ANOTHER LOOK AT VISION…


Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” NASB

We are not talking about natural sight but insight or the vision of the heart . This is the objective and purpose of God for our lives and the Church that we have Spiritual Vision.  Problems arise in the Body of Christ and ministries when there is either No Vision. That causes people to cast off restraint.

Problems arise when there are Too Many Individual Visions or unconnected visions. That results in people to running wild in all directions without direction or purpose.  Both are destructive and detrimental to the cause of the Kingdom of God.  Without vision, none of us can stay on course.  Without vision, we will not be set on fire by the Spirit of God and develop a willingness to be harnessed together and pull in tandem toward a common goal.

Every person has a vision even if they cannot or have not articulated it or fully understood it.  If that vision is not a vision, given by God for the whole church in which we can see our special place in the Vision of the Whole that vision will be or become ‘self-centered’ or develop a ‘survival vision.’  This is the kind of vision in which a person says or thinks, “I will do only what is necessary for me to get along in this world.  I will do what I think will bring me happiness and satisfaction.  I will do so long as it does not interfere with my desires, goals, dreams, ambitions, and vision.”

The truth is that all of us have a ‘survival vision’.  It stems from our ‘self-centered’ nature, and whenever we are not truly yoked to a higher God-given vision, the ‘survival vision’ will assert itself and take a supreme position in our lives.  This is the condition in the church when the congregants declare, “I have a right to….  I demand…. You must give me….” 

Survival visions stem from a ‘self-centered’ point of view.  They cause people to look at the minister and the church and say, “What do you have to offer me?  How can I benefit from you?”  When they should be asking, “What can I add?  What can I provide?  What can I do for the cause of the Kingdom?”  The person operating in a ‘survival vision’ is not only ‘self-centered’ but they operate out of a ‘need orientation’ rather than a God-centered view of life and ministry.

The tragedy is that No Pastor, No Apostle, No Prophet, No Teacher; No Person can ever meet the needs of a church filled with ‘survival visions.’  Why?  “The eye is never filled with seeing; the ear is never filled with hearing.”  All the needs a ‘self-centered’ person has Cannot be Satisfied! It doesn’t matter how good the music, worship, programs, ministries, preaching, leadership the needs of a ‘self-centered’ individual or church Will Never Be Met!

It is incumbent upon each of us to see something greater than ourselves.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to instill in our hearts a God-centered vision.  The truth is a God-centered Vision and a Survival Vision cannot cohabit the same heart!  When a ‘survival vision’ is in operation No One will rise above the level of their individual vision.  If a person reasons:  “When all my needs are met, then I will go on to a higher vision.”  He or she Will Never progress, for the needs of the human heart are inexhaustible.

Therefore I ask that you ask the Holy Spirit to help you move from a ‘survival vision’ to a ‘God-centered vision’ and plug into the Vision God has given the local fellowship and allow your individual vision to be incorporated into it making both visions stronger and more complete.

God bless you as you go through your day!

VISION AND PURPOSE…


Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” NASB

For a number of years, I have been keenly aware of the pressure associated with public ministry.  There is incredible pressure in public ministry that many do not realize.  The pressure is applied from ‘expectations’.  The expectations of others, of self, of our perception of what others expect, and of our perception of what God expects.  The pressure felt by preachers is also felt by many in the congregation and has resulted in far too many become casualties in the cause and moving into secular employment rather than continuing in the labor of the Kingdom. 

Too many have become broken-hearted, distressed, and discouraged to the point of total exhaustion and have been robbed of the fruit of their labors that God so desired for them.  It is not a new occurrence but one that, I believe is growing even more pronounced today.

There are many reasons for this but the one that stands out to me, especially with regard as to how to avoid discouragement and defeat is Vision!  However, I must add to that list Purpose. If you include those two factors you will discover a wonderful antidote for discouragement and defeat in spiritual things and in life.  Vision & Purpose play incredible roles in the life and health of the individual and the local body as well as the Body of Christ.  Yet, I am convinced that little is truly understood about this vital element whose absence is a major contributor to Discouragement, Disillusionment, and Defeat!

