Flooded With Life and Overflowing

The Bible states that “In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus was not the ‘light.’ The very life, character, and nature of God (the Father) in Him was the light. This is called the ‘life.’ Jesus was not the light – the life in Him was the light.

This theme of ‘life’ is amazingly throughout the New Testament. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He told us that He was the way, the truth, and the life. His gift of grace is eternal life. 

When we are born again this life is deposited within us. Jesus said to the woman at the well of Sycar, “For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!” (John 4:14 The Passion Translation).

Christians have life – the very character and nature of God dwelling inside them. The Holy Spirit was deposited in to you when you asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour and experienced a conversion to Christ. He is the One that breathes life in you (Romans 5:5). And, as believers who live His life and live with hope we should be enthusiastically engaged with life every day. We should be enthusiastic and excited about life and the opportunities each day brings to us. We are to be proactive and embracing life and celebrating all that God has and is doing in and through us. 

When non-believers look at us they should see people who are consistently excited and “up” as we join the Spirit of God in what He is doing that day. We are not victims. We are not overcome by our circumstances. Even on a tough day we need to remember that God is still in control and He does know what He is doing. We need to be ‘alive’ and on fire for God. We need to walk in His life.

But, there is more than just a ‘gushing fountain’ that enables us to move forward with hope and certainty every day. There is a second encounter with God that the Bible calls the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus talked about it on a number of occasions. One of the first times He mentions it is in John 7 when He is speaking at the celebration of a Jewish religious feast day and He says, “All you thirsty ones, come to Me! Come to Me and drink! Believe in Me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your inner most being, just like the Scripture says!” (John 7:37b-38 The Passion Translation referring to Ezekiel 47:1, Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11).

These rivers don’t seem to be flowing as Jesus predicted. Many who are baptized in the Holy Spirit focus on such great gifts as praying in tongues. However, they are not grasping the immensity of what Jesus said here. There is so much ‘life,’ His life in us that it is busting the seams and flowing out to touch all others we come into contact with. There is more than enough for each and every person we speak to each and every day. But, you may ask, why is this not the case? Good question. 

The reference to living waters flowing from within could have been translated as: “rives of living water will flow from His throne within” (see Ezekiel 47) 

And, many believers – even those baptized in the Holy Spirit – do not have Jesus as Lord sitting on the throne of their heart. And they are still functioning in life as if it was up to them and that they are seriously in control of their life. So, Jesus has not been enthroned as Lord. The throne is occupied by ‘self’ and thus this abundant life flowing like multiple rivers is not experienced. 

Jesus came full of life and this life was the light of men. This life in us is meant to be the light for others who are living in spiritual darkness. But, they won’t see the light if we are not daily experiencing and then overflowing with His life that is ours because we have asked Jesus to be God in our life. Jesus said, “Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” (Matthew 5:14 The Passion Translation). In other words, shine so brightly that people will see the difference from far away and it will get brighter as they come closer. 

So, as believers, we are called to celebrate life, His life in us, and to release that life so it can light up the spiritual darkness that surrounds those who don’t know Jesus. We are meant to be flooded with life and overflowing.

Relationships

The other day I went to get the mail. There is a mailbox at the local postal outlet where the majority of our mail goes. This way, when I am on the road travelling, it is not piling up out front for all to know that I am away from home. Never know who might take advantage of my absence. 

It is good to have to go and “get the mail.” It gives me opportunity to chat with those who work there and to build relationships with each and everyone of them. I have had tremendous opportunities to share the love of God in very practical ways with a number of them. We are all called to be ambassadors for the Kingdom in our community and neighbourhood. 

Today, in the mailbox there was an advertisement from a Canadian ministry regarding an American speaker who is coming in October to speak in their church. Interesting. I have never heard of the local church. I looked them up on the internet and they seem like a great local church with some solid leaders. So, I noticed that the return address on the oversized postcard inviting me to attend the event is a Florida mailbox. So, I looked up the speaker and, sure enough, he has mailed me the invitation. 

