Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ministry Highlight: Loom International

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains,
but to live in such a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Nelson Mandela

Loom International is an offshoot ministry from YWAM based right here in my hometown of Portland, OR. I have had the opportunity to visit there open house in 2013 and there fundraising banquet in 2014. 

Loom has a heart to help women and children at risk around the world. 

They provide education both domestically and internationally to bring change to communities and to build resources for women and children around the world. Their mission, in their own words, is as follows:

"Loom International brings people, resources, training and information together for the benefit of women and children at risk. We are committed to bring change by working with others in hope and interdependence."

I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know several of the staff in Loom International and am excited to see their hearts for God and for ministry. 

One of the things that Loom does is put on the Celebrating Children Workshop around the world. This workshop takes place to train people to better reach and educate children in order to give them better skills for the future. This workshop is taking place in Portland, OR for the first time this July!

Take a moment and check out their website, find out what they do, and pray whether there is a way that you should partner with Loom international. You could support them in prayer or with finances, you could register for the Celebrating Children Workshop in Portland, or you could even contact them to join them in missions.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Just Enough Jesus

The reason why we sometimes get so frustrated is that we get 
"just enough Jesus to make us miserable." 
Marc Estes

...just enough Jesus to make us miserable?

In today's Christianity this almost seems blasphemous. Jesus is fun, Jesus is cool, Jesus makes life better! Right? Then how could Jesus make us miserable?

Jesus called us to be all in. He called us to be fully committed, devoted to the Gospel. He made statements like:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." - Matthew 16:24

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." - Luke 14:26

"And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." - Matthew 5:30

Honestly, those scriptures don't sound like a lot of fun. Jesus will always accept us as we are. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, we simply need to accept it. However, Jesus doesn't want us to stay as we are after we accept Him. This means that the closer we get to Him, the more aware we are of our sin and our shortcomings. He does this not to make us miserable but to inspire us to change.

Jesus loves us the way we are but He desires us to be constantly improving.

When we refuse to improve but still try to be close to Jesus we end up feeling frustrated, maybe even miserable because we know that we could be in a much better place but are not willing to make the sacrifices to get there.

We have to decide what we are in this for. Why are you a Christian? Maybe you first accepted Christ simply because you wanted a way out of hell and into heaven. If that's true then that's fine but it's time to move on.

There is so much more to Christianity than just a ticket to heaven!

As long as we are content with just making it to heaven our spirit, deep down, will be frustrated. We need to start seeking God wholeheartedly. We need to looking for what He wants us to do on this earth and start declaring, in faith, His will over our lives! It's time to start taking what Jesus had to say seriously and dive in to what He has for us!

Have you ever had just enough Jesus to be miserable?

Is Christianity Restrictive?

I just find the evangelical church too, well, restrictive.
Hugh Jackman

I found this quote in a blog post titled Hugh Jackman, meet Jesus. The article discusses that Hugh Jackman is going to be playing the role of Apostle Paul in an upcoming movie which then led to his own views of Christianity. Apparently Hugh Jackman grew up in Christianity and often went to Billy Graham crusades with his father but as an adult has rejected Christianity due to it's "restrictions". 

So is Christianity restrictive?

The author of the above blog post, Carlos Rodriguez, implies that it is sad that Christianity was presented to Hugh Jackman as restrictive. He states that Christianity is about freedom not restrictions quoting the scripture:

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free..." (Galatians 5:1)

Obviously this is true. Christ has set us free from the yoke of bondage that previously entangled us. That yoke of bondage is of course referring to sin and we are free to not sin anymore. We have the freedom to live righteous lives. However when understood in context, the very scripture quoted by Carlos, in a sense, presents restriction as well as freedom. True, unrestricted, freedom would say "you are free now do whatever you want" but this is not what Paul is saying. 

Paul is saying that Christ set us free for a purpose, so that we could walk in that freedom. 

