Jesus didn’t send his disciples into cities, and say “When you go, be nice, trendy, hard-working, law-abiding citizens, start successful businesses, be super culturally relevant, and pray… And wait… Wait for that moment. That moment someone asks you why you’re such a great person and why you’re so successful. Then, and only then, preach the gospel to them.” Actually he told them to preach the gospel, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Matthew 10:8 It’s dumb for us to do everything that helps us spread the gospel, but never actually preach the gospel. That’s just dumb. I understand that there are many “covert ministries”, and spheres where much wisdom is required, and I’m thankful for Christians who God has positioned to bring influence in the various mountains of culture. And I understand that in most cases, it would not be a good idea to jump up onto the table and start proclaiming a blistering bible message. However, I’m afraid that we’ve become kind of like hunters sitting in our hunting blinds, and we’re so preoccupied with the process of sitting in waiting and perfecting our animal calls, that we never take the shot. We just watch the game stroll by and we pat each other on the back, and pride ourselves in how close they got to us without getting spooked.
God is not impressed with our experience or expertise. He’s impressed with faith. However… There is a problem with faith. The problem with faith is that it will make you great. For example, if you have great faith, then you will see great miracles. Miracles are like expensive cars. The more of them you own, the more other people think you are great. They may even start calling you “Apostle So&So.” Imagine that. So the temptation to use faith to make you great is real.
I read a book, and I’m really fired up.
Before I tell you what it is I’m so fired up about, let me tell you why it’s so important.
The #1 most important ingredient that keeps marriages together is HOPE.
When couples lose hope, it’s the beginning of the end.
The absence of hope is an indicator of the presence of a lie sinking its claws into its prey; whoever is believing the lie.
Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn interviewed thousands of couples over 12 years.
They found that there was one common denominator among marriages that survived versus those that failed: HOPE.
According to Shaunti, many different factors led to either outcome, of course.
But underneath it all was this bottom line:
Did the couple have a sense of hope … or a sense of futility?
“After all, if the ship is going to sink anyway, why bother working so hard to bail it out?”
Far better, they think, to work on escaping the wreck intact. In other words, a couple’s futile feeling that “We aren’t going to make it” ends up being one of the main reasons they don’t make it.”
There was a time when I was a bit skeptical about making “declarations of faith” as some do in certain Christian circles. When I would run into Christians who believed in this kind of practice, I often felt like it wasn’t sincere and authentic. I believe God wants us to be real. I mean read the Psalms. David didn’t polish his words with God. That all changed when I was in BSSM taking the Church Leadership Track led by Steve Backlund, the crazy guy who is always trying to get people to laugh at lies. I realized there were probably a few lies I had been believing, and my attitude toward making those audacious un-authentic declarations of faith started to change dramatically. It was a combination of scriptural teaching, and empirical evidence from my own life that slowly converted me to one of those crazies. The problem with deception is you don’t know you’re deceived until it is somehow exposed. I am fully aware that many aspects of this idea of making declarations and proclamations has been abused in many ways. But unfortunately we, the church, have a great reputation of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I don’t know how someone could throw a baby out with the bath water. I prefer not visualizing that.
The other day I stumbled across some letters some friends once wrote to me to share how I impacted their life. Tears started running down my tense cheeks. Hearing people share things like that makes it all worth it. It really snapped me out of the little puddle of gloom I happened to be sitting in. I realized ‘perhaps I’ve done more than I tend to realize when I’m feeling down.’
Many people who have experienced swimming in the Dead Sea, or the Great Salt Lake talk about how easy it is to float. The salty water is 20% more dense than fresh water, so you can literally lay in the water effortlessly and read a book without sinking. Imagine if I came to the Dead Sea, went in up to my ankles and when I came back home I told my friends “It’s not any different from the ocean or any other body of water. I didn’t float.” It’s an absurd illustration, yet figuratively speaking I have found that I have done this in so many areas of life.
