This week I received from the Lord the greatest revelation of my life. Now, I’m only 31 years old, and to say that isn’t as grand a statement as it would be for someone older of course. It is still a big statement none the less for me, especially in light of the fact that I don’t make statements like that with any degree of regularity.

I’ve in the past year or two been reading the Bible in a way that isn’t commonly taught as Bible study method, yet whenever I speak on Bible study techniques in a group setting everyone nods their head in agreement with this method. I tend to read and meditate on one section of a chapter or even one verse for several days and not just read full chapters and then move on to the next chapter on the following day. I like to get all the “juice” I can from one thought from the scriptures before moving on. My brother, Ryan Leak, often jokes with me and asks: “Have you been reading and meditating on the word?!?!?!?” (said with a Creflo Dollar accent), and the truth is that’s the only way I approach the Bible these days Ryan. Take that!!

This week the Lord stirred a scripture in my heart. The scripture was John 10:10, and most Christians can quote this passage without much thought. It reads: “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV) . Some versions read the latter portion of that scripture as life more abundantly. I meditated on the first part of that scripture for a couple days and thought the Lord wanted to show me something about the devils plan to steal, kill, and destroy in my life as I’ve been enduring some personal “attacks” ,if you will, from the enemy for the past year of my life. I was driving in my car to pick up my beautiful wife from work when God completely changed my perspective on life and ministry through the truth of John chapter 10. I was brought to tears as the conviction of the Holy Spirit came over me and I just told the Lord: “I’m so sorry that I have missed it all this time”. This is what the Lord showed me. Please stay with this it’s powerful. Again, I don’t say things like that often.

In John chapter 10, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and He starts by telling them that any man who enters the sheep pen by any other way then the gate is a thief and a robber. The man that enters by the gate is the shepherd and the watchmen open the gate for him. The Pharisees weren’t quite following Jesus so he began to tell them in plain language that He is the gate and the shepherd for the sheep and that everyone who came before him were all thieves and robbers. I’ve often thought that it was harsh of Jesus to say that “all” who came before Him were thieves and robbers, but further study shows that Jesus wasn’t referring to all the prophets that came before Him. John the baptist, Elijah, Isaiah, Jerimiah, and several others were not who Jesus was referring to because they all came to tell  people that Jesus was coming and  He was the Saviour. The “thieves and robbers” Jesus refers to were the false prophets and pharisees who were His audience for these comments, but how were they  “thieves and robbers”?

They were in the same way  that I have been. Jesus was telling the pharisees that anyone who didn’t point His people to Himself was a thief, and thieves only come to steal, kill, and destroy. Anyone who pastors people for the sake of growing their ministry or for any other reason than to point them to Jesus is a robber. When Jesus, the gate and the shepherd, is the focus of my interaction with people, I become a watchmen or a gatekeeper who just moves out of the way to let the shepherd lead His flock. I realized how I, not the devil, was the thief that comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I’m not saying that it is an intentional attempt to harm people, but anytime we grow so attached to people because of  what they can do for our ministry or what they mean to us, we have become one who enters the pin through some other way than through the gate, Jesus. Jesus wasn’t teaching that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Satan is in that business, but this talk from Jesus was to show us that when we tend to His flock , we must remember that it is His flock.

Advertisements

So, I planned on doing a “Tiger Woods blog”, but I had a dream last night that I feel compelled to share. Some of you reading this may think by the end of this that I should have stuck with the Tiger blog, but who asked you?

I had a dream that had all the elements of a good horror flick. I found myself feeling fear in the air as myself and several other people were standing in a junk yard with debris all around us. As we were standing there I noticed a guy who just seemed to know something that the rest of us didn’t know. As I was noticing this guy, all of a sudden there was a video that played for all of us of a maniac who was threatening to kill all of us one by one. The man on the screen looked like Anthony Hopkins from “Silence of the Lambs”, and he would turn and spit on the ground as he spoke. He said: “I’m going to kill you all by name without warning”. I felt overwhelmed with fear, and we all scattered frantically to find places to hide and began attacking each other in the process. In the midst of our hiding I noticed that the guy from the beginning of the dream was moving around in the open and not hiding. He looked like he was up to something, and he had no fear of the killer who’s threat was so intimidating to the rest of us. I found a shotgun and a great place to hide that I was certain would protect me, but something inside of me said: “stay by the side of the man who knows something you don’t”. I reluctantly gave up my hiding place and followed the guy who seemed to know something I didn’t. As I got closer to the man moving out in the open with no fear of the eminent danger that loomed over all of us something truly anticlimactic happened. I woke up.

