Giants That Kill Our Passion

From the time he was five, Hudson Taylor was consumed by an intense passion to be a missionary to China. He dedicated every thought and action toward that desire. He learned Mandarin Chinese, studied medicine, corresponded with mission agencies, spent his money in mission training, and above all else, waited for God to send him.
The young man prayed as if it all depended on God and worked as if it all depended on Hudson Taylor. He was convinced that he would never make it unless he learned to depend on God for everything. Toward that end, he put himself under strict daily training. Her studied Latin, Greek, theology, and medicine while keeping up with his ordinary daily responsibilities. He flirted with the edges of financial disaster in order to allow God alone to meet his needs. He lived on a diet of oatmeal and rice and sent the savings to missionaries. Nobody would have questioned Hudson Taylor’s passion.
He set sail for China in 1853, filled with hope and excitement. When he arrived, he found that those who were supposed to meet his ship had either died or fled. Rebels had overrun Shanghai. There was fighting in the streets, hostility toward westerners, and not a friend in sight. His support system had evaporated. So there stood a young Englishman, Hudson Taylor, staring at the face of a giant named China. I can’t promise you that I wouldn’t have climbed right back on the boat and booked homeward passage.
But then I’m not Hudson Taylor, who not only stayed in China but committed to going further inland with the gospel. There had been missionaries around Shanghai, but no one had ever taken the Word of God to the vast, mysterious provinces of the hidden China. He faced illness, heartbreak, setbacks, hostility from the Chinese and from other missionaries, and — I’m certain — the occasional feeling of being overwhelmed. There were so many millions of unsaved people in China and so few missionaries. How could the lost souls ever be reached?
Taylor simply kept trusting God and facing down the giants. By the time he died, there was a significant and fruit-bearing Christian presence in China. Even the era of communism hasn’t driven our faith out of that country. Hudson Taylor was the superior of that giant too.
When have you felt discouraged or overwhelmed? When have you felt that all your efforts were for naught, that maybe it was useless to go on trying? It’s no fun to feel pint-sized when facing a giant. And that giant can take many forms. It could be one person or a group of people. It could be a problem. The giant could be financial in nature, or it may be something within yourself.
Anything that distracts from our focus on Christ, detours us from our service for Him, and drains us of our driving passion is a giant that must be slain. In order to live a life of purpose, passion, and meaning in response to God’s call, we must learn to take down the monsters that stand in the way of great accomplishments for God.
Who can show us how to be a giant-killer? My suggestion is that we couldn’t do better than the shepherd boy named David. He was a kid who knew nothing about military strategy, yet he went one-on-one with a grizzled warrior — a card-carrying giant. Goliath stood nine feet tall and had a snarling attitude to match. He had paralyzed Israel’s fighting force with his intimidating presence. He arrogantly mocked the children of Israel and their God. No one dared protest. With Goliath looming over them, this army — and the whole nation of Israel — was dead in the water.
Which giants have blocked your path to a life lived fully, all out for God? Which giant has robbed you of your passion for the Kingdom and the King? You many find them in this brief list of giant-sized problems that believers need to defeat so they can live passionate lives as believers.
Let’s list them and then look at them briefly one at a time …
Resentment
Fear
Discouragement
Loneliness
Worry
Envy
Guilt and shame
And then we will look at how to slay your giant.
Many different giants block your path to a life of passion for God and His purposes. A life lived passionately. You may find some of them in this “rogues gallery” of giant—sized problems to living a passionate life where you embrace each day fully and engage with all that the day brings your way.
1> Resentment
Your spouse forgets to pick up your package at the post office, and you sulk about it for hours. A church member sitting near you sings loudly and off key, and you can’t resist scowling at him. A friend hasn’t called you in several days, so you’re not going to call her either. We all get slighted. Ignored, offended, and hurt by other people. Resentment holds these offences like a sponge instead of letting them roll off our back by living in grace and forgiveness.
2> Fear
Everyone is afraid of something. Israel was pinned down in fear of Goliath. What strikes terror in your heart? Flying? Spiders? The threat of nuclear war? The death of your spouse or child? The loss of your job? To whatever extent you are immobilized by your fears, to that extent you will lack the full experience of passion in your life. Theologian Paul Tillich said, “Fear … has a definite object … which can be faced, analyzed, attacked, endured.” If you want to live a life wide open to all the opportunities God has and will offer to you, the giant of fear may be your first enemy.
3> Discouragement
It is difficult to move forward through life at any speed when we have lost courage or confidence. Things don’t go the way we plan, so we get discouraged and give up. We fail at a task or a relationship, so we shrink back from entering into the next one. Discouragement tends to pull in the sails and toss out the anchor. “If it’s going to be like this,” we mutter, “why go on?” The giant of discouragement must be brought down to live passionately.
