A Paradigm Shift in the Hand…

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

We all know this one. Basically, this means that what you actually have is worth more than what you could have. You can miss a lot of REAL life while you hold out for a possibility. So let’s tweak that cliché a bit:

“It’s better to realize potential than to talk about it.”

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Does Social Networking Keep Prophets From Honor?

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

Does social networking have the same effect on ministers? Will we begin to see fewer miracles everywhere we go because they know we watched LOST and enjoyed that brownie sundae at Applebees? I think we tend to believe that visitors may have a stronger connection to God or stronger gift of faith than we do. But if we were to follow them on Facebook and Twitter, would we lose that ability to esteem them as highly?

Bill Johnson would argue that every family and church needs to intentionally cultivate a culture of honor, wherein we choose to not take our loved ones and lifelong acquaintances for granted. Bill says that by doing so, we often shut off a God-ordained source of life, healing, and comfort for ourselves. They’re around us for a reason, but we tend to take for granted those whom we know best.

And I’m not really asking whose fault it is. Should ANY of us share as much information as we sometimes do? And should we REALLY assume a person isn’t anointed because they watched the Cowboys game on the big screen at Buffalo Wild Wings while scarfing down a ten pack of garlic parmesan?

This really isn’t just about prophets. Imagine anyone with a revelatory, healing, or miraculous gift. Familiarity breeds contempt. How difficult a road will a guy like Todd Bentley have? Do you feel less likely to be healed by someone who tells you when they’re watching professional wrestling? Does that kind of information work in his favor?

Looking Forward to the Amber Rose Conference

I was just informed last night of this year’s Amber Rose Conference at Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, March 4th-6th. Some men from my home group are planning to attend and participate in the healing rooms.

We want to see people set free, healed, restored, and experiencing the goodness of our God! What better way to bless others, increase our faith, and practice the gifts of God? Who’s in?

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Faith Comes By Hearing

As you renew your minds, be aware that reading God’s Word, as your only course of action, may not be enough. We will read some Scriptures over and over and over again, and the meaning is lost on us. The reason that’s true is because we hear ourselves read these passages through the lens of our own experience or through the tone of the person who introduced these biblical concepts to us.

Faith comes by hearing

Hear this, Beloved. Faith comes by HEARING. There is something dynamic and mysterious about sound. I grew up hearing the austere Methodist preacher talk in a monotone and lifeless voice about the marvelous “love of God”. It all sounded so dreadfully boring. I associated his tone and expression with those words. For years, whenever I heard someone read a passage of Scripture, I heard it through the lens and filter of their understanding.

This means it’s all too important who we choose to listen to.

We can increase our faith and our understanding by listening to people speak who have a deeper and less cluttered understanding than we have. Each person, when sharing their story or even reading a passage from a book, emphasizes and interprets the words through the filter of their understanding. That’s how people choose what tone and inflection to add when reading. They see “love”, and they read the word as they understand it.

When I heard Mike Bickle speak about the glorious Bridegroom, he rocked my world. Suddenly, Jesus was this God-Man so glorious and wonderful that I had to learn more. When I heard Gary Wiens speak with certainty about his loving Father, I knew I wanted to know a God like that. I knew that Christianity suddenly made sense if God was an extravagant lover and giver. If life was REALLY meant to be a passionate romance and pursuit of the Bridegroom, I could sign on to that.

It was hearing the reality in their voices that tipped the scales.

To this day, I seek out people with deeper revelation than I have. Whether it’s a streaming video, tapes, DVDs, sermon podcasts, or a testimonial of God’s power, I want to hear the people share who have experienced God and been transformed. Their stories expand my expectation and hope. I am excited to seek God and encouraged to trust more.

Take the challenge: In whatever area you wish you had deeper understanding and greater revelation, find testimonials, talks, and sermons on the subject from people who are more alive in that area than you. Don’t let anything stop you from listening to the voice of revelation.

If you want to grow deeper in a particular area but aren’t sure who to trust or who to listen to, leave me a comment or fill out the contact form and I will share my personal recommendations with you.

This has been an amazing revelation in my life. Don’t just read. You need to hear the voice of the one who has experienced greater depths of revelation. That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. That the breadth of your expectation may be increased.

Paul Charges Timothy to Disciple Others

On the subject of discipleship, there is no example better than the letters from Paul to Timothy. Through his letters, we glimpse the premiere apostolic standard of mentorship and spiritual fathering.

2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:2

What a remarkable command! Let’s look at this deeper.

Paul gives us a glimpse at a four generational approach to mentoring. Paul mentors Timothy, then instructs him to teach reliable men who not only will learn and receive his instruction, but who will ALSO be qualified to teach others.

