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|Section 1||Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs|
|1.||Moments of Destiny: The truth about spiritual breakthroughs||17|
|2.||The Secret of the Three Chairs: Where do you and your family sit?||27|
|3.||The Pain of the Man in the Middle: A closer look at Chair Two living||51|
|Section 2||Experiencing Breakthroughs with God|
|4.||Deep-Sea Decisions: Breaking through to serving God||71|
|5.||The Monster in the Garage: Breaking through to a clean heart||91|
|6.||Habits of Deception: Breaking through to freedom||105|
|Section 3||Experiencing Breakthroughs in Your Marriage|
|7.||The Key to Her Heart: Breaking through to love and leadership||125|
|8.||The Heart That Makes the Home: Breaking through to helping and submission||141|
|9.||Turning from Treachery: Breaking through to loyalty||161|
|Section 4||Experiencing Breakthroughs in Your Parenting|
|10.||God's Big Idea for Moms and Dads: Breaking through to the next generation||185|
|11.||Masterpieces in the Making: Breaking through to godly parenting||201|
|12.||The Hidden Wound of Children: Breaking through to forgiveness and healing||221|
Moments of Destiny
THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIRITUAL BREAKTHROUGHS
Call it a breakthrough moment—one of those flashes of absolute clarity, perfect sense…perfect terror. I'm not going to make it out of here alive!
Of course, that's not what I said to my three climbing buddies.
After all, this was a wilderness training program for executives—a week of taking things to extremes in search of industrial-strength bonding and confidence. Only tough hombres need apply.
“Guys,” I said, as I squinted up into the sun, “what were we thinking?”
Above us loomed a hundred and fifty feet of sheer rock. Our objective was simple—get the three of us from down here to up there. A rope snaked down the cliff face to coil menacingly at our feet.
It didn't help that several teammates had already succeeded at this training phase and were now throwing down encouragements from on high. Or that my partner Al was busy breaking our crisis into bite sizes.
“One hundred and fifty feet is about fifteen stories, I figure,” he said.
“Maybe six seconds of free-fall time. Hit the ground right here with about as much force as, oh, maybe—”
“Al,” I broke in, “why don't you hand the rope to Jeff.” Fortunately for my quaking knees, Jeff had been tagged to go up next.
I helped him get clipped into the safety harness. The whole point of this trial-by-rock was to face down our fears. By learning to trust not only our equipment but also the other men on our team, we would break through to a higher level of personal confidence and team spirit.
“The man on the top is working with you every step of the way,” our climbing coach had said. “The gear is top-rated. You'll do fine, especially if you don't look down.”
When Jeff was securely in his harness, he yelled up, “I'm ready! Who's holding my line? My life is in your hands!”
“Vince!” came the reply from far above.
Suddenly Jeff froze, then stepped back and unclipped his harness.
Clearly, he wasn't going up. He started waving his hands and shaking his head to the team above. “I'm not taking one step up this rock with that guy holding my rope!” he shouted. “Get me somebody else!”
In the shocked silence that followed, a feeling even more sickening than the fear of heights hit my stomach. It was imagining the utter embarrassment of Vince, the man on top, rejected as an untrustworthy climbing partner. It was the shattering awareness that all the camaraderie we'd been building piece by piece for days was about to fall apart.
The three of us looked up. The crew above peered down. And none of us knew what to do next.
Until Al stepped up. I heard a click. Al was buckling himself into the dangling harness. In a moment he was leaning into the rope.
“Vince!” he yelled.
“I'm ready!” came back the reply.
“ Here I come!” yelled Al. And he started up the face of the wall.
When Al was only about, oh, maybe one second of free-fall time up that cliff, I had my second breakthrough moment. My knees were still jelly, but at least I was breathing again. You're going to be okay, said that little voice. You're going to climb that cliff just fine…all the way to the top.
And by the end of the day, that's exactly what I had done.
REACHING FOR MORE
The book you're holding is about spiritual breakthroughs. It's about taking risky steps toward life-altering change—even when, especially when, you feel frozen in place, overwhelmed by obstacles.
Since you're reading this page, I imagine you're asking the Lord for a breakthrough in a vital area of your life. Maybe you have taken stock of what you've accomplished, who you have become, how your marriage is unfolding, or how your kids are turning out. As you have looked over that inventory scribbled down somewhere in your heart, you have been disappointed or even deeply dismayed.
Or maybe you simply realize it's time to step up to a new level of commitment in your walk with God. Getting stuck or sliding back isn't for you. You're a committed spiritual climber, anxious to press on toward maturity and a fuller experience of the Lord's best for your life.