4> Loneliness
God created us for intimate relationship with Himself and with others. We feel most alive and passionate when we are enjoying rich fellowship with the Lord, getting along well with family members, and having fun with friends. But we feel lost and cold when there is painful distance or division in our dearest relationships. The giant of loneliness scorns out attempts at living passionately.
5> Worry
British educator W.R. Inge once said, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.” Most people worry about things that will never happen. What a waste of emotional energy! Worry levels a burdensome tax on our joy and passion. It’s difficult to charge into life enthusiastically every day when you are worried about everything that could go wrong. No wonder Paul exhorted us, “Be anxious in nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6)
6> Guilt and shame
Psychologist and educator Lewis Smedes explained, “A person feels guilt because he did something wrong. A person feels shame because he is something wrong … We may feel guilty because we lied to our mother. We may feel shame because we are not the person our mother wanted us to be.” Unresolved guilt and shame are deadly to living a life of passion.
There are many more Goliaths in the army that lines up to challenge the passionate life. You may struggle against doubt, temptation, jealousy, procrastinations, anger, rejection, bitterness, hopelessness, or another equally debilitating giant of a problem. You may be hindered from a life of passion by old scars and still painful wounds inflicted by these brutes. If you hope to break through to the passion-filled life, you need to meet your Goliath head-on.
Most of us need our soul restored before we can become fully engaged in a life of passion. All the motivational pep talks and spiritual disciplines are hollow for the person who struggles with unresolved pain from the past and unconquered problems in the present. The path to passion for wounded people begins by choosing no longer to be your Goliath’s victim and to take whatever steps God makes available to you to heal the past and help you move confidently into the future He has for you.
So, let’s look at slaying your giants.
Do you feel small compared to your present-day Goliath? Perhaps you feel  too weak or inadequate to put up a fight. Giants can be intimidating, as King Saul and the army of Israel know. But God has empowered us and equipped us to bring them down. Let’s take several points of instruction from David’s triumph over Goliath, as recorded in 1 Samuel 17.
1> Confront your giant
When Goliath, the jumbo-sized Philistine, taunted Israel and dared them to send someone to fight him, Saul and all the Israelites “were dismayed and greatly afraid” (Verse 11). King Saul had a history of being a mighty warrior. He should have picked up the gauntlet and confronted Goliath in the power of the Lord. Yet Saul, along with the whole army, stood there quaking in his sandals. Do you think God could have used Saul to slay the giant? Absolutely! But since the warrior-king was too fearful to confront Goliath, God had to look for someone else.
The first step to getting past your problem to a passionate life is to confront your giant head-on. Here’s a good place to start: Turn to a fresh journal page and identify in writing the giants you are facing. Write down their names: guilt, envy, fear — whatever they are. Describe them. For example, you may write something like, “I feel guilty for what I’ve done in the past” or, “I harbour resentment toward my spouse for his/her insensitivity toward me” or, “If I give myself fully to God, I’m afraid He might ask me to do something I don’t want to do.” Add specific example of how your giant has terrorized you. The more you get down on paper, the clearer your Goliath will be in your sight.
2> Remain consistent in preparation
David the shepherd may have been young, small, and inexperienced in military combat; but he was not unprepared for meeting Goliath. For one thing, the boldness and naïveté of youth was on his side. Remember some of the daredevil things we did as kids, when we didn’t know enough to be scared? Those were the days where it seemed easier to ask forgiveness after the fact than to ask permission ahead of time. As Pearl S. Buck has said, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” That’s probably where David was.
Long before his dynamic showdown with Goliath in the valley of Elah, David had defended sheep on the hillsides of Bethlehem. He explained to Saul that watching sheep had involved facing the occasional lion or bear; when some predator attacked the sheep, he simply killed it (see verses 34-35). David had learned courage when nobody was around to see it. It was his consistent integrity and commitment that prepared him to meet Goliath when that moment came.
As a giant-slayer, you prepare for battle by practicing consistency in your spiritual disciples, You must spend time faithfully and privately before God, poring over His instruction manual for spiritual battle — the Word of God. You must humble yourself in prayer before your “Commander in Chief,” just as Joshua did prior to the battle of Jericho (see Joshua 5:13-15). Don’t skip any of those routine steps hoping to jump ahead of God’s schedule. God desires to train you in private through consistent personal discipline.
3> Consider the cost
