Being Relevant

Being Relevant

There’s no question about the impact the Jewish people have had on both their host cultures and the course of history. Simultaneously, their weak spot, as a people over the centuries, has been their desire to be like everyone else. Both of these positions as God’s chosen stand on opposite ends of the premise of relevance.

A popular Christian book I was recently perusing also uncovers one of the extremes of this issue of relevance. The author writes: “There is so much swirling in the room this evening that no one could keep up with his own emotions. But something is different. By the end of the evening, even the slowest to notice has caught up. Something very profound lurks in the shadows. Have you ever been near such a thing? Maybe it was a sentencing before the judge. Or an appointment with the attorney. Or the boss. Stand with someone at the edge of a singular storm like that and you’ll hear: ‘Dear God, I don’t want to walk through that door … but I have to.”

The relevance I saw being tapped in capturing the mood of this described gathering of believers was in bringing God into the reality of a world swirling … due to bad choices and personal misfires. Not to misconstrue the opportunity, but rather to point to it being on the lower rungs or even starting point of the spiritual maturity scale. Ones whose relevance was still strongly tied to the world around them.

At the other end of the spectrum comes the story of a man who is one of my spiritual heroes: George Washington Carver. Years ago I began being exposed to the amazing impact that this man of God, born as a slave, had made on both the post Civil War culture around him and the course of history …. not unlike the Jewish people.

Yet, in an abbreviated story I recently read about this amazing man, was a context I had not previously been exposed to: its emphasis being on the racial overtones. A good story, but within a twenty-first century politically-correct context, sanitized of Carver’s engaging relationship with God. While factual, the spin designed to be contemporaneous and “relevant,” detracted from his singularly impressive accomplishments. It was this skew that triggered for me a desire to connect with the God-stories I had previously been exposed to.

So, I began reviewing and seeking out the source of the stories I had so loved and have talked about in my entrepreneurial workshops in persecuted lands. It took me back to an autobiography and a long out-of-print biography by Rackham Holt. The Holt volume was actually published in the year I was born, which was the year Dr. Carver died (1943). I was not disappointed with the input that I acquired, which included a host of quotes from this hero of faith himself.

A Life Defined by Hearing from God
George Washington Carver, born as a slave in 1861, was actually freed with his family, long before emancipation when he was a baby. He grew up to become a professor of botany, whose genius was in reshaping the agro-economy of the south, from being based on cotton with an uncertain future threatened by the boll weevil … to crops immune to the plight of this evil bug; like sweet potatoes, cow peas (black-eyed peas) and peanuts.

In his passion and gift, this humble servant of God became the friend of four US presidents because of the positive impact that his efforts had on the economic foundations of his nation. Yet, it was his friendship with God that made him so distinctive. In the final analysis, explaining what he had accomplished in his life, he told stories about hearing from God, exchanges that gave specific direction that resulted in his extraordinary accomplishments.

A distinct difference from the relevance suggested by the sectors of Jewish people wanting to be like everyone else or the quote above, describing facing personal responsibility that had given the described believers pause in recognizing their greater need for God.

In striking contrast, in a chapter titled “I Heard from God Today,” Professor Carver related his experience: “I asked the Great Creator what the universe was made for? ‘Ask for something more in keeping with that little mind of yours,’ He replied.  

What was man made for? ‘Little man, you still want to know too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.’

Then I told the Creator I wanted to know all about the peanut. He replied that my mind was too small to know ALL about the peanut, but He said He would give me a handful of peanuts.

And God said ‘Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth …. to you it shall be for meat ….. I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.’

I carried the peanuts into my laboratory and the Creator told me to take them apart and resolve them into their elements. With such knowledge as I had of chemistry and physics I set to work to take them apart. I separated the water, the fats, the oils, the gums, the resins, sugars, starches, pectoses, pentosans, amino acids. There! I had the parts of the peanuts all spread out before me.

I looked at Him and He looked at me. ‘Now you know what the peanut is.’ Why did You make the peanut? The Creator said, ‘I have given you three laws; namely, compatibility, temperature and pressure. All you have to do is take these constituents and put them together, observing those laws, and I will show you why I made the peanut.’ I therefore went on to try different combinations of the parts under different conditions of temperature and pressure, and the result is what you see.”

Relevance Defined by Getting the Questions Right
It was in the God-directed relevance of getting the questions right that Dr. Carver created an industry that previously had not existed in the US. Peanuts being indigenous to South America, the innovations from not only this easy to grow, adaptable plant abounded as did that of many others. Rugs were made from okra stalks. The real possibility of food shortages during WWI was averted due to enhanced crop production that resulted, discovery of new nutritious plants previously not considered edible, and new principles of farming, all of which resulted from his research.

