Thursday, January 27, 2011



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer to you a faith-lift by illustrating how several ordinary people were able to live extraordinary lives. We saw the "work of faith" was in Abel-work that emerged from the heart! Next we saw the walk of faith illustrated by the only two men who were ever said to "walk with God"-Enoch and Noah! With Abraham we have the illustration of the "way of faith", because when God called him out of his comfort zone, he obeyed. Then in the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we discovered the "wealth of faith" through being blessed and blessing others. Yesterday we examined the incredible life of Joseph who had all kinds of things go against him. Joseph illustrates the "won't of faith", because he refused to compromise his walk with God no matter the circumstances.

Today we come to the amazing life of Moses: By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned.

The story of Moses is a phenomenal illustration of the process of maturity. By faith he was hidden as a baby. By faith he refused the lifestyle of Egypt to live with the Jews. By faith he led God's people out of Egypt. By faith he kept the Passover. By faith he crossed the Red Sea. Moses did these things by faith in His God.

The way to maturity is breaking through the impasses of life-the frustrations and blockages. A baby must breathe or die. He must eat, crawl, and walk. But each of these is a break-through. As a child learns to overcome frustration, he grows up. When a child is not given enough frustration or is baled out of it, he is spoiled-emotionally crippled.

Moses was prepared for a great and most memorable mission for God. Even to this day it is celebrated as the Passover. Moses was miraculously spared and placed in the palace of the Pharaoh for 40 years, where he was highly educated in the things of royalty. Then, after killing an Egyptian who was hassling one of his Jewish brothers, Moses fled to the desert, where he learned the principles of herding and caring for sheep and the ways of survival in the wilderness. Then at 80 years of age he was ready-prepared by God-to fulfill his mission to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Moses illustrates the "will of faith". Moses discovered that the will of faith in the midst of frustration is the way to maturity. The will to do what is necessary in order to do the things you've been called to do, can be found in the life of Moses. There are four observations here that lead to practical application of the will of faith.

#1-FOCUS ON YOUR BURNING BUSH. Moses' burning bush experience is when God spoke to him to give him direction. God is continually speaking to you through His "burning bush" today-His living and written word. Jesus is the living word and He is also the living expression of the written word. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the spoken word of God"-the life and teachings of Jesus. The written word speaks of Jesus and Jesus speaks to you, when you seek Him with all your heart and listen for His direction. Focus on it by listening and learning and living it! The action step is to REPROGRAM YOUR MIND around Jesus!

#2-FACE YOUR BLOCKAGES. When God spoke to Moses and called him through the burning bush, he responded with several excuses-"I can't speak very well!" or "The people of Israel will not follow!" or "What will make the Pharaoh acknowledge what I have to say?" So when God speaks to you and calls you to a certain calling, what's your excuse? What are your blockages? The action step here is to REMOVE THEM the best you can!

#3-FIND YOUR BOOSTERS. Moses' best booster was Aaron. Without his support Moses couldn't have accomplished all that he did or matured to one of the most significant leaders ever. You need your friends and family as your own personal boosters-your support team. They become your inner security system. The action step here is to REACH OUT TO YOUR BOOSTERS!

#4-FOLLOW THE BASICS. Moses followed the Lord simply and basically, step by step, one day at a time. He stayed with the basics. On your way to maturity you must follow the basics. The action step here is to REMIND YOURSELF TO KEEP DOING THE BASICS!

Follow the life of Moses and you will find the will of faith. The will of faith is the willingness to be content with God's preparation in your life no matter how long it takes and then a willingness to do what He calls you to do no matter how impossible it seems. God wants to do great things in this world and He has chosen to do great things through those who have the will of faith to participate.

Are you willing to do great things with God as your partner? God has great things for us. Unfortunately, much of the time we're like the caterpillar that watches a butterfly fly by and says to himself, "You'll never get me up in one of those things", when God had exactly that in mind all along! The will of faith. Think it over!



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer to you a faith-lift by illustrating how several ordinary people were able to live extraordinary lives. We saw the "work of faith" was in Abel-work that emerged from the heart! Next we saw the walk of faith illustrated by the only two men who were ever said to "walk with God"-Enoch and Noah! With Abraham we have the illustration of the "way of faith", because when God called him out of his comfort zone, he obeyed. Then in the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we discovered the "wealth of faith" through being blessed and blessing others.

Today, we come to a short verse that sums up a long and faithful life in the character of Joseph. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. Although Joseph's life is not rehearsed here, he lived a life of faith that was nearly without equal.

Joseph was a most incredible man. His life is impeccable! He just didn't seem to blow it at all, but was a faithful follower. This exemplary life was primarily due to his strength in saying "I WON'T!" So, I call his life the "won't of faith".

The first dramatic scene in the life of Joseph was when his jealous brothers left him for dead. When his brothers turned against him and threw him in the pit to die, Joseph said, "I WON'T GIVE UP!" Although very few would criticize him for wanting revenge, Joseph refused this natural urge.