What is most interesting is that his ministry is one I have not connected to in over 20 years. He was once located in California and lost his local church and Bible school due to his chosen lifestyle. Then he relocated to England and set up shop there. Now he is in Florida leading a local church and a training school. So, my name and address has survived 20 plus years and at least three locations. And, out of the blue I receive an invitation to attend his ministry coming to a Canadian church. No contact over all those years. Literally no connection to him or his ministry. And, I am still on a mailing list because I purchased a set of DVDs several decades ago.

Listen folks – the Kingdom is all about relationships. The local church is only as strong as the relationships that exist within the fellowship. It is not about mailing lists and selling ministry resources and holding big events. Ministry that is changing lives and transforming families and communities are all relationally built. Programs are not working. Conferences don’t change lives or transform people. Even mass crusades are having little permanent effect on society, the culture, or individual lives. God works through personal relationships.

I personally stopped attending conferences years ago. I am not interested in spending money on travel, hotel, meals, and registration … then spending money when offerings are taken and resources are offered. I can invest my time and money much more effectively. I work in a local church where I live and, when on the road, minister to local churches. No large conferences. Just relational connections to local church leadership ministering to their people and helping the local church grow strong and effective. And, because we are relationally connected I return to these churches on a regular basis and connect in-between visits as we work in the Kingdom together.

So, a conference 1,800 Km away with someone I don’t relate to or respect in a church I have never heard of… I think I will pass thank you. I wonder if I can get my name removed from the ancient mailing list being used?  A list that I never asked to be placed on in the first place. 

Insecure Leaders

Recently on a trip here in Western Canada I had the honour of joining a group of pastors and ministry leaders for a meal and some fellowship. It was a good night and one that hopefully encouraged those who took the time to attend and participate. The local church and leaders who hosted the event were amazingly welcoming. The food was excellent. The setting was indoors due to the weather and the numbers attending.

As we arrived there was coffee and an opportunity to get to know the others as they were arriving. I did notice that most of the pastors did not arrive on time. Arriving late can be a subtle indication that they think they are so important that people will wait for them. It is a lack of respect for other people’s time. One couple arrived an hour and a half late. Good that we did not wait for them. Some who said they were attending were ‘no shows’ and did not let the host know plans had changed. Totally inconsiderate. But I digress and have entered the arena of my pet peeves. 

As we finished the meal we were asked to share who we were and what we believed God was doing in His Kingdom and the Church currently. We are talking pastors here. The host did not give us a time limit and so there is an open door here to preach a little. The sharing was good. Several took the opportunity to push an event that they were planning or hosting. I guess every good event needs room for advertising. Some actually did introduce themselves and shared briefly what they believed the Spirit was doing. One man made a tremendous point about how we do things that create camps – a ‘we’ and ‘they’. So, in general, it was okay. And, yes, there was some preaching.

But, and there is almost always a ‘but’ in these things. I did notice that almost everyone who shared talked more about what they were doing and how their ministry was doing instead of what God was doing. It was seriously evident in the sharing. And, it is very common when leaders and pastors get together. It seems that we are out to impress each other regarding what we are doing for God – not what God is doing through us. And, how active and alive our church or ministry really is. I think we are trying to impress each other. I believe it is because most leaders are insecure and so need to “huff and puff” and work to impress people. 

There is this thing that happens when leaders get together. We judge the success of the ministry – and thus the minister – by how many people they have in their church and by how busy they are. So, you will hear leaders talking about their programming, their current special event, and the guest speaker that is coming. If the numbers attending is growing they will certainly mention this. You will hear them tell you how busy they are in ministry and how tired they are at times. Again, as if this is a badge of honour. You seldom or never hear them mention issues they are having in ministry or anything personal regarding how they are doing spiritually in their walk with Jesus.

In general, my observation is that leaders are very insecure. They don’t trust others – especially other leaders. They also find their self-worth in the ministry and not in their relationship with the Lord who called them into the ministry. So, if the church or ministry is growing or doing well they feel good about themselves and have a sense of worth or value. If the ministry is taking a downturn then their sense of worth or value takes a hit. This is so sad. Our sense of worth or personal value should always come out of our relationship with the Lord and not from what we are doing or not doing for Him or with Him. 

