Have You Listened Recently to Christians Sharing Their Faith?

Have you recently heard someone share the Gospel of the Kingdom with a non-believer? I haven’t either. The reason – very few believers are telling others about their faith. The reason? I am sure there are many…

1> They have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour but believe that there are many ways into Heaven and that all religions or faiths are fairly much the same. Not true in the slightest but, if believed, it removes the need and the urgency to share the one true Gospel.

2> They think they are safe and saved because they have said a sinner’s prayer but never repented of their sins or experienced conviction and godly sorry before praying. The Bible clearly stats that without repentance there is no salvation. So, they don’t share the true gospel that they really have not accepted themselves.

3> The are born again (see John, Chapter 3) and have a personal relationship with Jesus. However, they are not following Him as they have not died to self and so are walking to the beat of their own drum. If they were truly following Him then He would be making them into “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

4> They are born again and following Jesus but after a number of attempts to share the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and failing to bring anyone into the Kingdom they are discouraged and have simply given up fishing hoping others will have more success than they have.

5> They have tried to share the gospel but failed to present it in such a way that others could understand and receive it. They assumedly know enough to be saved but have yet to learn to share it in such a way that others can understand the simplicity and yet the depth of the salvation message.

I think that for many believers the last reason for not sharing the good news that Jesus saves is the most prominent. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom is simple but profound. And, many people believe it and understand it in their head and even in their heart. But, they have not trained themselves or been trained in how to share the Gospel with others. Sharing involves more than knowing the details and substance of the Gospel. It involves…

1> Being a good listener and hearing, really hearing, what others are saying so that they know they are in a safe place and accepted. This helps a person to be more open to listening to and receiving the message of the Gospel when you do share it.

2> Being aware of the culture and society you are working in so as to be sensitive to what people believe and how they live their lives. This way you can speak into the culture and not create unnecessary barriers that prevent people from receiving the message.

3> Carefully weighing your words so as not to use Christianeze. Many of the words we use to express the Gospel are no longer in current use in society and many people do not have any church background. As well, some words have changed meanings within their cultural context. Example: we redeem coupons – so the word redemption has lost a lot of its punch. So, the words we use to speak to other believers are not words you want to use when speaking in everyday life to a non-believer. Words like sin, saved, repent, atonement. 

4> Learning to notice the open door to present the Gospel. As you listen to anther person often there is an open door for you to swing the conversation towards more spiritual things. And, as well, learning how to open a door within a conversation should the person you are in conversation with not give you an opening. One of my mentors taught me that if you have not moved the conversation towards spiritual matters in 20 minutes that you won’t. 

5> And, being good at sharing the Gospel takes practice and so, as a believer, you need to practice until you feel comfortable talking about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And, doing so in numerous ways that are natural to you so that you don’t come across like you are following a canned evangelistic program. 

Let’s work at becoming good ‘fishers of men’ as we follow the real Jesus.

Today and the two previous blogs are just some random thoughts on conversations I have been in or observed in the last few weeks.  

Have You Listened Recently to Christians Talking to Non-Christians?

 

Blog for May 16, 2019

Have you been in a situation recently where you had opportunity to observe Christians speaking with non-believers, those who are not followers of Jesus? Did you pay attention to what was being said? I recently attended a wedding where the non-believers far outnumbered the believers. In fact, believers were in the vast minority.

Well, you can tell a true believer by the behaviour and what they speak about. And, there were some there who would tell you that they were believers. However, as the night went on you would have to question if they truly were. Why, you may ask? Because of the amount of alcohol they were drinking. I am not against Christians drinking. The Bible does not say a true believer cannot have a drink. But the Bible is very clear that believers do not get drunk. Yet, there they were – obviously under the influence of both the wine, beer, and hard alcohol that was flowing freely. So, there were fewer believers than one would have originally thought at the beginning of the evening. 

Back to the non-believers … Listen to what they were talking about – their favourite team in a variety of sports, their latest night out and what they did, their job – how good, awful, hard, or easy it is – their home, their latest purchase, the car they just bought, their family, the next trip they are planning to take. They are talking about themselves even if no one really cares. And, often to total strangers as if they were out to impress them for some reason.

