How to Deal with an Angry Cat

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A number of years ago, for my birthday, one of my sons bought me a survival manual.  It had all sorts of bizarre advice inside – what to do when attacked by a shark (punch it in the eye), what to do when attacked by a bear (pretend to be dead), how to survive in the desert (shallow breathing, and use the sun as a compass to get out of there).

One of the chapters was how to deal with being bitten by one of the big cats.  I read that one carefully because I don’t like cats – and I think they know that.  My own cat, who I never feed or look after because that was the deal when we bought her, seems to live between my bed and my seat!  So imagine a larger version of her, the chances of me getting bitten seems quite high.

Now apparently when a cat bites you, let’s say it takes your arm into its mouth and clamps down, what you need to do is counter-intuitive.  You want to pull your arm out – but the cat’s teeth are bent inwards so doing that will just cut you and hurt you more.  The trick – according to my survival manual – is to push your arm into the cat’s mouth, go the other way, and choke the cat to death on your own chewed arm.  That is the way forward, and I am sure that although Rambo would find it easy, I would be a lot less willing to give it a try in that situation.

Now, why am I telling you this – the chances of you getting bitten by a big cat are immensely tiny.  However, the chances of you – as a minister and leader – getting caught up in some other traps are immensely high.  In particular,  I know three traps where the solution is counter-intuitive.  It is literally the exact opposite of what you want to do.

  1. Loneliness

It’s lonely at the top they say, and that is true.  Ministers are normally in the top 5 of careers in which people are most likely to describe themselves as lonely.  It’s difficult to form friends in the church due to charges of elitism, it being difficult to pastor friends, and it being difficult to really be honest in front of people who expect a certain veneer from their pastor.  In addition, you try to form friends with local pastors, selfish ambition often gets in the way – pastors can be very territorial.

Every minister has fought feelings of loneliness, that no one gets you, no one understands, that people if they knew the real you would reject you.  And so to deal with those feelings the tradition advice is pull the arm out of the cat – get around people, be with people, go out with people.  But that just bloodies the problem – you can be lonely in a room full of people, and the more people, the more it highlights your insecurities, your inability to build friends and it just makes the problem worse.

Here is an idea if you are facing the lion of loneliness – choke that thing by going the counter-intuitive direction.

Get off really on your own.  Go to a retreat centre, go for a walk in the woods, lock yourself in your office.  Turn off your phone, pause your email, get off Facebook.  Go and be alone.  Don’t go and watch rubbish on the TV and make friends with the TV show stars who aren’t real.  No, get totally alone.  Because then you find out you are never alone, that the Lord is with you, and as all else is silenced, you will find the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who never fails to understand you and love you and support you, He will give you the wisdom to move forward, the compassion to want to move forward, and the confidence that you actually know where forward is.

2. Self-Pity

One of the most crippling of emotions is self-pity, and it’s equally spiteful cousin self-doubt.  You look at your life and you look at your flaws and you magnify them and you obsess with them.  The devil sees your broken focus and starts to join in the chorus with your lower brain – you have failed, you have let so many people down, you have so many flaws, you cannot do what you are called to do.

And again, the traditional faith advice is to fight that and make positive declarations about how awesome you are.  And at times, when the cat isn’t biting hard, you can do that, and it works.  However, at times the tiger of self-doubt holds so tight you cannot move away, so you move in.

There is a Scripture in the sermon on the mount which says “agree quickly with your accuser” (Matthew 5.25). Sometimes when the devil pushes you hard into self-pity, accuses you, the best thing to do is just agree.  Yes, I am this rubbish, I have failed this much, I have let people down this much.

That way you choke what that “like a roaring lion” is trying to do – because if you argue with him about how glorious you are, he will win.  You have failed, you are not good enough for God’s call.

But if you agree with your adversary, then you start to realize that you have managed so far, you have some fruit, you are still on the road – and it is not because of you – it is the grace of God.  God’s grace is the solution to self-pity, not self-affirmations.  Where your sin abounds, grace abounds even more.  You find yourself loving God more as you realize you are forgiven more.  Then your eyes lift off yourself as you cannot take your eyes away from the gracious face of Jesus who knows you failed, knows you hurt people, knows you don’t have the skills, strength or wisdom to do what He has called you to do, but He loves you anyway, calls you anyway, cares for you anyway.  Praise His name!  His mercies are new every morning and His compassion never fails.