The second dramatic scene in the life of Joseph was after he was able to secure a most powerful job in a wealthy man's estate. He was the COO of Potaphar's house. Note what is said about him: Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.

When his boss's wife tempted him with her body, Joseph said, "I WON'T GIVE IN!" Very few men would have been able to turn down her repeated and intense advances, but Joseph resisted this natural urge. Although he successfully resisted her advances, she accused him of molesting her. This sets up the third dramatic scene in the life of Joseph.

Potaphar believed his wife's claims and had Joseph put in prison. When he was persecuted for doing right in refusing the temptress, Joseph said, "I WON'T GIVE OUT!" Who could blame him for giving out at this point? He was the focal point of gross injustice.

God was with Joseph in the prison in a special way: But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper. Again, Joseph was promoted to the top position in the prison.

The fourth dramatic scene in the life of Joseph was that he was able to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker while they were inmates with him in prison. And for doing this Joseph said: "Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house.

Well, the dreams came true, but the chief cupbearer forgot to say a word to the Pharaoh when he was released from prison. He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh's hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Later, when the Pharaoh was being troubled by dreams, the cupbearer referred the Pharaoh to Joseph. Joseph interpreted his dreams and the Pharaoh decided to reward Joseph in a big way: So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. "You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you." Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt.

In all of these amazing scenes Joseph's example is the "won't of faith"! When your family and friends turn against you, when temptation strikes to trip you up and pull you away, when you find yourself persecuted for doing right, there is a "won't of faith"-a refusal to compromise your walk and relationship with the Lord.

Well, it turns out that God just kept rewarding and elevating Joseph to higher positions and responsibilities, because God had a bigger mission for him to do. Joseph was positioned in Egypt by God to preserve his family and the godly line in the nation of Israel during a most devastating famine.

When his brothers, who had left him for dead in a pit, came to Egypt for grain, they had to face their brother, Joseph, in order to save their lives. When they found out that their brother was alive, they were so ashamed. Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants." But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

When you're in the midst of a great refusal for God's sake, He is setting you up for a strategic mission and you will enjoy His blessings! When you are in the place God has established for you, you are now ready to serve Him best. When you find yourself in a predicament that has brought you so low that you can only look up, remember God is up to something really good just for you.



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer to you a faith-lift by illustrating how several ordinary people were able to live extraordinary lives. We saw the "work of faith" was in Abel-work that emerged from the heart! Next we saw the walk of faith illustrated by the only two men who were ever said to "walk with God"-Enoch and Noah! Then with Abraham we have the illustration of the "way of faith".

Today we come to the next characters of faith in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews-Isaac, Jacob and Esau. There is a profound experience throughout the generations that we need to embrace today. It's the experience of passing on the blessing from one generation to the next.

Abraham obviously blessed his miracle son of promise-Isaac. And now it is time for Isaac and his son, Jacob, to pass on that same blessing: By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

As the blessing is passed on from generation to generation, it came to be the greatest wealth that could be inherited. This blessing was passed on by faith and received by faith with the understanding that one was to carry on the name of the family. Note what was said when Jacob blessed Joseph: He blessed Joseph, and said,
 "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." (Genesis 48:15-16)

Passing along a blessing is not just an ancient tradition, but is also for us today. I've come to realize that being blessed and blessing others may be the greatest wealth you can give or receive. This is what I call the "wealth of faith".

Note there are two dimensions to this blessing concept. First-Being blessed. A blessing is when you feel special. It's when you feel honored by others, when people are grateful for you, when someone is praying for God's favor to fall upon you and when you are empowered by others who really care who you are and who you are becoming. It's knowing and feeling that you are loved for being you.

The act of blessing involves meaningful touch! A very common vehicle for giving a blessing is the "laying on of hands." Another dimension of giving a blessing is words. A blessing is communicated with our words whether by mouth or in writing. The communication of a blessing has a message declaring high value of the person being blessed. The expression of appreciation or affirmation of another is a way of giving a blessing. Also, included in giving a blessing is a sense of destiny and purpose for your life. When you point out another's uniqueness or move them toward a special future, you are giving a blessing.

The ultimate blessing you could ever receive is the stamp of approval that you are special and you are OK. Only your Creator can give you a stamp of approval, because he made you. However, there are others God has empowered to uniquely place this stamp of approval on people-parents. God has charged parents to the task of stamping each child: APPROVED and SPECIAL!

Although the most natural place for you to receive the blessing is from your parents, unfortunately very little blessing is passed on from generation to generation. All families have a certain degree of dysfunction about them and therefore are unable to give the blessing their children need.

If you didn't receive the blessing you needed from your parents, you are not at a total loss. You can find a blessing in a personal relationship with Jesus. God's blessing of approval and acceptance can be found in the unconditional and sacrificial love of Jesus for you. You can also get your blessing through your relationship with the community of Jesus-through the dynamic relationship of gathering together in the name of Jesus. Remember, it's when two or three gather together in the name of Jesus that Jesus will show up there in their midst. I've experienced so much healing by the touch of Jesus through walking with others. That is truly the wealthy experience of being blessed.

