Establish a better craving

I’ve come to a conclusion about churches. I’ve been studying biographies of churches—all kinds of churches, healthy and unhealthy, for a long time. I think marketing brain trust Seth Godin has the final word on church renewal and change. From his blog entitled, “People who like this stuff”: “It’s a little like the futility of the ‘Under New Management’ sign on a restaurant. People who like the place don’t want to hear you’re changing everything, and people who don’t like the old place aren’t in such a hurry for a new place that they’ll form a line….” Established churches are pretty much what they want to be. Insiders envision the attenders as Owners, Renters and Squatters. “Owners” will fight to protect their property—the way things are done and what is legitimate. They are not waiting around for a clerical immigrant to come and fix it. All of this takes on a sharp edge as churches look to minister to the Millennials—the largest generation ever to occupy the earth. Without exception, churches want to reach them, but most are unwilling to change the way things are done to speak their language. Churches tend to want the Millennials to do the adapting. So my conclusion: Churches probably are one or two generation organizations. Any sociologist will give you details. Today’s church attempts to reach across five generations and be inviting to all seldom works. Rather than frustrating everyone and establishing fire fights and battle zones, established churches should birth new churches with a one generation focus. The new church’s leadership, if wise and desirous of longevity, will reach out to their older generation friends to bring balance and wisdom. We visit a church regularly which effectively reaches across the generations. They give an altar call each week with a team of 8-12 altar workers who pray with a broad range of seekers. I have seen a five year old leading his dad wearing baggy jeans and tattoos to the altar to be prayed for by an older business man in a 3-piece suit. The basic core of the people (“Owners”)…

  • Crave to be in God’s presence
  • Crave to hear and ingest God’s word
  • Crave interaction with God’s family
  • Crave to see the lost found

I have visited a few thousand churches to find a few like this one. I’ve been studying The Power of Habit—a book by Charles Duhigg. (Random House, 2012). A habit always depends on a habit loop: Cue (trigger) which leads to a routine to gain a desired reward. Research proves that the Cue > Routine > Reward loop needs one more ingredient to hold it together or to explain it: Craving. To change a habit means to find a craving that is more powerful than the old one. Church renewal happens when people begin to crave being in God’s house, crave ministering to each other and acquire a craving to find the lost. One of the older books mentioned above says, “God wants His lost children found!” How do we establish a craving?

  • Show evidence that the product is working—called testimonies.
  • Understand the consumer’s desired reward—demographics and psychographics
  • Stimulate and feed the new craving based on the reward the specific group desires
  • Establish the workable alternative routine.

I hope the vagueness will provoke you to read and then talk to me about the contents of the “Habit” book. Talk to me ©2014 D. Dean Benton. Facebook: Benton Quest House



“…your ‘seed’ is more than the ability to produce children; it is your innate potential, which is meant to lead to the destiny for which God created you. Everyone possesses some kind of a seed. That is a seed of potential, purpose and passion. That seed contains your future.”

“…find it, plant it, and nurture it to maturity.”

Myles Munroe, Overcoming Crisis, Destiny Image, 2009

“That seed inside you is your ideas.”

“Once it lands in the right soil, here comes a tree.”

I’ve been reading the work of Myles Munroe for twenty plus years beginning with his work on purpose, potential and passion. I am convinced he is right. I’m also convinced, (Seams to Me), that a natural process is:

Seed, Soil, Sowing, Environment, Nurturing, Reaping.

Munroe and Mike Murdock say that God has placed each of us on the earth to provide solutions and strategies. Every one of us! If Munroe is right that your seed is an idea, then it is important to set aside time to learn how to have an idea. (Dean, are you listening?)

John Maxwell is not the first one to talk about the necessity of thinking and how few people do. Unless we follow a regimen, we will repeat the same thoughts. The same thinking will not produce a different result than the thinking that got you into the place you are. New thoughts depend upon a definite criteria. Not just any thought, but a seed-like thought. Unless it is a hybrid seed, a seed will reproduce itself—that is its job.

Cross-pollination. I am not an agronomist. I do know about ideas and long to have productive ideas. I am committed to finding and talking about solutions and strategies. If you want new and productive ideas, it will require new information. That will require that you read, listen, research, pay attention and interact with idea people. Nothing will unearth an idea like something you do not know spoken by someone you respect.

Mark Virkler built, or discovered, a process that he called, 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. (©2010 Mark and Patti Virkler, Destiny-Image Publishers.) He prays with these tools every day and hears God speaking affection for him, instruction and revelation. “My sheep know my voice,” Jesus said. He explains how that works using four concepts and practices. I have adapted his practice—I’ve changed a couple of words.

When we ask to hear God’s voice, He speaks to us as spontaneous words or visions in our imaginations. The imagination is not just about silly ideas or out of control thoughts. I’ve been derisively told most of my life that “You sure have a wild imagination.” A story teller must have a vivid imagination. Where else would you put together non-directly connected ideas? The imagination can run away with us, but the sanctified imagination is a powerful tool.

Virkler’s basic premise is that we hear God’s voice through spontaneous words or visions. He uses Ephesians 1—“…eyes of my heart” as the means by which this happens. Not only is that legitimate from Virkler’s point of view, I’ve read researchers talk about the heart’s ability to see beyond the cognitive activity of the mind.

So, here is how I’m working with having an idea or finding clarity about a question or issue.


Jesus said go to your “closet”. Interesting. How many closets as we know them, would there have been in a Nazareth home? Probably no plastic hangers or clothes poles. Nail? He was describing a private place—a location without noise or sounds. A place and habit of shutting down the stimuli—noise and music makers and the voices in our heads.

Turn off the voices and list making and images of planners. Somewhere in this, we will learn how to “center” as the Quakers (not New Agers) describe it.


This may lead to worship. Sometimes it is helpful for me to read Scripture and let that take me to where Jesus is at work or with people. Focusing on a word from a passage or concept. The objective is to be specific and intentional—“I’m open only to Jesus—no other voice. Not mine or any stray spirit.” After quieting self, you invite Jesus into the silence. He is welcome.  