3. Jealousy

As leaders we can easily get jealous.  There is always someone with a larger church, a bigger healing ministry, more success, more favour than you.  But we have long insisted jealousy is always a negative emotion because of the destructive effects we have seen from it.

But the Bible (Deut. 4.24) tells us God is a jealous God.  God is jealous.  The word at its base meaning is to strongly desire something.  You see – it is very difficult to desire something in an abstract form.  I always desired a healing ministry, but it was always abstract because I had never seen a real healing ministry.  Then in 1998, I saw Dave Duell minister healing, pulling people out of wheelchairs, praying for people quickly, stepping out in faith and seeing miraculous results.  I was instantly jealous.

I tried for weeks after that conference to stop being jealous, to pull my hand out of the panther’s mouth, but it didn’t work.  I was just upset that I was doing that.  Then I realized jealousy is not evil, that actually God was working through my jealousy to motivate me to move into my ministry.  I had seen many great ministers before, but I had never seen someone like Dave.  Why did that one make me jealous?  Because God designed me to function like that.  So I let the jealousy rise.  Most people pull against jealousy, hurt themselves, get depressed, get conflicted and don’t go far in life.

I pushed into it, I poured out my heart to the Father, told Him how jealous I was, told Him I wanted to see the sick healed like Dave Duell did, and do you know what?  God started leading me into that.  Dave Duell became a precious friend, father and mentor in my life, I changed what God showed me to change, I choked that panther, and now I travel the world hosting healing meetings.

I hope this helps. I haven’t blogged in a long while, but in the last week a lot of people have started engaging with the blog, so I thought I would start sharing some leadership principles again.  Need anything, let me know.  Feedback and questions would be always welcome.

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A Gentle Heart (part 1)

Image result for gentle heartI haven’t blogged for a while.  Time has not been on my side, and when I get time to write, I am preaching a lot more than I ever have and I am penning sermons, or I am writing my new book on leadership which I shall hopefully finish this year. But this topic of a gentle heart has been on my mind the last few weeks.  I hope this new series helps.

We live in the greatest generation who has ever lived.  I believe that with all my heart.  We are seeing more heaven and more hell on the planet than ever before. We are seeing the church shining bright and walking in faith and grace in a way it has not for many decades. Satan is fully aware his time is short and he is working overtime to destroy the church, remove the Word from your heart, and destroy the precious unity of the brethren. He will try anything to stop the church from walking in the glory of the Father and walking in her destiny.

There is greater resistance to preach the Word than there has ever been, but a greater response to that Word!  It’s called the harvest – the world is getting darker and brighter at the same time!  But it is not a tragedy to be alive today.  You were not born out of time, you are on time.  And I welcome you to this generation – if we did not have the grace to make it in this generation, we wouldn’t have been born into it.  God is not stupid, He does not make mistakes.

It is time for the world to see more signs, more wonders, more miracles than any generation has ever seen.  It is time for you and me to work those signs and wonders, to work those miracles, to defy the devil, the world and even our own flesh, and to stand for the Lord and His love, His purity, His passion, His Word, His faith, His kindness.  It is time for us to bloom!

How can we do this?  How can we take our place in this end-time movement?  The answer is found in two simple words: gentle heart.  Jesus Christ died for you, for me, but He also died for the whole world.  Someone needs to tell the world about His precious blood, His vast love, His extravagant glory.  That someone needs to be you.  How can you it?  You need to develop a gentle heart that does not react out of fleshy needs to be in control, to pay back, to get “justice” – but a gentle heart that is still, sensitive to the still, small voice of the Spirit, a heart that can hear God and follow God.  It doesn’t mean weak, it means meek.  It means strong, stronger than you will ever have to be, but never harsh.

As and when, I will continue this theme about how to develop and use a gentle heart.  Until then, why not pray “Lord, I want a gentle heart.  Lead me to that place by your grace and mercy”

Love you all,

Ben

Tend My Lambs

Part of a pastor’s role is to tend to the lambs. Lambs are the baby sheep. Paul defines babies as those who are carnal not spiritual, those who are moved by what they see and not by faith.

