If Not…

I was thinking of making some changes in the way I live life. Some small. Some of major proportions. These were life changes with respect to how I express myself – clothing choices, where I live, how I live. Also under consideration was a change in what I am doing for a living – how I minister, where I minister, the nature of the ministry. And, of course, like you I can think of so many reasons why I should not make the changes or, at least, not make them now.

This was especially true in regard to changing the focus of my ministry. Doing less travel and more writing so as to complete the books that have been prophetically spoken about numerous times in the past decade. 

As I was thinking about all this I heard God says, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” And, I was immediately thinking – later, much later.

I then read the following ay Jennifer Reed:

“ Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in, ‘I’’ll do it later.’ Or, ‘Later, I’ll have time to write that book that been on my mind  for the past five years.’ Or, ‘I know I need to straighten out my finances … I’ll do it later.’

‘Later’ is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our chances of success. The diet that starts ‘tomorrow,’ the job hunt that starts ‘eventually,’ the pursuit of the life dream that begins ‘someday’ combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves, anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.”

When it comes to change and grasping something new it seems that there is always a reason why we will not, can not, should not, could not, grab hold of the opportunity that God seems to be speaking to us about. We think that it can wait. I mean why rush into things. However, that too is just an excuse. 

It seems to be that we are lacking a sense of urgency. A sense of “redeem the time” as the Bible states. A lack of a sense of adventure which prevents us, anchors us, to what we think is safe, secure, and comfortable but often seriously is not. However, we don’t know that, so we hang on to the comfortable thinking we are safe. And, hang on today thinking there are endless tomorrows still to come in our lives. 

But, as believers, we were born again into a new life as a new creature. And within this new life we are given is a radical nature that craves adventure and does not want to settle for what is. In fact, if that sense of adventure is ignored and we settle for being safe we become seriously self-centered, selfish, and, worse still, boring. And, I think that most Christians are boring. Have you listen to what they talk about? Right, themselves.

So, I made a decision. I would “do it now.” I would make the changes. I would step out in faith and begin a new phase of my life and my ministry. I would move forward regardless of my fear of failure. I would start regardless of having to trade security for the unknown. And, yes, I needed to move forward in spite of the fear of being overextended financially. Then there is the fear of what others will say or think. Wow! So many fears to simply ignore so as to move forward and do it now. 

What about you? Are you waiting for something or holding on to something that is preventing you from just “doing it now?”

Is It The Right Time?

Over a decade ago I heard a prophetic word from a recognized international prophet that I was to write a book. I was busy pastoring and church planting. So, I put the word to one side and thought that I would do it later, probably much later. Several years after that the same prophet was back in the network of churches I relate to and prophetically spoke a number of things over my life – including that I was to write books. That’s ‘book’ but plural. My reaction? I went up to him and said, “What do you mean books?” I don’t have the time to write even one book – the one you first prophesied over me. Now you are saying ’books’.” I was not happy. 

Did I start writing? No! I was busy ministering. Then a few years later as I was flying home from overseas the Lord spoke to me at 36,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. He said that writing a book or books was not taking time away from my ministry. Writing books was part of my ministry and He would make the time for it to happen. I made the decision right then to begin preparations to write books. The desire to write was released. I decided to write the books.

Did it happen? Not yet. You see, often we miss God’s best for us because we think “it is not the right time to begin.”

John Maxwell tells the story about his childhood. His father’s favourite riddle to them went like this: Five frogs were sitting on a long. Four decided to jump off. How many are left? John goes on to say, the first time his father asked him that, he answered “one.” His father responded, no, there were still five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing!

So, I had decided but that is not the same as actually doing it. I just kept thinking, “It is just not the right time. I am so busy…”

Then I read this the other day. “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.” Oh, how true! At least in my life.

So, now is the right time to start growing and developing in this new field of work and ministry. I have done more than decide. I am now intentionally doing.

Maybe you have something you know you need to do or should be doing. And, the pressure is building. But, you are still making excuses including suggesting that it is not the right time to begin. Well, it is time to stop procrastinating and move forward in your life. Now is the time to accept the next challenge and start growing even if you feel that you are not ready. Don’t wait until tomorrow. 

Author and professor Leo Buscaglia asserted, “Life lived for tomorrow will always be a day away from being realized.” The reality is that you will never get much done unless you go ahead and do it before you are ready. If you are not already intentionally growing, you need to get started today. If you don’t, you may reach some goals, which you can celebrate, but you will eventually plateau. Once you start growing intentionally, you can keep growing and keep asking, “What’s next.”

It is always the right time to be intentional about accepting the next challenge and growing into it as you move forward in faith.

