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Faith Imagined: October 2010

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

October 23, 2010

National Best Selling Book, I Dare You to Change, by Bil Cornelius: Signed Book Giveaway!

"DARE TO CHANGE" 60 sec SPOT from Bay Area Fellowship on Vimeo.

My pastor and major spiritual influence in my and my family's life, Bil Cornelius, has published his second book, I Dare You to Change! This book was published in September of 2010, and it has already become a national bestseller. People are being empowered to grow in the image of Christ, and lives are being radically changed all around me. It truly is a Holy Spirit breathed movement.

The byline of this anointed book reads, "Discover the Difference Between Dreaming of a Better Life and Living it."

What is a better life? What should be the goal of every Christian? How big should we dream? Jesus answers these questions with a simple yet profound promise: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14.12 NIV).

With one sweeping statement, Jesus declares that every Christian should have just as much influence on this world as He. This is a bold thought, and many Christians push it away as ridiculous. But I believe that God's favor, promises, anointing, and glory are not limited. I believe that God has more than enough imagination to weave billions of beautifully tailored destinies into His Master Plan. He loves all of us equally, and He has an amazing purpose for every life that He creates.

However, our purpose is great, and it is beyond our current capability. We will have to change in order to achieve it. Change is extremely difficult, but I have found that change is made easier when it is demonstrated. Just as a child learns by modeling his parents, we learn by modeling others. My change for Christ greatly increased when my husband and I started attending Bay Area Fellowship Church over five years ago. I am growing in my God-given purpose because my pastor cleared a path for change. This is why Pastor Bil's book is so important -- it helps make change personal and possible for every person.

Giveaway Details!!!
Pastor Bil will be doing a Book Blog Tour for the next couple of months. I am honored to be his first stop. To celebrate, we will be giving away a copy of I Dare You To Change! signed by Pastor Bil. Every comment gets entered into the drawing, but I do encourage you to invest in this book....your dreams are worth it! If you would like to read a sample chapter, visit here. Deadline to enter is midnight 10/30/10.

The next stop of the tour will be at Woven by Words.

Favorite quotes from I Dare You to Change!

"Everything you need is available for your future if you will see what God already sees, especially since He created you to achieve at a level beyond anything you ever dreamed possible."

"In order to discover God's best for you life, you have to admit that you have been settling for less."

"If you're a parent who feels God calling you to be a godly leader to your children, you may have to look at your family's lifestyle and make hard decisions about what needs to change."

"Trusthworthiness cultivates credibility. Credibility creates trust. Trust builds strong teams."

"What I'm trying to say is that we need to learn to trust God, even when we don't understand everything about what He is asking us to do."

"When successful people fail, they think about what went wrong and what they can do differently the next time."

"I have been repeatedly given grace through Jesus Christ."

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October 17, 2010

Locusts and Honey

I used to have trouble hearing from the Holy Spirit; and from talking with other Christians, this is a common concern. Although the Holy Spirit doesn't answer all my questions and I don't understand many of my steps of obedience, I am now able to discern His voice more clearly.

I'm impressed by many figures in the Bible who receive revelation from God. They didn't question whether or not they heard from Him; they stood firmly on His direction in their life. Job, Abraham, Gideon, Joseph, Moses, David and Paul all heard clearly from God and tried to follow His leading.

I know that sin can clog our ears from hearing the Holy Spirit, but I think there is another phenomena plaguing Christians today, preventing them from hearing God's voice. We are bombarded with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We have so much information streaming into our minds that we can't hear above the noise.

I believe that we could consume more information in one day than people from history's past could consume in one year.

While David spent his days watching sheep and cultivating his relationship with God as a youth, our children spend their days devouring video games, magazines, Internet sites, television shows, books, movies, music, texts and the influences of dozens of people in a single day. I don't believe any one of these things is wrong, but too much exposure to information is causing our brains to become overweight and our spirits to starve.

I started hearing from God when I turned off the TV, threw away the magazines, walked away from the computer, monitored my music, became picky about movies, guarded my choice of books and protected myself from the influences of others. I stopped the flow of the information dump into my life, and finally the voice of God sounded from the mountaintops!