Do you remember that famous cliche:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Paul takes this wisdom a step further: Teach men to teach OTHER men how to fish and you feed an entire people group.

If we teach other men, we equip a single generation to live well. If we teach those men how to teach, they not only learn how to live, but they learn how to replicate. Then those people they teach will teach others, who will in turn teach others, until the end of time.

This is true discipleship. We need a multi-generational view of the Christian life. If your vision ends with your children or your immediate disciples, your vision is too small.

Moses discipled Joshua. We read throughout the Scriptures how Joshua was present day and night. He learned from “the man.” But the one thing he didn’t learn was to teach other men. Take a look at Judges 2:7 and 10-12:

7 The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.

Where Joshua had been discipled, the generation after Joshua apparently had not. They knew not God or His mighty acts on their behalf. Moses taught Joshua to fish, so to speak, but it doesn’t look like he taught Joshua how to teach other men to fish. So the discipleship dies out after a generation.

Let us adjust our vision and embrace the multi-generational view of discipleship which God intended when He told us to teach our children and our children’s children about His goodness, His character, and His mighty deeds.

Changing What You Listen to Could Change Your Life

I came across this blog post today via Twitter. It so closely mirrored the heart of what I wrote yesterday that I had to give you a taste here. JBMavrich writes of how he spent his daily commute to and from work (read his entire post here):

I turned my sights to music, revisiting albums of my youth. I once again found no life in the secular music that I had so many times before sworn off. I was singing and declaring words of death, or at least nonsense, over and over. I found that this, much like my attempt at listening to the news, was bleeding me slowly.

I know this feeling. Life is passing you by and you’re not making as much progress or growing as much as you think you should. Your mind feels murky and “full”. You wish you had more faith, but you are overwhelmed and engulfed by whatever Media you are tuned into.

But something miraculous happens when we carve out emotional and mental space for the Lord. Our minds are quieted and calm. We have far fewer sparkly, shiny, barking advertising things floating around in our minds, looking for a place to settle. There is room for the Lord to speak, and room to listen.

In short, changing what I fed my spirit has shown dramatic and swift results. My prayer life has increased; my intimacy with the Lord has grown; my revelation and discernment have developed; my heart has tenderized. I have even increased in visions and dreams. I say this not in pride, but to encourage you that these results are only the beginning and possible for us all.

And that’s point of all of this, after all. Intimacy with the Father. Experiencing His love and acceptance. Finding the capacity to believe His Word.

*A special shout out to @jbmavrich for writing and tweeting this encouraging post.

Dwell in the Land

Something about Psalm 37:3 caught my eye last night. I felt like the Holy Spirit told me to read that chapter, and this particular part stood out.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
(New International Version)

Most of the other translations say something a little different, like:

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
(New King James Version)

Or

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
(New American Standard)

I like the first version because of the mental image I had when I read it. I pictured myself as a shepherd in a pasture inside the land of Israel, looking out at the border of our land. I can see the pastures in the distance outside of our property. They look lush and good for grazing. The thought occurs to me that I could take my sheep and goats just a little ways beyond our borders and let them feed on something fresh and new.

Then the Word of the Lord comes to me: Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. SAFE pasture. Then I realize that I’d be taking unnecessary risk out there beyond our borders. There is no protection. I would be outside of my protected territory. I could be attacked and no one would defend me.

It may look good, but it’s not safe. It’s not where I am protected. It’s not what God has given me. Now that I think of it, I am grateful for the protection that allows me to graze safely and make a living without enemies swarming in and surrounding me.

God, in His kindness and mercy, directs me to dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. He loves me and He’s trying to protect me. I can choose to take risks and dwell outside of the land He provided. But I feel loved knowing that He’s going out of His way to warn me of the dangers and to encourage me to remain where His provision and safety can be found.

Removing Strongholds: 30 Days to Liberation

Strongholds are beliefs that are built upon lies or half-truths. They affect the way we live, the way we hear God, and the way we understand who we are in Christ.

Demonic forces don’t have any power over those saved through faith in Jesus. But we can all believe the lies they whisper and find ourselves wrapped up in a mental stronghold we didn’t even notice. The only power the enemy has over us now is what we give them through our own belief.

Strongholds lead to:

  • unforgiveness
  • division
  • church splits
  • family splits
  • the need to be in control
  • financial disorder
  • victim mentality

By allowing yourself to continue thinking like a victim, you are making the declaration that your victimization is greater than God’s power. You are holding on to something God has already provided freedom from.

