a new chapter seems to be beginning as I am now seeing multiple doors opening and opportunities presenting themselves that I’m confident this past season has equipped me to handle.
As I spoke into a Television camera on Sunday, addressing a live audience all around the world, my mind was flooded with a myriad of memories. In a matter of seconds I reflected on how confident and fearless I used to be and how several circumstances over an extended season stripped that from me in what I believe was an attempt of the devil to not only end my life but also to derail my destiny. But in true God form, He worked those things together for my good and used those circumstances that were intended for my destruction, to actually build me.
As I reflected, I thought about how God has restored and continues to restore a confidence in me that is now so much less a “Self-Confidence” but “God-Confidence”. I have come to realize that it is HE who has begun a work in me and HE that will complete it as I surrender to His will. And that leads me to one more moment of transparency and expose’ of weakness, trusting that it will offer you strength as it relates to your own circumstances. Some of what I am about to share I’ve never shared with anyone but my wife.
I’m not any different than most, in that Transparency for me has been a difficult pill to swallow. I don’t like to admit or acknowledge failure, weakness or difficulty, yet I realize that transparency has been the MOST significant tool of ministry that God has ever used in me. Like so many of you reading this, I have struggled in the past with feeling guarded concerning my emotions and not wanting to reveal areas where I felt wounded. But, truth be told, every chapter in this book was written in one of those seasons as I determined to declare the Word of God over my circumstances and encourage myself in Him while trusting that what I have written would also be instrumental in your development and progress. And I feel like these final chapters needed to be written from that same perspective…I can say confidently, every chapter thus far was without a doubt a revelation exposed through blood, sweat and many times… tears.
I have found through my experiences that the Devil is methodical in his attempts at derailing our destiny. Like a chess match he will intentionally plan several moves ahead and will often use the pawns or “little pieces” to set up the greater failures one small move at a time, many times not even revealing what the set up was until the hammer falls and we see everything in hindsight from a 20/20 perspective. I addressed some of what I am referring to with my own life and the issue of confidence in an earlier chapter, Embracing the Mamma’s Boy, but I can say that the Devil didn’t stop attacking the area of confidence with one move…as a matter of fact there have been several attacks since then that I had to overcome. And I’d like to share a few more examples from my life with you in this chapter to model how the attack of the enemy comes against us as believers and how the Word of God is applied in those situations…
As explained in previous chapters, having an attempt made on my life in many ways sent my world into what felt like a chaotic downward spiral. Physically I was a mess, not being able to accomplish many of the normal daily functions that I previously took for granted, walking, driving, making my own dinner…etc. In addition, I also lost my job, benefits, even my ability to work in familiar conditions.
Emotionally, I struggled more than I ever had as I worked through the difficulties of physical therapy and psychological therapy, both of which at the time did not seem to adequately address the needs that I felt that I had. Not to mention the attacks on my perspective of what it meant to be a man and provider for my family. I felt very broken and inadequate… These were all foundations for some of the future attacks as the battlefield for the mental assault on my confidence and self-esteem was established.
One area that I never previously struggled with, was my ability to communicate or speak publicly. In years past I was one of the most self-assured communicators that I knew. Even in college I took a public speaking class and aced it without ever writing a speech. I recall several times, on the day I was to make a classroom presentation, writing an outline in class while other students performed their speeches and then getting up in front of the class with nothing but a sloppy outline and not only “winging it” but “NAILING IT”!
This confidence proved to be a two sided coin and could be interpreted as blessing and a curse as I can also recall seasons of laziness, where I did not invest adequate “study time” into a sermon that I was to preach as a Youth Pastor or Associate Pastor or even as an Evangelist because I knew that I would be able to once again rely on that communication gift and even with very little time invested, I would be able to pull off a decent “performance”.
I believe that when God told me that I had a lot to unlearn, self-assuredness was a significant aspect of what I had to unlearn. There is a difference between having head knowledge about a subject and having heart knowledge about it…and what I’m about to say, I have always known in my head but I don’t know that I understood it in my heart until the past few years revealed it to me.
Every day is a gift, and I realize now, in a much more intense way, that every opportunity that God presents for us to speak into peoples lives should be recognized to potentially have eternal significance and/or consequence. In years past, I simply didn’t weigh in my heart the depth of not hearing from God before addressing people. I knew what the scripture said and how to present something that was “good” and then, relied on my gift to carry me through…and although God was still faithful to minister to people IN SPITE of me I was not fulfilling my end with any form of excellence.
In hindsight, it comes as no surprise that while I was already dealing with issues regarding confidence, that the one area I still felt “Strong” in was also brought under attack in three occurrences that played a significant role in me struggling with the area that I believe my future and destiny (from a ministry perspective) were tied to…Communication.
