Category Archives: Discipleship

Dreams vs Reality: The Rubber-band effect!

Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18a KJV

While this is the most used and succinct version of this verse, the WEB probably brings out its full intended meaning best:

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But he who keeps the law is blessed. Proverbs 29:18 WEB

In other words, if there is no prophetic vision or revelation, there is no motivation for constraint or self discipline. Your life depends on clear divinely inspired vision. Whether it is for the purpose of godliness or the purpose of fulfilling you God-given destiny (or dream), you need clear sense of purpose and direction.

So what is the relationship between the reality of your daily life and your dream? For your dream to have any effect on your reality it must be connected. That connection is naturally there, but it can be broken. Think of the connection as a rubber-band. You loop one end around your daily reality, and the other end of the rubber-band you loop around your dream. Now if your dream is bigger than you and your daily reality, it will pull you and your reality into its space, and is it does so, it keeps growing in strength and direction and keeps pulling you to the fulfilment of your dreams. Now if your dream is small and un-inspired, it has no pulling power, and the bands go slack. Or maybe your reality even pulls your little puny, un-inspired dream right down into the pit with you. But the worse case scenario is when your dream is so out there that it breaks the rubber-band holding your dream and reality together. Then the dream or vision loses any chance of affecting your reality or life in any meaningful and positive way. It gets reduced to a simple fantasy.

rubberband-effectThe rubber-band that holds your reality and dream together has two very important strands: The first strand is ‘Patient Faith’, and the second strand is ‘Motivated Self Discipline’. These are the two things that harness your dream to your reality or daily life. For you to be moved by your dream, you must first believe that your dream is possible and that your dream is right for you, and secondly, you must act on it.

I mentioned before that a dream can break your rubber-band; your self-discipline and faith. This happens when you build a big, powerful dream that is completely wrong for you, or that is far bigger than your faith can handle. The Bible is full of references of people being commanded to, or doing things according to their faith. So if you have not been engaged in growing and stretching your faith, your dreaming capacity remains small. It is better then to build a smaller dream according to your faith, rather than to just build a pretty fantasy. Remember too, you can’t achieve anything you wish to achieve. If my five foot four inch tall friend who is more geek than athletic comes to me and says: “I will become the next Michael Jordan”, I will respond: “you are dreaming the wrong dream.” God has made each of us unique, and with different strengths and talents, and if your dream is pulling you out of your God-given giftings, the rubber-band will eventually break. Your faith and self-discipline will fail you.

So make sure your dream or vision is inspired, God-given, powerful, and bigger than you. Then it will be effective. Of course, if it is God inspired, it is always bigger than you are. I say that because, it is impossible to please God without faith. (Hebrews 11:6) He is in the habit of giving dreams that will only come to fruition if we remain in Christ as Christ remains in us. (John 15:4-6)

But if our dreams are God-given, work on them with patient faith because all things are possible through Christ, who strengthens us. (Matthew 19:26 and Philippians 4:13)

Unity in the Church!

It seems every where I look I see a different church denominations. Baptist, Mennonite, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Independent Baptist, Amish, Baptist, Old-Order Mennonite, Amish, Eastern Orthodox… I hardly got started and I already missed that other Baptist one.

Each of these split off some other group in the course of history over something. Maybe it was a disagreement, or the color of Jello you were allowed to bring to the church picnic. But more likely, it was simply that some people didn’t love each other. The Prophet was too black-and-white to get along with the Encourager, and the Teacher was too proud to receive from the Giver, and somehow the bitterness festered until each had their own followers and sides were taken and lines were drawn in the sand and the duel continued until they had amassed enough dislike to justify as a reason for official division and… well, they quit worshiping together.

Mostly we divide due to distrust and dislike… distrusting that the other is honest enough before God to really believe what he says he believes (probably because I am not that honest before God), and dislike for the challenges another person brings to my comfort level.

And then there is judgement: he doesn’t really believe ’cause if he did, he’d pray louder; Or he  prays that loud because he is self-righteous.  And once we start judging their motives any excuse for division is spiritual enough.

It’s ironic that Jesus prays we will be one as He and the Father are one because our unity will prove the world that He is with us, and we go make sure the world don’t see it. Interestingly, our division PROVES the LACK of Christ’s presence in our midst and yet normally both sides of the division believe they are more spiritual than the other. If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we HAVE fellowship one with another! (1 John 1:7 Emphasis mine)

Here is a story that has been with me for years:

A small group was studying the bible together and came upon the verse that admonished the Christians to be united. And immediately they stared discussing how they could be more united. Maybe if they agreed on a dress standard, or defined acceptable practices. But as soon as they tried to nail down the dress standard, disagreements arose. Some thought jeans for women were okay, some thought man should wear beards, but never did they all agree. Finally a wise man said: “lets go home and pray about this until next week.”

