boldness (4)

Clarity or Confusion?

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said something profound in a radio interview this week: “You’ll never play fast if you’re confused.” His point was that each player needs to know his assignment…his place…his role…on any given play. Confusion causes hesitation, and hesitation in a fast game like football will likely spell defeat.

But Rivera’s comment has an application far beyond football or other sports. It’s a principle of life, and it applies to me right now far more than I would like to admit.

When I’m clear on my God-given role and assignment, I’m bold…decisive…confident…tenacious. But if I’m confused or double-minded, I’m inevitably timid…hesitant…unsure…and liable to quit when the going gets tough.

This axiom is so important that it impacts every area of our lives: our health, our emotional well-being, our relationships, our career or ministry, and even how we spend our time and money.

So what about you today? Are you walking in CLARITY or CONFUSION?

Perhaps you think confusion is too strong of a word, so let me explain…

“Con-fusion” basically means to fuse together two incompatible things. Sometimes the two things are blatantly opposite: truth and lies, right and wrong, God and Satan, etc.

However, today much of the confusion is more subtle and nuanced. We lived in a confused culture, where a great many incompatible things have been fused together to bring us to where we are today. Although there still are some remnants of a Biblical worldview in our society, most people can’t really distinguish that from what the information they’ve picked up from Oprah, Dr. Phil, CNN, or Cosmopolitan magazine.

Yet when the heat is on and your beliefs are tested, you’ll need to know whether you’re standing on solid ground or whether you’re a victim of confusion. And the truth is that all of us—myself included—have adopted some beliefs that are faulty. The errors seldom are apparent when everything is going our way, but they’re exposed when we face a major trial or crisis.

The Bible says a lot about confusion. “God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 14:33). What a powerful statement! God desires to bring us to a place of peace, while the devil always sows confusion and unrest. That makes it pretty easy to tell who we’ve been listening to, doesn’t it?

And Coach Rivera was correct about how confusion causes hesitation. The prophet Elijah pointed this out to the Israelites, who had fused together worship of Baal with worship of the Lord: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)

Thankfully, I’m not struggling with whether to worship the Lord or Baal, but I’ve seen recently that I’ve had “two opinions” on some other issues in my life. And I’ve concluded that this subtle confusion has hindered me and slowed me down. At times I’ve even been paralyzed because of uncertainty on my role, my assignment, or my priorities.

So I’m asking God to clear up the confusion in my life—and in yours as well. As we hear His voice again, we’ll return to a place of peace, confidence, and boldness. And we’ll gain new clarity on our mission, enabling us to radically abandon ourselves toward its fulfillment.

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Lessons From a Trapeze Artist

I recently found myself humming an old tune, which is an apt prophetic picture of where many of us presently find ourselves:

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease,

The daring young man on the flying trapeze.

Just as a circus trapeze artist must let go of one trapeze and fly through the air until grabbing the next one, I often have found myself in a similar position—flying through the air in transition between the trapeze left behind and the one still to come.

It must be an exhilarating experience for a trapeze artist to fly through the air like that. But I’m sure it’s also a bit terrifying to know that the force of gravity will take its effect if the next trapeze doesn’t come within reach soon.

Much of the church is in a similar place, it seems. We have been propelled by many wonderful trapezes, past revivals and moves of God. But now many of us are flying swiftly through the air, on our way to a coming trapeze that is not yet altogether visible.

If we recognize that God’s plan is to take us “from one degree of glory to another” in this process (2 Corinthians 3:18), this can be an exhilarating experience. However, it’s easy to feel apprehensive as well, with nothing to hang onto except the Lord Himself.

Experienced trapeze artists realize they dare not look down or they will surely miss the next trapeze. Big mistake! Instead, the Lord’s intention is not only to keep us from falling (Jude 1:24), but to enable us to soar on eagles’ wings (Isaiah 40:31).

Despite the dangers, this is no time to play it safe. If we insist on clinging for dear life to our original trapeze, we are certain to make no progress at all. We’ll never go any higher unless we exhibit the courage of “the daring young man” who was willing to defy gravity and fly.

Be bold and courageous, my friend. As you let go of the past and press forward, I pray you will be strengthened for exciting new transitions on God’s flying trapeze. 

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Reflecting the 4 Faces of Jesus

Recently a friend and I were discussing some of the hot-button issues in our country today. We mentioned such things as gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, and income inequality, to name a few.

We all have our opinions on such things, of course. As believers, our opinions hopefully have been shaped by God’s principles and wisdom found in the Scriptures. In a world filled with moral relativism, we desperately need the Word of God as a plumb line to reveals our off-kilter values and behaviors (Amos 7:7-8).

But while discussing these things with my friend, I saw that being right on the issues is only half the battle. If are beliefs are right, but our attitudes are wrong, no one will be impacted in a positive way. Instead of having a platform to transform our society, we will either be ignored or ridiculed—and we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

So, while some people are too timid to address the hot-button issues at all, others undercut their message because of a calloused, unloving attitude toward their audience. They may be “speaking the truth,” but they are failing to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

No wonder we’ve lost our audience and become largely irrelevant in the debates over the pressing social issues of our day. How sad.

