Thursday, March 31, 2016

What I learned from the Sequoia Tree

Recently, I visited Sequoia National Park in eastern California. There one can see the largest living tree (by volume) on earth. Here are some of the lessons I learned. 

1. It does not matter where you start all that matters is where you finish.
            The oldest of the Sequoia trees is 3,200 years old. The tallest grows to 311 feet. They weigh up to 2.7 million lbs. Their bark grows up to 31 inches thick. The branches at eight feet in diameter are bigger than the trunks of most trees. The base can grow up to forty feet in diameter, that means more than twenty people would need to join hands in order to encircle the tree. The cone is about the size of a chicken’s egg and this massive tree grows from a seed the size of an oat flake.
            You might come from a small beginning, but you have the potential to be the best in the world at what God has called you to do. You can tower above all the other trees in the forest if you simply refuse to give up. The definition of the word “excellence” is “to surpass, to be the best, to be a champion, to exceed, to be exceptional, to be unsurpassed, to be top notch, to tower above all the rest.” You can achieve excellence if you just stick with your assignment long enough.
2. Going through the fire can prepare you for a fresh start.
            After the Sequoia groves were declared a National Park, the Forest Rangers worked diligently to protect the big trees by trying to banish fire. Every 5-10 years lightning started a fire and the forest service always rushed to put out the fires.
            But after a few decades, the Rangers began to see unwanted consequences of the fire suppression. The trees stopped reproducing. It turns out that fire is an important part of the lifecycle of the Sequoia tree. Each year each tree produces up to 2,000 egg-sized cones that contain up to 400,000 seeds. The seeds are released only when the cones open. The cones hang green and closed on the trees for up to twenty years. A few seeds may be scattered by squirrels, but the heat from a fire is needed to make the cones dry out, open up, and drop seeds. Plus, the fire clears out the underbrush from around the mama tree and leaves ashes to act as fertilizer.
            Many people have a lot of dead wood clogging up their lives. This old, dead growth prevents them from planting new ideas or experiencing new growth. Sometimes, God brings us through a period of fire in order to prepare us for new growth. Our greatest victories often follow a time of supernatural pruning. The ashes left over from our past are used by God to fertilize our future growth.

3. Deep roots are necessary for survival.
            The wood and bark of a Sequoia tree naturally grows a special chemical that makes the trees resistant to insects and fungi. This makes them almost immortal. As long as they are standing, they never stop growing. But, they do have one weakness in their roots. These mighty trees actually have a very shallow root system with no taproot. Ninety percent of the Sequoia roots are within three feet of the surface of the earth. Their roots extend broadly but they do not grow deeply. Soil moisture, root damage, erosion, and strong winds can cause these giants to topple over.
            Many people look they are impervious to the devil’s attack on the outside, but in reality they are vulnerable because their roots do not extend deeply into the ground. To maintain a great height, one’s roots must extend equally far underground. 

4. Slow and steady wins the race.
            A young Sequoia tree does not even look like a tree, instead it looks more like a bush. It grows on the ground as a bush for 8-10 years before it starts shooting up. Fifty years later, it is a tall slender tree. Every year the tree continues to grow taller and broader and it is only after 2,000 years that the tree has a right to be called “the biggest tree in the world.”
            I’m sure you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. The rabbit starts the race much quicker than the turtle, but after a while the rabbit gets distracted. The little turtle keeps inching toward the finish line, slow and steady. By the time the hare tries to catch up, it is too late. The slow tortoise beats the rapid rabbit by simply putting one foot in front of the next, over and over again.
            The white pine tree can grow to full height in twenty years, but then it dies just as quickly. You are in a marathon, not a sprint. It is better to be a long-term success than it is to be a flash in the pan that fizzles out in a few short days or years.

5. Success is only possible in the right environment.
            The west slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between an elevation of 5,000 and 7,000 feet is the only place in the world where the Sequoia trees grow. In order to flourish, they need the right amount of sun, water, and the perfect weather. No other place on earth has been found where this magnificent tree can naturally grow to such an enormous height.
            What environment keeps you focused? What environment allows you to be the most productive? What environment is best for your happiness and success?  You need to find the environment that is right for you to grow. Some environments will stunt your growth, other environments will kill you, only one environment is right for turning you into everything you are called by God to be.
6. Beware small-minded people who seek to destroy your greatness. 
            The biggest Sequoia tree was over 90 feet in diameter. In 1852, George Gale discovered the tree and cut off the bark in order to show people in the eastern United States the size of the tree. Without the bark, the tree eventually died. George’s greedy desire to make a few dollars off the world’s largest tree killed the 2,500-year-old tree.
            Watch out for those who try to steal in a moment what took you years of effort and toil to create. There are a lot of people out there that do not care for you. All they care about is what they can quickly take from you. Stay away from them, lest your greatness be compromised.