So they all went home and prayed. Next week they gathered again and the group leader asked: “did God speak to anyone on unity?” An older gentleman answered: “well, I did have a dream. In this dream, we were all gathered together and were working hard at living in unity. And I said, ‘but Jesus that is what we are doing, isn’t it?’ And Jesus answered: “yes!” Then I had another dream. In this dream all the sheep were thronging to the shepherd, and I noticed that the closer they got to the shepherd, the closer they were to each other. It was then I realized, if we all eagerly crowd around Christ, we will be as united as we can possibly get.

End of story, but I think the moral of the lesson is this: If we seek unity for the sake of unity, we will lose it, but if we are willing to even lose unity for the sake of Christ we will find it. Have a familiar ring to it? Well that principle applies to many areas of life.

 

Train your Focus!

Focus is a powerful thing. They say that a race car driver that allows his vision to focus on the wall for a second is likely to crash into the wall. You are drawn to what you focus on.

That is true most areas in life. If you allow your mind to focus on your past failures (which I am naturally good at) you are being drawn to failure. The closer you get to actually get to step into your purpose or the bigger your dream gets the louder the failure train thunders, ready to take you for a trip again. Jon Acuff calls it, “the failure parade” that starts marching through your head.

Ironically, the more I think about developing this blog into a platform of encouragement for people who wish to live their lives on purpose, the more I experience that same parade. A parade of all the reasons I shouldn’t succeed. In fact, reasons I don’t deserve to succeed. Funny thing is, it gets louder the more convinced I get that this vision may be from God.

That is why I believe this failure train is captained by the enemy, not God. We are commanded as Christians to

bring every thought captive, into obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 10:05)

And so, the war starts:

I can Do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

Lord, that you would bless me indeed, that you would enlarge my territories. Oh that Your hand would be with me: that you would keep me from evil. That I would be a blessing, not a curse. 1 Chr 4:10

These verse have become a regular prayer for me.

If you are attempting something that feels like a God-thing for you, and you are experiencing these fears, find some promises that speak into that situation and make them your prayer. And remember:

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of sound mind! 2 Tim 1:07

Note: I have paraphrased the bible verses, they may or may not match some version of the bible out there.

So Me and God had a Moses Talk!

For the last few years, me and God have been arguing on how He mishandled the whole Moses situation. Remember him? Moses? The Guy who spent forty years in a wilderness because he was eager to accomplish God’s Work?

I think God should have just accepted Moses’ eagerness to work on his call, and supported him. I mean, God has definitely called him to liberate the people of Israel, and Moses is roaring to go. “So come on God, it is your vision that causes him to visit the Israelite and Your Heart for the Children of Israel that makes him defend a Jewish Brother. So just get behind, and it’ll all work out. But no, you have to say: ‘Moses the time ain’t right yet… you jumped the gun. Now you gotta run!’”

So Moses runs into the wilderness and there he is forty years later when God finally decides that it is time for Moses to complete his mission. By now God has to convince Moses the dream actually came from Him. I mean, it is understandable, isn’t it? He tried to follow his dream he thought was a God dream, and where was God then?

The TV Preacher agrees with me. God was wrong. In the words of the TV Preacher: “Give and God will immediately rain money blessings on your head that you won’t know what to do with. You’ll be able to buy a big house, and a cottage by the beach.” Or “You can do anything you set your mind too. If you have faith, you’ll be successful.”

But of course, when you have an argument with God you always lose, since… well, since He’s God! And you learn that God puts the seeds of a dream in every heart, but sometimes it takes a fair journey to get to the maturity or time where God can implement that dream (or should we say, till it comes to fruition). Another lesson is this; that dream you had when you were younger, the one you still occasionally think about but have more or less given up on, it still actually be of God, and maybe sometime soon… or not so soon,… God will come for a visit and say: “I put a dream in your heart, it is time. Let’s do it. Maybe by now you will let me do it with you, and we’ll do this together.”

So I guess God is right. Moses needed to learn to work with God, not just work on his own and expect God to bless his own efforts. the Bible says God is searching the world to look for a man committed to him, so He may prove Himself powerful. Let’s get committed to God!

First Be, then Do, then Have!

Almost every person I talk to seems to have a wish list of things they wish they had. (I am not exempted.) They wish they had a full-time ministry job, and executive management position in some large corporation, a bigger check at the end of the week, a nicer more reliable car, time for a luxurious vacation, or a harmonious and happy family. And the question is: “how do I get these things?”

The truth is, these things that you don’t have or do have, are the fruit of what you do; the result of your actions. And the actions you take are determined by who you are.

I know I am preaching to myself with this post. there are many things I want. But I know I first have to become the kind of person who has success. I look at wealthy people, and they have a different perspective of money than I do. So I realize my money perspective needs to change. (Note: not all wealthy people have a God world-view,so we can’t copy all their perspectives. We always need to filter what we learn through the word of God, and discern the truth of the matter.) I look at the pastors and people who have influenced the world with their ministries, and I realize that their perspective of how God sees the world is different than mine, so my thinking on who God is needs to change. I look at the guy with the harmonious and happy family, and I realize my thinking of how relationships work and my perspective on responsibilities need to change.

