Grace and Truth

John 1:14 states that Jesus came full of grace and truth. So, it takes both grace and truth to be balanced as a disciple of the Lord.

If you have all truth you will be legalistic and miss the spirit of the Word and simply interpret and apply it as a set of rules and regulations to follow thus eliminating any source of life. Read more

10 (Unexpected) Church Trends to Surface by 2020

I once served under a leader who said he didn’t have a vision beyond the next 12 months. His point was that everything changes rapidly, and no one knows the future. So why plan beyond what you do not know for certain? In looking far into the future, he believed leaders wasted too much time on fruitless thinking in which attainable goals are never achieved.

He had a point. Much time, brain energy, printed paper and blogosphere megabytes have been wasted on fruitless plans for an uncertain future. Despite the downsides of wasted time and premature predictions, I believe the best leaders risk being wrong for the sake of a better understanding of where we might end up; that’s part of what makes a leader.

Read more

Your Favorite Subject

Have you ever noticed that people’s favorite topic is themselves and that they are seriously focused on their favorite subject. Give them less than 60 seconds and they will flip whatever you are saying and find a way to talk about themselves. Guaranteed. And, this holds true for Christians as well as non-Christians. Sad but true – even Christians are consumed with themselves and their issues in life.

I am sitting in a car dealership waiting for a new brake switch to be installed. I began a conversation with a man I speak to whenever here and he is a born again Christian and a church attendee. It took less than 30 seconds for him to flip the conversation from me answering his question, “How are you?” to spending the next ten minutes talking about himself. He was literally not interested in how I was or what I have been doing – his question was simply a doorway into talking about his favorite subject – himself!

Chatted with a church leader recently – someone I did not know and who did not know me. Thirty minutes later I knew a lot about her and her ministry and she knew nothing about me whatsoever. Not because I did not want to share. In fact, I attempted to share a number of times and each time she brought it immediately back to her favorite subject – herself.

I can count a dozen encounters like these this week and not once did I feel that the person, the Christian, that I was talking to was in the least bit interested in anything about my life. I will meet with two Christians today in the course of my workday and guaranteed it will be the same. Always is!

I am not complaining as I really have reached the point in my life where I don’t feel a great need to share with others. It would be nice but not necessary. I recognize that many others have a need to talk and there are few who actually listen to them. So, I am here for them and listen intently because I care.

My concern – and the reason for the blog – is that I have watched these people interact in numerous situations and they do the same thing with everyone and not just with me. Whether they are talking to a believer or non- believer they simply switch the topic back to what their whole life is focused on – themselves.

No wonder we see few non- believers being saved. In general, our conversation and lifestyle does not communicate that we care. Our focus must be the other person if we hope to communicate His love for them and earn the right to share the Gospel with them. We need to learn how to be externally focused and how to listen to others – not just listening for a good jump-off point to flip the conversation to focus on us or what we want to talk about – but listening with our heart and giving them our undivided attention. In this way, they will know we are interested and that we care deeply about them and what they are going through in their life at this time.

It is time for disciples of the Lord to live in a manner different than those who do not know the Lord so that the Good News of Christmas – that God loves us and that He gave us a gift of His Son – can be truly seen and heard around the world.

Pleasing Yourself

The Bible has a terrific verse very applicable to the season we are in and the way we spend money at this time of the year. Found in 2 Corinthians 5:15 (New Living Translation) it reads, “Those who receive His new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ…”

And, I wonder if our actions and attitudes at this time of the year – Christmas – really please Christ? I wonder if the way we spend money on ourselves and our family members really pleases Christ? Maybe we have missed the whole point of gift-giving. Maybe our gift-giving really does not express in any way the heart and intent of the first Christmas gift – the Father’s gift of His Son. Maybe true disciples should give some thoughts to who they buy gifts for, what they buy and how much money is spent doing so. This is especially true when millions of children go to bed hungry every night through no fault of their own – and some of them are in our nation. Truly our gift-giving seems a bit out of step with reality and maybe even a poor expression of the true meaning of Christmas.

