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My mother would often admonish me to pause in my busy moments to “smell the roses.” She knew the petals of the rose, like a moment missed, will soon fall to the ground. Continue reading
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Remaining average however, is a safe choice, but it is the most dangerous choice we can make. Average protects us from the risk of failure, and it also separates us from futures of greatness.
How does one break free from the gravitational pull of average and soar into the high places of one’s life calling? Continue reading
My mind became very busy after I awoke this morning. I reached recklessly for my cell phone on the table next to the bed and touched the screen to light up the time. “5:05 AM Sunday, August 4, 2013” Once I noticed the time, I felt committed to begin my day. Prior to looking at the time however, I had already been processing for a while somewhere inside my sleepy self.
It is interesting how the waking moments can become a “thin place” of hearing the Voice of God. It is apparent that there is a part of me actually communicating with Him. “A thin place” is an ancient Celtic belief, where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.[i] I have noticed there are specific places like that but none so consistent as when coming out of a REM stage of sleeping where I had been experiencing dreaming.
As I lay there thawing out in the sheets, I waited for my mind to catch up to my spirit, which had already been quite active. It was as if I had my own private movie theatre so I could watch previews of coming attractions. Except none of the upcoming films appealed to me. The images looked negative and none too favorable. Actually, they were the opposite outcome of what I believed God for. But then another thought came to me… this is a test.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”[ii] So, this test is an opportunity for “great joy.” Not just a smile, or warm fuzzy feeling, but “Great” joy. How do I accept this as truth when I don’t know where my family will be living in less than a month and I have no official employment to leverage a deal?
How can I reconcile the facts that exist, to the truths I believed? God has promised in His word that according to the apostle Paul, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.[iii] When we sold our home of seventeen years and left our ministry and careers to pursue our High Call, we stood on the promise Jesus made about leaving houses for His sake.
“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus Himself said that. We seriously could use one of those houses right now, I was thinking to myself.
I was feeling the frustration mounting of not having steady income. After all, I reasoned, I need housing accommodations, I need to pay tuition, we have bills… ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Wait, these are things Jesus said, “Don’t worry about those things… your daddy knows you need them. But seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”
Truth. One of the more challenging times in our journey with God, is learning to be comfortable with mystery. Keeping our faith strong and heart at peace in the “in-between place,” is a crucial discipline to embrace. The in-between place is a place where truth is held in tension, between a need and the fulfillment of a promise.
It is one thing to obey God and live a life of faith, when our most pressing needs are satisfied. It is another thing altogether to live your life of faith according to the revelation you received, but having not received the desired outcome. I feel the swell of doubt trying to exalt itself over the revelation of the goodness of God. My doubt, like a prosecuting attorney, has so much circumstantial evidence to build a case. But to trust God only when a favorable outcome is guaranteed isn’t faith that pleases Him.
My heart rests when I choose to believe He is intentional in His interaction in our lives. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”[iv] So, because I can’t see how a promise will be met, should I “cast away my confidence” and consider Him unfaithful? Isn’t living with mystery what a life of faith is all about?
Just an hour ago, my 14 year old daughter asked me to take her to Target to make an exchange of something she had purchased. Feeling a sense of urgency since she wasn’t empowered by a license to drive herself, she wanted a commitment from me. When I assured her I would drive her there in the afternoon, she let out a deep sigh of relief.
As peace settled her stormy agitation, she skipped out of my room onto her next activity. Her daddy promised her, so she could release the burden of an unresolved issue. She is now living comfortably in the in-between place. She is at peace knowing her daddy promised her, and I have a happy heart because she counted me faithful to my word. Trust like this is the fabric of relationship.
So beyond a trust issue, I also believe when our faith is tested, there is something deeper being worked into our character. We already looked at a verse about endurance, but I also believe a deep hunger also is stirred. Hunger is necessary because hunger assures that we will be faithful to steward the answer once it is birthed. We don’t always do well when our answers come to us easily.
Consider Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet. She was barren and without hope of barring children apart from a miracle. In her desperation, a hunger was birthed in her that helped her fulfill her destiny. She presented the child she had birthed through her pain back to the Lord. When miracles and ministries are birthed through desperation, we tend to treasure them more than if no price had been paid.
Bill Johnson tells a story of a prophecy he received from Mario Murillo twenty years ago. It came to him during the years when Bill felt the frustration of living in the tension of “theory without fruit”. Bill hadn’t seen any miracle of healing in spite of believing for them after praying for many people. Mario referred to the story of Hannah and her closed womb referring to Bill’s present season of desperation.
He said, “God has closed up the realm of the miraculous to you, not as punishment, but to draw you into the desperation needed to maintain it as a lifestyle once you received your breakthrough.” This testimony is inspiring consider the realm of the miraculous that Bill stewards so well in his ministry today. Entire nations are impacted by his obedience to the revelation he embraced and contended for.
So, as I sit here today in my virtual barrenness, I am left to ponder my own motivations for wanting to experience breakthrough in Supernatural Provision. Am I looking for God to come through because I merely need a place for my family in the next month or is there something more? Yes, of course we need the promised provision, but in contending for this “miracle”, I believe we will open up a new realm that we can help other people experience for themselves.
My conclusion to the matter after processing, while enjoying my morning cup of French Roast, is I am right where God wants me. I am responding to an invitation to embrace His realm of the miraculous which includes being comfortable with mystery. Truth needs to be held in tension. Wisdom, and not reasoning apart from God, is the operating system, which allows us to process these tensions.
When we grapple with truths held in tension with wisdom, faith is released in our hearts that positions us to bless the world around us. The testing of our faith produces something glorious. Remember, this is only a test and this kind of test I am reminded, is taken with great joy!
