3 Most Common Mistakes In Approaching Faith

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How in the world can you make a mistake in faith? It’s faith – the simple trust in God. How can you make a mistake with that?

You can. I have. And it’s simple to do.

The common mistake when it comes to faith is its actual definition. Growing up, I used to hear sermons and songs speaking to faith moving mountains. Scripture backs it up. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, verse 20 where Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

What an encouraging passage! But, here’s a word of caution. The context of this Scripture is when Jesus is disciplining his disciples on not being able to heal a boy who is demon-possessed. Jesus was correcting them by saying they were unbelieving and a perverse generation. Jesus even questioned out loud of how long should he put up with faithlessness. WOW! How could they make such a dire mistake?

Contrary to popular belief, everyone has faith. The real question is who and what do we have faith in. And here lies where the mistakes become very clear. You may see it all the time. Someone puts their faith in an investor for their portfolio to grow. Others may put their faith in their own experience. Even in the midst of an election, we see Americans placing their trust or faith in leaders to make a lasting change or impact. While we all can voice reason for why we’ve placed our faith in certain things – biblical faith is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. And this faith may not match up to the way we want things to go.

Mistake #1: Unyielding to God’s Way

We may never say it out loud, but our actions reflect when we think we know better than God or anyone else. There’s a certain swagger and confidence we place on our approach. We can even find ourselves stubborn and think that we can negotiate our way out of obedience. I remember this clearly sitting at a youth event at what was then known as the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ. I’m sitting with my girlfriend (now wife) Kristyn and friends from church. A representative from Compassion International comes up and shares about the joy and responsibility of sponsoring a child who needs basic services. I heard the presentation but I couldn’t shake the conviction – “Sponsor a child!”

At the time, I was a seminary student struggling with the finances I already had. Now, I sense in my heart God prompting me to sponsor a child. I asked myself: “With what money? I cannot even help myself – I’m going to help a child that I don’t even know?” These questions were loud but the conviction to sponsor was even stronger. I looked at Kristyn and she already knew. I wrestled with it, wondering how this was going to work out. I sponsored a child that day. I’m still sponsoring since 2009. I realized that there’s no need to fight God. You will lose. Yield to His Way! Let faith lead you to make decisions that honors God and in turn, blesses you.

Mistake #2: Trusting God Only When Things Are Good

Death. Divorce. Health Crisis. Financial Strain. Relationship Breakdown. I’ve experienced all and more in my life. It has not always been easy. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to trust God only when things are good. By good, I mean what we each consider good by our standards. We can fall easily into the trap of treating God like Santa Claus, expecting all our gifts and wishes to be granted in a moment, no questions asked. Trusting God in the fire of challenge is where faith is tested. Claiming to have faith and living out your faith are two separate things entirely.

Here’s the hard-hitting truth that challenges me: Trusting God in the good times only reflects poorly on the quality of your relationship with Him. Ouch! I cannot raise the faith flag when it’s convenient and lay it down when it begins to challenge my comfort zone. Yes, faith in God will stretch you. It’s supposed to! Yes, faith in God will challenge your perspective. It’s supposed to! But, faith in God during adversity does another thing – it demonstrates the strength and resilience of God never to let you go.

Mistake #3: Thinking that God Doesn’t Have a Plan

One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 where it says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I get excited reading this! But, one mistake I made early on in my faith journey was taking this text out of context. Yes, God wants to prosper me. But, it may not mean a large deposit in my bank accounts. Or even this – His purpose is not to harm me, but it never said it wouldn’t hurt. Faith stretches us where it hurts. It deals with our wounds and our misconceptions. But, God’s purpose is for faith to inform our everyday living. It’s to help us grow and not to tear us down.

The highlighting of three major mistakes serves to point us to this truth – when we yield to God’s way, even when things are not always good, we can trust His plan will work through and in us. When this happens – our mistakes turn into a message that leads others to God. – RF

The Interview: Landon Schott

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Since the start of my own blog, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview some of my peers who are doing extraordinary work in extraordinary times. Their insights, perspectives and wisdom have sharpened me as a servant, husband, pastor and leader. Based on the numerous e-mails, calls and texts, I am confident to report that these interviews have impacted our readers as well.

