[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #107 ---- 1/31/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 22:51:18 +0000
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight



SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #107 ---- 1/31/00

TITLE:  "Vision ---- It's Discovery" (Part Four of Series)



My Dear Pilgrim Partner:

When I think of you, even if you are one who has neither face or name in
my consciousness, I imagine us walking along the dusty roads of a Balkan
hillside, much like the little one lane road to Blata in the northwestern
mountains of Croatia which I have traveled a half dozen times.

As we journey toward the little village amidst the trills of the song
birds and the fragrance of the Summer wild flowers, we talk about many
things that concern us ---- the memories of great days, the heart aches
of failures and disappointments, the uncertainties of the future.  It's a
special time for you and me.

As we round the corner, we see an old pole stuck in the ground with a
hand painted sign that says, "Blata 2 kilometers", with arrow pointing to
the left.

Under it is another freshly painted sign that says, "Emmaus 100 meters,
arrow pointing to the right.  And we remember reading of two other
pilgrims who met a very special person on that same road to Emmaus.

Our hearts leap within us as we realize the immediacy of something that
is about to happen.

We stop.  We listen ---- and we look at each other.  

You place your hand on my shoulder ---- and with eyes wide and teeth
gleaming, you say ---- "Something good is going to happen!"

And we walk on ---- expectantly ---- looking ahead ---- looking behind
---- looking to each side ---- looking up ---- and then standing quietly
---- waiting.

I hope this letter will be that Emmaus Moment for us, dear friend.  It's
such a blessing to walk this road with you.  Thank you for letting me be
here.  I think I see a visitor coming.



VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGES AT END:

Please take time to note the three messages posted at the end of this
letter.  They are all urgently important.


LAST WEEK:

Just about the time I wonder if I'm really wasting valuable time and
space addressing the subject of vision, something happens that reassures
me that, for someone, I'm on the right track.  This week was no
exception.

A young pastor send me a note early last week.  Here's part of what he
shared ---- and it blessed me so very much.

-----------

Thank you for, as so often, a quite good, insightful, encouraging,
convicting letter.  Made me think of something I read recently.  Use it
if you'd like.  It's from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers,
of course... (Dec. 29th if you're interested...)

"When God gives a vision by His Spirit through His word of what He wants,
and your mind and soul thrill to it, if you do not walk in the light of
that vision, you will sink into servitude to a point of view which our
Lord never had.

"Disobedience in mind to the heavenly vision will make you a slave to
points of view that are alien to Jesus Christ.  Do not look at someone
else and say -- 'Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why cannot
I?'  

"You have to walk in the light of the vision that has been given you and
not compare yourself with others or judge them...You can never be the
same after the unveiling of a truth.  

"That moment marks you for going on as a more true disciple of Jesus
Christ or for going back as a deserter."

The above statement has been part of a months long process of God leading
me back to the original vision . . .  which I had abandoned for fear,
discomfort, etc. also I had allowed myself to be deceived ---- like you
wrote about...  Anyway, we're on our way back now ---- and IF the vision
is for THIS appointed time and tarries no longer, it's going to make a
WHALE of a testimony someday...  THEN I'll write about it.

-----------

How those comments blessed and encouraged me!  Thank you, friend, for
sharing those thoughts ---- both yours, and Oswald Chambers'. 

Thus far we have looked at the following three elements of vision:
1,  The Definition of Vision ---- what it is and isn't.
2.  The Description of Vision ---- what it is like.
3.  The Demand for Vision ---- why it is necessary.

I can hear someone saying, "O.K., I understand what you're saying about
what a vision is, you've described what your life is like when you have a
clear vision of the vision, and you've warned us of how important it is
to have such a clear vision and the dangers of not having one.  But,
let's quit beating around the busy.  How do I discover a vision like
you're describing?  Cut to the chase."

So, today ---- The Discovery of Vision ---- how to "see what God sees".

The real question is not "What", "Why", "When", or "Where".

The real issue is ----" HOW?  How do I discover ---- or rediscover ----
my vision for ministry?"

Before we can address that question, though, maybe we should first find
out where to look.