Now, think about the true believers (not the drunk ones) and what they were chatting about. Well, let’s see. Their work, their home, their family, their health, their recent trip, the trip they are planning, the cottage or camper or trailer … Gee, sounds a lot like what the non-believers were talking about. Nope! Not “a lot alike” – exactly the same. Listen carefully the next you gather in a larger mixed group of believers and non-believers. And, you will realize that they talk about the same things. And, to their shame, the believers seldom if ever talk about their faith in Jesus and the hope that they have in Him. Yet, that is exactly what the non-believers need to hear about.

Oh, I know, it’s not politically correct. So what? Well, it is not socially acceptable. Again, so what? I don’t think it is socially acceptable that people drink too much, talk too loud, and make complete fools of themselves. However, they do. It seems to me they might know better but they really don’t care what I think. Well, maybe it is time the believer took the same approach and simply shared their faith and the reason for the hope that they have regardless of what the non-believer thinks. Sharing regardless of what the others may say or feel. I mean, so what? Can’t have double standards here, can we? They get upset. So what? I get upset with loud and obnoxious drunks who are talking too loud and saying things that don’t need to be heard. I have to put up with their non-social behaviour, you know, because they are just being themselves. Maybe that gives me permission to just be myself and to say – in a polite way – what I want to say. Just maybe.

But, not happening. Generally Christians feel either out of place in such a setting or totally at home. If they feel out of place – they seldom speak up. If they feel at home – they simply fit in with what is going on around them and what is acceptable for the crowd they run with. You know, don’t rock the boat. yet, this is exactly the place where the boat can and should be rocked. 

Christians should be comfortable enough in what they believe to speak up in any situation and share what they believe and why they believe it. They should look for (even make) opportunities to share what Jesus has done in their lives recently. We must be ready at all times to earnestly contend for the faith that we have received and believe with our whole heart. It is time to be less concerned with what non-believers might think and be concerned with what the Lord of the universe is thinking about us. It is time to worry less about being politically correct and socially acceptable and simply speak boldly about the truth that we believe. 

Jesus said that if we were not willing to acknowledge Him before men that He would not acknowledge us before His heavenly Father. That’s a tough comment. Don’t discount it. Jesus told us that we were to share our faith at all times and in all situations as we go about our daily lives. That was a command actually and not just a suggestion. Jesus said, that if we are truly following Him we would become fishers of men – those who are seeking and saving the lost. So, if we are not fishing we are not following.  

So, time to speak up and be socially unacceptable and politically incorrect. Of course, this is assuming you know how to share your faith in a way that non-believers can understand and receive. But, that is a topic for another day. 

Have You Listened Recently to Christians Talking to Christians

Have you spent time recently listening to believers when they are chatting with one another? Or when they are chatting with non-believers? As someone who works with believers and spends time with non-believers I have a few observations to make.

When Christians gather together most of the conversation is about their favourite subject – me, myself, and I. Listen carefully and you will seldom hear a mention of the Lord Jesus or God the Father. Their conversation may sound spiritual but as you listen you will realize that they are talking about themselves – the day they shared the gospel with someone; the time the spent helping someone in need; the praying they have been doing about a particular situation. Sounds spiritual or God-centered but scratch the surface and it is really all about them. Their focus is me, myself, and I.

Of course, they may share prayer requests with each other but even those are mainly about themselves or the concern they have regarding another person or a particular situation they are involved in. Listen carefully and catch the undercurrent and you quickly realize that it is still all about them – the me, myself and I cycle. Even if they are sharing prayer requests regarding others – the wording often brings the focus back on the believer who is sharing. You know, how close they are to the person needing prayer, the relationship they have with the leader, the insider knowledge they are sharing while asking for prayer, how they are feeling about the person or situation. At times, it borders on gossip.

Listening carefully you quickly realize that many believers spend a lot of time talking about their medical conditions. Maybe it is because I am getting older and those around me are also aging but it seems to me that one of the first things believers talk about with each other is what their current medical condition is, what doctor so-and-so has said, the results of the latest tests, and the ton of medicine they are taking. It’s like they are trying to see who is in the worst or best condition as if it was a competition.