The first was a Sunday morning. My pastor, who is internationally recognized among top communicators and worship leaders, had the flu. As is his M/O he was still at church and was going to preach even though he felt horrible. Just before the offering he turned to me sitting next to him on the front row and said, “Aaron, will you greet the people and receive the offering, I need to save my strength”.
I didn’t even bat an eye. Before joining our church I had been a youth pastor and/or an associate pastor for 9 years and had conducted that part of the service hundreds of times. So, I simply said, “SURE!”
When it was time to receive the offering, I took the microphone, jumped up on the stage, and in front of hundreds of people I froze! For the first time in my life, I completely drew a blank in front of a crowd! I looked out at the congregation, I looked at my pastor and for a brief second I literally considered running out of the church! (which now seems very funny but at the time felt devastating… )
Then I heard it, in the awkward silence, a woman in the second or third row said the words that I had heard many times over the years as someone had difficulty with a special song or didn’t remember the words in the church Christmas play…but never in reference to me…! Lil’ miss second row whispers out…”Help him Jesus…” and for the first time in my public speaking life, I was the “Help him Jesus guy”!
After an awkward 30 seconds (which seemed like an hour) of trying to get my bearings, I was able to complete the task that I was asked to attend to, but it felt like a train wreck to me! It was no help that one of the pastors on staff (a good friend that was just joking with me) came up after the service pretending to be an airplane with outstretched arms crashing into the ground while laughing and then asking “What in the world happened to you Aaron…?!” I had no answer for what happened, but this situation literally plagued my mind for months as I began questioning my ability to do what I previously believed God had called me to do. Although this occurrence was frequently in the back of my mind, I did my best to not think about it and figured that it was a bit of a fluke and wouldn’t likely happen again…Until IT DID!
On a Friday night during a special service, my pastor turned to me out of the blue and said, “Aaron, can you go and greet our online audience?” Which basically entailed taking the microphone, walking over to the television camera and saying hello to everyone watching. This time, I immediately reflected on my “last failure” and as I approached the camera I became more and more uneasy. When the red light came on letting me know that I was “Live”, once again I drew a blank and had difficulty even completing a thought. As I recall I gave the wrong website address, the wrong email address for contacting us… I may have even gave them the wrong church name…I stumbled over nearly every word and I was completely humiliated! I hid it well, but this failure, after beating myself up as bad as I had the last time, floored me! The first time I wrote off as a fluke, but after this time, I felt like I was seeing a pattern…and at that Y in the road, my already damaged confidence plummeted. I questioned my calling and whether or not I was even pursuing something that was “God ordained”. The devil made sure to keep it very alive in my mind and I struggled daily with feelings of frustration and inadequacy.
The final blow came a few months later, adding insult to what was already significant injury. I was in our youth chapel with a member of our staff. We were attempting to watch a video for a service that we were collaborating on. Our youth chapel has a HUGE video screen where song lyrics, graphics and videos are projected for the youth services, and this seemed a good place to watch the video so that we could get an adequate feel for what we were desiring to present on the big screen the following Sunday. While accessing the video clip on the computer, the staff member clicked on an icon in the computer to play a video and by mistake, the video footage from a few months ago of me stumbling over my words in front of a live audience came on and I had to relive one of the greatest feelings of failure that I had ever experienced… He fumbled with the computer, attempting to get quickly off of the screen, but by that time the damage had been done. Not only had I experienced it the first time, but now I had seen it with my own eyes. It was never intended that I see that by whoever put it there, but I did… and at that point, I also had to contemplate the reasons that the footage had been taken off of our server, made a copy of and placed on a huge screen in a different part of the church for others to view and to put it lightly, I felt horrible.
Let’s just say, the devil had a hay day with that one in my head…Although, I KNEW what I was feeling and thinking was not even realistic because I was dealing with people who loved me, I warred with the most improbable thoughts as I found myself feeling betrayed and exploited. I pictured people laughing while watching me fail in bigger than life form, I felt anger, I felt sadness, I felt a lot of things…but a resounding Failure, Failure, Failure, Failure, Failure, Failure was what I heard constantly in my head!
Isn’t it typical, in circumstances where we do not know the answer to “why” , that the devil makes sure to try to get us to focus on the absolute WORST case scenario, regardless of how unrealistic that perspective may be…? I had to reel in those thoughts quickly and not allow them to take root, particularly the ones leading me to feel offended. I knew that these thoughts were not sensible and were intended to be a distraction and if they took root that the results could be destructive.
