Climb Little Bear

I saw a video on Facebook recently where a mama bear and bear cub were trying to scale a steep snow-covered mountain slope.  The mama bear with her big claws seemed to reach the summit just fine, but the baby bear struggled.  Time and time again he would make progress only to slide right back down the mountain and once nearly off the slope face. Amazingly, the little bear became more resolute and energized instead of defeated with each attempt until he reached the top to join his mother. Like the little bear, the ultimate key to success in every area of life is developing guts and grit in the midst of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The video reminded me of the story in the Bible where a man came to his friend in the middle of the night seeking provision for a friend who stopped by on a journey. The man refused saying his children were already in bed and the door was locked.  The Scripture indicates that the man would eventually rise and help, not because of friendship, but because of the man’s “importunity” (Luke 11:5-8, KJV). This word, rarely used in today’s world, actually combines three concepts, including boldness (confidence to do and say what is right), shamelessness (not ashamed to ask and keep asking no matter how it looks to others), and persistence (steadfastness despite difficulty or delay) to show believers how to approach God in prayer.

The highest form of faith is to keep believing when everything tells you it will never happen. This type of perseverance qualifies us for the eventual breakthrough and victory. The Scripture clearly shows a connection between persistence and obtaining what is promised (Hebrews 10:35-36). Those who sow will also reap if they faint not (Galatians 6:7-9). It’s hard to miss the lessons of people like Job and Joseph who simply refused to quit and refused to turn on the Lord. Job received the double for his trouble and Joseph went from the pit via persecution and prison to the palace. There’s no telling where you can go if you will just choose to hang in there. All the really great triumphs in life are going to come through this type of endurance.

So how do you develop importunity or that bold and shameless persistence? First, Keep your eyes on the promise instead of the circumstance, the date on a calendar, the time on the clock, or the amount in your checking account. Second, keep your emotions under control because they will try to control the situation and you. Always remember that your emotions are given by God to experience life, not to run your life. Third, Keep your righteousness mentality remembering that he gave you the gift of righteousness and that consciousness of right standing with God will always make you bold and courageous. Finally, keep plugging away. Keep doing what you are doing. Be faithful, diligent, and consistent, and like the baby bear, you will find yourself standing on top of the summit.  Keep climbing little bear! Keep climbing!

The Ananias Anointing

The Scripture indicates that in the middle of his High Priest sanctioned rampage against the early Church, Saul of Tarsus had a supernatural encounter with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9).  Falling down from the overwhelming force of God’s glory, Saul exclaimed, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul, now blind and infirmed, was taken into the city of Damascus to receive care.

The Lord then came to a man named Ananias in a vision and commanded him to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him that he might be healed and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Despite the threats Saul had made and his notorious track record of persecuting, arresting, and even affirming the execution of Christians, Ananias, whose name means “to be gracious and to show favor,” honored the call of God and went to Saul because the Lord had great plans for Saul of Tarsus. Jesus called him his chosen instrument to preach to the gentiles and to their kings.

The Ananias type of believer, or the Ananias anointing, is desperately needed in the day we live.  Like Ananias with Saul, they help to restore to God what was previously lost, allow God to use them to bring healing to those that are afflicted, help God’s people get filled with the Holy Spirit, and help raise people up for God’s service and glory. We need more individuals in the body of Christ who, like Ananias, will be dispensers of God’s grace and favor, refusing to pay attention to the anti-supernaturalist and cessationist who deny the present day ministry of the Holy Spirit.

How can you become an Ananias in this critical hour in Church history? First, you must yourself be born again and filled with the Spirit. You cannot impart what you do not possess. Second, you must be tuned in to the realm of the spirit so that you can pick up on the signals of the Holy Spirit’s direction.  Notice Ananias was told to go specifically to the house of Judas in Damascus on Straight Street where he would find a praying Saul who had a vision Ananias would come to him. Third, you must be fearless in the face of the ominous threat and intimidation so prevalent in the world today against Christians.  It’s not that Ananias didn’t feel afraid. He simply refused to be ruled by that emotion. Fourth, you must be obedient and simply go.  It’s amazing how often Jesus uses that simple command.  Finally, you must be deliberate to carry out the details of your assignment, including the who, the what, and the where.