When believers are not talking about themselves with others believers they are talking about other people that they know – believers and non-believers. They are not giving insights to aid in a prayer request that has just been mentioned. No, they are simply talking about other people. And, often the ‘other people’ are family members and these family members would be horrified to hear what is being shared if they were there to hear it – which they never are. Again, maybe we could get real and honest and call this what it is – gossip and not interesting. 

And, need I mention, that if the believers attend the same church their conversation is most often about other members or the pastor. And, often show how critical and judgmental they are as people. 

Here is what I feel when I am with them. Some of the thoughts that zip through my brain.

1> Ashamed of how believers are not glorifying God in their conversations or even talking about Him at all. Like He doesn’t exist or, at least, isn’t all that important or interesting

2> Concerned that most of what I am hearing is “the bearing of false witness” or gossip which is a breaking of one of the Ten Commandments. See Exodus 20

3> Amazed at the lack of a real reference to the living God in all that is said – maybe pointing to the lack of a real relationship with God

4> Bored – I mean seriously bored. Do you hear me, bored! Going once, going twice, going three times. I have heard it all before. It is repetitious. It was not that interesting the second time I heard it and even less interesting the 100th time

5> I want to scream, “Get a life and do something important” – which, of course, is more pleasant than saying, “Oh, for goodness sake, shut up”

6> I want to ask them if they are really paying attention to others as they speak – because if they were they would be aware that most have faded and stopped listening soon after they begin talking and long before they stop talking

Something needs to change. Drastic change is required. 

We follow an amazing God who is doing amazing things. Lives are being transformed by the Holy Spirit; people are being delivered and set free; others are finding salvation in the Name of Jesus; and the Kingdom of God is expanding and pushing back spiritual darkness. Churches are making a difference and touching lives. Nations are hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom for the first time. Churches are being planted. Some are being replanted and coming alive once again. Great things are happening.

So, let’s stop talking about me, myself, and I. Let’s get over the issues we are facing and realize everyone has issues and maybe we need to listen more than talk and discover that our issues are really not that big or even that important. Let’s stop the organ recital – my bladder leaks, my liver aches, my heart skips a beat; realizing that everyone has medical issues and pop prescription medicines daily and so your medical condition is really not that unique nor that interesting. 

Let’s talk more about Jesus and how amazing and wonderful He is. Let’s live the truth that “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.”

Please, and thank you!

Transforming Lives

Over the years I have pastored churches and planted a number of new ones. I do so because I believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and that one of the main instruments in spreading the gospel is the local church. I am currently involved in a number of church plants in Canada and overseas as well as my first “replant” which is in the United States. 

Over the last 40+ years of preaching I have learned a lot and seen a lot. But nothing tops seeing someone’s life totally transformed by the power of the Gospel. 

Romans 1:16-17 “I refuse to be ashamed of sharing the wonderful message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ! For I am thrilled to preach that everyone who believes is saved—the Jew first, and then people everywhere! This gospel unveils a continual revelation of God’s righteousness—a perfect righteousness given to us when we believe. And it moves us from receiving life through faith, to the power of living by faith. This is what the Scripture means when it says: ‘We are right with God through life-giving faith!’”  (The Passion Translation)

So, the Gospel moves us from an impotent faith in something or someone – including ourselves – into the explosive and dynamic faith of the Gospel of Christ. This Gospel is life-changing, life transforming. And, there is no other joy on the face of the earth like seeing someone go from death to life, darkness to light, bondage to freedom. It is life-changing for the person receiving what Christ has accomplished for us through His death and resurrection. But, it is also life-changing for those of us involved in seeing people released from the domain of darkness and ushered in to the Kingdom of God through the love of the Father.

As I enter the third and last season of my ministry (a prophetic word from October 2015) I have continued to work in various aspects of ministry – discipleship, mentoring, leadership training, raising up five-fold ministry teams and regional apostolic centers. However, more and more my heart has been turning to working with church plants and replants in a bigger way than ever before. So, I am entering a new season of church planting.

