Posted by: everynation | January 18, 2012

‘Winstonmas’ Begins

By Stephen Mansfield

My historical hero, Winston Churchill, died on January 24, 1965. Each year during the week before the anniversary of the Great Man’s death, a few of my friends and I read a good book on Churchill, revel in his spirit and usually have a fine meal in his honor. I also like to memorialize him—during this annual time we have humorously begun calling ‘Winstonmas’—by offering selections from my book Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill. I think you’ll find liberation from the cult of the contemporary in Churchill’s words and I hope you’ll think on him with gratitude in this week leading up to January 24.

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On Realism“The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

As a rule, human beings try to avoid unpleasant truths. We prefer the comfortable to the unsettling. We dislike harsh facts for the same reason we dislike mirrors: they force us to stare our problems in the face. Historians have long known that civilizations in crisis take refuge in myth and fantasy because the sensual, escapist world of imagination promises deliverance from the cold, disturbing world of reality. But the deliverance is never genuine: it is only a temporary distraction, not real hope. Hope springs instead from courageously confronting the truth, no matter how bleak or costly it may be.

In complaining about the age of appeasement, Churchill once said, “No one in great authority had the wit, ascendancy or detachment from public folly to declare these fundamental, brutal facts to the electorate.” This touches one of the distinguishing marks of his style of leadership: he believed in the necessity of squarely facing the most ugly realities. How refreshing this is in our media age when public relations experts are mistaken for leaders and when every unsightly blemish or untidy fact is carefully reworked, re-painted, or retired. Churchill would have none of it: “It is no use dealing with illusions and make-believes. We must look at the facts. The world . . . is too dangerous for anyone to be able to afford to nurse illusions. We must look at realities.”

Churchill possessed an almost mystical confidence in knowing the facts and facing them honestly, whatever the offense, as a critical step toward ultimate triumph. In September of 1932, he warned the House of Commons of the Nazi movement and urged honesty in dealing with the public. “I would now say, ‘Tell the truth to the British People.’ They are a tough people, a robust people. They may be a bit offended at the moment, but if you have told them exactly what is going on you have insured yourself against complaints and reproaches which are very unpleasant when they come home on the morrow of some disillusion . . .” Years later, as First Lord of the Admiralty, he told the House of Commons of a major naval defeat and reminded the members, “We do not at all underrate the power and malignity of our enemies. We are prepared to endure tribulation.” And when the defeats continued, his conclusion was near brutal in its frankness: “We shall suffer and we shall suffer continually, but by perseverance, and by taking measure on the largest scale, I feel no doubt that in the end we shall break their hearts.”

This resolve to engage the truth at any price granted Churchill some immensely important insights. As a careful observer who refused to change facts to fit his philosophy or bend reality to his imagination, he acquired shrewd insight into the ways of men and events. While others fashioned fantastic theories to explain what little they understood, Churchill recognized that history does not arrive in neat packages or move in defined channels. Time, chance, human nature,—all play their role. Life is not black and white, events are stubborn and unruly, and men rarely follow precise patterns in their behavior. Understanding this gave Churchill the judgment to fashion policies suited to the fluid and uncertain nature of circumstances.

“The world, nature, human beings, do not move like machines. The edges are never clear-cut, but always frayed. Nature never draws a line without smudging it. Conditions are so variable, episodes so unexpected, experiences so conflicting, that flexibility of judgment and a willingness to assume a somewhat humbler attitude towards external phenomena may well play their part in the equipment of a modern prime minister.”

A “humbler attitude” meant caution in dealing with other human beings: “The high belief in the perfection of man is appropriate in a man of the cloth but not in a prime minister.” It also demanded an unnatural willingness to consider opposing views: “The more knowledge we possess of the opposite point of view the less puzzling it is to know what to do.” It enabled him to coolly calculate risk: “We realize that success cannot be guaranteed. There are no safe battles.” And it made him even more impatient when empty posturing replaced informed action: “Peace will not be preserved by pious sentiments expressed in terms of platitudes or by official grimaces and diplomatic correctitude.” Perhaps above all, it gave him a healthy sense of the absurd in the affairs of men: “The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.”