I believe it is time for leaders in the Christian Church to renounce this “performance religion” and to build a dynamic and personal relationship with the Lord. It is from this personal relationship – not a ministry relationship – that pastors can become secure in who they are and no longer identify with what they do as the basis for their self-image and self-worth. 

As we shared around the table one leader mentioned that he believed that the Holy Spirit was calling us back to an intimate walk with the Lord. I could not agree more. He was definitely in touch with what God is doing in His Kingdom the His Church today. 

Wounded Leaders

Recently on a trip to the United States I was able to attend the first night of a weekend conference. In a church building that seats maybe 300 half the seats were occupied with pastors and church leaders from that area and some from even 4 or 5 hours away. The night I was blessed to attend we had two separate worship sessions. And, as pastors do, they engaged fully in the worship, worshipping with their whole hearts. 

As I watched and listened I realized how wounded so many of them were. I wasn’t amazed by what the Holy Spirit was showing me. I work with leaders and pastors in a number of countries overseas and across Canada and the United States. I know that leaders are wounded. They are wounded by the people they lead, pray for, and teach. They are wounded by those who call themselves ‘friends’ and often turn on them and become enemies. They are wounded by the traditional structures they work within – denominationalism. And, if they are a more non-traditional version of the church they are often wounded by their church board. They become wounded because of people’s expectations – spoken and unspoken, met and unmet. 

But, here they were raising their hearts and hands to worship the Lord. In their woundedness they sought to worship the Healer. Not to be healed although that would be great and an added bonus I am sure. But, simply because they sincerely and deeply love Him whom they serve. But, I was overwhelmed spiritually and emotionally by the depth and severity of their woundedness. There were likely few there who would admit that they were deeply wounded but there were very few who were not. 

We need to be praying for our Christian leaders – the pastors, the teachers, the elders … and, if you are so blessed to have the fullness of the ministry of Christ in your local church then for the apostle, prophet, and evangelist who are leading and blessing you. Our leaders need healing. And, most times they will not tell you they do. They don’t trust you. 

Because they have been wounded by ‘the Church’ they have a hard time trusting ‘the Church’ – believers. And, so they go along silently hurting and trusting no-one. But unless they admit that they are wounded and need healing it only gets worse until they find themselves either indulging in what is neither healthy or wholesome leading them into sin or they simply walk away from the full-time ministry. Often never to return to ministry or the church. Our leaders are deeply wounded and are often unable to share with those around them because of the lack of trust and the structures within which they operate and work.

This is a sad fact. That the Church and, dare we say it, the Christians, are simply not safe. The Church is not a safe place to be real, open, and honest. Leaders are overwhelmed with unrealistic expectations and demands. They are crushed by betrayals, criticisms, rejection, judgments, and gossip and most often have no one to turn to for help. So, they suffer in silence unable to personally find freedom and wholeness. Not only do they find it dangerous to be real with their own people but because of the design of the system other pastors and leaders are not called upon in time of need. There is a sense of competition between leaders and the leader needs to protect his image and reputation. There is a need to come across that everything is all right and we have it altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, pastors and leaders need to take action to build healthy relationships with two or three people who can be their support team and accountability partners. These people need to be healthy themselves. They need to be trustworthy. And, they need to treat the leader with dignity and respect. It will take time to build these healthy relationships but they are essential to bringing health back to the leadership of the Church. And, then, with healthy leaders, we can begin to restore health and vitality to the local church as well. 

It is time for wounded leaders to make time to care for their own health and wellbeing. It is time to build healthy and open relationships with others who can support and encourage them. True friends. And, it is time to return to the pattern of the ministry of Jesus where people were loved unconditionally, accepted as they were, and forgiven if and when needed.

If you are a leader, I commend you for sacrificially helping those that you lead. But, first priority should be to become healthy and whole yourself so that you can, once again, continue to lead in the long term and be more effective.  It takes time. You will need to be intentional as it won’t happen by accident. And, you will need to be real and open. It will be risky but it is worth it. 