Look at the passage above:

            NASB “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…”

            NKJV   “…cast off restraint…”

            KJV     “the people perish…”

            NLT     “the people run wild…”

         Another  “… the people become demoralized…”

Every Christian minister with any degree of experience knows that all of those are true.  For a Church or ministry to go forward, the Body must become ‘yoked’ or ‘harnessed’ together by a singular vision.

Vision is like a ‘yoke’, it links two or more together so that they are able to pull in tandem.  I heard an illustration years ago that resonated with me powerfully. It reported that through research it was discovered that if one horse could pull 9,000 pounds, two horses did not pull 18,000 but pulled 27,000 pounds are the equivalent of a third horse. 

Without the yoke of vision, there is no restraint, either in our personal lives or in the church.  We tend to pull in all directions at the same time and often are working against each other in so doing.  It is like a stampede of horses or cattle running in all directions.  It produces discouragement in the leadership and ultimately in the flock. 

When everyone has a different vision about what to do when to do, and how to do it failure is guaranteed.  Too often, it has been my observation, that there are either Too Many Visions or No Vision. When there is No Vision the people are left to formulate and attempt to initiate their own visions. God’s design and desire is that we plug our individual visions into the corporate vision making it stronger, more complete, and more viable. The result is that people continue unrestrained and pull in differing directions which creates chaos and lack of continuity.  Success is impossible in that condition and situation.

Without Vision or Vision from God, none of us can stay on course.  We will become too easily distracted or sidetracked.  But if we have a Vision from God and develop a determined Purpose to fulfill that Vision we can stay on course and accomplish the purposes of God in our situation and according to His timing and plan.

I encourage everyone to seek to know what the Vision of your fellowship. Once you understand it I encourage you to evaluate your personal or individual vision to determine if it is consistent with the Vision of the Body.  If it is not talk to the leadership about your vision, and if you can find a way to incorporate it into the overall vision that will prove to be powerful. However, if they cannot and you are totally convinced that this is a Vision from God for you then it may be that you are in the wrong fellowship.  I am not trying to get anyone to leave any church but I believe that most pastors would agree that ‘two cannot walk together unless they be agreed.’

God bless you as you discover God’s Vision for you and God’s Vision for the Local Body!

SECRETS IN PREPARING FOR WAR…


2 Timothy 2:1-3 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  NASB

We have considered the ‘deposit’ you are making or should be making in others.  Paul was giving Timothy, his son in the faith some counsel regarding his ministry and purpose in preparing others to join in the spiritual warfare that is going on and will until Jesus come again.  One of the things we learned is that it is important to “Pick the Right Friends.”  We observed that one of the most devastating things for the church or the individual in this walk and warfare is ‘misplaced friendships’ or ‘relationships.’  As the writer of Proverbs tells us in 25:19 – “Confidence in an unfaithful man in the time of trouble is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint.”  Painful would be an understatement and adds no benefit.

Today, I want us to consider another secret – “Pick Faithful People.”  That is an absolute necessity for ‘fellowship’.  I have learned through observation and experience that ‘faithful people’ make the best fighters in spiritual warfare or any warfare!  Tragically the Church has given positions of responsibility and authority to people simply to get them involved or keep them coming to the local sheep shed.  That is disastrous and completely contrary to what biblical guidelines. It is equally dangerous when we, as individuals, reach out in search for relationships out of desperation, due to rejection and a desire to be ‘approved’, ‘liked,’ and ‘loved’.  Big Mistake!

Who was Timothy to choose?  Those who stayed when the others left!  Bear in mind, they probably were not the most influential, charismatic, and may not have been the most gifted.  They were likely just ‘regular people.’  However, they stayed true!  They were Faithful!  I am so thankful to God for the friends who have stayed true through the years and the tears!

Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 27:6 – “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

I have learned, the hard way, that a real friend will not sugar-coat everything and tell me only what I want to hear.  They are honest to a fault with me and as a result they ‘sharpen me’ and sometimes the ‘wound’ of their words and truth hurts but that hurt leads to healing and betterment in my life.  I thank God for a friend who will be honest in love!  