To facilitate this renewed focus I have joined with a number of younger men in several provinces of Canada to form “Transformation Ministries.” This new ministry will be incorporated in the province of Manitoba, Canada and so will be able to offer receipts for income tax purposes. This ministry will be involved in and focused on raising money to enable the next generation to plant born again, Spirit-filled churches where the Gospel is not being preached in the nations of the world. We are not looking to recycle the saints but to start fresh where the Gospel is not being preached – touching a whole new young generation with the true life transforming Gospel.  

We will also be working to raise up leaders for these new churches from among those whose lives are rescued by the power of the Gospel. We will be rescuing the lost and raising them up to be reproductive disciples in the Kingdom and leaders in the local church. 

A renewed adventure for me personally as I originally began church planting in 1978. A new venture for the King and His Kingdom as we focus on church planting for the next generation in places where the witness of the Gospel has never been heard or has gone silent for whatever reason. 

More information as we move forward with Transformation Ministries. 

Bookaholic

My name is Ralph and I am a bookaholic.

 How do I know that? Because I have rooms full of books? Yes, that is true. I always have a book in my hand? Yes, also true. Because I collect books of all sorts, hardcovers, paperbacks, ebooks? Also true. I enjoy going to book stores and just looking, reading covers, enjoying the atmosphere? Very true. Because I read every time I sit down for a few minutes? Guilty as charged. You see, I read everything in front of me – even cereal boxes and catalogues.I admit it, I am a bookaholic.

Right now in my study, I have…

2 books that I must read and computerize notes from before May 15th

4 books that I am currently reading (not counting the above 2)

10 books piled behind the desk that are partly read because they were not ‘clicking’

31 books read since the start of the new year

75+ in piles purchased and not read yet…

The shelves are all full in the three rooms that I control … two of the three rooms are large. So, yes, I am a bookaholic. Even the front seat of my car holds books that I am currently reading – because there is often a few minutes before my appointment shows up, or a cancellation could happen (I get excited even typing that comment) … and then I have new found time to read.

Every once in a while I am drawn to a book and just know I am suppose to read that one. Obviously, because there are some books I started and didn’t finish yet, this ‘leading’ is not always a right one. I am currently just starting a book called “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist. I picked it out of the ‘to read’ pile and it caught my eye because the forward to the book was penned by Brene Brown who is one of my all-time favourite authors and whose books have changed my life. So, that is one of my two current new reads for the week beginning Sunday.

A past mentor of mine taught me that “Leaders are readers. And, if you stop reading you will stop leading.” He also taught me how to read a book a week (now two a week)… take the number of chapters in the book and divide them by 7 and then read that number of chapters every day. So if a book has 14 chapters you have 2 chapters a day to read to finish the book in a week. I’m now reading, on average, two a week using the same idea – more when travelling overseas as the fights offer a lot of free time to use in a constructive manner – and there is little that is more constructive than reading. And, it beats watching three or four movies per trip.

So, yes, I am a bookaholic. But, of all the things to be addicted to books rate high on the list. 

False Prophecy Today

Just because a prophetic word has a valid and true message to it does not mean it is a true prophetic word. There are many words spoken that contain truth and are accurate that the Bible would say are false prophecy. 

And, just because someone can move in power and perform miracles, signs, and wonders does not validate their prophetic words as true and from the Spirit of Christ. Jesus stated: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to lead many astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In other words, those who are false prophets and apostles will sound good and look good thus deceiving many, even the elect of God, as they will be able to perform miracles that will be impressive and amazing.

Paul continues this thought when writing to the Church in Corinth when he states, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). 

True and false apostles and prophets can do similar miracles, signs, and wonders. And, when they speak and declare something “prophetically” they will sound like the real deal, their words will line up with Scripture, and what is spoken can come to pass – even though some of them would be declared as false workmen.

In Acts 16, we see Paul and Silas confronts by a young woman who is speaking prophetically about them. 