Author Ray Bradbury said, “:Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Taking on a menacing giant involved some risk. After all, this is war. In fighting for what is rightfully yours, you will still be under enemy fire. People have wondered why David carried five stones in his pouch when he needed only one to fell Goliath. Perhaps he would not presume that his first shot would do the trick. He probably expected some kind of battle, slinging stones, dodging Goliath’s big javelin. He was confident about victory, but he may have approached Goliath wondering if he would be wounded in the skirmish. At some point the shepherd boy considered the cost and took the risk.
If you want to achieve great things in your life, you’s better be ready for risk-taking. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” If you’re a Christian, you know that the “gray twilight” he’s talking about isn’t mysterious or elusive. It’s called lack of faith. We can risk the cost of battle because Jesus promised, “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23)
When you go to war against your giants, it probably won’t be easy, and you likely won’t dispense your problem with one shot. You may be in for a long battle. It may get worse before it gets better. You may take a hit or two along the way. But if the skirmish gets you past this giant and on the road to the passionate life you desire, it’s worth the risk.
Giants That Kill Our Passion – Part Four
Blog for November 4, 2020
We are looking at the life of David and his fight with the giant Goliath and pulling out some personal observations to help us fight and defeat the giants in our personal lives. Giants that stand in the way of living passionately.
So, in review…
1> Confront your giant
2> Remain consistent in preparation
3> Consider the cost
There are three more observations that will help us in our battle against giants in our personal lives…
4> Be courageous in battle
King Saul attempted to equip David for battle by outfitting him in his own battle armour. You need to remember that Saul was a big man, at least a head taller than his peers (see 1 Samuel 9:2), but David was just a kid. After trying to walk in the armour, David declined the offer. He didn’t need armour and a big sword when defending his sheep. His strength and protection were in the power of the Spirit. David announced, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). So he courageously marched into battle with the five small stones and one big God.
There have been times in your life when you have seen God knock your big problems down to size. Reflect upon those victories. Replay them in your heart and mind. Take courage and “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). As someone has said, you plus God equals a majority. No giant can withstand you when you are led an empowered by God’s Spirit.
5> Be a champion for God
When you step out boldly to confront your giant, you join the ranks of God’s army of champions. David is in that brave band, as is Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Peter, Paul, and countless numbers of heroic warriors in the pages of the Bible.
But be aware that when you move out as God’s champion, you may be criticized by others, even those closest to you. Some family members and friends may feel threatened as you step out in the Spirit to pursue your passion. When David showed up on the front lines and began inquiring about Goliath, his own family shot him down. His eldest brother said, ““Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle” (1 Samuel 17:28). Instead of lauding David’s courage, his brothers chided him for abandoning the sheep.
Like David, silence your critics with your courage, determination, and trust in God. The Spirit-empowered shepherd boy strode confidently into battle armed with a sling and five stones. The first stone flew and found its mark. Goliath toppled like a felled tree, and Israel enjoyed a great victory and new freedom to be God’s people in their world.
The same God who brought victory to an underdog shepherd boy stands ready to help you conquer your giants and to free you to the passionate life He created you to enjoy. Like David, you have a choice before you: You can remain paralyzed by your pain or problems, going nowhere; or you can face them, overcome them, and follow your passions.
6> Don’t give in to the giant of false humility
There are a few confused saints among us who have taken the notion that Christians should not desire success. Imagine David saying, “Oh, but God wants me to be humble, and I’d look so pompous challenging giants.” I suggest you read these words from Erwin Raphael McManus and take them to heart:
“It is important to note that ambition is not wrong. In fact, the Bible never speaks of ambition itself as negative. Ambition is a God-given motivation. One of the great tragedies among many followers of Christ is the loss in ambition after coming to faith. They have become convinced that any personal ambition is dishonouring to God. I have met some who have gone as far as to only do the opposite of what they desire because they were so persuaded that any passion to achieve had to be rejected and overcome. The simple reasoning is “it can’t be God’s will if I want to do it.” (Erwin Raphael McManus, Uprising — A Revolution of the Soul, page 38)
If you want to do it, and it’s something you know Good wants done, then ambition is just another gift God has given you for the task. Ambition can be a very important element of your passion. So, move forward and don’t be so critical of yourself. Move forward to the glory of God, and you’ll begin the see the giants fall in your life.

