Repentance & Holiness

Becoming vulnerable is the first step toward freedom. Vulnerability exposes our weakness and enables God to break down strongholds. We cannot function in freedom until we become brave enough to confront the strongholds that hinder the advancement of the Kingdom in our lives.

God is so much better than we give Him credit for. I confess that I’ve done a poor job representing His goodness at times. The older I get the more inadequate I realize I am. The Lord has revealed Himself to me in new ways in recent days. I often find myself laughing and crying at the same as He makes His Presence known. These fresh encounters with God have left me more humble, grateful, and free than I can ever remember. There is so much to discover about following Jesus; it’s a never ending journey. I’ve asked God to help me become a better example of His goodness along the way.

I’m currently living in a place of great paradox. On the one hand, I’ve never felt closer to Jesus and I’ve never been more aware of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet on the other hand, I’ve never felt more burdened; I live with a constant sense of heaviness for the state of the Bride. In the midst of my burdens I’ve discovered the power of weakness and the freedom that exists when we come to the end of ourselves.

At the heart of repentance lies vulnerability. True freedom in Christ requires that I constantly confess my faults, that I lay my inadequacies on the altar. Building an altar in our lives is so important. I’m not saying that we sin everyday as in “willfully transgressing against God.” However, I firmly believe that when we fail to love well that we sin against God and others. That means my attitudes, actions, words, and thoughts matter deeply. It means the things that I should be doing that I neglect to do matter in my relationship with Jesus.

I’m convinced that a lifestyle of repentance is the foundation of holiness. The minute I don’t think I have anything wrong in my life is the moment I set myself up as God. I have so many things to constantly repent of; at the top of the list is busyness and distraction. Beyond that, I often repent for not praying enough. I repent of being impatient. I repent for not always responding to my family the way I should. I repent for making decisions, even small decisions, without adequately seeking Jesus. I repent of developing preconceived notions about other people. These are all things that I need to continually lay on the altar. Again, the altar is so important.

True repentance is the only way to break down strongholds. Being in a relationship with God is important, but being in a right relationship with God is essential, especially if we’re going to live the life He’s called us to live. Indeed, repentance and holiness go hand in hand.

Dying to self and taking up the cross daily is about killing the little hedonist that’s kicking and screaming inside of us all. The flesh is one of our biggest foes; it’s always seeking pleasure that lasts for a season. We’re called to kill the flesh every time it raises its ugly head by nailing it to the cross. And when it reappears, we have to do it again. For holiness to become a lifestyle repentance must become a regular practice.

Have you ever considered the corporate hedonist that often appears among the Body of Christ? When the church begins warring against itself Satan takes the throne. When we refuse to corporately take up our cross we take up our quarrels. The Apostle James tells us that this infighting comes from the desire to please self over the desire to please God (James 4). It’s always rooted in our inability to believe that God can give us everything we need.

Many of you know that I’ve given my life to the Church, and in particular, the Church of the Nazarene. My heritage is grounded in the Church of the Nazarene. I love the people called “Nazarenes” very much. However, at times I’ve loved her too much. I repent of ever making my denomination an idol. I repent for allowing the boundaries of the Church of the Nazarene to limit my perspective of the Kingdom. I repent for the times I’ve allowed my identity to become more wrapped up in the Church of the Nazarene than the Kingdom of Jesus. We’d all do well to remember that God is a lot bigger than our little tribe.

With that said, I am burdened for the church. I’m troubled over the lack of passion for revival and what seems to be protest against it by some. I’m burdened over the unfaithfulness and pettiness. I’m burdened over the toxic environment that exists in some places. I’m burdened over the manifestation of pride. I am praying that God break down these strongholds; and when I say break down, I mean crush.

I’m praying for people to be delivered from rigid fundamentalism because none of us are the judge. I’m praying for people to be delivered from dead religious formalism because God is alive and He needs room to move among His people. I’m praying for people to be delivered from progressive intellectual elitism because it’s opposite of the posture of humility. It saddens me to see so many places negatively affected by legalism, liberalism, antagonism, and a host of other “isms” that no doubt breaks the heart of God.

