Is there any hope for Lance Armstrong?

933378-lance-armstrongI, along with millions of others have followed Lance Armstrong’s career quite closely through his books, video footage and media reports. I have always admired his focus, ‘fightin’ spirit, dogged determination and commitment to hard work. His contribution both on and off the road has been remarkable. His brand has become iconic. His results, unbelievable. In short I was and still am a huge fan.

I have also been watching closely the events of recent months and days, particularly his candid interview with Oprah. As I watched, I sat there devastated for him, his family, his brand and his cause. I don’t personally feel let down as much as I feel for what he and many people close to him are going through right now. Like his cancer diagnosis, I guess it could feel like you are passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

We live in a world that is very harsh and schizophrenic. One minute they worship you like a ‘god’ and the next minute they want to stone you to death. As quickly as the world embraces a winner, they even more quickly outcast a ‘liar’ found out. Yet, in the midst of the chaos that surrounds Lance, his family and his career, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7). If you’re reading this and feel justified in your anger towards Lance, your missing a fundamental point. While you are pointing your finger of judgement at Lance, you’ve got several fingers pointing right back at you.

Romans 3:23-24 says, “For, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Everyone of us is broken and every one of us needs to repent of something. Apart from Jesus, the brokenness of the human condition is without hope. But because of Jesus and the cross, Lance Armstrong and everyone else on the planet can live with hope in the love and grace that is available to us through a relationship with God.

The difference between Lance and you is that you don’t have your selfishness, brokenness and lies broadcast over every single network across the world in one of the greatest media frenzies the modern world has ever seen. Truth is, one day we will all see what dark sins have been boxed up and hidden away in our own lives. Jesus said in Matthew 10:26 ‘For nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known’. There’s coming a day for all of us where if we don’t repent, what’s been done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. Be sure your sins will find you out.

Be gracious with your comments of fallen heroes because each one of us needs to swallow a dose of humility when we consider our own shortcomings.

From God’s perspective, the most important issue in Lance’s life isn’t the money, winning, brand management or helping people through ‘Livestrong’ (as great as this is) but the condition of his own soul. God loves Lance and from the very beginning has been trying to get his attention regarding his relationship with him. His ex-wife Kristen, a supposedly devout believer has been one of the greatest blessings God has given to Lance and continues to seemingly provide great emotional and spiritual support.

20130117-onc-lance-armstrong-14-318x408Towards the end of the interview, Lance commented that his ex-wife Kristen would say, ‘The truth shall set you free’ quoting a part of Jesus Christ’s famous words from John 8:32. When asked by Oprah at the end of the interview, ‘What is the moral of this story?’ Lance responded with an answer that is still in the process of forming but Oprah responded with her own ‘moral of the story’, ‘The truth shall set you free’.

To be honest I don’t think Oprah really understood the weight of even what she was saying. It isn’t just about being honest with Lance’s past actions of cheating that is the great moral of the story. The moral of the story is that only knowing the truth found in the person of Jesus Christ can truly set Lance and every one of us free from the brokenness of our own lives that drive us to behave and act in ways that are destructive to ourselves and others. 

No matter how talented you are, what dreams you have or how successful you are in your career, nothing will bring freedom or fulfilment like believing in Jesus and walking with him on a daily basis. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No man shall come to the Father except through me.’ Eternal life and present purpose are connected and intersect most poignantly in a personal and living faith in Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus, no true freedom can be found!

Is there hope for Lance Armstrong? You better believe there is. In fact, could it be that he is about to enter into the greatest and most significant chapter of his life, far greater than 7 Tour De France Victories. Why? Because with Jesus Christ there is always hope!

The Oracle!

Spirit-Led or Self-Led?

I’m fascinated with God! I love the fact that my full-time life on planet earth is pre-occupied with my relationship with God. Could there be a better use of time than living each moment in the presence of God? 

One of the privileges God has extended to us is CHOICES! God has given us free will to exercise our power of choice. We can steward this gift or abuse it. The choices we make in life determine how we spend our moments. It seems like there are an infinite number of potential wrong choices to make in life but living with God at the epicentre of your existence empowers you to make choices that promote light instead of darkness. 

Whenever I read Jesus in the Gospels, I’m fascinated by his rhythm of life. I could spend the rest of my life telling you all that he did, and yet, he carried himself and his waking moments with such grace and purpose that who he was really marked what he did. How did he do it?

Jesus was led by the Spirit! Jesus had a relationship with his Father that made all the difference in how he approached his life. He only did three fundamental things that was routine (Synagogue on the Sabbath, early morning prayer and observe Jewish feasts) in his life but everything else was led by the Spirit of God. Jesus didn’t even speak on his own authority. He said, “What I say, I say as the Father has told me.” (Jn 12:50) Every moment was informed by the Father, not as a robotic event but as a fluid movement of synergistic relationship. The Father started the sentence and Jesus would finish the sentence. Jesus would pray the prayer and Father would answer the prayer. There was such love, unity and honour in the God-head that God’s purposes could be fulfilled through Jesus’ words, actions and relationships.