I usually state the question at hand or what I need clarified. Does it help to visualize Jesus sitting with you at a small coffee table at Starbucks? Or sitting on a dock with fishing pole in hand? After telling Him how good it is to see Him and appreciate His taking time for this meeting, explain what you need from Him. In the last couple of days, I’ve talked to Him at that “table” about the pathway of healing for a friend and what a fresh logo for our ministry would look like from His plan and perspective. Focusing means to keep the image of Jesus across the table—it is Jesus with whom I am talking.


State the question. Present the problem. What do you need to hear? Sometimes, it is totally preferable to ask, “Jesus, what do you want to say to me, today? What do I need to hear from you?”

It is imperative that you take seriously what you hear. The first words, thoughts, images that come to you. You will assume they are your own thoughts—sometimes they are—but based upon our belief that God desires to talk to us in terms we both hear and understand, how else would he be able to speak to you?

First words, first image, first thoughts. Write them down before you think them through. God will use your cognitive ability to speak the Logos to you, but may by-pass your mind to speak a rhema word directly to your heart before you will have time to rationalize or minimize or excuse the thoughts, word, image as nothing beyond your own crazy thinking.


Virkler calls this “two-way journaling.” You ask the question, state the issue and write down what you hear. This is a conversation and you are the court reporter writing it down.

If you are not a Jesus Follower or you think it is bizarre to think God would have a conversation like this, I still consider this process valid to clarify or birth a new idea. If this makes you nervous or have questions, let’s talk. There are precautions, but this is worth the effort.

©2014 D. Dean Benton

Benton Quest House

The Place to build the I’m Possible Life


How Do You Feel?

Type A personalities are not physically damaging. The Type A person who is also hostile is at risk of early death. One of the most lethal characteristics is cynicism. It is not primarily the thinking that heightens the risk, it is the feeling that accompanies the toxic thinking.

Brene Brown defines shame as a cluster of thoughts and feelings of not being worthy of love or belonging. Name the trauma or assault. Over time, feelings are the fuel that keeps the fire raging. Feelings of worthlessness or diminishment caused by any wound flood us and then the thinking comes to support the legitimacy of those feelings.

Thinking and feeling are interactive, but different activities.

A business meeting we had scheduled didn’t materialize last weekend. How three people could not find each other in a coffee shop is hard to figure out. If my math is correct, that is number 87 in a list of things that didn’t turn out within a hemisphere of what we planned, worked toward, expected or assumed would happen—if mere normal were attained.

As we drove the two hours home from the aborted million-dollar meeting—for which I will undoubtedly be billed! (Just wanted to demonstrate cynicism.), I tried to name what I was thinking. My thinking and verbalization focused on the possibility that I am a world-class screw up. I was also talking and thinking about the competence and/or credibility of the person we were to meet. I was also thinking about the spiritual activity, if any, in this non-meeting.

We’ve been very serious about doing God’s will as we understood it. We’ve been searching for guidance for nearly a decade. So we are left with the confusion. Is God in this? Perhaps, I think to myself and then heatedly explain to Carole, this is God throwing a huge wall up because…because…I listed several possibilities most of which make no sense even to a twisted imagination. Perhaps, it is His will and our enemy disrupted things. Maybe our enemies are calling forth opposition from the dark world.

We used more words trying to think through what this odd event was all about than most people use for all purposes over a ten-day span. We concluded nothing.

I sure became aware what the experience made me feel about myself. “Feel” is the appropriate word. It was a feeling.

Carole stumbled over a table the other day. She thought she had broken her leg, six toes and maybe an Achilles’ tendon. She can pull up her jeans and show you the ugly bruises and tell you, “It hurts right there!” Where do “feelings” dwell?

Abandonment, assault, failures, mistakes, screw-ups, lack or specific inabilities make us feel badly about ourselves. After the bleeding stops and the bruises go away and we’ve filed the embarrassment, dread, mortification, we are left with how we feel. I don’t think that feeling will evaporate by itself or can we will it away. I think only God’s healing can remove its debilitating power. That especially is true the longer the history. The “feeling” becomes one element in the structure of a stronghold. It becomes part of our personhood. It has magnetism—it pulls toward itself proof that it is right. The feelings have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, we pray for healing. This is a soul issue. The elements of the soul are: what we think, what we do, what we FEEL. God heals and we actively cooperate. I suggest these activities:


FLOSS. (I am writing this at the College of Dentistry.) A supervisor gave me a package of wood flossers. Since then, I have found gentle plastic ones. Now, I can drive for miles while flossing. The practice of considering what thought has gotten stuck between your synapsis will dislodge toxic feelings that lead to truth decay.

The law that guides interpretation of feelings is: experience them, feelings are feelings. Do not deny them, but know that emotions—feelings—can lie to you. They are yours—you decided to feel them. That doesn’t mean they are all legitimate.

When we talk about healing of memories, we are talking about healing of emotions—the feelings that have controlled or crippled us.

When we talk about emotions, we list such things as anger, joy, peace. When we talk about feelings we may determine them to be feelings of inadequacy, feelings of inferiority, feelings of incompetence, feelings of shame, feelings of hopelessness.

Leanne Payne is one of my most respected thinkers about healing and walking with Jesus. I randomly read from her book, Restoring The Christian Soul this morning. She always takes me to deeper places and makes me mentally floss.

This is a maxim. Until we have “grieved out” what abandonment, abuse, assault, bad choices or deficits have created in us—been healed and that vacuum filled with God’s holy working, we will have feelings that block us, keep us stuck or barricade our destiny.