Once you experience being blessed, then the second dimension of blessing can become a reality-Being a blessing. Now, if you can receive a blessing through others from God, then you can also be a channel to release God's blessing to others! Blessing others is not so much you giving your riches to others, but being able to reveal their riches to them-showing them acceptance and unconditional love. It's being a friend who speaks well of them and asks God's favor to fall upon them.

You see, the real wealth of faith is the blessing of God that flows two ways-being blessed and being a blessing. There are two ways you can make this a reality in your life. First-receive the love and acceptance of Jesus for you right now by faith. Count on it! Second-release the love and acceptance of Jesus into the lives of others. The wealth of blessing occurs in exactly this way and in this order. God is blessing you in order for you to bless others. We are told: The God of all comfort comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. So, seek after your blessing from the Lord Jesus and then seek to be a blessing to all He brings your way. Now, that is true wealth!



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer to you a faith-lift by illustrating how several ordinary people were able to live extraordinary lives. We saw the "work of faith" was in Abel-work that emerged from the heart! Next we saw the walk of faith illustrated by the only two men who were ever said to "walk with God"-Enoch and Noah!

Today we will examine the "way of faith". The "way of faith" answers the question, "Which way is up?" and is demonstrated by the life of Abraham. Abraham has the distinction of being called "the friend of God" three times. He is mentioned over 300 times in 20 books of the Bible. Abe experienced three major encounters with God-(1) when he was called (2) when he was out of options and (3) when he was tested.

FIRST-WHEN HE WAS CALLED. Let's look at it: By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Abe lived in a place called Ur-an ancient city of Mesopotamia along the Euphrates River. That would be in modern-day Iraq. God calls him to change his lifestyle. He was called into the desert! God promised him a country, generations of descendants, and a purpose-that he and his people would be a blessing to the world! No doubt he was comfortable there in the city. Any resistance that was there must have been the fear of being lost in the grand scheme of things! Are you serious, God, the desert??? But Abraham obeyed and went out of the comforts of the city into the stressors and difficulties of the desert. He said YES to a Higher Calling! This calling was God's eternal purpose for him. There's no better place to be on earth-nothing more satisfying, more fulfilling, or more safe-than to be following the call of God on your life! Note this is true, even if you are called out of the comfortable city to the desolated desert.

SECOND-WHEN HE WAS OUT OF OPTIONS. Think of the situation here. God has promised him that he will bless the world through him and through his descendants. Well, in order to have descendants, you must have a child and Abraham and Sarah did not. They were childless and were too old to have any children-probably in their 80's. But by faith Sarah and Abraham hung in there, still holding on to the promises of God. This was the primary reason why God called them out of the city of Ur to the desert. In Hebrews 11 it is recorded: And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

THIRD-WHEN HE WAS TESTED. Note what happens here: By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

For you today your calling and testing is the way of faith! It's the only way up! Your calling gives you purpose for going through your testing; your testing gives you proof for your calling! But note that between your calling and testing, it is necessary to practice your faith by waiting on God's next move and for Him to come through. Waiting!

Waiting is so tough! Do you know why? Waiting is actually trusting-believing and expecting God to come through. In waiting there are some things we are NOT waiting on Jesus to do? 1. To do His will. 2. To relate. 3. To be responsible. 4. To do what He would do.

So, what are we waiting on Jesus to do? 1. To show up in my life. 2. To give me an answer-impression, a peace, a desire, a thought. 3. To bring people into my life for restoration. 4. To bring people into my life for walking-fellowship & support.

One of my favorite passages is from the prophet Isaiah. It says: He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:1-31)

When you are called, walk toward Him! When you are tested, watch for Him to come through! When you are out of options, wait on Him!

In Psalm 40:1-3 it says something that kind of sums up the practice of waiting: "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD." Now, that's the way of faith!



As we make our way through this Hall of Faith I want to offer to you a faith-lift by illustrating how several ordinary people were able to live extraordinary lives. We saw the work of faith was in Abel-work that emerged from the heart! Now we come to the walk of faith! "Walk" is a very common word in the Bible. We are urged to walk wisely, uprightly, with integrity, according to His commandments, humbly, worthy, in the light, in the truth, and in Him! To walk is a continuous journey with a destination in mind. Paul used the term "walk" and John used the term "abide" to describe the very same action.

There are only two characters who are said to have walked with God-Enoch and Noah. Enoch was transferred out of this earth to be with the Lord, because he was "pleasing to God." Noah was transported out of the flood, because he "found favor with God."

First check out Enoch: By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: "He could not be found, because God had taken him away." For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The story of Enoch is a brief one. In Genesis 6 it says: Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Even though the biographical sketch is brief, it is powerful. To be only one of two biblical characters that was ever recorded, as one who walked with God is quite remarkable. And then to have the result be to not face death at all, but to be supernaturally taken to be with God is amazing!

Then Noah is the other man that is noted to have walked with God: By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

In the historical record of Noah's life it says: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

There are two primary choices you have with respect to your walk. You can't serve God and the material world at the same time. It must be one or the other. It's either walk with God or walk out of step with God. Two choices!