I thought, "There You are, God!"

God told me, "I was always here!"

Now before I decide to consume information, I tell myself this statement: "Eat the locusts and God will give you honey."

Entomophagy means to eat insects as food, which includes both locusts and honey. John the Baptist ate locusts and honey when he lived in the wilderness and preached God's Word. Locusts are continually found in the Bible, usually seen as pests devouring crops (Exodus 10.14). Obviously, there were a lot of locusts, and John didn't need money to buy them. Even though John was the only son of a Levite mother and father and had the ability to consume the choicest meats given as sacrifice, he settled for the bug.

However, John also ate honey. Honey is also found in the Bible and is used in reference to the abundance of the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 26:15), to cheer people up (1 Samuel 14:29), in celebration (Song of Solomon 5.1) and to describe God's Word (Ezekiel 3.2 & Psalm 19.10). I find it interesting that John topped off his day of bug munching with an amazing batch of wild honey!

I thought, "If honey represents God's Word, I want some more!"

God said, "Then start eating locusts, and you'll have more room for my honey!"

What I've discovered is that whenever I choose to avoid the delicacies of the world, God blesses me with His honey. Every time I sacrifice my cravings for what the world serves up, God is able to feed me with His glory. I'm learning to cater my appetite to spiritual things because I know that my life on this earth is short, and I don't want to be on my deathbed with stomach full of the world. I want more of God in my life.

I choose to eat locusts, so God can bless me with more honey.

"Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things" (Philippians 3.19 NIV).

Here's a fun article written in 1875 published in The New York Times about John the Baptist: "Locust-Eating."

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October 12, 2010

Internet Cafe: Stretching

As I build my physical strength, I’ve noticed that I hurt more. I’ll do something seemingly easy, and I’ll sprain, twist or pull something. My back begins to hurt, and I wonder why building muscle is not preventing these aches and pains.

I finally figured out that I’m not flexible. The strength training I’m doing is great, but it needs to be accompanied with stretching all the tendons and ligaments that connect my muscles and bones. If one area of my body becomes stronger, the weakness in other areas become painfully obvious….literally.

So I’ve begun to stretch. I stretch while watching the kids play, before or after my time with God, even during a family movie night. Finally, I’ve noticed a difference in my performance. I don’t hurt as much, and my aches and pains have lessened because my body is better able to withstand the stress.

I have noticed this same connection in my spiritual life. Many times Christians work hard at building our strength as Christians; yet we get hurt easily. Someone says something or does something, and we immediately take offense. Something happens in our life and we get offended at God. We become strong Christians who are weak with mercy, grace and loyalty.

Christians can be spiritual-powerhouses all they want; but if they’re groveling over all the offenses they receive, they’ll never fulfill their destiny to the fullest. We gain our greatest range of movement when we are flexible. God wants our influence to be mighty in His Kingdom, so He’ll stretch us so He can use us in amazing and wide-ranging ways.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being offended. I want to shine glory on God’s throne, so I’m determined to allow God to stretch me until it is uncomfortable — even a bit painful. But I know that when He is done, I’ll won’t find myself hurting all of the time. I trust God’s hand in my life, and I will lean on Him instead of clinging onto hurt.

Have you encountered an offense lately? Did you not offer mercy and grace only to feel bad about it later? How has God been stretching you?

“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17.9 NIV).

You can also find this devotional over at Internet Cafe!

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October 8, 2010

Serving in Leadership

Solomon's son, King Rehoboam, lost half his kingdom (ministry) because he had no idea of the true meaning of leadership. He was at a crossroads, and he chose the wrong direction. His friends defined leadership as punishing people and forcing them to do his will. Yet, the city elders knew the true core of leadership: "They said, 'If you will be a servant to this people, be considerate of their needs and respond with compassion, work things out with them, they'll end up doing anything for you'" (2 Chronicles 10.7 MSG).

Ministries are designed to provide for needs. As leaders, we are called to serve those around us. However, I think many of us get it wrong. Sometimes we serve to receive, we serve to grow our desires, we serve to be good enough, we serve to show others our works or we serve without the anointing of God. And we forget that serving becomes white-washed unless we are doing it out of a pure heart to do God's will. God wants to cultivate a desire in us to serve the needs of others; however, this desire does not come easily.