The Bible describes Satan as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I watch a lot of Animal Planet, and I am always fascinated by the lion studies they show.  I’m no zoologist by any means, but I do know that no hunter makes a lot of noise before attacking prey. If Satan is described as a “roaring” lion, then the Bible isn’t telling us that he is lurking in the tall brush about to pounce. Satan is theatrical. He shouts loudly that he has the power to harm us, but really has none and knows it. In my dream the threat of danger made me run and hide until I realized that the best way to avoid the fate of death was to stick close to the guy who knew better than I did. In my life the same holds true. God knows better than I do, and I can choose to hide in the corner behind my fears, insecurities, sin, and shame or I can get out in the open with Him and find safety.

You may at this point be saying to yourself: “He should’ve stuck with the Tiger Woods idea”. Again, I would say to you: “who asked you”. I believe in my heart that someone needed to hear this today. I almost stopped writing this, but something in me said keep going. I pray that you that are reading this hear your Father say that you don’t have to hide anymore. Come out in the open with me and I will keep you safe. God bless you my friend.

Well, I’m officially working out again. I say again because there have been several seasons in my life that I’ve committed myself to maintaining a gym membership and working out regularly. I’ve been made fun of for being skinny most of my life, and consequently, I’ve never liked being thin. It’s always been a goal of mine look like Will Smith, who I’m frequently mistaken for already, when I take my shirt off. I love any opportunity to go to the gym and work on shaping the body. I want the six-pack, the broad shoulders and back, and the muscular chest. I become conscious of what I’m eating, and start drinking disgusting protein drinks and eating those awful protein bars. Most of all, I love the soreness that comes from a good work out. I love leaving the gym feeling the burn of muscle growth. Notice that I didn’t say: “I don’t mind the pain”. I said I love it.

I don’t consider myself to have a high pain tolerance at all, but pain never keeps me away from the gym. I can barely walk up and down stairs today from squats and leg presses the night before last, and I love it. The pain means I’m doing something right. It means I’m working hard enough to produce growth for my muscles. It means: “Look out Will, I’m coming for you!” I can’t even see the results yet, but I can feel the hurt of progress. The hurt keeps me looking for the progress. I expect progress because I feel pain.

I wonder what would happen in my life if I approached my spirit the same way? When God asks me to endure hardships, does the pain I feel excite me because it means growth is happening in my spirit? I can’t lie and say that is the case for me. I run away from spiritual pain and sometimes even spiritual discipline. I’m not as eager to do things that  don’t make me feel good. I don’t view the sacrifice the same. I have a hard time understanding why God doesn’t make the pain go away. I don’t like the taste of personal sacrifice. I don’t see the same value in it that  I see in the “blekk in a bottle” protein skakes I drink for muscle growth and health. I know that it’s impossible to grow muscle without pain and shock, but for some reason I allow myself to believe that spiritual growth is possible without the same work and pain.

My prayer today is that God would help me endure in my spirit the way I am determined to endure pain to grow physically. I want to be strong and healthy in my spirit. I’ve learned that the same routine in the gym will not produce consistent growth. Experts actually say that you have to shock your muscles in order for them to grow, so it’s recommended that you change your routine occasionally. I believe that God applies the same thing to our spiritual growth. Sometimes He has to shock us. Sometimes we have to endure things we aren’t use to or comfortable with, and He knows that. I pray for growth all the time, but I pray the pain away. Lord help me embrace the process that leads to growth. Teach me not to pray away the pain of growth.  Teach me that You aren’t out to kill me, but to grow me up. Teach me that there is no gain without experiencing pain.

My youngest daughter Gabby when she was first developing her “life of the party” personality had a phrase she would always say when she would fall down. She was two years old, and as most toddlers do,  she would fall down frequently. Whenever she would fall, however, she would shout: ” whoops… I’m ok!”. This was so funny to my wife and me, and even now as I’m typing this, I’m smiling. It was cute and funny every time, and  it was  re-assuring. As a parent you hear “thuds” all the time in your home, and each time, you’re hoping that there isn’t some serious injury to one of your babies that you have to attend to. Baby Gabby’s “I’m ok” assured us that our baby was fine.

I believe there is a lesson to be learned about falling from my daughter. We often hear the phrase: “when you fall, get back up”, and we’ve all learned to do just that. We get up, but we aren’t ok. We carry scars and pain from our falls, and we walk slowly so as not to fall again. Guilt rides on our back like a schoolbag full of  books made  of cement. Our legs are weak and our morale is low. We feel like failures, hypocrites, and losers without the ability within us to overcome. Although this feeling is from inside of ourselves, it doesn’t originate there.

Through the years the misguided idea that God is only ok with us when we do, think, and feel “right” has been widely accepted, and that idea lies in our souls. We draw from that idea when we fall, and that is why we feel like such scum when we fall. We believe God is angry with us, and that we have disappointed Him. I know that God is holy in all of His ways, and that He hates sin. I also know that God is full of love and compassion.