WHERE TO LOOK:

Our Vision for ministry is often born in the valley (Isaiah 22:5).  It
was for Isaiah, it was for Ezekiel, it was for Jeremiah, it was for
Elijah.  As far as I can tell, every man or woman who ever accomplished
great things for Christ discovered the "What" in the valley.  Although
I'll cover that thought in more detail later, I'm inclined to think that
real vision is seldom born on the mountain top without having first
traveled through the valley of dry bones to get there.

Why is that true?  Well, I'm not sure, but it seems to me that it's the
valley of dry bones that makes you hate death and hunger for life.  If
you didn't have to sit amongst the disjointed, bleached, lifeless dry
bones, you'd probably not become hungry for life ---- and hope ---- and a
sense of meaningful purpose.

Yes, my friend ---- if you want to look for a vision, start by looking in
the valley.  Gaze at the bones.  That's when you finally admit that all
hope is gone ---- unless God comes and breathes new life on the
situation.



HOW TO DO THE LOOKING:

In 1999 a newly produced four day mini-series on the life of Joan of Arc
was shown on American television.  It was the only presentation I had
seen since Ingrid Bergman portrayed that young "maid from Lorraine" in a
very old black and white classic.  The whole experience of watching it
this past week was in itself a lesson to me about vision.  It was as if I
was learning about vision for the very first time ---- again.

First, just the contrast itself between the Bergman film and the more
recent one stirred my heart.  It was almost like moving from black and
white intellectual facts to the blazing color of reality.

It reminded me that we often miss the vision because we see  it, like the
old classic,  only in dull black and white, and, consequently, it never
soaks in.  We view the vision as an "also showing" add on following the
main feature.

Secondly, my perception was that it's portrayal in black and white was so
melodramatic and over acted that I had discounted it in the past, giving
almost no serious attention to the significance or incredible outcome of
such a historical event.  

Thirdly, my perception of its setting was so obsolete or out of touch
with the reality of where I actually am that it seemed irrelevant to
modern society.  Bergman's treatment, though fine for its day, was not
adequate today as a means of catching the real drama and historic impact
of that young woman's life.

However, watching the young actress whose name evades me play the role
with such fresh passion drove several points home to me.

If you're going to discover the vision God has for you, like Joan of Arc,
you must . . .

1.  Have a craving passion to have God use you as a world changer. 
Modern society has by and large forgotten that Joan of Arc was most
likely chosen by God because she had an unstoppable and uncompromising
heart for God. 

When she saw the plight of her people and their suffering under the
domination of the English occupation force, and the farcical empty shell
of a puppet king, her intercessor's heart cried out for deliverance, much
as Moses' did for Israel in Egypt.  Little did she know that she would be
the answer to her own praying.

Do you want God to use you as a world changer?  Or, perhaps, do you
consider yourself to be unworthy or of inferior metal for such a task? 
Before you embrace that catastrophic conclusion, remember a sheep herder
named David, or a widow who lived in Nain ---- or perhaps an English shoe
cobbler named Carey.

Friend, if you are dying for God to use you in even a small element of
His sovereign plan, get ready.  He will do it.

2.  Have a confidence that knows He wants to use you.  You must be
convinced, as was Joan of Arc, that God wants to use you and has called
you.

I am awed at how this young girl knew at such an early age that God had
called her for such an unbelievable mission.  She didn't understand it,
and probably had difficulty believing it ---- but she Knew it.

When asked why God would choose a young peasant girl, she didn't know
why.  When asked why she thought she was good enough to do it, she
indicated she wasn't.

All she knew was that God wanted to use her.  And, it had nothing to do
with her worth, her ability, or her status in life.  She could explain
none of that.

Until you are convinced that God wants to use you, a "warted" person with
feet of clay, you will never have the confidence nor the courage to
embrace a vision from Him.

3.  Lay aside absolutely everything that might stand in the way.  Joan
did just that.  

She laid aside the domination of her unbelieving and unconvinced father. 
She laid aside her deep love for and desire to protect her brother.  She
laid aside any hope of marriage.  She laid aside the comforts of her
home.  She laid aside the companionship and care of a loving mother who
believed in her.  She laid aside acceptance within her religious circles.

