Lighten the Load

When working to fulfill God’s call on your life you may need to “lighten the load.”

God has called each of us to accomplish certain things in our lives. Jesus did say, “The things I do you shall do also, and greater things than these shall you do…” (John 14:12). So, along with the basics of believing (trusting) in Him, becoming more like Him, belonging to His Church – the Body of Christ – and building the Kingdom by witnessing and seeing people come to know Jesus personally… besides these basic callings on every disciple there is a unique call upon your life. You need to discover this call and then do everything within your power to fulfill that call.

To fulfill your call from The Lord you may need to lighten the load. You may need to identify the people you need to put out of your life for a season or altogether. To identify these people you might ask:
1> Who in my life leads me to attitudes or actions outside of what God prescribes for me in His Word?
2> Who leaves me drained rather than empowered after a typical conversation?
3> Who keeps me thinking smaller rather than helping me dream bigger?
4. Who constantly asserts that what I am attempting to do for God will not work?

If there are pople in your life who fit these descriptions, it might be time to limit their access to you. If that’s not possible, brainstorm some creative ways to limit their impact. You won’t be unloving to do it. Actually, nothing you can do is more loving for those around you than positioning yourself to be all that God has called you to be. To truly love people means to love God first and foremost.

Of course, it is not just avoiding negative people that positions you for God’s best. On the positive side, you need mentors who are already living in faithful obedience and who are willing to impart their stories and wisdom into your life. They are hard to find because they are usually very busy. But, they do exist. Once you find one – treat them well because their is a high demand on their life to mentor so they are not short of quality people to work with. Don’t take them for granted. And, stop talking about yourself and listen to their wisdom and insights… afterall, they are there to speak into your life and for them to do so you must be listening and not talking.

So, remove many and add some… lighten the load and accomplish what God has given you to do!

One Word

“When God is speaking, one word is more than enough. He’s more interested in your full obedience than your total understanding.”

Often we feel that we need to understand, totally understand, what God is calling us to accomplish, how He wants us to do it, and why. This never happens. If it did, you would not need to walk by faith because you would be walking by knowledge. And, you would most likely use your limited human wisdom to make it happen instead of having to trust in Him and His guidance on a daily basis.

Often we hear a word from The Lord and then wait for Him to give us the when, the how, with whom, and the why. And, of course, these things are not immediately available to us. In fact, sometimes they are never revealed to us and we really don’t come to know in detail the big picture. All God is wanting from us is obedience. Take the word He has spoken and step out in faith. He is more interested in your full obedience than your total understanding.

This has really spoken to my heart recently as I begin several new “projects” in my ministry both here in Canada and overseas. I have brought several things to a close and so The Lord has spoken about several new things that He wants me to place my hand to. This means learning some new skills, using some gifts I have but have seldom had to use, as well as having to spend a great deal more time in my study reading and interacting with a whole field of Christian literature that I have, in many ways, simply not looked at in a serious manner in the past. A large learning curve is ahead of me. But I know Hod has spoken and given me direction (a word) and will show me the details as I need to know them.

What has God spoken to you recently? Are you taking that first step of full obedience or are you simply procrastinating under the guise of waiting on The Lord for further details until you totally understand? Maybe it is time to simply do what He has told you to do.

Danger

“Most believers aren’t in imminent danger of ruining their lives. They’re facing a danger that’s far greater: wasting them.” Steven Furtick in “Greater”

One of my mentors once said, “You can do three things with your time – waste it, spend it, or invest it.” What I know personally is that you can’t save it and spend it another day. You need to make the most of what you have been given and see each day, even each minute, as a tremendous gift from your Creator not to be wasted. And, I see so many people wasting their time as if there was an endless supply coming down the tubes forever and forever. I see others spending time doing things that are enjoyable but not always beneficial; entertaining but not always productive. I see few people, especially believers, investing their time in things that will impact eternity and leave a legacy behind.