Ms. Payne prints a letter from a woman in law school who had attended one of Payne’s conferences and then wrote to her. When the woman (given the name Linda) was born, she was cared for and loved on by her mother. On her third day, the child was diagnosed with staph infection and was quarantined and separated from her mother. She experienced abandonment. She feels unfilled. Her feelings of touch deprivation and failure to come to an adequate sense of being have pushed her into feelings, choices, behaviors that have not satisfied the driving needs. She concludes the letter with a P.S.:

“I confess that I don’t want ‘healing’ so much as I want to be filled up. I can’t explain this; it just seems that ‘healing’ means the feelings will be taken away, but I will still be left empty. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?”

Her feelings are coping mechanism as are her habits of repression and denial. Take away those things before she is ready or before there is something to put in their place and she will crumble—probably come apart emotionally or mentally.

So I’m driving and “flossing.” What am I thinking and what am I feeling? Most of our questions are legitimate. We need to process what caused the problem or misunderstanding. But what has caused me to feel and exactly what am I feeling? Could it be that I am feeling something that is connected to another time and place and situation? Is this just a trigger that automatically made me to re-experience something?

I think of those who are blocked, sabotaged and turned back from challenges they are capable of accomplishing–turned back by the feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of expected disappointment (it always turns out that way), the feeling that accompanies fear of rejection and others. These feelings are expressed by anxiety, depression, fear, refusal to try and hiding out, among other things.

Because feelings trump thinking almost every time, emotional health includes defining what we feel and why we feel them. It is possible I’ve made more of the Saturday event than I should. There probably was no malice intended and there is a simple explanation. But the event uncovered some feelings that I better not oversimplify.

Begin with defining what you are feeling about yourself (called self-esteem), what you are feeling about others and your concern about what they feel about you. What are you feeling about God? Not what you think, but what you feel.

There is a storage place for feelings. Jesus said, “Out of your innermost being (belly) shall flow rivers of living water.” Or toxic feelings. Deeds of the flesh are often the attempt to smother those hurting feelings.

Not all negative feelings are toxic. I was feeling disappointed. I felt bewildered. I felt confused. So far, nothing neurotic. It will be helpful to set a time limit. I will feel sorry for myself or feel…until mid-afternoon, gives us time to process the questions and honor our feelings without indulging them.

Since this is a soul issue, we ask God to heal the toxic feeling(s) and deal with the root event that caused us to react with the feeling. We then build a healthy plan to respond to feelings. I say healthy because repression, refusing to think about them or denial does not fix anything.

Seams to me that this is critical to being ready when they hand us the ball.

 The rest of this is in Seams To Me—Section 8: Truth in Your Emotions


©2014 D. Dean Benton


Wisdom begins with a need, followed by trust

“Abram believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6).

Let me tell you one of my biggest mistakes. A friend from Louisiana emailed me ten years ago urging me to do podcasts. My books had been helpful to him. He suggested I just put them on podcasts. “Networks are begging for material.” I talked to all my other friends and strangers and no one knew what a podcast was. So I didn’t. Dumb!

When my son got a new smart phone, he gave me his old one and set it so I could use it for podcasts. Then I got a docking station. I’m still trying figure out how to mow the lawn while listening—keep in the ear buds where they belong.

I listen to at least one podcast a day. This morning I was listening to Andy Stanley’s podcast. He preached on elementary faith and talked about Abraham. “Abram believed the Lord.” Once every year or two it hits me how enormous that was. Using Stanley’s words, God had to start somewhere so he picked Abram and told him His plans. This was God’s promise:

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great…”

Abram responded, “Here’s my problem. Nation? I don’t even have a son. Nation? Counting my closest servants and a cousin or two there are about twelve of us.” A couple of adventures later, God shows up again—“The Lord came to Abram in a vision…” (15:1) and repeats the promise.

“Abram, let’s go outside. The Lord escorts the nomad out to the canopy of space and says, “Count those stars.” An hour later, Abram says, “I keep losing count.” Yahweh says, “Got the count in mind? So shall your offspring be.” No further evidence is offered. No more words from God. “Abram believed the Lord.” Jack the font size up 40 points to capture this. Abram believed the Lord! Based on nothing but the promise—what God said.

Above all else God wants to be believed and trusted. To His friends, God says all He wants from us is: “Believe me. Trust me. Obey me.” I suspect it was easier for Abram when God said, “Believe me, trust me, obey me—let’s make a kid,” (He was all over that!) but more difficult when God said, “Offer Isaac.” But “Abram believed the Lord.” With nothing more to go on than God’s voice in his head.

The conversation in 15:4ff fleshes out some of the questions but not until after Abram believed God. “And God credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:2 argues that nothing Abram could do could place him in a righteous relationship with God, but believing God’s word did.

In Romans 4:16-25 tells us what was going on in the Patriarch’s head and how his outrageous faith delivered a son.

 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”

 Hard to get my head around that. It seems to me if God says, “Hey, Dude, let’s go walk outside. Got something for you to count—you won’t need your flashlight,” we may want to turn off the TV and walk, look, listen.

 What is God saying to you?

Another outrageous! God is always looking for someone who will believe Him. Someone to whom He can reveal solutions and strategies.

And…Dean believed God. Well, except when Bruce suggested podcasts. That was a God-invitation. I just could not think about being strengthened by the very thing (faith) that seemed so impossible.

Abram was a rich person. In all the world, what did he want most? A son. That is where God spoke and offered. What do you want most? Does a Lamborghini count?

Seek wisdom—not just to archive like a flash drive—but to serve your world, solve, enrich, stimulate, encourage, provide supplies where others hunger. Start there! What do others need that stirs your imagination? That might be the intersection where you begin the journey of seeking wisdom to find the very solution and strategy that will birth a nation, tribe.

©2013 D. Dean Benton


Seven Decisions–One

I heard it again this morning and as always it stuns me as if I have never it before: “We only have one chance…we had better get it right.” The preacher said it more graphically and I think I heard the tolling of some bell.

A phrase that dominated my late teens and early twenties:

 One life and it will soon be past

Only what is done for Christ will last.

