The Malady of More

Each of us is susceptible to a fast-spreading undetectable cancer of the heart called the “Malady of More.” This cancer-like growth is diagnosed by one consuming symptom: an unquenchable desire for more. Victims constantly grope or more than what they already have. And guess what? This disease strikes at any time. However, like the flu, there are seasons when everyone is more susceptible to the disease. Christmas is one of those seasons.

I have watched and witnessed this disease over the years. Recently it has amazed me how quickly it has spread and how its impact is growing – both in my nation but also in almost every nation of the world. This can be expected, of course. It is a natural inclination of the human heart … we all seem to want more. Victims of this disease constantly grope for more, even go into debt to obtain more. We constantly desire more than we already have. We can never be completely content. We always want the newest iPhone, the fastest computer or iPad, the most modern car with al lthe bells and whistles…. We can never be completely content.

The Malady of More is widespread and its victims are many. Individuals are both great and small; from schoolyard bullies to globe-trotting billionaires, from desperate housewives to dutiful ministers and priests. This malady has no preference. It claims us one and all.

An indispensable life lesson, then, is to discover when enough is enough.

This is, of course, a biblical and timeless struggle. King David is the most obvious example of the Malady of More. He had everything a man could ever desire. He was a great leader, superb general and a revered king. God had blessed him with a family, a fortune, friends, a great nation that loved him, and a powerful army. But, one day he was on his rooftop walking and looked across the lane and spotted the neighbour’s wife taking a bath on her rooftop. He then played the child’s game of “I spy with my little eye” and fell into the Malady of More. David was face-to-face with his own craving for more.

It was a painful lesson – but, through this situation and the consequences of wanting more, he learned some tremendous life lessons and rid himself of the disease.

Each of us has to come to the place where we recognize this disease, that we have been infected by this disease, and then be healed of this disease. Today, this season we are currently in, would be a good time to begin this struggle towards health and wholeness.

When We Don’t Pray

What happens when the Church stops praying? What happens when you stop praying with passion? Afterall, you are the Church. Well, I think the first thing that happens is that we would get bored. Soren Kirkegaard said that boredom is kind of the ultimate sin. It seems to me that you could not live a Spirit-led life and be bored at the same time.

Secondly, when you stop praying, I believe it takes the supernatural element out of what we are doing as a church. When this happens the Church becomes a club – a social club that exists just for the entertainment and care of its own members. This too might be regarded as a sin.

Thirdly, without prayer there would be little moving of the Holy Spirit when we gather for worship and the Word. There would be no conviction of the Holy Spirit and thus no one getting saved. There would be no miracles.

As a result of this the church would stop being a movement and would become a museum to what God has done in the past.

If you want God to do something new, you can’t keep doing te same old thing. You have to do something different, and I think prayer is the difference between you fighting for God and God fighting for you. So, if we stop praying, the fifth result would be that we are on our own and that won’t get us very far in His Kingdom and in our work for Him.

How’s your prayer life?

Offending People

St. Chrysostom warned, “We must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them we offend God.” Great wisdom for today where we are so afraid to tell others what we believe and what the Bible states so clearly for fear of appearing intolerant or being offensive. I know many people don’t believe what I believe – but it does not mean I can’t share what I believe. I understand that the prevailing culture and the music representing this culture does not “preach” what I believe. But, this does not mean I can’t or shouldn’t tell others what I believe – even if it is counter-culture.

People think that I am narrow-minded. I admit that I am! I talk about Jesus all the time and share the Gospel of the Kingdom which is the power of God unto salvation. I believe with all my heart that there is only one way to be reconciled with God – Jesus! I believe there is only one way to peace with God – Jesus! I believe there is only one door into Heaven – Jesus! I believe all other “gods” are not gods at all as there is One God and His Name is Jesus! It is alright to be narrow-minded when you are right. And, I believe I am right because I believe the Bible.