So, if I may be so bold to say it, people are in danger of wasting their lives by simply living their lives. People are in danger of wasting their lives by investing it where there is no return on the investment. People are in danger of wasting their lives when they just ‘do life’ and never examine what they are doing and why. People are in danger of wasting their lives because they choose their friends unwisely and become just like them. As the same mentor once said, “Life is not a dress rehersal. You don’t get to do this a second time with this as simply the test run.” This is for real and forever.

So, what do you need to do to move from wasting or spending your time to actually investing it? What decisions do you need to make? What difficult decisions do you need to make? What aspects of your life do you need to face, challenge, and change? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to grab hold of? What are you hearing The Lord say in the stillness of your heart? What has God spoken to you about recently that you are ignoring? What have you rationalized and justified, making excuses instead of changes?

Time to become responsible for your own life, stop blaming others or your situation and circumstances, getting mad at others because you can’t own what you have created and be responsible for the mess you have brought about. Grab hold of your life, make some tough decisions and changes, and begin to invest in the future God has called you to and the legacy He would like you to leave behind when He calls you home to be with Him.

A Time Of Reflection

It is good to reflect. To take a look at your life, the constant motion of your daily life, the endless number of things you are involved in… It is good to slow down and reflect. Today in the USA it is President’s Day and here in my part of Canada it is Family Day. Another excuse for a long weekend but also an opportunity offered by the secular and business world to reflect on life.

You only get to do this once. This is not a dress rehearsal for a second time around. You have been given a certain number of days to live and you don’t know how many. So, obviously, you should live each day like it was your last day. And because life is a direct gift from your Creator you should celebrate each day and enjoy the gift that you have been given. There are three things you can do with the time that you have – waste it, spend it, invest it. Which do you believe God would have you do? (That’s one of those no-brainer questions).

So, it is good, once in a while to examine one’s life and see what needs to be tossed and what needed to have more time invested in it. And, even what needs to be added to your life at this point in your journey. New beginnings always require endings. And, although it is not easy to end some things – it is often needed and necessary. Ending something that has held an important and valued place in your heart and your life is never easy. But it is sometimes necessary. You have limited time and you want to invest it whenever possible and not just waste it or spend it. So, tough decisions sometimes need to be made and, when this is the case, they should be made after careful thought and much prayer.

With new beginnings comes great risk and multiple challenges. But, this is where the sense of “journey” comes in. When drawing a line and stepping over it you are saying “yes” to new things and taking your first steps down a new path. That can be frightening. it should be exciting. It will be challenging and stretching. This is why it is called “walking by faith and not by sight.”

May you take some time during this “day off” to consider what you are currently doing with your life (not in your life). May you find a quiet hour or two to reflect on what you are doing with your time and what you are accomplishing, if anything, that might have eternal significance. Have a look at what you may need to be jettisoning from your life and what you might consider adding to your daily existence to actually allow it to be more than an existence – in fact, a celebration of God’s goodness.

We Have Not Even Heard There Is A Holy Spirit

This generation of Christians knows so little of the the things of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives within them because they are born again. But we are living on a “bread and water” diet when the Lord has prepared a spiritual banquet for every believer. We live as spiritual paupers when God has blessed us with so much so. We have been blessed so that we can bless others with the over abundance we are experiencing. And yet we live as spiritual paupers because we have not received or experienced what the Lord has promised and has given to us. We should be spiritual millionaires who make others rich – yet we continue to make others bored stiff as we talk about ourselves and our “personal revelations and experiences” which are making little sense to anyone and boring everyone. It is time to drink deeply from the wells of salvation as the Psalmist recommends.

This generation knows so little of the things of the Spirit. It is almost like finding disciples of John wandering around in Acts 19 who say, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19:2)

And then there are some who think they are good friends with the Spirit as they manifest strange signs and wonders that do not edify or build up. I attended a service recently in the United States where there was a good number of visitors and one of the leaders got up to do the welcome and announcements and butchered the whole thing embarrassing the Lord and the Spirit that they explained was influencing them. It is like we are working with “strange fire.” These same people talk a lot about wanting to experience the “presence” of God. I have to wonder what it is they are really wanting to experience and from which “god” this might be coming.

