On Going Forward
One of the most important things my coach Vince Del Monte ever said to me was "What got you to where you are ... will not get you to where you want to go."
At the time, I think he was being optimistic. In the early months of 2018, I was six years into a career as an insurance salesman that was going absolutely nowhere. I'd ground and slaved my way through half a decade dialing for dollars, hustling at trade shows and business networking. I worked around the clock, the length of the calendar and even on Sundays - with not much to show for it. I was burned out, my old methods were failing and I was mere months from getting fired from my last job in the business.
There was gravity in Vince's words, but why they felt so powerful I hadn't a clue. Have you ever heard a phrase, a sentence or even just a word ... that seem to carry weight? You'd think I'd be used to this by now, after 17 years as an evangelical Christian. The voice of God should be easier to detect, and in some cases I was back on track to hearing it. I should have immediately connected the two.
Having stolen the concept of "spiritual gravity" from Rabbi Daniel Lapin (who stole it from God), I want to focus today on a different one: "spiritual thrust."
It's thrust, in case you didn't know, that gives birds, aircraft and spacecraft the ability to defy gravity and fly. Birds "beat the air" with their wings to create it. Human beings use extremely powerful engines that create explosions from the combustion of petroleum-based fuels, attached to enormous machines with wings and ailerons that divide the air beneath and above the aircraft and make its levitation possible once traveling at a certain speed.
In the spiritual realm, thrust is fueled by the voice of God, when processed and received correctly by His children. The combustion of the Word of God with a human heart genuinely seeking Him causes a massive explosion, forcing that heart upward from its downward slope and into orbit. This engine is attached to a machine described in the Bible as "fearfully and wonderfully made," which possesses its own intellect, will, emotions, memory, interpretations, gifts and talents. These take the place of the wings and ailerons, as auxiliary instruments to divide the fog of life on earth and send the believer into the air.
Thrust is what I felt when Vince told me, "What got you to where you are won't get you to where you want to go." I know that voice. It's spoken to me through plenty of other words and phrases, some of which felt completely random or out of place. I knew then as I know now - there was no going back.
Flying Without Fuel
The latest message I received from God is a challenge to deprive my physical body of fuel.
I'm a huge proponent of Sabbath rest, as the Bible commands. I spent most of this past Sunday being as still and content as I could. I asked God to guide me on cooperating with his agenda of Sabbath - without turning into a finger-pointing know-it-all or capitulating to the irreverence of modern culture. How, I asked, could I lead my family and people I know and care for in the church we attend to more accurately and appropriately observe the Sabbath?
Scheduled reading included Daniel 10:4-6, which includes a detailed description of a prophet who wanted to know the interpretation of a vision. He's recorded as having fasted for three weeks - from wine (which I don't drink anyway), meat (which I eat) and anointing himself with oil (who does that?).
So, the answer seemed to be clear - a fast, for a prescribed period of time, from prescribed things. But why?
The answer came in Luke 5:35-38 - also the lineup for reading that day. The topic was fasting; Jesus defended his disciples from some Jewish leaders of the day, who accused them of forsaking the practice. After rebutting the charge, Jesus went on to say these mysterious words:
“No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wine skins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wine skins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
I confess, for seventeen years I never understood why Jesus so quickly segued from a heroic defense of his followers into a riddle about wine and clothing. I now realize this was no segue; he meant to illustrate the very defense he'd just made, using natural physical items like wine and clothing.
It now made sense that Vince's words carried such weight. He simply restated a reality I should already have known. Fasting itself does not bring you to the next level. What's elevates the believer is the concept of "shedding" old things you're carrying around, which you've digested and need to be eliminated. The problem is they cannot be eliminated so long as you're still satisfied with them. "Out with the old, in with the new" might be a more succinct, 21st Century Western way of saying this.
Make Room For the New
Throughout our careers, marriages and other endeavors in life, we'll find ourselves at this crossroads more than once. "Is it the right time to start a business?" "Is this as good as it gets?" "Should I step down from the chair?" "Should we downsize?" "Do I retire now?"
Sadly, most of us will echo what Jesus says in the final sentence of this passage: "No one, after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, 'The old is better.'"
This is the voice of the person whose head and heart are shut, and cannot receive the new. They have settled for old wine, because it is familiar and predictable. I think of the stodgy old religious snob when I read this, still ranting about "the days when men were men" and "by golly Martha, these kids today don't know how good they have it!" (Which, let's face it, has to be impossible to discern if you don't live in the days when men were men.)
Instead, Jesus teaches us to empty ourselves from time to time, to make room for new things. The new wine represents fresh encounters, brand-new revelations and wisdom we have yet to fully comprehend.
Lock X-Forms and Attack Positions
Since we're mere months from the release of the final Star Wars episode, here's a head-start on dialogue references: "Lock X-forms and attack positions." In the films, Rebel fighter squadron leaders usually said this to prepare their fellow pilots for battle.
We must learn to crucify the flesh, that inner rebel who hisses, "I'm comfortable where I am" and "I know everything I need to know." Fasten him to an X-shaped beam called the Cross. Depriving the physical body is an excellent way of doing this without resorting to a literal, self-inflicted form of capital punishment. (How would you nail your free hand without another hand anyway?)
A soul preoccupied with soothing the pangs of hunger is thrown off the scent of the world's "more, more, more" posture. The man who cannot gorge himself on worldly pleasures and distractions (old wine) becomes a dangerous weapon - for good. Filled to critical mass with the fuel of God's presence, you can do some serious damage to the kingdom of darkness. Full of yourself, on the other hand, leads you in circles.
In nailing your lower self to the Cross, you can take up an "attack position" - where you fully, verbally surrender yourself to God. With the inner echo chamber muted, you can consecrate and sanctify your every faculty to God. You can subdue the noise, silence the chaos and calmly sit in expectancy of God's presence. This is the posture that beckons the movement of God.
You might be surprised, if you try this, to find God shedding more light on His vision for your business, ministry or life. But whatever He says to you will be precious beyond words. Unlike our own trumped up ideas, God's ideas actually come to life. The Word of God does not return null and void, and it brings life to the person receiving it right away.
How to Go Forward
Everything I teach here begins and ends with words - spoken aloud, by your own lips. I rely heavily on the focused, intentional prayer language taught by John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries in their podcasts, books and other material. But I don't play the audio and then sit through it passively. I get on my knees and recite what they've written. It took a long time - months, in fact - but eventually, I assembled an ARSENAL of words as weapons.
Another way this is works is constant learning and improvement, which will serve you well inside or outside the Kingdom of God. Seminars, classes, books, podcasts - anything where business, spirituality, meditation, mindfulness, ancient wisdom and so forth are being taught will serve to calm the anxiety and inner turmoil. Reading aloud, in particular, forces the good words taken from the pages of a book out of your mouth and into open air, where they're received by your ears and fed back into your soul in double dosage.
As images, phrases and words begin to create neurological pathways in your brain when you read, so will passages from Scripture and prayer language, if you choose to follow this advice. Read these prayers aloud, for 365 days straight if you need to - until they become phrases and expressions you lean on to improvise your own prayers, like I do now.
For the entrepreneur, few things more closely resemble hell than chasing your tail. You are, of course, free to take the path of the old wine. But beware of where it leads you; you're already there.