Sunday, March 31, 2013

Need vs. Want - session 8 of the 40 Day Project




The basic needs of a human being are food, water, shelter, air, clothing and companionship.  If we ask for anything more are we being selfish, greedy or ungrateful?

People with serious problems often explain that they don’t have faith to ask for a miracle because "God has so many other people in the world with worse problems" than themselves. So with that kind of logic, a miserable life in Texas lands you at the back of the line, while starving Ethiopian children make it to the front.  God is turned into an understaffed Red Cross center that can only deal with a limited amount of needy people.  Maybe if you were a miserable, starving victim of a tsunami you could get bumped up a few spaces…

But God’s definition of what we need is far more generous that our own.  He makes it very clear that continual want and loss is evil, while He desires our lives to be full of all that is good.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” John 10:10.
God makes another sweeping promise in the same book: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it,” John 14:13.  Anything.

Most of our religious upbringing causes us to reason that if it were God’s will for our lives to be extremely happy, He would have made them so already. We factor out the very important point that we have an obligation to fight evil and injustice, and daily use our faith, talents and skills to overcome our problems.  In other words, God wants to give us a happy, meaningful life, but only when we put our faith into action.  A full life is promised, but is not to be dropped into our laps.

All the heroes of faith in the Bible had an intense belief, some to the point of being confrontational with God, but never disrespectful.  Jacob got into a wrestling match with God, Abraham and Gideon spoke harshly, King Hezekiah refused to accept God’s prophecy, and many more can be found who had fiery spirits regarding God’s promises.  These people felt they could not go on living unless God helped them to change their lives… If we don’t have a similar attitude in the 40-Day Project we risk seeing no change. We need to view our change as a need that God has to fulfill.

Look at God’s definition of needs:
His children need to experience His supernatural power on a regular basis.
His children need to be actively repelling the evil and injustice of this world.
His children need to be an example for their own children and the world around them.
His children need to reflect the power of God so others can believe in Him.
If your life is lacking in these areas, then you not only have the right to insist that they be fulfilled, you have an obligation to.

On the other hand, man-made traditions have created false ideas of our needs.  We are told we need to always "be there for family" – even if they mistreat us or hold us back in our faith.  They are “blood,” and true Christians always please their families no matter what.  Wrong.  Jesus taught that there are times we have to go against our families (Luke 14:26).

We are told by society, by Hollywood, and by our own easily deceived and very emotional hearts, that we need to be in a romantic relationship, otherwise we will never be happy.  Both men and women will allow themselves to fall into a deep infatuation with someone that later turns into an obsession, which they then call love.  They cohabitate, mistreat each other, hurt each other, but can’t let go of each other.  Their lives are a virtual hell, but when challenged with the thought of ending the relationship, they insist that they "need" each other.  God describes our hearts as deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

We sacrifice time that ought to be spent with God in church, just to make relatives happy, to go out with that romantic prospect, to get overtime pay, because we are convinced that our wants are non-negotiable.  But when it’s time to put effort into fighting for our need to have life to the full and be free from the devil’s oppression, we become weak and even complain about how hard it is to fight.  Some of us want God to drop the fulfillment of our needs into our laps, complain when He doesn’t, but then spend vast amounts of time and effort chasing after our wants.

Have you been hesitant to believe that what you want to change by the New Year is really God’s will?  Does it fit into His description of a need?  Then cut off all doubts and everything that holds you back and be determined that God wants this for you even more than you do.

Have you been convinced that your wants are really needs?  Are they actually selfish wants or things that you feel pressured into because of family expectations?  Choose now what you will pursue and what you need to leave behind as a hindrance to change.




“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sacrifice




What a perfect topic for Resurrection Sunday!  Sacrifice!  It's the most powerful act of faith we could ever demonstrate to God, and the most powerful act of love God ever gave to us.  Before He ever asked us to sacrifice, He already sacrificed His own Son.  The eyes of the world see loss, pain and weakness when they think of giving.  But when giving is done by faith, it takes on a supernatural power that can overcome barriers.  Now take giving to the extreme, to the point of sacrifice, and that power increases exponentially.

Some think of sacrifice as an archaic religious practice.  But people sacrifice all the time, perhaps they just don't think of it in those terms, because the sacrifices they make are on the altars of money, careers and other self-centered gods.  But whether we believe in it or not, no one can escape the universal laws of sacrifice.  Just ask Aron Ralston - you'll have to read more about him in session 7 below.