Muddy Waters

The Bible consistently reminds us to check our spiritual diet for toxins. Proverbs 25:26 says, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.” How muddy is your water right now? Is your well – your inner life, your heart – polluted by all the cultural toxins seeping in? Maybe it is polluted by your thoughts, your actions, and your lifestyle. Or does your spiritual well draw on Living Water as its pure thirst-quenching source? Maybe you’re a Christian — you’ve been made righteous by Christ — yet you’ve become a muddied spring or a polluted well, and you don’t even know it.

You might believe, “My thoughts don’t matter. As long as they stay tucked away inside my head, they’re not hurting anyone. We all think about things that we’d never do, right?” All the while your negative thoughts are silently poisoning your soul, pouring lies into your spiritual water supply. Unfortunately, our thoughts don’t just stay in our head, disconnected from our words and our actions. Unhealthy thoughts often lead to unhealthy words. Without even knowing it, you might be talking yourself, and others, out of God’s best.

Or maybe it’s the people that you hang with regularly. You know they aren’t full-on for God, but no big deal. You don’t want them to think you’re some kind of religious freak or anything. So you keep doing whatever they do, going wherever they go. Though you believe one thing, you live a totally different way.

Maybe you’ve resigned yourself to certain struggles in your life — anger, lust, discontentment — as nothing more than your personal quirks. “It’s just the way I am,” you tell yourself, all the while your spiritual enemy laughs at the cancer you continue to feed in your soul. You continue to muddy the waters. 

Rather than experiencing the richness of a dynamic, intimate relationship with the righteous One, you put God in a little box that you can check off your to-do list each week. By settling for rules and religion and feeling pretty good about how much you’re doing for the church and those less fortunate, you become blinded to legalism and self-righteousness. Your water becomes muddy

It’s time to come clean.

If you’re tired of the stain of sinful habits discolouring your life; if you long to breath the fresh, clean, life-giving air of God’s holiness; if you would love to detoxify your soul from guilt, fear, regret, and all the impurities that pollute your relationship with God; then it is time to come clean. You’ve been breathing smoke-polluted thoughts, life-draining words, and sin-filled actions without realizing the toll they are taking on your relationship with God. Deep down, you know there’s a truer way to live, a deeper, purer way to love, and a larger impact to make on the world around you. It’s time to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind to the cleansing power of God’s truth.

His Word is filled with stories of men and women who needed to come clean, who longed for more. One of my favourites is David, who’s described as “a man after God’s own heart” but, as you may know, was far from perfect. Shortly after he committed adultery and murder, David experienced a soul sickness that affected him on every level – physical, emotional, and spiritual. He knew his sins of lust, entitlement, and deception were killing his heart. He was drinking from “muddied waters” of his own making. He knew the only way to be restored and experience a joyful, fulfilling life again was to come clean before God. In his prayer of repentance, he wrote, 

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:2, 7, 10, 12)

You can pray the same prayer. As you do so from your heart and not just your head, God will bring healing and deliverance so that the muddied waters become fresh, life-giving, life-producing waters. He will renew your relationship with Him. And, you will experience a deep peace and contentment as He floods your heart with His love and sets your focus on Him and His Kingdom. 

Pick a Verse, Any Verse!

I have recently run into several situations where solid, mature believers and disciples of Jesus have suggested I claim a verse. 

In one situation it was for the deliverance and salvation of a young man I relate to in another city and whom I have connected to an apostle there that I know. He is receiving personal, loving care from someone who knows who he is and what he is doing. And, the local church I belong to is simply called to pray. However, someone believed that we needed to pray over a clothe and mail it to him so he would be free. You know, like Paul did once in the book of Acts.

The second situation was for a personal healing I was seeking. They “commanded” that I simply claim the verse in Peter’s writings where he declared that by His stripes we were healed (quoting from Isaiah the prophet where it states that by His stripes we will be healed.) As if I am not walking in faith and don’t believe God’s Word and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross for each of us who believe.

I appreciated the heart and the motive and intent of both of these people. They were suggesting what they believed would help because they care deeply and love to see Jesus touch people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But there is one simple flaw in their suggestions.

You cannot randomly select a verse out of context and claim it for yourself or for someone else. Pick a verse, any verse” simply is not biblical.And life and faith simply just don’t work that way. This is part of the heresy called The Prosperity Gospel fondly known as “Name it and claim it” or “Blab it and grab it.” As if you get to choose what you are claiming and by speaking it bring it to pass in your life. Does not work. Is not biblical. And, this teaching destroys people and churches worldwide. Not to mention making born again believers look like they are out of their minds and thus not a good witness to others who don’t know Jesus. 

So, just because Joshua marched around the city of Jericho for seven days and seven times the last day does not mean we should be marching around our city. God told Joshua to do that. A specific series of actions in a particular place and time. And in obedience it worked. God did not tell anyone else to do this. Jesus never did this. And, we can’t just pick it up out of context and apply our faith towards it. Doesn’t work that way.

Paul was directed to pray over some handkerchiefs and sent them to people who were sick and unable to be with him in his teaching times. Peter never did this. Timothy, a disciple of Paul and a spiritual son, did not try this. Jesus was never involved in this “mail order” healing ministry. We cannot simply pull it out of context and  think it is going to work. He didn’t tell us to do it. And, in the case I mentioned above – much better to have someone in person pray for them, care for them, and love them. 

Listen to offerings being taken and they tell you that if you give it will be returned to you 30 – 60 – 100 fold. And, your cup will run over. You will prosper and have more than enough. The verses they use for this false teaching are about “love.” Not money, not your tithe, not an offering… You can’t lift the verses out of context (the surrounding verses, the chapter, the book, the Bible) and simply apply it wherever you wish. Well, actually you can do that but it would be outside of the Gospel of the Kingdom and cause you to fall into heresy. 

In the midst of the global pandemic we have believers not taking precautions like wearing a mask, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing. They often quote “no weapon formed against them (deadly thing) shall harm them.” Again, a verse out of context. A total misuse of the verse.