Now here you are, looking up at that rock wall, squinting into the sun. Lord, I'm here. I want to change. I want Your best. Help me up! In my thirty years of ministry, I've seen the longing for personal and spiritual change written across thousands of faces. I've preached to stadiums full of gung ho seekers and counseled one-on-one with dozens of earnest women and men. Their questions are surprisingly similar:
What am I missing?
What is God's abundant best for my life and my family—and can I experience it personally?
I've seen the longing for personal and spiritual change written across thousands of faces.
What will it cost?
How can I be sure I won't fail again this time?
Where do I start?
How can I pass this kind of vital Christian experience along to my children?
You've seen them—maybe you have been one of them, too: they attend church, go to special meetings, read the latest self-help book. They start to make a new commitment. Then the rock wall of change overwhelms them. “I'll never get up to the top anyway,” they reason. They falter, slipping back to what feels comfortable.
And what happens then? Their spiritual life drifts. Their relationships bump along. Their kids wobble off course.
But the Christian life wasn't meant to turn out that way. In His Word, God has given us simple but powerful principles that enable us to experience meaningful and lasting breakthroughs in key areas of our lives.
This book will show you, perhaps for the first time, not only where God is inviting you to make a change in your life, but how to do it. Friend, I can say that with confidence because I've seen the results in thousand of people just like you. As God opens your eyes page by page, you're going to have more “aha!” moments than you ever thought possible!
THE GEOGRAPHY OF CHANGE
You've probably noticed that your life seems to move from a season of security and rest, into a season of disruption and insecurity, and back again. Your life is neither a steady growth line nor an endless plateau. To put it another way, you're traveling through the geography of change if you move forward across a flat plateau, content with where you are;
you're faced with a bump or a cliff, a challenge or an obstacle; you falter and turn away, choosing instead to stay on your plateau, maybe even step back a safe distance from that cliff. Or you seize the opportunity for a breakthrough and begin to climb; you break out onto a summit where you consolidate your gains; you begin moving forward again, across another, higher plateau.
Notice the place in the geography of change where you, the spiritual climber, must make a crucial choice. Your hand is on the rope. Your eyes are looking up. Your pulse is rising—yes, you've got it—welcome to the bottom of the cliff!
No matter how fearful or confusing your situation might feel right now, you're in a terrific place. In fact, the Lord delights to bring us to these breakthrough points where an intense desire to overcome or change runs smack up against a wall of resistance.
As I think back to my rock-climbing experience, I see how much it changed all of us. We learned big lessons about trust and teamwork and taking risks. Some things will always be possible for us now that weren't before. By the time I had clambered to safety at the summit and given Vince a high-five, I had literally reached a new plateau of living.
Have you noticed how few turning points like that we experience in our lives? For most of us, I believe, fewer than a dozen. Yet we all measure our lives by them because we know without a doubt that they have made us what we are. I see clearly that breakthroughs have ultimately controlled nearly every area of my life. How thankful I am that at each step of the way, someone reached out to help me when I felt hopelessly alone, looking up at nothing but rock.
A ROPE HAS TWO ENDS
Do you know why Jeff stepped out of that climbing harness that day? I'll tell you. Something had happened between him and Vince in the past. Vince, the climber at the top, had broken his word to Jeff in a business deal. Let him down big-time. Jeff hadn't thought about it much lately, and it seemed to be a dead issue…until he stepped into that harness with his betrayer holding the line. At that moment, he suddenly had to trust Vince with his life, and he couldn't.
Oh, those painful moments while we waited to see what would happen. The whole time Al was working up the rock face, Jeff's challenge rang in our ears: “Who's holding the line? My life is in your hands!” Could Jeff break through to trust? And could Vince prove himself worthy of it? I'm happy to say that both men made a breakthrough that day. After Al had scrambled safely to the summit, Vince leaned over the edge.
“Hey, Jeff?” A long pause. We all held our breath.
“Yeah,” came the reply from the climber below.
“I'm just not that Vince anymore! I betrayed you in that business deal, and I'm sorry. I'll never do it again. Will you forgive me?” he yelled. “And I'm not giving this rope to anybody else. I'm asking you to trust me. My life is in your hands, too!” And he threw down the safety line.
Jeff must have been doing some thinking, because this time he didn't hesitate. He snapped himself in, and—one step, one grasp, one pull of the rope—both men left the past behind.