We need to become a “movement” again: one that’s led by the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit. God forgive us for allowing the church to become a religious enterprise. Forgive us for turning the church into a business instead of a house of prayer. Forgive us for trying to climb the latter of success. Forgive us for being more concerned about what people think than we are what God thinks. Forgive us for trying to be something we’re not. Forgive us for not living by the principles of corporate prayer and repentance that You’ve prescribed in Scripture:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It’s time to cry out to God corporately. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on us again we must repent of our failed business strategies, hollow philosophies, lack of accountability, and broken theological constructs. The Father won’t settle for being an afterthought. He desires to be intimately involved in everything we do.

I hope you hear my heart. In the midst of my brokenness, my longing to be a better follower of Jesus is increasing. Brokenness is a good place to be. There’s a lot of freedom when we learn to live like there’s nothing to lose. Vulnerability that leads to repentance is the only thing that’ll break down the strongholds preventing us from experiencing the intimate Presence of the Holy Spirit.

God is so good. He’s better than I’ve ever imagined He could be. There are parts of His goodness that’s easily noticeable, yet often overlooked. I want to spend the rest of my life paying closer attention to who He really is and what He’s really like. For that to happen, vulnerability and repentance must become a common way of life.

stench

Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ll never forget my first February in Kentucky; then last February I noticed the same thing, and now this year. Let’s just say some things never change. What am I talking about you ask? The early spring invasion of SKUNKS!

In their efforts to cross the road these poor animals get hit by passing cars and inevitably leave a smell that, as the old southern expression goes, would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon. I actually have a skunk living in my backyard. When I take the trash out at night I’m always fearful that she’s going to be standing by the garbage can cocked and loaded.

The potency of skunk stench travels a great distance. When I ride over their carcasses on the highway the odor oozes into my car and remains for several miles. The power of a skunk’s particular smell has the capacity to linger in your nostrils for an uncanny amount of time.

My friend, Eddie, once had a pet skunk named, “Pierre” (although it was a girl). He tells me that Pierre was one of the best pets he ever owned. He found her when she was 6-8 weeks old and had the scent glands removed. Pierre was housebroken and trained to walk on a leash. He kept her for two years before getting married. However, his wife-to-be put great pressure on him to find Pierre a new home. Pierre spent the rest of her days entertaining children at elementary schools as part of a traveling zoo.

If you’ve ever viewed a skunk up close (preferably in pictures), you’ll likely agree that they’re adorable little animals. I’ve pondered recently why God would create something that appears so sweet yet give it a scent that will scar you for life. A few days ago that familiar smell seeped into my car once again; as the odor lingered God reminded me of a few things.

Scripture speaks a lot about “smells” and “aromas.” When dealing with unfaithfulness among His people God says, “These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away” (Isaiah 65:5, NLT). The Bible suggests a similar idea in 2 Peter chapter two when the Apostle writes about Believers who turn back to sin as “A dog that returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

All of us are wonderfully made in the likeness of a loving Creator. Every one of us is a much-loved child of the most caring Father in the entire universe. Yet many of us are like the prodigal son before he realizes his need to return home: We smell like a pigsty. We are beautiful in God’s eyes, yet all of us have the capacity to stink. When we willfully choose to live in sin we produce an aroma that reeks in the nostrils of God.

For many, the smelly aroma comes from their efforts of self-preservation. We’ve learned to function in ongoing protection mode. Like a skunk, we let off an odor when we try to defend ourselves against what we perceive as a threat. Something presses in on our lives and we lash out, lie, cheat, attack another person, think we deserve something we actually don’t, justify our bad behaviors and habits, and the list goes on. In these moments we produce a scent that not only distances us from the Father, it also separates us from the people we love.

