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The #1 Thing To Remember About Bible Reading Plans

I love the beginning of a new year. Sure, for the cynical – it’s really just the sun going down and coming up on another day like it does the other 360-something times each year. Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired but I really like time markers. Beginning and ending points. I often think about my life in terms of ‘today’, ‘this week’, ‘this month’, ‘this term’ and ‘this year’ – probably because I use them to motivate me to get things done!

So with the dawn of 2016 carting 366 shiny new days in it’s backpack (woohoo – go the leap year!) one thing that will undoubtably be on many Christians’ radar is to get into the Bible more this year. That’s a great goal and it usually leads to finding some kind of Bible reading plan.

Heaps Of Options

Fortunately because we live in this great age of technology – there’s a whole lot of different ways you can easily get Bible reading plans. You can have them emailed to you, do them in a Facebook group, or just download PDF files to print off and keep with your Bible. There’s lots of Bible software for your notebook or smartphone with reading plans included with it such as Olive Tree or YouVersion.

I’m really big on getting the most of out reading the Bible and I’ve certainly found that having a reading plan over the years has really helped me get more regular with my Bible reading.

Plans I’ve Used

For a long time I did the One Year Bible plan which was great because you’d read a bit of Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs each day. It kept it fresh and meant that I didn’t get days where my entire Bible reading was ‘Arphaxad was the son of Eliab… was the son of…’. or the count of how many golden spoons and bowls the tribe of Judah brought to the offering for the tabernacle. (At some point I’ll blog about how to get some great insights out of even the most boring parts of the Bible – but that’s not for now).

These days I’m doing Prof. Grant Horner’s plan which comes with Olive Tree. You read 10 chunks out of different parts of the Bible every day. It might sound like a lot, but it actually doesn’t take long to go through them and I really enjoy the variation of reading stuff all over the Bible each day.

There’s real advantages of having a reading plan. It’s meant that I didn’t have hold my Bible aloft like the Lion King, and letting it divinely fall open to what I was going to read today (which was usually Job or Psalms… conveniently located near the middle of the Bible). It meant that I did read books and passages that I probably wouldn’t have naturally chosen instead of just reading Ephesians and Matthew over and over again! (lol).

The One Thing To Remember!

Now here’s the point of this post.

If you’re going to use a Bible reading plan this year – please remember this one thing:

A Bible reading plan is simply a tool to help you read the Bible – it’s not a spiritual test that you fail should you miss a day.

And with that I now make my confession… brace yourself…

I don’t read the Bible every day.

I wish I did. I make daily reading my continual goal – and I do read the Bible nearly every day. But the truth is that like most other people I regularly fight the common human conditions of procrastination and busy-ness and there’s always days that I don’t get to it. I’m not condoning it – I’m just being honest.

Now before you unfriend me on Facebook or cross the road when you see me coming – let me point out that in my experience there are only a very small number of extremely diligent people who actually manage to read their Bible EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you’re one of them then that’s awesome! But if you’re not – then don’t feel like you’re the only one who struggles in this area. The truth is that the vast majority of Christians find themselves in this particular boat.

How To Make Bible Plans Work For You

Many people don’t like Bible reading plans because they’ve tried them in the past and then have missed a couple of days and feel like failures.

Yet Bible reading plans have worked really well for me for one big reason: it’s because I don’t view them as a challenge to get 360+ ticks on a piece of paper. In fact (funnily enough) I don’t even think about them in terms of a whole year.

Instead I see them as a daily invitation. A starting point which has been provided for me each day which I can use to get me going reading the Word. God wants to speak to me every time I open His word. The challenge is getting me to do it and I’ve personally found that having a selection of verses ready to go should I choose helps me just get started. If I end up missing a few days in my plan I don’t fret about it or even think about it because getting 100% in the Bible reading plan isn’t the point. Reading the Bible is. So I just use today’s plan to get me reading.

You see, ultimately, it’s not the ‘doing the plan’ which brings us life – it’s the ‘reading the Word’!