There are many other examples I could share of “Pick a Verse, Any Verse” but you get the point. And, not to insult anyone, but really God would like us to use our common sense when it comes to living life in our fallen world. Common sense that He gave to us. Common sense which, when applied, would prevent this misuse of Scripture and help us to be better examples of what it means to be a disciple and true born again believer. 

The Lord Said! Really?

As I work with believers I often hear them say “the Lord told me…” or “I heard the Lord say…” followed by some nice thing that He is promising. Something He plans to do for them. An adventure that He is sending them on. A vacation. A blessing. A financial breakthrough. A calling. A ministry. The list is endless.

And, they are so sure that they have heard the Lord speak to them that they begin immediately to make decisions based on what they believe they have been told. And some of these decisions are fairly life-changing affecting family and friends. 

However, often what they believe they have heard simply justifies their existing lifestyle or the sin they are living in. Thus they don’t have to change and believe they are in the Lord’s will and thus He is blessing their current situation or circumstance and the decision they have made.

They don’t test what they are hearing to the Word of God, the Bible. They don’t seek the wisdom of more mature believers with whom they fellowship. They don’t take into account the timing of what they think they have heard. And, they don’t question that what they heard might not even be the voice of the Lord for them – but more their own desires and emotions. 

I have found over my 50+ years of walking with Jesus and listening to what people think that He has spoken to them that 90% or more of what they hear is simply their own emotions, desires, and dreams. It is their soul speaking to them and not the voice of the Holy Spirit living in their spirit. 

If God is truly speaking to us then, again by experience, I have discovered a number of things…

      • What He is saying will stretch you and make you somewhat uncomfortable and is usually life-altering.
      • Whatever He is asking you to do will be greater than what you are able to do on your own. You will need to join with others and work as a team.
      • You will need to go through a season of learning and growing; developing new skills and understanding.
      • What He is calling you to is most often not something you would desire in the natural.
      • It will cost you something. It comes with a price. You will be taking up your cross.
      • It will challenge what you know and cause you to grow spiritually before it begins to come to pass.
      • You will need to build new relationships with people who can help you to achieve what the Lord has spoken – someone to disciple you, mentor you, and walk with you in this stage of your journey. This will require you to submit your life to others and be accountable.
      • There will be many tests and trials along the way which you will need to go through so as to grow into the calling and be strong in your faith. Joseph, in the Old Testament, went through ten different tests before reaching the fulfillment of what the Lord said to him. (See “The Ten Tests” article in the resources section of ralphhoweminsitries.com)  
      • It will involve hard work and a good length of time to see what the Lord has said come to pass. 

So, my observation is that what most people think “the Lord said” is not Him at all. And, because people are fairly vocal about what they think the Lord said to them the world gets the impression that believers are unbalanced and not to be taken seriously. 

We need to be really careful with “The Lord said…” and make sure that He really did!

 

A Slower Walk

We are well into the fall season and stores are beginning to put out Christmas decorations and signage … fighting for space with the large Halloween displays that are up in most stores. Interesting to see them side-by-side in some of the larger stores. Not an ideal time to mention slowing life down and living life at a slower pace. 

We are so use to living life in the fast lane that we fail to read the Gospel stories of Jesus, His life and ministry, in the context of the first century. We fail to see all the in-between times when Jesus and His followers were walking from one town to another. When the record states, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee (John 1:43), we project our own pace upon it, not realizing that it took the disciples three days by foot to get there. 

Three days just strolling along, talking, or sharing the silent beauty; the pauses for lunch or a drink from the well; the campfires in the evenings. Even as I write this, it sounds luxurious. Christ does not move immediately from one dramatic story to another; there was down time, transition time between these demands. Time to process what had happened (these are the moments you see the disciples asking questions; “what did you mean by…?”). Time to catch their breath before the next encounter.

That was the pace Jesus felt was reasonable for people engaged in important things and wanting a life with God. Time we would categorize almost as vacation time, for those are the only periods we allow ourselves a stroll, a lingering lunch, a campfire conversation. We highly progressive moderns try to keep up without any of these intervals and transitions. 

The things that we require of ourselves — we go from a tender conversation with our eight-year-old anxious about going to school to an angry phone call with our insurance company as we drive to work, followed by a quick chat with our sister ending a decision about our aging parents’ “memory care unit.” Then it’s straight into a series of business meetings (during which we multitask by trying to bang out some email), firing an employee, interviewing another, making dinner reservations for our spouse’s birthday, fitting in a conversation with our boss because we can’t say no, and showing up late and haggard for dinner.

And we wonder why we have a hard time finding God, receiving more of Him, feeling like we’re overflowing with life.

The EMS technician, who leaves the scene of a terrible accident, races to get to his Bible study group, but wonders afterward why he couldn’t find God there. The school teacher, who come home exhausted from a day herding a riotous classroom, tries to be present to her own child, but can’t seem to find the right gear to do so. The modern pastor, who needs to be a real estate expert on one meeting, a brilliant trauma counsellor in the next, and a caring friend over lunch, only to shift gears into the role of savvy corporate CEO for the meeting that follows.