The revelation of your true identity leads to the revelation of God’s true identity. This leads to the revelation of your true destiny. Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, you’re probably like me and have spent most of your life trying to answer this million dollar question. “Who in the world am I?” When we find out that someone has not been born again, our first reaction is to tell them about Jesus. Perhaps in some cases the first step should not be to tell them about who Jesus is. Perhaps we would be more effective in sharing our faith if we followed Jesus’ example and made our first step to tell them about who they really are. I am fully aware that this might come off as some sort of humanistic false idea. Easy… Allow me to explain.
Recently I was feeling a bit depressed about some of my weaknesses. I was in a situation where I knew I had to confront someone, and I knew it was not going to be easy. I don’t think I know any freaks of nature who are naturally good at confrontation, however in my case it happens to be the opposite of one my strengths. “Harmony” according to the Strengths Finder assessment. You may remember a post I wrote called “A simple hack for effectively stewarding prophetic words”. It was about creating a declaration list that I call my Identity Declaration. It was a real game-changer for me. This, much like the Identity Declaration list is something that was born out of a personal encounter, and I believe it will really help. Especially if all you seem to see in front of you is the ugly head of your most regretted deficiency.
What your brain eats and drinks will determine what you focus on in life. And a lot of other things too.
When was the last time you evaluated what kind of information you’re feeding on? What do you tend to read, listen to or watch on television? Over the last year, I have become more and more aware of the fact that what I feed on tends to directly affect many parts of my life.
1. It affects my level of faith and hope.
2. How I prioritize my time, energy and money.
3. It affects me emotionally.
4. How I treat my wife and children. And I’m sure there are many more.
Some of us are big on eating healthy and are very careful about what you eat. I think you would agree however, that we tend to have certain eating patterns whether good or bad. Most of us don’t put too much thought to it.
I have discovered that eating patterns affect what I feel like eating and drinking. So if I get into a habit of drinking Pepsi a lot, then I tend to crave Pepsi. If I hardly ever drink it, then I don’t tend to want it. Most of us probably have a few choices we like for breakfast we tend to stick with. Well, I believe the same principles of eating habits and patterns can be easily applied to what we feed our brains with.
I know all too well how simply watching the news affects me. I have to be honest with myself about how it affects me, and monitor how much I expose myself to this resource that is primarily filled with bad news. And bad news is really good at producing fear and anxiety.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote “You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”
You are led by whoever you allow to influence you
I like to listen to the Dave Ramsey show. If you know this show then you can guess how it affects me. It makes me want to get out of debt like my life depends on it, and increase my income, and be more responsible and smart with money. It’s also entertaining at times, and I love it. When I listen to Doug Addison’s podcast and read his books, it makes me want to get better at interpreting dreams and use the prophetic in evangelism. You get the point. Whatever we expose ourselves to influences us. If “leadership is influence” (Maxwell), then whoever you expose yourself to means you are allowing that person to lead you on some level.
You don’t buy what you like. You buy what you’re thinking about.
In his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger talks about 6 principles that affect what makes things go viral. He shares how some studies show that when making a purchase, we don’t necessarily buy something merely because we like it. We’re more likely to buy something because of what we’re thinking about. So, for example if French music is playing while we’re shopping, we’re more likely to want to buy some French wine. The advertising industry takes advantage of this every day.
In America the number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child is 16,000. I don’t know what it is for adults, but wow! That’s a lot of commercials! Companies are willing to pay hundreds of thousands for commercials because they need you to think about their product. So you’ll buy it. Just liking it isn’t enough.
Here’s my point. We all like God. We all like it when people get healed miraculously. We all like it when we’re full of faith and hope, but just liking that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll pay the price to have that. I like it when I’m full of hope and faith. However I am acutely aware of how I can’t make it on my own. I need encouragement. I need to be reminded of who I am. My point is this. We all hate commercials. But why not take what makes commercials effective and use it to our advantage? So instead of allowing someone else to dictate what you think about, why not take control, and cultivate thoughts on the the things that matter most.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2
Eric Johnson once said “if you’re lacking in hope, you might be drinking from the wrong well.”