“One day, as we were going to the house of prayer, we encountered a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination, the spirit of Python. She had earned great profits for her owners by being a fortune-teller. She kept following us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!” Day after day she continued to do this, until Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit indwelling her, “I command you in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to come out of her, now!” At that very moment, the spirit came out of her!” (The Passion Translation)

Here we see a prophecy being given publicly by a young lady. Her words were: “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!” That was true. Paul and Silas were men of God, called by God, and empowered by God’s Spirit. And, they were declaring the Gospel of the Kingdom and thus the way – the only way – to salvation. So, the words she spoke were true but it was a false prophecy.

Many of the words spoken over people by those who call themselves witches, warlocks, and psychics also are true and come to pass. Otherwise, people would not continue to use their services and pay large sums of money to hear about their future. But these words would be considered false prophecy as well.

What makes a prophetic word false? There are three things that determine if a word is true or false even when the content might be true.

1> What is the motive of the person giving the word. In this case it was to earn money for her masters. Paul writes that the gifts, including the gift of prophecy, is freely given by the Holy Spirit and those who move in this gift use the gift to benefit all others and not themselves (1 Corinthians 12). So, the motive of the prophetic ministry and minister help us to determine if a word is a true prophecy or a false prophecy.

2> Secondly, we look at the source of the words. In this case in Acts 16 it is an evil spirit or what we refer to as a demon. This young girl is definitely possessed and the source of her ability to speak truth is thus a demonic force. Some scholars will tell you that this young girl is under the influence and power of the python spirit. We know it is a demon as Paul eventually tires of her following them and casts the demon out of her.

3> The third reason it is a false prophecy is that the focus is wrong. The words spoken by the young lady are drawing people’s attention to Paul and Silas. A true prophetic word will draw attention to Jesus. So, the focus is wrong and thus her word is false.

Jesus, the early church, and the apostles chosen by Jesus all warn of false apostles, prophets, and teachers as well as false prophecies and how easily true believers can be deceived and drawn away from the faith and lose their salvation. We should heed their warnings and carefully examine all the words given and the people who speak them. 

So Many Prophetic Words

There are always numerous prophetic words circulating in Christian circles. There are numerous web sites that publish prophetic words. There are many Facebook pages expressing what they believe to be God’s heart for people, the Church, certain nations. 

It seems that God is speaking a lot. And, I am deeply concerned that many of the things He is supposedly speaking about contradict each other. Other words simply don’t line up with the written word of God, the Bible. And, many are being deceived by these words so freely spoken and shared.

We all know that God does not contradict Himself so not all prophetic words out there today are His Words. And we know that God never speaks contrary to what is written in His Word, the Bible. And, numerous words I have read are in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches. So, this points to the need to be discerning and not just accepting because someone said it is a prophetic word from the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.

The issue I have with many of the words is that those posting them apparently lack any sense of discernment as to what is truly a word from the Lord and what is simply a person’s desire, dream, or their soul speaking. And, many of the words published that do seem to be the Lord sometimes are for the person or ministry that published them and not for the general population or even for the family of God. A personal word is shared and becomes corporate.

I personally read very few prophetic words that are published – even when published by some of the more well known ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ of our day. I simply don’t find them edifying and they often do not fulfill the three biblical purposes of the prophetic – to build up, the cheer up, to stir up (1 Corinthians 14:3). I prefer to invest my time in reading His Word as recorded in the Scriptures and seeking His face to hear His voice for myself personally and for the ministry He has given to me. And, those I don’t publish.

The Bible states (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21) that we are to test the prophetic words spoken to us personally, to the local church, to the Church, to a region or a nation… Test them to see what spirit is behind them. Where do they originate? Not all prophetic words are from the Holy Spirit as there are many false prophets ministering today in the Church and in the nations. And, many who are using the gift of prophecy do so for their own gain and notoriety which is also not biblical as the gift is given for others to benefit and not just the person with the gift benefitting – noted in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:7). 

Of course, the other issue is what are people doing with the prophetic words that they hear? If they are discerning and test the spirit (source) as well as test what is being said to the Scriptures, then most of the words would be tossed. So, you would do nothing with them and not even think about them again.

I understand that this is my opinion but it is an opinion based on 40+ years of prophetic ministry. 