A Sense Of Direction

Do you have a sense of direction? Any person who wants to grow as a person but doesn’t know himself will fail to accomplish any growth as a person. To grow you must know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your interests and opportunities. You must be able to gauge not only where you’re been, but also where you are now. Otherwise you cannot set a course for where you want to go, And, of course, every time you want to learn something, you must be able to take the new thing you’ve learned today and build upon what you learned yesterday to keep growing. That’s the only way to gain traction and keep improving yourself.

To reach you potential, you must know where you want to go and where you currently are. Without both of those pieces of information, you’re liable to get lost. Knowing yourself is like reading “You Are Here” on a map when you want to find you way to a destination.

I have observed that there’re really only three kinds of people when it comes to having direction and thus purpose in life.

1> People who do not know what they would like to do

These people are often CONFUSED. They lack a strong sense of purpose. They don’t possess a sense of direction for their lives. If they are growing, they are unfocused about it. They dabble. They drift. They can’t reach their potential because they have no idea what to shoot for; what direction to go in.

2> People who know what they would like to do but don’t do it

These people are usually FRUSTRATED. Every day they experience the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Sometimes they aren’t doing what they want because they worry that it will cause them to neglect other responsibilities, such as providing for their family. Sometimes they aren’t willing to pay the price to learn, grow, and move closer to where they want to be. Other times fear prevents them from changing course to pursue their passion. No matter what the reason, they, too, miss their potential.

3> People who know what they would like to do and do it

The third kind of people know themselves, possess a strong sense of passion, are focused on purpose, grow in areas that help them move closer to their purpose, and do what they were created to do. The word that best describes them is FULFILLED.

Most people fall into the first category. They don’t know what they want to do. I believe the main reason is that they don’t know themselves as well as they should, and thus remain unfocused in their growth – if they grow personally at all. 

Knowing yourself isn’t necessarily an easy thing for everyone to do. What makes finding themselves and growing to their potential difficult for some people is that it can be a bit of catch 22. You have to know who you are to grow to your potential. But you have to grow in order to know who you are. So what’s the solution? Explore yourself as you explore growth.

The way to start is to pay attention to your passions. In my life my passion is to teach and mentor young men, raising them up into the calling that God has on their lives and releasing them to accomplish their purpose in the Kingdom. This involves four areas represented by the word REAL: relationships, equipping, attitude, and leadership. My passion led to my growth. But then my growth led to my passion as I discovered my love for and ability to mentor the next generation of apostles and prophets. That continues to be a major focus of my life and ministry even today after 40 years. 

So, self-awareness is the key to growing, changing, finding one’s passion and purpose, and then moving from where you are to where you should be and need to be to live fulfilled and on purpose.  

Paying The Price

I have had a number of prophetic words over my life that I need to write books. I like writing. I enjoy working with words. I think deeply and often. I would enjoy the challenge of researching and writing a book or two or three. I wouldn’t do it for money. I would simply post them as ebooks and give them away. And, of course, pay to have them translated into Russian as in most of the countries where I work, Russian is the predominate language. 

So, what is stopping me? Several of those prophetic words are now over a decade old. And, I am getting older. So, what is stopping me? Well, there is a price to pay and I have wrestled with the price that is required to be paid often over the past decade. I will need to spend more time in my study researching, reading, and writing. I enjoy doing all of those. But, that means less time travelling and ministering. This will also mean less income being earned as I travel and minister for a living.

I have never written a book before although I have written 30 different training manuals over the years and a number of conference or seminar manuals. But, writing a book or books is a little different and much more involved. However, I believe I am up to the challenge. So, I have made the decision jump in and dedicate a good portion of each week to the task at hand thus fulfilling the prophetic words and that part of my divine destiny. 

I recently came across a piece called “Dream Big.” It’s full of encouraging words but also captures what it takes to follow your dreams and fulfill your prophetic words.

If there were ever a time to dare

To make a difference, 

To embark on something worth doing,

It is now.

Not for any grand cause, necessarily – 

But for something that tugs at your heart,

Something that’s your aspiration,

Something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make your days here count.

Have fun.

Dig deep.

Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy,

There will be good days.

There will be bad days.

There will be times when you want to turn around,

Pack it up, and call it quits.

Those times tell you that you are pushing yourself,

That you are not afraid to learn by trying.

                                           Author and source unknown

Taking the steps necessary to live your dreams and fulfill the prophetic words spoken over you thus doing what you want to do will cost you. You will have to work hard. You will have to make sacrifices. You will have to keep learning and growing and changing. 

Are you willing to pay the price?

I certainly hope you are. But know this: Most people aren’t. 