[ii] James 1:2-4 NLT
[iii] Philippians 4:19 NLT
[iv] Romans 8:28 NLT
“How could we ever think the Christian faith would be safe when its central metaphor is an instrument of death? It is not a coincidence that baptism is a water grave depicting death and resurrection.” This observation, written by Erwin McManus in his book, The Barbarian Way, illustrates well the Core Value I’m highlighting in this blog: Risk & Faith~ Fearless Christianity.
Core values are fundamental beliefs that form the foundation of our lives and become the guiding principles for both thinking and behaving. Christianity’s core values when embraced, transform our entire way of life and when lived outward, can release Heaven’s influence to the world around us.
Here are a few worth mentioning: A Value for the Presence of God, Joyful Hope, A Passion for the Word of God, Empowering Grace, Living from the Unseen Realm of Heaven’s Reality, Salvation and saving souls, Family and the Goodness of God. One of the values however, that has impacted my life since I have been on this journey, has been Faith and Risk; living this Christian life without the limitations of fear.
This core value is reflected throughout the history of God recorded in the Bible. From the earliest pages we read of God’s invitation to a reckless, fearless faith. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Hebrews 11:8.
It is even said that the willingness to take risks and living by faith, delights the heart of God so much that He rewards fearless Christianity when He sees it. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
When Abraham had to leave Ur, he wasn’t leaving a desert wasteland. When we don’t understand the beauty and comfort of Ur, we’re stuck in thinking that God is calling Abram to move from one part of the desert to another, maybe one slightly nicer. When God calls Abram to leave his land and go tow
ards Palestine,it’s a pretty big deal. When we find our stories in the pages of His-Story, we can relate and apply principles to our lives. When I knew I had to leave the comfort of my home to venture into an “unknown”, it was helpful to know God often requires risk for those pursuing their High Call.
When Abraham was told to “leave his Father’s house”, he was called forth into his destiny. So how could this apply to us today? Too often family & long time friends see you as you were in your past & in your present. They see you in terms of your history, not your future. They may have difficulty expanding their viewpoint to include your potential & development into new endeavors & capabilities. They may be focused more on your limitations than your potential. If they are threatened by your growth & expansion, and compare themselves, they may become a source of criticism & frustrate your forward momentum. In order to be reshaped and transformed, we often must separate from those familiar with us. Many times, we sink into routines and habits that stunt our growth and quiet the dreams in our heart.
We must often take risks to take our next step of our destiny. We want our lives to writing a good story. And, as Donald Miller puts it, “And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
So what does it mean to be a “Follower of Jesus,” anyway? In my younger days, I mistakenly held to a belief that being a follower was being a weakling or it was for people with “serious issues”. To be a Christian was to be passive and well behaved; neither fit my profile. But Jesus, as John Eldredge suggested, is more like following William Wallace than he is a bearded Mr. Rogers. We aren’t only called to be really nice guys strolling nice neighbors as do-gooders. We are invited to bear the image of God and that includes the “Wild Heart” of God. We are called out into adventure, to take risks and discover the greatness of our hearts and the great call that is upon our lives.
You see, We “were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth” notes Eldredge. The story is told in the book of Isaiah about the fall of the Archangel, Lucifer. Once his ill-fated coup attempt failed, Satan and his minion hordes of demons now roam the earth to thwart the image of God in us, and destroy our hope and potential… in effect, destroy our hearts. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!” Isaiah 14:12
Make no mistake: Christianity is a religion of warfare, or as C. S. Lewis referred to it in Mere Christianity, “a fighting religion.” This of course isn’t to confuse Christianity with Militant Islam, but the point is, faith and risk-taking are a part of the arsenal required to live this life of adventure and obedience.
In an attempt to summarize the need to embrace the core value of Risk and Faith, it is important to note the call of the Founder of Christianity. Jesus, as he prepares to welcome his first recruits to “boot camp”. Hequotes the prophet Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)
Standing up in that synagogue and taking that scroll, he draws a line in the sand: “This is who I am; this is what I came to do.” Jesus is here, and he is in no mood for negotiations. He is here to release prisoners of war! And he has called us into that same battle. The Great Commission is not so much a call to see how many commitment cards we can get signed at a revival, however important that may be. Instead, the Great Commission is a call to make disciples –literally those who do what the Master was doing.
It still seems strange, foreign, and perhaps even somewhat heretical to look at our faith in the context of war. Hasn’t Jesus already won the battle? Besides, what would we have to offer? Quite honestly, my life would be simpler without this whole fighting thing. Further, we certainly don’t want to give the Devil any more glory than he already has.
The reality is that we are in a war, whether we like it or not. In the enormously popular movie The Matrix, Neo, as he is just beginning to recognize the reality of the story behind the story, is given a choice by Morpheus. Either take the blue pill and continue to live in ignorance of what is really happening around you, or take the red pill and enter into the world of the Matrix, the world of fighting for your life. Satan has been feeding us the blue pill for centuries, blinding our eyes to the truth.
The truth is that there is much more going on here than meets the eye. We have been anesthetized and caught up in a spell. It is time to wake up. We are being offered the red pill. We are invited to explore this great deception and reveal our Enemy for who he really is, while we learn to follow our Commander into the heart of this battle.
One last thing worthy to note, in the words of Kris Valloton, “The war has already been won and the only thing that remains is to fight the battles that enforce the victory. The devil has already been defeated. Jesus knocked his teeth out of his mouth. What is he going to do to you, gum you to death?”
So for me, the core values of Risk and Faith are the dynamic duo for living and thriving in Fearless Christianity!