My friends, sin is a serious problem. When it goes unchecked it has the capacity to derail our lives in a way that leaves us dead on the inside. Without God, the aroma of death lingers. We’ve all been affected, which means we’ve all smelled like a dead skunk in God’s nostrils at one time or another.

Like Isaiah, our very best efforts are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. In other words, we don’t deserve the goodness and mercy of God because of our stench. We often live in denial of the fact that we have the potential to smell like a skunk carcass lying on the side of the road. Denying the potential to smell like sin means one likely thinks more highly of themselves than they should. This is a dangerous way to live.

At the end of the day we all smell like road kill without Jesus. Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:14-16, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…”

Wow! In Christ, we are called to manifest His sweet fragrance everywhere we go. That means the Kingdom of God is touching down everywhere we stand. Now, when I smell a dead skunk I think about the fact that I’m dead to myself, yet alive in Christ. Without Jesus we stink in the nostrils of God, but IN HIM we’re a sweet savor unto the Lord. Let people smell the aroma of Christ being manifested through your life everyday.


(Sources: Eddie Estep)

Religious Ego

Our culture demands privilege. People fight for rights and are easily offended when they don’t get what they believe they deserve. Entitlement is so entrenched in our society that it shows up in the least expected places. I’ve seen the attitude of offense rear it’s ugly head in religious circles enough over the years to confirm that it’s alive and well in the church. However, the culprit is always the same: the human ego.

The human ego takes great pride in its religion. Through spiritual activity it tries to balance its sense of guilt with the delusion of personal righteousness. When ego is mixed with religion one’s spirituality becomes about felt needs, personal ambitions, and self-interests. We live in a society that worships fame and notoriety. This is a cultural crisis. The result is people who constantly look for recognition and validation. If they can’t find it in the world, the next best place is the church.

Let me say first of all, if you consider yourself a Christ-follower, you have given up your rights. You are not your own. I know that’s a difficult concept, but it is the aim of the Christian life. The very idea behind following Jesus is one of dying to self and taking up your cross. Jesus doesn’t ask to simply be worshiped on Sunday; he invites us to follow him.

Paul calls us to become “living sacrifices,” however the problem with living sacrifices is that they have the tendency to crawl off the altar. When we start defending our rights, it’s usually our ego doing the talking. When that gets mixed with spirituality things gets messy. Many churches are dying because so many plank-eyed religious folk walk around bumping into one another. Their ego blinds them to the bigger picture.

People who are easily offended are too invested in their own self-esteem. Human ego has a relentless need to be right, to feel important, to achieve success. When people compare themselves to others to measure their self-worth they naturally want to preserve their image. When they live in the mode of constant self-preservation being offended is a byproduct. Thus, it’s a never-ending cycle that’s usually fueled by the most trivial things.

When you truly understand forgiveness you don’t have time to be offended. Instead, you live with a deep understanding that your self-worth is grounded in the person of Christ. You discover that “who you are” is not something that can be sustained by weekly religious activity. You realize that the most sincere version of you that you will ever be is only found when you die to the person in the mirror. When you’re able to look at yourself and say, “You are broken and can’t do this own your own…” Only then will you understand your deep need for forgiveness.

When you understand forgiveness, you won’t be easily offended. Instead, you’ll develop the ability to forgive others the same way God forgives you. As you learn to love more deeply you won’t feel the need to prove anyone wrong because you won’t be tempted to prop yourself up against the standard of another person.

If your identity is caught up in something other than Jesus discovering a healthy sense of self-worth will be difficult. Offense will likely visit your life regularly. However, when you begin to identify your inadequacies your ego will loose its power. As this happens you’ll realize that being offended doesn’t mean you’re right. Instead, it’s an indication that you’ve got areas of your life that need to be laid back on the altar.

The message of “death to self” is a hard pill to swallow. Nonetheless, it’s the way to abundant life. It’s the only path to real spiritual growth, yet it’s rarely addressed. In a society that worships often at the altar of fame and fortune few people have the taste for the kind of Christian discipleship that costs them everything. Always remember, Jesus never said it would be easy, but he did say it would be worth it.