Oh, I know other people have other ideas and beliefs. And, I recognize that they have the right to have those beliefs. And, I believe they have the right to share their beliefs and to influence others with their beliefs. But, if they have that freedom, so do I. And, because I believe something different than the majority does not make me wrong – just different. And, I must not be intimidated by them. Yes they have powerful voices declaring their causes – but I have a powerful God who has a cause. And, like Paul, I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation.

So, I am very intentional about sharing the Gospel every day. And, as I look back over the last month I know that I have faithfully share it every day. I leave home each day with that intention and watch for opportunities to share. I even work hard at making opportunities happen. I am not worried in the least about offending people – I am too busy trying to rescue them from the wrath of God and Hell as an ultimate and eternal destination. I am proud to say that I believe in the Gospel and am not the least bit ashamed of it or concerned that I might be offending people. I simply don’t plan to offend God!

Hoops or Roots

The Gospel of the Kingdom is a life-changing message. It starts with a serious and life-changing encounter with the living God. That is always life-changing. And, then you begin a journey of discipleship where you follow Him who is now your Master and become like Him. Again, the issue of constant life change.

This change as we encounter the Gospel of the Kingdom – the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation – leads us the some of the basics of the Christian faith. They are called spiritual disciplines. These disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, telling others about Jesus, worship, fellowship and others help us along in the journey we are on. This journey of discipleship should be seen as “basic Christianity” and must be our focus; these disciplines are simply aids to help us along on the journey of life-change.

So, it is not about having a check list that we can mark each item off on a daily basis. Read my Bible – check. Talk to a non-Christian about Jesus – check. Tithe this payday – check. Prayer for those things on my prayer list that are heavy on my heart – check. Doing something to impact the neighbourhood that we live in – check. Wrote in my journal – check. The list goes on and on…

These things are not the focus. These are simply hoops that we think we need to jump through. We jump through them on a semi-regular basis and we feel good about our progress in the journey we are on. But, the question to be considered is – are these disciplines helping me to change? Are they just hoops or are they actually helping the Gospel take root in my life and thus bring the changes that God wants and that are seriously needed? Hoops or roots.

I have seen so many people who jumped through the hoops but whose lives were never changed. They are still angry, abusive, addicted, undisciplined, dishonest, and living in sin. You see, it’s not about the hoops. It is about being rooted and grounded in His love because “love never fails,” “love covers a multitude of sins,” faith works by love,” and “love is greater than and needed to live with faith and hope.” The journey of discipleship leading to character and life change is one of growing roots into Him who is life and allowing this life to grow. The Christian disciples are to enable this to happen – they are simply the tires on the vehicle. Not hoops to jump through but actions and disciplines that enable us to grow roots on our life journey with Jesus.

A Christian and Not a Disciple?

I believe it is impossible to be a Christian if you are not a disciple. And, I believe it is impossible to be a disciple and not also be a disciple maker.

To be a Christian means to be a follower of Christ, which is what a disciple is. We have some how reduced being a Christian to a one-time decision: “Pray a prayer, ask Jesus into your heart, and then who knows what happens after that? But the good thing is you’re a Christian now.” That just misses the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s not just a one-time decision. Yes, there’s a point at which God, in His grace, by His Spirit, regenerates our heart, and we are saved by grace through faith in Christ at that moment, but that is the beginning of a journey of following Jesus, of enjoying God, of walking in obedience to His commands.

Jesus built in to this initial invitation to be His disciple the reality that disciples would be disciple makers. So, Matthew starts that way… “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And, the Gospel ends that way – “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The picture is clear from beginning to end: Being a disciple involves making disciples; being a follower of Christ involves fishing for men. It’s built into the DNA.

Around the world it is understood this way. But here in North America – well, maybe not so! There is a man in a local church in Central Asia where the population is predominately Muslim. Whenever they led someone to the Lord, immediately, that day, that new Christian was encouraged to make a list of everybody they knew, then identify on that list the 10 people least likely to kill them if they shared the Gospel. Based on that list of ten, they would start sharing the Gospel right away. That makes sense. Being a Christian meant being a disciple, from the beginning, and was attached to making disciples as well.