You have lambs in every area of the Christian life. In the healing ministry, they have a desire and anointing to heal but they are focused on magic water or an exotic fruit that allegedly brings healing.

In prosperity, they are looking for the next pyramid scheme, or the next get rich seminar where the only person who gets rich is the guy charging £250 for a seminar.

In changing the nation, they are camped around a political party or system, even though no politician has ever changed a nation.

It is our job as pastors to tend to these lambs, to gently but firmly use our rod and staff to lead them to the still waters and green grass of the redemptive work of the Lord. You can always tell the baby lamb when they get off kilter because they have no still waters, everything agitates them, everything winds them up – you wind them up just by trying to get them to rest in Christ because their baby eyes can’t see Jesus, they can only see their carnal, worldly, cheap solution and so they are always agitated. Every message about Christ alone winds and stirs them up.

It’s one of the hardest jobs of the shepherd ministry, and none of the other fivefold have a clue about it, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do

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Wisdom for Your Finances

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#wednesdaywisdom

  • All of us make mistakes, the best of us learn from them!
  • You have to pursue what you want to own!
  • You earn not based on your uniformity, but on your uniqueness!
  • You cannot be promoted until you are doing something better than average!
  • What you have in your hand is enough to succeed in life if you are only prepared to sow it!

How to Be Promoted 01: Be Faithful in Natural Things

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#teachingtuesday

One of the things you need to know is that you are destined for greatness.  The Lord Jesus Christ in His awesome wisdom has invited you to co-rule this planet with Him! So that means you need a promotion! Thankfully, throughout the Scripture, God has revealed several keys that will lead you to promotion.

One of the greatest keys is to be faithful in natural things. It is my experience that many Christians find out about all their awesome spiritual blessings, and how highly they are called and how deeply they are loved, but they then find it difficult to relate this to their boring, mundane, “normal” lives. You do know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t want you to move into the Lake District, avoid all people ever, and just listen to the Bible all day and tapes of Andrew Wommack and Kenneth Copeland!

The whole purpose of our life in Jesus is to share that life in our life, in our world – in our family, in our workplace, in our schools and so on and so forth.

God has, by grace that you don’t deserve, given you the power to be obedient in no matter what situation you are in, no matter how normal, how mundane, how natural.

What you need to work on to be promoted is the basics of character – integrity, honour, loyalty, honesty. We need to be told to put these things first – we need to realize that this is the power of God at the first level, the level that changes the mundane.

Jesus said if you want to be trusted with great things you have to be faithful in small things.  In your work, in your church, in your life are you faithful with small things?

  • Are you punctual?
  • Are you kind with your words?
  • Do you do what you are told to do?
  • Can you work without supervision?

Start putting these principles into every area of your life and promotion will come.

 

Holiday!

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#feelgoodfriday

On Sunday after church, my family is flying off to Sweden, a place I haven’t been for ten years.  I have realized in the past few weeks that I definitely need a holiday, a rest. Some days I work 14 hours, and my children in addition to excelling in education all help with the church.  Even this second, my wife is organizing gift baskets for people, and I have just been on the phone to KCM organizing our Healing Without Walls Conference with Riley Stephenson.

Now everything God has ever designed has margins of rest. He makes a man, the most complex machine ever seen, and this man has to spend one third of his time asleep, non-functioning, resting. God rested one day in seven, and the Israelites were given three weeks of rest in the year, and a whole year off every one in seven!  That’s being serious about rest.

I must admit, I struggle to rest sometimes, I am a driven person. I want to help the world, I want to walk in my dreams, I want to walk in love, I want to help everyone. But to do that I have to rest.

Rest is part of the feelgood factor in life.  Sometimes at the end of a long day, my emotions start to play tricks on me, I get a little paranoid. That is a sign I need to sleep and rest. I wake up in the morning and my emotions are no longer above me.  Physical rest is part of your discipleship.

So I won’t be blogging next week, I won’t be around. I will be resting. And looking forward to it.

