Category Archives: LIONHEARTED

Fear and Faith

Authentic biblical faith is what enables us to overcome fear. Fear paralyzes us from significantly following after God. Fear is the number one thing that keeps us from being and becoming everything that God has in mind for you–the fear of failure, fear that God’s way won’t be as good as yours, fear that something tragic will happen, fear that God won’t come through like He says He will, fear that God won’t provide, fear of pain, fear of what others think.

We have a nation filled with Christians who are living an acceptable lifestyle, according to the standards of many churches today. We measure our Christianity according to the expectations of our Christian culture and fellow believer-friends. Many of us measure up quite well. But how does God see you? Are you living a lifestyle of risk-taking faith? Are you crazy for God? Would others say you are?

Physical and Spiritual Progressions

I’ve noticed that my spiritual progression often reflects my age progression. Here’s what I mean — as I grow older as an adult…

  • I tend to be more lethargic. As a young man, when evenings came, I was energized to do something fun or adventuresome. Today, I tend to be very happy to find a comfortable chair and chill.
  • I am more easily pleased. As a child, I would often look for the next adventure on a hillside, in a grove, or in an old barn hay-loft. Today, my first inclination is to say, “nah.”
  • I have become more rational. As a college student, I was the prankmeister any chance I got, simply because it was a chance to make a memory and have some fun. Today…it just doesn’t make sense to do those things any more.
  • I tend to be more sophisticated. Years ago, I didn’t care what others thought of what I did. Today, I lean towards protecting my “reputation” and making sure I don’t look too foolish in what I do.

As these realities pursue me physically and psychologically, they also influence on my spiritual condition.

  • I tend to be more lethargic by not being quite as hungry and thirsty for righteousness as I was when I was younger.
  • I am more easily pleased as I rest on where I’m at rather than where God wants to bring me.
  • I have become more rational as bold risk-taking adventures are more easily dismissed than they were in my more formative years.
  • I tend to be more sophisticated in my faith rather than living out a raw cutting edge lifestyle of pursuing Jesus no matter what I look like or what others think.

ivansusancruise2013But Jesus said, “Unless you become like children, you can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all.”

Childlike faith, enthusiasm, sense of adventure, and wholesome recklessness are still highly valued characteristics that God longs to see in us.

I want to  stay hungry and thirsty for God in ways that drive me to true righteousness rather than settling for an acceptable respectability.

I want be energized for God-honoring adventures, to live out risk-taking faith, exuberant to see God-things happen because I stepped out of my predictable routine.

No matter how old I become, I want my spiritual progress to be unhindered by the plights of lethargy, comfort, rationalization, and sophistication.

 

 

Audacious in 2012!

When I think of being audacious for God, I also have to ask, “What does that look like today?” For Joshua and the Israelites standing on the banks of the Jordan, it meant crossing over into this mysterious place that the former generation ran from. But what does a lionhearted lifestyle look like for me today?

I’m guessing it’s all quite different for each one of us. The one thing in common, however, is that being audacious means you push through your fears to step into what’s much better on the other side. So maybe a really good question to ask is simply this: “What fear do I live with that requires Holy Spirit courage to overcome?”

Fear puts us in boxes that we weren’t meant to live in. Fear keeps us on the east side of the Jordan when we supposed to be on the west. Fear reduces our potential to the weakest portion of our human ability. Fear says “survive” while audaciousness says “thrive!”

What a difference between the two!

Our Jordan River could be so many different things, but they keep us from stepping into and living daily in the best that God has for us.

  • We settle for religion instead of a vibrant relationship with the living God.
  • We live for personal pleasure instead of risking it all for God’s great cause.
  • We revert to reasonable faith instead of a crazy faith that requires all of us every day.
  • We create churches that are safe havens instead of vibrant communities filled with world-changers.
  • We pad our bank accounts or spend liberally rather than invest in eternal things that will change lives.

All of these things take audacious lionhearted faith accompanied by radical action as a lifestyle. It’s fairly easy to have a theoretical Christianity. Audaciousness lives it like the risk-takers recorded in Scripture.

  • It’s what honors God.
  • It’s what rocks our world.
  • It’s what makes you the real deal.
  • It’s what God is calling us to.