For those words that register as biblical and from the Lord we need to act on them. In other words, do more than get excited and forward them to others or post them on your Facebook page. Personally act on what you know to be God’s voice to you. Obey what the Word has stated to you and do it immediately. Then your world will change, you will be walking in the center of God’s current will for your life, and you will be challenged and stretched. 

Let’s not worry about the Church or seek for a word for your region or another nation … you need to hear God for yourself and then walk in what you know to be His specific Words to you. 

As a result you and the church will have little time or interest in reading all the words that people are posting in the name of the living God. 

A side note: If you are a leader in a local church and God speaks to your local church prophetically – make sure that the Word is reviewed and acted upon. In other words, bring the people past the “that was nice” stage and into agreement with the word resulting in action being taken in line with the Word. 

Trusting Others

As Christians, if we are going to be vulnerable (see yesterday’s blog) with someone or a group of people then we need to trust them. It may begin with trusting just one person, sharing some personal thoughts or feelings, and then seeing their reaction or response. In other words, starting small and working up to deeper personal things – increasing the amount and level of sharing as you become more comfortable being that vulnerable and real.

Trust can be defined as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” 

Distrust can be defined as “deciding that what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).

Brene Brown, in her research, has found seven elements that make up trust (Book: “Braving the Wilderness” and first published in her book “Rising Strong”)

She writes: Because getting our head and heart around a concept as big as trust is difficult, and because general conversations on the theme of ‘I don’t trust you’ are rarely productive, I dug into the concept to better understand what we’re really talking about when we say trust.

Seven elements of trust emerged from the data as useful in both trusting others and trusting ourselves. I use the acronym BRAVING for the elements.

My comment … Remember: trusting myself or other people is a vulnerable and courageous process as we work to belong and become full known by someone else.

Her list of seven elements:

Boundaries – You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no.

Reliability – You do what you say you’ll do. This means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities

Accountability – You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends

Vault – You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential

Integrity – You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them

Nonjudgment – I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

Generosity – You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others

In life and in relationships it is most important that we trust ourselves. Self-trust needs to be assessed every once in a while to see where your level of self-trust is.

The same checklist with different pronouns…

B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?

R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?

A – Did I hold myself accountable?

V – Did I respect the vault and share appropriately?

I – Did I act from my integrity?

N – Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgmental about needing help?

G – Was I generous towards myself?

Trust is a needed ingredient in coming to fully know oneself and be fully known by at least one other person. Use the BRAVING test on occasion to see how you are doing. 

Living With Vulnerability

As a believer I have always been amazed at the masks that Christians wear. The appearance that everything is fine and they are doing great when just the opposite is true. As a leader I have worked hard to live a life that has integrity. That the inside is what is being expressed outside – my inner life is expressed in how I live, relate, and am known. That my walk as a leader and a believer measures up to the talk.

As we grow into adulthood being open and honest about who we really are becomes harder and harder. There are all the expectations that others have of us. There is the apparent need to hide any deficiencies and places in our inner being where we come up short. We have suffered rejection at the hands of people who were our friends. We have been torn apart by criticisms, some justified and others not so, that others have spoken about who we are and how we present that person as we interface with the world around us.

Most of the time we approach life with our guard up not allowing most people to see and know the real us. We are not living our lives openly for others to see. We are not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This occurs for three basic reasons:

1> We are not comfortable with emotions and we equate vulnerability with weakness

2> Our experiences in life have taught us that vulnerability is actually dangerous

3> We really do not know the real person on the inside because we have lived an unexamined life and thus lived life on the surface and without being real

If the truth were known – being real has allowed others to inflict a great deal of pain and so we no longer see most situations and relationships – including our involvement in church – as a safe place to be ourselves. We enter with our guard up and our real, inner person hidden and protected. The church has not been, or appears not to be, a place that is emotionally and physically safe enough to be vulnerable, open and real.  

The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It is being yourself in the situations and relationships that you encounter on a daily basis. It is speaking your opinion on a matter regardless of what others might think or say. It is dressing the way you want to regardless of the norms for your family, your church, your community. It is expressing the real you regardless of the opposition or the blowback that you might receive. 

