Pursuing a lifestyle of JOY!

Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Happiness is overrated but JOY is underrated. JOY is beyond happiness. Happiness is circumstantial, JOY is an intentional posture of the heart that the Holy Spirit works into our nature as we abide in him. JOY-filled people are a pleasure to be around. We generally want to hang out with a person genuinely JOY-filled. JOY releases strength into your heart and body. Research has shown the medicinal effect laughter and JOY can bring to a sick person. I’ve heard of a terminally ill patient stopping his treatment in hospital, checking himself into a hotel room and watching comedy after comedy, laughing himself towards wholeness and well being. As a communicator, I’ve observed the power of laughter to open peoples hearts to your subject matter and release tension in the room. Nehemiah says, “The JOY of the Lord is your strength.” JOY releases strength and confidence in your spirit, soul and body for you to live your life to the fullest. There are many tribulations in life that attempt to steal our faith and JOY but we’ve got to guard our JOY and feed it with the life of the Spirit dwelling inside of us. JOY is connected to our faith in God. A heart at rest in God, trusting his goodness and love will be able to access JOY. God is in a consistently good mood and He’s always full of JOY. Run to his presence, drink his cup of JOY and allow it to heal your wounded heart and lift up your crushed spirit. A life saturated with JOY is not only possible but it’s a necessary pursuit of life and is only truly found in the presence of God. Explosive Insights!

Live with Confidence!

images-8All of us at some point lose our confidence. It could be through a hurtful comment, unwarranted criticism, unrealised dreams, disappointing performance or overwhelming circumstances.

Truth is, we don’t have to stay in that place of insecurity and doubt. We can live with confidence in every arena of life regardless of how life may look right now. It comes back to our convictions in God and his Word in our lives.

I find such confidence from knowing that God has spoken into my heart specific things for the details of my life. I can live with a fresh and joyful outlook on life because I know that God is for me and not against me. I can enjoy each day knowing that God has already gone before me and made a way even if I can’t see it nor understand it all.

Confidence comes from knowing God and who you are in Him! Leonard Ravenhill once said, ‘He who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by man.’ How can man or circumstance be intimidating when we come into a deep realisation of who our Father really is.

My prayer for you is that you would know the hope to which God has called you and you would encounter the reality of who God is at the core of your being. Out of that place of revelation you can live with an abundance of humble confidence.

The Oracle!

Don’t esteem the past more than what God does!

past__present__future_by_xnotperfectbutrealx-d3exrqhIsaiah 43:18-19 ‘Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it.’

Too many of us give too much power to our past and not enough power to our present. Past failures and past successes don’t have to dictate your present reality. If you give too much weight to what God did or didn’t do in the past, you’ll miss what he wants to do in the present.

There’s a reason why your rear view mirror is smaller than your front windscreen. Where you are heading is more important than where you’ve been. If you linger too long on where you’ve been, you’ll crash and miss the turn off to the direction God wants you to head in.

An interesting fact to consider is that when you look up into the sky at night at all of the beautiful stars, you are actually looking at the past. You see, most of the stars in the sky have already died and you are simply looking at the afterglow of them. Too often we look at the past with stars in our eyes and miss what God is wanting to do in our lives right now.

As you head into 2013, I want to encourage you to learn from the past, get healing from the past and celebrate the past but honour what God is doing right now in your life.

The Oracle!

100% You!

I had a very engaging conversation with a friend and peer of mine recently who discussed with me the idea of being completely comfortable and secure in your own skin, as being a vital key to impacting ministry. I definitely agree.

I think there is a lot of imitation in ministry because people really don’t know to the core of their being who they are or really what God has called them to accomplish. Whilst we are all under construction and hopefully changing to be more and more like the character of Jesus, the truth is our gift mix and unique personality is largely fixed. We need to embrace completely whom God has created us to be if we are going to be able to minister into other people’s lives with what God has put into our hearts.

I love John the Baptist. He was a voice and not an echo of all the other voices around him. He wore camels hair, a leather belt and ate locusts and wild honey and yet didn’t flinch or miss a beat. He had his own unique fashion, diet and message, repent for the messiah is coming. Even when his own team tried to pressure him to do something because Jesus’ ministry was blowing up, he didn’t let it change who he was. He responded with, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase but I must decrease.’ (Jn 3:28-30)

What incredible security and confidence John had in the Father’s purpose and call on his life. We must come to the same point in our relationship with God too. Security is a relational thing, not a situational thing. Too many of us measure ourselves by our image, reputation and circumstance. Jesus made himself of no reputation. Paul could care less what he even thought of himself, let alone what other people thought of him. God wants us to get so caught up in our relationship with Him that we lose the need to prove anything other than live in the love, grace and call of God made freely available to us.

It’s time to be 100% YOU. That doesn’t mean you excuse yourself from growing and if necessary repenting but it means you get real comfortable with who you are and the skin you’re in. You’ve got to live with you, you may as well be at peace about it and even celebrate it. If you don’t enjoy being you, no one else is going to be you.

The Oracle! 

Do You Struggle With Sin?

Does anyone out there still struggle with sin?

We don’t like to see our human brokenness through the lens of sin but it is apart of our fallen humanity and it’s helpful to clarify what sin is, if we’re going to overcome it. Sin (hamartia) is defined as missing the mark or more specifically, to fail to live according to God’s intention and design. Because we have failed to live according to God’s original intention and design we are easily misled by the environment around us as well as our own hearts. We are also weakened by our flesh that delights in compromise and we actively resist the wisdom and truth that alone can set us free. In short, we can’t save ourselves, we need Jesus!

Our rebellion against God has caused a spiritual canyon between us and God that only God’s Son is able to remedy. As a result, apart from Christ, our lives epitomize the reflection of a broken mirror, that needs God’s Spirit, truth and community to heal.