There are two challenges as you reflect upon how to walk with God! 1. See Him-Consider Him. God is there! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is faithful. See Him through Jesus. It's in Jesus that you find all the fullness of God.

2. Seek Him out-Count on Him. Draw close to Him through personal faith in Him and practical fellowship with other followers.

Remember, there are only two kinds of pain-discipline or regret. Walking with God does require the pain of discipline, so do what you can do to start walking. Walking with God is simply watching what Jesus says and does and say and do the same.

You walk with God; He'll work with you in the midst of your troubles. Or, you don't walk with God; you're totally on your own and going nowhere. You choose!

One more thing here: A faith-walk doesn't require that you have it all together. In fact, you may be experiencing great pain and brokenness right now and wonder how a life of faith might make a difference. Faith is taking all that you know that you are (including your brokenness) and placing it into all that you know that Jesus is. And as you do this, you must leave the results to Him.



We began this series with this sentence: When your life is out of control and your back's against the wall, you need a faith-lift. Well as we continue working on giving you a personal faith-lift, we come to what many have called the Hall of Faith. It's found in one of the earliest writings in the New Testament in the book of Hebrews. In the eleventh chapter the writer of this book illustrates extraordinary faith exercised by simple, ordinary people with unusual results. Each of these illustrations is helpful in lifting your faith. It's ordinary people living extraordinary lives!

Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

So, what is faith? Faith is the promise of God! Faith gives confidence of "things hoped for." Faith gives "conviction of things not seen." It makes things concrete and gives substance to the invisible! Faith gives us a connection with God, because by it we gain approval from God and by it we understand the miracle of creation-"that the universe was formed at God's command." Faith makes the promises of God a reality!

I like how The Message expresses it: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. By faith, we see the world called into existence by God's word, what we see created by what we don't see.

In essence you can say that faith is taking God at His word!

Faith is not only the promise of God; faith is personal! The writer of the Hebrews goes on to speak about Adam and Eve's two sons, Cain and Abel: By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Again, The Message renders it this way: By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That's what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.

These two brothers lived their lives before God differently. Cain was a gardener and Abel was a herdsman. Cain offered sacrifice to God as a ritual-something he was supposed to do. Abel offered sacrifice to God by faith with his first-fruits-something he wanted to do. So, Cain did what he did to get by while Abel's heart priority was for God. Therefore, Cain's offering to God was disapproved and Cain became mad at God and the world, ending in being silenced. Abel's offering was approved and still speaks today. Cain, because of his anger, killed his brother, Abel. And, even though Abel was put to death, he continues to speak today with this principle of heart-generated faith.

There is something else about faith. Faith is powerful! What makes ordinary people live extraordinary lives? I have found three basic ingredients: FIRST-People of faith keep changing their perspective; they see the God who is there! This is a decision of the will-your choice!

SECOND-They keep committing to personal programming-to hear what God says. This is a discipline of the mind.

THIRD-They keep centering the priority of their hearts on God-to know what God wants! This is a desire of the heart! With this decision of your will, the discipline of your mind, and the desire of your heart, your ordinary faith becomes powerful!

You've got two choices and the first one doesn't count! Either, like Cain, you lose God as priority of your heart and leave the presence of God. Then you've got a real problem!

Or, like Abel, you center on God as the priority of your heart and gain God's approval. Then you've got the real power to go through anything. Abel is a supreme illustration of the work of faith. No matter what you offer to God, you must bring it to Him with all of your heart.

So, it's not a ritualistic, religious act of the mind and body, but totally and wholly a relational matter of the heart. Remember, God looks on the heart and man looks on the outward appearance. So, how's your heart?



Most of my adult life I have been practicing therapy-counseling people caught in every problem imaginable. When I first began speaking, it was on the university campus. I was the main speaker for many weekend retreats over a period of 6 or 7 years. The routine was always the same. I usually spoke 5 times during that retreat. On Friday night I always gave the same introductory message that set up the weekend for the other four messages I was slotted to present. Before delivering this message I asked the students and staff to take a 3x5 card and write out the three most important problems they wanted solved this weekend. They wrote them on the card, folded it and turned them in. I then read through the cards that night and prepared the next four messages to meet the needs they had expressed on the cards.

This introductory evening set up a constant stream of students and staff coming up to me to find counsel for whatever issues they were struggling with. Many retreats I was able to get only 4-5 hours sleep each night, because the need seemed so great. I realized through this early experience how people were desperately in need of help. What they were craving was to be able to talk with someone who was safe and who cared.

What I learned was that my counsel primarily consisted of listening to their problems and bringing a different perspective to the predicament. I was basically helping them discover more options to deal with what they thought was an impossible situation.

To be healthy, psychologically and spiritually, it's so important to have options. Those who are unhealthy find themselves running out of options. And, those who choose the route of suicide have run out of options altogether-ending it all seems like the only logical thing to do. Depression lingers in your life, when you feel you are out of hope and out of options-no light at the end of the tunnel!

