The Busy Signal

One night a man had a dream that left him quite shaken upon awakening.  He dreamed that after repeatedly getting a busy signal into heaven, God finally answered.

The man cried out, “I have been trying to get ahold of You for DAYS!  I needed Your help but every time I tried to reach You, all I got was a busy signal.  Why did You have to be unavailable when I needed You the most?”

God answered, “I’m so sorry to have missed your call.  I’ve implemented a screening mechanism to eliminate prank and junk calls; so perhaps where your number has shown up previously as a frequent non-prayer call, it’s been automatically routed to a busy signal.”

The man was very upset.  “What do You mean, Lord?  When have I ever placed a prank call on You?  That’s an unfair accusation.”

The Lord said, “Well, the new system might not be without its glitches.  Let me pull up your records and let’s review them.  Hmmmm…I do see your number showing up quite a few times these past few days, but I don’t see any actual calls placed to speak directly to Me.  The system logs each time you say My name as a call.  Wow…you do say My name…a LOT.  And yes, here at  end of the printout, I do see where you were indeed trying to talk to Me.  Your requests, however, just got shuffled in with all the other false alarm uses of My name, and thus triggered the busy signal.

You see, I used to handle all your calls directly, because My ears are attentive to the cries of my children.  Any time My name is spoken, I stop and lean in to hear the conversation.  Is it to Me?  Is it least about Me?  But reviewing these 347 times you’ve said My name over the past month, almost none of them fell into either category.  You’ve exclaimed it a few dozen times while watching the ball games, the fights, in traffic…sometimes in elation, sometimes in disgust, sometimes in surprise.  You’ve typed OMG about 100 times in your recent social media texts…and said it about that many times as a casual response of fake awe to other people’s stories about nothing in particular; but again, not praising Me or talking to or about Me.  You’ve uttered My name every time you’ve rolled over or stood up or climbed a long flight of stairs,  when you were in pain or out of breath, when the alarm clock went off and you weren’t ready to get up; but nope…not to really get My attention…not even to complain to Me or ask for My help.  Again, false alarms…like a phone call where the caller hangs up as soon as I answer it.  You even said My name two or three times last Tuesday after taking a bite of your wife’s freshly-baked carrot cake.  Were you perhaps thanking Me retroactively?  …because you didn’t give thanks before you ate it, or any of the other meals and snacks you had over the past several weeks.  A deer ran out in front of your car and startled you a couple of days ago, and you blurted out My name with a couple of other words you shouldn’t have said with or without it.

So you see, My child, I wasn’t deliberately trying to ignore your call…but you have short-circuited the prayer bells of heaven by using My name in vain.  I love when you say My name as you talk to Me, or to overhear you using My name in a conversation with someone else about Me.  It’s sad, however, that My very own children—not just strangers who don’t even know Me—are blurting out My name as an expletive, sending scrambled signals into the heavenlies.  It’s a holy name, child, and you’ve made it common by using it as a byword…not to praise Me or speak to Me or testify of Me.  You’re misusing one of the most powerful gifts you’ve been given, and you’re rendering it powerless from your own lips.”

The man woke up trembling, deeply convicted because he knew that, although it was just a dream, he had indeed done exactly what the Lord had said.  He got out of bed, got on his knees, and cried bitterly.  He said, “Lord, I am so sorry for the many times I have misused and abused Your precious name and the name of Your Son.  I will make it a point, from this day forward, to use Your name only when I’m speaking to You or about You!  Forgive me for all the times You bent Your ear from heaven in response to my words, only to find out I wasn’t talking or even thinking about You at all…just blurting out empty false alarm words. I will reverence Your name for the rest of my life; and in the future when You hear it from my lips, it will be something worth lending Your attention to.”

So how about it, friend?  Are you (like me), guilty of sometimes idly invoking the name of God or Jesus in times when there’s no prayer, no praise, no testimony?  I’m convicted in my own heart to do better…I pray you will be, too.  Let’s not disappoint the Creator of the Universe who took time to hear us even mention His name.  Of course, He has no telephone answering machine, no screening service…but even in the Ten Commandments, we are instructed not to take His name in vain.  We are also told that we will give account for every idle word.  What do you say we work on this together?  Let’s please Him when He hears us use His name.  It may hasten the answer of our prayers, heighten the level of priority, when our use of that holy name is reserved only for special communication that doesn’t fall into the “junk call” category…

Thankfulness–Breaker of Hope Deferred

Proverbs 13:12 Bread.jpgtells us that postponed hope sickens the heart. How many people are suffering in their health–or even already gone to the grave–because of a state of hopelessness?

I want each of you to ponder this and begin to confess, “I choose to be happy NOW. Not later, when the right job, the right mate, the weight loss, the respect and the education and the money come. My contingency for happiness isn’t bound up in a lottery ticket mentality, where happiness might get to happen later IF per next-to-nothing chance, I get everything I hope for.”

One of Satan’s cruelest schemes is that of deferred hope, because it’s always in the future with no acquisition date stamped on it. In that setting, only fantasy occupies the mind–for anyone else’s life MUST be more interesting than one’s own, right?