Ultimately, it’s not the ‘doing the plan’ which brings us life – it’s the ‘reading the Word’!

So whatever method, plan or way you get into doing it doesn’t actually doesn’t matter as much as just doing it! We can get easier wins if we move the goalposts from ‘have I kept the plan’ to ‘what does God want to say to me today?’

My prayer for you in 2016 is that each day you’ll find a way to open up the Bible and get a daily fresh word from God. This book truly is a phenomenal gift that we’ve been given!!

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12 Signs Of Selfishness

We’ve been doing a series at The River called ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ – dealing with attitudes and issues that put walls between people and work against friendships and relationships.

So on Sunday I dealt with a particularly nasty wall-maker in our lives – one that makes others put up walls against us to protect themselves, and an area that can be particularly difficult for us to see in our own character… the wall of ‘Selfishness’.

Most people don’t think of themselves as particularly selfish, it’s usually an attribute that we’re quicker to label others with! But it’s something that we need to root out of our lives if we’re going to have good friendships and relationships.

So is selfishness at work in your life? I’ve compiled a quick 12-point checklist…

1) You have high expectations of what other people should do for you, and you feel angry or irritated when they don’t meet your expectations

Selfish people generally have high expectations of others and a clear idea of what others should be doing for them.

2) You think a lot about what you’re entitled to, and you feel angry or irritated when you don’t get what you feel you deserve

Selfish people are all about their rights, and they take full advantage of them. It’s not that it’s bad to know and use our rights, but truly selfish people would sooner end or endure a difficult relationship than have to budge on what they feel they’re entitled to.

3) You spend a lot of time thinking about why more people aren’t helping you

Everyone has problems going on in their life, but selfish people are consumed with why everyone else isn’t ‘doing what they should’ to help them.

4) You move people in and out of your life based on how useful they are to get you to where you want to go

It’s great to have a vision for life, but selfish people use others to get to their vision and dispense with them quickly once they lose their usefulness. This one can be a tough area for leaders – but in leadership it’s important that we remember that the vision is there to serve the people… not the other way around!

5) You often find yourself surrounded by selfish people

If the majority of people around your life seem to be quite selfish to you… the problem may not actually be with them!

6) If you’re asked to help with a need your primary concern is how helping out will affect you

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into consideration our own time and energy levels – it’s good to think through what a commitment means to us before we make it. But there’s times when we just have to jump in and help someone… maybe it’s incovenient for us, but it’s the right thing to do at the time. Selfish people can’t see past their own priorities to the needs of others.

7) You find yourself on the end of conflict often, but it’s never your fault, and you don’t say sorry easily

Selfish people often find themselves in conflict, because the people around their life get tired of having to put up with their selfishness. But because of #1, #2, #3 and #5 – selfish people often don’t see that they’re the cause of the conflict! So they usually won’t apologise because they don’t feel like they’re the problem!

8) You find it hard to rejoice when others get blessed, or get the spotlight

Selfish people see the limelight and accolades as just rewards for their effort. They struggle when the spotlight is on someone else, because then people aren’t noticing the important contribution they feel like they’ve made which is connected to…

9) You want to make sure that you receive proper recognition for the things you do, and you get miffed if you don’t

Selfish people want to be noticed and want to receive what they believe is their ‘due entitlement’ (#2). So recognition by others (and especially by important people) is vital for them. Everyone finds it hard if they’re contribution is overlooked, but for a selfish person – they just can’t let it go… it eats away at them.

10) You like being in control of things and you find it very hard to compromise on what you want

Selfish people are usually uncompromising and have a very clear idea of what they want and how everyone needs to behave so that they can get it!

11) You keep a personal tally of what you’ve done for other people

Selfish people don’t GIVE… they TRADE. Even if they look like they’re giving, they’re still trading. They keep a personal tally of when and how they’ve served, given, blessed and done things for others. They want to make sure that the ‘balance’ of giving and serving and them receiving their rewards stacks up. Selfless people on the other hand, just give… because it’s all for God anyway.