When you're out of options, you will find yourself scrambling for security and inner satisfaction. When you run out of options, there is one option that is always available and that's what I want to share with you. Just thinking through a few people who ran out of options in biblical history, there are some interesting insights available to us.

In the Old Testament, Daniel certainly found himself out of options, when he was thrown into the lion's den. Jonah was a man faced with two distinct options-obey God's call to fulfill a mission or to disobey-to run alongside God or to run away from God. Well, as you know he made the wrong choice and ran away from God. Then he found himself in the belly of a great fish, marinating in its digestive juices. Now, that was a situation where Jonah was clearly out of options. Both Daniel and Jonah had one option open to them-turn to God. Daniel was persuaded to do this by the lions and Jonah was dramatically motivated into running back to God after running away by his experience in the fish.

In the New Testament, I think of the nobleman who came to Jesus to seek healing for his son. John records the story of the royal official, the nobleman, who had run out of options and believed Jesus possessed the only way for his son to live. Matthew and Mark share the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, living in a ceremonially unclean state for all that time. She had run out of options and fought the crowd, where she was not allowed to be due to her uncleanness, and was determined to get to Jesus, believing He was her only option to be healed.

The story of Jesus apprehending Paul with the bright light on his way to Damascus is an interesting scene. In this case, it isn't that Paul had run out of options. He thought he was on God's mission, persecuting the followers of Jesus. But Jesus in a spectacular encounter put Paul in a position that he had no other option than to respond in humility.

Here's the principle: When you're out of options, there is always one last option available to you. It's not a belief system. It's not the counsel of a good therapist. It's not some secret you need to know. It's a person-Jesus. Jesus is always available as your last option and would like to be your first option. I've noticed over the years that most people come to Jesus by the process of elimination-nothing else works!

When you're out of options, remember to turn to Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life available to you.

There's one more thing here. When you're out of options, it's too easy for you to be overcome with worry, hopelessness and depression. Remember this: WHEN YOU'RE DOWN TO NOTHING, IT MEANS THAT GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING. SEEK HIM WITH ALL YOU'VE GOT! WHEN YOU'RE OUT OF OPTIONS, MAKE JESUS YOUR NEXT BEST OPTION!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011



Yesterday we discussed the cost of following Jesus. When Jesus called people to follow Him, He called them into community-to be in relationship others who want to follow Jesus.

Paul gave a dynamic principle to Timothy that is key to empowering the Jesus movement. He says, And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (II Timothy 2:2) Paul picks up on what Jesus taught and what he himself practiced. The way for the Jesus movement to move most effectively is for a few to pass along their experience, strength and hope in Jesus to a few others. Since this is found in II Timothy 2:2, I like to call it the 2-2-2 principle!

The basic theme of the movement is all about spiritual growth. Paul nailed this theme in Hebrews 5:11-14-We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

For the most part, the movement that purports to be rallying around Jesus is an inch deep and a mile wide. There just isn't much growth movement occurring. This non-growth is filled with several signs of monotony. There is spotty growth throughout, lots of sitting, soaking and souring in the seats of the Churches, doubt, confusion, relational discord. Too many are self-directed and self-absorbed-directionless and purposeless.

Instead of living in spiritual monotony, you can enter a spiritual growth cycle. Spiritual maturity seems to occur in four primary stages. FIRST-There is the seeker who is genuinely interested. I've come to understand that when Jesus repeats that He is looking for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, He is requiring that people become seekers-that they are interested.

SECOND-Once a person follows his interest by being a seeker, the next natural stage is to become a believer. To believe in Jesus you need to know more about Him. The more you know about Jesus the more agreement will follow. Being a believer leads to personal trust.

THIRD-The next stage naturally follows being a believer. It's believing enough to be a follower of Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus is to entrust your life to Jesus. This is why it's good to ask the common questions of WWJD?-What Would Jesus Do? And WDJD?-What Did Jesus Do? What's interesting is the more you learn about Jesus the more you understand the answer to these questions just by asking them.

FOURTH-Seeking, believing and following Jesus naturally lead to being a discipler. One who is into discipling others requires that you continue to be a seeker, believer and follower of Jesus, yourself.

What does it take to move from being a seeker to a discipler? There are basically two ingredients that are necessary. One is time and during that time the second is to bathe yourself in the teachings and principles of Jesus.

Let me suggest what I call "scaffolding" materials for you to build upon your life with the result of moving through the four stages of maturity-seeker, believer, follower and discipler. Here's how I would list out the scaffolding materials. There are five in all and we'll move through them over the next few days:

1. All is not as it seems! 2. We are in a great war between good and evil! 3. We have a significant role to play in this war! 4. We must seek to set the prisoners free who have been captured! 5. Jesus is the only one who can help us see the invisible nature of life, the reality of the war, our roles in the war and give us the power to set the prisoners free!

Therefore, we must pray for Jesus to lead out and we will follow.

Here are four observations that come up for me regarding applying the 2-2-2 principle: #1-Jesus is calling you today! a) You who are interested-Believe in Me!-whosoever will! b) You who are believers-Follow Me! c) You who are followers-Make Disciples of Me! #2-Jesus believes those He calls are good enough-you can do it! #3-Jesus believes you can be like Him-to perpetuate His yoke or lifestyle. #4-Jesus empowers you by His presence as 2-3 gather together in Him!