Today.

Audaciousness

Joshua was an audacious leader. To be audacious means that one is extremely bold or daring, unconventional, insolent or brazen. This trait, of course, can reveal our absolute stupidity or unleash a racidal God-honoring faith. There is a fine line between the two. Joshua knew the difference well.

Joshua chapter one gives us some insight into how Joshua was audacious for the things of God:

1. He saw the absolute futility of failing to radically obey God. His past 40 years were spent in the wilderness with the disobedient Israelites. Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for Joshua? Even though he was ready to risk his life for God’s purposes 40 years earlier, the majority decided to turn back from the Promised Land. They failed to cross the Jordan, choosing to waste away in the wilderness for the next four decades. He watched with sorrowfilled regret as an average of 170 died every day, week after week for 40 years straight. Now standing on the banks of the Jordan River with a new ready generation behind him, he is filled with righteous resolve to never let another life be wasted.

Joshua then commanded the officers of Israel, “Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Joshua 1:10-11)

The leader’s command is calling this new generation to follow hard after God–to do something their parents were unwilling to do–to make their life count for something eternal! This was an audacious statement. Quite frankly, it was something Moses did’t even do, even though such a righteous man and greatly accomplished. But Joshua has seen the utter waste of disobedience, the futility of fearing God’s radical plan, and the pain of wasted lives. These things have infused him with audaciousness, calling people to join him in being  extremely bold and daring, unconventional and brazen.

There are few things more sad than a wasted life. Dont let it happen to you. Be audacious!

2. Joshua was audacious because he had heard from God. In the verses preceding his audacious command to prepare to cross the Jordan, God speaks clearly to Joshua.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:6-7)

What a difference if makes when you know you’ve heard from God. Joshua heard, trusted, and acted upon it. It made him audacious. He was ready and willing to call people to greatness because he KNEW God was in it.

It’s easy to miss God’s voice. We have so much “noise” around us all the time–a pace of life that encourages dullness to God. But He still speakes…every day. When we’ve heard His voice, we will become audacious for His glory.

SO REMEMBER JOSHUA. He was an audacious leader because

he was gripped by the futility of wasted lives,

he knew he had heard God’s voice.

In Honor of our Soldiers

Our son, Erik, serving in Kuwait.

This is the first time ever that I’ve had a child deployed over Veterans Day. There seems to be a little more significance to the day this time around. So let me give you a brief history to begin with. This comes from Chris Gaylord:

American troops made significant headway in 1918, rebuffing a German offensive along the western front and moving Allied forces deeper into enemy territory. By November, Germany had had enough. It agreed to a cease-fire, signing the official armistice at 5 a.m. on November 11. The treaty took effect six hours later. On the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” as the saying goes, the world knew peace once again.

The “War to End All Wars” had ended. For the next 36 years, America remembered November 11 as Armistice Day.

However, as we all know, war broke out again in 1939. A new generation of Americans risked their lives in World War II and the Korean War. By 1954, the name Armistice Day didn’t sound right anymore. The scope felt too narrow. So Congress swapped out “Armistice” in favor of a word that could honor all of America’s veterans, and Veterans Day was born.

But remember Armistice Day this year. Why? For the first time, this holiday has landed on the eleventh day of the eleventh month – of the eleventh year. That’s right, 11-11-11.

As I think about our soldiers, I realize that they represent so many things that a good Christ–follower should be:

  • They are well-trained and fully committed, ready to give their lives for others.
  • They honorably and willingly obey the commands of their superior officer.
  • They suffer regularly for their cause, never taking the easy road to readiness.
  • They go wherever they are needed.
  • Their lifestyles are completely changed for the cause they are living for.
  • Every soldier has the other soldiers’ backs–they live to protect one another.
  • They each discover their job and dedicate themselves to be the best they can be in it.
  • They are driven for a great cause and will never accept defeat.

And God’s Word says to us, “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them,” 2 Timothy 2:3-4.

Veterans, men and women of the military, thank you for your service. Thank you for the example you set of what it means to be an honorable person. Thank for helping us see what it looks like to truly follow Jesus.