If we truly experience the fire of God as the early Bible believers did the real fire would spread and our churches would be growing.

George Whitefield was a preacher in the 1700’s and a friend of John and Charles Wesley. The passion he had for Jesus and the resulting fire was not just a personal experience. It spread to tens of thousands others. This happened after the day he flung himself on his bed in desperation and cried out, “I thirst!” The Spirit – the real, Holy Spirit – flooded his room and soul, and Whitefield surrendered and was consumed by a hot holy heavenly fire. At that moment that the Holy Spirit rushed in, he commented that it had all been so simple and cried out, “Joy, joy, unspeakable, even joy that was full of, and big with glory.” At that moment Whitefield became a spiritual millionaire. When he spoke, it was out of an experience of a satisfied soul, nourished from a well that sprang up within him into everlasting life. Not only that – it spilled out over the rim of the well of his heart and created streams of living water that others used to quench their thirst.

The preaching of Whitefield was experiential. He knew the influence of the Holy Spirit in his life and preached deep yet solid stuff. It was deep theology, but it was theology on fire!

And that fire spread.

It consumed him straight out of heaven and continued to consume all that lay before him in an unstoppable wave of flame as the Great Awakening swept eighteenth-centuary America.

I hesitate to say it but many today who think they are experiencing the Holy Spirit are not. Many who are moving in “His presence” and have various manifestations are not moving in the right spirit. This is not about manifestations. This power is about souls being won for the Kingdom. This is not about having a personal experience with the Spirit. It is about the Church (the corporate body of Christ) knowing God’s presence in a real way and thus being equipped, like Moses and Israel, to go into the world where the presence of God will point to us as His people. It has nothing to do with us having a personal spiritual high – it has everything to do with the Most High and his call upon His people to honor Him in their world and “demonstrate” Him in the real world (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Time to stop “playing Church” and become the real deal. Time to seek after and find the Holy Spirit personally and catch fire with the real fire. It is time to get serious as there is much to do for the King and the Kingdom and God is shaking His Church to bring us back to the basics and the bare essentials – the real fire of Pentecost.

Cool Christians – Cold Churches

This generation doesn’t just want your ideas or your words. They need to see power. Many churches today say that they are “Acts 2 Churches.” But you can’t be an Acts 2 Church flowing in power unless you are first an Acts 1 Church – where they were together in unity seeking God’s face. Prayer always comes before power. And power is needed today to gather the people whom God wants to see saved and come into His Kingdom. Prayer – power – people. There is a biblical order to this.

Power is not going to be an optional extra in the days to come like it has been for so long in so many churches. As things continue to tighten economically, culturally, socially, and spiritually powerless churches won’t survive.

In Acts 2 the power came upon the early church. It came in the form of flames of fire. This is a good symbolism because fire spreads and the purpose of the power is to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to every nation on this planet.

But fire has another property that means something in God’s economy. Fire consumes. Fire consumes everything. A fire does not stop until it consumes everything in its path – until there is nothing left to consume. It will take it all, or it isn’t fire.

Our God is an “all-consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). A good depiction of our living God. This Holy Fire consumes everything – your plans, your dreams, your agenda, your finances, your family, your work, your whole life. And, if you are not willing to give Him everything then the fire goes out. Hold back your finances – no fire! It stops burning because it has run out of fuel. Hold back your feelings and hold on to offences – no fire! It has run out of fuel. Fire is just another type of energy. It needs fuel in order to burn. You, your life, your heart … is the fuel for the fire.

When we hold anything back from the All-Consuming Fire then we extinguish the flame, the passion dies, and He is no longer Lord. Thus we have many cool Christians and many cold churches. God is not present, God’s power is not available, and God’s people are not moving forward. I know this from experience. Oh, we blame the worship leader, the preacher, the people we gather with, the life-situation we are experiencing … but we are only trying to fool ourselves and justify our behaviour. We know, deep down inside, that the real problem is that the fire has gone out and God is not to blame. We didn’t give the flames any more fuel. Get honest with yourself for a change!