Jesus sends out a revolutionary call-FOLLOW ME. FOLLOW ME is the great transformational invitation to seek, believe, follow and disciple others in Jesus. Jesus says, "This is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



In the last paragraph of Luke chapter 9 Jesus articulates what the cost factor is to be a follower. Jesus offers three scenarios for us to ponder.

FIRST-A FOLLOWER MUST LIVE AS AN ALIEN-As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

As Jesus walked a whole company of people followed Him, not only the Twelve. And from time to time various people would come up alongside Him and engage Him in conversation as they were walking. A man, moved by Jesus' words and vision, says to Him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus responded that He didn't have the comforts of a home, but was a constant pilgrim on a mission. What Jesus is saying to this "would-be" disciple is, "Are you willing to be a pilgrim-an alien-in this world, just passing through without too many entanglements? It's a certain self-denial that is required when you are following Jesus.

SECOND-A FOLLOWER MUST BE READY TO FOLLOW NOW-He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Think about it. If the man's father has just died, what in the world is the man doing hanging around Jesus? He should be home making funeral arrangements! It's obvious that his father isn't dead yet. He probably isn't even seriously ill, or the man would be asking Jesus for healing. What the man is saying is this: I have responsibilities to my father as long as he lives. I'm not free to follow you right now. But when my dad dies, then I'll follow you. I just can't follow now.

This reminds me of what I have heard over the years from well-meaning people. They say, "As soon as I get victory over this habit or mature enough to have my act together, then I'll get involved in following Jesus." My answer, "We don't have that much time to wait for you to get your act together. Begin now!"

By the way, NOTE what Jesus was telling him to do for Him. He wanted Him to proclaim the kingdom of God. He is not asking him to get involved in a local church or to tell anyone about his church. He isn't telling him to go out a start a new church or go into the world as a missionary. He wants him to proclaim the kingdom of God to others. We'll connect on this message later.

THIRD-A FOLLOWER MUST BE SINGLE-MINDED-Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

All the man wanted to do was go home and say good-bye. That's all. What's so wrong with that? In light of the immediate mission ahead-the sending out of the Seventy to the villages of Judea-for the man to go home will mean that he will miss out, though his request seems reasonable enough. Jesus clarifies His point when He speaks of plowing a field. You never try to plow while looking over your shoulder. If you do, your rows are crooked and your field is difficult to work. If you try to plow while looking back, you're not fit to be in the field. You'd be fired in a hurry by the farmer. Rather, plowmen fix their eyes on a point at the far end of the field and move steadily toward it, not veering to the right side or to the left. There's no time for long good-bye's or bon voyage parties. It's time to focus on the ultimate purpose of the mission.

Each of these excuses for not immediately following Jesus is reasonable. But here's the point. It is time to take hold of the plow. It is time to put kingdom business ahead of worldly business. Following Jesus may be difficult. It may make your life a little less comfortable, but I can assure you that nothing on this earth is more fulfilling, more joy producing, than being a follower of Jesus. And, Jesus accepts nothing less than your all! Are you a follower of Jesus or are you still throwing out excuses?

Monday, January 24, 2011



If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are automatically connected with other followers of Jesus, HOWEVER, we must act that out. In other words, act as if you are connected with other followers of Jesus.

Your connections are so helpful when you're in trouble. When you're in trouble, you need your connections more than ever! This is not the time to pull away! There's an amazing dynamic that seems to be present when a person either fails or is overwhelmed by his troubles. So many in this situation hide out and don't want to be with others. They seem to separate themselves from the very context of community that could provide healing.

Adam and Eve were connected with the Creator, walked with Him everyday, yet they pulled away from him when they blew it and hid behind a bush. Think about how foolish they were to believe they might be able to hide from God! This is precisely how foolish it is for a person to think everything will be alright, just by hiding out from others. When a person pulls away from others after blowing it, he is hiding behind a "bush" in the spirit of Adam an Eve. You see, when you hide out from others, you are effectively hiding out from God and therefore denying the only channel of genuine healing.

When you feel the need to hide out, due to your fear, anger, guilt or shame, you are ignoring the fact that you have connections-healing connections to get you through anything you're going through right now. Here's how these basic connections work. FIRST-In most cases there are people in your life already. Identify them and seek them out. We continue to notice that those who are friendless are usually too wrapped up in themselves. When you are wrapped up in yourself, this is truly a very small package. We also know that if you find yourself friendless, it's time to go proactive and be a friend. Everyone is looking for a safe relationship-a faithful friend. So, don't wait for someone else to make the first move. You initiate what you would like someone to do for you. That's how it works!

SECOND-If any grouping of two or three people determines to gather together around the teachings and principles of Jesus, Jesus will show up! Groups come in all shapes and sizes and with a variety of purposes. There is something special about a group of men or women or couples coming together to do life together-to support one another. That group dynamic will work extremely well on its own, however if you can gather around the teachings and principles of Jesus and discuss their meaning and application to each of your lives, there is something that begins to happen within that group that is more than special. It's supernatural! Life's too short, difficult and confusing to try to live your life alone.