Being Known

Jesus told of a day when every person would some day stand before God. It would be time to give account. Matthew 7 records the sobering prophecy. Overly confident people profess their righteousness as result of having “prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.” But the Father replies, “I never KNEW you. Depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”

Notice this:

  1. These apparently righteousness people perform some pretty impressive feats – prophesying, casting out demons, and working miracles. I don’t know how to explain this, but these things had apparently happened because this is what these people are relying on for their entrance into glory.
  2. The key to entrance into God’s presence is that He know’s you. Obviously, this means more than containing a certain amount of information or personal knowledge. God already knows everything! What does this really mean?

“To know” in relationship, as Scripture presents it, means much more than just being aware of one another. Knowing someone means to have deep and personal intimacy with someone. In fact, it often refers to sexual activity between two people — as in “Adam knew Eve, and she conceived, and bare Cain…,” Genesis 4:1.

When God talks about knowing us — this essential entity for entering His presence forever — He is talking about being in a deeply personal, trusting, sacrificial, selfless relationship with Him. Nothing else will do. Not even the most impressive of accomplishments.

I challenged our church last Sunday to decide how you will know God better. Yes–it takes the mind. But the greatest challenge in knowing God is the condition of your heart. We MUST be in personal relationship–one that involves your passions, emotions, will, and interests. God cannot be an afterthought or tack on. Not if you really want to know Him…and be known by Him.

How will you come to know God better in the months ahead. God will bless you as you take even the simplest of steps in the right direction.

Take the Leap

Jordans often have nothing to do with sin in  our lives. It may be sin if we don’t cross a Jordan, just as it was for Israel. In refusing to pass through to the other side, they were refusing to trust God.

I have had quite a number of Jordans to cross in my lifetime.

  • Leaving a vibrant growing respected ministry in suburban Minneapolis to be an assistant pastor in the northwoods of Minnesota.
  • Jumping into a church plant as a full-time staff person with no pay…and no guarantee that I would ever get any. And, by the way, I never did get much…
  • Agreeing to travel all over the world for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association working with national church leaders while being a small-time pastor back home. This was a huge leap of faith for me.
  • Leaving a good situation for our family and ministry to move to Brooklyn Park where a small church wanted a strong leader. Intimidating.

There are many more, but these are a few that stand out.

Sometimes Jordans are intimidating challenges we need to embrace. Or radical life changes we must embark upon. Or illogical endeavors we are compelled to follow. This is what the Jordan was for Israel, too. Nothing would be the same after they crossed the river. It took a lot of Lionhearted determination to make the leap and a lot of resignation that whatever they had is not what they would have in the future.

Jordans inevitably require releasing some things that we have cherished. We may need to say “farewell” to situations in which we have found security. There is always fear involved in conquering your Jordan, but that’s nothing for Lionhearted God-followers. They always recognize that what God has on the other side is always better than what they’re leaving behind. Maybe not easier, but better.

Face your Jordan and make the leap.

God Speaks

For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading through the book of Job. This man, of course, was the one caught in the middle of a divine wager of sorts. Having been so righteous, Satan was convinced that Job’s allegiance was because God had blessed him so much. Thus begins the painful story of Job’s trials and the philosophical assaults of arrogant friends that condemn him for 25+ chapters. Confusion pervades everything. In fact, as you move through the book of Job, you begin to feel that there are no answers to all of the chaos that’s going on. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How can anything good come out of this?

And then…GOD SPEAKS.

Chapters 38 through 41 contain the record of God’s retort. Job is reminded of God’s unmatchable greatness, unlimited wisdom, infinite power, and absolute control of all things. Suddenly, everything makes sense.

God spoke, the chaos dissipates, the confusion is removed, the hopelessness evaporates, the supposed injustice is insignificant.

This is what happens when God speaks.

Job’s response was to simply fall on his face and repent in dust in ashes.  In fact, listen to Job’s words when He is gripped with truth from the lips of God:

3 …I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
4 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
5 I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
6 I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

When God speaks, the world makes sense. We certainly need to make sure we’re listening.

God still speaks. Clear. Concise. Powerfully. To listen, open up the Bible. Every day.

Just this morning, I received an email from someone on this very topic.

