Monthly Archives: May 2013

Faith and Fear

One of the things I’m teaching people in the business world is that fear comes from a lack of knowledge. We are often afraid of those things we don’t understand or have little knowledge about. When our knowledge is low, so is our confidence. When our confidence is low, our fear goes up. That fear causes our demeanor to change and then our actions reflect it. We begin to act out of fear than out of a confident faith.

To act out of confidence, we need to increase our faith. There are a couple of times in scripture that I can think of off the top of my head that tell us about that. The first was in Mark 9:23-25 when a father brought his son to Jesus for help. He told Jesus, “Have mercy on him if you can.” Jesus said, “What do you mean, ‘If I can?’ Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father replied, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief.”

When is the last time we’ve prayed that prayer? I believe God honors prayers that grow our faith. Some people are afraid to pray a prayer like that because they think it’s like asking God to help you be more patient: you’ll get a lot of opportunities to grow it! God always desires that our faith and trust in Him will increase.

Another instance that talks about growing our faith comes from Romans 10:17. That says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Are we taking time each day to fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. I don’t mean just reading a chapter to check off a box. I mean really getting into God’s Word and reading it to search for Him and what He says to us personally through it.

Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed are those who trust in The Lord and have made The Lord their hope and confidence.” You may not have much confidence on your own, but you can have it in God. You can have a boldness like you’ve never had before in Christ. It comes when you’ve learned to trust Him. That trust is learned when you’ve done all you can do in a situation and finally say, “God, I can’t do it. I need your help.”

I think that sometimes God sits back and waits on us to get to that point before He steps in. He needs us to understand that we weren’t made to do everything on our own. If we could, there would be no need for faith. Our confidence would be in ourselves and not in Him. That’s not what God desires. He told Paul in II Corinthians 12:9, “My strength and power are made perfect and show themselves most effective in your weakness.”

It’s in our weakness that we begin to allow our faith, trust and confidence in God arise. It’s not so He can have an ego boost. It’s so we can learn dependence on Him in our lives. It’s so we can have confidence in Him and His ability to supply our needs. It’s so when an impossible situation arises, we don’t have to ask Him if He can, we will know that He can. You can act out of a confident faith rather than fear today.

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Flight Attendants and Preachers

I’m sitting on an airplane this morning as I travel for business. I’ve been flying for years and over the last few, I couldn’t count how many times I’ve flown. As we all sit here, the flight attendant is giving safety instructions should anything bad happen. I’ve always noticed how few people pay attention. Maybe because it’s a canned speech. Maybe because it’s something they’ve heard before. Maybe because they don’t care.

It’s got me to thinking how many of us go to church and do the same thing. Many of us have been going to church for years. As we sit in the pews, the preacher gives spiritual safety instructions. Like the people on the plane, we sit there, eyes glazed over and we rarely pay attention. Maybe because they aren’t a dynamic speaker. Maybe because you’ve heard this before. Maybe because you don’t care.

A pastor is a shepherd. Their job is to protect the flock that has been given to them. They preach, not because they have to, but because the safety of your soul compels them to. They are called to watch over you and give you what you need for spiritual protection and to show you the path to Heaven. Yet many of us sit there and play on our phones, talk to our neighbor or sleep. I say, “us” because I’m guilty too. I look at my watch and wonder how long it is until noon too.

Are we going to church because “it’s the right thing to do”? Are we going to be seen by others? Are we going to church because we want our kids to know this stuff? Or are we going so that we can adopt the culture of the kingdom? I realize that the building itself, while we call it “church” is not the church. You and I are the church. The Bible says that we should not forsake the assembling of the brethren. That means we should not treat being with other believers lightly.

Whether you go to a Mega church like Lakewood, a home church in someone’s home or anywhere in between, we are to go and get as much out of it as we can. It’s not the preacher’s job to feed you. When you go, expect to learn something. Expect to gain wisdom. Expect to build relationships with other believers. Expect God to move in your life. Expect to leave different than when you showed up. God’s desire is to meet with us daily, but most of us only give him a couple of hours on a Sunday. Even then, we aren’t giving Him much because we’d rather be doing something else.

