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“Unbiased Bible Study”

Many people are familiar with the mental phenomenon of “frequency Illusion.” It happens when you buy a new car and suddenly, you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place. It’s a passive experience, where our brains seek out information that’s related to us, but we believe there’s been an actual increase icarssurvey_shutterstock_80198854n the frequency of those occurrences. I believe the same spiritual phenomenon happens when we study the Word of God.

Recently, I have been researching the topics of  sacrifice and servant-hood and I am seeing  these  everywhere in the Scriptures right now. I could write volumes from what I’m learning. But God brought me to a recurring realization that I need to be careful when interpreting Scriptures. I should never come to the Word clouded by my own bias and agenda. When we look for Grace, we find it everywhere. When we look for condemnation, we can find that, too. This process has been the downfall of many men and women. The Scriptures are a living, breathing document and are created to speak into our hearts in every situation, but we need to always be cautious.  We need the Holy Spirit to help us “rightly divide” the Word.

Holy Spirit never let me stray from the true intended meaning of the God breathed Word.

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1. Curb your prayer life. There are more important things to do with your time.

2. Only read trivial “fluffy” books that will not advance you anyway spiritually or mentally.

3. Stop being social. Too many deep, meaningful relationships can complicate your life.

4. Become introspective and don’t think about anyone but you.

4. Don’t exercise. You deserve to let yourself go.

5. Eat whatever you want. One more be BK Whopper won’t hurt you.

6. Don’t give as much to charity or your church. After all, they will probably misuse it anyway and you deserve that new pair of tennis shoes.

7. Withhold your statements of love and your affection from those around you. They won’t reciprocate… They never have.

8. Let chaos reign in your personal world. An organized home and office is for wimps.

9. Just throw yourself into your job/school. Just get busy doing “things” and avoid any alone time as much as possible.

10. Spend hours and hours on the Internet. Just surf and surf… especially at night.
Who needs sleep!

Or… Delete this list and try something different in 2014.

Inspiration

imageI’m in the middle of preparing messages for an event this weekend. I don’t know about most speakers but I always come to a task like this with a healthy fear and a little trepidation.

Am I meeting the needs of the people who will be in front of me?
Am I being sympathetic and empathetic?
Am I “rightly dividing the word”?
Of course, there are always the questions like “Is this going to be relevant, interesting, and am I going to hit it out of the park?”
While all of these concerns are valid, I’ve begun to realize that I will never get the right answers until I ask right questions.

“…out of the the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Luke 6:45

Through the years, I’ve had the privilege to sit under the teaching of many talented preachers and teachers. I found myself impressed by (and a little envious of) their style, their exegesis of Scripture, and the beautiful way words flowed from them “like butter”. But something became apparent to me as I listened with some of these audiences. Our hearts were not move. Our intellects may have been stimulated and we were entertained but, there was no real inspiration. Why?
It,s because we need a little aspiration in the heart before there can be inspiration.
The messages that have always inspired me are those from speakers whose LIVES preach and their lips only ” play catch up”. Because of their example, not just their words, I’m compelled by a little “holy envy”. I want some part of their lives to be reflected in me so I absorb as much from them as I can during that short period of time called “the message”. That kind of speaker must, within him, carry two ingredients: authenticity and passion. Without those two things we fail at inspiration but, accomplish mere clever manipulation, which produces nothing in the life of a believer.
I want to be a man that is REAL with the people I’m entrusted to instruct and I want only to speak about the things that I strive to flesh out in my own life. If I am truly honest with an audience I will preach my own “funeral” every time. I must preach the things I have to “die to”. That’s when an audience can truly relate and be inspired, knowing that we’re all in the struggle together.
If I AM an inspiration then the rest is easy.
I’m praying that this will be a weekend of inspiration for all of us.

Trust Me…Talk to Me…

…Sitting at a small restaurant next to the airport In Port-au-Prince reflecting on a great week with a wonderful team working in the mountains.  I’m awaiting the next team in few hours and the Lord is overwhelming me as I write.

I believe the Lord gave me two thoughts at the beginning of this stint in Haiti: “Trust Me” and “Talk to Me.”
All week long I’ve tried to push past my flesh, fatigue, and small fears (of my own inadequacies) to find God in all of the challenges that present themselves when working in a country like this.  My struggle is my natural tendency to “power through” in my own strength to complete our ministry’s programs and projects. But this week has been different. God’s “still-small voice” has been very loud in my ears saying; “Brent, don’t PRESENT Me to the world more than you are PRESENT with Me this week. What an incredible difference that simple instruction has made for me!blog
  Even mundane tasks like going to the store or walking with a team member through a village becomes more exciting when God gives you HIS perspective. Accessing His “helicopter view”  of time and the world gives meaning to everything I do. I also believe that when we abide in Christ we access the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit calms our fears, strengthens us from the inside and empowers our actions and words in a way that we will never comprehend.
  So…  I start another week in my second home if Haiti.  I intend to practice the presence of God in my life. I’m praying that for all who read this as well.

What’s my motivation?