I believe this is the pattern we are to observe in our own lives today. I’ve experienced the benefits of approaching life in this way and I want to encourage you to do the same. If your life feels more self-led than Spirit-led than reflect on how you view your relationship with God. How you view God will determine how you live your life. There is a relationship with God where what’s in Gods heart becomes so intertwined with what’s in your heart that you don’t know where one begins and the other ends. All great relationships function in this way.

The Oracle!

The Calling of a Prophet!

The office of a prophet is a life calling. Most prophets are called at birth or when they are born again (salvation). It is primarily the Lords choosing, not something you seek to become, however if called, you have a responsibility to develop your gift. Some notable prophetic ministries have identified that it can take as long as 14-15 years for a person to develop into a prophet after being called.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men… And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Eph 4:7, 11)

The five fold ministry is outlined in the above passage and the office of the prophet is one of the ministries that God has established for the governmental leadership of the church. To be a prophet is a calling. To minister in prophecy is a gift. When a person ministers in the gift of prophecy, the gift is the ability to prophesy. The words themselves are the gift. When a person is a prophet, they themselves are the gift. A prophet is a gift to the church.

Apart from a foundation of character, there are actually 3 components to any mature and fruitful ministry. These are:

  1. CallingCalling gives identity. Paul was called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (1 Cor 1:1).
  2. GiftingGifting gives ability. ‘As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’ (1 Pet 4:10).
  3. AnointingAnointing gives purpose. It was prophesied of Jesus, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners’ (Is 61:1).

The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable but the anointing of the Lord ebbs and flows according to the relationship we have with the Holy Spirit. The calling on your life describes who you are. The anointing of God provides you with your purpose in life and the gifts that God has given to you becomes the ability in which you accomplish his purposes.

The Oracle!

From Relationship to Revelation!

Your relationship with God will determine your revelation of God. I used to think it was the other way round but walking with God is a journey of progressive revelation. I know more about God today than I did last year and if I prioritize my relationship with him, I will know more about him next year than I do today.

The greater your revelation of God’s nature and character, the greater your level of trust in him. One of the reasons why we struggle at times to live by what he says is because we don’t really trust in who he is. Our hearts, by default, are distrusting of anyone, let alone God. What God does is take us on a journey through life to teach us his character can be trusted.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.’

I love this verse but I also despise it and if you were honest, you do to. Why? Because not one person on the planet I know really wants to not lean on their own understanding. We humans are curious creatures. We want to understand, we want to control the outcome, we want to have our minds wrapped around everything so that we can get a handle on it. But following Jesus is sometimes a paradoxical mystery and the reality is we must be willing to embrace faith in God without fully understanding why it doesn’t always add up on paper.

I’ve found trusting God easier, the more I abide in his presence. God’s presence brings trust because God is trustworthy. Before I make a significant decision in life, I spend a lot of time in his presence. Trust isn’t something I cultivate, It’s already built into God’s nature. God is faith personified, it’s already in his nature to believe. God’s a believer. God never wakes up one morning and says, ‘I’m not sure I created the world as I should have. maybe I should have created it in 9 days with an extra day of rest, then 6 days with the 7th…’ God never second guesses himself or gets anxious. He is pure confidence, faith, trust and belief all wrapped into one because he is God.

The more I abide in him, the more trust becomes my nature and ultimately my lifestyle. What are you feeling anxious about? Don’t be anxious any longer, throw yourself at God and wait on him. As you worship him, pray through your anxieties and wait on him, faith will rise in you and trusting him will become more and more your primary response to what life throws your way.

The Oracle!

Hearing the voice of God!

Jn 10:27 ‘My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.’

Jesus always speaks the truth and he cannot lie because he is truth. If Jesus says, his sheep hear his voice, then this is exactly what will happen. On the other hand, the devil is a liar and tries desperately to convince us that God doesn’t want to speak to us and that hearing God’s voice is too hard cause he is so distant from us. Refuse to accept this lie.

Believe that you can hear the voice of God. Hebrews 11:6 exhorts us to approach God with faith because without faith it’s impossible to please God. We must believe that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Everything in the kingdom of God is received by faith.

God’s people will hear his voice, know his heart and follow his ways in the context of an intimate relationship with Him. We must give ourselves space to make mistakes along the journey of learning to hear the voice of God. I remember when my kids took their first step on the journey of learning to walk. I didn’t get angry at them because they only took 1 step and fell over again. I rejoiced and kept persevering with them, knowing they were going to walk very soon. We can be so hard on ourselves and yet God loves us and perseveres with us and rejoices that we are taking baby steps towards hearing his voice.