(Sources: Richard Rohr; Tim Suttle; Doug Hopkins)

Talking Heads

Recently, when visiting my hometown I got to hang out with an old friend. During our conversation he said, “I don’t have a lot of people in my life that I can talk to about anything significant. People don’t like to think about important issues.” Let that sink in: “People don’t like to think about important issues.”

Note the name of this blog site: “You Are What You Think.” Thinking is imperative to our spiritual journey. God instructs us to use our mind… “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

What we think about God is the most important thing about us. What you think about God affects everything about your life. It affects how you view the world, how you raise your children, how you interact with other people… I could go on and on. With that said, we need to be careful. There are a lot of talking heads, voices in the world, all of which want a platform in your mind. They want to shape the way you think.

The world is full of filters. When we allow the image of God to be sifted, that image quickly becomes distorted. People tend to filter God through many things, including: politics, culture, nationalism, etc. In doing so they develop a false sense of who God really is and it affects their ability to engage him on a deeper level. For example, if you filter God through the lens of American politics you will tend to view God as being on the side of the Republicans or the Democrats. He is not.

If you filter God through patriotism you begin to think that being a good American means being a good Christian, and consequently you begin to view foreigners differently, which leads to discrimination. A pastor recently shared a story with me where someone got up at a funeral and said, “I know uncle Joe is in heaven because the bible says that if you’re an American you go to heaven.” Jesus doesn’t shroud himself in the American flag, or any other flag for that matter. His Kingdom is not of this world.

If you filter God through religious subcultures, you will be tempted to go one of two routes. You might become a fundamentalist who thinks that God is only like the people who share the same views as you, often focusing on non-essentials. Or you may lean toward a Universalist perspective and develop ideas about God revealing himself through various religions.

Some people filter God through media. This ties into my theory on why people don’t like to think about important issues. They’re either afraid or they feel guilty. They’ve been silenced by what I call fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. You see, your cable news networks are fear-peddlers. They’ve got to keep the ratings up, so they spin every story. The more shocking, the more heated the commentary, the more debate, the more “what ifs”… the better the ratings.

Then you have the guilt-trippers, those who over-empathize with every movement that comes along. These are people who guilt you into being silent. Those who say things like, “Can’t we all just get alone… shame on you for saying anything contrary to another person’s opinion.” These people would rather take the “live and let live” approach than to speak truth and risk offending someone… even so far as calling those things which are evil, good (Isaiah 5:20).

Conservatives tend to be fear-peddlers (i.e. warning, “if you don’t do this”). Liberals have a tendency to be guilt-trippers (i.e. threatening, “how dare you”). When the liberals label me “conservative” and the conservatives label me “liberal” it helps me realize that I must be doing something right. My desire is to be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God and I believe the way of the Kingdom is discovered in-between all the rhetoric and labeling.

Reducing the talking heads is imperative for a healthy spiritual life. Take a break from all the noise. Discover the beauty and majesty of silence. Learn to listen for that small still voice in the midst of all the clamor. Filtering God through our own unique preferences and leanings certainly has the ability to damage how we think about God and realizing that makes a huge difference in our walk with him.

Turn off the news networks. Turn down the volume on the fundies and libs. Refuse to allow your life to be inundated by fear-peddlers and guilt-trippers. Stop allowing negative influences to shape your thinking. Don’t allow God to be filtered. Disconnect. Find the in-between. You don’t need the talking heads of modern culture informing your every thought. Read, pray, open the scripture, and seek the wisdom that only comes from above. It will change everything…guaranteed.

Black Friday

Once upon a time (a really long time ago), Christians in America celebrated the holidays leading up to Christmas with fellowship meals and gift giving in a spirit of love and generosity. The word “holiday” was initially derived from the phrase “holy day.” A holy day indicates a day that is ‘set apart’ or ‘sacred.’ Holy-days were often a series of sacred days, hence the word: “holidays” (plural).