To start 2017 off right, I knew I needed to interview someone whose passion and drive represented this generation well. I thought. I prayed. And a name popped up: Landon Schott. Some of you may be very familiar with Landon and his ministry. For others, this may be your first time hearing of him. But, his impact has made an indelible mark on how this generation receives Christ-centered quality content. Landon is a preacher, leader and trailblazer. Along with his wife Heather, Landon is the founder of REV Ministries and REVtv.com, a global media ministry serving youth and young adults. Landon is a profound preacher, prolific writer, and a proven leader. During our conversation, it was evident that God is working through Landon in ways that will continue to reverberate for generations to come.

It’s my prayer that your heart, mind and spirit will be strengthened and encouraged through this conversation.

DEEPEST DESIRE


RF: Landon, as the founder of REV Ministries and REVTv.com, your mission is to turn the hearts of a generation to God. You unapologetically emphasize the need of making Jesus famous. With this passion, what is your deepest desire to see among our generation of millennials and young adults?

Landon: Thanks Ryan. My deepest desire is to see a developing passion for God in our generation. At the start of 2017, we are embarking on a 21-Day Challenge of calling our nation to prayer and fasting (To find out more or to download the app for the 21-Day Challenge, check here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/21-dc/id946555591?mt=8). I found out that more you are in His Presence, you reflect Him more. It’s my desire to see the Holy Spirit move in our generation due to our passion to know Him more.

My other desire is to see disciplining take place. Our generation is know to do the BIG, BRIGHT AND RELEVANT. We are good at great events but horrible at follow-up and follow through. We make a BIG SPLASH but wind up TREADING WATER. My desire is to see a greater focus on corporate discipleship in the church and individual discipleship within families and communities. Being a leader in student ministry for 18 years, I championed daily discipleship. You can’t just do a bible reading plan (while this is needed). It’s a daily walk with God.

Recently, God released this revelation to me. In the Scriptures, Samson gave up his secret and he lost his strength. God said,

When you give up your secret place, you lose your strength!”

We cannot afford to lose our strength!

I also desire to see greater biblical literacy on a national level. False teaching is rampant because many Christ-followers are biblically illiterate. We must go back to prayer and reading of God’s Word. For me, it must be the center of my life. I pray that same desire and passion will grow in our generation.

JESUS FOR A GENERATION


RF: It’s evident in your mission and vision that you desire to see Jesus made famous. How does this generation do that, even in the midst of opposition and apathy?

Landon: One time, a gay Christian leader told me that there is a difference between “good news” and “good advice”. They followed up by saying that not all of the Bible is “good news”. Immediately, I thought this was faulty perspective. The Bible is the Good News representing the Hope of the World. This hope is reflected in the person of Jesus Christ. Making Jesus famous is one day at a time. One decision at a time.

Practically, it’s obedience. Daily obedience to His Word. In the small things and the big things!

GAY AWARENESS


RF: You recently wrote a book called “Gay Awareness: Discovering the Heart of the Father and the Mind of Christ On Sexuality”. It caused quite a stir and a buzz, especially on social media. You’ve addressed many questions surrounding the book in the media, but here’s my question: why did you write this book?

Landon: Obedience is the reason I wrote it. A book for those who have a heart after God but their true temptation is same-sex attraction. I have taught on this subject before and are drawn to the gay community. I love the gay community. And writing this book was an assignment within an assignment. When writing the book, “Jezebel: The Witch Is Back”, I shared how she promoted homosexuality.  I wanted to address this issue with sensitivity, compassion and His grace.

I say obedience because I didn’t want to write this book. I knew the response would be intimidating. I had a prayer walk with God. And the Holy Spirit said, “It is worth fighting.” After that, I was more afraid NOT TO OBEY that the consequences of obeying. The first way of responses was attack driven. But as the dust settled, it became an Amazon Best Seller overnight.

In the book, I cite 400 Scriptures on sexuality and the heart of God surrounding it. I’ve been encouraged by the numerous testimonies of how the book changed their lives. One reader shared how Gay Awareness  was like a spiritual detox. After reading the book, the reader shared how they struggled with the temptation of same-sex attraction but had to follow God’s leading to go to Bible College. Ryan, this is one of my assignments.