A group gathering around Jesus is so simple and yet powerful. We have found it very effective to begin a group around a study book Diana and I created a few years ago entitled The Kingdom Secret. This is a simple walk through the teachings of Jesus about how to live your life on the Kingdom level and not settle for what the local herd is doing. We are preparing several other Jesus studies, too! If you want to start a group around The Kingdom Secret, email your order to We ask for a donation of $10 per copy. Whether you use this or not; study something together from the teachings and principles of Jesus. I know of a group who has been taking a chapter from the Acts of Jesus each week and finding great benefit out of their discussions together.

The early disciples had a four-fold emphasis when they gathered together: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42) That amounts to (1) studying and discussing the teachings of Jesus, (2) fellowship, (3) eating together and (4) praying together and/or for one another.

Three vital observations here: 1. Don't operate alone! Avoid making the world revolve around you. This just limits you too much. 2. Determine to walk with others-to do life with others-hanging out with one another. With all of our networking tools today there is no excuse for not walking together. 3. Discipline yourself to be connected. Let me make it clear that it is easier to walk alone sometimes. Picking up that phone can become like lifting a 50 pound weight. Discipline yourself to do it or you will regret it-big time!

In order to make a difference in your world and feel that sense of personal satisfaction-peace, joy, love, hope, you need to live substantially-live life more fully! Living life fully requires that you walk with Jesus. AND when you walk with Jesus you are the walking solution to people's needs everywhere! The only way to walk with Jesus is to walk together with others who want to walk with Jesus, too.

You've got connections! Make them work!

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Growing up in a very strict Baptist background, I was thoroughly indoctrinated into being a Baptist. Baptist was our identity. We weren't just any kind of Baptist; we were a certain kind of Baptist. We were more rigid in our set of rules than most of the Baptists and we were proud of it. We took a definite stand against a list of sins and sinners to be our kind of Baptist.

I never chose to be a Baptist, but grew up in a home where my parents were Baptists and they had me in some sort of Church experience several times per week. We went to Sunday School, then the main Sunday morning worship service, Sunday night service, Wednesday night prayer meeting and quite a few potluck dinners that were attached to some fellowship group within the Church. Thursday night was Visitation, where a few people went out door to door to invite people to come to Church on Sunday. And, if you were in one of the choirs or youth groups, you were required to be at more meetings at the Church.

It was clear to me as I grew older that the strategy was to keep you in as many Church meetings as possible, so you had no time to misbehave. That was exactly the strategy! Welcome to the strategy of indoctrination. Indoctrination is directing people into a system of programs. The idea is to get each person to follow the program and fit into the mold. It's all about molding a person's behavior so that he or she is a good Baptist or whatever religious persuasion. This, then, is presented to the world. In my small hometown we had made it clear that we Baptists didn't go to movies. So, whenever a Baptist was seen in line at the movies, he was criticized for not being a good Baptist. These non-Baptists weren't criticizing Baptists for doing something wrong; they were criticizing them for violating their own Baptist standards. These weren't biblical standards; these were Baptist standards. These weren't God's rules; they were man's rules. This is the essence of being indoctrinated by the man-made traditions and Baptist way of life looked like.

Indoctrination is strong. When I went to Dallas to attend a graduate seminary, I encountered all sorts of groups that were doing very good work for God. Whenever I shared what I was doing, my mother would pose the same question every time. It was, "Is this group Baptist?" Instead of trying to explain it or argue with her, I would say, "It's not strictly Baptist, but it is Baptistic!" I don't know why, but my mother was comforted by my answer.

A few years ago I accompanied a Muslim friend of mine to speak before a group of staff and volunteers at a mega-Church. He shared his story of how he had come to know, love and follow Jesus. He explained how he was a follower of Jesus within his Muslim cultural background. His love for Jesus was presented so passionately that this Baptist group was obviously impressed. Then, one of the pastoral leaders asked this question: "When you share Jesus with others, do you baptize others as Jesus commanded?" My friend was shocked by this question and looked at me. He said, "Did Jesus command us to baptize people?"

I turned around and faced the pastor saying, "You know Jesus never commanded us to baptize anyone. He commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Then he offered three participles with this command-by going, by baptizing and by teaching. Our problem is that we don't make disciples of Jesus very well, so we tend to go, baptize and teach really well, instead." The pastor got the point, but it was a bit uncomfortable in the room. Then, my Muslim friend shared with them that he had been baptized in the Jordan just a few months earlier. When he made it clear that he asked to be baptized and was baptized while on a trip to Jordan, the room nearly broke into applause! At first my friend didn't quite fit into their box-their indoctrinated mold, so there was some hesitancy and tension in the room. But when they discovered this Muslim follower of Jesus had been baptized, he finally fit into their mold as a Baptist.