12) You are the star or the centre in most of the stories, experiences and events that you share in conversation with other people

Selfish people don’t have conversations – they have monologues and soliloquies with an audience. Selfless people understand that conversations need to be two way, and endeavour to include others and bring out what’s inside them. Selfish people just want everyone to focus on them.
Naturally we’ve all got a bit of selfishness on the inside of us. If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

3 Quick Tips For Becoming More Self-Less

1) Have a huge view of the super-abundance of God

Selfish people generally have a scarcity mentality – they don’t believe there’s enough to go around, so they make sure that they get ‘their share’. The more we see that in God there’s an abundance for all that we need and more – the easier it is to hold lightly to stuff. We can rejoice in the blessing of others, because we know that it’s not taking away from our blessing! There’s more than enough!

2) Have a mindset of humility

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3

To ‘regard one another as more important than ourselves’ means that we treat every person we come across the same way that we would treat someone that we highly esteem. We take into consideration their needs and do our best to serve in every situation.

3) Give generously

Give. Not trade!

Giving our time, energy and money to others with no desire or expectation for return is a great way for us to keep selfishness far from us. Maybe this is why Jesus said that when we give we should do it in secret. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ‘payback’ when no-one knows that it was you who gave!

Self-Less

Finally, a very simple way for us to embrace a selfless life is to simply live ‘self…less’. Jesus didn’t call us to be ‘self-none’, just ‘self-less’. In every situation we find ourselves in, there’s an opportunity for us to take a little less for ourseves, so that others can have a little more. Ask one more question about the other person in conversation. Leave something on the buffet table for the one who’s coming after you. Take 5 minutes out of your day to do something that will really be a blessing to someone else.

When Leaders Fall

My heart was ripped up yesterday hearing the news of a pastor friend of mine in another city who has had to leave the ministry because he wasn’t careful with his personal boundaries.  I’m not usually too much one for tears, but they came yesterday… for him, for his church, for the people involved, for the community he’s been a part of.  I’m totally gutted about it… and I wasn’t even that close to what unfolded.

I’m sure there’s a lot of pointing fingers right now, and a heap of blame and accusation swirling around.  Without a doubt some bad decisions were made in this situation, and now the tragic consequences are being played out.  But I’m a bit slower these days to get out my torch and pitchfork and join angry mobs.  I was an expert on pastoral ministry before I became a pastor myself.  Much like I was a self-proclaimed authority on parenting before we had kids 🙂 I’m still an idealist at heart, but with nearly a decade of pastoring under my belt now – I think I have a much better understanding of the unique pressures that church leaders are under.

So I’m writing this post partly to help me process the pain in my heart that I’m feeling about this situation.  But I also want to communicate a perspective, a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at how the process of how fantastic and gifted leaders get themselves into trouble.  People are often gobsmacked – “How did that amazing, anointed pastor do something as stupid as that?”.  Unfortunately, history shows us that the path to that destination is seemingly too easy to take.  So how do leaders end up there, and how should we react when a leader takes a fall?

The Set-Up

When I started out pastoring, I was blindly ignorant to the balancing act of ‘Cirque Du Soleil’ proportions that was awaiting me!  You need to have a strong vision and bold leadership, but at the same time, be careful and considerate to the weak and the hurting.  You need to move quickly sometimes and painstakingly slowly at others.  You need to keep a burning passion for the spiritual house that God is building, while being able to make seemingly inane practical decisions on ‘physical house’ of the church building.  You have to stay focussed on those who’ve never heard the gospel while also not neglecting the spiritual growth of those who have responded to Christ.  You need to care enough about people to hold relationships tightly, but be gracious enough to respond well when a person who you’ve invested years of your life into announces that their ‘season has changed’ and they’re moving on.  You need to keep sight of the big picture and the small details.  It’s a pressured job that can easily get on top of you without constant vigilance, prayer, faith and most of all a close walk with God.

But it’s not only a job, it’s a very, very personal job.  There’s perhaps few other roles where every part of a person’s life comes under such scrutiny and is seen so widely.  We expect our leaders to model the Christian faith to us, to give us the example that we can follow.  We expect that their prayer life will be awesome, their families perfect, their decisions Solomon-like, and that they won’t let us down.