Our walk of service starts with those closest to us: spouses, children, siblings, parents and friends. We do not serve because we have to; we serve because that is our calling. We place our family's and friend's needs above our own, and work diligently to be Christ-like figures in their lives. Our family is our primary ministry, and we should be serving them first. They know everything about us, and they are the main witnesses to God's transforming power in our lives. I've come to the conclusion that if I am not fulfilling my husband's or children's needs, I have absolutely no right to be in ministry.

Once we find joy and purpose in serving our family, God will lead us to a small circle of people that He wants us to pour into and serve. This is not glamorous, and some people want to ignore it. But this is an important part of our own transformation. While we serve these hand-chosen people, God is able to do a good work within us. The fruits of our labor may not be obvious, because the fruits are produced within us, building and strengthening our character and faith. Once God trusts us with leading our small group, He will begin to open doors for greater influence.

By now we are serving our families and others on a small scale, but our capacity (territory) is growing. God broadens our reach of influence now that we have strength to do more. However, this broadening may not look how we want it to look. We might be called to reach individuals, small groups or the masses; and they each have equal impact. The world's standard of success is different than God's, and we need to remember that He grows our ministries into the shape He has for it. We probably won't know the extent of our influence for God's kingdom until He shows us in heaven.

The critical aspect about having influence is that when we stumble, many people are affected. That is why during this entire process of learning leadership, God has been teaching us to rely solely on Him and to obediently serve Him. There is much Scripture on the accountability of leaders, and they shed light to the awesome responsibility of leadership:

"The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people:"It is you who have ruined my vineyard" (Isaiah 3.14a NIV).

"It's because our leaders are stupid. They never asked God for counsel, And so nothing worked right. The people are scattered all over" (Jeremiah 10.21 MSG).

Leading others through serving their needs is an amazing opportunity with a high costs. We must allow God to change our hearts if we are to lead affectively and righteously. I believe God would love for all His children to be shining-star leaders in our world today; however, He will protect us from ourselves if we are not ready. We need to start with the basics and joyfully serve those we see everyday. Only then can God securely position us on the path to doing more service for His kingdom.

"If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he's talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap" (1 Timothy 3.1-7 MSG).

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October 3, 2010

Crown or Ashes?

In 2 Samuel 13, the lovely princess, Tamar, was raped by her half brother. To show her disgrace she put ashes on her head (2 Samuel 13.19). Ashes represent self-disgust, humility or grief and they are a physical representation of the pain or guilt one feels.

I've had to wear ashes many times, but the problem came when I never washed them off. I would make a mistake, get hurt or feel sorrow, and I would smear that pain all of my body. The ashes affected every aspect of my life, and I couldn't be the princess God wanted to shine His glory through because I was all covered in dirt.

I used to feel like that was the way it was supposed to be until God confronted me. He said, "Is the blood on the cross not strong enough to wash you clean?" Hebrews 9.14 reads, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (NIV). I realized that whenever I clung unto my grief, I was telling God that He wasn't strong enough to redeem me. Also, I became useless in serving Him.

In Isaiah 61.3, God says that He will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes." I don't think that we can quite fathom this exchange. We hand over our ashes and God gives us a beautiful crown instead? How could that be? It is only possible because God has an unquenchable and unshakable love for us. We live in a broken world where people get hurt, and God knows this. So He beautifully matches our shame with His grace to compensate for the sin surrounding us. However, we have freewill to receive God's grace or reject it.

God never promised this life would be easy, but He does offer us His grace in a broken world and blesses us when we love and obey Him (Deuteronomy 30.11-19). I don't know about you, but I'm tired of wearing my shame. I want to surround myself by beautiful crowns; so when I see Jesus at throne, I can throw them at His feet. Let us start gathering God's grace instead of our shame, so we can do the mighty work that God has planned for us.

"Stalwart walks in step with God; his path blazed by God, he's happy. If he stumbles, he's not down for long; God has a grip on his hand" (Psalm 37.23 MSG).

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