When Ananias placed his hands on Saul he was filled with the Holy Spirit, healed of his blindness, received water baptism, and began to eat and regain his strength. The Lord is in need of bold believers just like Ananias to share the resurrected Jesus with the lost, confused, religious, bound up, and hurting of our world.  He has sovereignly chosen to use people to lead people to salvation, Spirit baptism, deliverance, and healing.  Ask the Lord Jesus to send you, and don’t be surprised when he says, “Go!”

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

The Charlie Browniest

In the Charles Schultz classic 1965 animated CBS Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown, being his usual pessimistic self can’t seem to find the spirit of the season. Linus very astutely points out to him, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” Like Charlie Brown, many people walk around despondent and hopeless during what is supposed to be a season of hope and restoration for all. For too many people, Christmas has become a time of stress, pressure, painful reflection, and depression. In fact, the depression and suicide rates climb sharply during the Christmas season. Leave it to the devil to drive people to hopeless self-destructive behavior when the rest of the world is celebrating the coming of the Lord and the uncovering of the good news!

People were not created to live without Bible hope. Bible hope, unlike the wishful thinking the world tries to pass for hope, is literally a spiritual force which means Bible hope causes amazing things to happen in our lives. Bible hope is a blueprint for our faith. It is our horizon for life that gives us a clear picture for the future. It is an inner mage of an eager expectation whereby we live life with our necks outstretched looking and longing for the breakthrough rather than for the other shoe to drop. Bible hope is said to be the anchor for our souls or the force that anchors the mind, will, and emotions on the truth of God’s Word so that we are steady and stable no matter what storm is brewing around us. Without Bible hope we are easily tossed to and fro based on the circumstances we find ourselves in at the time. In other words, true hope as the Bible describes is an indispensable gift and necessity in the life of every believer.

Proverbs 13:12 says that, “hope deferred makes the heart-sick.” This means that when our hopes in life are delayed or destroyed, the heart or the spirit or core of the man is made sick or afflicted. This “spirit of Charlie Brown” or hopelessness is at the root of so many of the negative consequences in the lives of people (even believers) like depression, suicide, apathy, lack of ambition, lack of self-respect, and even addiction. It is a terrible thing to watch a dream delayed or fade away, but the condition of heart sickness and hopelessness need not be permanent or terminal.

Our hopelessness may be related to a single issue or about life in general but we can get the hope back and get the Charlie Brown out of our lives by applying some powerful Bible principles. First, stop putting your hope in the wrong things like the government, the economy, relationships, employers, etc. or you will be chronically disappointed. Psalm 42:5 encourages us to put our hope in God. Second, wait daily on the Lord. In keeping with Isaiah 40:31, as we wait upon the Lord our hope and strength is renewed and restored. In fact, we cannot absence ourselves from the presence of God and expect to live a hope-filled life. Third, always stay in love with all people because strife, bitterness, and unforgiveness have a way of draining the hope right out of our hearts. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love always hopes. Fourth, keep your focus squarely on Jesus because he is the very source of our hope (Ephesians 2:12-13). Fifth, call to mind God’s faithfulness in your life. Think about all the times He has come through and trust him because the mercies of God are limitless and new every morning (Lamentations 3:18-22). Finally, build your hope on the Word of God. The written Word of God is an inexhaustible source of hope for the believer. If we are feasting on the Word regularly, our hope level will stay strong. There is no question that our expectation rises and falls in life based on the time we have been investing in reading, studying, memorizing, and applying the Word of God to our lives.

Decide today that you are not going to walk around this Christmas season like Charlie Brown. Make up your mind that when people see you coming they are going to be excited to see you because you exude life, hope, and the joy of a person that has a burning inner image of expectation in your life. Charlie Brown takes people down but the hope-filled believer lifts others up. It’s time for Charlie Brown to move out of our hearts and welcome the hope of God back in.