Join me over the next 30 days. It’s simple. Each morning, ask God to pull down the strongholds in your mind. Ask him to complete kill and remove them. Not sure that you HAVE strongholds? Ask Him anyway. The only things you have to lose are your strongholds. Either nothing will happen or He will destroy the strongholds in your mind and your quality of life will be improved.

Ask Him today. Ask Him tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Do it with me. Expect some resistance, but do not give up. Keep asking for the next 30 days and let’s talk when it’s over.

*Thanks to John Paul Jackson for providing the inspiration for this post.

The Miracle of Life and Childbirth

You probably think that I am about to wax on about the miracle of childbirth. I’m not. Not because it’s not miraculous. It is. I posted this photo because the sight of it struck me so.How do I explain? This is a man whom I respect and admire. He is not perfect. I do not pretend he is without flaw. He does, however, live out of a certain sense of duty, virtue, and ethics.

That also has nothing to do with why I posted his photograph. Truth be told, I miss him. Both he and his wife are dear friends of ours, and we rarely see them. Now Russ is a father and Christi is a mother. They have been translated into another phase of existence. This is beautiful. It is also lonely.

It’s a loneliness that only those of you who allow yourselves to indulge in a little self absorption would likely recognize. When you can go to a wedding, a funeral, a birth, a celebration, and walk away with a sad loneliness and sense of personal loss, you have arrived at the type of feeling to which I refer.

Russ will never be a bachelor again. He will never not be a father. He is forever something else. Something much more, perhaps, yet still something “other”. It’s not that I wish he would return to his former state. I do not wish him to undo his lifelong covenant with his bride. But the past is something never to be regained, and significant events state this truth clearly to those of us paying attention. Once you pass a milestone, it becomes yet another marker in time you will never recover.

The miracle, though, is that this man is a father. Yes, it is a miracle that the baby was conceived, carried to term, and born. But I see a miracle in Russ. I see a man in the process of development, nurtured and challenged by the march of time.

Though younger than me by a year or two, he has learned some valuable lessons about living and treating one’s neighbor that I still struggle to learn. He has patented the ability to nurture a fragile person without wounding his or her ego. He knows how to listen, to ask the right type of questions, and to speak with a heart that expresses true concern for the other person’s well-being. And now he is a father.

Our beliefs are not identical. For all I know, he may think of me as a radical charismatic. We do not see eye to eye on everything, but I have high hopes for this child, and any children to follow. They have a blessed future: two loving parents devoted to truth and to the tender expression of it to those in need.

The miracle of life is that sometimes a child is born into the right family.

Dressing for Church

It occurred to me the other day that I wear different styles of clothing to church based upon my expectation of the service. When I first accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior ten years ago, I began attending church in a t-shirt and jeans because they were all that I owned. I found that I could engage more completely in worship because I had no expectations of being viewed by other people as cool or attractive. I was able to leave my self image at home and participate with total focus.

As I should have expected, that reality did not last very long. I inevitably gained more clothing through birthday gifts and sheer necessity, and Sunday morning church became an opportunity to attract the opposite sex. Honestly, if one is to look for a partner, there is no better place to look than one’s own church or university (as applicable). But the simple truth is that the moment I dressed in nice clothes for church, I knew I would get more attention from people. I expected more attention. I could no longer worship at the front of the sanctuary because I was sure that I was being watched and I worried too much how I looked – if my hair was in place, my shirt tucked nicely and unwrinkled, etc. Even after marriage, self image wasn’t automatically thrown out the window.

Image consciousness morphs a little to make sense (hence the soccer mom image in the nice SUV). We no longer try to send out the message to the opposite sex that we are both available and desirable, but there is still something within us that wants our peers to know we are living a good life. We want their respect for our lifestyle choices and even their admiration for our tastes in fashion, architecture, art, decor, and music. The question remains: What is your primary purpose for attending services? Is it to mingle? Is it to walk the runway? Is it to worship?

There will always be exceptions to every rule. While this is true, most people will always be self conscious in public if they spend too much time and attention preparing their clothes, hair, makeup, etc. No one wants to spend a lot of time getting ready only to have their hair flop over or stick up, or to have their shirt bunch up at the sides. We want what we took the time to make right to stay right. Unfortunately, that means we often are too distracted to participate in corporate worship. How can we really focus on the majesty of God when Guy X or Girl Z two rows back may be wondering why we chose this outfit? I’ve found that for me personally, it’s best to go au naturale… No, not without clothes. I just go to church wearing the same normal clothes I wear each day.

It may be a little boring, but I don’t dress on Sunday to entertain. I need that corporate time in worship. I don’t have time to waste on what other people think of me, and the best way to avoid that problem is dress in such a way as to guarantee I won’t draw attention.