Though I have never met anyone who’s motives are 100% pure, I love those days when I wake up and all I want is what God wants for the world. At that moment my motivation is not just my love for people. It springs from my love for God and the fact that He is giving me HIS perspective of the world, as He transforms me by the renewing of my mind. That’s a good day.
Have one.

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2012…

This year I have seen the Lord work on me as much as through me. The teaching and evangelism ministry with which God has entrusted me always seems to stretch me farther than I knew I could be stretched, both physically and spiritually. I never thought I could preach to an amazing group of Haitians on a mountainside one day and the next be just as passionate about sharing the deep truth of God to a college campus in Kentucky. My week may have begun in Ohio, encouraging a church in their call to pour out their lives “on mission”, but by week’s end I’m counseling and crying with a young high school student who is leaving his life of self and sin to follow Christ in Texas.
What I’ve discovered is this: location makes no difference to the work God has given for me. Some call it “missionary work” one place and speaking/teaching in another. I resist those tags. I’m to share Christ’s life! It’s what I was made for! (and you too!)
I’ve never been more excited looking forward at the coming year. I hope it’s the same for you. 2013 can be an incredible year for ministry if we just put our hearts to it.

Merry Christmas!,
Brent

Christian Soldiers?

It’s 11 PM and I’m sitting here in my favorite funky coffee house eavesdropping on the usual crowd of people pontificating about things they just KNOW are true. As always, life, love and politics are the “topics du jour”.
A common theme I find subliminally emerging in all of these conversations is the word “searching”.  They all seem to be looking for the meaning of life, someone to love them, or someone to lead them but, in the words of the prophet Bono: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.  It seems they are convinced that if they just discuss these things one more night, collectively, they will find the answers.
These are the times when most people of faith want to stand up and scream “I have the answer! It’s just Jesus that you need!” And though that is the truth, that cliché needs to be expounded upon or it is lost on (or scorned by) those who would hear it.
In my years of “clandestine” people-watching in little coffee houses and “dives” all over this nation, I’ve painfully observed Christians crash and burn in their attempts to engage with people like these. I’ve also had my fair share of failures working these “fields” that seem to be “not-so-white unto harvest”. And so, after extensive research. trial and error, I humbly submit a few tips and random findings: *Remember this is (and always will be) a work in progress.

1. A person must give you permission to speak into their life before you can have any impact on them. This permission will only be given when someone is convinced they are loved unconditionally  FIRST before they are “preached at”.
Before you attempt to engage a person with the truths of Christ, You need to ask yourself a question. If this person never accepts Christ or changes their beliefs and behaviors, will you still love them?

2. The Gospel of Jesus is offensive, but you don’t have to be. You will probably never debate someone into the kingdom of God.

3.  You can’t possibly know the answer to every question. If you don’t know the answer just say “Good question. I don’t have a fat clue! You’ve given me my next study-topic!”
People will respect you and come to you again if they think that you will be an honest resource for them.

3.  Use the “back off method”. If you say, “Hey, let’s change the topic. I need to come up for air!” it gives the person the idea that you’re not there to “close the deal”. They will feel free to come back to you and your discussion with no pressure.

4. Honestly express your own failures, temptations and any lack of fulfillment in your own life. This will demonstrate that we will never know perfection and absolute fulfillment as long as we walk on this planet in our flesh. That’s one of the “perks” of heaven, This will also give the person permission to be honest about their own issues. Most importantly they will not see you as one of the many stereotypical, self-righteous Christians that seem to permeate the world today.

5. Ask many questions. Seek THEIR opinions. This shows that you have respect for them. You can gain incredible wisdom and perspective from people who’s beliefs are different.

Lastly, (for now) take the chance! Engaging with someone for the sake of Christ is an exciting adventure. Who knows? You might find a new friend in the process. And who doesn’t need another friend?

I’m more convinced than ever that this is the most effective way to reach people In this “post-modern/post-church” world. We must begin to engage people one-on-one or we will lose the battle for souls. And I do believe that it’s a battle but, we “Christian soldiers” need to march with sponges on our feet!  Yes, the Gospel will step on their toes, but we are to learn how to wash their wounds as well.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty*; walk before me and be blameless. Genesis 17:1

Footnote:
* Hebrew El-Shaddai

God demanded that Abram walk blameless. There’s one problem with this demand; it seems to be an impossible task.  Abram, like you and I, was born of Adam and therefore had this thing called “the flesh” that keeps a blameless life “at bay”. For many Christians, each morning begins with a prayer something like this: “Father, give me the strength to walk blameless before you today”. Then, before we’ve even left the house, we’ve lost that strength and fallen to some stupid self-serving sin. Where did that strength go? At this point one of two things happens:
We settle for defeat and fall into condemnation or we decide to “knuckle down” and try harder. We will read the Bible more, pray more, go to church more, and then we will be strong. THEN we’ll finally be able to walk blameless before the Lord.
And tomorrow’s prayer will begin the same as today’s.