Burnout Prevention

I recently came across this backhanded and satirical approach to preventing burnout in your life and ministry by Christian leader Scott Crouchenour (say that name five names real fast). His article is called, “How to Burnout in 5 Easy Steps.” I will share some interactive thoughts underneath the following article:

Staying strong is overrated. All this talk about avoiding the wall? Hooey. You were born to burnout. You were meant for serving weak. Want a quick way to burnout in ministry leadership? Here are 5 easy steps:

Seek Unforgiveness. Someone hurt you lately? Cool. Here’s what you do: Hold a grudge. That’s right. Don’t give in to the temptation to be the weaker one. Keep steady. Better yet, give them the silent treatment. Yeah! It will teach them a lesson and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Pursue Passionlessness. Ask yourself this question: “What ministry fuels my passion?” Got your answer? Good. Now do something (anything) that is the opposite of your answer. Do the thing that is a total drag for you. Give it your all. Seek the boredom. Revel in the difficulty. It will annoy those around you and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Engage In Prayerlessness. Got prayer concerns? Want to touch the heart of God? Want to seek and sense His will for your life? Forget it. You’re looking to burnout, right? Good. Then cut ALL prayer from your routine. Don’t pray in the morning. Don’t pray when you’re stressed or sad. And don’t pray when things are going well. Think of the time you’ll save.  It will grieve the Holy Spirit and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Be An Impostor. Are you introverted by nature? Be extroverted. Are you methodical? Be spontaneous. Are you a people person? Then be a recluse. You have to understand that being yourself is simply going to keep you from burning out. So don’t be yourself. Better yet, try to be just like someone else. It will irritate your loved ones and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

Over-identify. In your work with others, you will feel their pain. This is good. Dwell on it. Identify it so deeply that you begin to feel responsible for it. This will give you ownership of their pain, as though you were the cause. You will sink in the quicksand of their misery. You won’t be able to help them because you’ll be so depressed yourself. This will help others become co-dependent and you’ll be well on your way to burning out.

So you see, if you are interested in burning out, it’s quite simple really. Just follow these 5 easy steps and we’ll see you in rehab!

In response to this thought provoking article, let me encourage you to (1) Be quick to forgive. Remember that holding on to bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die; (2) Focus on what you are passionate about. While it is true that we all have to do things that do not thrill us, for the most part you should be focusing on those areas that energize you and are life-giving; (3) It’s time to seek the face of God like never before. Burnout is accelerated when there is no living contact because time in God’s presence is the number one vital need for the believer. How long can we live without oxygen? We won’t live long without God’s breath in our lives as well; (4) Reject any influence to be anything you are not. Throughout history, God has used all types of personalities to do great exploits in His name. Focus on walking in love, compassion, integrity, and authenticity. As one theologian has said, “preaching is truth through personality.” Work on the weaknesses of your personality but allow the Lord to use the unique person that you have become; and (5) Remember that you are not the savior and you are not to take responsibility or ownership for the poor choices of people or the pain they experience in life. We are called to bind up the wounds and help heal hurting hearts but we cannot if we become codependent in the relationship or the enabler.

Exit Stage Right (how to skip the drama in your life)

“Why do you let your emotions take over, lashing out and spitting fire?” (Job 15:12, MES). ”A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones” (Matthew 13:21, MES). ”A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them” (Proverbs 29:11, GW).

Human beings are very interesting and complex beings. We are spirit beings made in the image of God and we possess a soul (the mind, will, and emotions) and live in a body (our earth suit while on this planet). The Lord made us to be emotional beings but He never intended for those emotions to dominate, control, and direct the paths of his people. We are to express emotions without those emotions pushing us around in life.

Many believers, though born again, live very emotional lives and lives driven by how they feel from moment to moment or from situation to situation. From the Word of God we can see that we are to be anchored and guided through our relationship with Jesus Christ and his Word. Allowing ourselves to be controlled by our emotions rather than the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is what I mean by “drama.”

At the end of the day, living our lives at the mercy of drama is a waste of potential and our lives. Drama is unproductive (produces no results), it reveals unbelief, it postpones our answer and breakthrough, it drains our energy, it wastes our time, it taints our decisions, and it influences others adversely. When the twelve spies returned after spying out the land of Canaan, drama, not faith was most evident and spread like wildfire through the camp of the people of God. Despite the exhortation and faith of Joshua and Caleb, the people gave themselves over to drama and missed God’s best. When drama is operating in our lives (like the ten spies), we find fear, excuses, unbelief, bad reports, weeping, grumbling, questioning God, negativity, backsliding, rebellion, and anger.

If you see these tendencies in your own life it’s time to recognize the influence of drama in your life and the probability that you are living a very emotion-based lifestyle. Allow the Lord to minister to you the reality of His Word in every situation of life and listen closely for his still small voice. Go ahead and “feel” things but don’t allow those feelings to push you off the path of God for your life or to continue in that cycle of poor decisions. Every part of the human being was created with a purpose and for good but we must not allow the purposes of these different dimensions to get confused. The hands, for example are for touching, holding, working but not for walking. Similarly, the emotions are not designed for leading but for human expression, empathy, and connecting with a hurting world all around us. It’s the job of the human spirit enlightened by the Holy Spirit to discern the will of God and yield to it accordingly.