 

Careful What You Believe

Do you read Facebook posts from Christians? I don’t. I have recently removed myself from almost everyone’s newsfeed. Why? Thanks for asking! Because most of what they post is totally irrelevant to life – their life, my life, anyone’s life. They post random thoughts which usually prove how little and how seldom they really do think. And, who really cares what their opinion is on the current things floating through cyberspace? A lot of postings are mindless as well as pointless.

And then you have the Christians who post Scripture passages. As if anyone is going to read them or really cares. If a non-believer reads them they are turned off totally because they don’t like being preached at and spoken down to. If a believer sees them they don’t even glance at them because they either know the verses or simply don’t care. Or, like me, think posting Bible verses is pointless. If you don’t have an in-depth personal relationship with a person then don’t try to influence their thinking by quoting the Bible. And, Facebook connections are not real relationships with real people. 

On a recent trip to another area of Canada to minister I was confronted, once again, by people who are believing some of the oddest things. One young man, a vocal believer, was quoting from a non-Christian series of books written by a very popular motivational speaker whose books and seminars tell you to dream about who you want to be and what you want to have and then confess your dream into reality. He promises success and prosperity for those who do. Of course, he is succeeding and is seriously wealthy. He is not a believer. And, a lot of what he teaches is New Age and not in the least biblically based. But, he is believable and appears to be living the dream so many believers want to live. This young believer referenced him several times. 

Be careful what you believe. Even Christian preachers are not always forthright and honest. And, certainly are not always biblically accurate and correct in their teachings. They are many who are ear-ticklers. Paul warned Timothy, his disciple, that in the last days many would be looking for teachers who tickle their ears. In other words, tell them what they want to hear. Teaching from and to the soul – the mind, will, emotions. Yet Jesus said that His Word was spirit and truth – not soul and falsehoods. And, Jesus warned of false teachers and prophets.

I was sitting in a major sharing time with 30 or so believers. And, some of of what was shared was edging towards New Age. Some even crossed the line. Several shared what was ‘prophetic’ in name only and the prophecies did not glorify Jesus or draw attention to Him as the prophetic is suppose to do. Just because someone says they are a prophet and posts prophetic words on the internet does not mean they are or that their words are accurate. Some shared what they believed the Lord was saying to them over the past week. Again, really? But, it seems we hear what we want to hear and regretfully it seldom is what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Careful what you listen to and read. Careful what you believe. To discern truth from error you have to know the truth. There is no such gift as ‘discernment.’ There is the Discerning of Spirits – a gift of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. But, that is not the same as discernment. Discernment – recognizing falsehood and lies – comes only by seriously knowing the truth. And, Jesus came full of truth (John 1:14) so get to know Him. He said the was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So, come to Him, know Him, hear His heart. And, most importantly, know His Word, the Bible. Let it speak to you. Read it without your religious glasses on. And, don’t read it out of your needs and wants – read it from a heart hungry for whatever God wants to speak to you. 

I am amazed at what people truly believe to be the truth. I am astonished at what believers are building their lives on – certainly not the rock, looks more like sand. I am astonished at who Christian listen to and read thus believing what they are hearing and seeing. I am saddened that most believers are really not rooted and grounded in the Truth – Jesus and His Word, the Bible. 

So, I have said all that to say, “Please be careful what you believe.” A lot depends on it now and into the days ahead. Test everything you hear to God’s Word. Not what you think the Word says but what it really does say. Don’t spiritualize the Word. God said what He meant and means what He said. Just read and believe and apply. What you think you hear can be so subjective. God’s Word is objective truth waiting to be received and applied to your life. So test everything you think God is speaking to what He has already spoken.

So, careful what you believe. 

It’s a Rainy Day and a Monday

It is a Monday morning and I have just returned from 5 days on the road. Ministering is something I still enjoy even after 40+ years of being involved in it daily. Meeting with people, discipling young believers, mentoring leaders, fellowshipping with pastors, and teaching God’s Word. Always amazing. 

But, I come home tired. I spend many hours each day talking with people, building relationships, and ministering to those who are moving forward on their journey with Jesus. Because I live in people’s homes and not in hotels I then spend time wth those who are so kind as to open their homes and their hearts to me. So, each day is a full day. Then there is the travel to and from … this current trip was 1300 Km of driving… often it is planes and trains. Sometimes it involves jet lag. Not this time.