It is true that too many Christians focus too much on the restrictions. We should be focusing first and foremost on the unconditional love and acceptance that Christ is offering to the world however we must not forget that He also commanded us to "die to self" and to "take up our cross". However when we accept the restrictions that Christ gave us then we begin to truly see and experience the full freedom of the Gospel. When we dive into a relationship with Christ rather than just the religion of Christianity then we recognize that the restrictions are not really restrictions at all. 

So is Christianity restrictive? 

Yes. As a religion Christianity is restrictive. Hugh Jackman is 100% right. 

But is Christianity restrictive? 

No. A true relationship with Christ is the most freeing thing ever. Carlos is 100% right.

But here's the thing, the more I think about it the more I feel that we can't have one without the other. We love to make the statement that Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship but can we truly have the relationship of Christianity without the religion of Christianity? Can we truly love Christ without recognizing the commands that He gave us? 

"If you love me, keep my commandments..." (John 14:15) 

I am not advocating a works based salvation. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we are saved and it is simply by His grace. We can't do anything to earn our salvation and we can't do anything to make ourselves more righteous because we are already the righteousness of God through Christ. However, I do believe that the depth of our relationship with His Jesus can be directly dependent on our willingness to obey His commands. And His commands are very restrictive.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blog Highlight: Dan Black on Leadership

My desire is to help others become better people and leaders through my writing and resources. My goal is to write content that helps you reach your leadership potential.

When embarking on a long road trip with his friend, Dan Black heard his first tape by John Maxwell, the leadership expert. This tape sparked a never ending interest on the topic of leadership that eventually caused him to start blogging. 

On his blog, Dan Black, will post nuggets of wisdom, several times a week, on the topics of leadership and personal development. In addition, most Mondays he has a guest post by another prominent blogger on similar topics. 

Finding and honing your skills and talents as a leader is one of the most important thing you will do in your life. 

We all have a circle of influence, which means we all have people that we are leading, and we need to be intentional on how we lead them. Following Dan Black's blog will give you practical tips on being intentional in your leadership and enhancing those skills that are essential. His posts apply to all of your circles including family, work, church, and even amongst your friends. I encourage to check his blog out.

Here are some of his top posts:

In addition to his blog Dan Black also has a book, The Leadership Mandate, which you can find on Amazon. I already wrote a review of this book here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How To Limit An Almighty God

How often they provoked Him in the wilderness,
And grieved Him in the desert!
Yes, again and again they tempted God,
And limited the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember His power:
The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,
Psalm 78:40-42

Can we limit God?

Too many people to even suggest that would be considered blasphemous. Because God is all powerful and sovereign they think that He is in complete control of all things regardless of what we do. However here we have a very clear statement that the people of Israel limited God. 

In the pretext we see that this Psalm was written by Asaph who we know to be the chief minister before the ark of the Lord in David's time (1 Chronicles 16:5). He is also called a "seer" (2 Chronicles 29:30) which is an old testament term for a prophet. This Psalm is a written history of Israel's time in the wilderness meant to remind the people of the importance of following the law and remembering what God had done for them. 

When we refuse to follow the Word of God then we limit God in our lives!

As my regular readers know, God has kept bringing me back to the topic of the wilderness this year. This has been a big part of the Word that God gave me both in 2014 and 2015. If you would like to review here are some links:

There are many references to the wilderness throughout the Bible and it seems that everyone that was a huge player in God's plan spent some time in the wilderness, but the concept of the wilderness starts with the people of Israel traveling from Egypt to the promised land. 

When we read the story of the people of Israel there are a few things that become immediately evident:

1) In order to go to the promised land they had to go through the wilderness.

They could have stayed in Egypt. In Egypt they had plenty of food, houses to sleep in, and for the most part things were taken care of and they knew what to expect. When you put it like that it doesn't sound so bad but there was one problem - they were slaves. They were forced to work to build someone else's empire and deny their own identity as a people. They could have avoided the wilderness all together and in some ways that would have been easier but they never would have been free, they never would have gotten to the promised land, they never would have established themselves as a nation.

2) In the wilderness they received God's vision for them as a people.