 Our discussion of The Traveler’s Gift—Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, is about doing life intentionally and without waste. Getting it right. But you better get at it—you have only one life.

The first decision that will determine success—no matter what is being measured—is to take responsibility for where we are. I editorially must say that the decision does not require we blame ourselves for what abusers, jerks, bullies or others did to us. I’m concerned that those who do not think and talk that through will assume it means, “Since I am…”, or “I’m short,” or “I made so many stupid decisions, I’m where I am….

I was changing clothes after a concert-seminar in a South Carolina church bathroom stall. The guy in the adjoining stall saw my clothes hanging over the divider and said, “You must really like to travel.” I told him I didn’t particularly enjoy the traveling, but it was a requirement for me to do what I really enjoy doing—singing, preaching, teaching. He responded with, “Well, God has you where He wants you….” I thought to myself, “Here, in the toilet?”

I am more comfortable saying that since I am where I am, it is my responsibility to move forward. Andy Andrews gives us these statements:

 “I will not let my history control my destiny.”

“My mind will live in the solutions of the future.”

“When called upon to make a decision, I will make it.” Then, no second guessing.

“My life will not be an apology. It will be a statement.”

“Never again will I blame parents, spouse, boss or other employees for my current situation.”

“My decisions have always been governed by my thinking. Therefore…I begin the process of changing by changing the way I think.”

“Adversity is preparation for greatness. I will accept this preparation.”

“I accept responsibility for my past. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. I am responsible for my success.”

         The Traveler’s Gift, Andy Andrews, (Thomas Nelson, 2002) Pages 32-33.

 Lack of empathy, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety are also products of our thinking. Listen to this psychological proverb: “As surely as sunrise follows the night; sow self-pity and you will reap depression.” Behavior is determined by thinking. If we want to change our behavior we do so by first changing our thinking.

The writers of the book INFLUENCER (McGraw-Hill 2008) say, “People choose their behaviors based on what they think will happen to them as a result.” Therefore, “if you want to change behavior, any behavior, you have to change maps of cause and effect.” (It’s important to note that people’s interpretations of events trump the facts of any situation.)

These authors say “when it comes to altering behavior, you need to help others answer only two questions:

  1. Is it worth it?
  2. Can I do it?

 If you are helping someone change their behavior or attempting to influence someone to change bad behavior several things determine your influence. If the person trusts your motivation and your knowledge they will listen. Verbal persuasion, as your only tool, in most cases is not fruitful. That is true especially when you want someone to stop doing something that is personally pleasurable or satisfying to them. You seldom, if ever, can talk someone out of doing what brings them relief or pleasure, no matter how eloquent your words.

People must come to personal conviction that changing their conduct is worth it and they can do it.

The Influencer people suggest we give verbal persuasion a rest and make experience the primary objective. (“Personal experience is the mother of all cognitive map changers.”) Help them experience the world differently. Convincing them that it is worth it may start to take root by sharing your own experience—vicarious experience—and/or building an atmosphere where they can experience what it is they desire—what they hope their addictions will produce.  

When Mylon Lefevre went to Church on the Way, he experienced the peace and presence of God in the dimension that had eluded him his entire life. That is the work of the Holy Spirit which we cannot photocopy. I’ve been thinking through what I know about Pastor Hayford and Church on the Way. Fundamentally, they believe God works in the way Mylon experienced Him. They also honor God, give Him opportunity to work and they prepare themselves to be His conduit through prayer, praise and preaching the Word. Mylon had performed and worshipped in many churches and walked away empty while other people in the building were experiencing God in the very dimension he craved. So, part of our preparation is to pray for receptive hearts and minds. “God, prepare this specific person. What do I need to spiritually bind that will give the space and freedom for my friend to make a conscious decision?” (There is more to be said about that.)

If we want people to change their thinking, tell them the whole story. “…when you leave out the solution, people typically block out the message.” (Influencer, page 67)

Subtle Seldom Succeeds.

 Changing your behavior is worth it. You must decide that. Let me introduce you to people who have changed and let them tell you how they did it.

  1. Can you do it? Not without effort. You are the only one who can do what needs to happen in your thoughts and emotions and perseverance. One of my former friends (we’re not as close as we used to be) has been in the newspaper crime list at least once a week for a month. He has been practicing his way of life for nearly 40 years. I went to court with him once. Every cop, lawyer, judge and janitor greeted him by name. Can he do it?
  2. Here is the “solution.” Here are some strategies. You can’t do it alone. It is a tough fact: it is up to you. You do not have a second life riding around in the trunk of your Jeep.

 “You are what you are today because of the quality of your thoughts, the perspectives you have about life, and your beliefs about yourself and others. Do you truly desire a significant change in your life? Change your thinking.” (Andy Andrews)

 D. Dean Benton

        Your response?



(c)2013 D. Dean Benton



Joshua 1:7-8

“Be careful to obey to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The words prosperous and successful are enchanting, seductive and capture attention. As I write these words, our son is in the Rocky Mountains taking pictures and interacting with some interesting characters. Two phrases from his Facebook posts stirred my imagination: “…while Two Feathers and I were panning for gold.” He didn’t say if they found the Mother Lode or even one gold nugget. He did say that he was striking camp and “going further in….”

Studying Joshua one has been panning for gold and a trek further into the mysteries of God’s plan, promises and invitation. A friend has just moved to Montana. As his family looks out their front door, they see beautiful mountains. He said he went climbing and the oxygen was thin or he was out of shape. I came away from this study slightly breathless for the climb “further in” has been invigorating and challenging.

Our study has been partially focused on teaching the young how to succeed in life—how to bring to their lives the essential competencies of Emotional Quotient. So, imagine one of your young friends—the one you are coaching or mentoring—and invite him or her to go further in. If you want to be prosperous and successful, this is route to the gold—pan here!

The instruction before us in this session is “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth.” What is the “Book of the Law”?