#graceandpeace

#cometomeandiwillgiveyourest

#restisnotlaziness

Make sure you plan rest into your day, your week, your year and your decade!  It’s part of feeling good.  Let me know below what you do to relax and rest…

How to Dream Big 02: Deal with Regret

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#futurethursday

Everyone reading this blog has a past of some sort – all of us have done things we wish we hadn’t done. That’s called regret, and it will stop you dreaming big. It will distort your imagination and prevent you from seeing yourself the way you truly are – several shades of awesome!

But regret is that overwhelming feeling that we wish we could press the delete button on some of our actions and some of our behaviour. We feel stupid, we feel guilty, we feel small because of the power of regret.

In church often people will share a testimony of how they lived a life full of sin until they encountered Jesus, and we learn very early on that God is a good God who forgives. Most churches get this right. However, we often don’t make it clear enough for people that even after you meet Jesus, you can still sin, you can still make stupid decisions, you can still do stupid things. What then? Sadly, churches are not loud enough about the fact that you can sin after you meet Jesus, but your sins are still forgiven.

It’s not that God looks at the person who didn’t know God and says “I don’t blame you for being so selfish, you didn’t know me”, and looks at HIS OWN CHILD and says “You should know better, you are stupid, you might as well stop dreaming!”. That’s not what life is like not now and not ever, it’s not what God is like.

Even if you knew what you were doing, and you intended to do it anyway, and you broke all Ten Commandments, and you knew it was the devil telling you to do it, and you still did it, there is still grace from God to you. God still loves you, and you don’t need to regret, you need to dream.

How can I prove it? Eve was not stupid, she was innocent, but not stupid.  As Christians we fall into sin like Eve – we know God, we know God’s instructions, we know God’s Word, and we know which tree we should eat from and which trees are verboten. She listened to a talking snake over God Almighty, just like I have done and you have done! Satan got her thinking about the pleasure of following his suggestion over the pleasure of doing God’s will. You have made the same mistake as Eve, as smart as she was, and so have I.

And when Eve sinned, she felt regret. The dream must be over now. We have ruined the world now. We have ruined any chance we had with the love and goodness of God now. We feel guilty, scared, alone. We are now filled with regret. They felt that God wouldn’t want to know them now, and hid from Him and His grace.

That is regret. And it is a thought process that bypasses the love of God and the goodness of God. And you have to face up to regret and cast it out of your imagination so that you have room to dream big.  Regret makes you think of your sin and your ugliness and your smallness so much you forget who you are – you are someone awesome. Your true identify is a champion.

You have to tell yourself that – I am a champion and I am free from my past.  Today is a new day.  God is quick to forgive, so be quick to forgive yourself.  You are not the first person to go through the things you have gone through, and you are not the last. Your future is brighter than your past.  The rest of your life is going to be the best of your life.

God has a special plan for your life.  No matter your past.  Eve gave birth to a son who became the great-great-great-etc. grandparent of the Messiah. That’s a mission and a half, that’s an awesome destiny. She became the mother of all living. Everyone who has ever loved you and cared for you and helped you and prayed for you and pastored you and inspired you was a son or daughter of Eve. Her destiny wasn’t over, it had only just begun. And your destiny isn’t over, no matter what you have done. Regret cannot claim you, not when God is on your case.

It’s time to let regret of the past go for good. It’s time to walk into your bright future. All the hidden things that you have never told anyone – you are forgiven, they are behind you. Your past does not define you. It does not shape who you are truly. You are not the person who did X, you are the person who was forgiven of X.

Regret will keep you from your future and from your dreams. You have a destiny, a plan from God, to do something great for your generation. Yes, you have sinned, but you are forgiven, and that must become bigger in your imagination.

Receive this message in your heart. You will walk in your dreams, your past is behind you! Amen!

 

 

Dealing With Worry 04: Deal with Idealism

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#teachingtuesday

There is a gap between what you are dreaming of and what is right in front of you. No matter who you are and what you are called to do. You can imagine it better. That’s why reality always lets us down. We have to learn to live with that, and not let our idealism let us become cynical and let us become full of worry.

I am all for dreaming. I don’t know another pastor in the UK who talks about dreaming big as often as I do. But one of the dangers of dreaming is that you will never actually fully walk in the fulness of a dream.  Not immediately, and sometimes not ever.