As long as they were in Egypt the people only knew God as the God of their fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even Moses when he came he only told them that God wanted to free them from their oppression. It wasn't until the wilderness that God, through Moses, revealed to them what He had called them to be: "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). 

3) They stayed in the wilderness a lot longer than they were supposed to. 

Scholars say that the people of Israel could have made it the the promised land in 11 days. We also see in Numbers 13-14 that the Israelites were already at the promised land and were not able to enter. It was then that God declared that they would spend 40 years in the wilderness. 

So why did they spend 40 years in the wilderness when they only had to spend 11 days?

Many preachers have made it sound like it was due to their complaining that they were not able to go into the promised land, but as much as God makes it clear that he hated their complaining He was still ready to lead them in. It was simply because of their unbelief. 

The Israelite's unbelief limited God!

The interesting thing here is that the Israelites never said that God was not able to lead them into the promised land. By their words they never directly limited God but instead limited themselves: "we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” ( Numbers 13:33)

By limiting themselves they limited God!

A lot of times we tend to think that talking down about ourselves is a sign of humility but it is actually a sign of unbelief. The Bible makes it clear that God Himself lives in us, so when we say that we can't do something what we are really saying is that God is not powerful enough to help us do it. 

Through our unbelief in ourselves we express our unbelief in God!

It's time to stop limiting ourselves and start taking a stand of faith in God's ability! When we limit ourselves it keeps us in the wilderness and away from God's promises longer. A lot of Christians, like the Israelites, turn an 11 day journey through the wilderness into 40 years because they don't feel that they can access the vision that God has given them.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Biblical Example of Delegation

This post is inspired by the first chapter of Building Leaders That Build A Church 
by Casey Treat

Moses became leader of the entire nation of Israel with very little prior leadership experience so naturally he needed some direction. In Exodus 18:13-16 we see how Moses initially was leading the people:

And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 

Moses was judging every issue that came up in the nation! Imagine thousands of people living together in the desert and they only have one person to judge any conflicts. As his father-in-law, Jethro, said:

"This thing that you do is not good."  
Exodus 18:17

Jethro then goes on to give advice to Moses:

And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you
Exodus 18:20-22

Looking back it seems obvious that Moses would need to delegate tasks when leading a nation. After all in the United States we don't send every dispute to the Supreme Court. We have the city courts, county courts, state courts and so on however on a smaller scale leaders still tend to make the same mistake that Moses did. Whether in the church, in business, or even in the home leaders tend to think that they have to do everything themselves. This is a problem for two major reasons:

1) It causes the leader to eventually burn out and become ineffective.

2) It limits the possibility of growth in that organization.

If you insist on doing everything then you can't grow past what you are capable of handling yourself. You will also overextend yourself to the point that you eventually collapse in utter exhaustion. It is important to learn to delegate.

Another important point in delegation is that when you delegate you must allow that person to "judge". In other words you have to allow them to make choices and decisions within the realm of the authority you delegated to them. A lot of times leaders feel that they have delegated but then they are constantly watching and monitoring that situation to make sure it happens the way they would want it to. This is not true delegation as you are still holding the burden of the situation. Of course there should be some level of monitoring but you need to let go and allow them to make their own decisions even if it means allowing them to make some mistakes along the way.

This will not only allow you to preserve your energy for the more important things but it will also open the door for more growth. 

"God wants your church to grow more than you do! If God want it to happen and it's not, it could be you're the only one in the way." - Casey Treat

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Power of the Ephesian Prayers!

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saintsand what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:15-23

There are two prayers that the Apostle Paul prays over the church in Ephesus regularly this one and Ephesians 3:14-21. I have heard many preachers, including Kenneth Hagin, talk about the benefits of praying these prayers over yourself and your loved ones. Of course sincere prayer is always hugely beneficial to us but another benefit is that through repeating these prayers out loud we can renew our mind to the immense truths present in them. 

Looking at this passage what stands out to me is the description of Jesus' total dominion and power that has been transferred to us. Notice how Paul states that Jesus' power is working "toward us" and that he refers to this dominion as our "inheritance"! Not to mention that he states we as the church are "His body" which mean that we are in the same position as Jesus Christ!

