Stay Inside the Box, Darn You Anyways

A follow-up to yesterday’s “A Great Tattoo…”

In his book “Living Your Strengths” Donald O. Clifton (the author) states:

“From a very young age we are taught to be ‘well rounded.’ Our ticket to our teachers’ approval is to soften our sharp edges, to become smooth and well rounded.”

According to Clifton, however, what we’re often taught is how to become as dull as we can possibly be. We’re taught to play it safe, to be compliant, to follow convention and tradition, to colour inside the lines and to stay inside the box.

And so we kick creativity right out of our young people . They are no longer curious about life and do not see life as something to be lived and discovered and celebrated. They become “dull and well rounded”.

We also simply want them to be a round peg in a round hole or a square peg in a square hole – because otherwise cnd cause us some emotional or mental discomfort – forcing us, maybe, to think and live outside our comfortable little boxes.

We, of course, have God in a box as well – or think we do. However, I am excited that there are surrently some great books about this on the market. These include:
1> Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan
2> The Holy Wild by Mark Buchanan
3> Out of Your Confort Zone – Is Your God Too Nice? By R.T. Kendall

For those who teach – Howard Hendricks has a great book on creative leadership called “Color Outside the Lines”. He has lived “outside the lines” all of his life and is one of the best teachers on the face of the planet … as well as someone who believes in and is greatly involved in discipling and one-on-one mentoring.

It’s time to take God out of the box. It is time for us to come out of our own self-imposed, protective box and experience the real world. Hopefully, you have someone who knows you well and who is willing to be known to walk with you through this adventure.

A Great Tattoo

The great theologian Dr. Seuss once said: “Be who you are because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind”

That is good advice. Too often we are swayed by public opinion, peer pressure, current trends, friends and family, television and the mass media to be who we are not. In fact, even our educational system fights against us being who we are.

When we went to school we were told it was good to get a well-rounded education. We should be balanced – equal number of courses from the sciences, the arts, etc. We were also told to concentrate on those areas where we are not doing well and bring those marks up – on the assumption that if the marks come up so does our level of understanding and our ability to apply that subject – which is, obviously, not always true. In fact, it is seldom true. It simply means you have mastered a set of information so you can pass the test and make the grade – either forgetting the material immediately afterwards or never using it again because it was not useful to you in the first place.

The problem with having a well-rounded education is that you were not created that way by God and so the school or educational system is attempting to make you something you are not.

Each of us is unique and wired by God with certain likes and dislikes, abilities, talents, and giftings. It is in the areas that we are gifted that we do well in at school or when taking post-secondary education. However, we are told to put those areas to one side – because we already having a passing grade in those subjects – and focus on the weak areas – where we have no interest and no natural ability and talent. Thus, becoming someone who they want you to be and not helping you to be the best you that you can be.

It is the same in the Church world. You can be called to be an apostle – but because the only positions in the Church that we know and understand are pastor, teacher and evangelist – the person goes to Bible School or seminary to be trained for one of those positions. The problem – this is not their heart. Not in the least. So, they become someone who they are not.

Years ago I read the Philips translation of the New Testament and ran across Romans 12:2 …

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within…”

To this verse I have always ‘added’ “Don’t let the world around you (or the Church) squeeze you…”

That is difficult because neither the world nor the Church likes it when you stand out as really radical or different. Maybe it makes them feel uneasy – having to grabble with their values and pre-conceived notions of life (world) and the Lord (Church). So, they systematically push you down or simply ignore you and hope you will go away. You make them uneasy.

So, to be the real you and be the best real you there ever could be – you have to fight constantly against the status quo (Latin for ‘the mess we are in’) and maintain a somewhat radical (and what will appear to be an independent) stance that often pits you against the movers and shakers of the world and the Church.

So, my suggestion. Get Dr. Suess’ words tattooed on your forehead or the back of your neck (if you have short hair) for the whole world to see so that they will know that you are not looking to them for approval or acceptance.

Better still, because we are all a little insecure in our own ways – never mind telling the world your theology. Instead, get it tattooed where you can see it (your forearm on the inside) so that you can lift your arm up and read these words many times every day…especially when you are beginning to doubt yourself and either the world or the Church is trying to mould you into it’s image.

Of course, all of this means you really need to be in touch with yourself and with who you are so that you know what it is you are defending and who it is you are letting the world see – the real you.

A Chip Off the Old Block

From the very beginning, God has always had a plan, and it’s to make you and me more like Jesus Christ, His Son. His plan is to develop in us the very character traits of Jesus Christ, His Son. He wants us to have a family resemblance when we arrive in Heaven. He wants us to look like Jesus, act like Jesus, think like Jesus, and talk like Jesus.

“God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of His Son.” Romans 8:29 Msg.

