Israel Houghton: A New Reality
By Israel Houghton
CBN.com In preparation to record their fourth live release, Israel Houghton and his New Breed team went on a forty-day fast to seek the heart of God and ultimately produce an anointed project that would take listeners to a “deeper level” in their relationship with God. The result was not just another hopeful best-selling album, but a deeper revelation into what it means to truly live a lifestyle of worship.
He discusses his team’s life-changing journey in his new book, A Deeper Level (Whitaker House), in which he urges members of the body to passionately pursue the heart of God. The following article is adapted from his book.
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Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. —Psalm 37:4
For a long time, I had a twisted view of that verse. I saw it as a list of things that I wanted and an expectation that God would give them to me—kind of a spiritual fast-food drive-through on the hurried road of life.
I have discovered that the polar opposite is true. I’ve found that in getting quiet and denying yourself the things that you want, God will then deposit the things He desires into your heart—His purpose, the things He cares about, the deeper things of God.
Then, when you come up for air, you suddenly find yourself thinking, saying, and desiring things you never did before. You begin hearing things you weren’t able to tap into with any kind of frequency before. You start believing things and dreaming things and declaring things that weren’t there before. This is what I call investing in a new reality.
The Pain of Change
Admit it: Unless you are completely miserable right now, very few of us actually enjoy moving into a season of change, excavation, and sacrifice. Surgery, although sometimes necessary, is rarely something we look forward to. A financial audit, although it can lead to proper planning and stewardship, is not necessarily something we consider fun. So count me as one who actively resists change—especially if it involves messing with my food and entertainment.
In Need of an Upgrade
There are times in life when the plans, desires, hopes, and dreams of our heart begin to run counter to the plans and desires that God has for us. It’s not necessarily rebelliousness or ill will on our part. It’s just counter to God’s plan.
Currently I’m writing this on my new MacBook computer that I received for my birthday. In a perfect world, I can turn this computer on when I feel like it, and then turn it off again when I’m done. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world, so my beloved Mac began to randomly shut down by itself. This became extremely annoying. For months, I coexisted with the frustration that came with this problem, and I spent hours of fruitless energy trying to figure out the solution on my own. Inevitably, the computer would shut down again, adding to the aggravation and distraction in my life. Eventually I had to go to the computer’s maker to get the proper upgrade to fix the problem.
Much like my computer, life has a way of letting you know that it is impossible to proceed peacefully and successfully without the necessary and prescribed upgrade from our Creator in order to function at an optimal level.
Delighting yourself in the Lord requires being still long enough for God to remove the unnecessary parts of our visions, dreams, plans, and desires and to replace them with the upgrades that He has for us. Unfortunately, we often exhaust more energy, resources, and the precious currency of time avoiding this process of elimination and upgrade installation. Then we wonder why we are burning out.
Therefore, I appreciate it when God calls us aside to implant the desires of His heart into ours and to remove yesterday’s model of what we once believed to be the ultimate desire and dream for our lives.
Imagine God as a huge body of water. The only way to fully delight in Him is to dive in headfirst and completely lose yourself in Him. Something happens when we dive in without concern for the consequences. It is like a surgical procedure in which God implants His desire into our hearts and we emerge saying and believing things we never imagined could happen in our lifetime.
We start seeing things differently and walking out what we are newly proclaiming.
From the Head to the Heart
This must go beyond Bible studies and sermons and the acquisition of knowledge. Of course, there is nothing wrong with those things, but I believe that going deeper is accomplished through the heart much more than the mind.
Today, our modern church culture equates going deeper with knowledge. Somehow, if you get more knowledge about something, then you are deeper. If you get out the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, you are deeper. The more degrees and letters you have after your name, the deeper you are spiritually. As good as these things are, Scripture warns us: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:1–2)
Consider the fact that it was not possible for people to have their own individual Bible until after the printing press was invented in 1450. It was some time later before most people were able to actually afford one. So the entire concept of you, God, and your personal Bible is a relatively new one—only around 500 years old.
Here’s my question: How did people go deeper before that?
How did people without Bibles or seminary educations go deeper with God?
We know they did. The first church experienced the presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit and lived in deep fellowship with God. Is it possible that we are too dependent upon our intellect and knowledge?
In America today, most Christian families have several Bibles spread about the home. Many are stuffed in drawers, gathering dust on shelves, or perhaps packed away in boxes with our other spare books. Meanwhile, believers in places where poverty or government intervention prevail—such as China or
Africa—often must share a single Bible for an entire church. And yet, missionaries tell us the Spirit of God is moving miraculously in these places. They are certainly going deeper.
At the same time, here in the United States, even with all our education and the resources we possess, many of us still yearn to go deeper with God.
I encourage you to dive into Him today and, of course, dive at the deep end and prepare to be amazed.
Beginning a New Habit
This isn’t just a phase we are going through. It isn’t a spiritual fad to follow while it’s popular. It’s a calling. This is going to change us. It is an invitation to go to a new place with God—a place where we will make our dwelling. Wherever God leads us, that will be our new home. What else is going to have to change?
Part of going to a deeper level is changing the way that I think. Going deeper, for me, starts in the mind. Whether I’m fasting, trying to start new habits, or trying to break old addictions, it starts in my mind. One of my struggles in this journey together is when I revert back to old ways of thinking. Suddenly, my mind tells me that it’s okay to do something that I have given up to God. A major part of remaining consistent is overcoming those thoughts. It is refusing to allow my mind to go back to the ways I used to think. It’s letting those thoughts drive me to my knees so that I can give all those old feelings, attitudes, and dispositions right back to God. -- Jamil Freeman, New Breed Vocalist,
Hometown: Houston, Texas
I can relate to that. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve tried to start, only to quit because I failed to address the way I thought. They say that in order to install a new habit in your life, it takes repetition. But it also takes a mind-set. You have to invest in a new reality where what you once cared for is now not as important. What you once felt was meaningless is now dear to you.
Around day thirty of our fast, for some reason, granola became a food that suddenly tasted phenomenal. Something in me changed. I now valued what I previously considered to be “tree bark” as an incredible, mouth-watering delicacy. Before fasting, I would have laughed if you told me how great a lettuce wrap could taste. But thirty days later, I was different. Suddenly
I realized that I had trained my body, will, and emotions in another direction. I’m using food as an example here, but the same thing goes for attitude, mind-sets, spiritual disciplines, and more.
When you wake up in the morning, is the first thing that hits the floor going to be your knees? Will you pick up that Bible early in the morning? You know yourself, and you know your day. If you don’t do it first thing, if you don’t prioritize it and develop a new habit, the day is going to get away from you
as it always does. To start a new habit, you have to invest in the new reality.
Praying as soon as you wake up in the morning may sound extreme right now—much like a discussion about how great lettuce wraps are—but if you start making a habit of it, if you start investing in the new reality, then your priorities will slowly start to change, and a new habit will become established in your life.
Are you committed to investing in the new reality?
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Excerpted from A Deeper Level by Israel Houghton, © 2007, Chapter 1. Used by permission of the publisher, Whitaker House (www.whitakerhouse.com). All rights reserved.
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