If we weren't such greedy, selfish human beings - I'm not referring to unbelievers, but to the best of Christians - we'd be sacrificing to the One True God much more.  Enjoy the 7th session of the 40 Day Project, right here.  Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Know Your Enemy




Most people go through their entire lives either fighting against the wrong enemies, or not fighting at all.  They attack their spouses with unkind words and actions, they hold grudges and hatred, they grouse and gripe at the government, at their bosses, at irritating drivers... and all of their bile spills onto their families who they ought to love the most.

Those who choose to be passive, become doormats in a very cruel and unjust world.  There is a fight to be fought, but it is spiritual one, not a fight against others.  But though it is spiritual, it takes some physical acts of faith to make it real.  The spiritual battle against hatred requires physical changes in our behavior.  We have to live the battle outwardly, while also battling against the evil in our own minds.  It may not look like fighting, but purposeful choices to live by faith, always inflicts deep wounds into the heart of the devil's kingdom.

You may think you know all about spiritual warfare, but there may be much more unseen than you realize.  Enjoy the 6th session of last fall's 40 Day Project, by clicking right here! 

Revolt!





Most of you were really inspired by the Week of Revolt we just finished, so you've heard quite a bit about the subject.  But strangely enough, this attitude that can take us by storm, can fizzle out in a short period of time if we aren't serious about the changes we need to make.  Anybody can get pumped up about a cause and go whole-hog at first, but when resistance comes along and discouragement appears, the initial enthusiasm wears off.  But an underlying foundation has to be in place, a hatred for evil and a determination to fight till the end to rid your life of it, that revolt will remain alive.  

Enjoy our 5th session of last fall's 40 Day Project:

What do you think when you hear the word, “Revolution?”  Does violence, rebellion and hatred come to mind?  Our lives today are shaped by the fact that a revolution was staged on American soil hundreds of years ago, and most of us consider that to be a story of heroism and a fight for freedom.  The idea of a revolt implies an all out war, a do-or-die mentality, even when fighting against impossible odds.  Most revolutions take place under extreme circumstances, where those in revolt can no longer tolerate their oppression. A person in revolt is a far cry from one who merely complains and wants pity.

Revolting against someone or something can be either positive or negative, depending on the motives, means and goals.  A teenager lashing out at his parents because he wants the freedom to drink and drive is obviously rebelling out of selfishness.  A political dissident demanding rights for his people places his life at risk to revolt for the good of his country.  Whether for right or wrong, a single person, a group, or a nation in revolt are all a frightening force to reckon with.

The 40-Day Project is in fact a personal revolt for each of us who are serious about change.  All the characteristics are present: extreme circumstances, intolerable oppression, impossible odds.  The only unknown factor is whether you are prepared for an all-out war.

How do you stage a revolt against unseen forces?  God’s Word teaches us how.  Gideon is one of God’s examples for us on how to be an effective revolutionary.

He was ANGRY, and didn’t act like the rest of Israel (threshing in the winepress)
He had the AUDACITY to question God (If God is with us…)
He had the HUMILITY to know that he had no power or merit of his own (But I am the weakest… true humility is a weapon against evil)
He was READY TO GIVE (the goat and then the 2nd bull)
He was ready to destroy the ENEMIES WITHIN (fear, the false gods of his family, his own unfaithfulness)
He was ready to face the ENEMIES THAT SURROUNDED him (the Midianites, the angry Israelites)
He FACED HIS FEARS and obeyed even the most “ridiculous” requests of God (watched his army shrink)
He used and believed in HIS OWN CREATIVITY (the trumpets, torches and jars of clay)
He TRUSTED that God would back him up (simply obeyed)

Every session has been pushing you forward in your desire to make changes, but only you can decide to switch gears from a person who hopes for change, and one who is in an all out war against evil, both within and without, to make that change happen.  Decide now to become a force to reckon with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Change your mental DNA





 DNA encodes the genetic material of an organism that determines what it will develop into, a building block of life.  Whatever is encoded in our genes, is what our physical bodies become. We want you to consider that the mental patterns and thought processes that you have allowed to be encoded in your brain, have caused you to become the type of person that you are: one who chooses to live by faith, or one who chooses to believe in the negative.  We have no choice in the physical DNA we are born with - but we have complete control over what we choose to think, and what mental patterns we choose to develop.  With the power of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to submit and change as He leads, we can actually change our mental DNA to become transformed into a New Creation.  Romans 12 says, "... but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."