Yet in spite of the vast amount of writings, sermons and conversations about how putting leaders on pedestals sets them up to fail… it’s still going on, and I think it always will.  It’s the cost of leadership.  I’m not writing this to complain about it – my personal feeling is if you can’t handle the heat in the kitchen, then maybe a career as a chef isn’t for you!  Every job has it’s challenges and I’ve listed just a few of the ones that church leaders face.  But I share this to make it easier to understand the next point – that the unique pressures on pastors not only requires a lot of energy and dedication, but it also makes it really hard for them to have real, open friendships with people.

It comes as a surprise to many that pastors are often some of the most isolated and lonely people in the church.  “Surely not!”  you say, “that warm and smiling, super-positive guy who spends his weeks having coffees and chats, and on Sunday’s works through the queue of people waiting to grab a moment of his time?  Lonely?  No one to talk to?  Why, he’s friends with everyone!”.  But actually it’s really hard to have close friends when you’re in pastoral ministry.  A big reason for this is that we build relationships with each other by sharing what’s on our hearts and what’s going on in our minds.  But it’s a totally different deal for pastors because:

  • When you hold people’s secrets and they’ve trustingly confided in you, you don’t want to let something slip so… you start to become very careful about what you say.
  • When you think something out loud and find that you’ve unwittingly created a new church policy, and people are coming or leaving based on something you just said once… you start to become very careful about what you say.
  • When the person you thought would be responsible to keep something on the down-low blabs it to all in sundry (“I’m just telling you this so you can pray “…lol!) … you start to become very careful about what you say.
  • When you shared how you were honestly feeling with another pastor or leader, and then rather than draw close and help you they avoid you … you start to become very careful about what you say.

And so the stage is set.  Tired from the continual balancing act, burdened by the expectations of people, managing the relentlessness with which Sunday comes around every week, and facing difficulty having open, honest conversation with others – you’ve got a church leader who’s in dangerous territory.  More often than not, they don’t even realise how close to the edge they are before they fall off it.

There Is No Little Sin

No one wakes up one morning and says to themselves  “You know, I think I’ll have an affair today”, or “Yes, it seems like a good point in time to move thousands of dollars of church money into my bank account to pay off my personal credit card”.  Every ‘big and visible sin’ starts as a tiny thought-seed.  Removing a seed from the ground is a fairly small matter.  Removing the massive oak it’s become, with roots spreading in all directions is another matter altogether.  You can get it out, but it’s going to have a visible and often long-lasting effect on the landscape.

Romans 11:29 says that the ‘gifts and calling of God are irrevocable’.  What this means is that when God gives a person a gift, He doesn’t take it back.  The ability to operate in a gift doesn’t depend on a person’s character.  This is simultaneously the greatest blessing that God could give us, and our most vulnerable Achilles heel.  It means that we don’t have to have perfect lives to minister in our gifts and callings.  Halleljuah!  It also means… we don’t have to have perfect lives to minister in our gifts and callings.  Hmmm.

I can’t take this from personal experience (thankfully, and I pray for God’s strength), but I’d wager that at some point every church leader who has ended up taking a public fall discovered that they could hold on to small sins privately, and it didn’t seem to make any difference to their ministry.  They were awakened to the fact that their gifts appeared intact even when they were allowing compromises in secret.  This is why it’s so important that we realise that sin is not just what hurts us or what hurts other people, sin is actually whatever God says sin is, and all too often it doesn’t have an immediate effect.  You can’t discern the seriousness of a sin based on whether or not you were able to get away with doing it and still preach up a storm on Sunday.

The worst part of sin is that the more it grows the harder we find it to confess.  We feel ashamed of the seed-thoughts that we have, and so we keep them hidden.  In the fertile soil of darkness and secret, they grow into small actions and compromises, and so we work harder to keep them hidden.  Over time, if we don’t deal with them, they start to become noticeable to others, so we lie and deceive to keep our reputation intact.  We condone and justify our actions by seeing the sin as a kind of ‘self-medication’, ‘a little payback’ for the difficulty of the job we’re doing and the fact that we’re feeling alone and unsupported.