I want to encourage you to read the story of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5 and consider the following principles for skipping the drama in your life:

  1. Ignore what you see and hear (vv. 35-36). In every challenge in life we have the opportunity to focus on the circumstances or choose to focus on what God has said. Jesus after hearing the death report ignored what they said and told Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (v. 36).Unfortunately, this is where we are undone most of the time. The force of what we perceive in the natural becomes more real to us than the reality of the Word of God.
  2. Curb the emotion (vv. 37-40). It’s one thing to experience emotions. It’s another thing altogether to be moved by them. It’s hard to stand in faith with all the commotion, the wailing, and the crying, but faith will immediately move to separate the emotion from the Word. When Jesus was informed of the death of his friend Lazarus in John 11 we know he empathized and even wept. The difference is that he did not let the emotions control him: “Jesus seeing her weeping aloud, and the Jews in like manner weeping – Jesus curbing the strong emotion of his spirit…” (John 11:33, Weymouth).
  3. Declare the Word (vv. 41-42). If we practice drama in our lives we will keep in on the ready and become very good at it. We become skilled in what we practice. If we practice our faith we will begin to produce results. Instead of focusing on the emotional intensity of the situation, Jesus boldly said, “I say to you, get up!” (v. 41). Faith responds with the spoken Word of God and not drama. We must learn to conform our emotions and the drama in life to Christ rather than conforming the Lord to our drama: “We use our powerful God tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure and life shaped by Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, MES).


Skip the Drama – Part 1

“Why do you let your emotions take over, lashing out and spitting fire?” (Job 15:12, MES). “A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones” (Matthew 13:21, MES). “A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them” (Proverbs 29:11, GW).

The Scriptures are very clear. Being a Christian does not somehow inoculate one from trouble, challenges, and setbacks. We are promised a remedy, help, support, and restoration when we do find ourselves up to our ears in difficulty. John 16:33 says, “in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I [Jesus] have overcome the world.” Mark 4:17 reminds us, “when (not if) trouble or persecution comes because of the word.” Psalm 46:1 exhorts, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The trouble often leads us to reacting emotionally in a direction that contradicts the sound counsel of the Word of God.

There are two common responses to trouble and challenges in life: (1) drama – the expression of anxiety, turmoil, doubt, fear, anger, or unbelief through the emotions or, (2) rest – the peace of God that is the consequence of the release of the force of faith from the spirit. Hebrews 4:3 teaches us that we are to labor to enter into that rest through faith.

Drama can include breaking out into tears, pity, whining, complaining, anger, threats, bargaining with God, depression or the putting forth of fleeces before the Lord. James 1:19-21 reminds us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because our anger (or drama) does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Some would say, “why it’s not natural to go through trouble, hardship, and challenges without the drama.” Right, and we are not natural people, we are supernatural, born again, new creations in Christ Jesus!

We need to remember when we’re tempted to yield to an emotional meltdown that drama is not anointed to deliver, heal, provide, or produce. In fact, drama often pushes you right out of the will of God. Emotions become dangerous and a liability when we let them dictate our path or when we begin to believe that drama will actually bring any constructive solution.

Think about some examples from the Bible. If Cain had skipped the drama he never would have slain his brother. If Abraham had skipped the drama he would have waited for Isaac and prevented the impact of Ishmael that is with us to this day. If Moses had skipped the drama he would have entered the promised land. If David had skipped the drama he would have kept his pants on. If Judas had skipped the drama he would not be snorting sulfur right now. Let’s face it. We are emotional beings but the Lord never intended for us to run our lives through the impulses of the emotions but through the peace of the born again spirit.

In today’s article I want to list some consequences of drama:

1.  Drama is unproductive (yields no results).

2.  Drama reveals and indicates unbelief.

3.  Drama postpones the breakthrough in our lives.

4.  Drama drains our energy.

5.  Drama wastes time.

6.  Drama taints and skews our decisions.

7.  Drama influences others negatively.

Be watching the blog for more on “skipping the drama.” I will be discussing how to stop the drama in your life. Remember, there’s something on you – it’s the blessing!