And I’m grieved. I’m grieved at the gay Christian contradictions. I’m grieved how gay rights have been on marketed as on par with the Civil Rights movement. But, if we don’t have these conversations with the gay community, we forfeit the opportunity to share the love of God.

RF: You speak of the Civil Rights Movement in relation to the gay rights. As a leader, what do you feel is the civil rights movement of our day?

Landon: We need to talk directly and frankly about justice. But, not the politically correct social justice like the world tries to quench the thirst. Even the Civil Rights Movement did not quench the thirst. We are still thirsting after justice, now!

What I speak of is CIVIL RIGHTEOUSNESS: Heaven’s justice, not our own. I will be leading a prophetic conference in 2017 in Chicago to prophesy justice to our nation. Here’s the issue: We want to work on justice issues in the midst of heightened tensions sweeping our nation. It’s like the wise saying of working on your marriage in a time of peace, not a time of war. This will be an ongoing issue, but the conversation around civil righteousness must start with us.

POLITICAL DISCOURSE


RF: Our nation has endured a very bitter political election season. Over 65 million people voted for Secretary Hillary Clinton as the next President. But, approximately 63 million voted for Donald J. Trump and with his win in the electoral college, he will be the 45th President of the United States. Based on numbers and demographics alone, there is a large divide in our nation. After the election, I talked to many young adults. Some voted for Clinton. Some voted for Trump. Some didn’t vote at all. There were mixed emotions: some experienced severe disappointment and others experienced sheer joy. What’s your perspective and how do bridge the divide, Landon?

Landon: Ryan, this is a challenging subject. There are so many biases. It was characterized as the lesser of two evils and the greater response to the greater sin. My personal convictions surround the national genocide of abortion. God hates the shedding of innocent blood.

RF: I understand your grievance and convictions surrounding abortion. With that said, there were many other issues on the ballot including immigration, economic policy, foreign policy, civil rights and justice that others are as equally grieved about. Even in my conversations with young adults, I could see a tension while they didn’t agree with a candidate on every issue, they voted their convictions and conscience based on the issues or the qualifications of the candidate. How would address them?

Landon: I understand and my point is that we cannot have this conversation every four years during a presidential election. This is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen. I have come to this conclusion: Jesus is King and Lord. No political party is the answer. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work in healing our nation and reconciling one to another. Again, not dealing with issues in a fight, but in a time of peace and unity. As we pray for the leadership of our nation, I also pray for the people of our great country.

PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM


RF: There are young adults, millennials and other leaders reading this interview. They may be facing challenges they never expected to face. Roadblocks may be in their way. What words of encouragement would you share with them on their journey?

Landon: [Pause] Don’t underestimate faithfulness.

God is truly faithful. In your 20s, many times you are fighting so hard and trying to make it. To make a mark. But I found out that its in your 30s that you start seeing the provision and faithfulness of God in response to your faithfulness to Him. And it will never be an equal return. It’s always an abundance!

I would also encourage your readers to value leadership, strategies and how to grow. Value the leadership that you are held accountable to. Promote strategies that stir healthy growth, not simply fast growth. And learn the lessons of how to grow in a balanced way.

But once again, value faithfulness. I’ll leave you with this: When you are faithful in your 20s, you will see the hand of God in your 30s. In other words, don’t get weary in well doing. In your season of hard work, expect great harvest!

RF: Thanks Landon! Let’s expect great harvest in 2017! 


Discover More! About Landon Schott:

Twitter: @LandonSchott // @RevTVNetwork // @Heather_Schott

Websites: http://www.therev.com // http://revtv.com

Dear Millennial: Give Faith a Chance in 2017

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It’s that time of year once again! The expected “New You” slogans are populating the airwaves and saturating the marketplace. Whenever we approach a new year, the predictable appeals to look forward to new beginnings are always meeting us. And if you’re a millennial (approximately ages 18 to 34), you’re expected to be on the frontlines of change and pursuing new ventures in 2017. As a fellow millennial, I can attest to the burden and expectation to reach further and aim higher. With every challenge I’ve faced, my faith in God has been an anchor through life’s ups and downs. Here’s my challenge to you: While the weight of expectation increases, why not give faith in God a chance in this New Year? Here are some quick tips in activating your faith in 2017:

 

Step #1: Digest God’s Word – everyday!