After reading the last 3 chapters of Revelation last night I cried for an hour straight. God has won, I am a child of God and the issues and problems I deal with here are nothing compared to the reward that is mine on the other side. My name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and sealed with the blood of Jesus. My eternity is secure and no one can take that away from me. Now, before you say “well duh,” this is some thing that I have known for years, but it just now moved from my head to my heart. Powerfull stuff.

Uh huh! God speaks and miracles happen. Right down in the deepest part of us. Right where we all need miracles the most.

Listen…

Identifying Your Jordan

For the nation of Israel, the Jordan represented the place of decision. On the banks of this river, the first generation decided NOT to trust God. They withered away in the wilderness as grumbling, bitter, empty, futile people. The second generation decided to cross the Jordan and step into the best that God had planned for them. Only by trusting God could they cross the Jordan and live life to its fullest.

We all have Jordans in our lives. What’s yours? What is it that stands between you and the best that God has planned for you?

It’s important to know what God’s plan is for you. That’s not always easy to know, especially the specifics of that. What we can always know, however, is that God wants your life to be significant. You life is meant to count for the Kingdom. You are here to make a difference, leave an impact, shape some lives, create a wake.

So what is keeping you from being a person of significant impact upon others? This may be your Jordan. It could be a lifestyle you’ve latched onto, a sin you’ve gotten stuck in, an attitude you’ve accepted, some lies you’ve believed, a plateau you’ve settled on, or a career you’ve valued more than God’s best. Remember, it ALWAYS takes courage to cross a Jordan. But God is there to help. After all, for Israel, He held back the waters of the Jordan so all the people could cross on dry ground. God is waiting to help you cross your Jordan too. He’ll do whatever it takes to help you succeed in this as long as you’re really serious about stepping into His Promised Land.

At the end of our lives, we usually regret our omissions more than our commissions. Yes–the mistakes we make sting…those stupid and sinful things we have done wrong in life. But the real stingers at the end of our lives are those things that we didn’t do — the risk we should have taken, the leap of faith we could have made, the new adventure we failed to engage in, and the missed opportunities we wasted away. The things we haven’t done usually compose our greatest regrets.

Don’t fail to identify and then cross your Jordan. God has a great plan for you on the other side.

Knowing God — the Basics…

One of our challenges in the next couple weeks is to determine a plan to know God better. Grab some paper or a notebook and jot down your ideas, thoughts, decisions, and plans. What is written on paper becomes crystallized in your thoughts. Writing it down forces you to move beyond muddled and foggy thoughts to clear decisive ideas. Even if you’ve never done this before, get some paper and do some writing, note-taking, or journaling in the next couple of weeks as you determine your plan to know God better.

FIRST– determine whether you need to develop most in knowing God (in personal relationship) or knowing about God. Both are important and one is not more spiritual than the other. They need to be held in beautiful balance, so determine which may need more focus than the other. It is actually possible that you are fairly balanced and want to grow in both of these areas. That’s fine too. Just determine what your focus will be.

Knowing God personally involves the same dynamics that are involved in knowing a person. There must be time spent together, conversations, listening, telling, working together, enjoying times together, laughing and crying together, and going on adventures with one another. Think about all of the ways that your deepest friendships/relationships have developed, and then determine what each of those dynamics involve in your relationship with God. Even though He is unseen, He longs to have an ongoing, real, dynamic, meaningful relationship with you. Determine what you need to do to develop in this area, if this is your focus.

Knowing about God is vitally important, too! That’s why He has told us so much about Himself. A good first dose of information about God can be found in such chapters in the Bible as Isaiah 40, Psalm 139, and Romans 8. Choosing one of these chapters and studying it for a week will begin to open up whole new understandings of God. Learning from someone else who has done in-depth studies of God can be extremely beneficial — like some really good authors. Any of the following books will give you some great information about the greatness of God’s character and attributes:

  • God the Father Almighty, by Millard Erickson
  • Making Sense of Who God Is, by Wayne Grudem
  • Knowing God, by J.I. Packer
  • Making Sense of the Trinity, by Millard Erickson

You can find all of these books at Christian Book Distributors. Just go for it!

Write down your first thoughts about your plan. And just start doing something.

TOMORROW: Identifying your Jordan