As I look around my desk this morning I see some interesting things that remind me of the goodness of God and the focus I need to have each day. There is a stack of one dollar chips from a handful of casinos in Las Vegas that remind me to be a risk taker and go all in every day. There’s a piece of communications wire that tells me to unplug each day and spend time with God. And, there’s a small wooden box that contains a list of some of the first words of knowledge and miracles I saw, along with a few feathers that appeared in our house. And it makes me think about the importance of testimonies. It is so important to share what God is doing. Even the things that seem so small to you might be a really big deal to someone else. This is why we try to grab a quick video when a miracle happens. It’s not about showing off what we can do; it’s about showing off what God has done. Testimonies are markers in our lives that clearly indicate an encounter with God that shifted things into a new direction. They are reminders of what God has done, and an encouragement of what he will do for others. Miracles are happening more often than most people realize but I feel like we aren’t doing a great job, outside of this relatively small community of supernatural believers, to spread the word. I want to challenge everyone today, if you see a testimony on social media, don’t just like it, share it. And if God has performed a miracle through you or in you, share that with as many people as you can; especially the ones who don’t believe. We can all be a little more proactive at spreading the good news. I have been lacking in this myself and you will definitely see a lot more testimony content from us on the standard social media sites in the near future. Let’s make Jesus even more famous on the earth!
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” – Matt. 6:33
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – Matt. 6:10
Pursuing the kingdom of God is my number one goal. Seeing his kingdom firmly planted on the earth is my number one mission. Nothing comes close to my desire to experience more of his kingdom, to encounter him in new ways, to not only pursue him, but to grab hold of the one I pursue and never let go. Nothing, no title, no position, no stature, will ever sway me from this goal. I want to see the principles of his kingdom released everywhere I go. I want the people I encounter to have an encounter with the King of the universe. People need this encounter. So many are hurting, so many are confused, so many are desperate for truth but they don’t know where to look. They want a greater kingdom and a greater reality, but so many of them haven’t quite realized where to focus their pursuits. We can point them in the right direction. But it all starts with our personal pursuit.
This hasn’t always been my number one goal, but when I realized what I had been missing, and how much more was available, it shifted me into this pursuit and I am determined to never let my focus shift in a different direction. I never could have imagined where it was going to take me and the experiences I was going to have, and I wouldn’t change any of it. The more I pursue his kingdom, the more I encounter his goodness, and the more I have that can be given away to others every day. Some people look at me like I am crazy. That used to bother me, but I have learned that they only think I am crazy because they haven’t encountered the King the way that I have. If we want to see the world changed, if we wane earth to look like heaven, we have to passionately pursue his kingdom and his righteousness. Then, we can give the world the encounter that they need.
There’s something about hunger that attracts the presence of God. He is attracted to our desire for more of him, he is drawn to the spiritual hunger that is within us. God can certainly encounter anyone at anytime regardless of whether or not they are pursuing him, Saul is a good example of that. But, when we get hungry for more of him and start to pursue the relationship as something that is the most important thing to us, it shifts something in the spirit realm and causes the attention of the Creator of the universe to be focused on us. I wasn’t always hungry for more but, when I became hungry, God started to show up in new ways. If you heard the everyday conversations that happen in our house you would probably think we are crazy. There is a constant flurry of spiritual activity in our house. I feel Holy Spirit hovering over the bed when I wake up, I feel the angels moving through the kitchen when I am making coffee, and throughout the day the presence of God seems to fill whatever room we are in. None of this happened before the hunger. None of this occurred before the pursuit. Jesus said that we need to love God with everything we have; our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s a relationship like no other and it requires our devotion and pursuit like no other. And the payoff is amazing. There is simply nothing like hanging out with God. If you aren’t hungry, get hungry. Ask God for a hunger for him that will never be satisfied. And if you are already hungry, get even hungrier. We can never have enough of him. Stay hungry, my friends.
We recently taught on the baptism in Holy Spirit to a group of very hungry people who are pursuing more of what God has for them. It was a fun session to teach and it was very encouraging to hear the testimonies of people being given the gift of tongues as well as receiving words of knowledge for the first time. It’s always exciting to see others equipped to do the work for which God has placed them on this earth. And it’s even more exciting to see people step out in faith and partner with what Holy Spirit wants to do. Praying in tongues is not a topic most mainstream churches tackle today but it is an important one for every believer. Our prayer language is such a unique gift because, when compared to the other gifts of the Spirit, it is the one most often used for ourselves.
I love praying in tongues. I love being able to pray in the will of God even though I have no idea what I am saying or what I am praying for. I love it because the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:4 and Jude 1:20 that praying in tongues builds us up. It builds up our spirit, essentially making it stronger so that we will more easily be able to live a life by the spirit instead of by the flesh. I want to share a strategy with you that Holy Spirit once gave to me. Praying in tongues will make you an overcomer and is the best strategy to defeat anything you struggle with. No matter what the struggle is, praying in tongues on a regular basis will strengthen your spirit to the point that the struggle is broken. Praying in tongues is like the ultimate secret weapon against the enemy’s tactics. When our spirit is strong, it is able to flex its muscles against anything that comes against us.