Acts 11:26 states that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” So, you cannot be a Chiristian without being a disciple. There are not two different categories – Christians and disciples. You have to be a disciple (and thus a disciple-maker) to literally be called a Christian.

What Ticks Me Off?

We were looking at loving, angry disciples. Disciples who are lovingly angry at things that are scaring the height of God’s creation – human beings. And, who are motivated by that anger to actually do something about what ticks them off the most.

Got me to thinking about what ticks me off… And there are many things that make me seriously but lovingly angry. Ten of thousands of children living in the subway system in the city of Moscow; people who believe that Muslims are peace loving; politicians who are really not governing for the people but for reelection; the school system that absorbs countless million of dollars and graduates teens who can neither read, write, or do arithmetic. The list goes on…

But my real “tick off” is the cultural Christian who believes he or she is safe and “good to go” because they said a sinner’s prayer with someone some time way back when. I am ticked at the cultural church that creates these cultural Christians – who are really not Christians at all. I am ticked at the cultural Christians whose lives have not changed in the least since they said the required prayer in the required way yet they still believe they are ‘good togo.’ I am ticked by the entertainment system that passes for the Church that Jesus is building – a system that keeps the saints entertained when they really should be equipped to do the work of the ministry. I am ticked that those who call themselves disciples are not going out and making more disciples – BUT they will stand in a worship service and sing love songs to Jesus – the same Jesus who said, “If you love Me you will obey Me” and who commanded that “we go into the world and make disciples.” I am ticked at the number of hypocrites who stand and sing but don’t go and obey – thus don’t love but put on a good show. I am seriously (but lovingly) ticked at a church that let’s them get away with this and doesn’t speak into their lives and correct and rebuke them.

I guess you might distill all of that and say that I am royally ticked at the church that man has built that passes itself off as the Church of Jesus Christ. And, so my passion is to become part of what Jesus is doing and build His Church … the Church that will take seriously the command to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and see the only ministry the Church has is to go and win the lost. I want to point to the Church Jesus is building and tell the world what it will look like, how it will function, and what it will do… while at the same time offering the church that man has built the opportunity to repent and allow the Spirit of God to come in and tear down and uproot everything that has the smell of man on it.

Being ticked about something is pointless unless it fuels the passion needed to do something about it. I’m ticked – but I’m passionate as well. Wht’s ticking you off? Wht are you planning to do about it?

Loving, Angry Disciples

Don’t misread that. I don’t want to talk about loving disciples who are angry. I want to draw your attention to disciples of Jesus who are loving but angry.

People always say that the loving people among us make the biggest difference in the lives of hurting and broken people. I disagree totally. I think the angriest people make the biggest difference. Look through the pages of history and you will quickly discover that those filled with “holy rage” against the dehumanizing effects of slavery, malnutrition, preventable diseases, and the like have made the greatest contribution to humanity. Something within them rose up and motivated them to shout, “I have had enough! I am going to do something to change this.”

The Bible tells us that at the end of the ages, Jesus will stand before His followers and say, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)

I like what one author wrote: “Whenever I used to read that passage, I pictured Jesus addressing a room jam-packed with old, diminutive nuns walking around with hands folded, lovingly singing Gregorian chants. While I’m sure there will be lots of nuns standing before Jesus on that day – I’ve known a number who have given their lives away for the cross – I now believe that most of the people Jesus will address will be ordinary folks with anger issues. Like the fifty-six-year-old businessman I know who got so sick of kids not having clean drinking water that he started a company to solve the problem. Or the thirty-three-year-old mom who started collecting shoes for the homeless and now has quite literally become the feet of Jesus to thousands in need. Or the forty-three-year-old woman who started a ministry that is helping hundreds of prostitutes find new beginnings.”