I believe that true disciples need to sort through what it means to “…live to please Christ…” and then change lifestyles to fit with the new perspective and so please Him who was the first gift of Christmas. For some this will be simply a slight bend in the road; for others this will require a massive change in the way they view and live life and a radical change in attitude. However, for both it will mean releasing more money for Kingdom purposes and being able to express the love of God through giving to those who are brothers and sisters in the faith and who have so little through no fault of their own.

God so loved that He gave a gift – and we express our love for Him by how and to whom we give. Christmas is a good time to examine our lifestyle and see if maybe it has become somewhat selfish and thus self-pleasing or whether we are truly living to please Christ.

Celebrate

I received a Christmas card – well I think it was meant to be a Christmas card – from my Member of Parliament yesterday. Here is what it said on the inside:

Celebrate…
the Tradition of Giving.
the Beauty of the Season and a New Year of Peace and Happiness.

Wow! Now, what did that just say? Absolutely nothing!

The tradition of giving for most today means going further into debt and ending up with a greater financial burden as a new year begins. It means buying gifts for people who already have more than they need and who will probably not appreciate the time, effort, and money that you invested in the gift. It means … Well, you get my drift.

The beauty of the season – and what is beautiful about ice on the roads and dirty snow lying on the ground? Where is the beauty in crowded shopping malls filled with unhappy people pushing and shoving to get their Christmas shopping accomplished so they can go home? What is beautiful about rushing from one concert to another and watching or suffering through another event (which is how most people look at these events)? What is beautiful watching people line up to purchase a lottery ticket hoping to win the big one at this time of year? Or getting drunk at the Christmas party at work?

And a new year of peace and happiness. Now, there is a great wish. But then wishing never gets you anywhere. And, what are we doing as individuals to bring peace to people? What about the Prince of Peace – Jesus? Are we sharing Jesus? Does the MP sending me the seasonal card even know Jesus? And happiness – why does everyone in North America seem to think that happiness should be a given when 95+% of the world strive and struggle to just feed their families and survive another day? God never promised us happiness!

So, I get this card from my Member of Parliament who has never visited with me or even spoken to me. It has this vague phrasing that really says nothing and means nothing and I simply want to say “Bah, humbug” but then I am not sure that ancient phrase from a very old novel and movie really speaks to anyone either any more.

So, this season may you come to personally know the living Lord and Savior who was born on that first Christmas Day in Bethlehem of Judea. May you know the peace that passes all human comprehension – a peace that comes only through having a daily and dynamic personal relationship with the Living Lord Jesus. May you find peace with God through being born again and the peace of God as you receive His love, acceptance and forgiveness on a daily basis. May you be a blessing to others who do not know Him by introducing them to Him. May you share your abundant wealth with those who have little to nothing and will not be celebrating anything special this year but who are simply struggling to make it through another day. May you truly celebrate the One who said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and celebrate it in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Merry Christmas!

My Annual Rant

Every year about this time in December I get mad – inside! I am still calm and cool on the outside but vocal in a pleasant way nonetheless. If I was not in control I would get angry – seriously angry. Let me explain.

I am an extreme introvert and as such often my feeling is that I simply wish you would all get off my planet. I call it being “peopled out” and it happens occasionally when I am ministering both overseas and here in North America because I am with people 18 hours a day, day after day. Well, during the Christmas season – I get a similar feeling – frustration, tiredness, feeling overwhelmed – it is hard to describe but it is the result of all the hypocrisy I see in people at Christmas time.

Just as I, at times, want to yell, “Get off my planet;” at this time of the year I want to scream, “Get off His holiday.”

For goodness sakes – if you do not have Jesus as Lord and Savior and are not living for Him as you follow Him in your everyday life – stop celebrating His season and His birth. At least many of the school festive concerts are no longer playing the game and have removed all references to Jesus from their programs at this time of year. But, there are still many people and multiple situations where people are celebrating and using our ‘reason for the season’ when they have no interest in Jesus – neither His birth nor His death and resurrection. So, often I feel like yelling “Get off His holiday you hypocrites!”