Nothing hinders the reception of a vision from God like preoccupation. 
Preoccupation with comfort, status, personal gain ---- they will all
short circuit God's intent for your life.

If you want to "see what God sees" with clarity and certainty, anything
and everything that stands in the way must go.  That is Plan A, and there
is no Plan B.

4.  Live in unwavering abandonment to the purpose you know God has burned
in your heart, no matter who misunderstands or opposes.

If there was one reason for Joan of Arc to give up and quit, there were a
thousand.  The constant badgering and ridicule of her father was more
than enough in itself.  The abrasive derision of friends and neighbors
could have done her in.  Her need for comfort and safety certainly could
have kept her at home.  And most certainly her total lack of
qualification or experience in military matters thoroughly disqualified
her as a logical candidate.

Finally, the fact that she was a woman ---- no, not much more than a teen
aged girl ---- was a clear excuse in her day to evade the call on her
life.

But she would have none of that.  From her childhood, Joan of Arc knew
that God had something very special for her, though it was several years
before it became living reality.  The vision was vague and nondescript at
first, but, in God's time, He revealed the reason for it all.

And, when she knew it, she abandoned herself fully and totally to the
fulfillment of the vision ---- and, to her death, she never wavered, even
though forced to confess something she knew was wrong.

5.  Let your constant focus be on the God of your vision rather than your
vision from God.  One of the more significant things I noticed about the
story was how her answer to virtually question and every opposition was
"God".  If she was asked, "Why?", she answered ---- "God".

If she was asked "Who?", it was ---- "God".  If someone asked her,
"When?", she replied, ----"God".  That said a great deal to me.

Tragically, too many of us have either failed or compromised in our
vision because we spent too much time concentrating on the vision, and
not enough time focusing on God.  One thing that is an absolute constant
in Christian living is ---- it's all about God.

Don't let your vision from God become your god.  Don't bow down and
worship it.  Don't give your life for it.  The God of your vision is your
focus.  If you ever get away from that, you'll drown ---- like Peter
almost did.  Letting your focus stray from the God who called you, and
onto other people, on circumstances, or on goals and projects, surely
spells failure of the worst kind.



DISCOVERING YOUR VISION:

Go back again to Isaiah 6.  I believe it is still one of the clearest
pictures of getting a vision for ministry.

1.  Want What God Wants.  Years ago, while trying to find a peaceful and
reasonable direction over a church matter in which there was strong
disagreement among members, the Holy Spirit let me "stumble" onto this
simple prayer: "God, we want what you want ---- nothing more, nothing
less, nothing else."

The first step in discovering the vision God has for you, is to decide
that what you want is what He wants.  You don't want to settle for
anything else.  Until you want what God wants, you'll never want what He
wants, and you'll never see the vision He has.

That desire doesn't come without price.  A personal encounter with a holy
and righteous God is life changing.  Seeing yourself as you really are
because you've seen Him as he really is will thin the crowd quickly. 
Only those who really want what God wants will go through the crucible
into the intimate presence of God where you can find out what He wants
for you.

2.  See What God Sees.  I remember one of my boyhood Sunday school
teachers holding up a large piece of white paper with a black dot on it,
asking us what we saw.  All of us identified the black dot.  The teacher
then asked why, when it was so very small, we saw the dot but not the big
piece of white paper.

Too often we see the black "dot" of need or of sin while God sees the big
white picture of grace and forgiveness.  We'll never see the world as it
is until we see what God sees.  While we may see it through the eyes of
condemnation, God sees it through the eyes of compassion.  While we see
it from a heart of judgement, God sees it from a heart of forgiveness.

Friend, until I see what God sees, I'll never have a clear picture of why
I'm here, and what my ministry is all about.  It's much easier to see
things the way the world does ---- but, then, of course, you get only
what the world can produce.

God's vision for you is bigger than that.

3.  Hear What God Hears.  When we have learned to want what God wants and
see what He sees, we'll find ourselves wanting to become better listeners
---- we want to also be able to hear what He hears.  Because we know that
if He knows what He knows, wants what He wants, and sees what He sees,
then we're going to be much better off in understanding our ministry and
His purposes for us once we learn to hear what He's been hearing for ages
---- the Truth of His plan, and the cries of the people.