In reality, I realized, even as I was going through it, that this entire scenario was orchestrated in an attempt to continue to further discourage me, but it was still an incredible struggle to not feel disheartened…And, at that point, I pondered the possibility of giving up and throwing in the towel all together…Anyone been there? Of course you have… We all have…
While meditating on this subject I was reminded of a story from the Old Testament. In Genesis chapter 11 we see the family tree of Abraham (Abram at this time because it was before his covenant with God). Here are the last couple verses from that chapter in the Message version of the bible:
27-28 This is the story of Terah. Terah had Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Haran had Lot. Haran died before his father, Terah, in the country of his family, Ur of the Chaldees.
29 Abram and Nahor each got married. Abram’s wife was Sarai; Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of his brother Haran. Haran had two daughters, Milcah and Iscah.
30 Sarai was barren; she had no children.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and Sarai his daughter-in-law (his son Abram’s wife) and set out with them from Ur of the Chaldees for the land of Canaan. But when they got as far as Haran, they settled down there.
32 Terah lived 205 years. He died in Haran.
There is SO much that can be considered in this passage! Abraham’s father Terah, had a son named Haran who died. Although this was not elaborated upon any further, as a parent, placing myself in his shoes and imagining how overwhelming the death of his son must have been for him, I believe it would be safe to assume that this was an unplanned event in Terah’s life that rocked him to the core!
It is interesting to me that the bible says that Terah set out for Canaan. Although there is no biblical reference for why he set out from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan, I think, based upon God’s direct instruction to Abraham in the first verse of the following chapter to “Leave for a land that I will show you”, that Terah was at least being led by God if not directed by God to go to Canaan.
Gen 12:1-6 (The Message Version)
1 God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
2-3 I’ll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you.”
4-6 So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.
A point of particular interest to me in the short story of Terah is what happened in route to the “destination” and perhaps even fulfilling his God ordained destiny. Terah, the patriarch of his family, reached a place called Haran. Now, whether this is a place that was named after his deceased son, or a place his son was named after, it shared the name of what was likely the single most impacting event of his life, the death of his son and it WAS where he settled.
…set out with them from Ur of the Chaldees for the land of Canaan. But when they got as far as Haran, they settled down there.
How many times does the memory of our single most impacting life event effect how or if we progress to pursue our God ordained destiny?! How many times have we set out to the place where God has called us only to settle at the point in the journey where we are reminded of our own limitations, inadequacy, failures, or pain?
My mind immediately questions, What if Terah had not settled? Would he have gone down in biblical history as one of the mighty men of faith? Would God have been referred to for generations to come as the God of Terah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Terahs entire life is summed up in six verses…But, what would have been his legacy if he had continued on through the painful memory of his greatest relational failure? What if…? I believe that these are at the very least logical questions to ponder.
Each of us has to face our place of Haran in our journey of life and each of us have to decide whether or not we will set up camp and settle or press through in those places.
The choice is ours. We must determine that we will not be defined by our failures or willing to stop short of our God intended destiny! In my life I have come to realize that my abilities are limited and there are areas that I fall short, BUT my bible says:
1 John 4:4 (Amplified version)
…He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world.
Philippians 4:13 (Amplified Bible)
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].
There is NOTHING that will derail our destiny if we will determine to press on through the adversity! It is God who has begun the work in you and it is He who will complete it!
We simply must align our thoughts and intentions with God’s direction. When contrary voices or memories or failures come against what we believe to be Gods directive, we must stand in the belief and understanding that God loves us, He believes in us, He placed destiny in each one of us and we will overcome!!!
“as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
How do you see yourself? We must choose to see ourselves as God sees us! In Him we are MORE than sufficient! God makes up in every area where we lack! If we are not careful we will view ourselves in light of our circumstances and failures and human inadequacy, but God sees us from the perspective of the work in us that is completed through Christ!
Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Several times during the course of these chapters I have written about how we establish the Word of God as our final authority and truth! When our circumstances contradict the Word of God we simply go to His Word, find out what it says about what we are contending with and then stand upon the truth of His Word in spite of our circumstances… When the devil comes against your mind attempting to derail destiny we are to take that Word and apply it to our circumstances and CRUSH the devils warped philosophy concerning the outcome of our future!
2 Corinthians 10:5
We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.
We are who God says we are…PERIOD!
I am not anybody special and God is not a respecter of persons… What He has done for me, He will do for anyone who calls upon Him…He simply is faithful to His Word.
As I bring this to a close I would just like to encourage you to press forward even if it seems to be at a snails pace at times… Allow God to teach you through His Word and your circumstances and He will take those things that the devil intended for your destruction and use them as the foundation for fulfilling your intended purposes. He is FOREVER FAITHFUL! God placed you on this earth for a divinely inspired purpose! He can’t wait til’ you get to see what that looks like! You’re gonna love it!
… As I spoke into a Television camera on Sunday addressing a live audience all around the world, my mind was flooded with a myriad of memories…I smiled as I left Haran behind and set out toward my land of promise…
…I will fulfill my destiny!
I AM Inspired