My assumption was that it referred to the Pentateuch. That is the entire writing of Moses which we have in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In my New International Version Bible, that is about 350 pages. It is doubtful that the hundreds of thousands of people walking with Moses had copies of the NIV or even Hebrew scrolls. How many of them knew how to read? So even if they had access to the Pentateuch would it have made any difference? My opinion is that the reference to the “Book of the Law” is about a smaller slice. I’m guessing the book of Deuteronomy. (32:44-47 & 31:23-26).

Deuteronomy is given to the Hebrews for a specific purpose:

“(Moses) you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess” (5:31). The Message Bible translates those words, “…so they’ll know how to live in the land that I’m giving them as their own.”

Deuteronomy pulls back the curtain to reveal God’s heart. It is a covenant revelation of God’s intention and devotion to these people and to Moses. He whispers to Moses the principles, practices and priorities that are to guide behavior, worship and business. Remember every word, never let it out of our mind, practice every detail—your success depends on all that.

Maybe the whole book of Deuteronomy is too large. Is this referring to a distilled statement or a principle? The Ten Commandments are reposted in chapter five. Is that what is not to “depart from their lips?” Chapter six contains the most precious words to the Hebrew faith. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one.” (6:4)

When Jesus was asked the most important command, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. In Matthew 22:37-40, He said all of the law and prophets hang on these:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus adds, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Important stuff! I conclude that Deuteronomy was the “Mother Lode.” It was foundation for what should never depart. This is to be the framework of our worldview, our mindset, the default assumptions upon which we think and act and our reference point. With that rock in place, we will be predisposed to observe and “be careful to do everything written in it.”

What makes up the grid, screen, filter through which we see the land to which we are being called? I suggest some things from Deuteronomy.


A friend introduced us to Matthew West’s song entitled “Hello, My Name Is.” (Sparrow 2013). The video graphic is a sticky backed name tag. We arrived home to find one of those name badges on our porch with the word “Treasured” written on the label. There was no signature, but the labels and the song have become her signature. There was a scripture reference:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Dt 7:6).

The Gospel—Jesus’ message—can be imagined as a video of God walking into your room, slapping a name badge on your chest that says, “My Name is Treasured.” Don’t let that ever leave your self-image or your lips.

Read through Deuteronomy and listen to God speak of His treasuring. When Israel turns to idols made of wood or stone, God’s resulting anger is not petulance, it is an expression of hurt—rejection. Can you visualize God walking through the thin air of a high mountain to find a person—you—caught in addiction, underachievement or one activity this side of goal fulfillment? God peals the backing off the glue and slaps the badge on the person’s chest. “Hello, my name is Treasured.” If we can learn to hear and see all things through that scenario, life will take on a different direction.

Someone has said that Ownership of the promised land was promised by God. Occupation was the responsibility of His People. “Don’t be afraid…God Himself will fight for you” (3:22).

Joshua’s selection and commissioning is retold several times in Deuteronomy before we read it in Joshua one. Deuteronomy 3:21-28 is one of those places. That paragraph also tells about Moses pleading with God to allow him to enter Canaan. God responds, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (vs 26).

That is tough! God will not wink at sin, the Bible says. Obedience is a must and the one thing God most wants from us is trust.


Deuteronomy begins with rich grace and about chapter fifteen falls off the cliff into some grisly stuff. This loving God commands the Israelites to wipe out entire cities. How ugly this is can be seen in the words, “We killed all the people—men, women, children, but we kept the cattle as plunder.” (3:6-7) I can’t explain or even allow myself to think about why a cow is a keeper and kids are not. We are missing part of the story—the part that makes sense of this slaughter.

God’s treatment of Moses doesn’t compute for me. “The Lord was angry with me because of you…” (4:21). Numbers 20:1-13 tells the incident that placed Moses in conflict with God. Again, it feels like we haven’t been told the whole story. The Israelites are whining to Moses and accusing him and God. They had no water to drink which can make a person cranky. Whining and grumbling against Moses and God, however, had become a lifestyle. The Waters of Meribah is known as the locale where the arguing with God stepped over the line. Yahweh told Moses to speak to a rock and out would flow adequate water for people and cattle. Moses went to the rock and smacked it twice with his walking stick. Can you understand the frustration? Water gushed out. The people and their livestock drank. “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (20:12).

I have felt that God was excessive in His punishment. The punishment does not seem to me to match the crime. I want to plead Moses’ case and get him into Canaan. Honoring God as holy is apparently a big deal. It is that holiness that sets Yahweh apart from all other gods.

Don’t trifle with God’s instructions or trivialize His love, compassion, promises or blessings.

As I am writing, my thinking goes strangely to the parking lot behind the Bible College which I attended. I can remember playing catch with the building as a backstop. I vividly remember leaving the college building to sing at a church across town on a New Year’s Eve. The parking lot was icy and I slipped, fell flat on my back, hit my head. I recall lying there in the icy water wondering if I had just killed myself. I didn’t, so I went to sing in a wet black suit, now wondering if I smelled like a wet dog.

I don’t recall ever doing anything in that parking lot that would dishonor God that would keep me from fully entering God’s promises for me. Since the scene is so heavy, I wonder if I agreed with a lie about God’s love, compassion, promise or personal blessing. Since the image came unsolicited and is heavy, I do what seems to me to be the appropriate thing.

“Lord, if I offended you by thought or action while in that parking lot that removed me from your favor, I ask your forgiveness and ask You to speak specifically so I can confess specifically.”

What we speak either opens God’s storehouse or padlocks all the doors to His resources. Words matter—for “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”


Success for Joshua meant defeating the enemies and inhabiting the cities. That was his assignment.

Do you ever wonder if Joshua got a day off? Was he ever off the clock? Where did he go to “get away”? Did he have a hobby? Did he like to fish? I don’t recall ever hearing about a wife or children. Did he have a life beyond his assignment? It is easy to see biblical characters as one-dimensional—get the job done—kind of people.