This was our study for the 4th session of our 40 Day Project last fall.  I've posted it here in its entirety, no need to go to a link:


“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

This verse in Matthew doesn’t speak of people’s lives as inherently good or bad. The idea of a person having to live out his life as the black sheep of the family is nothing close to this verse. What determines whether a person’s body is full of light or darkness is his eyes, how he interprets the world around him.

This eye that Jesus is referring to is not your physical eye, but the mental and spiritual vision you have of yourself, and of the world around you.  If that mental vision is dark, negative, fearful, anxious, wrought with doubt and skepticism, Jesus says that our entire life will be cloaked in that darkness.  And in contrast, if our mental vision is bright, positive, courageous, peaceful, and full of bold determination, our entire life will reflect that light.

We have spoken, and will continue to speak about negativity and our battle against it, but our challenge is not just against external negative influences.  Our biggest challenge is to change our state of mind, our constant vision – our mental DNA.  What do we choose to see every day, how do we choose to react to negativity, and more than anything, who do we choose to be as a person?

We are often fooled into the belief that if circumstances changed, we’d be happier people.  But when we choose to change our vision, to have “good eyes,” we change who we are, and in turn change the circumstances around us because now we are living in the realm of faith and power.

This is nothing about being a positive thinker.  It’s about accessing the power of God, and our human potential.  Our radical choice to see what’s possible, causes it to happen, while those who choose to hang onto skepticism bring more negativity upon them.  “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.”  Job 3.25

One day a man carried his girlfriend into one of our meetings in Long Beach, California. She had developed a migraine and couldn’t speak, open her eyes, or even sit up in a chair. When he told me what was going on my reply was, “She’s going to be healed tonight.” He looked at me and said, “Are you kidding? You’d better be serious about what you’re saying.” And I repeated, “She’s going to be fine when you leave.” One hour later she was playing in the hallway with my 3 year-old son.

A man who has had a profound influence on my life, until this very day gets excited whenever he hears bad news… Why? Because his spiritual eyes see that the devil attacks the most whenever he senses that a big victory is coming, and because he is certain that God has to come to his aid whenever he is attacked.

Is he crazy? No. He has one of the most blessed lives of anyone I know.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Being Audacious




Like we said yesterday, believing before you see, is such a backwards concept, that rarely do people actually live by true faith.  You have to be willing to look like a lunatic to do so.  That means that faith is not for the weak minded, or for the faint of heart.  Faith is for the audacious.

The word audacious is defined as showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks, and showing an impudent lack of respect.  Doesn't that sound amazing? We're not talking about being disrespectful to others to hurt them or insult them.  But faith does not respect just doing things because "that's the way they're done."  It's a lack of fear of other people's opinions of you, because the conviction of what God tells you is so true and so universal, that you have the audacity to stand firm in what you believe, regardless of anything or anyone around you.

Jesus was audacious. John the Baptist was too, Ruth, Esther, Peter, Silas, Paul and basically anyone who did anything great for God was audacious, and at times put their lives at risk for what they believed.  Why would we think that the world has changed so much that those old stories should just remain old stories?  Why wouldn't God expect the same kind of audacity from us today so that He can unleash his power in our lives so much more?

On top of that, how many audacious people do you know already, who are bold and impudent in a negative way?  Count the partiers, druggies, foul-mouthed selfish people found within the 10 square miles of your house.  There are probably a whole lot more than you may realize!  They have no shame being audacious for the lifestyle that they believe in.  Why do Christians feel such a fear living out the words of the one they call their Lord?

Audacious doesn't mean random craziness, or religious fanaticism.  It means taking God's promises seriously and living as if they are already ours.  Sounds simple, but doing it is a radical thing.

Read more from our 3rd session of the 40 Day Project here.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Believe and You Will See




Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Everyone who knows what the Bible says about faith, knows that it has to do with believing in something that you don't yet see.  When you have faith, that's when miracles materialize.  When you doubt, nothing changes, no matter how good you may be or how much you know of the Bible.