So, I woke up this morning and it is a cool fall day in Western Canada and it is lightly raining. And, as I began to, once again, fit in to a daily routine at home which involves time in my study, time in my office, time with family members, and the various messages and things that are needed to keep a household and a ministry together I am taking a few hours to sit, contemplate, and reconnect with my personal life which is often put on hold when travelling and involved in trans-local ministry.

I am sitting with my Bible and a blanket over my knees. My best friend is sitting in the next chair under his blanket (his name is Cuddles, he is a Bishon, and the best dog anyone could wish for). And, I am reading the words of Jesus.

It is interesting how God can speak to you when you are open to hearing His voice. And, He does speak to me clearly through His Word daily as I spend time with Him. But, this morning the Holy Spirit brought back to mind a song from the 1960’s. Yes, I am that old and then some. It is by The Carpenters. The lyrics go like this…

Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old

Sometimes I’d like to quit

Nothin’ ever seems to fit

Hangin’ around

Nothin’ to do but frown

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I’ve got they used to call the blues

Nothin’ is really wrong

Feelin’ like I don’t belong

Walkin’ around

Some kind of lonely clown

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you

Nice to know somebody loves me

Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do

Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

I know. Not very spiritual. But, the words spoke to me and to how I am feeling as I recover from almost a week on the road and super involvement with people and ministry opportunities. I am feeling ‘mellow’ and quiet. Lonely. Empty. Maybe even a little overwhelmed by all that has just happened as I travelled. In need of something, Someone. This is not a new feeling so I relate to the words of the song. Especially the last few lines… read them again.

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you

Nice to know somebody loves me

Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do

Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

So, I have run to the One who loves me. The One who never gives up on me. The One who refreshes me after a week of give, give, give. The One who accepts me as I am and loves me unconditionally. God’s Word says that there are “times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord” and I can assure you that this is very true. 

So, it is a rainy day and a Monday and I am sitting next to my best friend Jesus and my second best friend Cuddles knowing that, to quote an old hymn, “it is well with my soul.”

So, just so you know…

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you

Nice to know somebody loves me

Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do

Run and find the one who loves me (the one who loves me)

Truly, it is the only thing to do … “Run and find the one who loves me.” His Name is Jesus!

Morning Coffee 

I am drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee in an airport. It is 5:00a and I have been on the road since 3:00a. It is quiet in the airport although I am always surprised at how many people there really are working towards catching a flight to who knows where. I stood in line at Starbucks waiting for them to open so I could have my first cup of coffee for the day. Hotel coffee does not count as the first cup or any cup for that matter.

Had a great ride in to the airport. Last night I met a believer whose name is Steve. He was our connection at a conference I was attending. And, he was my ride to the airport. What a terrific brother in the Lord. It was an amazing time of sharing our testimonies about how and when we were saved by the Lord and then chatting about what He is doing in our lives today as we continue to serve Him. Mutual sharing back and forth … so good, so very good.

It is always amazing to meet people in another nation – and I do work in a number of nations – who have had amazing encounters with the Lord. People who are true disciples of Jesus and are still growing and maturing becoming more and more like the One whom they follow. Not only have they had an initial encounter but they continue to have experiences with the Lord on a regular basis. And, so they are excited about the Lord and they have lots to share that is ‘fresh manna’ and so powerful to hear.

We talked and shared the whole way into the city – an hour of driving in the dark with little to no traffic. Times goes so quickly when sharing real fellowship and testifying to what the Lord is currently doing in our lives. It made me think about how amazing heaven will be as all of us will have so many stories to share that will glorify and honour the Lord as we spend eternity with Him. Our lives now, then, and forever should, as believers, point to Jesus and bring Him glory and honour. 

It was a great time and made the drive into the city go much faster than it usually does. We were not talking ‘church.’ We were talking Jesus. We were not discussing church issues. We were talking Jesus. We were not swapping medical histories and naming all the drugs we take. We were talking Jesus. We were not sharing things that are heavy on our hearts. We were sharing Jesus. We were not sharing the difficulties and circumstances that we are facing. We were talking Jesus.