Have you ever watched a master sculptor at work? Sculptors have a vision for what’s inside the marble or rock that they work toward revealing, little by little.I’ve been told that when the great sculptor Michelangelo was asked how he created his masaterpiece, David, he replied that he just chipped away everything that didn’t look like David. Simple as that.

And that’s what God does in your life. He chips away everything in your character that doesn’t look like Jesus Christ -all the character faults and flaws – because His plan is to perfect you in the image of His Son.

There is a second truth to grasp today. It seems totally unrelated but it isn’t.

God is omnipotent and omniscience. He is all powerful and all knowing. There is nothing that happens in your life that catches Him by surprise. he knows everything before it is going to happen. That car accident, the shut-down at the car plant, the downturn in the economy, the outcome of elections, the incurable disease you struggle with … He knows it all ahead of time. He is omniscience (all knowing).

And, He could have stopped it from happening had He chosen to. He could have prevented it from affecting your life. He could have removed it completely so that it never happened. Afterall, He is God and nothing is impossible for Him. Nothing! So, if He has allowed it to come into your life and caused you to go through things you would rather not have gone through – He had a reason.

I call this “Father-filtered”. God has allowed some things to happen to you and with you and has prevented many other things from coming at you and causing you heartaches and headaches. Father God loves you so much that He is picky what He allows through and what He will not. All events and happenings are Father-filtered.

Thus, when something not so nice does come at you – recignize that God allowed it to happen (did not always cause it) and so He must have a reason behind doing so. The reason will always turn out to be connected to your family resemblance. God is shaping and moulding you through these events and circumstances to be more and more like Jesus. He is chipping away at the “old block” revealing His Son in you.

What then should you do? First, stop complaining and whinning when unpleasant things come at you. Paul states “in all things give thanks”. But, he also writes “…for all things give thanks.”

So, instead of wondering what is happening and asking God to get you out of this unpleasantness – simply thank Him for it while you are in it and ask Him what it is He is wanting you to learn. “What is it Lord you are wanting to change or adjust in my life?” is an appropriate question at this point in your life. Then learn and change… and see how well you handle the circumstance or situation.

Everything – good and bad – that happens in our lives is Father-filtered. He has allowed it to come in to our daily existence and circumstances. And, it is always for our own good. It’s purpose is to chip away at your character – your thoughts, actions, behaviour, core values, words, and priorities until you look more and more like His Son, Jesus.

It is an exciting journey – if we approach it correctly. Then we become just like Jesus! Wow!

What Are You Waiting For?

On my late night walks recently I have been focusing my thoughts on the Church and what I believe is happening or about to happen.

Here is what I think is taking place. God is preparing His Church for a tremendous harvest of souls as a revival is going to sweep the world and bring multitudes into the Kingdom. He is preparing the Church so that these new converts will be properly fed and discipled, equipped and released.

He is moving some of the older leaders into new responsibilities within the Kingdom and the Church. He is giving them greater authority and power and adjusting their calling and ministry to fit what will soon be the new paradigm. He is also moving younger believers into places of responsibility and authority. As He moves senior leaders up (or over) He is moving junior leaders into the places vacated after adjusting the jobs to fit the new personalities, gifts, and talents of those being raised up.

In other words, there is a great shifting going on in the ranks of believers in the Church. It is exciting and yet a little unnerving all at the same time. Change always is. And, it will require many to walk by faith and, once again, begin to believe God for everything, including finances.

Here’s the problem – many are called but few choose to respond. There are many young people (ages 25 and up) who have been prophetically told that they have a place in the five-fold ministry. Most have done nothing with that call for whatever reason or excuse they may have.

As a result – God is asking one more time (and only one more time) for them to step up and become serious about what He has said or He will move on and find others who will take Him seriously and who will work with Him in what is about to explode worldwide. He is no longer just waiting.

On my list I have 35 apostles, 10 prophets, and 3 five-fold evangelists (I just updated the list) who have been called out by prophecy. These are the ones who have been connected to me in some way – they attend this church; they have been told to get in touch with me; they were told I was to mentor them; their Word directly linked them to me. I currently “sort of” work with 5 of them. It’s their move and their responsibility not mine.

Questions: What has God spoken to you? Are you preparing or ignoring? Waiting for something?

Fast Forward – Summer Bible Journey #5

The Bible you are reading – surveying for the summer – was written by about 40 men who engaged in writing it during a period of about 1600 years dating from 1500 B.C. (B.C.E.) to about 100 A.D. (C.E.). These men wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

They wrote not in words of human wisdom, but in words taught by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

The first translation of the English Bible was initiated by John Wycliffe and completed by John Purvey in A.D. (C.E.) 1388.

The first North American edition of the Bible was perhaps published some time before A.D. (C.E.) 1752.

The Bible has been translated in part or in whole in over 2,287 different languages or dialects.