We need to recognize our position of dominion and authority in Christ!

If you look at your life and there seems to be no evidence of this dominion then I recommend praying this prayer daily. By praying you activate the power of God in your life allowing Him to bring what is true in the spiritual realm to pass in the physical realm (Romans 4:17) and by speaking the Word of God out loud you begin the process of renewing your mind (Romans 8:5; 12:2) and building your faith (Romans 10:17) to walk in the dominion and power that is available to you.

For more on the truths revealed in the Ephesian prayers check out these posts by Terence Wright:

Also for more information on what can hinder us from walking in the dominion that God has called us you can re-visit Three Hindrances to Victory.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ministry Highlight: Strong Hearts Ethiopia

We are a locally based organization dedicated to community development located in the southwest area of Addis Ababa.

My wife and I are blessed with the opportunity to be friends with Getinet Teferi, the executive director and founder of Strong Hearts Ethiopia. We can attest to the purity of his heart and the depth of his passion for impoverished families and orphans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They take the popular saying to heart:

Give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime.

They are providing English training, job training, and education to children and teens who would otherwise not get a chance to get it. According to their website Strong Heart's purpose is:

   Strong Hearts Ethiopia is called to:
  • Promote physical and spiritual development among marginalized and disadvantaged people to bring about holistic transformation “from the inside out” for individuals and communities.
  • Inspire hope and grace into the lives of individuals, and nurture the values of sharing, caring, self-respect, self-confidence, and community ownership.
  • Support the growth of community health awareness and assist in establishing safe environments to help communities achieve their development goals for education, health, housing, jobs creation & business development.
I have had the opportunity to serve in this ministry five years ago when they were in their beginning stages and now it is wonderful to see how God has blessed and grown their influence.They have successfully helped several people grow to independence in their careers as well as provided free basic education to hundreds of children in one of the poorest ares of Addis Ababa.

If you are looking for a ministry to support this is a great option. I can guarantee that the money will go to where it's needed. This would also be a great ministry to serve with if you are planning a missions trip to Ethiopia, and most of all it is a great ministry to get behind in prayer.

For more information on what they do, testimonies from people they have helped, and even some sermons to encourage and challenge you check out their website and like them on Facebook.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fight for the Best!

God's plan for your future is always better than your past. He is always moving you forward.

This is a quote from an old post of mine titled, The Best is Yet to Come. It is so true that with God He is always moving us forward to something better. We should always be looking forward to His best not looking back and romanticizing the past. However there is something that often keeps us from getting God's best. Sometimes we think that God's best will simply appear magically because we believe it will, but that is not how it works. Our faith is instrumental but truly walking in faith is not easy. 

It is hard work because there is an enemy that desperately wants to hold us back by tearing down our faith. He will throw circumstance after circumstance our way in an attempt for us to let go of the vision that God placed before us. He will even try and convince us that God has "closed the door" and that it just wasn't God's plan. I believe that many of us have walked away from God's best for us convinced that it wasn't God's plan because we let our circumstance speak louder than God in our life. 

"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty."
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States

Often Christians seem to think that life with Jesus should be easy. They think that we should never have to struggle for anything because God is sovereign. There is a belief among many Christians that whatever happens it is because God willed it to happen and therefore we ha e to just accept that He has a plan for that situation. Although there may be times where this is true, most of the time it's a lie from the enemy. 

God expects us to take our authority on this earth and fight for His will to be done. 

Why else would Jesus tell us to pray for God's will to be done on earth? (Matthew 6:10) if God's sovereignty means that His will is always done no matter what then what would be the point of us praying for it? Clearly God's will is not always done because God desires that all men come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and there are many who die without repentance. That is why He has called us to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). 

Paul tells us to "fight the good fight of faith" (1Timothy 6:12). He then later tells Timothy to join him "as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3). We are in a war and it's time for us to realize it. Just because something doesn't go our way doesn't mean we should turn back. When we meet resistance then we need to fight through! It's time for your breakthrough!