“Give it everything you have, heart and soul…” God tells Joshua. Moses got into serious trouble with God when he burned out. “Had it with these people!” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, warned Moses that he was burning out and headed for catastrophe and gave him very good counsel how to change his work habits. Learning to delegate was a big deal for Moses as it is for all visionaries and organization founders. Giving up power and encouraging initiative is threatening to builders.

I don’t remember hearing any such conversations involving Joshua. Who spoke into his life after Moses died? Did Joshua have a life group—guys who got together at a pub or in someone’s vacation tent? All of this comes from a larger “wonder.” I wonder if the success and prosperity that God promises connect to his personal life, as well? But then, did he have a personal life? Was Joshua God’s treasure even on days when he was unproductive or wasn’t working eighteen hours a day conquering some city?

Brene Brown says the one thing that separates people who experience deep love and belonging and those who struggle with it is a belief in their worthiness. Dr. Brown says to really experience love and belonging a person has to believe they are worthy of belonging and to be loved. Do I deserve to belong? Do I deserve to be loved? Your answers?

That is huge! I have looked over my list of friends who are struggling. I can hear them saying they don’t feel worthy of belonging or succeeding.

Seth Godin is one of America’s most provocative writers about marketing. He warns marketers that people don’t believe what marketers tell them. People will often believe what their friends tell them about products. People always believe what they tell themselves.

Let me remind you that your worthiness was established at the Cross. The New Covenant established there carved “worthy” onto your permanent record. Being “In Christ” applies His worth to you. It is no longer about you, it is about Him and your position in Him.

I cannot convince you that Abba Father will stop you on the street and slap the name badge on you that says “Hello. My Name is Treasured.” If you were abandoned by your parents, or you felt they tossed you out of the nest; if you have experienced rejection through divorce or being dumped by someone you wanted to live the rest of life with; if you have lived your whole life being the last one chosen for the team, no one will be able to convince you of your “worthiness.” You are going to win that argument because you alone know how you’ve been explaining your unworthiness to yourself. And in your deepest soul, the evidence you are using is incontrovertible. You will think and act and feel in such ways to prove your case. If Seth Godin is right, and he is, you are the only one you will listen to about your worthiness.

It is not just about being invited to join your favorite card club. It is about success and prosperity. Worthiness is not arrogant entitlement. It is the acceptance of your worth as a gift from God. It is a given—since God has given me worth, I will do what needs to be done to build a productive life. The Holy Spirit will not over ride your voice. He will be persistent and make a case. What are your voices saying? Are you arguing with God?

As Moses lists the things His people cannot do, repeatedly the final and heaviest rationale for certain behavior is: “Among all the people on the face of the earth, God chose you to be his treasure.” A treasure acts in certain ways.

How do we get a feel for our worthiness? Dr. Brown says it comes when we own our story. I add we begin to access our worthiness when we let go of the lies we have agreed with.

If abandonment, betrayal, abuse, and/or wrong choices define a segment of your story, then chances are you will feel unworthy to succeed or prosper in healthy ways. Self-management is one of the EQ essential competencies. Since no one can convince you but you, you are responsible to manage this with a decision to listen to God’s case for your worthiness. And words are the key to success and prosperity.


“Do not let this Book of Law depart out of your mouth…” (vs. 7).


“Careful to do everything written in it” (1:8b).

Psychologist Al Andrews asked Jon Acuff, “What do your voices tell you?” I have friends who really do hear voices speaking to them. One of my friends, who is a delight to me, has a weather lady living in her head who blames her for bad forecasts and bad weather. Meds keep my friend from being crazy. Andrews was talking about self-talk—the voices we pack around rent-free as they make comments on every aspect of our lives. Weight, sex appeal, brilliance, lack of good sense and the amount of worthiness we possess.

Not everyone agrees with Dr. Andrews’ statement, “No one has a positive internal voice.” I don’t know about “No one” having a positive internal voice. I can tell you that not many have a native positive voice.

I have rehearsed the recent events in my family’s life. I have rehearsed the words we have said to each other and the words we’ve been saying to ourselves and the action those words have led to. Paralysis!

Those voices have names: doubt and fear.

Jon Acuff says those “voices are invisible bullies and they hate when you make them visibile.” He says they also hate community. “Never waste time trying to battle those voices alone.” Don’t go it alone.

You don’t need people to solve your issue; you need someone who will faithfully listen. Someone to “be present” for you. You will benefit from having a person or life group who will beat back the darkness by shining light on the voices of doubt and fear.

Be very careful about the words you use for they will lead some kind of action.



At this moment, it seems to me the most important questions that determine success, prosperity, happiness and self-fulfillment are:

  1. What are your voices saying to you?
  2. Do you consider yourself worthy?

We have the command—“…meditate on (this Book of the Law) day and night” (1:8b). The mind can mediate on one thing at a time. What you decide to ruminate will set loose life-determining behavior and spiritual entities. To meditate means to repeatedly mumble it to yourself. The grid, screen, default thought pattern, worldview will inevitably feed thoughts to you and filter what is allowed. So the translations tell us to “Read it, repeat it to yourself, speak it to yourself and to others.”

Some words I have heard today from people I’ve talked with:

  • I’m stuck
  • I don’t laugh anymore
  • I have isolated myself
  • I just got dumped

We are where we are because of the words we’ve been using or erroneous, self-destructive, self-limiting words that “never depart from our lips.” Again, the choice of words determine our success and prosperity. Choose well! Ask someone if you are hearing and speaking correctly.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

A person living in that atmosphere would be confronted with God’s word at every turn. Everywhere. On every wall, between the mayonnaise and the turkey in the sandwich, underneath the bed and hanging in the air. Being stuck then is situational, not a permanent diagnosis or sentence.

Makes me long for that atmosphere, place, environment, culture, group. The researcher is right. “We are hard-wired for belonging and love and if we are not connected we break.”