All this is unfortunately all-too-common human nature, but when you add the dimension of this taking place in the heart of a pastor, it’s a whole other deal.  Righteousness and holiness is not just part of his life… it’s in his job description.  He gets paid to be holy 🙂 (you might want to throw things at me for saying that, but you know it’s true!).  So it’s little wonder that when pastors fail to deal with sin-seeds and they end up with a private locker that’s starting to overflow into their public life… that they will go to great lengths to try to cover up their failing.  Their livelihood depends on it!

So there we have it – a church leader who’s tired from the circus balancing act of ministry, who can’t talk openly to anyone about it, who’s got a triffid growing in secret, and they’re desperately trying to keep it under control so they don’t lose their job.  It’s the perfect storm.

One Way Or Another

1 John 1:9 is a wonderful verse.  It tells us that if we confess our sins to God, He’s faithful to forgive them.  I remind myself of this verse on a daily basis!  But you know, it’s not enough for us just to confess our sins to God.  Every leader who ever fell spent a lot of time after they’d sinned confessing their sins to God and asking for His forgiveness.  They promised God that they would never do that thing again.  I’m sure they were genuine and they really meant what they prayed.  But leaders are still falling.  We need something more.  That’s why God also gave us James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed“.

Confessing our sins to God gets us forgiven.  Confessing our sins to others gets us healed.  It’s not enough just to talk about sin with God, we need to talk about it with other people too.

It’s never a pleasant experience to have to own up to what’s going on in your thought life in the presence of another person.  It’s a reminder of how human you are, and how much you have yet to grow in the image of Christ.  But if we skip this step because it feels shameful, or we don’t have the time for it, or because ‘I’m the pastor and I’m supposed to be perfect’ – then all we’re doing is trading a small and private unpleasant experience for what could very well end up being a large and public unpleasant experience.  The choice is ours.

How To Not Be A Statistic

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years, having watched as we all have the devastating effects of a church leader falling.

Personally, I’ve come to this conclusion: A choice has to be made deep within your heart as a leader that you’re not going to indulge in hidden sin.  You have to regularly do the math on small compromises and realistically face where they will take you if you don’t deal with them.  The little ‘treats’, the little ‘just this once’ – in the moment they can seem trivial.  But we need to see the end of the story to work out just how ‘trivial’ they may be.

Put yourself in the church meeting where it’s all come out and now you have to stand up and apologise to everyone… your spouse standing there with tears streaming down her cheeks, your let-down children, your devastated leadership team, your shocked congregation.  Put yourself on the receiving end of the awkward conversations that will take place for years and years after – ‘Weren’t you the pastor there?  What happened?’.  See yourself in the meeting where you’re sorting out custody for the kids because your marriage has imploded.  Visualise the job interview you have to take because no church is going to employ a recently fallen pastor, and think about what you’re going to say when they ask you what you’ve been doing for the last 20 years, and why you left the job you were in previously.  Your passionate sermons, the powerful God-moments, every reason you got into ministry will be overshadowed by this event.  This will be your legacy, what everyone remembers you for.  Then ask yourself this… is it really worth it?

So hence, wise pastors put clear boundaries around their lives.  Someone once said that if you avoid even the appearance of evil, you tend to avoid the evil itself.  I think that’s pretty right on.  Good boundaries on how we relate to those of the opposite sex, how we deal with money, how we process decisions – are important and necessary to last long term.

But having said this, I’ve come to realise that no amount of checks and balances, accountability relationships, stated boundaries etc can change what’s in a person’s heart.  I’ve seen plenty of leaders with all of these things in place… and they still fell.  They got around the checks, and they didn’t tell the whole truth in the accountability sessions.  Having these things in place is important, but none of it will ever make up for the ongoing decision that takes place in secret in a leader’s heart.