At the core of his creativity and research was a process that included finding, adapting and creating. In my words: using his significant, anointed gifts to discover, apply and multiply opportunity.

“Finding” for Dr. Carver related to the discovery of how to utilize what nature had already provided. “Adapting” was characterized by the re-arrangement of materials [found] in order to serve a more useful mode. Then “creativity” was the transformation of materials into additional and sometimes completely new ones, in serving the community’s needs.

Dr. Carver’s most concentrated efforts were on the peanut from which he developed a dozen beverages, sauces, meal, instant dry coffee, salve, bleach, tan remover, wood filler, washing soap, metal polish, paper, ink, plastics, shaving cream, rubbing oil, linoleum, shampoo, axle grease, and synthetic rubber. Also, from peanuts, he created a milk for an African land where cows could not be kept due to them being ravaged for food by animals of the wild … a nutritious milk distributed by missionaries that alleviated what had been generations of malnutrition among infants.

All this, according to his own words, came from him hearing from God … and learning to ask the right, relevant questions.

Relevance in Times of Challenge
The post-Civil war days of reconstruction were not easy for a Black innovator. Yet, in reviewing his own words, although such challenges were a reality, he never allowed them to be his focus or priority. What God had redirected Dr. Carver’s thinking and energies toward was to being relevant to bringing change and blessing in a time of great challenge. Blessing and change that radically reshaped the core of the economy that once had been based on slavery.

Similarly centuries ago, it was David, who in facing the daunting challenge of becoming king in a time of turmoil, brought about unity in the midst of confusion and discord, by first reaching out to the smallest tribe in Israel, a remnant among all of Israel: the sons of Issachar. Their gift was in understanding the times, as the foundation for knowing what to do. Being relevant in times of great challenge begins with facing the right questions.

Facing the Questions
Since the time of the Garden, God has been asking us questions. Questions that provoke thinking designed, for the ones questioned and for us, to recognize a perspective.

To Adam, after dabbling with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the question was: “Where are you?” God wasn’t on a search … instead the question involved Adam facing the reality of losing his spiritual bearings.

Again and again in Scripture, God has asked those who were listening and discerning, Job, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel: “What do you see?” In most cases, the answer gave insight to a perspective that was tied to either understanding the times or about what to do. The very thing that prompted David to wisely reach out to the sons of Issachar.

Then for Gideon it required another approach. The Angel of the Lord addressed Gideon as God, who operated outside of time, saw him: “The Lord is with you, O might man of valor!”

“Mighty man of valor?” Gideon’s response was essentially “really?” Next it was to quibble and bring up all the negative things happening all around him. The angel of the Lord didn’t even see fit to answer these questions, simply telling Gideon to GO …. to go in the strength he already had.

That is an interesting message in itself for the timid and those waffling about the challenges of this season. But, as the Angel pointed out to Gideon, His presence would be accompanying him. His presence is always the Equalizer for those stymied, despite the limitations of what they “see” operating around them.

Yet Gideon’s initial response really was a first step. He was facing his fears.  Years ago, one of the more profound things the Lord has ever asked me was whether I understood that I could be right when I was wrong and wrong when I was right. In this case Gideon was wrong, but in facing being wrong, he opened the door to getting it right.

That’s what Jesus frequently described as being the expectation for those having eyes to see and ears to hear. Those who have eyes to see have the courage and maturity to “see” the realities needed to face the questions. The spiritually mature are those whose response recognizes it as being a step beyond themselves. Which is precisely what actuates what is required for both the journey and the destiny … and to be relevant.

Achieving that level of relevance involves an ongoing choice: first for the more difficult journey defined by Jesus as the Kingdom path. Then it involves the constant choices of life, of living in that dimension of the spiritual in the narrow corridor of the Kingdom pathway. These choices become a part of the process that assembles the pieces characterizing the God-impact of the journey and the destiny.

The Process that Triggers Opportunity
Assembling the pieces begins with the gifts. There are a variety of gifts, both natural ones and spiritual ones. When combined with the nature of God that resides within those who believe, it actuates what I refer to as God’s DNA of creativity and increase. Yet, what is birthed then will always take place within the context of the season, which goes back to the Issachar context of understanding the times to know what to do. Pursuit of this process is where opportunity is found. The context is the foundation for ones’ journey and destiny becoming relevant.