How long has it been since a fire burned so deep in you that nobody could quench the zeal that blazed in your soul? You were a fiery torch, blazing the glory of Jesus Christ, so that your witness was one of power – not just endless empty words and platitudes? When was the last time people walked away from you not quite sure what happened to them? They’d had an encounter with the burning bush – God engulfing you in flames, yet you weren’t burnt up. Only, they knew that the ground they’d just stood upon was holy.

Maybe it is time to change some things – look inside first and then look at your life second. The lack of passion and fire cannot be blamed on others – it is a personal issue between you and your God.

John Wesley, Bono and Johnny Storm

John Wesley said, “I just set myself on fire, and people come from miles around to watch me burn”
Bono once said, “Set me alight…I’ll punch a hole right through the night!” (In God’s Country)
“Flame on! – Johnny Storm (Fantastic Four)

As true believers, disciples of Jesus and not cultural Christians, we are called to live life passionately. To recognize every day as a gift from the Lord who is the Author of Life. To live that day focused on that day as Jesus commented when He said, “Sufficient are the concerns of today for today.” To celebrate the day and live it to the fullest. To live with a positive attitude as if God were still in control of every detail of the universe as well as every detail of your life – because He is. To influence and impact others with your contagious lifestyle inviting them to join you. Maybe today this is what “set myself on fire” looks like. Maybe then we can punch “a whole right through the darkness.” Maybe then we will “flame on.”

Paul said to Timothy, the young man he was mentoring, to “fan into flames the gift of God” that was within him. (2 Timothy 1:6). We need to do the same. We need to blow on the embers so that there is a new flame, a new passion, a new excitement, a new attitude towards what the Lord has given to us and what He is doing within us; not to mention what He is asking us to do with Him – tell every nation and every person about the life that is found only in Jesus Christ.

All sounds good. But there are many reasons we are not burning bright, aren’t there? We can be biblical and name a few – the world, the flesh, the devil. We can be more specific and see issues with self-centredness, the me-syndrome, consumerism, a lack of priorities, issues of life, and a personal interpretation of Scriptures. All these things and many more can hinder the flames and put out the fire.

However, I believe that one of the main reasons we are not “burning bright” is often the company we keep. We become like those that we associate with. The Bible, especially the Book of Proverbs, speaks a lot about this as does a few of the Psalms. And so we need to occasionally examine our relationships and see if, in any way, we have allowed them to be “water” on our spiritual fire and so our passion for the Lord and the things of the Lord are slowing being extinguished. Of course, friends can also be like gasoline on our fire helping it to burn brighter and stronger. So, we need to choose wisely that we hang out with and those whom we allow to speak into our lives – directly or simply by associating.

I believe God is wanting us to burn brightly for Him in each and every place we go. And, I for one, am having a good look at what might be hindering me from being so passionate for Him that I would appear to have set myself on fire so I can punch a hole in the darkness; be so passionate that others would come out and watch me burn. It is time to flame on!!

Why Has God Blessed You?

Why has God blessed you? Why is it that you live in a nice home, drive a decent car, and have more clothes than you can wear hanging in your closet and stuffed into your drawers? If you have three meals a day, a safe and warm place to live, a mode of transportation (car, bicycle), and a way to earn enough to have the basics of life (live modestly) – you are among the top 5% of the world’s population and considered to be rich.

Question: Why has God blessed me when others have so little?

The answer: Not so we will have a comfortable life with a big house and a nice car. Not so we can spend lots of money on vacations, education, clothing, or Tupperware. These are not bad things in themselves. But, we have been blessed so that we can tell the nations about Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Problem: Too many believers have completely disconnected God’s blessings from God’s purpose.

Personal: I have come to realize, at a deeper level than ever before, that God has given me income and education and resources so that I can use them to tell others about Jesus. God saves me so that the nations will know Him. He blesses me so that I have some resources to make this possible.