Life Is Not a Dress Rehearsal

I am amazed that some people live life as if it is a trial run, a dress rehearsal for a second go at it. I am not talking about reincarnation or recycling life. I am talking about the fact that believers are not taking responsibility for their life – who they are, how they live, and who they are becoming. They live life as if this is a trial run and they get to do a do-over later on. Not true. 

There is no warm-up for life, no dress rehearsal, yet that’s the way many people seem to be treating it. Each of us goes on life’s stage cold, with no preparation, and we have to figure it out as we go along. That can be messy. We fail. We make mistakes. But we still need to give it our best from the very start.

Regret over not being proactive enough is a common theme among people looking back on their lives. In his book “Aspire,” Kevin Hall tells about a trip he made with a group of Boy Scouts and his desire to inspire them to set bold goals for themselves. He did that by telling them about a study of retired successful executives conducted by Gerald Bell, a noted behavioural scientist. Hall writes,

I told them what those seventy-year-old executives answered when Dr. Bell asked them what they would do differently if they could live their lives over again.

Their response, an answer that ranked far ahead of any others, was this: I should have taken charge of my life and set goals earlier. Life isn’t practice, it’s the real thing.

I shared the rest of the survey answers with the scouts:

            • I would have taken better care of my health
            • I would have managed my money better
            • I would have spent more time with my family
            • I would have spend more time on personal development
            • I would have had more fun
            • I would have planned my career better
            • I would have given more back

We don’t get a rehearsal for life. We have to do the best we can in the moment. But we can learn from others who have gone before us, people like the executives that Bell studies. They should inspire us to plan as best we can and then give our all. 

Comedian Fred Allen once said, “You only live once. But if you work it right, once is enough.”

Few People Want to Stretch

I have observed that most people do not want to change or to grow. They often talk a good talk but the walk is missing. They know what they should do to improve their family, their job, their financial situation, their level of satisfaction and fulfillment. But, they simply don’t do it. And, you can offer them an amazing amount of good advice based on your own life experiences and your education and knowledge and nothing changes. As a result they simply keep going around and around the same mountain all of their lives never conquering the issue or the situation. They simply never grow up and talk responsibility as an adult to grow and mature, to change, to reach their potential, to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for their life. 

Most people use only a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential.  There is no motivation to grow in their lives, little to no desire to stretch and become a better person and build a better life. Sadly, a third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and 42 percent of college graduated similarly never read a book after college. And publisher David Godine claims that only 32 percent of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore. I don’t know if people are aware of the gap between where they are and where they could be, but relatively few seem to be reading books to try and close it. 

To many people are willing to settle for average in life. Is that bad? Read the description written by Edmund Gaudet, and then you decide:

      • “Average” is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more successful.
      • “Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?
      • “Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.
      • Being “average”is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.
      • Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest for God’s investment in you.
      • Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.
      • To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.
      • To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average – here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only ‘average’.”

I cannot stand the idea of settling for average, can you? Nobody admires average. The best organizations don’t pay for average. Mediocrity is not worth shooting for. As novelist Arnold Bennet said, The real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort, who never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature.” 

We must be aware of the gap that stands between us and our potential, and let the tension of that gap motivate us to keep striving to become better. 

Stretching As a Lifestyle

Too many people are dead but just haven’t made it official yet. I read that comment a few days ago in a great book that I just finished. And, as I read the comment I said, “Amen, so true” and thought of a number of young and middle aged people for whom this would apply.

I am in my early seventies and I am still reading two books a week. As I read I take notes, file material, and apply the truths and insights that I am gaining through reading. I must admit that every once in a while (about every three months) one of those two books a week ends up being a good detective novel. I read to stretch my understanding about life. I read to learn and to grow. I read to discover new truths or see old truths in new ways. I read because inside me there is a serious hunger to learn, to grow, to change, and to mature. 

If you think of a rubber band … wow! There are so many uses for a rubber band in every day life. But the one thing every possible use for a rubber band has in common is that they are stretched. Rubber bands are only useful when they are stretched! That can also be said of each one of us. So, I am a perpetual learner always hungering for new insights and understanding; new ideas and perspective; new thoughts and insights. Always stretching.

When we stop stretching, I believe we stop really living. We may keep on breathing. Our vital life signs may be working. But we are dead on the inside and dead to our greatest possibilities. James White observed, “Nature has everywhere written her protest against idleness; everything which ceases to struggle, which remains inactive, rapidly deteriorates. It is the struggle towards an ideals, the constant effort to get higher and further, which develops manhood and character.”