George Washington Carver was gifted, both in the natural and spiritually. Likewise, he achieved balance from these two dimensions … by hearing from God. Then in acting on what he heard from God, God anointed his efforts, unwrapping sequences of opportunity beyond his natural capabilities that seemed to have no end. All of this combined to work together to serve in Dr. Carver being blessed to be a blessing …. giving focus and relevance to how his journey and destiny came to be defined.

Getting the Focus to Amass Opportunity for the Season
Unity within the growing number of believers around the world is not a goal of doctrinal purity, but rather the application of the fullness of the gifts embodied from local to global levels. An aim to be accomplished by God as the Body matures, gets the questions right, from which it can get the focus to become relevant.

In responding to the new season, our intent and first step individually and corporately is in asking the right questions to trigger the God-directed focus, relevance and process for the right opportunity for the season. Getting the questions right serves in aligning the gifts with God’s purposes. Questions like: “What do you have in your hand?” “What do you see?”

From this focus and process the alignment of opportunity locally, regionally and globally will be generated and amass. It will amass and harmonize the process of discovery, application and multiplication with the dimension of God’s exponential being the result.

Getting the questions and the focus right is the basis of good planning. Putting together a mission statement with goals and strategies requires a certain dimension of focused thinking and the humility for simplicity. Just like God kept nudging Professor Carver to get out of the stratosphere and focus on the gifts and relevant opportunity, we each, whether individually or for an organization need to realistically define how we are going to apply the mix of our natural and spiritual gifts, capabilities if you will, in creating opportunity. Doing so, means being specific and relevant for the market and for the season.

Years ago, having breakfast in a hotel restaurant, I overheard the conversation at the next table. It was a business owner giving a pitch to a potential investor. With his patience in listening to the superficial and grandiose claims of the one seeking his funds, the investor stopped him and asked: “Has anyone ever told you that you have visions of grandeur?”

Unfortunately, this is a stance that tends to enter into the mission statements and goals of unseasoned Kingdom planners in defining their purpose and mission. It is the blinding eloquence that supports a grandiose, but unrealistic vision to save the world, rather than seeing the gift and opportunity in the peanut.

The pivot point in achieving enduring Kingdom opportunity, whether for the season or the journey, is in the relevance that comes from the assignment that defines the perspective from God’s stance.

The closer we all get to getting the assignment right, to closer we are to the amassing of unity that typically, against all odds, subdues abounding evil, both within and outside our ranks. When this takes place, we tend to get religious and impractical, using the label of revival to describe it. Yet, it involves something more, if we can keep our focus. That something more was manifesting following the turn into the twentieth century in the US, with the reshaping of a sector of the economy, due to the peanut.

While some revivals indeed have been triggered from mass meetings, each has had at their core the conscious presence of God trickling down and permeating the marketplaces of a society … and the societal change that results. We have entered a season in which we need to refrain from overspiritualizing and see it from that perspective. In a world, now connected by social media and instant global communication abilities, the alignment for relevance is both the challenge and the opportunity.

It’s a season marked by turmoil and change. A season satiated with distractions designed to water-down and redirect the focus from the simplicity and relevance of hearing from God. It is a season replete with an amassing and infiltration of the occult, the intention of which is to bring down the pillars and economies of free societies. Yet God will not be mocked. Nor have any of these schemes caught Him by surprise. As God’s people, we are distinctive. We are not meant to be like everyone else.

In the historical drama film, “Chariots of Fire,” one of the Olympian athletes this story was about, Eric Liddell, a British missionary commented on one of his gifts, saying: “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” I have no doubt that when Dr. Carver tapped the unique process of discovery, application and multiplication with the plants in his lab that he felt God’s pleasure. It is that way when applying God’s gifts to bring relevance and blessing. So it will be for the entrepreneurial community-builders who pave new ground that provides opportunity with alternate economic highways.

As darkness covers the earth and deep darkness the peoples, the Lord will arise and His light will shine through the mobilization of community-builders that He has anointed and prepared for this hour. Where there is turmoil, there will be discovery. Where there is oppression, there will be application. Where there is persecution, there will be multiplication.

In the same way that modern-day Josephs and Daniel’s have been prepared and poised for their roles with top-down economies, so the Lord has gifted innovators who will be mobilizing bottom-up entrepreneurial initiatives that through simplicity will release relevant, alternate economic highways that defy the odds of otherwise shaky economies. Community-builders who hear from God, employing entrepreneurial thinking and influence that triggers opportunity and provides blessing.

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Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and voice for the higher dimensions of spiritual game-changers and intercessors since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program and the Jewish Business Secrets YouTube series, Mr. Ruddick equips economic community builders with strategy where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.

He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.

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