7. Never underestimate the power of a seed.
            The Sequoia tree grows from a seed the size of an oat flake. Contained in that tiny seed is the DNA for the biggest tree in the world, but you would never know by looking at it. Impressive endings often come from small beginnings.
            God wants us to sow seeds everyday. Your small seed has the potential to give you a mighty harvest. The seed you sow determines the harvest you grow. I encourage you to sow a seed into our ministry today. Even if you do not have much, your small seed can bring you the greatest harvest of your lifetime. Sow today! Click HERE to sow a seed into world evangelism. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

7 Reasons You Need a Mentor - Secrets of Ministry Success #26

1. A mentor will save you from making mistakes. You can either learn from your mistakes or your can learn from the mistakes of your mentor. Learning from your mentor is much easier.

2. A mentor will open doors you are unable to open.

3. A mentor will protect you from your own weaknesses.

4. A mentor will save you from wasting your time. God puts mentors in your life to help you learn faster.

5. A mentor will encourage you when you are discouraged and correct you when you are overconfident.

6. A mentor’s lifetime of experience can save you years of heartache.

7. A mentor will prepare you for battles you do not know you are scheduled to face.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Have You Discovered the Power of Reading? - Secrets of Ministry Success #25

          Once someone criticized my reading habits. They asked, “Why do you spend so much time and money on books? Do the books you read really help you? They thought my reading is a waste, that reading many books on one subject is redundant, that reading many books is foolishness.

Here is my response:

Readers are leaders.

The person who does not read is as ignorant as one who cannot read. Five years from now you will be exactly the same as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you fail to make use of the brains of other men you prove you have no brain of your own.”

What is the value of spending an hour with a great man? What would you pay to hang out with George Bush or George Washington? What would it be worth to spend an afternoon with Oral Roberts or Smith Wigglesworth? What would you ask Warren Buffett or Bill Gates?  By reading their books, you visit the greatest people in history. 

Great men have stored fifty years of their experience and wisdom between the covers of a book. It would be foolish to ignore the accumulated knowledge of their career. For a small investment of $20 I can learn in an hour what it took them a lifetime to discover. Though they are dead, I can talk with them in my head.

What you eat turns into your body, what you read turns into your mind. You become like those you associate with. I can choose to be satisfied with the minds of the lesser men who surround me or I can listen in on the Great Conversation of the greatest minds in history. Why do some people spend more money on their clothes then they do on their mind?

We quote, “The wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous.” Where is the wealth of the wicked? In a bank? In their possessions? No. Their real wealth is hidden in their knowledge of how to make money. The wealth of the wicked is stored in books and Christians have ignored and insulted them.

Tim Redmond writes, “Here is an astounding fact, readers make more money, a lot more! According to a number of recent studies (United States Department of Labor, Survey by Yahoo! Chief Solutions Officer Tim Sanders and Business Majors), leaders who read at least 7 business books a year earn over 2.3 times more than those who read only one book per year. Why? One reason is that they have a constant flow of new ideas and strategies they can use to help their careers, their teams and their companies.”

I recently heard a preacher say, “Everything I need to know is in the Bible. I don’t need to feed on worldly wisdom by reading other books.” Yet, this preacher is facing problems a few minutes with the right business book could solve. God can speak to you as you read secular books.

Critics of reading might quote Ecclesiastes 12:12, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Even the wisest man in history makes some mistakes when he is backsliding. Solomon’s proverbs continue to teach today...because he wrote them a book.

God came for a season...but left a book for eternity. Jesus is the Word...a book. The first thing you will see when you get to heaven is the Book of Life. In the KJV of the Bible, the word “book” is mentioned 188 times, “writing” is mentioned 91 times, “reading” is mentioned 70 times. We know God writes (Exodus 31:18), Jesus writes (John 8:8), God tells His prophets to both read and write (Jer. 30:2, Ezekiel 2:9), God expects angels to read (Rev. 2:1). Why look down on an activity God obviously values so much?

Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy, “Until I come give attendance to reading (1 Timothy 4:13). Later he wrote, ““The clock that I left at Troas bring it with you and the books that I left, but especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13).  Paul wanted his books more then anything else. He knew his wisdom depended on his reading.

The greatest invention in history was Gutenberg’s printing press. The printed page has done more to spread the Gospel then any other technique. Printing made democracy possible, education for the masses possible, and economic innovation possible.

From books I learn history...lest I repeat the mistakes of the past. From books I feed my creativity. In books I feel the soul of humankind. In books I discover myself...from the heights of triumph to the depths of despair experienced by others. Reading carries me to different worlds (past, future, and imagined) from the comfort of my couch. By reading I live vicariously...I learn from other’s experiences, thoughts, actions, impressions, mistakes, victories, and defeats.

Because of their lack of reading, Christians are continually impressed with recycled ideas, stale thoughts, and poor writing. One preacher spent twenty minutes telling me about his revelation from God...word-for-word from one of the best-selling business books at the time. If I was not an avid reader, I would have been impressed with what God was “revealing” to it was, I felt he did a poor job presenting the original material. Another Christian success speaker makes a living doing seminars teaching principles from business books pastors are too lazy to read for themselves. One Christian fiction series about the second-coming of Christ is extremely poor writing, yet believers buy the books by the millions...I am convinced they like the books because they have never read a well-written secular book. Christians should demand excellence from their own...instead of accepting drivel. The only way to know if a book is well-written is to be well-read.

Before writing my book on healing, I read hundreds of books on healing. Recently a prominent minister said my book on healing is the best he ever read. Would my book have achieved this level of excellence if I had not read all those other books? I think not. My reading of healing books made me an expert on healing, my reading of business books will make me an expert in business, my reading of bibliographies will make me an expert in history. As a world traveler I cannot afford to be ignorant of foreign cultures, ideas, religions, and history.

In response to the accusation, “You can not afford to read as much as you do,” I reply, “I cannot afford NOT to read as much as I do.” The only thing standing between me and my future is my ignorance. My ignorance bothers me everyday...the only cure is reading.

Unfortunately 7 of 10 books that are purchased are not read. 1 out of 10 are only read past the first chapter. If you read a book a year, you will be smarter than ninety percent of the population. If you will read a book a week on any given subject, in five years you will be the world’s greatest expert on that subject. Your difference creates your value.

The books I read yesterday make me who I am today...they determine my value to society. Today’s reading will inevitably lead to tomorrow’s promotion. You will never be worth more than your library.

Reading isn’t the only way to learn, but it may be the best way. Other (slower) ways of learning (experience, conversation, TV, browsing the Internet, etc.) exist and many people use them but a book contains more raw knowledge in a small space then anything else and can be accessed quickly.

Monday, March 28, 2016

South Asia Gospel Festival

Are you Focussed on the Right Things? - Secrets of Ministry Success #24

Focus is your most powerful weapon and a lack of focus can be your most dangerous enemy. Focus is either a destiny maker or a destiny breaker. Your focus determines your success. Your lack of focus predetermines your failure.

Your ability to focus is the most important skill you can develop. Without focus, there will be no success in your life.

The definition of focus:
Focus is being single minded.
Focus is removing all unnecessary and unimportant things.
Focus is about being able to concentrate on the real issues.  
Focus is about being able to maintain your long-term direction and commitments.

Today God gives you a gift of 86,400 seconds. You either use it or you will lose it.
The average American watches 4 hours of TV each day. If you watch four hours of television every day, you have wasted two full months of your year.

The number of seconds, minutes, and hours in your day are limited. If you spend time doing one activity, you lose the opportunity to do anything else with that time. Once time is spent, you never get it back.

Examples of the Power of Focus:
1. A light bulb lights a room but a laser using the same light in a focused way can cut through steel.
2. The blinders on a horse help him stay focused.
3. If you chase 2 rabbits, you will lose both of them.
4. If you try to shoot one arrow at two targets, you will miss both.
5. Keep your eyes on the ball.
6. A camera that is out of focus does not produce any useable pictures.

How does focus help you?

1. Focus will help you get everything you want in life.
You can be successful at anything you decide to be focused on.

Your obsession determines who you are, what you do, why you do it.

What you focus on expands in your life.

The greatest decision I made in my life was to be focused on soul winning.