In America we have long abandoned the idea of anything ‘sacred.’ Particularly the day after Thanksgiving when we engage the consumer-driven celebration named by the media: “Black Friday.” It’s a day where people lay their lives on the line for the best deals in town. It is indeed a very dark day.

Every year it gets worse, and every year I’m more disheartened by the conduct of people who literally behave like wild animals to save a few dollars on a new television or cell phone. On Black Friday the sheep don’t even realize they’re being led to the slaughter at the altar of consumerism. I could preach for hours about this culturally concocted human frenzy, but I’ll let the media images speak for themselves.

I’m not sure when Black Friday came into existence. It certainly hasn’t always been part of life. I suppose we gave birth to this dark day when we decided that one day of gratitude was all we needed. Black Friday clearly illustrates that we’re never satisfied. We never have enough. We love to feed the Beast. Like gerbils on a spinning wheel, we turn the cogs of the machine, all along knowing it’ll never be enough.

If anything bears witness to the new ‘Anti-Christian’ spirit of our society it’s the annual Black Friday orgy of selfish crowds fist-fighting over holiday (holy day) bargains. Miroslav Volf says, “There’s something profoundly incongruous between the gratitude of the Thanksgiving Thursday and the Black Friday’s mad rush to acquire…” No doubt, this celebration of acquisition coming the day after Thanksgiving is indicative of an American disease.

Think about what we’ve accepted as normal. On Thanksgiving we gather with family to express gratitude for God’s provision. On Friday we rush in pandemonium, trample anyone in our way, and worship at the altar of consumerism. Yes, I said worship. Black Friday is reminiscent of a pool of piranhas when blood drips in the water. The sale prices are revealed, the doors are open, and the turkey-eating pilgrims staring killing each other for the best deals.

Society has certainly been brainwashed. It’s actually sad to see so many people manipulated by the prospects of a bargain. Black Friday is nothing to celebrate. With the desire to acquire people believe they are becoming owners and making smart decisions, when in reality they’re being bought and enslaved. There’s no better day than the Black Friday to witness the madness that’s set in to the human psyche. As Black Friday becomes celebrated holiday (holy day), it’s a sure sign that the sacred is lost.

Some of you may say, “You’re being too hard.” I get it, there’s nothing wrong with buying Christmas gifts. But when Black Friday becomes an unabashed celebration of unrestrained consumerism, I would rather not participate. I challenge you not to partake in the madness either, if for no other reason but to stop feeding the beast. Besides, I’d rather pay a little more than be swallowed up at the altar of consumerism.


(Sources: Brian Zahnd; Miroslav Volf; Biblical Times News)

god-and-money

In the classic tale, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” young Alice comes to a fork in the road and asks the Cheshire Cat which way she should go: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” says the Cat. “I don’t much care…” Alice responds. The cat says, “Then it doesn’t matter…” You see, what Alice wanted to know was the “best” was to go and the Cat answered with great insight: The best way to go depends on where it is you’re going…

Many of us walk through life wanting someone to tell us which way to go. Jesus teaches this isn’t the best question to ask. Instead, the most important question pertains where you’re headed. And where you’re headed is directly connected to who you are becoming. And who you are becoming depends a great deal on what you’re investing in. Where you’re invested always determines where you end up.

When you hear the word “investment,” what do you think of? I asked a several people last week, and ‘money’ was by far the winning answer. When westerners think of an investment we typically think of finances. However, we don’t usually associate financial investments with who we are becoming, but Jesus did. In fact, people get tense when we start discussing God’s plans for their money.

Jesus knew that nothing else indicated when a person’s loyalty was like money. A person’s checkbook brings their life into perspective. It’s been said that if historians of the future ever wanted to learn about our culture, they wouldn’t read our newspapers, they’d sort through our checkbooks. Our lives revolve around money. How we use it, spend it, and manage it, is maybe the single-most revealing thing about our lives.