Praying in tongues is a powerful gift given to us by Holy Spirit that helps us in more ways than we probably know. If you have not yet received the gift of speaking in tongues, take a moment right now and ask Holy Spirit to give it to you. He loves to give away gifts and doesn’t hold back any good thing from us. And if you already have the gift, I want to encourage you to use it more often. Pray in tongues for at least an hour throughout each day and you will start to see a difference in your walk with God. It will take you to a whole new level!
Jesus tells us in Matt 5:48 that we should be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect. That’s a tall order and from a purely human perspective I have to think, is that even possible? Can we really live a life of perfection? Can we go through life without making mistakes or committing any sin? I tend to think that if Jesus said something, it must be possible. That might seem like an over simplification of faith but I really believe every direction or command that Jesus gave is something we can do. He wouldn’t have told us to do it if it wasn’t possible. He said “heal the sick” so we go out and heal the sick. And here he says “be perfect” so our reaction should be to live that out.
So, of course our first thoughts immediately go to sin. How can we live in perfection in light of sin? Can we go through a full day without sinning? How about a week? A month? Or even longer? I have heard preachers teach messages about grace and they usually say something about how they are not perfect and that they sin all the time. They are trying to make all of us feel better about our own mistakes, and that’s a valiant effort, but maybe we need to shift our perspective to what Jesus actually said.
Romans 6 paints this amazing picture of how, as Christians, we are no longer slaves to sin. Sin no longer has any authority over us because of what Jesus did for us. Verse 10 in the message version is my favorite one in this chapter, it says that “sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word.” I love this perspective. If we see ourselves fully submitted to Jesus, then we should see ourselves as slaves to righteousness. That would mean that sin is no longer our master which makes perfection a possibility.
This goes back to something I said in my last post. We sin because we don’t believe what God said about us. If we really believed that we were free from sin, we wouldn’t ever make another mistake. The other side of the coin is that we can’t get wrapped up in a performance mindset and beat ourselves up every time we do make a mistake.
Now, here’s my theological thought for the week that may border on heresy…or not. Perhaps the reason Jesus was 100% effective in healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, restoring lives, etc. is because he walked in 100% perfection. Every miracle Jesus performed was as a man anointed by Holy Spirit. We are also anointed by Holy Spirit and have access to everything Jesus has access to. Maybe if we really believe what God said about us we would see a lot more happen through us. I haven’t thought this part fully through yet, it’s a little raw, but there may be something to it.
I spoke to a man this past week who had been so sick for several days that he hadn’t been able to successfully eat anything. I prayed for him then declared that he would be able to eat on that day and that the sickness was gone. His response was this: “God willing.” So, I told him about how it is always God’s will to heal and that there is no reason why God would want anyone to be sick. We talked about how some people believe God will put sickness on someone to teach them something and how that idea makes no sense. Why would God ever want to make someone sick? He wants us to live in perfect health! He agreed with me and a few minutes later he was eating some granola bars without any problems. I don’t know why we let this type of theology into our teaching. I have heard several great teachers talk about how we often let our experiences determine our theology. That’s not a wise way to live our lives. Our beliefs should not be driven by our experiences they should be determined by what God said. If God said it, it has to be true, and anything in conflict with what God said must be wrong. I think the reason we don’t see some of the things we want to see is because we don’t fully believe what God has said. I don’t say that lightly. There is so much I haven’t seen that I want to see. This reminds me of the verse in Luke 17:5 where the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith. It’s a great request that we all should make. Increase our faith, Lord, so that we can fulfill every task for which you created us.
Ministry is easy, relationships are tough. I enjoy ministry. I enjoy ministering to people. I enjoy using the spiritual gifts God has given to me to bring freedom and healing to those who are hurting and in need. I used to think ministry would be tough because I would hear about pastors being burned out from counseling their congregation members, working on countless number of sermons, and constantly pouring out everything they had for the needs of others. But then I discovered that ministering in cooperation with Holy Spirit makes ministry easy. There is no striving when he is involved. There is no weariness when we allow him to empower the work we are doing. And there is no burn out when it is his energy flowing through us. We can be effective in ministry on our own. But we can only be supernaturally effective with his help. And then there’s the relational aspect of doing life with other people. That part is a little more difficult. We tend to sugarcoat our comments with our friends so we don’t hurt their feelings. And we tend to hold back on our opinions so we don’t inadvertently put a strain on a relationship. I was watching a movie this week and, in one of the scenes, one character was pointing out the other character’s faults and flaws after not saying anything to him about those flaws for many years. It was an impactful part of the story that led to the character making some changes in his life. And it made me think about why we tend to reserve our opinions until someone comes to a point where they need to be “set straight” and then we let them have it. That doesn’t feel very healthy to me. We need good relationships in life. We need people who have permission to speak into our lives, reveal our blind spots, and show us where corrections need to be made. There are lots of verses in the Bible about bringing correction to a fellow believer; Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1, 2 Tim. 3:16-16 are a few that come to mind. This is an important part of our walk with Christ. It’s easy to just minister and not pursue relationship with others because they we don’t have to ever be told about our own character flaws. But that would be very unhealthy. As you start out this new year, find someone you can trust enough to let them speak into your life in this way. You will be better for it. I know I will be intentionally reaching out to a few more people and giving them this explicit permission myself. Happy New Year!