Everyone I’ve read in recent days, every podcast I’ve listened to has instructed me to use action words. One of my mentors says we must find an adequate language to express our beliefs and dreams. One social scientist says we open the door to joy with the practiced act of vocalizing gratitude. “Never let these words depart from your mouth—meditate on this day and night.”

Self-management and self-regulation empower us to use words intentionally and deliberately in response and reaction.

  • How to say it
  • A place to say it
  • Someone to say it to
  • A purpose in saying it

You may want to spend some time with this Book of the Law and select what part of it has departed from your speech habits. What words in Deuteronomy melt in your mouth like Key Lime Pie? A “word” from God to you.

Hello! I see your name is TREASURED.


6–Steel in Your Spine

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton







“Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7),


There is a heroine in this story whose name is Rahab. She is one gutsy woman and exemplifies what Steel in the Spine looks like. My 1994 book, Rahab’s Place, is one of my favorite because of the courage and intrigue.


“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies… ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute name Rahab and stayed there” (Joshua 2:1).


Rahab may have been slandered. Wherever her name appears, she is identified as a harlot or a prostitute. Beside each of those names is an asterisk. The footnote says, “May be translated ‘Innkeeper’ or ‘hostess.’

Excuse me! There is quite a difference between being the madam of the house and being a madam of a house. Probably, Rahab was an enterprising entrepreneur. She operated Jericho’s Best Mid-Eastern Hotel—a bed and breakfast which also housed two other businesses none of which included naked bodies.

Whatever her past, Rahab was an established member of the Jericho business community. The Chamber of Commerce probably ate lunch there. The Bible doesn’t spell out the details of her past, but we know what she did with her life and how she changed world history. She didn’t have a grand dream. She was trying to make ends meet, make her life count, care for her parents, clothe her kids and make it as a single woman in a man’s world.

She responded to a challenge that came knocking at her door. Divine intervention traipsed through her house all the way to the open tomb and into your life. She was one of the grandmothers in Jesus’ lineage.

My mother was a single-parent. She operated a small café that provided adequate income to buy us shoes, a house, and some vacations. It also provided me a job and a learning place. I washed dishes, cooked some really bad meals, but mostly I waited tables.

I learned a lot while pouring coffee and serving hamburgers and home-made pie. Early on, I learned secrets. One, you never say to a customer, “Is that all?” or “Will that be all?” The business question was always, “What else may I get for you?” I learned that you never put the ten-dollar bill in the cash register until the customer has the change in his hand. That way there is never a question whether it was a ten or twenty dollar bill.

Mom turned a run-down café into a profitable business. One of the first things she bought was a top-quality mirror. It was mounted behind the counter stretching about fifteen feet from one end of the counter to the other. Customers would sit at the counter to watch themselves and look at everyone behind them in the booths.

Pour the coffee, ask about the family and listen. Patrons will say things to a barkeeper or waitress/waiter they will not say at other times. If you keep your mouth shut while serving the pie, you can pick up a lot of information without trying to eavesdrop. Customers mesmerized by their own reflection in the mirror will talk about marriage, family, business deals and hatreds. They will tell you what they feel about political events and figures and what they expect is going to happen in the Stock Market, gas prices and to their company.

Rahab made the beds, cleaned the rooms, poured the coffee and listened to customer’s gossip. She tucked the tips in her pocket and the information into the place where such news is stored for later use.

She listened to the travelers, business owners and political leaders as they talked of the tribes across the river. Occasionally, one of the king’s military power brokers would get a little drunk and talk a little loud. Jericho was concerned about the Israelites who had marched miraculously out of Egypt a generation before with plans of taking over the entire land border-to-border, river-to-sea. Something happened that Jericho residents didn’t understand. The Hebrew tribes, after escaping from Egypt, stopped short of their goals and for forty years had just wandered around in the wilderness across the Jordan River from Jericho posing no threat to anyone.

Traveling merchants spoke often of the strange images of smoke, fire and pillars of clouds. Shoemakers had tried to break into that market, but for reasons they never understood, the Hebrews never needed shoes, nor did they import food.

Rahab took longer than usual to wipe crumbs off the counter as she heard that Moses had died. Joshua was now the recognized leader. Rahab remembered her parents talking of a man named Joshua who had entered their country many years before. She scrunched her eyebrows to remember the other names on that mission. Caleb. That was one of the men with Joshua. There were others, but she could not remember having ever heard their names. Whatever they reported of their reconnaissance had created a power struggle within the various clans. She never believed that Joshua and Caleb were scared off. Instead of invading and conquering, the Israelites just backed away, moving only when their cattle needed new territory; they were without direction.

Now, the police were saying that the Hebrews had a new plan to invade the land. Jericho would be the first city confronted. No military man thought their city vulnerable. Not with these walls. Still, guerilla warfare would be bad for business.

Rahab’s family had lived in this city so long their neighbors viewed them as naturalized citizens. When she visited her parents or brothers’ homes, she mentioned what she had heard. Her parents reminded her that they too had Hebrew blood in their veins and retold the stories of the Exodus, Passover and Yahweh.

She was not surprised when two travelers happened to mention that Joshua said hello. She knew these men were not there to buy linen, but to check out the most vulnerable spots in the double walls. These men were Israeli spies and Rahab was in on the deal whether she wanted to be or not. A traveler with no family in Jericho would have been sent to Rahab’s Place; however, the authorities would know her Hebrew connection and that would make her immediately suspect.

She knew why the local CIA agents were at her door. She had to hide the spies to protect her family and herself. Regardless of her politics, she knew the danger. Women business owners were tolerated, but cut no slack. She had survived by her ability to out talk a client who had demanded more than she intended to give. She also knew how to defend herself with the hidden knife. Now, she concocted a story about the strangers who had spent one night and some money before leaving earlier in the day. She gave the police directions to what she thought was their next destination. She couldn’t be sure, she claimed, but that was their best bet. They bought the story. She watched them as they ran in the direction she had given.