In Psalm 139:3, David says to the Lord: You discern my going and You are familiar with my ways. That scripture, nor the statement that God is rich in mercy are new ideas, but I looked deeper into this passage and found something I desperately needed to know about my Father. The word discern, in this passage  means: “to separate mentally or distinguish, to understand”. Familiar in this passage has the same meaning that we’ve all become accustomed to. It means: acquainted with, to know, or be friends with. When I plugged these meanings into that scripture I learned something about God that I don’t know that I fully grasped before.

God is ok with me. God has intimate knowledge of who I am and why I do, think, and feel the things I do. He separates those things from who I am so that He can draw close and meet me where I am. When we fall, our Heavenly Father is still ok with us because He knows our hearts. He knows our going. He is familiar with our ways. We didn’t surprise Him when we took the sharp left when He wanted us to go right. I hope this encourages you as you read it. God wants you to know today that when you fall, He’s not angry with you. You’re not a failure, loser, scum bag, or hypocrite. Learn to not only get up, but be aware enough of God’s love to shout like baby Gabby: “I’m ok!”

I recently saw a news story in which a woman fell onto some train tracks at a train station in New York City. They showed video of this woman falling onto the tracks and footage of some of the other folks waiting for the train frantically waving at the train operator to stop. I kept thinking to myself as I saw this woman, “what kind of fool would….”, and then the report revealed that it was ten o’clock at night and that this woman had just come from a party. She was drunk, and she is fortunate to be alive today.

Obviously, people are safer, sharper, and less dangerous when they are not drunk, and drinking in excess followed by driving has always been condemned by our society. I guess now we should look at how safe it is to take the train when intoxicated as well, however this isn’t a rant about drinking or the dangers of being drunk. The apostle Peter instructs us to stay sober, but not in reference to abstaining from alcohol.

In 1Peter 5:8 the Bible teaches us to be sober in our minds,and the placement of this scripture is remarkably interesting given that it is between a couple of the most quoted scriptures in Christianity. Before the instruction to be sober, the Bible tells us to “cast our cares”, and after it tells us that the enemy of our souls is “prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”.

One of the definitions of sober is “free from excess”. If we were to apply that definition to the scripture it would read: “Keep your mind free from excess” or “Don’t let your mind get bogged down with clutter”.  If we take a look at the whole picture of 1Peter 5:7-8, bearing in mind the definition of sober, we could read: “Cast all of your anxiety, fear, stress, worries, and confusion on Him because He cares for you. Keep your mind free from clutter and excess because your enemy is looking for an occasion to destroy your life”

Peter, the most famous of the twelve disciples, no doubt had the words of Jesus in mind when he wrote this passage of scripture. Jesus, in John chapter 14 told the disciples that the enemy was coming, but that he would find nothing in Jesus to use against Him. I believe Peter was warning us not to allow fear, worry, doubt, anxiety, stress, sin, or shame to stay in our minds. Jesus knew that allowing these things that the enemy can use against us to stay in our minds would ultimately lead to our down fall, and He taught this to Peter. Satan doesn’t destroy lives with tools from the outside, but rather with tools he finds in us. He uses tools like fear, tools like hatred, bitterness, or stress to devour us, and so the Bible warns us to keep the excess out of our thoughts. The Bible warns us to stay sober.

So there we were singing: I just wanna worship You all my days……. when suddenly something incredible happened. I’ve been leading worship from a platform since like 1996 when I was on “side worship” at Crosscurrent back in Rockford, Illinois, and I’ve never been in a room where the people on the floor took worship and owned it the way the students at Oxygen did on this past weekends fall retreat.

It was Saturday night and the team and I were expecting the atmosphere to be charged as it always is on the last night of a weekend where we do  nothing but focus on God and His plan for our lives. The students were ready, we were ready, and I knew God was ready, He always is. I prayed that we would experience an “all of a sudden” moment in worship. I prayed that Saturday, October 31st would be the beginning of a testimony for somebody.

It’s not something that we readily admit, but I think most of us believe that we can predict how and when God will show up. Most of us who have been in church for a while can probably tell you what He will do when He shows up, or so we think. This night I chose to believe that I didn’t know anything. I chose to believe that God still does miracles, and that He will do them whenever and where ever we will let Him.

So there we were singing: “I just wanna worship You all my days, lift my hands and give You praise, I don’t wanna Stop, I don’t wanna Stop…” We sing that song a lot and it never seems to get old, so it was no shock that people were shouting, clapping, crying, and jumping. It was a surprise, however, that after the band and I finished that song, the students went into their own song, with one voice, seemingly at the same time, and all singing in the same key.