I’m getting older. And, I am noticing that I am not as fast nor as sharp as I once was. But, I intend to keep reading, asking questions, talking to interesting people, working hard, and exposing myself to new experiences until I die. Too many people are dead but just haven’t made it official yet! A Rabbi once said, “If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for? I refuse to give up growing. 

Now, it is not easy to find time to learn, develop, grow and mature. In fact, I don’t “find” time to do it. I “make” time. I schedule it into my calendar as an appointment with myself. I intentionally find a time each day to retreat from the active lifestyle I live to read and study, to think and write. That means less of my favourite music. It means only one hour of television an evening. That means less company and fewer people contacts in a day. It also means fighting to keep that time and not give it away to a worthy cause. It is my time to invest in me as a person and as a minister of the Gospel. 

I am planning to keep on stretching until I am all stretched out. How about you?

Social Issues and Jesus

I believe that I am fairly in touch with the social issues of the day. I work with people who are on the frontlines of drug addiction and alcoholism. I work with people who were prostitutes both male and female. I see the violence that is involved in many marriages – not just physical but emotional and verbal; and not just the men abusing the women but also women abusing men. Social issues are many. Some are as old as the Bible and some are relatively new. 

I am currently reading a book called “Beautiful Boy” written by a journalist who is telling the true story of his son and the family as the son slowly defends into serious drug addiction. I am reading it to become more familiar with what happens in and to the family of an addict as they watch a loved one decent into serious addiction sometimes ending in death. The house church I belong to is about to watch “Stopping Traffic” a real life story about sex trafficking of young children and young adult. A current form of slavery. We have a person who is involved in ministering to this group of people and we all want to know more so we can pray and even help end this epidemic.

Have you noticed that Jesus never spoke about social issues current in His day. In the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus there was rampant homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, unwanted children were taken to the fields to be left to die, slavery (the backbone of the labour force for the Empire), women were not treated with respect or dignity, prostitution (male and female), and on the list of social ills could go. In spite of all this Jesus never spoke about these issues nor did He directly address them in His teachings and in His discipling of the leaders of the Church – the early apostles.

Jesus simply treated people with dignity and respect. He introduced people to the Kingdom of God through His teachings and the miracles that He did among the people. He spoke of God the Father and how deeply and unconditionally He loves them. He spoke about being born again and having a relationship with the Living God, the Creator. 

When people become part of His Kingdom through being born again the issues of the day, society’s problems, can be addressed and changed. These issues we face are really issues of the heart. So, Jesus aimed at the heart. Change the heart you change the attitude and motives, values and beliefs of the people. Then society’s issues can be addressed and changed. 

The Church today is often so preoccupied with addressing the external problems that we forget the real root of these problems. So, we come across negative as we oppose so many things. People don’t see the love of Jesus. They see the judgment, condemnation, and rejection of those who do not believe as they do. Thus they see the Church as narrow-minded and of little relevance to the world in which we live. 

And, because our focus is addressing the issues we forget or neglect to speak about the Gospel of the Kingdom which is the power of God unto salvation. And, we run programs in the hope of interesting those who are not part of the Church to join us. And, we wonder why the born again Church is not growing and has, in many places, a seriously negative reputation. 

It is time to address the heart issue that causes the societal issues we get so upset about. It is time to focus on the Gospel releasing people from spiritual bondage. Shine the light in the darkness and stop yelling at the darkness. 

We have the answer but we need to earn the right to be heard and taken seriously.

“The Lord Said!”

“The Lord said…” Really, did He actually say that? I hear so many people tell me what the Lord has spoken to them. And, I honestly would like to say “Really, did He actually say that?” Well, to be more honest, I would like to say “You have got to be kidding. You actually believe the Lord said that to you?”

Let me make a bold statement. Christians listen for the Lord to speak in their soul. Their soul is their mind, will, and emotions. So, they usually hear what they want to hear. They hear what they think the Lord should be saying. They receive ‘permission’ to do what they were planning to do but now can do it with ‘God’s blessing.’ At least, that is what they honestly think. 

Believers need to stop using the Lord and “the Lord said” to back up what they believe and what they are wanting and planning to do. The majority of the time it is not the Lord. In the long run the results of “the Lord said” proves it was not the Lord at all – just your own mind, will, and emotions. At some point I would like to go back to these people and say, “So, how is that working out for you?” But, I don’t. 

Here is my take on this. Believers have something they want to do or become involved in. They think and pray about it. Then, they ‘hear God say’ that it is okay. You know, good plan; go there; do that, go for it (whatever ‘it’ is).” And, then they announce (key word) that the Lord said and off they go. When they announce “the Lord said” they are not looking for clarification or any input. Why would they? After all, the Lord told them to do this. So, it is an announcement of a completed event, decision, plan. 