Thought: The blessings have a purpose and we need to reconnect the blessings to the purpose or we stand the chance of having the blessings removed – as individuals and as nations. Afterall, Christians believe and the Bible teaches that all these blessings we take for granted are “gifts” from the hand of our God.

It’s time to take the Bible seriously and have a good look at what the Scriptures teach about wealth and then begin to apply the teachings to our personal lives. The eternal destiny of many may just be a steak.

It’s time to take our faith seriously and realize that God was not kidding when He commanded each and every one of us to “go into all our world and share the Gospel.” This starts are home but must never end there. You must decide to use and invest your abundant surplus in the Gospel so that the nations will hear and heaven will rejoice over lost sinners saved.

This is a serious issue with eternal consequences. It needs to be thought through deeply and acted upon quickly.

The Problem With Tumbleweed Believers

Guest blogger … Steve Hill

Last week, hundreds of thousands of tumbleweeds blew into Clovis, N.M., but didn’t blow back out. This small town was buried under an avalanche of tumbleweeds. Residents had to call 911 for help getting out of their homes. The problem was so big, the National Guard was called in to help battle the tumbleweed invasion.

Having spent several years in Texas, I know a little about these pesky plants. A tumbleweed is an unattractive, troublesome bush that rolls around, having snapped loose from its roots. It’s simply tossed about by the wind.

Paul referred to believers that behave like tumbleweeds in Ephesians 4:14 when he said, “We henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (KJV).

I continually meet believers who are “tossed about to and fro,” and that concerns me because so often these dear people end up spiritually shipwrecked. Let me share with you a few thoughts about “tumbleweed believers.”

1. Tumbleweed believers have not allowed their roots to sink deep into the truth.

There is nothing on Planet Earth that gets blown around more than a tumbleweed. Just a little wind, and off it goes. But these pesky plants don’t start out this way. When growing, a tumbleweed is firmly planted in the soil. But at the end of its growth season, it breaks loose, never to be planted again.

Spiritually speaking, this is what happens to many believers. They encounter a difficult test or trial, and suddenly they stop growing. My friend, you should never stop growing in the Lord! If you do, it’s just a matter of time before you begin to tumble in your Christian walk.

The reason Paul was so adamant that believers be established in the truth is because false doctrine was sweeping through the church, causing many to fall away. It’s no different today. False doctrine will blow you off course and leave you hundreds of miles from where you want to be spiritually. Becoming firmly grounded in God’s Word is one of the primary ways to ensure that you stay on course and remain spiritually strong and healthy.

2. Tumbleweed believers begin to roam when confronted.

Over the years, I have seen people who refuse to deal with their sin. In fact, a lot of pastors are afraid to talk about sin from their pulpits. Some even refuse to use the word. Why? Because people will pack up their marbles and leave if confronted.

My friend, we need to speak about backsliding and the devastating consequences of sin. These things will destroy you. However, those who don’t want to hear the truth will get offended, and off they go like a tumbleweed.

3. Tumbleweed believers blown by the wind are helpless to decide their own route.

Tumbleweed believers can’t decide where to go. They are in and out, this way then that way, totally at the mercy of the wind. They go whichever way it happens to be blowing today.

Believers who find themselves at a loss of direction need only look back to where they disconnected themselves from the kingdom.

Are you spending time in His Word? This is important to keep you rooted in His truth! His word is a “lamp unto [your] feet, and a light unto [your] path” (Ps. 119:105).

Are you listening to the Holy Spirit? God sent the Spirit to teach, comfort and correct us. You should welcome His activity in your life and not run from it, for when He has come into your life, “he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Are you connected to a body of believers? So many are in the habit of forsaking the assembly of the saints. They say, “I don’t need the church to make it to heaven.” But friend, you need the church to make it here on earth.

This is precisely what Paul is saying in Ephesians 4. Christ gave us the church and the fivefold ministry gifts “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man” (Eph. 4:12-13, NKJV).

Feeling tossed around in the world? Get reconnected to His Word, the Spirit, and the body.