It’s true, and Jesus knew it. So throughout his ministry he talked about money often. In fact, Jesus talked more about money than he did heaven or hell combined. For Jesus money reveals the answer to the most basic developmental question of life: “Where is your heart?”


Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).


Jesus essentially teaches that if you want your heart to be with God, you must put your treasure with God. Does that mean the answer is to sell everything and give it to the church? Of course not. It’s not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess you.

In this passage Jesus is talking about the destination you’ve determined for yourself. Are you centered on your ability to earn or God’s ability to provide? Are you driven by attaining more things at the expense of being generous? When it comes to giving to God’s work, or adding to your bank account, who wins? In other words where do you want to go? As the Cheshire Cat would say, “It depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

It reminds me of taking my kids to McDonald’s when they were little. I’d sit there with my son or my daughter, and watch them enjoy more than enough French Fries, of which I had bought. Then I’d ask, “Hey, can I have a few?” And from the depth of their well-formed character, they would adamantly say, “NO!” I’d say, “But I’m your Dad; come on, just one fry!” And they’d say, “NO!”

Then I would explain to them very carefully, with love and affection: “Listen, you don’t understand, I paid for those fries, not you. Second, not only did I buy them, but I can take them away. I can force you to give me whatever I want. Third, don;t be a dummy. If you treat me right, I’m the one that can get you more fries. I’m Burger King, Wendy’s, and Ronald McDonald all rolled into one. If you go up to the counter and try to buy something you’ll find out real quick what you can get without me. But guess what? I can go up there, and not only can I come back with more, I can even super-size it!”

So how about you? Where are you going? Where’s the destination of your heart? What do you consider an investment? Remember, your Father can super-size your investment.


(Sources: Church and Culture by James Emery White; Matt Rawle; Word Commentary)

 

rich1

People are happy to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have any negative implications. People love comfort. For many Jesus only brings additional security to an already comfortable life. Sorry to say, but that’s poor theology. It’s not what our relationship with God should look like.

Get this in your head: Comfort is not the language of Christ. Instead, he speaks of a carrying a cross, giving up your life, and intentionally becoming last. We must understand that there is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering with our life. Following Jesus will cost you something. This brings up a very important question: Has following Jesus cost you anything?

Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor change in our lives, as long as it’s not too radical. But what if I told you that Jesus wants to turn your life upside-down? Some people don’t mind a little touch-up work, but God wants to do a complete renovation. People want a tune-up, but Jesus is thinking overhaul. Some want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives. Bottom-line: Jesus will mess up your life!

God has challenged me often with the parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Matt. 19, Mark 10). In many ways we all embody the Rich Young Ruler. If you live in America, regardless of your socio-economic status, you are richer than 95% of the world’s population. We have it all, everything we want and need is right at our fingertips.

In the story of the Rich Young Ruler the man comes to Jesus and asks: “What must I do to have eternal life?” After some discussion Jesus finally says, “Go, sell what you possess and give it away… and come and follow me.” The young man walks away sad because he is not willing to give everything away to follow the One who called himself the Messiah. He failed to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be… and sadly, so do many of us.

After much thought about this passage I believe the core of the story has to do with us letting go of things in our lives that keep us from completely surrendering to the Holy Spirit and following God. In the past I’ve given up certain hobbies, relationships, roles, and other things that I felt I was holding too tightly. Sometimes these things get in the way of us authentically following Jesus.

I must remember that none of what I have is mine; it all belongs to God, he merely entrusts me with certain abilities and resources to use wisely in building the kingdom. I am only a steward of what he has given me. My prayer in the coming days is that I will use my gifts the way God desires, and that I will be a good steward of the life God has blessed me with.

Jesus never offers us an option between being a follower and being a spectator. He is looking for more than words of belief; he’s looking to see how those words are lived out in our lives. When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we are nothing more than spectators. Never forget: only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for God will last.