I wish I could tell you there were some quick way to grow your faith. I must report that there is no shortcut to faith in God! But, there is a sure way to grow your faith starting today – digest God’s Word everyday. I liken it to eating food. Sometimes, I admittedly eat my food too fast. As a result, I deny myself the opportunity to enjoy the taste of the food for the satisfying a momentary hunger. I’m learning to chew my food properly so that it can digest properly. I apply the same approach to the Word of God. It is our living Bread! Why rush it?

If you already do this, I want to applaud you and encourage you to keep going! If this hasn’t been a habit for you, start today! Rather than taking large sums of Scripture, take a portion and reflect on the passage. Search faith scriptures on Google via BibleGateway.com or Blble.com and read these life-giving verses. If you’re hungry for God to move in your life without hindrance, build your faith in His Word. It’s His promises!

 

Step #2: Devote time in prayer.

I used to think I couldn’t pray because I heard other people pray publicly. From my observations, I did not measure up at all! Their poetry and prose was on point! They talked to God with eloquent language. I thought I was at a poetry jam! But, I laid down on those insecurities to pick up the mantle of prayer. It’s talking with God and listening to God. I know our schedules and lives can be hectic and quite overwhelming. But, the Giver of your life wants to connect with you. He wants to hear your heart and desires that you hear His.

Before ending my seminary pastoral internship in Trenton, NJ, a member of the church came up to me and lovingly said, “Ryan, God misses your times with Him.” My heart sank. I knew exactly what they meant. It wasn’t that I failed to pray. It was how I was praying. I wasn’t all in. I wasn’t completely devoted to sharing the depths of my heart and hearing what grieves God. Almost a decade later, I remember those loving, corrective words. I never thought about how God felt when I didn’t seek Him. Faith is built when you trust the Father in relationship and conversation.

 

Step #3: Develop an appetite for faith-filled risks!

My fellow millennial: Face your giants. Confront your fears. Courageously address the elephant in the room. Look around. There are many examples of people taking risks without any evidence that it will work out for their good. They’re making an attempt to try something new or as Aerosmith would put it, “Living on the Edge”! How much more should we be taking risks for God that is rooted in our faith? This kind of living requires an appetite for it. If you are used to playing it safe, you’ll find that your hunger to try new things wane. You may even be tempted to think, “That’s crazy. It doesn’t take all of that!” But that’s the crazy, radical, mind-boggling deal! It does TAKE ALL OF THAT and ALL OF YOU!

The biggest obstacle standing in our way is that four lettered word: FEAR. It is the enemy of faith, handicapping us from pursuing our purpose and calling. It will keep us on the sidelines, unwilling to open up and share our deepest passions and dreams. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When the voice of doubt says, “You can’t! Don’t bother!” turn to the voice of God that says, “You can! Move forward in Me!” Surround yourself with faith-filled adventurers! Keep them close and if you don’t have it in your circle, seek them out! Faith is contagious and will spread like wildfire when you are around those who keep the fire lit with their devotion and discipline. Before taking a faith-filled risk in 2017, I’m encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:17:

“God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting Him really lives.” (The Message)

As you navigate the hopes and challenges of 2017, I rest in the confidence that this three-point guide for faith will help you move into new realms of thought, creativity and passion as you pursue your goals and your purpose. And remember – the world is waiting on you. Let’s take a faith-filled adventure in 2017! -RF

In All Circumstances

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that declares:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I’ve read the brief but profound Scripture passage numerous times. I have found myself questioning, “Give thanks in all circumstances?” There are times when the circumstances are best described as heavy burdens. Relentlessly weighing you down, these “circumstances” seem to overwhelm and overtax your very soul. After the initial shock of this passage, further examination provides a blueprint of understanding and wisdom. The Scripture reads:

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The operative word is in. It doesn’t mean we are full of gratitude for terrible circumstances and distracting situations. Rather, we give thanks IN all circumstances, recognizing that God has a plan and purpose in the midst of chaos. We give thanks knowing that God has us in the palm of His hands. We give thanks that He cares deeply about our very lives and has accepted the course to journey with us through it all.