Pastor – the only person in the world who can stop you from being a statistic… is you.

Responding Right When A Leader Falls

I think it’s the responsibility of the leadership in place in a local church to deal with a leader falling in the most transparent and honourable way possible.  Things shouldn’t be ‘swept under the carpet’.  In my experience, people generally know when something isn’t right, and they always know when they’re not being told the whole truth.  If a leadership tries to hide things from people to ‘protect the congregation’ or ‘not expose the leader’, what often ends up happening is that the leadership ends up taking a credibility hit, and the situation degenerates even further.  We have to speak the truth, and we have to do it love and with genuine concern for the people involved.

I’ve also seen some crazy responses over the years to leaders falling.  Sometimes people go as far as burning books and resources from the person… as if now everything they’ve ever said and done has been tainted by this one sin.  Others use the fallen leader as their ongoing excuse for why they’ll never trust the church again, or the justification for pain that they’re holding on to that they won’t deal with and give to God.  I meet people who were under a pastor who fell 20 years ago, and they’re still holding that pastor responsible for their messed up life today.  We can’t stop other people from doing things that hurt us, but it’s totally our choice as to whether or not we hold on to that pain.

With all my heart, my prayer is that we will never have to see another leader fall because of hidden sin.  But as long as we have imperfect humans in leadership positions, I think unfortunately it’s going to be something that we have to continue to deal with.  Historically, the church hasn’t been very good at this, having the tendency to execute our wounded as opposed to resotring them back to health and wholeness.  As a result, the devil all too often gets the double victory of taking a gifted person out of ministry, as well as destroying their walk with God.  I’m not suggesting for a second that when a leader falls they should keep their role, but it’s also not about withdrawing from them and leaving them out in the cold either.  We need to maintain high standards of integrity and credibility in leadership.

Church isn’t another organisation, it’s a family.  Organisations get rid of people when they fail.  Families live with people when they fail.  We find our way forward through the mess, we deal with the issues, we talk things out.  Re-establishing broken trust and restoring a leader can a very long time – often years.  But if we continue to reach out in love, and walk through the process, we’ll get to the place where broken people are restored and stronger than they ever were before.  And what the devil intended to destroy us, God has turned around for victory.    That sounds like God to me, and it sounds like the kind of church that I want to be a part of!

Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

“The Necessity Of Prayer”

“The Necessity Of Prayer” – EM Bounds

http://www.amazon.com/The-Necessity-Prayer-Enhanced-Version-ebook/dp/B002HMCWR8

I’d only vaguely heard of E.M. Bounds before I read this book, but once I started reading I simply couldn’t put it down.  Written a century ago, you can tell that Bounds is not just a man with a theology on prayer, but a man who has experienced the true reality of the presence of God.

“The Necessity Of Prayer” is inspiring, relevant, and very, very challenging!  If your heart’s desire is for God to use you to powerfully impact the world around you – then this book is a must-read.  Get ready to burn!!


Top 5 Quotes From “The Necessity Of Prayer”
* The men of olden times who wrought well in prayer, who brought the largest things to pass, who moved God to do great things, were those who were entirely given over to God in their praying.

* Religion has to do with everything but our hearts.  It engages our hands and our feet, it takes hold of our voices, it lays its hands on our money, it affects even the postures of our bodies, but it does not take hold of our affections, our desires, our zeal, and make us serious, desperately in earnest, and cause us to be quiet and worshipful in the presence of God.

* Enthusiasm is more active than faith, though it cannot move mountains nor call into action any of the omnipotent forces which faith can command.

* It may be repeated that small results, a low experience, a low religious life, and pointless, powerless preaching always flow from a lack of grace.  And a lack of grace flows from a lack of praying.

* It takes more of the power of the Spirit to make the farm, the home, the office, the store, the shop holy than it does to make the Church holy.  It takes more of the power of the Spirit to make Saturday holy than it does to make Sunday holy.  It takes more of the power of the Spirit to make money for God than it does to make a talk for God.  Much more to live a great life for God than preach a great sermon.