We are forcing our souls through multiple gear-changes each day, each hour, and after years of this we wonder why we aren’t even sure what to say when a friend genuinely inquires, “How are you?” We don’t really know; we aren’t sure what we feel anymore. We live at one speed: go. All the subtleties of human experience have been forced into one state of being.

Mercy. No soul was meant to live like this. 

What sort of madness have we come to accept as normal when just taking a minute to reflect and rest feels like a luxury? We need time to process as we move from one event to another, one demand to the next. We need time to transition between what we are doing now and what is next being demanded of us. Not a long time – just a brief moment or two. A few minutes to process what you have just been involved in and to prepare for what you are about to focus on. A brief pause that you take to process and reflect; to sense and to learn. And, no one is going to offer this “pause.” It is up to each of us to learn how to slow things down a bit allowing us the needed time to pause and ponder and to sense God in al that we are involved in. To walk at a slower pace allowing us to live life as God intended. 

What Is God Doing In Your Life?

Recently I was meeting with a group of six mature believers for an evening of fellowship and teaching. After our time of coffee and sharing I asked those in attendance what God had shown them over the past few months when we had not met due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  I specifically wanted to know what change they have made in their life because of something God spoke to them.

I was not interested in what they had learned as in more information and understanding of the Bible. I wanted to know what life-change had happened as a result of God showing them something and their putting that revelation or insight into practical, in every day life. In other words, application and transformation. Not just more information and understanding. 

When I am reading the Scriptures I invite the Holy Spirit to lead me into His truth for me that day. I intentionally invite Him to speak to me and spend time, while reading, reflecting on what I am reading allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me. When He does – and that happens almost daily – I write down what He is showing me from the Scriptures that I am reading and then I work through the application. In other words, how to apply the truth just revealed to me and what difference it will make in my life and daily activities.  Thus I am growing and maturing as a believer and disciple of Jesus.

I was seriously surprised when I asked those in the group that night what God had shown them through His Word and how they had changed over the 5 months that we had not been meeting as a weekly group. Surprised and shocked really. No one knew of a revelation that they had received from the Spirit over that length of time. No one had a life-changing “Aha moment” that they could or felt free to share. It seems that the Holy Spirit was simply not speaking to them or, as is more likely, they are not listening with their heart (spirit). 

Yes, they may have more understanding of the Scriptures; more information; more facts. But we should remember that there is no test on Bible knowledge when we get to Heaven. God is not going to ask you to name Noah’s three sons in order of age – oldest to the youngest. The Bible was given to us to help us to know God better and become more and more like Him – more Christ-like. In other words, to bring change and transformation and not just more information.

The Bible states that “faith comes from hearing the Word of God.”  “Word” in the Greek is Rhema. Rhema means a now Word from the Lord for you in your situation and current circumstances. So, we don’t get more faith by simply reading the Bible. The written word (black and red ink on white paper) or “logos” does not bring about a greater faith or personal transformation. We grow in faith and change (are transformed) when God speaks to us through the Bible – Rhema – and we apply what we hear. 

No matter how long you have been a Christian God is speaking to you through His Word on a regular basis. We need to learn how to listen and hear Him in our heart as all change (and life itself) comes from the heart according to the Bible. It is good to hear, understand and know the Word in our heads. But that is simply more information and knowledge. We truly need to learn to hear God who is Spirit in our spirit. And to apply, with His help, that truth or insight in our daily life. Then we will grow, mature, and change – be transformed more and more into His image.

Truly that is what this journey of faith is all about. Transformation. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Six

We have been looking at how, as believers, we can interact with social media and use this amazing technology in such a way as to glorify God. We have looked at 8 of the 10 commandments. Let’s finish up today…

The ones we have looked at….

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> Do not use social media to fuel temptation.

9> FORM YOUR OWN OPINIONS; DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWD.

When you follow other people online, you can learn a lot of wisdom from those who are wise. Unfortunately, not only are some people not wise, they can be downright foolish. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” I love the way the New Living Translation translates the last part of this verse. It says, “the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” Chances are you’ve seen this type pf person let loose online.

Jesus instructs us to stay on the narrow road, warning that the broad or wide road leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Sometimes it seems as if everyone is going the same way, but that doesn’t mean they are going the right way. Often on social media, many people jump on the bandwagons of opinions about God, politics, or the latest celebrity scandal. But just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. Especially when it comes to what people post online. 

It may be tempting to follow the crowd, but doing so can be dangerous. Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” God gave you a brain to think for yourself. He gave you His Word to seek His will. He gave you His Spirit to guide you into all truth (see John 16:13). Instead of believing everything you see or hear, think for yourself.

Paul explain the importance of resisting the lure of the crowd when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Don’t be like everyone else. The Message loosely translates this same verse: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Instead of doing what most everyone else does or believing what many say is true, we should have our minds renewed by God’s truth.