It is so refreshing to have the opportunity to talk with another serious believer and follower of Jesus and focus our whole conversation on Jesus. Jesus is so amazing and we should never run out of things to share about how amazing and awesome He really is in our lives.

Wisdom

Had lunch today with two amazing men of God. Two apostles. Totally different from each other in personality, manner of ministering, giftings, and experiences. But, as I sat with them discussing the work of the Kingdom and, in specific, the church I am here working with, it was amazing to see the wisdom that the Holy Spirit was bring out of the three of us. The discussion was great, the insights bountiful, and the wisdom was definitely godly. 

The Bible states, “There is wisdom in the multitude of counsellors.” I agree. So, three apostles discussing the church that we oversee as a team seeking wisdom. Three men in spiritual oversight over a local congregation that is in a season of transition and replanting looking for direction. It was so good to fellowship with these men and share our hearts as well as our insights with each other.

As we were leaving the restaurant and paying the bill several of us felt that we needed to encourage the other one. And, so we sat outside the restaurant for another 20 minutes asking our brother specifically how he was doing and how his wife was making it through all the changes and challenges. He shared openly and honestly and we were able to pray for him and encourage him. He knew afterwards that he was not standing alone and not facing the challenges by himself. Again, as the scripts state, “It is so good when the brothers dwell together in unity; there the Lord commands a blessing.”

It was a good few hours. We were about our Father’s business and we worked as a team in shedding new light on an ongoing situation. We pooled our understanding of the Kingdom and the current move of the Holy Spirit. We shared from our experiences as each of us have been in ministry over 40 years and have certainly seen a lot and learned a lot. We laughed and we cried. And, God’s plan and purpose began to be seen and we understood the next few steps that we needed to take as overseers of the local church we were talking about.

God gave us wisdom in a very difficult situation and allowed us to focus on the solutions and not just the problems. As a mentor of mine once taught, “anyone can see the problem; don’t come and just tell me the problem, come with two or three solutions.” So, we were seeking the solutions God has for the situations we were and are facing. And, God gave us His wisdom because we sincerely and earnestly asked for it. And, because we were seeking Him together in unity and with one accord He certainly poured out His blessing and made a way where they was no way.

Wisdom – godly wisdom – is a gift of the Lord who seek Him and ask for His insight and understanding. And, we all need wisdom.

Fellowship?

Had a great morning yesterday teaching at a local church in Ohio, USA. The worship was great, the spiritual atmosphere was terrific, the offering was taken up after a young person spoke and she did such a terrific job you just want her to keep going. She was electric, alive, and believed what she was sharing. The teaching was well received. I believe God was honoured. Then we had a fellowship lunch. I use the word “fellowship” lightly. 

I sat with a young man and his family (mom, wife, two kids) and asked him about his journey with Jesus and his connection to the church. Everyone joined in and it was amazing. It was true fellowship because we were talking about Jesus and how amazing He is and all that He has accomplished for us, in us, with us, through us. There were a few side conversations with those around us as well. All good. Then, as the kids got restless and the food had disappeared from the plates they got up to take care of the young ones. I sat. I simply sat. No one approached me, those beside me did not begin conversations. I sat, just sat. I have been working with this church for 8 years. But, if I had been a stranger, a first-time visitor, I would not have returned.

And, I listened to the conversations going on across the table and on both sides of me. They were talking about hair styles and where best to get hair products. And, what is the current trend in hair styles and colours. Not very edifying and certainly not fellowship. More like gossip and “idle words, non-productive words” which Jesus reminds us will be judged. So, I got up and walked to the front to pick up my Bible, Pepsi Zero, and iPhone. 

At that point I was approached by a person who has been attending for years and actually plays a major “helps” role in the Sunday service. She asked if I had a minute to talk. I did. Her first concern – the fact that people don’t spend time talking to each other very often and, when they do, they don’t talk about Jesus. I was listening. I was also agreeing. It had been my experience earlier in the day. And, sad to say, my experience almost everywhere that I go regardless of the nation or the culture.