If you want to hear what He hears, you're going to have to take some time
off ---- just to listen.  Stop talking, sit down, be quiet ---- and
listen.

If you wait long enough, silently enough ---- you'll hear it.  You'll
hear what He hears.  He'll make sure of that, but you're going to have to
stop listening to what others are saying, to the noise the world is
making, to the reasoning the intellects are claiming.

Shhhh!          Listen!           Did you hear that?

There it is again.

It's  God ---- telling you what He's hearing.

4.  Do what God Commands.  The ultimate test of faith and service is
simple obedience.  And, that kind of obedience comes only from a life
that has no other allegiances ---- denominational, familial, political,
economical, or survival.

In spite of ridicule, disbelief And unbelief, hardship, humiliation,
youthful immaturity, and inexperience, Joan of Arc did one thing with
which nobody can argue ---- she obeyed God as she understood His
commands.

And, gratefully, that was all that mattered to her.  Even in her
martyrdom tied to a burning stake, she left this world convinced of the
words of Paul before King Agrippa ---- "I was not disobedient to the
heavenly vision."

This type of obedience is neither a spur of the moment decision or a
situational decision based on circumstances.  It is a life style built on
a turning point decision long before the need for obedience ever arrived.

You see, friend, one reason some of us have difficulty in obeying God is
because we haven't made a lifetime commitment to obedience.  We live
lives of conditional obedience determined by circumstances.  If that's
your position, don't stay awake at night waiting for the vision ---- it
isn't coming.

The decision to obey must come before the need to obey.  Once you make a
decision, "as for me and my house", then you don't have to wonder about
it or fight over it on an occasion-by-occasion basis.  Because you made
your mind up years earlier, you jump at the chance to obey rather than
shrink back from it.

If you want to discover the vision God has for you, you'd better come to
that point in your life regarding obedience.

5.  Give All glory and credit to God, and Keep your hands off.  You must
remember, dear friend, that while the vision from God is yours, it is
Never yours.  

One thing I've noticed from my own life and those of others is the
unbelievable temptation there is to take ownership of something that
belongs to another ---- and your vision belongs to God.  It originated
with Him, it is sustained by Him, and it is empowered by Him.

Therefore, you have no right to claim ownership.  It doesn't belong to
you.  You've just been blessed to be allowed to be in on what God's up
to.

Keep your own hands off of God's vision for you.  It doesn't need the
"Midas" touch that saps the life out of it and turns it into empty metal
---- even if it happens to be gold.  The way to do that is to remember
that God must be in absolute uncontested control, and that He alone is to
receive both credit and glory.  

Many of us like to take the credit and give God the glory, something that
can't be done.  He either gets both, or he gets neither.

If you want to discover the vision God has for you, be sure and settle
that issue right now ---- and then reinforce it every day of your life
from now on.  Because the vision belongs to Him, He will always receive
both credit and glory.



FINALLY:

You may be thinking that the keys to discovering God's vision for you
might have been more exotic or theologically profound ---- and there may
be some such lofty principles.

However, God burned in my heart these simple elements necessary to
discovering my vision, and I hope what I have learned (often a very hard
way) will bless you and protect you from some of the pitfalls I stumbled
into.

God wants you to have a vision of His purposes for you.  He will delight
in watching you stand around with your mouth open, saying, "Wow!" when it
first beings to open up to you.  You can be certain that He wants you to
know what the vision is even more than you do.

And, He is the God who "will withhold no good thing from those who ask
Him."



YET TO COME:

In coming letters, I'll cover all or parts of these remaining aspects of
a True, God-born Vision:
The Development of Vision ----required  "ground rules" for a true vision.
The Decisiveness of Vision ---- a line-in-the-sand "no turning back"
requirement.
The Danger of Vision ---- dangerous to have; dangerous to not have.
The Distractions from Vision ---- things that interfere with your focus
on your vision.
The Destruction of Vision ---- things that will kill a vision.
The Death of Vision ---- the necessity of letting it die.
The Demonstration of Vision ---- what happens when you're "right on" with
your vision.
The Determination for a Vision ---- pursuing it until it comes.