If you attempt to pour your life into an unfaithful person it is like pouring water on the ground.  The Bible teaches that we are to love all people, reach out to all people, and we are to avoid being suspicious, and judgmental.  We are to judge righteous judgment not judgment of the flesh.  So, beware you cannot pour your life out to or into everyone. Those you are going to War with must be Faithful people!  That is a heart quality not a religious performance thing.

If you comprehend what Paul says to Timothy you will find valuable information for your relationships and labors:  “Timothy, you take what you have learned from me and commit that to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”   Do you see the process?

  • We Receive and then We Give Out.
  • It is a Progression through Multiplication.
  • The Disciple is to become the Disciple Maker and produce Disciples who will in turn Disciple others.   It is Reproduction!

This is evangelism, discipleship, and fathering but to be a father you must have spiritual sons and daughters!  You reach out to everyone.  You evangelize whenever and wherever you can or there is opportunity.  But, you cannot pour your life, to the point of reproduction in everyone!  The whole of Christianity is Relationships!  It is not positions, structures, functions, gifts, roles, rules – It is Relationships! It is Life Links!

Paul’s emphasis and that of the Bible is Faithfulness rather than Ability. He did not say look for ‘qualified men’.  There are scores of them, they are abundant.  He said, look for Faithful Men!

1 Timothy 5:22 – “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partakers of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”

The ‘laying on of hands’ here is releasing them or appointing them to position or ministry.  You must know those you are going to war with.  You do not appoint them out of need, based on previous success, influence, or charisma. You do so after you have tested them and know they are Faithful!

1 Thessalonians 5:12 – “Know those who labor among you.”

If you are in a position to disciple another carefully choose who you pour out your life to or into.  Be sure they are faithful people who will then teach others that which you are teaching them.

God bless you as you go through your day!

THE KEY TO SERVICE IS THE HEART…


2 Timothy 2:1-2 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” NASB

It has been my observation that one of the best ways to test someone’s character and determine if they are truly a servant having Jesus’ Heart is to let them know you ‘recognize’ the call of God on their lives. Then give them a task such as:  Janitor, Chair set-up detail, Greeter, Usher, or something of the like.  Let him who would be the greatest among you be servant of all.  Then watch them and listen to them.

THE KEY IS THE HEART:

Qualification is not enough!  Faithfulness is the critical element!  This message and ministry is to be committed to ‘faithful men’ who shall be able….  The word Able – [he-ka-nos] speaks of sufficiency.  ‘Who is sufficient…’  Simply, those faithful people who may not be qualified right now but because of their heart will become Sufficient. Whatever God has called you to do He will make you sufficient if you are faithful!

God does not come looking at our Qualifications, after all they come from Him anyway!  He comes looking at our Hearts!  Ministry (real ministry) does not being in the pulpit or on the platform – – it begins in Service!  Faithful Service!

In truth, none of us are really qualified.  God does not call us because of our natural talents.  He calls us because of our Hearts!  If a person’s heart is right and willing to be taught, this ‘faithful’ person can become More Than He Now Is!

All of us have been burned or hurt in life.  All of us have a call on our lives. All of us need a close covenant of committed friends. All of us need to be a part of a covenant community.  All of Us!  For you and me to stand in our commitment to Christ We Need to establish a Covenant Relationship with God.  For our families to stand and not become fragmented and destroyed we need to develop a Covenant Relationship in that family order.  For the Fellowship or local Church to stand and possess the land there must be committed covenant relationships established within that body. 

We are engaged in a Spiritual War and to be prepared we much be Committed and Faithful! We have God’s Promises.  Now as we more fully understand His purposes and receive His power we must be united in a Covenant Family and always stand Faithful!

God bless you as you go through your day!

THERE MUST BE FAITHFULNESS FOR SPIRITUAL WARFARE…


2 Timothy – 2:1-2 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  NASB

In studying the directives of Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith we come to some powerful revelations and directives. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to find, teach, train, and impart that which was in his heart, received from the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul.  This was critical to the founding and grounding of the New Testament Church. 