I tell you this story because no one can move toward change without a significant level of trust in a good outcome. Past failures and hurts and present fears can hold you back. But friend, as a follower of Christ, you never have to balk at trusting God's good intentions for you or His power to accomplish them in your life.
Think of Christian growth as a rope with two ends—and a hundred and fifty feet of vertical rock face between them. On one end of the rope is you. As you grasp the possibilities and strain toward maturity with all your might, you'll fear failure, discomfort, opposition, the unknown. Your head will spin. Your knees will quake. But here's the great news: You never have to get up that rock face of change alone. God is always at work on His end of the rope. You can reach for change with full confidence in the Person above you!
In fact, a tremendous power is already flowing through your life.
Here's what I mean: one of the most important things we can say about any genuine spiritual breakthrough is that it is also God's work. “I thank my God every time I remember you,” Paul wrote to the Philippian believers, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3, 6, emphasis added).
This is the part of personal change that never appears in most teaching.
“Spirituality” has never been more popular, even in secular circles.
But it seems to be taken up less and less with God and what He has said, and more and more with human-centered techniques. But these approaches gloss over a big problem—the spiritual climber is trying to make a breakthrough alone.
Christians know otherwise! It is the Lord Himself who is wooing us toward a spiritual breakthrough. Later in the same letter to the Philippians, Paul urges, “Therefore, my dear friends…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (2:12–13).
It is the Lord Himself who will hold us fast, empower us, and encourage us on as we climb. And we can trust Him with our lives.
DID YOU SAY CHAIRS?
Every once in a while, an idea comes along which seems to grip people, and the illustration of the Three Chairs is one. In the next chapter I will introduce you to a conceptual model I'll be referring to throughout this book called the principle of the Three Chairs. I've watched as God has used the truths conveyed here to help thousands around the world respond to His loving tug, choose a new course, and experience meaningful, lasting change.
Each of the Three Chairs represent a different type of person and faith, three different levels of commitment toward God. If you are a Christian, then you have sat in every one of them at one time of your life or another.
It won't take long for you to discover which of these Chairs you occupy and how they relate to nearly everything in your life. You will also discover incredible insights about your life, unlocking reasons you think and act the way that you do. You'll understand your parents and their influence on you in a different way than ever before. And as you reflect on the Chair that you sit in, you may be shocked at how dramatically your Chair of choice influences the spiritual lives of your children and grandchildren.
My goal is to help you recognize which Chair you and your family sit in and then to help you make the breakthroughs necessary to move you and those you love into the Chair where you really want to be—and help you stay there.
Throughout this book, we'll spend time examining how these Chairs relate to three key areas of life—actually, the three key relationships you have in life—and how we can make spiritual (God-motivated and Godhelped)
breakthroughs in each:
In each chapter, we'll focus on a specific area, determine where you may need a dramatic change, and help you respond to God's invitation to personal growth, maturity, and blessing. THE VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT Recently I spent time with the CEO of a major, national corporation. On the outside, his life couldn't have looked more successful or in order. But inside he was stuck at the bottom of the cliff, wrestling with God over a critical breakthrough issue in his life. We talked, prayed, and cried together, and by the time our conversation was over, he was a different man. As he was leaving, he said to me, “Bruce, I'll never forget this moment, because I know I'll never be the same man again.” That's a breakthrough. Looking back, you see one life. Looking ahead, you see another. Everything is different, changed, better. Remember, friend, as God's dearly loved children, we never have to settle for being stranded at the bottom of the cliff. Our Father created us for a life of freedom, fulfillment, and service for His glory. With God's help, you're setting out to accomplish something good and important and full of promise. It's time to reach for the rope.
In each chapter, we'll focus on a specific area, determine where you may need a dramatic change, and help you respond to God's invitation to personal growth, maturity, and blessing.
THE VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT
Recently I spent time with the CEO of a major, national corporation. On the outside, his life couldn't have looked more successful or in order. But inside he was stuck at the bottom of the cliff, wrestling with God over a critical breakthrough issue in his life. We talked, prayed, and cried together, and by the time our conversation was over, he was a different man. As he was leaving, he said to me, “Bruce, I'll never forget this moment, because I know I'll never be the same man again.”
That's a breakthrough. Looking back, you see one life. Looking ahead, you see another. Everything is different, changed, better.
Remember, friend, as God's dearly loved children, we never have to settle for being stranded at the bottom of the cliff. Our Father created us for a life of freedom, fulfillment, and service for His glory. With God's help, you're setting out to accomplish something good and important and full of promise.
It's time to reach for the rope.