What I tell people every day is that you will get out of this meeting what you put into it. The same is true for going to church. Are you there to participate or are you there to observe? Participate in worship. Participate in the sermon by taking notes and writing down your own thoughts of how what’s being said applies directly to your life. Don’t just go to church to go. Go to receive and to participate. Go to meet God and be prepared to be met by Him.

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God Ideas

Tonight my church will host one of my favorite event that we do. We will have an outreach for the youth of our community that will draw hundreds of kids to the church. We will feed them, give away door prizes, an iPad mini and a car. The kids at the church get excited about the event and invite their friends from school. It presents them an opportunity to share their faith and to invite someone to church who they might otherwise not invite.

This event started a few years ago when our youth pastor was praying. He was seeking God on a way to impact more youth than he thought possible. While praying, he said out loud, “God, I’m going to give away a car!” After saying the words, he thought, “How am I going to get a car to give away?” He recognized it as a God idea and began to ask God to provide. He knew that God ideas require faith beyond our ability.

God took him to Habakkuk 2:2 that says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” So he wrote letters to several dealerships telling them his vision of giving away a car so that many kids who wouldn’t normally go to church would come and he would have the opportunity to share Jesus with them. A local used car dealer responded and gave him a car.

It wasn’t long before a more prominent dealership responded and said that’d love to help. They said, “As long as you hold this event, we’ll give you a car to give away.” They had caught the vision and have supplied the need for several years now. It’s amazing to see how many kids this brings into our church and gives us the opportunity to plant seeds, water seeds and harvest them. It all started with a vision and a God idea.

What idea has God placed in your heart? Are you struggling while trying to figure out how to accomplish it? Let me save you some time, you can’t. If its a God idea, it will take supernatural provisioning to accomplish it. Write the vision down. Let others know about it. What God births in you is accomplished through others. He needs visionaries, dreamers, planners, financiers and doers. It takes all of us working together to bring about his plans.

Have you figured out what part of God’s plan you are? If you’re the dreamer or the vision caster, write it down so that it’s plain to others. If you’re a planner, sync up with a dreamer or a vision caster to help them create a plan for others to follow. If you’re able to help finance, ask God where He’d like you to invest in His kingdom. If you’re a doer, look around you and see where you can put your skills to use. Each of us play a part in building the kingdom. We just have to learn to work together.

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The Grace of Transformation

One of the earliest definitions of grace I ever heard was: God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. That acronym helped me to remember it all through the years. Because that became my definition of grace, it limited my understanding of grace. I always thought of grace as what God used to cover my sins and nothing more. I’m learning that while that is part of it, grace is so much more.

I’ve been reading “Life with God” by Richard Foster and that book has really challenged what I thought about grace. Grace is what enables to have a relationship with God. It’s what empowers us in our walk with Him. It’s more than what covers our sins. For me, it is like air in my life with God. Without it, I would not survive.

We each need grace daily as Christians. Whether it is to cover our sins and to make up the difference in our short comings or to propel us forward in our relationship with God. Richard Foster described it as the road beneath our feet in our walk with God. Psalm 37:23 says, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Walking in grace is what it is to be directed by The Lord.

I love the other part of that verse that is rarely quoted. God delights in the details of our lives. He’s not someone who has left you alone and doesn’t know what’s going on in your life. He’s intimately familiar with every aspect of your life. He knows what you have going on today. He knows about the challenges you face and the things that are stressing you out. That leads me to another thing that Foster mentions about grace: it’s what forms us.

Difficult circumstances, tragic loss and other things we face are what God uses to shape us. They aren’t necessarily a punishment from Him. They are used to form us into who He needs us to be. No one I know is truly excited about going through the times that form us. I’ve been there. I’ve hurt so bad that it would have been easier to die than to deal with the pain. I’ve cried so many tears that I ran out of them.