So, the Bible you are reading on Fast Forward this summer has an impressive history and has come to us from God through the hearts and hands of man. People have died to protect it. Others have spent their lives translating it. Others have lost their lives trying to bring it to their people in their own native language.

It remains the best selling book in the world each year – although that does not make it the most read book, however.

Congratulations if you have taken this summer reading challenge and are working art reading your whole Bible in 64 days … at 19 chapters a day. It will chane your life and enable you to hear God much better. it will help you with the big picture of God’s interaction with men over the centuries. You will be blessed by the time you are investing. Well done!

The Three Stooges – Part Three

The third thing that hits us – as Christians and Church people – between the eyes is CHARACTER. Three things – Compromise, Carnality and CHARACTER.

When we are talking about CHARACTER we are talking about heart. The foundation for all successful leaders and believers arises out of the heart. Regretfully, it is here that we often fail ourselves and the Lord thus failing at being a witness for Him as well.

God looks at the heart – and does not look at man as we do – by outward appearances and achievements. In rejecting Saul for David – God made it clear that the person He uses must have the right heart.

These two men had both sinned against God in signifigant ways – but Saul followed his on heart; David followed God’s. Thus David was usable and Saul was not. David went on to accomplish much for the Lord and his nation and Saul went into witchcraft, disgrace, and eventual death on the battlefield. David, because of his heart for the Lord, experienced intimacy with God, tremendous worship, powerful victories, and terrific success (the empire of Isreal was never as big before or after David’s reign … right to the current day). Because of his heart he was successful in his world.

We need to be careful – for we can love ministry; we can love reading, studying, writing, teaching and preaching. But my love for God must be greater than my love for His work. But often, for those who minister, we can fall into the trap of loving the work we do for God more than the God we work for.

Proof of that is simple! We often, if not always, allow ministry pressures and people issues take priority over our personal time with the Lord. We let ministry take over and take up the time we should have been spending with the Lord. In fact, it has often been said – and proven – that ministry can be dangerous to your spiritual health. And, I have to agree as I have experienced it personally.

The book of Proverb (4:23) states:Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. But we fail to do this due to the pressing needs of ministry, programs, church life, sermons, teachings, conferences, and assorted other adventures for the Lord. It is time to protect our time with the Lord. Out of this comes CHARACTER because as we spend time with Him we become more like Him. And remember, it is your character that goes with you into Heaven.

I learned this one day as I was rushing about going from one ministry event to another – constantly in motion. The Lord spoke to me and asked me what I was. Now, when the Lord asks you a question, He is not looking for information. He is all-knowing (omniscience). So, I told him I was a pastor, father, husband … But He asked me again. I knew I had not hit the right answer. So, I admitted I was out of answers and asked Him what He was trying to tell me.

He told me that I was a “human being” and not a “human doing”! And that I was defining myself through what I was doing instead of who I was. He showed me, some time later, two verses that drove the point home even further…

Mark 3:13-14 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach

There it was again – they were called to be with Him (be) and then that they might go out and preach (do). Yet, I had it in the wrong order.

It is time for us to realize that CHARACTER is a very important issue to the Lord. That our heart is more important than anything else to Him. And, that our hearts need to be in a deep love relationship with Him – a relationship that deepens daily – and that, out of this heart relationship, ministy will arise. All ministry arises out of relationship – our relationship with Him.

Then, like David, we can be a “man after God’s own heart” and very useable as we go forth from being to doing … in spite of our shortcomings and sins.

So, there are three things that I believe are smacking most Christians and Church leaders in the eyes – Compromise, Carnality, and Character. However, it is never too late to begin to work on these three areas – and now would be a good time to start!

The Three Stooges – Part Two

The first of the three dangers for the Church today was COMPROMISE (see The Three Stooges – Part One). Leaders in the Church tend to compromise in three main areas – sex, salvation, and the Scriptures.

The second “stooge” is CARNALITY.

This is probably the main reason why Churches are not growing and new people are not being reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most Christians – including Church leaders – do not reflect God’s giving nature but rather are self-centered and self-focused and so functioning from a self-centered basis and thus not genuinely concerned about their neighbour. And, their neighbour can tell.

One area of carnality is the luxury that many Christians live in – compared to those around them – definitely compared to those in third world nations. There is nothing wrong with wealth. But, as Christians we need to be good stewards of it and use as much as possible of it to help others in need. When Church leaders live in million dollar homes when a $250,000 or $500,000 home would have done fine there is a disconnect with what the Lord did and would do today.

Christians, even those with simple and modest income need to realize that we in North America live in luxury compared to 2/3 of the world’s population. There is an adjustment in our lifestyle needed so that the gospel is seen and so that the way we live does not negate the message we proclaim.