When Christians gather our focus should be Jesus and what He has done in our lives and what He is currently accomplishing, changing, adjusting, working on in us. True fellowship is not just believers talking about anything and everything. True fellowship is founded in our basic fellowship with the Holy Spirit as we share that connection with Him with other believers. And, the Holy Spirit always glorifies Jesus and draws our attention to what it is Jesus is currently doing in our lives. So, If we are experiencing true Christian fellowship we are all listening to and following the lead of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and, as we share with one another, our words and our focus will be Jesus.

In my life I have a Christian brother as a close, personal friend. He is also my accountability partner. We just spent three weeks together on holidays camping and kayaking. Each day we spent considerable time walking and talking. Each evening around the campfire we would sit and chat. Our focus was always the journey we are both on with Jesus. It was true, in-depth fellowship that glorified God and honoured what He is accomplishing in each of our lives and in our friendship together. The focus was Jesus and where we are at in our journey with Him and how He is working in our lives changing and adjusting things. And, although others may think our focus was us – it was only so indirectly. The big picture was that we shared what the Lord was doing currently in each of our lives and in our friendship and the relationship we share. That is true biblical fellowship.

Often we call our time with other believers “fellowship.” When really it is simply talking. Often it is sharing gossip and pulling others down. The topic for more senior type people is often their medical condition and the prescriptions they are taking. For men it is sports. For many it is the latest TMZ or People Magazine buzz on Hollywood stars and the latest movies. But, it really is not fellowship unless somewhere and somehow people speak about Jesus and glorify God in the conversation.

Just a thought – but a decently deep and possibly life-changing thought.

Early Morning Coffee

I am in the hills of Ohio ministering and enjoying the beauty of nature. Out front where I drink an early morning coffee I see the rolling hills and the forest into which is nestled a few homes that in the summer cannot be seen because of the trees. It is certainly a beautiful area and one that I never tire of seeing and experiencing. Early in the morning the coffee is hot, smells great, tastes even better. The birds are all out singing and the squirrels and wild turkeys are scurrying about finding their morning meal. Did I mention the flowers? 

Most people are still asleep. And, this is good. I am looking for quiet during an early start of the day to reflect about life and ministry. I am looking for solitude to contemplate, read, and journal about the life journey that I am on. I am looking to grasp a wider Kingdom perspective as I sit, relax, enjoy the sights and sounds… uninterrupted by other humans for a few brief moments. 

It is here that I recharge. I sense God’s presence in a very real and tangible way. I experience His peace in both my head and my heart. My head is the hardest because my mind is always thinking, analyzing, and sorting. I sense and experience His power as I pray through some things that are fresh on my heart and need my attention today as I attend meetings and spend time with my host who leads the church here that I work with.

Being outside and alone in nature is refreshing. It is a time of solitude when I can connect with the Creator in ways that are not as easy when the weather is colder and the sun rises later in the morning and sets before the evening meal. The early sunrises and late sunsets allow for more time to connect with the God whom we worship and serve. Please note that I said that I am using the time to connect and not reconnect. This is because a believer should never disconnect in their relationship with the Lord and Giver of life. Thus if we don’t disconnect then we don’t have the need to reconnect. But we can always go deeper in our relational connection.

I use the summer to spend extra time in the early morning when the sun is rising and in the early evening when the sun is setting – time to spend deepening my relationship with the Lord. This means taking time to be still and know that He is truly God as the Psalmist stated so long ago. This means making sure I guard this time to be alone with Him – solitude. After all, even Jesus frequently went away by Himself to spend time in fellowship with the Father. It means being silent in His presence allowing Him to speak to me in my spirit. In this way I am sharpening my listening skills and taking the time to really hear Him speak to me about me and about us – His relationship with me.

And, in these special times in this slower season it is good to grow in my fellowship with the Holy Spirit as He is the One who is here to guide and direct me in all aspects of my life and ministry (2 Corinthians 13:14). So, I spend time focusing on my relationship with Him as I learn to be more sensitive to His voice, His leading, and His guidance in my life.

Early morning coffee – and an evening watching the sun set as I drink a mid-evening cup of decaf – during the slower summer season. A real blessing that we can all take advantage of and be thankful for.