(Source: Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman)

Walk by faith

Walk by faith, not by sight… easier said that done, right? God recently called me to move by faith halfway across the country. He called me to move away from all I knew to be familiar, all I was comfortable with, and all that I loved. Moving by faith is when you don’t know exactly what God is saying, but you know he is saying “Start walking… and I’ll show you on the way.”

To walk by faith and not by sight means there will be times when God won’t tell you exactly what he wants you to do, which requires a great deal of trust. God wants us to be willing to trust him enough to move forward without knowing all the details. God is not always going to give you the specific directions as to where he is taking you. Sometimes God will just say “start walking.”

In Genesis 12, God told Abraham to walk away from family and friends to a new land that he wanted to show him. God said, “If you leave your family I will bless you; I will make you a blessing; I will cause others to bless you.” Can’t you just imagine Abraham saying, “Wait a minute, where am I going God?” And God responding, “I’ll tell you on the way!” Abraham’s options were to leave behind all he ever knew or remain in the comforts of predictability.

Another example is found in Exodus. Egypt was a place of bondage. However, the Israelites did have a place to sleep and were guaranteed three meals a day. Then God calls his people to move out of Egypt: to leave bondage and take a chance. Step out on faith and follow God… that was the call. For the Israelites, the call of God is both an exciting adventure and a scary proposition.

It’s often the same of us. Up ahead is uncertainty, behind is predictability, and faith realizes the only certain thing at any given moment is God. In my recent move I dealt with the same thought patterns as the children of Israel coming out of Egypt. Behind me is comfort, yet also the bondage of predictability, routine, and status quo. Ahead of me is uncertainty, but that’s where God is waiting.

Most people miss their exodus (exit/way out), because they think about themselves physically leaving. Physically leaving is not the hard part, the struggle is to bring our minds with us (remember, you are what you think). Leaving physically was not the issue with the Israelites, nor is it our issue. Instead, the real issue is changing how we think.

Moving by faith requires changing the way we think, and if we’re not careful we will get stuck in a pattern of thinking that will keep us trapped for life. Believe God and move by faith when he says, “Start walking… and I’ll show you on the way.”


(Sources: Graham Cooke; Kraig Pullam)

spiritual-warfare

Lately I’ve been in conversations with other pastors discussing the current spiritual temperature of the Church. We concur that many people who fill the pews on Sundays struggle with their identity in Christ. Many have received the Lord, and believed on him for salvation, but are losing the battle with the Enemy. The Church has denied the reality of spiritual warfare for too long and it’s time to wake up, suit up, and step up.

If you are reading this and you don’t believe in supernatural warfare. Then what follows will likely seem absurd. However, for those of you who want to learn to be victorious in the battle then I would encourage you to make this a starting point where you dedicate to a deeper level of engagement with God. If you don’t remember anything else I write, remember this:

You can’t take ground from the Enemy as long as the Enemy has ground in you.

Often when someone begins to articulate ways in which Satan is actively trying to destroy lives, people look at you funny with their head turned sideways and blank look of disbelief. People think that those who speak of “the Devil” have been watching too much late night television. However, I’m here to tell you that there is an Enemy and he is alive and well on planet earth.

The Bible says he’s the prince of the power of the air, and that he is out to kill, steal, and destroy. Believe this: he is actively destroying the work of Jesus Christ wherever he can. I hear people claim to be ‘Christians,’ yet they say that they do not believe in the reality of Satan. I find this difficult to understand. If someone is a Believer and yet they claim not to believe in Satan, they certainly do not read the Bible, because the Bible speaks of Satan at every turn.

Usually there are one of two things I find among Christians concerning the Enemy’s influence in their lives and society at large: (1) Ignorance (they don’t know); or (2) Indifference (they don’t care). Consequently, the Enemy continues to succeed at his agenda, because so many people don’t know, or perhaps worse they just don’t care. Even worse is that many are collaborating with him in passivity and complacency because they haven’t taken time to equip themselves.