There are Three Critical Areas in which Faithfulness is Key:

  1. Faithfulness to God is Absolutely Essential.
  2. Faithfulness in Relationships is Vital.
  3. Faithfulness in Service is Indispensable.

FAITHFULNESS TO GOD.

This needs little explanation or discussion as most would readily acknowledge the need and the essential aspect of this.  However, if we are genuinely faithful to God it will be manifest in the other areas or dimensions as well.

FAITHFULNESS IN RELATIONSHIPS.

This is an area that many Christians do not work on and but need to give attention to!  Remember Timothy’s mistake or potential mistake – ‘Choosing people who were possibly qualified and influential but UNFAITHFUL.’

FAITHFULNESS IN SERVICE.

This is absolutely indispensable!  We must learn to be Servants. We must learn and become willing to do what is asked when it is asked and how it is asked even when the flesh rises up and resists or the ego says that is beneath me.  Even when your ego raises its ugly head and declares that is not using my gifts or abilities to the fullest.  Even when you feel that you are not appreciated and recognized as you should be.

God’s way is to first ‘make the man’ then He ‘releases the ministry’.  Tragically, the Church has gotten the cart before the horse too often.  We recognize ‘gifts’, ‘charisma’, ‘talent’, and ‘ability’ and immediately send forth into ministry! 

PERSONAL TESTIMONY.

I was released wrongly but God taught me the necessity of Serving. I was almost immediately sent out because people could see the hand of God on me and God gifted me with passion and ability to convey the message.  So my response was Go Out!  I should have been sitting and experiencing nurturing, but within weeks after my conversion, I was sent out.  I saw in Bible College and have observed it in my 40 years of ministry the dangers of that approach.

When a person is called or God uses them in some degree or measure of success and instills a vision in their hearts along with His promise people take note.  Too often those individuals mistakenly develop the idea that they should be immediately released to pursue that vision but they are not ready.

  • They are overcome with the Vision.
  • They expect to be Recognized.
  • They become more Spiritual than anyone (in their own minds).
  • They make sure everyone knows they are Anointed, Appointed, Called, and Commissioned.
  • They demonstrate an inability or unwillingness to listen to others without a Critical Attitude believing in their hearts they could do a better job or they just know better.

They have not learned one of the key traits for Leadership is being a Servant and Serving Others as well as the Lord! If we do not learn how to Serve we are not qualified to Lead.

God bless you as you go through your day!

WHAT DEPOSIT ARE YOU MAKING IN OTHERS?


2 Timothy 2:1-2 – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  NASB

Making disciples as seen in verse two revealed in the words ‘commit to…’ is essentially ‘making a deposit’ in their lives.  It is like putting money in the bank.  You drive alongside or go inside and deposit the money and the money is there when you need it.  But, what about the times when you do that with people and they quit on you, betray you, hurt you, leave you, abandon, you in the time of heated battle?  You say, ‘that deposit didn’t work am I supposed to do it again?’  YES!  Everyone’s been hurt or will be hurt. 

If fear grips your heart you dare not go back into isolation and refuse to risk being hurt again.  If you do then the devil’s plan is succeeding.  The temptation is always there to protect your heart from hurt but when you realize that you cannot if you are to continue in the ministry and fulfill the commission the Lord gave us you will press on.  Always remember you Cannot function in battle by yourself alone and be effective.  This is a Body Ministry.  This is an Army!  This is a Family!  This is not a bunch of isolated individuals or body parts trying to be the whole for that is certain defeat!

In making disciples we quickly learn the power and importance of Forgiveness! We must make the determination that we will forgive, forgive, and forgive.  That will prevent a root of Bitterness from springing up in our hearts and defiling us and others.  It is necessary to maintain order in our lives and keep the battle moving forward.  If we have been ‘abandoned’ in the war zone we need to be ‘healed’ and ‘restored.’  Refuse to allow wounds to fester and become infected.  Healing comes by allowing the wound to be opened, the blood to flow to it and life to be ministered. 