Rahab slowly closed the door, quietly pushed the dead bolt into place and sagged against the door. She stood with her forehead against the bolted door. Then she turned around with her back to the door and slid to the floor. Shaking legs no longer held her. She put her head between her knees to keep from passing out.

It came down to this. The dreams of childhood. The seduction and betrayal. The alleged prostitution. She was in love with the guy who sold her. She knew she had been lucky—not many street women got the breaks she did. She never knew for sure who paid her way out of the life. Her parents? Brothers? A silent business partner? She would never outrun her name—it would always include an explanation note, but she could rebuild her reputation. She would become bigger than the harlot tag. Rahab’s Place came to mean more than what it had meant. All of Jericho knew what Rahab had been and what she was now.

As her heart returned to normal rhythm, she forced herself to breathe deeply and to think. It was a matter of time; she knew that. She had kept her wits about her in tough times before. What was she to do this time? The two up on the roof were not the first to register as “John Smith.” But she had never felt her life so intertwined with any of her guests. As she thought of the two spies, a third person confronted her. We do not know the details, but by the time she got up from the floor and walked up the stairs she knew what she was to do.




“I know the Lord has given you this land” (Joshua 2:9).


Os Guinness is an evangelical historian, a sociologist, Visiting Fellow at Brookings Institute and award-winning author. He is also one of my favorite thinkers. He said there were three characteristics that defined America at the end of the twentieth century. In my opinion, these characteristics carry into the first part of this century.


  • Hollowness.

He explains that as the erosion of the sense of self and truth. He sees decline in rational thinking and in the basic assumption that all human life has value.


  • Homelessness

This results from the gradual eating away of the certainties of meaning and belonging. He is not talking about street people, he is talking about ennui—a feeling of not being at home anywhere in the universe. Let’s say it differently. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, there is an epidemic of isolation in America. We are exchanging an open front porch for a safe room where we connect with the outside world via digital screens.

   A school teacher friend said her students did not feel that they belong anywhere. They are detached, she said, from hearth, home, and history.

   Guinness uses phrases like, “Second-rate education,” “A third-rate diet of entertainment,” and a fourth-rate awareness of discipline and constraint.” Ask any teacher if these descriptions hold up. Guinness adds that today’s family “Is not raised to last, let alone produce independent and responsible adults and citizens.”

   Hopelessness seems the natural next characteristic as I listen to teachers and read the observers. I am not hopeless. In my dark moments, however, I am convinced that without the full use of the principles we talk about in this book, the outlook is bleak. But we are being offered a route to hope.


  • Herolessness


Is this what Rahab saw with her country on the verge of collapse? I don’t recall ever saying as I walked to my car, “I’m going to be a hero today.” Neither did Rahab. She responded with a visible behavioral quality to the challenges that confronted her.

God is redundant as He talks to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous,” He says in verse six. In verse seven He says, “Be strong and very courageous.” Then in verse nine He repeats, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”

Her courageous response to the challenges?




The Faith Hall of Fame inducted Rahab with these words: “By faith…Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were unbelievers” (Hebrews 11:31). Her faith was not just a noun, it was a verb. Biblical faith is always a verb. Faith was expressed in the context of her life, not in a special dispensation apart from the “dailies.” Action is a faith response.

Notice that she said, “We have heard…” (Joshua 2:10). Someone in Jericho was a faithful witness. They talked about the acts of God that changed Pharoah’s mind about who Yahweh was—changed at least temporarily. That witness told Rahab about the Exodus from Egyptian captivity.

People come to faith in Christ in reaction or response to a dilemma. Some of us are confronted by our past or uncertainty about the future. Some of us are blocked by limitations or questions and see in Christ fulfillment or answers. Others of us hear the Good News—it is new information about who Christ is and what He has done for us, and we respond with love and commitment.

“The Lord your God is God of heaven above and on the earth below,” (Joshua 2:11) is Rahab’s confession. That declaration came as she processed what she knew of God and His acts, and His love for her. Having His promise to forgive her of sin was also a big reason.

The Innkeeper with a Past now had a future. She experienced forgiveness and motivation for tomorrow based upon what faith she could express. There was an encounter with this God. Her limited prospects collided with God’s infinite resources. Like all of us, she placed her trust in Him.




“Swear to me…that you will show kindness to my family” (Joshua 2:12).


Rahab had entered into a treasonous covenant. She had given aid and comfort to the enemy. I doubt that she saw what she did as an act of great courage. She was simply being pragmatic. Based upon her knowledge of God she took a step of faith.

Her family was dead meat without her intervention. Their lives and future depended on her faith and actions. But then, if she was wrong they were all dead.

We once sang at a writer’s conference where Madeleine L’Engle was the keynote speaker. She was so gracious to Deb and Doug. She was married to Broadway and TV actor Hugh Franklin probably best known for his portrayal of Dr. Tyler on ABC’s “All My Children.” Ms. L’ Engle’s book, Two-Part Intervention, (Harper & Row, 1988) tells of their marriage and his dying. She quotes Yeats:


But love has pitched her mansion

In the place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent.


Then she observes, “The place of excrement. That is where we are this summer.” Then she asks, “How do we walk through excrement and keep clean in our hearts?” How do we become whole by being rent? Later she says, “There are no shortcuts through the place of excrement.”

Only if you loved do those words make sense. Only if you’ve asked God for guidance, healing or intervention and found yourself sloshing through silence do you fully grasp the horror. When the support beams are dismantled by overload and you fear you have no reserve to manage the attack, nor systems to compute what is happening. You may begin to numbly grasp God’s activity in the quiet.

Innkeeper found herself in dark intrigue that would change her family’s destiny. Her future was in her hands in this challenging moment. When she responded with faith-action, God took her where she never dreamed of going.

She was a person with steel in her spine. Where did that come from? Is it genetic? Learned? Transferable? The command was to be strong and courageous. Not to feel strong or courageous, but to do courageous. Do you see yourself as strong? Courageous? When have you been confronted with the threat? Has a knock come to your door?