They started singing: “wonderful, beautiful, glorious……” which for anyone who cares to know, is in a totally different time signature than the previous song. The tempo change for a group of mostly non musicians and singers was incredible to me. It was as if God began to orchestrate His own worship to Himself. The students on the floor led  the platform in worship for another 30 minutes after worship was “over”. It’s incredible because, lots of times worship leaders are trying to “get” people to worship, this weekend by God’s own hand, we spent the better part of 30 minutes wondering if they would stop.

I recently took a trip out to beautiful and sunny California. I was truly jaw droppingly amazed at the scenery surrounding the cities I visited. It’s one of the few places in the world that you can see the desert, ocean, and mountains all in the same place. It’s incredible. I know I sound like a total tourist, and yes, I have been to Cali before. This time, however, something seemed different. Maybe it’s because I am older now and appreciate everything a little more than I used to. I don’t know, but I was really inspired by what I saw.

I was genuinely amazed at the creativity of our God. God is seriously a genius, to quote my good friend Cory D. The thought that all of the beauty of the mountains or the vastness of the ocean is not even God’s best creation is just un-real. We are the crown of all of creation. God, after creating all of the things that are beyond impressive, decided that He could do better. He decided to create man and then even better, woman. The sovereign God is truly awesome. Not in the casual descriptive way we tend to use the word awesome, but in the true since of the word. God is awe-inspiring. He’s bigger, better, brighter, stronger, greater, and more magnificent than anything, yet He is consumed by an unyielding love for you and me. Wow!

Innovative thinking and creative engineering has made seemingly anything possible these days. It seems there is an “app” for everything these days. I mean, seriously, from stud finders, to restaurant locators, to jedi light sabers and stun gun apps, there really is a “man made” solution for everything. No wonder we have a hard time believing in supernatural things anymore. 

If Jesus lived in our day and did some of the things he did, like……….walking on water for instance, we would all dismiss it because we could probably find some digitally enhanced video on youtube of some dude doing the exact same thing. Our ability to create has become so great that we can explain away miracles as science or innovation rather than supernatural. 

Our faith was built on miracles, signs, and wonders. Today, though, you rarely hear of any. Just two days ago I saw a news story on Benny Hinn in which the media outlet eluded to a “claim” that Hinn made that someone at one of his meetings was raised from the dead. The culture seems to become more and more skeptical of God’s miraculous power with each new “app” that is invented. Why would anyone believe that without any technology, lighting, or iphone amazing things can happen? We need to believe God again for miracles from His hand. The world needs to know that without any help from us, our God can still part the seas and raise the dead. There is no app that compares to Jehovah!

We sing a song called “Well Done” that is one of my favorite songs the band and I sing. The song is about the moment that all Christians look forward to. The moment when we see Jesus face to face and hear the Father say “I’m proud of you”. I get chills thinking about it!

I imagine a moment when all of the saints from all generations are gathered in this auditorium full of light and the noise of thankful millions just glad to be there. I can imagine there are angels flying around, and music playing. Hopefully God will let me sing a couple tunes. Maybe Not Afraid or something with the band and a few of the more talented Angels. I’d really like for Jesus to do the rap. That’d be so hot!  Sorry, total side bar. I gotta start a new paragraph now.

Anyway, I imagine all this sort of rumbling is going on. Like the noise of full baseball stadium between pitches or innings. Everyone is looking around and meeting people they had read about in the scriptures, reuniting with people who had gone on before them, some folks even thanking a friend or family member for praying that they would make it in. Then I picture a trumpet sounding. I can see big golden doors open and a figure standing in the doorway like a bride about to walk the aisle to her groom. In that moment I can almost hear the cheers, the tearful exclamations of thanks as the announcement is made that this figure standing in the doorway about to walk in is Jesus.

What a glorious moment! What a glorious day, when we can point to Him and tell those around us on that day: “He washed my sins away”. Tears streaming down our faces I imagine we will all say to Jesus: “Well done, well done”

The Bible says in Romans 12:1 that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. It then goes on to say that such an offering is our “reasonable” service. The NIV calls this sacrifice our “spiritual act of worship”. It’s interesting to note the association between worship and sacrifice found throughout the Bible. Today it seems that worship has become about the performers or the song more so than the sacrifice.

One of the first places we see worship mentioned in the Bible is when Abraham is telling his servants where he and his son are going, and what they would be doing. Abraham told his servants that he and his son were going to “worship”. That’s a funny notion in the context of what we call worship today. He didn’t take an instrument or a group of singers. He didn’t take any incense to burn. All he had was material to build an altar, a knife, and someone of great value to him, his son.

Abraham described his intention to sacrifice his only son to God as worship. He believed that obeying God and sacrificing his only son was an act of true worship. I believe Abraham was right. I believe that true worship should be costly. God’s presence is freely accessible to all of us, but it’s certainly not cheap. The access we now have cost Jesus a gruesome death on the cross, and I think that it’s not too much to ask of us to offer our lives to Him as our “reasonable” act of worship.

Advertisements