A word of wisdom and warning – “Pick the right friends this time!”  Do not be too quick to lay hands on people.  How do you pick the right ones?  Discernment and testing!  I’ve had people want to be friends and comrades in arms in the battle only to find that they quickly became disillusioned and disappointed.  They had expectations of me that I could not fulfill and therefore they turned on me.  Some have been offended that I would joke, laugh, enjoy recreational sports, etc.  They expected me to be, as they stated “different” which really meant ‘abnormal’ and ‘weird’.  They had not learned that we are all human and even Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. 

It would be easy to say, “Never again. I won’t risk being hurt.”  That would seal the deal making failure certain and limit any effectiveness we might have in the kingdom.  Too many pastors have allowed the wrong people to be made ‘elders’ and ‘deacons.’  We do that in our churches and our lives too frequently. That is why it is vital that we exercise the ‘discerning of the Spirit.’  Always remember that the qualifications for leadership are not ‘community influence’, ‘financial status’, ‘charisma’, or ‘perceived leadership potential.’  It is COMMITMENT! 

We all have the capacity for a great number of friends but only room for a few close intimate relationships.  You are to ‘deposit’ a portion of your life into that person or persons and that deposit is precious so guard it with your all.  You are going to war with this individual so you must Know Them! In war, it is vital that you Know that your fellow soldiers will stand and do their jobs.  Your life may and probably will depend on it.  I am not talking about preferences I am talking about WAR!  Once you have committed your life to Jesus you are a candidate for Front Line Duty!

There is nothing more destructive to a local fellowship than misplaced leadership.  Likewise, there is nothing more destructive to an individual life than misplaced friendships or relationships.  1 Corinthians 15:23 tells us that “bad company corrupts good morals.”  Proverbs 25:19 teaches that “confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth or a foot out of joint.”  It is painful and can be quite harmful.

In your enlistment in the Army of God, I pray that God not only equips you for battle but enable you to equip others and to have the spiritual insight and discernment to recognize the ‘right people’ to stand with.

Blessings as you go through your day!

I KNOW WHAT FEAR IS…


Psalm 34:4-7 – “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.  6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” NKJV

In the first portion of this passage, the Psalmist identifies something that too often we refuse to admit – FEAR.  If I were to go back to my time in Vietnam and tell you that I was never afraid, I’d be a liar.  I knew fear and more than once and am not ashamed to admit it.  In fact, I didn’t want to be too close to people who claimed they never experienced fear because I found them to be careless too frequently and that got people hurt or killed. 

There were times in my childhood and my adult life when I was gripped with fear.  Sometimes the threat was real and at other times it was a phantom danger that I was afraid of.  Learning to know the difference is important but the effect on your body and your mind is the same and often it will paralyze you so that you are not able to function as you should.  In Vietnam when fear tried to grip our hearts our training kicked in and we reacted out of instinct and as the adrenaline kicked into high gear we were oblivious to fear or pain and focused on the task at hand.

In life, we have fears, some more than others.  Fear can come as a result of “guilt,” and in those cases, it is important to recognize that and run to the Lord for His mercy.  I like what the Psalmist said, “I sought the LORD, and HE HEARD ME and DELIVERED ME from ALL my fears.”  (Emphasis mine)  Then in verse seven, he gives us an incredible hope upon which to hang all our hopes – “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”  What a promise!  We have God’s angels setting up a barricade around us who fear the Lord and they come to our defense as the enemy comes in.  No wonder Isaiah said, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God shall lift up a standard against him.  (Isaiah 59:19b)

Having fear is not the problem not dealing with it is.  Being afraid is not something you have to hang your head in shame over, refusing to admit it is.  I confess there is a certain amount of “fear” or “trepidation” in my heart concerning this nation at this time but at the same time, I am 100% confident in the LORD.  “I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day.”  2 Timothy 1:12 We are living in “perilous times” but our LORD is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and one day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess” that Jesus is Lord!

What I want to conclude with is this; do not allow fear to dominate your life because you are more than a conqueror through Christ.  Fear like thoughts and temptations will come but you do not have to give it lodging place and can “resist the devil” and watch him flee.  Why – because of Christ in us!

May God be with you as you go through your day!