Resist the urge to blend in.

Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd.

Follow the Shepherd.

10> DO NOT BASE YOUR IDENTITY ON WHAT PEOPLE THINK

Anyone who spends time on social media will be tempted to compare, thinking, “How many followers do they have? Wow! That’s way more than I have.” We may also be tempted to think the opposite when we see that someone gets fewer Likes or mentions than we do — that they aren’t as important as we are. An unhealthy view of social media can cause us to feel either an ungodly pride or an unhealthy sense of inadequacy.

Not only can we be tempted to base our identity on who follows us (or by who doesn’t), but we can also allow ourselves to be consumed by what others say. If they Like our new shirt in our latest selfie, we feel great. If they don’t say anything, we might assume they don’t like it. And if they say, “What were u thinking when u bought that UGLY thang?” We might never shop at the same store again.

As Christians, we must constantly remind ourselves not to base our identity — our view of ourselves and our worth — on what other people say or think about us. Who we are and our value is determined by what Christ says about us. Others may criticize us, ignore us, or unfollow us, but that doesn’t affect who we really are. We are who Christ says we are.

In case you’e wondering what He says about you, here’s a short list.

      • You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
      • You are forgiven, and your sins are washed away (Ephesians 1:7)
      • You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
      • You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)
      • You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
      • You are filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11)
      • You are a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
      • You are Christ’s divine representative to this world (2 Corinthians 5:20)
      • You are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
      • You are greatly loved by God (John 14:20-23)

No matter what anyone says or implies, you do not need to be moved by their words. You are secure in Christ and Christ alone. Thou shalt not base your identity on what people think.

So there you have the ten commandments for using social media. It can be tempting to view these like we often view the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses — as burdens that limit what we can and can’t do. But in truth, God’s commandments are supreme blessings that free us to serve Him faithfully and to live joyfully. In the same way, I pray these ten commandments of social media will provide live-giving and life-protecting boundaries that enable you to enjoy relating to others online without losing focus on what matters most.

So post, tweet, click, snap, text, chat, comment, and enjoy it all. But do it all out of the overflow of your love for God and love for people. Use technology, but don’t let it overtake your life. Enjoy the benefits of technology, but don’t let it define you.

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Five

So far we have looked at the first seven of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> DO NOT USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FUEL TEMPTATIONS

It’s no secret that technology and social media can open the door to temptations with simple clicks and keystrokes. Instead of having to go through numerous steps, actions, or behaviours to come face to face with a fierce temptation, we can now encounter it on our monitors in nanoseconds.

I don’t just mean sexual temptations. A shopping app for some is more temptation to click and buy than they can handle on a weak evening with nothing to do. Or an open door to gambling is the worse possible temptation for someone who feels lucky — again. For others, online gossip quietly whispers their name: “Come get in on the know.” Some are tempted to compare, to overshare, or to look and lust. It’s important to be honest about where you’re vulnerable, and plan to avoid the traps that can hurt you.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, doesn’t pull any punches when he describes the deception and dangers of temptation. After explaining clearly that God never tempts, James adds, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The Greek word James uses that is translated enticed is actually a fishing term that illustrates how temptation baits us and then hooks us. What starts out as something small and seemingly harmless can quickly become something big and dangerous, even deadly. 

However, as a believer in Jesus, you never have to battle temptation alone. The author of Hebrews reminds us that “because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). If you are being tempted, you are not on your own. Jesus is able to help you. So if you spot an open door to online temptation, ask Jesus to help you close it.

When you pray for wisdom, God will give it to you (see James 1:5). When He shows you how to shut the door to online temptation, slam that door, lock it, and throw away the encryption key. Delete the app if you have to. Or if you need to, give someone else a password to keep yourself from having access to download apps. You might need to download a filtered browser or block certain websites. Or you might share passwords or have joint accounts with your spouse. Whatever it takes, thou shalt not use technology to fuel temptation.

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Four

So far we have looked at the first five of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Let’s look as several more today…

6> DO NOT POST OUT OF EMOTION

When you think about it, the ability to say whatever you’re thinking to a large group of semi-interested people is pretty scary, which is a good reason never to post when you’re feeling angry, upset, rejected, or offended or are feeling any other unsettling emotion. If you’re wondering whether you are responding out of emotion, remember this: when in doubt, wait it out.

As a rule, I never, ever post when I’m overly emotional. Never,. I also have the discipline not to defend myself or get into unnecessary online controversy. For years, I’ve avoided responding to critics or posting out of emotion. Many years ago the Lord told me to let Him fight my battles. So, even when I am being spoken against or misunderstood – I remain quite on social media. What I might say can come back to bite me so it is better to say nothing. And, remember, people can read whatever emotion in to the words you write that they want to. So, you can quickly add to the misunderstanding without meaning to. Take a deep breath. Relax. The Kingdom is doing just fine. And, let the Lord defend you. He better at it than you are.