Don’t just eat what you’re accustomed to eating. Mix it up.
I have some friends who subscribe to a service offered by a local vegetable farmer. They pay a monthly fee that includes a certain amount of packages of vegetables. The mix and types of vegetables in each package is entirely determined by the grower and what’s in season. So you don’t ever know exactly what vegetables you’ll be eating that week. Here’s the upside. It makes you eat vegetables you might otherwise never eat. Review what you’re feeding on and consider mixing it up a bit. For example try listening to a preacher you don’t think you like, but have never listened to. Or think about some areas you would like to grow in and think about what kind of resources you could exposing yourself to to keep yourself learning and growing.
Here are some resources I like.
Other than reading my bible, here in a nutshell is what I try to expose myself to intentionally as best I can. Some general categories and some specific examples of resources I get a lot out of. Most of them are free. :)
1. Practical wisdom and personal development. I try to make sure there are podcasts/radio shows and books in my diet that cultivate and stir up a desire for growing personally, and that educate me so I can always be learning.
Examples: Dave Ramsey, Daniel Pink, NPR TED radio hour (podcast), Michael Hyatt (podcast), Evernote Essentials (book), Copyblogger (blog).
2. Preaching. Spiritual growth and inspiration: I want to split this one up into several categories.
A. Inspiration, encouragement. Preaching that helps keep my hope and faith up at a healthy level.
Examples: Bethel Church (podcast), Expression 58 (Podcast), Jesus Culture (podcast), David Hogan (Youtube)
B. Supernatural, manifest power of God. Preaching and testimonies that stir up hunger to see more miracles, raise the dead, cast out demons, prophesy with more accuracy and boldness etc. Examples: Doug Addison (podcast), David Hogan (Youtube), Chris Gore (director of healing rooms at Bethel),
C. Kick in the butt/Holy Spirit conviction and wake-up calls. Preachers/teachers who don’t shy away from the controversial, or tough parts of scripture, who have a passion for holiness, righteousness and truth. Often this could be people who are either prophets or teachers, tending to be more/less black and white when it comes to truth and what God is saying.
Examples: David Hogan (Youtube), Kris Vallotton, Dr. Michael Brown (podcast), Michael Brodeur – my mentor during my third year at BSSM and one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever heard teach scripture.
What are a few podcasts, tv shows, radio shows or individuals you get a lot from?
Peter sees vision of unclean foods. Acts 10:9
God speaks through the day-to-day dynamics of our humanity. And He doesn’t have a problem with it.
It’s interesting that the vision Peter saw about eating unclean foods, was in the context of being hungry. He got hungry when he started praying, so he went and asked the cooks to make something for him. Apparently he didn’t see anything wrong with interrupting his prayer to order a lunch. The fact that he saw the vision in this context could potentially make it easy to doubt the vision was from the Lord and just think “I was hungry. No wonder I’m seeing weird visions about food.” I wonder if God would have given him a different vision if he wasn’t hungry at the time?
I’m sure there have been a time or three when I disregarded what could have been from the Lord, thinking it was “something I ate” or “a movie I watched” or circumstances in my life that were playing into my imagination.
Whenever the Lord reveals something or speaks to us, there’s always plenty of rotten apples of doubt and fear laying around. They’re easy to pick up. If that’s what you’re focusing on.
Many legitimate prophesies sound foolish or unrealistic. Until they’re fulfilled.
Trust is Faith’s brother. Just as Doubt is related to Fear.
When Jesus prophesied about demolishing the temple and it being rebuilt in three days one group was furious. The other was confused, but chose to put one foot in front of the other and trust him even though they didn’t understand.
It’s normal to feel confused. Just as it’s normal to feel fear.
You can feel fear, but still act courageously. Similarly you can be confused, but choose to trust.
Trust leads to hope, and gardeners have proven that hope is the best soil to grow faith in.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on yourown understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” – David the giant killer.