It’s important to discern the source of the voice you are listening to. There can only be 3 options: 1) Voice of the Holy Spirit; 2) Voice of the Flesh; 3) Voice of Satan.

Professional bankers detect the counterfeit bills by studying the authentic true bills, not the other way around. I know my wife’s voice very well because I’ve been in her presence for 18 years. Voice recognition increases the longer you spend time with someone. I worked with someone in the Police Force many moons ago who investigated a cop-killer for an entire 2 years, listening to phone taps and hearing his conversations during the day. He said that even though the investigation was years ago, if the cop-killer called up today and talked on the phone, the investigator would recognise his voice in an instant. That’s voice recognition. The best way to discern the truth is to spend time with the truth. You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. Discernment is sharpened by knowing the truth.

Test the Word. After you walk with God for a while, he gives you a witness of his spirit in your heart that is like a knowing in your spirit what the right thing to do is. However, it’s important you test the word. The bible doesn’t say, ‘put the word on the shelf’. It says test the word, otherwise you become defiled by it, if it isn’t from God. Is the word in alignment with the general revelation of Scripture or does it contradict it? Is there a witness of peace about the word and have you sought counsel with some trusted and spiritually mature leaders? Does the light of Christ brighten in your heart as you consider outworking of the word in your life or do you feel oppression and darkness? Important questions to consider.

The presence of God is worth committing to. No other pursuit in life compares to walking with God. Get a place or room where you can spend time with God. Train yourself to walk with God. Invest into your relationship with him. God doesn’t want you to perform for him through legalistic spiritual duties but he does want a deeper relationship with you and for you to have one, you will have to invest into it. Start today by opening up your heart to God, reading his word and being still in his presence.

The Oracle!

God of Paradox!

When one starts walking with God, we quickly learn two things about him.

First, he is utterly consistent in his love and nature toward us. Second, He is completely unpredictable. This paradox, two seemingly conflicting ideas contained in the same truth, is at the core of who God is. God loves to do things unpredictably. Gods unpredictability means we have no security in what God is doing. We can only be secure in who he is. Our mission as Christians is learn how to live in Christ and let that be the bedrock for our life. God will ask each of us, at some point or another, to do things that are outrageous, impossible and unpredictable. Unless we live in the consistent nature of God, we will never step out in faith.

One of the parts of Gods nature we must come to understand is that God is usually silent. This silence doesn’t mean disapproval. In fact, when God is quiet, it is generally an indication that he is happy with us. He doesn’t need to constantly reassure His mature sons and daughters when they are doing well. He just lets us be until we look like we are heading off track. It is incorrect to think that God is continuously revealing his will to us. However, he does carry the responsibility of putting us back on the rails when we slip off. We can trust him to steer us back if we are headed in the wrong direction.

The key element in determining the will of God is always confidence. The Father does what is always right, and he is amazing in his consistency and faithfulness. He always finishes what he starts and we can absolutely trust that he will complete his purpose in us. Holding onto our confidence is a major part of being mentored by the God of paradox. Mentors provide assurance and our personal security is built upon our own understanding of who God is for us. Assurance in God allows us to become like him. As we abide in him, our confidence grows in us to fulfill what God has called us to do.

Insight! 

Count the Cost!

You can’t go up if you don’t give up something that’s holding you back!

1 Timothy 6:6 “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”

Contentment with Godliness is cool because it’s relational. It represents an upgrade in our relationship with the Father and says we are happy with him but still want more of him at the same time. It means we are exploring our future relationship with him while enjoying our current relationship with him. However, contentment outside of this context can lead us into complacency. Complacency is not on Gods agenda for any of us.

An athlete called up to the Olympic team must make decisions about lifestyle, health and fitness that are in agreement with a vision to win the Gold medal. Vision releases freedom but also brings restraint. The same applies to our spiritual lives and life calling. We all must choose to live in a way that is aligned with God’s purpose and permission. in order to generate accomplishments in some areas, i will have to curtail my involvement in areas that are dubious or unhelpful.

Examine your heart today, is your high calling in God matched by a high commitment or a low commitment? If it’s low, then evaluate everything and begin to change . you only have one life and it’s not a dress rehearsal. We are on stage now and the curtain is up. Your relationships might change, your study habits, your time with God, your conversations and how you use your income might have to all change to match the high calling God has given you.

When you launch out in the beginning of your journey, you may count the cost initially but never really understand the actual cost involved. As we journey we pay the price in installments, which makes it bearable. Every time we pay the next portion, we receive the next measure of God’s allowance to us and we continue to grow up in Christ. It’s only when we are shaken to our very core that we start to discover the hunger to overturn everything contrary to the life God has ordained for us.

Insight!