When we look back on those times of formation, we can see God’s grace in it. While we are in it, we are blind to what God is doing. We want to blame Him, accuse Him or turn from Him in that blinding pain. We really just want out of what we are going through and to find an escape from the pain. But once we’ve endured, grace makes us stronger than before. Grace allows us to help others who are walking through the darkness of formation.

I’ve heard it said that we are either in a time of formation, just coming out of a time of formation or about to go into a time of it. Where are you? If you’re in it, hold on. God has not forsaken you. He’s there with you even though you feel blind right now. If you just came out of it, recover and learn how God wants to use that time in your life to help others. If you’re about to walk into it, trust in God’s grace to get you through it. Decide now that you will trust His grace even when you can’t see it.

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Memorial Day Prayer

I heard a statistic last week that one third of all Americans don’t know that Memorial Day is the day we stop to remember those who gave their life in the line of duty. It was frustrating to hear that. If you have a loved one who died in service to this country, I say, “Thank you.” I may never understand the sacrifice they made for me and my family, but I’m eternally grateful.

Here is a Memorial Day prayer offered by my friend Michael Moak. You can follow him on twitter here.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to you this morning to invite your blessings, love, power, and presence to inhabit my home, my family, and my choices today.

However, before I continue I would like to take a moment to express the deep gratitude, humility and thankfulness that we feel for your many blessings upon this great nation.

Thank you for allowing we, the citizens of the United States of America, the privilege of living in the greatest nation on Earth. Thank you for empowering us with the knowledge and resources to build the most powerful democracy in the world and greatest military force on the face of the planet. As we celebrate Memorial Day, we pause to thank you for the brave and courageous men and women that have gone before us and laid down their lives as the foundational stones that support the freedom that we now enjoy!

We thank you for the committed men and women that currently serve with faithful and tireless dedication to uphold the liberty, justice and freedom for all that we call the “American dream” and ask you to be with them and their families today. And we thank you for the generation ahead of us that will heed the call and take up their duty to defend and serve the constitution of the United States of America!

It is those freedoms and privileges that allow us to worship in powerful religious expression. The Bible tells us in…
(Psalm 37:23 NKJV) “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.”

Therefore, I know that you have ordered my steps and the steps of every other follower of Christ across planet Earth. I ask that you would grant your people favor in the areas of government offices, school campuses, and community events. Raise up a remnant that will continue to honor and proclaim your name and bring glory to your kingdom through powerful acts of service to those who need your love the most. Help us to not forget the widows, the poor, the orphans and the homeless as they are dear to your heart. Help us to raise this generation of children to love and obey your Word so they might fulfill your will for their lives!

So, once again I invite you to help me as a father to my children, a husband to my wife, and a pastor to this youth culture to represent your name with honor, integrity, and love. May this day be full of joy and laughter. We ask all these things in the mighty name of your son, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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Kingdom Thoughts

I read one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prayers last week and a phrase he wrote is still echoing in my mind. Here was a man who left the comfort of America to go to Nazi Germany to be with his fellow Jews. He was captured and sent to a Nazi prison for two years. Before he was executed in that prison, he wrote many prayers and poems. The last line in the prayer I read was, “Think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine.”

I have been making that my prayer this week. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think God’s thoughts. Better yet, I want Him to think His thoughts in me. To do that, I have to yield my mind to Him. I have to give Him that control. It has to be more than a prayer. It requires action on my part. I know my thoughts and they’re not always kingdom thoughts.

If I truly let Him think His kingdom thoughts in me, how would that affect everything I do? I know it would change my priorities. What I consider important right now, doesn’t line up with what’s important to His kingdom. If I truly thought kingdom thoughts, I would be doing everything I can to get as many people into the kingdom as possible before my time is up. I’d sacrifice all that is secure now for what is eternal.