This will knock you out of being happy and knock you into worry every time if you are not patient with your dreams and are aware of the gap between dreams and reality. What I call the reality gap.

Basically, the reality gap is this: nothing is quite as you imagined it; nothing is perfect; no-one is perfect; there is no perfect church; no perfect service; no perfect leader; no perfect guest speaker; nothing is perfect.

There is always a big gap between the reality and the dream.  And nowhere is that gap first realized than when you start something new.  I have had a dream to build a 3000 strong mega-church in England since I was first saved in 1996.  And when that dream was just inside my head, it was easy to believe in a mega-church.  Now I have a church of 150 in London, that reality can obscure and frustrate the dream.  I have to remind myself that I am now closer to seeing my dream fulfilled than I have ever been.

You might have a vision to start a Bible College with 150 students and 10 sign up.  Guess what?  You are closer to that vision than you have ever been.  You might have a vision to start a business that makes a million pounds and you make £4.50.  Guess what – that’s the closest you have been so far!

Don’t let the gap between your dream and reality stop you dreaming.  NEVER let the reality gap knock you for six.  As Andrew Wommack (wisely) says: “Better to aim for the stars and hit the moon, than aim for nothing and hit nothing.”

It’s better to have a dream of winning 100 people to Christ and winning 20 than dream of winning none and completing it!  It’s better to have a dream of being out of debt by the end of 2013 and end up paying 1/2 your debt off, than doing and dreaming nothing and being more in debt than when you started.  It’s better to aim at losing 30lbs and losing 10lbs than aiming at nothing and being even podgier than when you started!

And because of the nature of ministry, we are especially vulnerable to the reality gap knocking us out and discouraging us to the point of quitting.

We launch out into the deep, expecting revival and thousands of salvations.  Instead its 5 people sitting in a living room.  You hire a hall and no one comes, and then you still have to pay the bills.  You appoint an elder then find out they never stop arguing with their wife.  You have chosen some beautiful songs for worship to have the band murder them, bury them, and exhume them and murder them a second time.  You invite a glorious guest speaker, they treat you like a second class citizen, no one comes but the chosen frozen, the people who do come tell you how much they hate your church, and then they leave with your people…

It’s hard when these things happen.  But the truth is that there will always be a reality gap.  The nature of pastoral ministry is that pastors often see the world in black and white, when it isn’t like that at all.

You expect a perfect worship service, but it just wasn’t that good.  Well – please keep in mind it wasn’t that bad either.  You leave the pulpit upset that it didn’t set the world on fire, but if it warmed a handful of people – celebrate what has happened.

You spend hundreds of pounds advertising in the local paper and only three new people came – and two of them were weirdos!  Rejoice in that – it was worth it!

I know you have a big dream – I have one too – but I tell you the truth, the most surefire way to kill any dream is to fail to celebrate every step towards it, to fail to enjoy an imperfect execution of a God idea.  At the end of the day, we are all very much human and any church and any business will inevitably reflect that. If you keep on hurting because you don’t allow for the gap, you will become a worried person and always be concerned it isn’t perfect.

Today, I had to send an email out to our entire mailing list three times over, once the link to give was missing due to technical issues, the second time, I mispelled an easy word wrong! I felt a bit of an idiot, but do you know what, within one hour we raised nearly £300 to tile the floor of a Roma church in Bulgaria. So, that’s better than nothing right?! I wanted to raise £2000 in one hour, but why get worried at something quite remarkable!

If you don’t grasp the reality gap, you will get angry at people who you feel are not progressing quickly enough, you will worry about people taking time to grow.  That will come across in all your relationships with people, and cause all sorts of problems.

Yes, you may be believing for 10 new people to be at church on Sunday, and maybe only 6 new people will come. CELEBRATE THE SIX, don’t worry about the four!

That’s how you deal with the reality gap, and that’s how you confront idealism. Keep dreaming, but just enjoy the journey too!

Write the Vision

#motivationmonday

Today, I will be catching up with the Dream Academy posts I have missed this week. Let’s start with something to motivate you.

Right now, get a notepad – the more expensive the better – and write in no more than 2 paragraphs your vision for your future. Write down what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be living, and the successes you’ll be enjoying

Nothing is more motivational than a written vision. Nothing. Don’t just read this, do it.