Listen carefully. That is not how it works. If the Lord really says something it needs to be run past mature believers with whom you have a decent, open, and honest relationship. You know, an accountability partner or two. You run it past them and ask if this seems to them like the Lord is speaking. Is it what He would, at this time in the church and in the Kingdom, be speaking to you? Is it the right time in your life to be moving forward with what the Lord said? The right time relationally, financially, maturity wise? Is what the Lord saying biblical because, of course, if it is not then the voice is not the Lord speaking? He does not contradict His Word. And, what do your family members think about what you believe the Lord is speaking?

Here is a hint … you hear God in your spirit not in your head. God is Spirit (John 4) and the Holy Spirit lives in your born again spirit. So, when the Father wants to speak to you He speaks to / through the Holy Spirit who lives in your spirit. He does not speak to your soul as it is still in process and on a journey to becoming transformed and submitted to His will. Not there yet. 

So, you listen and hear His voice in your spirit and then it makes its way to your head. Your spirit hears God’s voice perfectly. The message is received 100% right and complete. But, on the way through your will and emotions into your mind only a detail or two gets through. And, often even those details get a little mixed up. So, you then need to learn how to release what you have received in your spirit into your mind so that you actually understand the whole substance of what God revealed to you. That process is material for a future blog. 

If you are not dealing with emotional issues like unforgiveness, greed, resentment, anger, bitterness, offences then these things in your soul will distort what the Lord has spoken and you will miss the message entirely. God might have said white but you hear black. So, the soul need to be kept clean … your mind needs to be transformed by the Word of God; your will must be submitted to God’s will and His plan for your life; your emotions must be yielded to the Holy Spirit and brought into line with Scripture. 

Too often we move fast forward on what we believe the Lord spoke when really it was simply our will speaking, our emotions working overtime, or our mind thinking ahead without knowing or understanding the Lord’s thoughts – which, by the way, are much different and higher than our thoughts.

Just a few things to consider before the next time you are wanting to say, “The Lord said.”

Character Is Foundational

Just this week I spent time on the phone with another apostle and then a conference call with two apostles regarding a person in ministry who needs to step down from all leadership responsibilities. 

This is a man whom we have worked with and supported over a number of years. We have encouraged him to make changes in his character and even offered help in some areas to enable him to do so. Areas such as finances and family. However, he has not taken the necessary action to improve and change. So, he is being asked to step down and focus on the issues that are needing attention.

So often in ministry we look at gifting and anointing. We determine the person’s call and begin to move them in the direction of fulfilling their call. We disciple, train, equip, and even mentor those who have a definite call upon their life to enter the fivefold ministry. However, more foundational than giftings, skills, knowledge, anointing, and calling is character. It is foundational to everything. Not just for leaders but for all believers.

Character involves a number of things … Let’s list them for a quick understanding of some of the elements of a person’s life that we might look at when determining and working with a person’s character.

      • Family – How are they doing with their family members? Do they love and respect this person?
      • Finances – Is this person a good manager of their money, paying their bills on time, living within their means, and tithing as well as giving to the work of the ministry?
      • Friends – Who are they relating to as friends? as “Bad company corrupts good morals”
      • Fun – What does this person do for fun and how do they spend their spare time?
      • Fruit – Do they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
      • Fruitfulness – Are they influencing people and seeing people come into the Kingdom?
      • Faith – What are they believing God for – standing in faith regarding?
      • Faithfulness – Are they regular in their devotional life, church attendance, and ministry obligations?

As we work with people, see how they relate to and treat other people, and come to know them and their family better, we begin to see the character of the person. This character is the foundation for any and all ministry. Without it established and in place, functioning correctly, the person will not be successful in their ministry and in influencing others for the Kingdom. And, the Lord as well as the Church will, once again, be seen in a negative light in society and among non-believers. They do notice, by the way.

So, the most loving thing we can do is remove a person who, after a season of failing to develop and change these basic character issues – even when offered and given support and help – is to have them step down from all ministry. This frees them to focus on and work with these basic elements of their character. 

Of course, this action of removing someone from a leadership position may not appear to be a loving decision. Be that as it may, the removal is needed because the person has not cooperated nor responded to the help and direction being offered to them. They apparently are not teachable. They are not interested in being mentored. The leaders, in this case three apostles, have walked the extra mile or two with this person and spoken the truth in love many times. It is now time to move forward and release this person so they can decide what it is they really want to do and how committed they are to doing it. 

Character is foundational. God has called his children, not just His leaders, to be Christ-like in all of their behaviour and interaction with others. Our heavenly Father is desiring that we represent Him well amongst those who do not believe.