Before we take part in a meal or serve our communities this holiday, give thanks to God. Whether you are in a season of harvest or a season of waiting, give thanks. Whether things are going well or your life is facing challenges beyond your control, give thanks. God hears our cry of gratitude and will respond to His children. Give thanks in all circumstances. It’s His will for you! – REF

There’s No Debate: The Challenge of Governing Our Nation

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After Tuesday’s night’s debate, pundits and political observers will certainly analyze how the Democratic candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump fared on the debate stage. Americans with varying political ideologies will take their corners and try to convince the other that their candidate is superior, no matter what happened at the debate. In one of the most polarizing times in American history, we are facing a startling truth. There’s no debate about this: The next president will face a challenge in governing our nation.

The losing campaign and candidate may accept the result of the election. However, the acceptance of the voters of the losing candidate are another thing altogether. The vitriol seeping through the American political discourse doesn’t reflect difference on policy or legislative approaches. Rather, the chatter about over-the-top rhetoric and advancing proven falsehoods by fact-checkers has dumbed down our politics – and our democratic system.

Admittedly, our political preferences can color our view of how we view candidates, political parties and how the Constitution of the United States should be applied. While this differences persist, why should it be too much to ask for respectful disagreement and willingness to compromise for the greater good? The next president will face an American family, broken by polarized factions and fears. He or she will take the oath of office with those cheering them on to be successful – and others wishing they would fail. Does this paint a dire picture of the United States? Absolutely. But, it can be changed by courageous leadership on both sides of the aisle and outside of the political party system. This courage may not be awarded in the polls, but it will be rewarded in national and global progress.

The intensity of campaigning for an office does not match the acumen and tenacity needed to govern a diverse nation like ours. Governance requires conversation, informed debate, policy sessions and the creation of legislation. Governance requires a command of facts, not peddled fiction. As a nation, our future is dependent upon what we, the citizens, demand of our politics. If we’re not demanding decent debate while in the midst of an election, what does that say about our governing future? Our country cannot afford the absurdity of an unpredictable campaign bleed into actual policy that affects everyday Americans. The challenge of governing after this election is real. Whether or not we as a nation will rise to the challenge of our times is still – well, debatable.

What Floor?

WhatFloor

 

I cannot count the many times I have been on an elevator. My experiences have varied. Sometimes, the ride was so smooth that it felt as though the elevator never moved. Other times, I cannot wait to get off due to the uncertainty of the ride! But, when I get on an elevator while someone else is already there, they will ask me the question, “What floor?” Since I know where I’m going, I can confidently give the floor with hesitation. When I arrive on the floor, I don’t second guess. I get off the elevator ready to place my feet on that level.

I’ve been thinking about my real-life elevator experiences as it pertains to our lives. When we are called to elevate, do we know what level we’re ready for? If someone was to ask us, “what floor?”, do we know what to say? In my counseling and casual conversation, the topic of feeling stuck or not moving inevitably is discussed. In those conversations, it becomes glaringly apparent that most of our frustrations is not the lack of passion to elevate to a new level. It’s the questioning if we are ready to move and take on the responsibility for that level.

This blog post serves as a challenge. You are not meant to be satisfied with mediocrity or the status quo. The call to elevate is wooing each of us. It’s to champion a cause greater than ourselves. It’s to seize opportunities that affect life-change. It’s to make an indelible mark on a generation accustomed to fleeting moments. Even at my church (Christ Church), we have an event called ELEVATE for kids, teens, singles/young adults and married couples. There is a recognition that our lives are meant to have a greater impact than we are currently experiencing. I encourage you to even be a part of that time — go to www.ElevateFamilyConference.org for more information on the event and how to register. Ultimately, we are all called to elevate and move to the next level of maturity, growth and development.

The question remains — what floor? In other words, what level are you ready to occupy? If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s no time to sit in shame or condemnation. Rather, it’s time to pray for insight, seek wise counsel and reflect upon where you are and where you desire to be. 

Years ago, recording artists Stacie Orrico sang a song titled “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life”. The chorus says,

There’s gotta be more to life, then chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me

Cause the more that I’m tripping out thinking there must be more to life

Well it’s life but I’m sure there’s gotta be more than wanting more…

Our lives are not simply reduced with the accumulation of more things but being who we were designed to be. It’s more about being than simply more doing. What will you do to be who God has destined for you be? Deep down, there may be this insatiable desire for more, greater and going higher. I have one question — what floor? – REF