The Enemy has three primary goals: (1) Destroy every individual Christian; (2) Attack every Christian home; (3) Divide the Church of Jesus Christ and embarrass it publically, destroy it nationally, erode its ministry, discredit its leaders, and wipe out its financial base so that it can no longer have a presence in the world. Those of us in pastoral ministry know what an advantage Satan has in all three of these categories.

Too often the Christian thinks of the world, not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight, but to frolic on the playground of life. We often think the best thing we need to do is rid ourselves of inhibitions and frustrations in life. We’ve lost the sense of spiritual warfare. It’s not that Christians don’t want to win; it’s that many don’t even realize there is a war going on.

Too many Believers walk around with bullets flying over their heads and landmines blowing up at their feet. They have no protection, no knowledge, and no desire to do anything except play in the sun and give God and nod and a wink when it’s convenient.

The Scripture teaches that it is the Christian’s responsibility to appropriate the armor of God: Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation, and the Word (Ephesians 6). This is not something God wants to do for you. To the contrary, it is something God has told you to do for yourself. God has commanded you to get the armor and “put it on.” He wants you to be prepared: to learn to effectively engage the Enemy and be more effective in the world for the sake of the kingdom.

So, if you get wounded because you’re not prepared for a situation that the Enemy brings into your life, it isn’t God’s fault, don’t blame God. It’s your fault. The armor is sitting there waiting for you to apply. God has requested you to do it. It is therefore your personal and paramount duty to equip yourself. The call of spiritual warfare is to wake up, suit up, and step up!

Easy Street

Most people wake up each day and follow the path of least resistance. It’s in our nature. If you have a choice of walking up a hill or down a hill to get to the same place, 99% of people will walk downhill. Elevator or stairs? Elevator. Walk or drive? Drive. Write a letter or send an email? Email. And those are all fine; however the problem is that most of the time we make the same choice when it comes to more significant things in life. We would rather “go along to get along” even when it might cost us our character.

Rather than radically surrendering ourselves to the direction God has called us to walk, often we surrender our morals and say, “everyone else is doing it.” Let me ask you something: How’s that working for you? Are you happy to just go along with the crowd and be like everyone else? Everyone else is headed in the direction of least resistance. Are you happy with the result? If not, remember what I’m about to tell you: If you want what everyone else has, do what everyone else is doing…but if you want what few people have, do what few people do.

The fact is our actions are the results of our thinking: we think and then we do. Very few of the important actions in our lives are involuntary. We breathe involuntarily (that’s important), we blink (that’s important), we duck when someone throws something at us (that’s important). Other than that, almost every other action is voluntary. We act as the result of thinking.

Do you ever remember watching some scary movie when you were a kid? When it was bed time, we would sleep with the light on or put our heads under the covers. And if you forgot to close the closet door, there was no way you were going to get up in the middle of the night and close it. Why did we act that way? Because our minds were going 100 mph with scary thoughts. Our thinking affects our behavior.

In a similar way, we are conditioned to think like everyone else thinks. Some call it the ‘American Dream.’ Get a job, get married, have kids, move into a big house, drive a nice car, work all week, party on the weekends, and then retire someday to a golf course in Florida. That’s what 99% of Americans dream about. And since everyone else is living for the same dream, we think it must be the right thing to do.

What about results… what are the results of following that path? Divorce rates in America are near 50%. Debt has a stranglehold on the American family. People are still becoming drug addicts and alcoholics. Prisons are overflowing and we cannot seem to lower the crime rate. And even when surveyed, those who have succeeded in building wealth admit that there is something missing in their lives.

I tell you this for certain: I don’t want the American Dream. I don’t like the results. Instead, I want to live God’s dream for my life. And that’s what it really boils down to: you can go along to get along, do what everyone else is doing, follow the American Dream, and get what everyone else has. Or, you can choose to live backward, follow God’s vision for your life, and swim against the current of the status quo. You can do what everyone else is doing or you can do what very few people choose to do, and obtain what very few others obtain: an intimate relationship with Jesus and a vision for his kingdom.

Paul teaches, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT)…  Think about it.