A lot of Christians will try to read the entire Bible this coming year and it’s a noble undertaking for all of us to pursue learning more about our King and his Kingdom. I love reading the Bible. I love sitting and absorbing God’s word any chance I can get. But my favorite thing is to sit and meditate on the same passage of scripture until it gets really deep inside of me. I believe that we will become what we meditate on, good or bad, and I want to fill my mind with as much wisdom as I can so that I can be used in even greater ways by God. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 199:15, and Philippians 4:8 are some of my favorite verses on meditation because they speak of the value of meditating on scripture and give us guarantees of what will happen when we do. For the last few years I have adopted a different method of an annual Bible reading plan. I have a tendency to get stuck on one chapter or just a few verses and spend several weeks soaking up its goodness. That tends to ruin my Bible reading plans so now I take the first month of the year to skim through the entire Bible instead and then I spend the rest of the year meditating on different passages the Holy Spirit highlights to me. It’s not the best method for a new Christian but if you have already read through the Bible a few times and are looking for a different method of study to dig a little deeper, meditation is the way to go. Try it for yourself, pick a passage and stick with it for a few weeks. Read it, ponder it, ask Holy Spirit to reveal something new to you about it, and watch what unfolds.
I had the opportunity a few days ago to bless a friend with a nice birthday dinner. I listened as he told me the story of his life, how he has lived on the streets since his teenage years; more than 40 years in total. He recounted the pain of being unloved and unwanted by his parents, the sadness of the death of his wife, the pain numbing effects of drug use, and the many stories of being mistreated by churches. It broke my heart to hear about the tough life he has endured and the continuing pain that he endures every day. I pray for him often and I wonder why we haven’t seen any major breakthroughs for his needs. When the server came with a birthday dessert and sang happy birthday to him, tears began to fill his eyes. I could tell it has been a long time since someone has taken the time to treat him like an equal and I could see how touched he was even though he quickly kept himself from crying.
We all come across broken people every day. Some are homeless, some are sitting in the office cubicle next to us. It’s easy to walk past them, especially when they are seen as societies outcasts. It’s easy to think that helping them or simply saying hello isn’t our problem. But what if we looked at it from a different perspective? What if we viewed it as an opportunity instead of a problem? It’s an opportunity to love and bless someone who has forgotten what love looks like; or maybe has never felt loved. As I left that evening I found myself asking God what the solution was for my friend. There has to be an answer, there has to be a breakthrough available for him. And I won’t stop praying until I see it.
Heidi Baker is famous for her admonition to “stop for the one.” We our surrounded by broken people who need to feel loved. When is the last time you sat with someone who is completely broken? Maybe today is a good day to start.
I have this rule. I don’t question any action or word from my sovereign King. If he wants to do something, and I know it is him, I don’t try to stop it and I don’t get in his way. He is the King of the universe, after all. He has the right to do whatever he wants to do. But, sometimes we don’t recognize his actions because we expect him to move in a very defined way. We create this theological viewpoint that says God can’t do anything outside the framework of what we are used to, what we have previously experienced, or what we read about in the Bible. That may seem theologically sound on the surface, but it is actually a flawed viewpoint because it assumes that the fullness of God has already been revealed and that he won’t ever do anything new or different. I look at this differently. I view God as a supernatural being who has complete authority over the earth and whose actions, personality, and sovereignty can never be fully captured in one book, or even in a library full of books. Even John, when speaking about the miracles of Jesus in John 21:25 tells us that all the books in the world could not contain all the things Jesus did in his few short years of ministry. So why would we expect a supernatural God to never do anything different than what we have already read about or seen for ourselves?
I lived in Japan for several years and I watched as people would walk up to idols made of wood and stone; they would pray to these idols, light incense, and leave offerings. It confused me. I knew these idols had no power to help them and I knew that the demons hanging around behind these idols also had no desire to help them. And yet, they would come in religious fashion to pray to something that couldn’t offer them any help. I don’t want to serve a God like that. I don’t want to serve a helpless God or one limited to the same actions a human being can take. I want a God who is supernatural. One who is almighty, all powerful, and can move heaven and earth if that is what is required to help me. Who, in all of the universe, when given a choice between a powerless idol and a powerful God would willingly choose the former? So, when I think about God encountering the people he created, I expect those encounters to be supernatural. I expect things to happen that seem a little weird to us. This is why stories of feathers falling out of thin air, gold dust appearing on people’s hands, faces, or clothing, and spontaneous laughter don’t phase me.
I get it, this can be theologically and spiritually disastrous if we just allow anything to happen in a church service. But it is equally disastrous to shut down everything that we don’t understand. This is where the gift of discernment (1 Cor. 12:10) comes in. We have to be able to discern between what God is doing, what the enemy is doing, and what some random person is doing. But we also have to recognize that we serve a supernatural God. We should expect him to act in a supernatural way. And, more importantly, we should invite him to come and do whatever he wants to do.