The Message and the Heart

As I’ve pondered this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve concluded that two problems must be remedied. First, our message must regain its clarity. The apostle Paul warned, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8) Where are the pulpits and publications today that are trumpeting a clear message from God instead of just spiritual mumbo jumbo? Too often, we sound more like politicians than preachers, coming down on each side of every issue. No one will be moved to action by that kind of indistinct trumpet sound.

But as important as it is for our message to regain laser-like clarity, the other problem is perhaps even more urgent: We must speak our message with the heart and “face” of Jesus. This gets back to the attitude and spirit in which our message is delivered. Correct words become hollow and impotent unless spoken with a correct heart (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought, but this is a crucial issue. If the body of Christ is supposed to express Jesus’ “face” to today’s world, what expression should that be? Anger? Accommodation? Confrontation? Fear? Smugness? Disinterest?

I’ve concluded that there are actually four “faces of Jesus” presented in Scripture, and these provide us with a helpful glimpse of what our posture should be as we interact with our society. We see these four faces reflected in the description of the “four living creatures” in Ezekiel 1:10 (and mentioned again in Revelation 4:7):

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle

If you grew up in a church with stained-glass windows, you probably have seen these four faces depicted. And as Bible commentators have frequently pointed out, the four Gospels each emphasize one of these four characteristics of Jesus’ personality and ministry:

LION: Matthew quotes the most Old Testament prophesies about Jesus, presenting Him as the King and the “lion of the tribe Judah.” (regaining our “roar” and seeing a mandate to “reign in life”)

OX: Mark focuses on Jesus as the suffering Servant, coming to obey the Father’s will and serve humanity by laying down His life.

MAN: Luke, as a medical doctor, emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and His concern for those who were hurting.

EAGLE: John presented an “eagle’s eye view” of Jesus’ life and ministry, revealing Him as the living Word of God who existed from eternity.

As Christians living in the 21st century, we are called upon to approach our world with each of these four aspects of Jesus’ nature:


  • As LIONS, we need to regain our “roar.” While we’re called to be kings of the jungle—ruling and reigning with Christ (Romans 5:17)—we’ve allowed ourselves to become tame and housebroken. Instead of being conquerors and victors, striking terror in evildoers, we’ve become more like kittens, a threat to no one.


  • As OXEN, we must approach our society with the heart of servants. Rather than being known for our angry denunciation of our nation’s shortcomings, we need to offer our love, prayers, and service to make things better.


  • As MEN and WOMEN, we must model the humanity and compassion of Jesus for those in need. This means weeping over our city and our nation, even as we call them to repentance (Luke 13:34-35).


  • As EAGLES, we must strive to see the big picture and view our world from God’s heavenly perspective. The Lord is calling us to come to a higher place of revelation and wisdom than we’ve had before: “Come up here, and I will show you things…” He is saying again today (Revelation 4:1-2). And in order to have the maximum impact, the church needs “sons of Issachar”—people with prophetic insight, who understand the times and know what God’s people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Jesus said that anyone who saw Him would know what the Father looked like (John 14:9). In the same way, a watching world should be able to know what Jesus looks like by observing the lives of His followers.

The world desperately needs to see Jesus again. But that will only happen if we once again model the face of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. It’s time to roar, serve, weep…and SOAR!


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Getting Our Roar Back

It seems most of us Christians in the United States today have become like domesticated lions. While we’re called to be kings of the jungle—ruling and reigning with Christ (Romans 5:17)—we’ve allowed ourselves to become tame and housebroken. Instead of being predators, striking terror in the princes of darkness, we’ve become mere pussy cats, a threat to no one.

Is anyone afraid of the church in America today? Does the devil quake when the saints of God gather? Are those who pollute our society with moral filth concerned about a holy uprising of the Lord’s people in response?

And what about the TV preachers who happily go on secular talk shows to promote their books—yet refuse to take a stand on the moral issues of our day? Rather than represent the true Prince of Peace—the One who angrily cast moneychangers out of the temple—many have become mere pacifists, opting for peace at any price. Instead of challenging the world, we’ve taken the easy road and accommodated the world.

Abraham’s nephew Lot became a domesticated lion. He thought he had it made when Abraham told him he could choose the most lucrative place to live. But he became soft…spiritually dull…compromised. It’s not easy to maintain your spiritual edge when you’re living in the lap of luxury.

Yet Lot seemed to think all was well until two angels of the Lord came to visit him one evening (Genesis 19). After all, he was on good terms with the wicked inhabitants of Sodom—or so he thought.

How tragic. But we who are domesticated lions have taken a similar path. Just as Lot thought he could placate the men of Sodom, we smugly think the world actually accepts us. Lot found out too late that the people of Sodom were never fooled by his compromised life.

We who seek to follow Jesus need to remember how He prayed to the Father for us: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).  

We all want to be liked and accepted, don’t we? That’s human nature. But sometimes the call to follow Christ will put us at odds with the world. What will we do then? Will we allow the world to emasculate us and turn us into kittens instead of lions? Or will be willing to die to ourselves and let the Lion of the tribe of Judah rise up big within us?

God wants to replace our pitiful meows with the ROAR of champions again. Are you ready?

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