Indoctrination has little to do with Jesus; it has a lot to do with shaping people to conform to a certain standard of living. This occurs when the well-meaning faithful spend more time cussing and discussing more about the Scriptures than they do seeking the One to Whom the Scriptures refer. Jesus speaks to this when He says, "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)

When Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples, He was speaking of making disciples or followers of Jesus, Himself. He was referring to making disciples who were just like Jesus in every way possible-to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus. He was not into indoctrinating anyone in order to fit a person into a mold or box. Jesus was all about incarnation. Incarnation is fleshing out Jesus in your life. It's being Jesus to others. Hearing what Jesus says and watching what He does and do the same!

You don't want to be indoctrinated-to be like some man-made system of do's and don'ts. You want to make it your focus to be into incarnation-to be like Jesus Himself.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



Years ago the many para-church organizations-Young Life, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, YWAM, Intervarsity, Navigators-struggled with what to do with their new believers. If you funneled them into a local Church, the students tended to be turned off with the irrelevance of the services and messages of the Church. The very reason for a para-church ministry was to serve the local Church in areas where they were unable to function well. The local Church tailored its services and activities in the same manner they fashioned their adult services. In most cases this approach was never able to generate the sizzle to attract young people into the Church setting. The para-church groups focused their attention on high school and college students. They were able to be extremely successful, because of the freedom they had to spend all of their time on just working with students.

This gap existed between the local Church and the para-church groups for years. Since the para-church couldn't figure out a way to get its students to be enthused about going to the local Church and the local Church was threatened by the success of the para-church groups, the para-church organizations began to work on developing a teaching curriculum for their new believer students.

This very same phenomenon is occurring again, but this time the players are different. On the one side, there is the local Church that has, for the most part, narrowed the gap between their work with students and the many para-church groups who work with students. In fact, the two are working together more closely than ever. Today there is a Jesus movement that is popping up all over. This Jesus movement is just that-a movement that is all about Jesus who is not packaged within any institutional, religious structure-not even Christianity.

The Jesus movement is attracted to simply Jesus without being wrapped in Christianese or religious traditions or trappings. Participants in the Jesus movement have been confused and even turned off by these wrappings. It's a movement that is moving to a different beat than most religious groups; it's a Jesus beat!

Today, we are introducing many to Jesus, yet these new "followers of Jesus" quickly become distracted away from the simplicity and purity of walking with Jesus and walking with others. They can easily become distracted by the religious terminology that just doesn't matter in comparison to knowing and following Jesus. Instead of embracing Jesus and growing in Him, they tend to grow into better Bapterians, Presbytists and Episcolics. Simply Jesus or Jesus plus nothing is what these new followers of Jesus need and are looking for.

A lady said to me last week that when she attends one of our studies about Jesus plus nothing, she feels like she has just come back home. Jesus resonates with her; religiosity does not. It distracts her and confuses her and leaves her with her feet firmly planted in mid-air spiritually. The answer for the new followers of Jesus is the same answer as we faced many years ago with students who became new believers. We are in desperate need of a curriculum that only teaches about Jesus.

After my most recent trip to Kenya, many things have become clearer to us (those with whom I am walking) as to what our best role is in the Jesus movement. The clarity has come as we see the needs in the movement personally in discussion with many of you and through the eyes of national and international leaders. These leaders are religious, political and corporate; they are all communicating the same things to us. There seem to be four specific needs repeatedly expressed:

FIRST-There is a major need for training our own people in the family of friends who want to follow Jesus, so that they are more than parrots. We all know so many little study groups that would be thrilled to study simply Jesus. There is a great need for each follower of Jesus to embrace the ABC's of the teachings and principles of Jesus personally-that each one owns it for himself well enough to live it.

SECOND-There is a major need for a Jesus curriculum. I hear this everywhere I go. People are introduced to the concept of Jesus plus nothing, and then are sent back into studies and teachings about how to be a better Church member, not a follower of Jesus. Once a person decides to follow Jesus and embrace His life and teachings as a lifestyle, that person needs to be able to feed on these teachings. If the end-game is to become like Jesus, then we need as many studies as possible to be about Jesus plus nothing without being couched in the religious terminology of religiosity. Studies must be all about Jesus and nothing else, simply Jesus. Even the "secular" dimensions of the culture must see how practical it is for Jesus to be the reference point of life.

THIRD-There is a major need for "Christian" leaders to know Jesus and His Kingdom-to be able to embrace these truths Biblically and to experience them personally. Never have I seen a greater openness than now! I am meeting with clergy and other religious leaders about this every week. There is a great hunger within the Church of Jesus to know Jesus better. Several pastors around the country are eager to participate in creating a Jesus core curriculum.

FOURTH-There is a major need for non-Christian leaders to know Jesus and His Kingdom-to be able to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom through their cultural lenses. Yet our normal approach is to introduce a person to Jesus without giving serious consideration to Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations. Once a person learns about Jesus he has a desire to know more about Jesus, not some theological set of beliefs from his culture and background.

This brings me back to one of my favorite statements from Paul: "I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus." Whatever you are reading, studying and discussing, be sure to make it all about Jesus.