There are two fundamental flaws with this daily “battle for blamelessness”,
First, you can’t “tinker” with your flesh and make it better. Paul wrote: “in my flesh dwells no good thing”. If you could “fix” your flesh, surely the author of 13 books of New Testament would have figured it out. His conclusion: “I die daily”. His solution was to die to his flesh; not try to fix it. He understood the flesh is irredeemable.  In fact, Paul went on to say,  “His strength is made perfect in our weakness”. I believe that’s exactly why God demanded blamelessness from Abram. God wanted to show him human strength was not up to the task of righteousness. It showed Abram just how weak he was.
Which brings us to the second flaw which manifests itself in our prayer for “more strength”.

We cannot ask for strength from the Lord.
Let me explain.
As with most names ascribed to God or given to Him by Himself, there is a deep meaning behind this title. The Hebrew name El Shaddai or God Almighty carries with it the implication of His “might”or strength, but there is an incredibly important nuance to this name. It does not mean that God possesses any strength. If He merely possessed strength He could dispense it to us like a gumball machine. But this name in Hebrew means God IS “all might” He doesn’t possess it, He embodies it! Therefore I cannot ask Him for more strength. I must come to Him in my weakness and ask for more of HIM! He doesn’t merely want to help me.  He wants to live His life through me. He wants to grow inside of me until I am a testament of HIS strength. That’s why the Scriptures teach us to “…be strong in the Lord and the power of HIS might”.

Our prayer should now be: “Live Your life through me today God. In my weakness be made strong. Lord, You BE my strength and make me blameless because only You can”.

How comforting to know that not just my salvation, but my sanctification is His gift. Everything God expects of me He will empower me to do.

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Advice For “The Surrendered”

Well, here I am in the middle of the summer camp, conference, and mission season, and I find myself physically drained but my soul curiously refreshed.  I’m not only energized by the salvation I’ve seen “spring up from the ground” this summer, but also the amazing number of conversations I’ve had with people who feel they have been called by God to surrender to full-time ministry. (Over 20 and one altar call last week!) In fact, I feel as though I’m in the movie “Groundhog Day” because I’ve repeated the same dialogue with so many people in the past few weeks.

“How I’m I supposed to get started?”

“How do I know God’s will or if it’s His voice or my desire?”

Now there are no experts in the kingdom of God. That would imply that Christianity is a destination and not a journey. But, for the sake of time, and a horse voice, I submit the following thoughts gleaned from the many failures and a few successes in my own ministry:

1. God told Abraham, “go… To the land that I will show you.” This means you don’t have to know the final destination before you get started on the journey. Just do what He’s telling you now. He’s never in a hurry. You’ll know the details at the moment you need to know them.

2. Don’t get stuck in “analysis paralysis”. if you have to know the answer to every question along the journey you will not need faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

3. Remember that God is a “good Shepherd”. A shepherd leads his flock into a good pasture. He does not, then, tell the sheep which blade of grass to eat or which tree to sleep under. Many times God will lead you to a particular people group or country. Then God says: “What do you want to do here? The needs are many.” When you discover your own burden and your passion these will lead you to your vocation within that “pasture”. Then you’ll see that God gave you these and weaved them together with the rest of the body of Christ to fulfill His purposes. It’s amazing to watch that unfold.

4. If you want to hear Gods voice you have to remember His voice is “still” and “small”.  You’ll have to get really close to hear it. Lean in. Snuggle up for the whispers. As you listen, you’ll not only know the good from the bad but you begin to discern the “better” from the “best”.

5. Build God’s kingdom… Not your own. (Enough said.)

6. Risk everything for your calling. “I will not offer to God that which cost me nothing”

I hope this helps. Maybe I should put this in a pamphlet or just print it on a T-shirt. It would save a lot of time. 🙂

Please pray for our ministries the rest of the summer. It will take a lot of strength and wisdom to get there… wisdom that we     don’t have ourselves.

Brent

 

 


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I’ve often been asked “How do I know I’ve been “called” to missions.”  My answer: ” We are all called! ”  But, for the sake of a more thorough and precise answer, I  humbly submit the following…

You KNOW you are called to the mission field if:

20. You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that support your “native” language’s alphabet.
19. You feel you need to move after you’ve lived in the same place for a month.
18. You have a name in at least two different languages, and it’s not the same one.
17. You don’t think that two hours is a long sermon.
16. You forget and haggle with the Walmart checkout girl for a lower price.
15. You refer to gravel roads as highways.
14. Fitting 15 or more people into a car seems normal to you.
13. You know how to pack.
12. Your favorite cologne fragrances are “Skin so Soft” and citronella.
11. You sort your friends by continent.
10. You do your devotions in another language.
9. You slap someone for complaining in line at a fast FOOD joint.
8. You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
7. You can cut grass with a machete, but can’t start a lawnmower.
6. You watch nature documentaries, and think about how good that animal would taste if it were fried.
5. You consider a city 500 km away to be “very close”.
4. You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
3. You read National Geographic and recognize someone.
2. You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
1. You can’t answer the question, “Where do you call home?”

I hope that clears things up.

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