There are 2 basic marks of sinfulness that every human has to grapple with:

  1. Immaturity – Demonstrated by a failure to take responsibility for your actions or situation in life and characterized by impulsive behaviour based upon how one feels.
  2. Insecurity – Underlying insecurity is FEAR. Fear of not being valuable or significant in your own eyes or the eyes of the world around you. Insecurity causes oneself to compare themselves to others and it results in coveting and jealousy of what someone else has.
None of us are born into this world fully mature or completely secure, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. We have to experience a process of growth in all aspects of our humanity. Unfortunately, you can be fully mature physically and yet be immature spiritually and emotionally, if you haven’t responded to God’s work in your life. Maturity and security are byproducts of a healthy relationship with God, one’s self and others.
When we find that we miss the mark (and all of us do in some way and often), it’s not going to help to simply give up on yourself or on life but God gives us the grace and power to get up again and grow closer to the mark of maturity and security in Christ. All of us have missed the mark and fallen short of God’s intention and design for us but nothing in our past, present or future is a good enough excuse to give up on God’s love, grace and power to help us grow into the people he’s called us to be.
Grace!

Connect your Vision to your Diary!

I define vision to be a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future (as per my Vision book 2006). I think it’s also more than that but we have to define it in some way.

I was speaking to Steve Addison last week and he feels that the word ‘vision’ has been over-used and that it doesn’t mean a whole lot  anymore. He prefers to use the word ‘Need’ and suggests that when God gets a hold of a leader, he re-defines their character with his character and opens their eyes to a particular need and gives that leader energy and ideas to resolve the need. Not bad at all, I like!

Whether you call it a need, or a big cause or the big idea, I don’t care. What I care about is that you connect your big vision to your daily schedule = Diary! If you don’t, you’ll be like me sometimes and get totally frustrated with feelings of not accomplishing what God put me here on the planet to do. Can you identify with this?

When I have felt frustrated for longer than a few days, I ask myself, why? Invariably, it generally comes down to a disconnection between the great cause God’s put in my heart and my own daily schedule. It’s really simple, if you want to see your vision come to pass and avoid feeling like you are wasting your time, then you need to know what jump starts your heart and you need to actively schedule the right activities in your diary around the big idea.

One of the best bits of advice from all the books on time management I’ve read is simply this, “Organize and Execute around your priorities”.

When I feel frustrated with vision output vs time spent I return to the prayer closet and ask God to speak to me about what he has called me to do and what his vision for my life’s work is. When I do this, he always, always, always says the same things but the whole process distills life into its rawest and simplest form. I’ve found that after 2-4 weeks of living post this encounter, life gets complicated in the minutia and demands and expectations of others. I have a real problem with people approval and I have OCD expectations of myself. This makes for an intense feeling of drivenness that I like when sanctified but I hate when not. We are to love people but worship God, not people. We are to love results but worship God, not results.

Your diary should reflect the vision you are seeking to fulfill. If it doesn’t, your kidding yourself. The big rock activities of your week should be spent on the big rocks of your vision. My vision for Activate Church is:

  • Disciple thousands of people
  • Transform the community we are apart of
  • Plant churches across the globe
  • Produce resources to help people grow in their ministry

While there are things I do that don’t fit into anyone of these big rock categories, If I don’t get intentional about aligning my diary with these goals, I get frustrated and my family feels like they’re living with a bear who has a sore head. You get the idea? Make it work.

Grace!

God’s Goal isn’t your Happiness!

I recently did a video interview with Dr Allan Meyer (CEO Careforce Life Keys) and I asked him a question about some of the critical issues facing the western church at the present time. In his excellent response, he reflected on the current focus of many Christians and much preaching being the goal of an individuals personal happiness, rather than following Jesus Christ.

As I have reflected on this many times in my own preaching ministry, I think about Jesus’ words in John 10:10 “The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it in all of its’ fulness.” Unfortunately, some of us have wrongly mis-interpreted this verse through our western context and concluded that God’s goal for us is our happiness, which surely must mean, health, wealth and prosperity… Ah, NOT!

As I read the Scriptures, I don’t find the emphasis of my personal comfort being consistent with the biblical account of Jesus’ life or the Apostle Paul’s life or any of the other apostle’s life, for that matter, as is recorded in the New Testament. Money, success and well-being are all gifts from God and should be stewarded accordingly but God’s goal for me isn’t the obtaining of these things, alone. Me becoming more and more like him is his goal and this can be accomplished through a variety of circumstances and dare I say it, is often accomplished rather well through suffering.

The joy of the Lord is my strength but God’s joy is available whatever I am facing or going through, not just when things are going my way. As preachers, our goal should be to be faithful to the text and expose what the text is simply declaring in the most compelling way possible, not to proselytize people to a mirage of false hope.  As pastors, our goal should be to lead people into Christ-likeness and a biblically based worldview that equips them to grow in spiritual maturity and gospel grace, not to encourage growth in spiritual immaturity.

Churches that promise happiness and bliss to their congregation alone, if they follow Jesus and perform for him are setting people up for massive disillusionment. Following Jesus in the real world does fill me with joy but sometimes I do face circumstances that are quite the opposite of happy. When a close family member of mine attempted suicide in 2001, I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for as a budding athlete, I didn’t feel warm, happy fuzzies. When I get criticized and ostracized by others for my faith in Jesus and commitment to my calling, I don’t necessarily feel happy but my joy in Christ remains intact.

What’s your goal in life? If happiness is your goal, then you will live a misdirected and self-pre-occupied life but if God’s goal of Christ-likeness and knowing him is your goal then you will live life on purpose. Refuse to settle for anything less.

Grace! (Video Interview will be uploaded very soon)