4. Tumbleweed believers spread their unwanted seeds at random.

One of the reasons farmers hate tumbleweeds is because each one has about 250,000 seeds that can grow in a wide range of temperatures. Imagine that. As a tumbleweed blows across the land, it scatters a quarter of a million seeds that potentially become tumbleweeds. So all year long, farmers have to put up with this nuisance.

How many tumbleweed believers do you suppose we have in America, rolling around the landscape of Christianity, spreading bad seed?

I can’t tell you how many unhealthy, anemic, cancerous individuals have come across my path attempting to scatter their bad seed in the garden of my life. Someone hurt them, so they want to plant that bad seed in my soil. They are bitter about an event that took place, and they want me to accept that seed of bitterness. The list goes on and on. Let’s not allow these seeds to take root. Shake off everything that happened in the past, settle in, and begin to grow again.

My friend, let us determine to allow our roots to grow deep in Christ. Know what you believe, and don’t let anything or anyone blow you off course. When you are confronted by an attack from the enemy, resist him. When temptation comes your way, stand strong. Let’s be believers who are deeply rooted, continually growing, and ever producing fruit for the kingdom.

Evangelist Steve Hill preached the Brownsville Revival for five years, is pastor emeritus of Heartland World Ministries Church and has authored 13 books, including Spiritual Avalanche. He can be reached at www.stevehill.org.

In Line With yesterday’s Blog – The Gift of Sitting

There is a book a friend of mine in Ohio was reading back last July. I bought a copy (an eBook edition) and have read it twice since purchasing it. I have also recommended it to several leadership teams that I work with in Canada and the United States. (Thanks Levi)… The book is “Church Zero” by Peyton Jones. I believe every Christian leader must read this book. I would recommend that every Christian read this book.

In the book, the author states: “I’ve got a theory that if you attempted church reform, you’d lose about 90 percent of your people. That’s why most pastors will never do it. Good riddance, I say—let their butts darken somebody else’s pews as they exercise the gift of sitting. If you unloaded the burden of the dead wood, as in Jesus’s pruning illustration, you’d really begin to channel sap into the concentrated areas where it would create greater fruitfulness

Read that again!

I believe that. In fact, I even think this pruning may be a part of the “great falling away” that Jesus spoke about. We often think of this as Christians who could not handle the persecution and so “fall away.” Maybe it is partly Jesus clearing the “temple” of those who are “buying and selling” but certainly not following. Maybe, it is those who say “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesied in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?” (Matthew 7:21-23). So, the “falling away” of those whose love (agape) has grown cold may be a good thing (Matthew 24:12). There are lots of churches they could attend where they would not be disturbed from their self-deception and self-imposed comfort zone. Then, those who are serious disciples of the Lord – who love Him, obey Him, live a sacrificial lifestyle, and have a heart for the lost can get on with what God has called them to do no longer burdened by the “dead wood.”

I am planning to move forward into what God has called me to be and do. I am planning to take with me those in the local church who are serious disciples of the Lord. I will lead them, care for them, pray for them, work with them – training and equipping them. However, I really no longer have time for those who are “exercising the gift of sitting.” IF those who are not serious about God’s Word, refuse to adjust a lifestyle so that they can tithe and give an offering, and who are, in my mind, playing church … IF they encounter God somewhere along the way and change then they can join with me and I will work with them. But, to declare yourself a disciple of Jesus (a born again Christian) and live like God does not exist and His Word is not relevant (at least the parts we don’t like are not relevant today or in their life), and not return 10%+ to Him of all the blessings He has given to them is simply inexcusable – forgivable if true godly sorrow and repentance was seen – but inexcusable.

I just don’t have the time for the game. It is not open for discussion. I will not come down to the “Valley of Oh No” and talk about it. Repent with godly sorrow, change… prove the change is heartfelt and real in your every day life and then come talk to me.

Those who are not disciples and do not claim to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ – well, I will have coffee any time they want to because the call upon my life as a disciple of Jesus is to share His love and His good news, the Gospel of the Kingdom, with all those who don’t know Him.