In the meantime, be blessed, my friend.  You are a delight to me.  And,
I'm so excited to see how God is ever expanding  our "Shoulders" family. 
Just within the past three or four days, more than a dozen new
subscribers have joined our ranks.  What a privilege I have to share my
heart with you each week.  Thank you for blessing me in such an awesome
and yet humbling way.

Have a great week.  Let me hear from you.

In His Bond,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright January, 2000.  All rights reserved.



PRAYWORLD:

Few endeavors get my attention more than massive prayer movements for
revival, spiritual awakening, and evangelization.  Through the faithful
ministry of Pastor Phil Miglioratti, editor of the "National Pastors'
Prayer Network" (NPPN), I learned of an extraordinary event coinciding
with the 40 days of Lent where the Body of Christ is being called on to
pray globally for a visitation from God around the world.

I have been so impressed with the possibilities of this world-wide
endeavor, that the church where I am interim pastor is participating, and
we are trying to spread the word as quickly as possibly.  Please read the
following, and then contact either Phil at <phil@...> or Ben
Jennings at <bjenning@...> for details.  You can also visit the
PrayWORLD website at <wwwPrayWorld.org>.  The endeavor begins March 8th,
so don't delay.  I urge your enthusiastic participation.  Get their daily
prayer guide and other related material, and get started.



CROATIA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION REPORT:

Earlier I asked you to pray for the people of Croatia as the voted for
their next president.  You will be pleased to read the following report,
indicating a sound defeat for the old regime and a runoff election
between two pro-western pro-democracy candidates on February 7.  Please
continue lifting these dear people before the Lord.  The outcome of this
election can easily be a bench mark for all the Balkans in days ahead. 
Read on.

"Runoff Set for Croatian President By DANICA KIRKA=Associated Press
Writer=
   "ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Croatians turned away from their past in
presidential elections, voting overwhelmingly for two candidates who
vowed to cast aside the autocracy of the late President Franjo Tudjman
and move toward Western institutions.
   "In one of the highest turnouts ever in Croatia, 64 percent of voters
cast ballots Monday to replace the only leader the country has had since
independence in 1991.
   "Leading the nine-person field was Stipe Mesic. With 99.5 percent of
the precincts reporting results, Mesic had won 41 percent of the vote.
   " Drazen Budisa, a leader of a left-leaning coalition that won this
month's parliamentary election, came in second with 28 percent. The two
will face off in a runoff Feb. 7.
   "Many Croats trekked in the snow only to wait hours to make their
choice. A total of 4.2 million voters, including citizens in 48 countries
abroad, were eligible to cast ballots.  Turnout was higher only at a 1991
referendum on Croatia's independence and in parliamentary elections
earlier this month, when Croats ousted Tudjman's Croatian Democratic
Union by a landslide, ending the nationalist party's almost decade-long
grip on power.
   "The leading candidates publicly pledged to shift from Tudjman's
course, slashing state expenses while working on developing the brittle
economy and improving living standards. They pledged to fight corruption
and unemployment.  'Our new president must be honest _ that's all,' said
Tomislav Oresic, a 28-year-old doctor.



ANOTHER PRAYER REQUEST:

Dr. Bernard Holmes, a native of New Zealand and retired professor from a
local Christian university, is a longtime friend with whom we have served
both locally and in his home country.  God has been faithful to bless his
extraordinary ministry and take him through numerous major health
challenges.

Today he faces another challenge ---- a cancer of the melanoma family. 
Tuesday he will have surgery to remove a cancerous mole and surrounding
tissue.  Would you please pray for him that the surgery will be
completely successful?  He is scheduled to return to India for ministry
in less than two weeks.  If you would like to e-mail your encouragement
to him, you can at <bholmes@...>.


We would love to hear from you ---- prayer requests, insights, etc.  Feel
free to drop us a note at <lifeunlimited@...>.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.  Write <lifeunlimited@...>.

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        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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