There are ten thousand things I could do, but there is only one thing I can do well. If I try to do ten things, I will do poorly at all of them but if I focus on one thing, I can do it with excellence.

* Your focus determines your mastery. If you spend five minutes a day to study any subject, within five years you will be one of the world’s foremost experts on that subject.

* Your focus determines your energy. Focus creates enthusiasm and excitement.

* Your focus determines the level of your prosperity. Different areas of focus produce different rewards. A person focused on becoming a great lawyer will be rewarded at a different level then someone who is focused on playing video games.

* Your focus determines the miracles that happen in your life. Only focused faith can produce miracles in your life.

* Your focus determines your rewards. Focus has rewards in your life. God wants reward you for your focus.

2. Focus brings the right things into your life.
Focus brings right people.
Focus brings right ideas.
Focus brings right resources.

3. Focus keeps the wrong things out of your life. Your ability to focus helps you to weed out the activities that will stop you from completing your assignment.

Broken Focus
The main reason why people fail is because of broken focus.
Lack of focus causes you to compromise your integrity.
Lack of focus causes you to waste your time.
Lack of focus causes you to miss opportunities.
Lack of focus creates insecurity and instability in everything around you.

Example of Broken Focus
            - King David committed adultery with Bathsheba because of broken focus. He was the king. He was supposed to be at war defeating the enemy but he lost focus. He stayed home and was hanging out on the roof of his palace and he saw Bathsheba taking a bath.
            - Samson was always distracted. He was called by God to be a deliverer but he kept chasing Canaanite women. His lack of focus caused his greatest downfall.

The Enemies of Focus
By breaking your focus, the devil can stop your blessings. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden they should have been focused on obey God. Instead, they started listening to the voice of the snake. When they lost their focus, they lost their destiny.

Your enemy is anything that breaks your focus. Television, social media, hobbies, sports are all fine if they are used properly, but the moment an activity pulls you away from your primary focus you need to get rid of that activity in your life.

Your enemy is anyone who breaks your focus. Some relationships you don’t need in your life. Some people are time stealers. They ask, “Hey do you have a minute?” and then they take an hour. They have no focus in their lives so they come and distract you from your focus.

How to Feed Your Focus
1. Know your focus.
2. Surround yourself with your focus. In my office, I have lots of pictures of crusades on the walls because I want to remind myself of my focus on a regular basis.
3. Set goals based on your focus. Goals keep you focused.
4. Spend time every day pursuing your dominate focus. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Are you Diligent? - Secrets of Ministry Success #23

Three months before I started college I was in the middle of my prayer time when God spoke two words to my spirit that deeply impacted my life.  God said, “Be diligent.”  Two days later, I spent some time with John Tasch, my children’s pastor when I was young. As he encouraged me, he spoke the same message, “Daniel, as you start your studies, the word of the Lord for you is to “be diligent.” A few days later, another mentor, Pastor Billy Allen gave virtually the same message again when he was praying over me. Within a one-week period, I received a message from God and two confirmations of the message from people I greatly respected. At first, I thought this was a short message from God that only applied to my first semester but it turns out the instruction to be diligent was for my entire four years of college and even beyond. Now, many years later, as I reflect upon this word from God, I realize that God gave me a Word of Wisdom at a crucial time in my life.

Diligence: having or showing care and conscientiousness in one's work or duties.

This is the key to promotion.

Proverbs 10:4 “The hand of the diligent maketh rich.” (KJV)

Proverbs 10:4 ...diligent hands bring wealth (NIV)

Proverbs 10:4 (NKJV) He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 12:24 “The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

Some people want God to bless them, but they don’t want to do anything.  

Proverbs 21:5 “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plentyness, but the thoughts of the lazy tend toward want.”

(Proverbs 21:5  NKJV) The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

Proverbs 27:23 Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds;

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments, and that bridge must be crossed every day. – Jerry Grillo
#Diligent means you do something day after day after day.
Deuteronomy 6:17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. 
Deuteronomy 28:1  “…if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.

Psalm 119:4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently.

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Paul tells Timothy: 2 Timothy 4:9 “Be diligent to come to me quickly”

The grace approach to diligence:

Some people might say, “I live under grace, so I don’t need to be diligent. If anything is going to happen, it is not going to happen because of my work, it will happen because of what God does.” But when we look at Scripture, we find that even under grace, we still have to be diligent.

Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;

2 Peter 3:14  Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

God is a rewarder of the diligent.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.