Of course, I could say that to many who attend church as well. They are simply nominal believers and really have not had a life-changing experience with the Lord. They still live as they have always lived except that now they have added some external Christian habits like Bible reading and prayer to their daily lives – some days! They too need to stop being hypocrites and find a secular reason for celebrating at this time of year – “get off His holiday” – or simply not celebrate at all.

A thought – maybe all those who “hold to an outward form of religion but deny the life-changing power of it” and those who simply attend church because it is socially acceptable and the thing to do (a tradition of the family)… should simply act with integrity and not take any time off on and around December 25th and simply work each day like it was just another day because for them it is. They do not bow the knee to the Lordship of Jesus so they should simply “get off His holiday.” Just a thought.

Hey, maybe I should begin a national or international movement called “Get off His holiday” and see what would happen…L

A Religion? A Philosophy?


The other night on my way to an appointment I was listening to The Factor with Bill O’Riley on Fox News on satellite radio in my car. He was discussing football with one of his regular guests and the way a certain player places a knee on the ground when he scores a touchdown – as if to say “Thank God” for what He just did through me.

In the midst of this rather useless conversation he stated, “Christianity is not a religion, it is a philosophy.” I could not believe what I was hearing. I agree – it is not a religion as religion is man’s attempt to reach God and please God. But is is also not a philosophy.

Let me define philosophy… Dictionary.com gave five definitions two of which are:
1> The rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
2> A system of principles for guidance in practical affairs

Christianity and the Christian faith does contain principles and does speak to how we are to live and conduct ourselves so I can see where Bill O’Riley gets the idea that the Christian faith is a philosophy. But, it is so much more. It is a relationship which leads to a way of life. It is a daily walk with the Creator God, our Heavenly Father, which comes about because of what Jesus’ death on the Cross of Calvary accomplished for us – paying the penalty for our sin and going to Hell so that we do not have to.

I am not blaming Bill O’Riley – it is a problem that should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Christian Church. He thinks he is a believer and declares his loyalty to a speciafic branch of the Christian faith on a regular basis. But, apparently he is not aware that the faith he declares so readily states the need to be born again and that every born again disciple of the Lord can have a personal and daily relationship with God where he can hear the voice of God and be involved in what God is doing. A relationship – not a religion or a philosophy.

The Church is to blame. The Church has, in many ways, lost the basic message it was birthed to preach – repent and be saved – as we have been busy teaching and doing so many other things. Everywhere I go I teach on the basic Gospel; what it is and how to share it – and it is seriously evident that many sitting in churches Sunday after Sunday are not born again and do not know the Gospel. And, those that are true disciples certainly do not know what it is that they confess to believe and how to share it with others – I know because I have elders and leaders come to the front to share the Gospel in these training times and the results are frightening.

Time for us to preach the message and preach it hard and often. Several nights ago I was in a Christmas banquet in a church I work with and during the Gospel presentation by the guest speaker a number of people simply got up and walked out. That is okay. They heard the Gospel and are now accountable. They may be mad at us – they may think we are mad – but they heard the Gospel and that is what is important.

That is our task in the world today – to declare the good news of salvation. It is time to be about our Father’s business.

Formation of Biblical Community

We have been looking at how Jesus worked in engaging the culture in which He found Himself when born as a man and dwelling among us. It is time to move on to His second stage of creating the first church and thus the model for the Church that He is building today. After engaging His culture and even while continuing to do so He began to form community. This is the second step in what the Lord is doing today in His Church as well as what we must do when planting the Gospel in any new community. Read more

The Structured Church

The Church is very actively pursuing programs. In many of the leadership emails that I receive daily and even paper magazines I read monthly – programs are the big thing. And, there is always the latest and the newest program that a local church can adopt to grow their numbers and build their impact and influence. However, in my mind going through programs does not accomplish much unless a person learns to live out a Christlike life everyday. In other words – I think we need less programs and more of a focus on process.

This process would recognize that we need to come to know God for who He is and would involve responding to Him by living and being true disciples of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. It would involve constant application of the faith and not simply more information – transformation would be the goal.