Without a doubt, you will be tempted to post when you’re agitated or hurt. But when in doubt, wait it out. Post only out of love.

7> ALWAYS REFLECT JESUS, LOVING GOD WHETHER ONLINE OR OFF

After Jesus had silenced the attacking Sadducees the Pharisees conspired to trap Him. One of the experts baited Jesus by asking Him which commandment was the greatest. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV). Above all else, the most important command we have is to love God with every part of our being. Therefore, we should always love and reflect Jesus online and off.

I encourage you to go through everything you’ve posted or said online in the past month. Pretend like you don’t know anything about yourself. Look at everything objectively and determine what conclusions someone would draw about you based on what you’ve posted. Do you like what you see? What does your online footprint reveal about you? Does what you show accurately reflect what you believe? Would people say you love God above all? Or would they think you love something else more – maybe even yourself?

This doesn’t mean the only thing we ever post should be Bible verses or quotes from your pastor’s sermon. But over a month’s time, certainly people should be able to see evidence that we love God and follow Jesus. If this evidence is not in your posts, ask yourself why not. Are you afraid of what people will think? Or worse yet, are you revealing that you aren’t really loving God above all else?

If you are falling more and more in love with God each day, your love will show in the things you post. You won’t have to force it or fake it. If you realize you are forcing or faking it, instead of trying to show something that’s not real or genuine, acknowledge the you aren’t loving God with all your heart and all you are. Ask Him to help you, to guide you, and to draw you. When you seek Him, you will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13). He will reveal Himself to you. When you experience Him and taste His goodness, so will your online and offline witness for Him.

Thou shalt always reflect Jesus.

Love God online and off. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Three

So far we have looked at the first three of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> USE SOCIAL MEDIA INSTEAD OF BEING CONTROLLED BY IT AS AN IDOL

As followers of Jesus, we need to make sure a good thing never becomes a supreme thing. Unquestionably, leveraging technology to share about Jesus and connect with people is a good thing. But if left unchecked, using technology can become obsessive and idolatrous.

We all know people who are obsessed with how many followers they have, how many have started following them, and who has unfollowed them. Most of us have found ourselves hitting refresh a few too many times in the hope of finding new Likes and comments. Some people get lost in a world of creeping on others, constantly obsessing over what they post or say, sometimes with people they don’t even know! Some can’t control the urge to look at just one more thing on Pinterest, knowing that one final click (which is never just one) might hold that special something that will finally make their life complete. Still others play just one more game, hoping this time they’ll finally break their high score or reach a new level.

It’s hard to see it in the moment, but when we stand back, we realize that we might as well have bowed down before some giant smart phone in the sky. The Bible couldn’t be clearer about idolatry. In addition to the commandment to “have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), we’re also told: “Dear children, keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21). The moment you realize you’re starting to put something above God, tear that idol down. As soon as you realize that you don’t have control, that you click and click again without knowing how to stop, acknowledge the problem. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t explain it away. And don’t put off dealing with it.

Just tell the truth.

You are addicted.

And it is idolatry.

Once you acknowledge your problem before God, you can ask for His forgiveness and His help. God always hears the prayer of the repentant heart. Not only will He forgive you, but He will also give you the strength to put away the things that keep you from Him.

Use social media. Enjoy it. But don’t let it overtake you. If you see an iDol in your life, smash it!

5> TURN YOUR VIRTUAL OTHER CHEEK TO POSTS THAT OFFEND YOU

Follow enough people, and it won’t take long: someone will say or show something inappropriate or offensive. If you’re like most people, you find it easy to get up in arms and take offense. As Christians, though, we can rise above the temptation to get down in the dirt. Solomon says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, emphasis added). 

In our culture, many people are quick to judge, quick to call a foul, and quick to be offended. But even though they may be quick to get upset, they’re slow to show grace by overlooking offences. God’s Word teaches us to be different from the world. It’s to our glory to overlook an offense.

To be clear, overlooking an offense isn’t the same as pretending it didn’t happen or encouraging injustice. No, to overlook something is a decision to let it go. It’s a form of forgiveness. The Hebrew word translated overlook also means “to pass over.” You can look at what can hurt you and spiritually soar right on by it.

If people say something harsh or sharp, instead of puffing up and striking back, allow God’s Spirit to help you give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are their bad mood isn’t about you, and their critical spirit probably isn’t against you as much as it’s a reflection of something they’re dealing with, That someone is constantly angry or harsh is often a sign they’re hurting. Why? Because hurting people hurt people,. Rather than taking an offense, you should take them to prayer and ask God to help them.

If a post starts to grieve your heart or make you unrighteously angry, remember that you don’t have to follow the poster. You can to some degree control what you see and read. No matter what, remember that just as Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, so we can turn a virtual other cheek to posts that offend us. Life is too short to allow someone else’s bad attitude pollute our heart and relationships.