Are you experiencing resistance in an area that you were sure God had told you to move forward?

When looking back at your life were there times you gave up when you should have pushed forward?

Not anymore! It's time to fight through!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blog Highlight: A Heart After God

"His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."
Jeremiah 20:9

Terence Wright, my brother, has a passion for the Word of God and to see others get into the Word. Every morning he has his daily devotion time and challenges himself to not only read the Word but to write a page on one scripture from his reading. He had been doing this for quite a while when God challenged him to take it a step further and start posting those devotions on his blog for an entire year. 

Since that year is up he hasn't been posting nearly as often but you can go on his archives and find 365 nuggets of wisdom directly from the Word of God with some discussion on it's application into our daily life. 

In addition to that he posted a poem to our brother:

A couple of life lessons he has received through parenting:

And most recently a description of their upcoming outreach to Fiji:

If you have a few moments take a look through some of his posts and get encouraged and challenged! This is just the beginning to an awesome ministry that God has laid out for him. Partner with him and his wife through prayer as they seek God for the ministry that He has for their entire family.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't Lose Sight of Your Calling!

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Philippians 1:6

Did God give you a word?

Did He start preparing you for your calling?

Did He give you a vision for the future?

Don't lose sight of that vision!

God gave David a Word too. In 1 Samuel 16 we see the process that Samuel went through resulting in David being anointed king. God told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons, but David would have been the last one anyone would have expected to have been chosen. Scholars believe that he was 10-12 years old at the time and was simply in charge of his father's sheep. Imagine being 10 years old and being told that you would be the next king!

At first things seemed to be going very well for David. He immediately began to gain favor with the king through his music (1 Sam. 16:18). More and more he gained access to the king's palace and built favor with the king. Then his moment to shine came. Around the age of 16 Goliath began challenging the armies of Israel and everyone was too scared to fight him. David however, knew who His God was and knew that through the power of God he could defeat the giant. 

Immediately after defeating the giant things seemed to really be set up for his calling to come to pass:

1) He married the king's daughter.

2) He became a respected captain of the king's army.

3) He became best friends with the king's son and rightful heir to the throne.

Everything was working out even better than he could have imagined until it all started to unravel. Saul suddenly began to get jealous of David and repeatedly attempted to kill him. Eventually it came to the point that David had to run and hide with the Philistines and then later in the wilderness with only the rejected men supporting him. 

For five years David was running and hiding for his life from Saul. We can only imagine how tempted David was to turn away from the Word that was spoken over him in those five years. There was even one point where his family was kidnapped, his possessions were burned and the very men that were following him were contemplating stoning him. At that point I am sure that David felt as far away from being king of Israel as possible, but even then he didn't lose sight of the Word that God had given him. 

"...But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."
1 Samuel 30:6b

He strengthened himself in the Lord! At the beginning David had plenty of people and circumstances helping him see his potential as king. God built up his faith in conflicts with bears and lions and then eventually Goliath. The king himself was very happy and encouraging to David. He had his best friend in Jonathan and of course had the prophet Samuel who gave him the Word in the first place. But there came a time where everyone turned against him and he had to "strengthen himself".  

What is the Word that God gave you?

Pastor Sherwood Vegsund, one of my early mentors who helped me keep sight of my potential and gave me some of my first opportunities in ministry, said:

There comes a time in every man's life where faith requires faithfulness.

Over and over the Bible talks about the power of having faith in God's Word. However it never says that faith will be easy. God will give you the people that you need to build your faith in the beginning but there comes a time when things will get hard and God will expect you to be faithful regardless.

Have you been faithful with the Word God has given you?

It wasn't until age 30 that David fully realized the calling that God gave him 20 years prior. It took 20 years of faithfulness! Faithfulness as his father's shepherd, faithfulness as the court musician, faithfulness when facing Goliath, and faithfulness when running for his life. There was even a point where he was crowned king of Judah and not of Israel and he continued to be faithful, knowing that God's Word would come to pass. 

Be faithful where you are and God will bring you to where you are supposed to be!