However, moving away from programs for program’s sake and adopting a PROCESS-DRIVEN model will be a challenge for many because it will require the abandonment of what some consider sacred – the “Structural Church” that is primarily concerned with conducting events to a spectator audience.

Instead, we will encourage the embracing of a “Missional Church” that is focused on re-establishing a process of becoming more and more like Christ. This will mean a shaking of much of what we know about Christianity, truth, and the Church and rediscovering what the Bible really says about the faith and the Founder of that faith that we follow. I believe that unless this journey and resulting transformation happens we will see a continued and steady decline in the influence and impact of the Church in many of our nations.

In North America where the “Structural Church” is strongest it is estimated less than 30% of our youth who were brought up in the Church as we know it today believe that the church should play a role in their lives when they leave their parent’s home. Many denominational leaders have estimated that between 69% and 94% of their young people are leaving the “Structured Church” after high school – AND VERY FEW ARE RETURNING.

For 20+ years the Nehemiah Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, has been offering Christian schools what is called PEERS testing. This is to identify a young person’s views in five areas: Politics, Economics, Education, Religion, and Social issues (PEERS). The test is framed to grade a student according to one of four worldviews – Biblical Theism, Moderate Christian, Secular Humanism, and Socialism.

The Nehemiah Institute has offered a valuable service in providing a type of testing to over 20,000 students from 1,000 different schools (see www.NehemiahInstitute.com). Christian parents have also tested their young people who attend public schools. The results are in: 85% of youth from Christian homes that attend public schools do not embrace a biblical worldview.

But, what of students in Christian schools? While these students scored slightly higher than their counterparts attending public schools, only 6% of students from Christian schools embraced a Biblical Theism Worldview. We have, for all intents and purposes, lost our children to a godless culture.

But, this is not to say that our young people are rebelling against God….more on this tomorrow

You Are Valuable

God does not love you because you are valuable. You are valuable because He loves you. If God’s love is based on our own merit, we are all in trouble. You are valuable because of God’s incredible and unconditional love for you.

God love you unconditionally – no strings attached. This is because 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. It is the basic nature and the overriding motivation of our God. He simply loves – and especially loves the height of His creation – the human race. He cannot help it – He loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us that we might have a relationship with Him now and forever. Amazing huh? Powerful as well.

His unconditional love leads Him to accept each one of us just as we are. We don’t need to make changes before coming to Him. He will help us change after we have come to Him and have been born again. He simply accepts us as we are – the good, the bad and the ugly. He accepts us as we are but sees and knows the potential He has built into each one of us and so, once saved, He then begins the process of changing us into His image so that we become more and more like Him. This is called the process of sanctification.

His unconditional love also leads Him to forgive – forgive every sin we have ever committed, are committing and will ever commit in the future. He forgives us totally and forever. Not because of anything we have done but because of who He is and His love for us. So, we can live free of our past; we can live without hindrance right now; and we can march into our future with boldness knowing that if and when we screw things up He has already paid the penalty for that sin and will forgive us when we repent and ask Him to.

God does not love you because you are valuable. You are valuable because He loves you. If God’s love is based on our own merit, we are all in trouble. You are valuable because of God’s incredible and unconditional love for you. This incredible unconditional, no-strings attached love includes His total acceptance and absolute forgiveness. This is, of course, the message of Christmas and wonderfully good news.

BUT, it is only good news if you know it; and the ones you love will never know it unless you tell them. You will find people very open at this time of the year to talking about spiritual things and the birth of Christ. I know because every day I bring the subject up and people spend time talking with me about Christ and His Church and I have had opportunity almost daily to share the gospel – even on the days when I am in my office all day and evening I still share the Gospel by e-mail and Skype in numerous nations including my own.

I believe it is good news and that we need to be telling the people of all nations that Jesus loves them – and this season is the perfect season to begin if you have never done so.

God loves you and thus you are valuable. Believe it! And declare it to the ends of the earth. For this reason Christ was born in Bethlehem and died on the Cross of Calvary.