Don’t let the evil one convince you that the ideal life is the one you aren’t in! He will keep you running from one relationship to another, one high to another, one futile pursuit and then another and another. You’ll live inside a fictitious story where you spend all your days, as Ecclesiastes says, chasing “vanities.” Even when you ARE running over with favor and blessing, you won’t see it because you’ll be still focused on what you don’t have yet. Without meaning to be–and without seeing it–you’ll become miserably self-centered, trapped inside the devil’s funhouse where every reflection of your life is distorted and perverted. Not good enough.

How on earth does one stop deferring hope? It is, after all, a choice! You break the cycle first by taking on the spirit of thanksgiving. As hypocritical as that might sound, you call the devil’s bluff even before you SEE your own life as a great place to be. You zero in on even the trivial, tiny things if necessary; and praise God for those instead of lamenting things which aren’t so wonderful at present. Believe me when I tell you, God knows your heart! He isn’t going to be insulted when you do this. He knows the difference between sarcasm and a true attempt to return to a spirit of thanksgiving. If your foot is hurting, thank Him that your ear isn’t.

Jesus lived in a human body too. It would’ve been much easier to live out His days as a normal, nondescript fellow with the biblical equivalent of the American Dream. The wife, kids, the dog, the picket fence. He also knew that the key to not becoming disillusioned with the burdens He bore was to remain in the place of thanksgiving. His prayers began with, “Father, I thank You that_____.”

From what many historians believe, Mary probably long outlived Joseph. As the oldest, the responsibility to support her and to raise younger siblings would have fallen to Jesus. He could’ve wrestled with “hope deferred” as He labored away, day in and day out, to put food on the table instead of being out there fulfilling His destiny. The human side of Him may have wondered, “Am I ever going to get beyond just helping my folks and on to REAL ministry?” But you know, the side of Him which connected to His Father knew that what He was doing in those preparatory days WAS real ministry! He learned compassion and selflessness while helping wipe noses and pack water. Time He spent poring over the law and the prophets, in prayer and meditation, and in the place of solitude, and in the place of serving His family well, were all investments for what would become a 3 1/2 year blitz of ministry that culminated in Him saying, “It is finished!” at the cross–not, “This is unfair, my life has been disappointing, it is UNFINISHED. I want to reinvent myself and be like the characters on my favorite TV show!”

There have been many times when, going through hard seasons, I dreamed of hopping on a plane with a new name and identity, and just starting all over again. There’ve been times when I felt like the biggest waste of potential EVER. I’ve known for some time now that when I catch myself drifting away to that place, my thankfulness is leaking out. I immediately try to switch gears and reassess. Have I listened to the world telling me all I’m not, or am I instead peering at my reflection in the Word to see me conforming to the image of Jesus?

When we say that our current state is not our IDEA of where we want to be, then we are in the place of hope deferred…and yes, it’s just an idea. Shake yourself with this hard but vital truth!  If you get every part of your “idea” of what it takes to make you happy, you still won’t be happy unless you are already choosing to have a heart of gratitude in any state.   Our mission statement may be more than “half a bubble off plumb” when placed against our actual MISSION. It’s time to take our minds off the “if only I were richer, thinner, younger, older, more educated, beautiful/handsome, then my life would be better” merry-go-round, and make today about what we actually have in our hands. Do as Jesus did concerning feeding the multitude. Ask, “what do I have in my hands?” and then hold it up, give thanks for it, bless it, and put it to use. You’re no more cheated for that allotment of resources you have than Jesus was, when He held up and gave thanks for five dinner rolls and a couple of sardines, right in front of the astonished people He was about to bless with the feast of a lifetime!

Remember–remain thankful even when it feels silly to be thankful for your little bit. It doesn’t matter what YOU have, it’s what HE has…but He will require you to present to Him what you have first. Trade your hope deferred for faith infused! He will bless you more for thankfully using what you have–your ordinary, ho-hum life in your average or below-average body, less-than-perfect teeth, short resume’, incomplete education, not-so-dream job, biological click-ticking self–than if you were to get to swap lives with any other person on earth. Bless and utilize what you have; because in so doing, you short-circuit the endless-loop of the accuser who says you have too little to ever be effective (or happy)! Stop comparing yourself to that other person who already has what you wish you did–you may think you really want IT, but mostly what you’re wanting is to shut off feeling as if you’re a disappointment. Stop it. That other person isn’t having things as perfect as you think…especially if he or she is still motivated by that same need for approval that you’re wrestling.

God will take your offering of what you have, pour the oil of anointing on it, set it ablaze with favor you couldn’t have possibly worked diligently enough to earn, and leave you speechless at what He has done with your tiny part! So, does a spirit of thankfulness REALLY do all that? Is it really the breaker of hope deferred? Yes! On the day you grasp this–take your eyes off yourself and place them upon God–you will poise yourself for the miraculous! Refocus every single day if you have to, because this is one of the most powerful tools of spiritual warfare you will ever pull out of your bag. Get this right and watch your life begin to change in a major way…and those things you don’t see changing will start mattering to you a whole lot less in light of what IS.