Those are some of the most basic principles of faith, taught in the famous chapter of faith, Hebrews 11.  But finding someone who REALLY lives that way?  That's rare.  Proof of that is that so few people have seen real, bonafide miracles in their lives.  But there are truckloads of people with empty lives who claim to have faith, and are proud of it.

One proof of faith, is that you begin to live as if what you believe in is a reality, even though you don't see it with your eyes.  Your actions make your faith real.  Anyone can talk about what they believe, but only those who really do, act as if it were true.  Acting this way either turns you into a delusional lunatic, or you begin operating in a supernatural realm and have no shame in appearing crazy to the rest of the world, because you know the truth about faith.

Practically every day we have people coming to church telling us about problems that seem so out of control, involving people and situations that just won't cooperate with them.  A strong conviction from the Holy Spirit to proclaim that this problem is not going to overtake them, that God will come through for them in a big way, overcomes us.  We say it with determination, knowing that God and His promises are backing us up... and then we look at their faces as they pity us for being so ignorant as to make such general sweeping statements.  "No, I don't think that can happen, you don't know my son/daughter/husband/boss/insert name...and you don't understand how serious this is..."

Some people are actually offended that we should tell them that their problem can be overcome, as if we are robbing them of their sense of importance as they complain about their lives.  But most just pity us for being such simpletons.  Fortunately they have the courtesy to listen to us explain how these things are possible, and that God's Word has come true for us, and will come true for them if they choose to use even a mustard seed of faith.  We can sort of persuade them to at least try faith, and when the first answer to prayer comes, they are shocked at the results.  Each attempt at faith becomes slightly easier and though the process is slow, they do learn if they don't give up. What a great victory when we can turn a skeptic into a firm believer!

There are a rare few who grab a hold of those words and just say, "YES."  They are the ones who begin to act on that faith right away, who push aside fear and doubt, and who choose to take God at His word.  They are the Jairus's, the Roman centurions, the Bartimeus's, the Abrahams and the Joshuas.  They dare to act as if their prayers are answered, and they are the ones who learn to live in that realm of the supernatural.

This principle goes for everyone - from those who need to be rescued from evil, to those who just want to experience more of God and His presence.  Believe and you will see.

For the original lesson for session 2 of the 40 Day Project, click here

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Inertia and change





in-er-tia |iˈnərSHə| noun
A tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged

The 21 Day Fast has begun, and for some, it's just one more exercise in denying yourself the pleasures of entertainment, while for the few, it's an opportunity for great change.

Everyone is stuck in some kind of rut at different times in their lives.  No one is who they ought to be, and if they think they are just fine, they are in a deeper rut than they know.  But just like the laws of physics, an object in motion tends to remain in motion, while an object that is stationary remains so unless a force greater than itself moves it from it's place.

We can be either of those objects: an object in motion, heading the wrong direction, but unable to stop or turn aside, or an object stuck, static and immovable.  Our negative minds and stubborn attitudes keep us far from God, but though we know we need to change, inertia has us locked into old habits and behaviors.  Just knowing we need to change isn't enough.

A greater force needs to dislodge us, or to push us out of our rut and onto a different pathway. In the 21 Day Fast, that greater force isn't God, but you.  The hatred of your old life has to be the force that drives you to find more of God, to know Him and to hear Him.  He can't and won't change you without you pushing yourself to change first.   Only then does He come to aid and strengthen you, and in the end it's all because of Him.  

Some people will end their 21 Day Fast in awe of God's amazing presence and power that He revealed to them during this time.  They will be the ones who hated the old mediocre faith that was stuck in a rut, and pushed themselves to give their utmost to God.  Meanwhile the rest will be counting the hours before they can finally watch their favorite reality show and go back to the movies... 

Check out this page tomorrow for the next topic of our 40 Day Project.  Find the original lesson sheet attached here from November 2012: Inertia, 40DP Session 1

On Thanksgiving of 2012, we held the first course of the 40 Day Project, where we taught how to change our lives in 40 Days.  Beginning Thanksgiving, running through Christmas and culminating on New Years Eve, we met every Sunday and Friday, with a total of 15 in-depth life lessons.  Now that we have begun the 21 Day Fast, we are reposting these lessons with a brief summary to keep you inspired. And for those of you who joined in our project last winter, we hope to refresh and reignite that desire to see big changes in your relationship to God.  Enjoy!