Knowing what needs to be done and knowing the sacrifice that will take creates a struggle. It creates a discontentment within me for where I am knowing where I need to be. I want to hold on to the things that my earthly mind thinks bring me security. The kingdom mind says, “Those things are temporary. Let them go and find real security.” Real security is found by having faith in what we cannot see over what we can see.

It’s difficult to have that kind of faith. We are raised in a world who’s culture is the opposite of that. Our culture says, “Acquire as much as you can so that you can retire comfortably.” Jesus said, “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” Many of us hear that statement and are like the rich, young ruler who originally heard it. We walk away sad because our faith, trust and security are in the temporary things.

I wonder what would have become of him if he had done what Jesus said. He clearly loved God and had obeyed all the commandments since he was young. He was a good “Christian” but he asked what he lacked to be great. He wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice required to be truly great in God’s kingdom. In reality, most of us aren’t. We aren’t willing to adopt His kingdom thoughts that would require the sacrifice necessary that leads to greatness.

I’m trying to get there. I have made Bonhoeffer’s prayer my own even after I’ve understood what that means. I’m not content to be a good Christian. God has called me and you to greatness. He leaves the choice up to each one of us though. Are we willing to sacrifice what we think makes us secure in this world so that others can truly live? Are we really willing to make the prayer, “think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine” our own?

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Stepping Out of Your Boat

Sorry for the delay today. My schedule has not been cooperative. This is a repost from one of my earlier posts.

Have you been in that place where you felt like God wanted you to do something, but were unsure? Maybe you felt the timing was off or the conditions weren’t right. God often calls us to do things in His timing, not ours. If we wait for things to be just right, we will never get them done. He is looking for obedience.

In my life, when I’ve felt that tug, I have stepped out in faith at times and done what was asked. There were other times where I missed the mark and immediately felt the regret of not doing it. I let that opportunity pass me by without acting.

In Matthew 14, Peter had an opportunity to step out in faith. His opportunity shows us three things that we can do when we are asked to step out.

1. Make sure it’s God asking

In the middle of a storm, Jesus came walking to the disciples on the water to comfort them. When they saw him coming, it scared them. Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, ask me to join you.” When the Lord told him to come, Peter did as he was told.

Life often presents opportunities for us to step out in faith. Many of us recognize them, but won’t act without checking with God first. I’m a firm believer that it is scriptural to ask God to show you if something is His will. Gideon set mats outside his tent to test if he was hearing God. If you are unsure if God is asking you to do something, ask Him to prove it.

2. He stepped out of the boat

If we wait for the right time to step out of the boat, we will never move. When Peter got out of the boat, the waves were crashing against the boat and it was raining hard. Conditions were not ideal for him to step out. God doesn’t wait for things to be perfect to ask us to step out. It’s when we are in a storm or someone else is that we are asked to step out of the familiar and into the unknown.

A minute before Peter stepped out, he wasn’t even sure that it was Jesus who was asking. As a seasoned fisherman, he knew that his survival rate was minimal if he wasn’t able to walk on water. He took the step anyway. If your faith doesn’t defeat your logic, you will never get out of the boat. There were 11 others in the boat who listened to fear and logic. They will never know what it’s like to walk on water.

3. Stepping out doesn’t mean things will go perfectly

After getting completely out of the boat, Peter began to sink. Even in our greatest acts of faith, we still run the risk of failure. It is not one step Jesus asked Peter to make. It was multiple. Getting out of the boat was step one. We have to understand that while taking that first step is important, it’s not the last step of faith you are to make.

When Peter began to sink, he knew what to do. He called out for Jesus to help him. Jesus reached down and lifted him up. If you are sinking on step two wondering what is going on, call out for help. Jesus is there waiting to help you accomplish what He asked you to do.

What is it that God is asking you to do? If you can accomplish it on your own will and strength, it is not an act of faith. What is keeping you in the boat? Don’t let fear and logic keep you in the boat. First, make sure it is what God has asked you to do, then step out in faith.

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