Facing ugly truth is not easy. Often the toughest battle a leader will face is the one against his own reticence to see things as they really are. It requires uncommon courage and very few have the character to deal with such stark reality. But when the truth is known, the worst is over and the benefits are a clearer vision and the wisdom of a “humbler attitude,” without which leaders cannot move beyond despair to a brighter day of victory.

Stephen Mansfield is a popular speaker, New York Times best-selling author, leader and advisor whose work is centered on faith, character and leadership in the service of society.

Click here to read his original post.

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Posted by: everynation | January 13, 2012

I Hate Fasting But I Do it Anyway, Here’s Why…

By Steve Murrell 

I hate fasting but, I do it anyway. For as long as I remember I have started my year with a week of prayer, fasting and consecration. Here’s a blog I wrote a few years ago that explains why I fast…

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When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Jesus said that our heavenly Father rewards fasting. Following are seven rewards of fasting:

1. Fasting turns back God’s wrath and judgment.
Moses recorded that God was angry enough to destroy Aaron and the children of Israel because of their gold cow idol (Dt 9:18-20). But, as we know, God’s wrath was turned back after Moses fasted and prayed. There has been much said and written the past few years about God’s wrath and judgment on different nations. I’m convinced that Christians can turn back God’s judgment through fasting and prayer. Of course that will never happen unless God’s people get more concerned about the next generation than their next meal

2. Fasting releases prophetic strategies for victory.
The Moabites, Amonites, and several other hostile nations were arrayed against Israel. (See 2 Chr 20:1-30.) King Jehoshaphat called for a fast. You know you are in a desperate situation when a guy nicknamed J-PHAT calls for a fast. During the fast, a prophetic word was given that laid out God’s strategy for their battle. “No swords. No shields. No spears. Get your tambourines ready, we’re going to war!” I’m sure there were some battle-hardened warriors who thought that word was way off. After all, “We’ve never fought a battle like that before.” As always, God knew best. If we are willing to skip a few meals, we may receive prophetic strategies to influence our cities for God’s glory. They may be new and untried strategies, but if they are from God, we can be confident they will work.

3. Fasting activates people and provision for God’s work.
Nehemiah’s building project was preceded by corporate fasting. Would it have been as successful without the fasting? I don’t think so. In 1984, God opened the door for our fledgling Manila church to have its own (rented) building in Manila’s crowded University-Belt as we fasted and prayed.  Each time our church has expanded to a new building to own or rent, a vital part of our fund-raising strategy has been prayer and fasting.

4. Fasting releases wisdom and favor.
Daniel and his friends went on a partial fast (vegetables and water only). At the end of the fast, they were compared with the rest of the young men of Babylon. The results are recorded in Daniel 1:20. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. Would you like to be ten times better than your competitors? Just lay off the pizza for a few days and seek God wholeheartedly.

5. Fasting clarifies and redirects callings and ministries.
Paul, Barnabas, and a few other Antioch church leaders were me eting together, and while they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said: set apart for me Barnabas . . . (Acts 13:1-3). While they were fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke. Would He have spoken this new direction even if they had not fasted? Probably. The real question is: Would they have been sensitive enough to hear the Holy Spirit speak if they had not fasted? Maybe. Maybe not. Are you seeking God for a new direction in your life or ministry? Good time to fast.

6. Fasting breaks demonic strongholds.
On one occasion, the disciples unsuccessfully attempted to cast out a demon. When they asked Jesus why they had failed, He responded:  this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matt 17:21). This seems to indicate that there are certain demonic situations that, for one reason or another, can only be defeated through fasting. Isaiah said that true fasting will loose chains . . . untie the cords of yoke . . . set the oppressed free and break every yoke (Is 58:6). Have you ever encountered a stubborn demonic situation? Maybe it’s the kind that only goes out by prayer and fasting.