It all started with holy rage. And it is time that the church got angry too. Think of a church that has the conviction that no child should grow up with rotten teeth no matter where they live in the world.
Or fear to walk outside their shanty and being gang raped
Or having a prostitute for a mom
Or a dad who sniffs glue
Or be unable to read
Or have a baby at age thirteen
Or die of AIDS at age fifteen

What are the things that make you – and your church – angry about the world we live in that you would like to change?

My answer next time…

Another Gospel

Outside of Billy Graham, there was probably no more influential 20th Century Christian than Mother Teresa. When asked if people became Christians before they died through her ministry to the poor in Calcutta, Mother Teresa responded, :Oh, I hope I am converting. I don’t mean what you think….If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him. If we accept Him fully in our lives, then that is conversion. What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else Buddhist, according to each one’s conscience.”

Interesting, Jesus taught very clearly that “I am the Way,and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) I wonder, did Mother Teressa get a memo from heaven stating that Jesus changed His mind?

Paul the apostle warned, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8-9) This would include seminary professors, soccer moms, your mechanic, your best friend, your Sunday-school teacher, your grandmother, me, you, and believe it or not, even Mother Teresa.

It is time for true believers to know what they believe – and know it in detail and with depth. There are so many good-looking, loving, and wonderful people doing great things who are sharing “another gospel” and not the Christian one. And many are being deceived and lulled into a dangerous state of thinking they are “good to go” when they die. Just because they are on television, radio, or have an international ministry does not mean their message is the right one. There are many very well known preachers who are preaching “another gospel” and are attracting large numbers as they tickle people’s ears.

So beware of man-made gospels – one that do not point to Jesus as the “only Way.” A gospel that tells you what you receive and can have and never mentions your responsibilities is a false gospel. A gospel that fails to mention that we are to “take up our cross daily” is a false gospel. A gospel that does not emphasize repentance with godly sorrow is a false gospel. And the list goes on.

Paul tells us t “test ourselves” and “examine ourselves” to make sure we are truly in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5). That is good advice – advice I am sure Mother Teresa wishes she had heeded.

New Creation!

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” In the English translation, you miss the force of the original Greek. This phrase literally reads, “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!” There is no verb; it’s just a noun and an adjective, and it is written as if it’s a loud proclamation. “New Creation!” You can sense a feeling of awe even in Paul’s simple phrasing.

Every time we help someone walk across the line of faith, we get a front-row seat to watch an astonishing act of creation. But unlike the acts of creation detailed in the Book of Genesis, this creation happens in the heart, unseen by human eyes. But it’s just as miraculous nonetheless. Then, because of the radical change in the heart we begin to see changes in the outward life of the person who has just become a disciple of the Lord Jesus. This is inevitable as a person begin the journey of discipleship and follows Jesus.

And we are permitted by our loving God to be involved in this work of telling others about Him so that they can become “new creation.” That’s why evangelism is not just a responsibility for true believers but it is also a privilege. It is not just a ‘have to’ it is a ‘get to.’ I mean, can you believe that God in His gracious compassion, given all that we have put Him through because of our sins, turns around and allows us to participate in His effort to reclaim human lives? It’s a stupendous act of grace. Who are we, creatures deserving God’s full wrath because of our wickedness, to deserve such a privilege? It’s astonishing to consider. The God of the universe not only refuses to count our sin against us, but also picks us up, brushes us off, looks us in the eye, and tells us that He needs us to work with Him to rescue others.

We’re needed? What an honour!

Two Sundays back while ministering in Ohio I prophesied over a young man – a skeptic and non-believer. It was a Word from God the Father’s heart for him personally. It did not chastise him or rebuke him. It simply let Him know God’s heart towards Him and how much God cared. Later that day, while ministering in the evening in a second city, we received a text message that this young man had just repented and was born again – a direct result of God speaking to him prophetically and personally… We rejoiced and joined the on-going party in Heaven over one lost sinner saved. I continue to pray for this “New Creation!”

It doesn’t get any better than this….