The wealthy guy, his perspective (who he is) is that the money needs to be managed properly so that it will serve him. He knows if he doesn’t, he will end up serving money instead. So he manages (what he does) it carefully, invests it, builds his portfolio patiently, and then… well then he has (what he has) a better car, money to give, and a bigger paycheck.

And that guy with the worldwide ministry. He believed (who he was) that God desired to reach out to people more than even he did. So kept praying, meditating, and preaching (what he did) even when it wasn’t easy. And developed a ministry (what he had) others only dream of.

Oh and the family man; he loved (who he was) his family more than himself, and made a point to take his wife on romantic dates and to be at his son’s baseball game, even if he had to sacrifice (what he did) some golf time with the boys. And his family loved each other (what he had).

OK, so you knew all this and you didn’t learn anything new today. but it is still good to be reminded of this: first be, then do, then have. What is a man like that would have what you want? Focus on becoming such a man, and you will do what such a man does, and let the getting just happen as naturally as the fruit grows on a tree. An apple tree always bears apples. A pear tree always bears pears. An olive tree always bears olives. It is just the way the universe works. The way God created it.

What were you created to be; what is success for you?

Lately I have spent a lot of time thinking what it is that we were created to be. Sometimes we talk about someone being successful and the thought comes to mind: what is success?

The world describes success as having a house bigger than your neighbor’s, a nicer car than your friend drives, a yacht tied up at your beach-side-mansion-of-a-summer-cabin somewhere in the tropics, and then some money to spare. But honestly, when I hear people talk about success, I can’t help but notice that the very definition we use for success is sooo relative: nicer car, bigger house, more toys, better beach house, bigger bank accounts.

Definition of Success
Who defines success? The world describes success by jealousy (more than he has). Problem is, we Christians adopt their definition without thinking. Is there a better definition? I’ll give you my definition: “Success is being all you were created to be!” It connects what success is to God (what He created you to be) and your very purpose in life. Now to be honest… it is easier to just take the world’s definition and simply strive to one-up your neighbors and friends, because if we take my proposed definition, we need to discover who God says we should be. After all, He is the one that created us. And discovering what God says He created us to be, takes time. Prayer, listening, meditating and reading your bible to start with.

Created for General Purpose
Each of us were created with both a general purpose, and a specific purpose in mind. From the story of Adam and Eve, we know that He created all of us for Relationship. For a vertical relationship (a relationship with him) and horizontal relationships (relationships with each other; family, friends, and the larger community around us.) We know that He created us to be moral, men and women of good character. Those apply to all of us.

Created for Specific Purpose
But each of us were also created with more specific purposes in mind. Esau to be a hunter, Jacob to be a farmer. Later on, when God desires for the Israelites to build a temple, it says He gave some the talent to be craftsmen, some to be goldsmiths, some to be seamstress, and some to be blacksmith. What He gives talent for in this case, relates to the bigger picture of what God intends to do.

Finding your Purpose
I know, so now we get to discover our purpose. How do we do that? I don’t claim to have the magic formula for that. And no, I don’t have a special wand to wave over you that will reveal your purpose either. But in the course of my life, i have stumbled across a few things I will share with you.

1. It is impossible to miss your purpose in life when you live with a pure conscience.
If we keep our conscience pure God can nudge us in the right direction without any handwriting on the wall. My dad used to say, it is more important to live with a clean conscience than to live right. In other words, when our conscience is pure, we will live as right as we know how, and we are in a place where God can continue to teach us. If our conscience is not pure, then even if we think we are living right, we can’t discern the voice of the the Spirit.

2. Often it is the things that make you cry, or that frustrate you, that speak of your calling.
Do you often cry when you watch a movie? What is it that makes you cry; innocent children suffering? misunderstood youth? abused women? poverty in Africa? bad technology? bad business leadership? Maybe it is the bad music in church that frustrates you. Jesus was often moved with compassion, and then He did something about it.

3. Things that are constantly on your mind. Obsessions. Intense Interests.
Ok, so you are not the crying type. But do you have an intense interest? Something that when you do that, you lose all track of time? Nope, porn doesn’t qualify. There are interests and obsessions that take away from your purpose. Porn is an easy one, but it could be baseball, hockey, reading, or making money. Some things are great things but with the wrong motivations they become bad things. Reading is a great thing to do, but if you read Janette Oke mysteries because you wish your man was like that romantic fellow in her books and you compare your man to her cowboys, then you should probably stop reading them. Making money can finance many great things, and is something many givers are called to do. And yet, it can become a crippling focus for some.

4. Waiting on God.
We want everything now, including the vision of our lives. But waiting on God is something He will teach us somehow or another way. This seems to be the non-negotiable lesson for all of us. It is about doing what you know you can do now and then clearing the plate and trust God for more revelation, blessing, mission or whatever it is that is needed.

Listen to the Holy Spirit
So regardless of how much I help you with discovering your purpose, nothing can shortcut the process of learning to listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Easier said than done. I know, I am king of allowing myself to be distracted by a million little things and being held back by “the sins that so easily beset us.” But I strongly believe, that we haven’t truly lived a successful life if we haven’t lived God’s purpose for our lives.

So what is your purpose for which you were created?

God Speed!