7. Fasting increases spiritual power.
Luke records that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and that He was led by the Spirit. After His forty day fast, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:1,14). How many Christians do you know who are full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit, but do not walk in the power of the Spirit? Need more power? Spiritual power is one of the rewards of fasting.

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This blog was originally an article called “Freedom From the Stomach God” written for Evangelicals Today magazine. I edited it, made it much shorter and posted it here. Hope it helps those who are starting 2008 with a season of fasting and prayer.

Also, I recently wrote several fasting blogs on my “accidental missionary” site. The first was called “I Hate Fasting.”

(Note: We encourage only healthy adults to fast. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should not fast. If you have any medical condition, you should check with your doctor before fasting.)

Steve Murrell is the president of the Every Nation Churches and Ministries and the founder of Victory Philippines.

You can read Steve’s original post here.

Posted by: everynation | January 9, 2012

Why We are Scared to Pray and Fast

By Dennis Sy

The praying life reveals the heart. When we pray we are being unmasked. We expose what is inside of us. We become vulnerable to God and ourselves. We don’t like it and we are scared but we know we need to do it.

Only in a praying life do we acknowledge that we have a needy heart. As much as we want the world to see how self reliant we are, we really are not. That is why I always say that prayer mirrors the gospel. It shows to us how helpless we are and to admit it is actually healthy and beneficial to us.

When we are weak, God shows Himself strong.  Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer.

The problem is we are trying to be spiritual to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian but when it comes to praying we forget that. We like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to him like little children, just as we are.

COME MESSY

Come to me all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer and I will give you rest??? No, it says come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden. Have you seen a weary and a person carrying a heavy load. Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do. They come as they are, with runny noses and all. Like the disciples they say what is on their mind.

The gospel teaches us that we cannot on our own. That is how we must be when we come to pray.

Dennis Sy is the senior pastor of Victory Greenhills. He’s married to Samantha. They have two beautiful daughters. He is the author of Clueless Church Planter, is a frustrated sociologist, and an aspiring missiologist.

Click here to read his original post.

Posted by: everynation | January 5, 2012

One Resolution: Faith in a Faithful God

By Myra Watkins

(Editor’s Note: Myra Watkins, our missionary in Ukraine, wrote this on January 2, 2011.)

As we celebrated the New Year at Maidan (Independence Square) in Kiev with thousands of jubilant people I thought if the euphoric hope for a better year could be bottled and sold on grim days it would significantly boost the economy. But wishes and good cheer do not lead to improvement. After the countdown to the new year, the clock keeps on ticking and we find ourselves going somewhere in life – good or bad. We can’t stand there forever in the glow of fireworks and falling snow. We can’t wish our difficulties away, wave a magic wand, and wake up different. It is wise to evaluate where we are in our relationships, finances, careers and goals and set our compass for the best destination. But how?

Trust in God and His faithfulness

I met a university student for coffee a few days ago. She said she and her boyfriend had been talking about how our family always seems happy. “You must have difficulties too,” she said. “What is your secret?” I said we definitely go through difficulties, but we have joy which doesn’t depend on our circumstances because we trust in God. But this kind of trust means to cling to, rely on and place everything in God’s hands because of who He is. This trust grows because we have seen His faithfulness over the years.

Obey Him

You can’t just say you trust God, you have to set your priorities, goals, and lifestyle according to His ways. When we go our own way in disregard of His commandments, we shouldn’t be surprised when we get in trouble. The word “obey” causes the modern man to bristle, but if we have settled the idea that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb 11:6) , we can see the wisdom of obedience. Troubles sometimes happen when we do obey God, but we enjoy His pleasure and nearness in the midst of them. Psalm 23

Cultivate Faith, not Fatalism

In general, people have reasons for not believing or trying: things didn’t work out before, they have special circumstances, you don’t understand how bad things are in their nation, etc. But we don’t get anywhere worth going without faith. When we envision anything worth going persuing, faith is the fuel which keeps us joyfully moving ahead. We have to cultivate faith and protect it or we could wander in the wilderness just outside of our Promised Land in a malignant holding pattern of doubt and bitterness. How do you feel when you spend time with someone who has an infectious, joyful faith? Encouraged? Energized? You can be sure they have habits which keep their faith strong. You can develop those habits.