Vulnerability means risking criticism and rejection. It means being prepared to lose friends and the acceptance of others who will not like what they see and hear. It may mean standing alone not only for what you believe but, more importantly, who you are and how you are expressing the real you.

Vulnerability is not weakness; it is actually a measure of courage. It is being willing to show up and be real – to be seen and heard when we can’t control the outcome. If you are looking for safety then you will not risk being real and thus vulnerable. 

If you have spent your life trying to fit in and be who others expect you to be or what you think others expect of you even if they don’t – then you will have trouble being vulnerable. Why? Because you don’t even know who you really are. You have become who everyone else wants you to be instead of who God created you to be. Thus you will never be real and thus vulnerable because you don’t know the real you on the inside. You are not fully aware of who you really are. An ancient philosopher once said, “An unexamined life if not worth living.” Many people, even Christians, hide from themselves fearful of what they might find if they look inside and are honest with themselves.

When you are first discovering who you really are and making changes on the outside to express what you are discovering about yourself on the inside, it is hard to be real and vulnerable. Why? Simply because it is so new and so raw. But, as you become more aware of who you are and secure in that reality then you must let your guard down, take your various masks off, stop pretending, and just be real. You have to live life openly and in a way that you are vulnerable.  

Every human being wants to know themselves fully and to be fully known by others, at least one other. Non-judgmental acceptance of who you really are is a gift you can only receive when you leave your safe place and risk being your true self with others. Vulnerability is hard, it can be dangerous, it may hurt, but it is essential to living a life of integrity and being fulfilled as a person and a believer.

I Wonder

Bill Lewis – Apostle and Leader

Oh my goodness! What will heaven be like? I do not mean streets of gold and palaces. I mean, what are people going to do? Just suppose you are walking down the street or in the marketplace in the New Jerusalem. You run into someone who you knew in this life. They were a Christian in your church or community and they treated you horribly. They were judgmental, harsh, and defamed you. They called you names, falsely accused you, implied you were a heretic even. What are you going to do?

How about this…you were taught and followed the teachings of your denomination or flavor of Christian lifestyle. You did the best you could, followed the rules around you. Then, in the presence of God, He expounds the truth from His view and meaning. You find that most of your experience on earth was theologically a mess and wrong in many areas. What do you do?

Try this one…you are in the glory of the Lord and you find people there that you were sure were damned. Your theology had them burning in the lake of fire. And as you are searching around you find people missing that you thought should be there. You have searched for a long time and they are not to be found. What do you think then?

Personally, I may be shocked. Surprised. Over the course of my ministry which now is in its 52nd year, I have had to change positions on numerous things that I found were faulty in my theology. It is not easy making a change. You admire the ones who taught you and being a part of a church creates a certain society that places certain social demands on people. Those demands may have nothing to do with godliness, but they form you so you will be accepted.

My journey has removed me from Cessationist Theology. It introduced me to a supernatural way of life in that God was not dead nor inert. I was introduced to the “faith” message. I was exposed to the “discipleship movement.” I experienced several revival movements. I have witnessed the gold, glitter events. I have experienced legalism and license. I have heard grace and salvation expressed more narrowly than the Bible. I have heard and seen rules, dress codes extreme, entertainment, manipulation, offerings that were interminable. I have had preachers, sales people, multilevel marketers all use the name of Jesus to manipulate for their own gain. I have witnessed, not only personally, but of friends as well, being stolen from in the name of Jesus.

These are not the only experiences I have had in regards to my walk with the Lord. To HIS credit, he has spared me much grief. He kept us from falling into a cult. He has kept us from the extremes of the faith movement. He has corrected us and kept us from extremism in several arenas that were so popular and drew crowds.

So, it brings me back to this thought that I began with…What is heaven going to be like? What kind of reconciliation will there be for all the evil Christians with those they used and abused? What will be the outcome of preachers and priests who molested children and even their own daughters? What will be the course for the swindlers?

For me, what did I teach or preach that will not stand the test of being place alongside God’s lessons for us? What will be corrected? What did I never see or understand? What will happen between the believers who quarreled and warred against one another? Some how…Some how, God will work it out. I just wonder…