We also need to be reaching out to the lost. We have become very selfish and so 90% or better of most church budgets go towards maintenance and ministering to ourselves. This is called selfishness and was a trait that was never seen in the life and ministry of Jesus. Again, this is dealing with carnality or our own flesh and self-focus. Jesus said in Luke 15:7 “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” There is a desperate need to be out “seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Even at Sunday worship – we need to come to give honour and glory to the Lord. We need to come with the mindset that we are there to give and not to get. However, being carnal even in this area of our Christian walk, we come wondering what is going to be in it for us. Like the chorus states: “It is all about You, Jesus – all this is for You…” And yet, most of the way we design and run our Sunday programs (including worship) is really all about “us”, isn’t it? And, that’s because we expect it to be.

So, the second thing that pokes us in the eyes – the second Stooge – CARNALITY. When you add this to COMPROMISE you end up with a fairly powerless or impotent Church.

standing1.jpg

It is Time To Stand Up and Become Involved

Over the past five years the number of young people (ages 25 to 35) being called out prophetically into the five-fold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher has been increasing dramatically. God is getting His Church prepared for something great – and I believe it is a tremendous harvest of lost souls as we see revival sweep the nations of the world.

When a prophet use to visit our area and minister in the Network I oversee – in six days of services I would hear one or maybe two young people called out prophetically to fill a five-fold ministry role in the Church. Now, in an equal number of public services, I am hearing a dozen calls into these important governmental ministries. It is exciting. Read more

gifts1.jpg

Five Ascention Gifts

There are distinct and unique differences in the five-fold ascension gifts (Ephesians 4:11). All possess a different measure (metron) of grace. If we do not understand the distinct differences and the role each plays in “perfecting the Body of Christ,” then it will be impossible for us to benefit from their uniqueness.

For example, if we try to make a prophet function like a pastor, we abuse the prophet by trying to get him to do something he is not called to do and to function under a specific grace that he or she does not have. Therefore, we will not benefit from the unique grace that is upon their life as a prophet. Likewise, if we try to get a pastor to function like a prophet we abuse the pastor and cannot receive from the unique grace that is upon his or her life. Read more

Toss It Out If… – Bible Blog #15

The Scripture:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

The Commentary:

The Jewish work day began at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 p.m. During this 12 hour stretch devout male Jews whould pray three times – basically morning, noon and night. They could pray anywhere but believed that their prayers were more precious and effective if offered in the Temple. They believed God answered prayer!

It is interesting that they were, as Jewish Christians – Jewish by ethic group and birth and Christian by belief and faith – still holding to the customs and traditions in which they were raised and trained. It should be stated that Jesus was not against tradition as if it was, in itself, a bad thing. He was against any tradition that took the focus off of God and in any way denied the real power of the Word of God. If a tradition robbed God of His position or His power Jesus would speak against it.

It seems apparent that the disciples and first apostles recognized and knew that the new faith and the old disciplines could walk hand-in-hand.

The beggars would sit at the entrance to the Temple because it was a good place to beg alms (money for them because they were poor and unable to work). Those coming to pray and worship came to impress God with their pious good works – so a lucrative place to beg for funds.

The miracle of the healing of the beggar was quite a miracle because he had been lame from birth and so had never walked. And, it was a terrific and instant testimony because every Jewish male would know who he was having seen him three times a day as they entered the Temple courts to pray. God knows how to make an impression.

APPLICATION:

It was obvious throughout the Gospels that Jesus upheld the Jewish traditions. He did, however, speak against any man-made tradition that took people away from their focus on God or that eliminated the power of God as found in faith and the Word of God (example: Matthew 15:6).

I believe that what is most important in our walk with God as found and given to us through Jesus Christ is to have His life (zoe) flowing through us. Whatever helps that life to flow (daily prayer, Bible reading, corporate worship services) should be encouraged and anything that takes life away or does nothing to keep life flowing needs to be removed.

When a baby is conceived there is no structure just life in the mother’s womb.As the life grows then structure comes along to help that life thrive and continue to exist – hands, feet, toes, a nose. Structure supports and encourages life.

When the structure is no longer needed to support life it is dismantled and removed. Otherwise the tendency is to focus on the structure to maintain it and not to flow with the life. As a result – you would have dead traditions.

So, when a baby is born the cord that attaches it to his or her mother – that has fed the baby for 9 months and kept it alive – is no longer needed. So, this structure is now removed (cut). If it is not – then it endangers the life of the child.

Any tradition or structure that supports the flow and grow of spiritual life should be maintained and is good. Any tradition or structure that does not support the continued growth and flow of life needs to be removed and thrown away as something that was once ‘of God’ and beneficial but no longer needed.

It might be a good time to examine the things we do as routine (tradition) on a daily basis in our spiritual walk to see if they are still supporting and encouraging “life” or whether they are now simply nice traditions that either are neutral or that actually harm the life flow in the Spirit. If the latter then we need to remove them as these ‘traditions’ are harmful to your relationship with God.