Let’s set our moral compass toward God and accomplish great things this year by faith.

“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.” (Tozer)

Click here to read Myra’s original post.

Posted by: everynation | January 1, 2012

Top 10 Books I Read in 2011

by Steve Murrell

Someone really famous, important and/or smart person once said, “readers are leaders” or maybe it was, “leaders are readers.” I don’t know, but I hope you are a reader and a leader.

Here are some of the best books I read in 2011, in random order. (And here’s the 2010 list, and a bunch of other random & interesting top 10 lists – you never know what will show up on one of my top 10 lists. Back to the books…)

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Amazing true story of a WWII hero. Warning: once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop.

2. Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir & Michèle Fitoussi. True story of Morrocan Muslim brutality. The result of reading this book: I’m praying that the Lord of the Harvest would send workers to Northern Africa. Who will go?

3. Living a Life of Fire by Reinhard Bonnke. Just when you think you have accomplished something with your life, you pick up a Bonnke book.

4. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell. Recommended for all church planters, pastors, missionaries and anyone who leads people and/or organizations.

5. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo. One of the best how-to communication books ever. Confession: I have never seen a Steve Jobs presentation. But I still think every preacher, teacher, presenter and small group leader should read this one. Here’s a review of the book, using the presentation secrets of Steve J.

6. Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips. A gift from my friend, Melvin Malone. This tragic story reads like a Grisham legal thriller. Summary: In 1906, an innocent black man was found guilty of raping a white teen & sentenced to die in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Two unknown black lawyers took the case all the way to the Supreme Court & won a surprise stay of execution. Local rednecks responded by lynching the innocent man. The result forever changed the way the Supreme Court views the authority of state courts.

7. The Confession by John Grisham. Speaking of Grisham legal thrillers, gotta love it when a law-breaking pastor is the hero.

8. Where Has Oprah Taken Us: The Religious Influence of the World’s Most Famous Woman by Stephen Mansfield. I have never watched an episode of Oprah, but I am glad I read this book. It is not so much about “Pastor Oprah” as it is about modern religion. Every pastor who preaches in the West should read this insightfully scary book by my friend.

9. Decision Points by George W Bush. No matter what you think about Bush, Republicans or American foreign policy, this is a great leadership book. Not the typical presidential memoir, this is a book about leadership decisions. Bush tells us the why behind decisions including why he stopped drinking, why he ran for governor of Texas, why the surge, why he hired and fired certain people, and other difficult decisions both personal and political. He also freely admits many mistakes, which in presidential memoirs, is rarer than a Sasquatch sighting. If you are a decision-maker, you should read this one.

10. Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin’ in Flip-Flops and the Philippine’s Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball By Rafe Bartholomew. Written by a young American basketball fanatic while on a Fullbright scholarship in the Philippines. I don’t know the author, but I do know several people who show up on the pages of his book. Fun book for all who love the Philippines and the PBA.

2011 Snubs: Other good books that did not make my list include works by Tim Keller, RT Kendall, Philip Yancy, Vince Flynn, Gavin Menzies (interesting views on history) and lesser known writers. And, I read and snubbed that book about love by a former pastor (glad I read it but not glad he wrote it).

Next year’s list will include the Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer bookwhich I started last week but will not finish until 2012, and Joey Bonifacio‘s “Lego Principle” which I read in 2011 but will not be published until fall of 2012.

What good books did you read in 2011?

Almost forgot, one more book you should buy – would be good to read it too – but you definitely should BUY 1 or 2 or 10 copies of THIS BOOK.

Steve Murrell is the president of the Every Nation Churches and Ministries and the founder of Victory Philippines.

Read this original post here.

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