What Is Changing In Your Life?

Many years ago I wrote all my teachings longhand. Even the notes for my research were done by hand, writing pages and pages of insights and information. Not only did I hand write everything I did – I did it with a fountain pen. Yes, a fountain pen. I still write outlines and grab the flow of a teaching by hand writing things. But now I use a wonderful ballpoint pen that I purchase from the Dollar Store and pay $2.50 for 12. But, everything else – the research notes, the quotes, the writing of the full text of the teaching – it is all done on a small keyboard and a large desktop iMac or, when travelling, a MacBook Air or an iPad. Things have changed.

Do I still have a fountain pen and a bottle of ink. Of course, it is in the bottom lefthand drawer of the desk in my study. Do I use it, nope! Things have changed and I have much better and more effective tools to do what I have been called to do. 

As a side note: I have many volumes of various commentaries on the Bible. Shelves full of them actually. Do I use them? No! The same series are now available on line and downloadable for a price. And, then I can find exactly what I want by using the search engine. And, copy-paste is much faster than having to handwrite or type what I found and want to use. Things have changed. Nothing wrong with the commentaries – but they are now available in a new format. More effective and more efficient. 

So, in our walk with the Lord things should be changing as well. As a mentor once taught me: “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” In other words, if you do things a certain way you will get certain results. And, sometimes there is a better way or even just a different way to do something that will change the results you are getting or, at least, give you the same results with much less effort. 

Example: If you are reading three chapters of the Bible every day. You have this discipline that allows you to read through the Bible in a year. That’s good if … and it is a big if. If your system and daily discipline is helping you to know the Author of the Bible and to become more and more like Jesus then don’t change anything. But, if you are simply reading the Scriptures in a disciplined manner for the sake of reading them and accomplishing some reading plan. Well, it is time to change. What worked once is no longer working. Times are a changing. Try a new version, try an online Bible, an audio Bible… 

Reading the Bible regularly is not a rule – it is a tool. It is not a rule that needs to be obeyed and fulfilled. It is a tool through which you come to know the Author – His character, His heart, His plans and purposes and, as a result, you grasp what is His heart for you and what He thinks about you. If the tool isn’t working – switch tools … new version, new format. 

Now, I research and write from online Bibles and find the variety of translations and research material amazing. But, I still sit and read a paper copy – with a leather cover. I suppose that makes me old fashion. But, when it comes to my personal walk with the Lord I prefer a Bible in my hands and not a computer screen. But, the same for books – I prefer a copy in my hands to a screen. Do, I have ebooks? Yes. And, I read them when travelling as they weigh so much less than having to pack and drag paper books through airports around the world. Things are changing. Take advantage of the changes.

But, my point: The world is changing and the way we relate to the Lord and His Word should be changing as well. There is so much more available to help us and encourage us in our relationship with Him and our knowledge of His will, His plans, and His purpose. And, sometimes changing things for the sake of changing things is good. It adds a new perspective, new life, a new dynamic and we then find ourselves kicked out of our comfortable rut and actually growing and developing once again.

A Fountain of Understanding

I am amazed at God’s Word. I have been reading it for well over 5 decades and still, every time I sit down to read, it still speaks to me. In fact, it does more than speak to me. It encourages me, it strengthens me, it teaches me, and leads and guides me. Yes, it answers questions. Yes, it gives me greater insight into the God whom we worship and serve. Yes it transforms the way I think. It even convicts at times. 

As I switched versions that I am reading several months back it is speaking even louder. The reason – old truths and understanding expressed in fresh and vibrant new ways. Recently in Proverbs I hit another one of those fresh insights. 

Proverbs 2:6 ESV (my old version) reads, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…”

The Passion Translation renders this as: “Wisdom is a gift from a generous God,

and every word he speaks is full of revelation and becomes a fountain of understanding within you.”

Now, that speaks to me. Every word that God speaks to us – in prayer time, through a teaching, in the written word – is “full of revelation.” If we will take the time to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us personally through the Word we received, we will receive revelation and insight. We will have fresh insight into our lives and maybe even one specific aspect of our life. We will sense the presence and power of God moving in and through the Word as the revelation of truth and new insights become real and are integrated into what we already knew and believed.

This revelation – God speaking to us through ‘a Word’ is something many don’t wait for. This revelation is not revealed to those who rush read their way through so many chapters a day to fulfill some type of self-imposed religious standard or rule. When we take the time to sit quietly in His presence, being still both on the inside and outside, then the revelation will come. You will see old truths in a new light. You will receive insight into a current situation, doubt, or question. You will understand the will of God a little clearer. You will sense the peace of God invade and take up residence in your heart. You will begin to think more clearly as you grab hold of the ‘mind of Christ.’

Once the revelation is received and integrated into what you already know and understand then it adds greater depth and “understanding within you.” This is powerful. Pause for a minute and think about that. When you receive a revelation and integrate it into what you already know and understand, it becomes “a fountain of understanding” with the water splashing over all aspects of your life – physical, emotional. mental. relational, spiritual. It is not simply another piece of information – it has been stirred into everything that was already there and thus adds new insights and understanding to every aspect of your life. New flavour. New life. New enthusiasm. A new dynamic that was not there before the revelation was received.  The revelation rises up big within you allowing you to see things the way God sees things. 

So you have fresh insights and understanding along with increased wisdom as you move forward in life. But, all of this only happens when you understand and obey “Be still and know that I am God” as then you rest in His presence and revelation can be received.

Some Won’t Believe

I am always amazed when I read the Gospel of Matthew. Right near the end of the gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears once again to His disciples. This time they are on the mountain and Jesus is about to ascend into heaven. Mathew records the reaction of the disciples when Jesus appears to them…

Matthew 28:17 “The moment they saw him, they worshipped Him, but some still had lingering doubts.”   (The Passion Translation)

Hard to believe that after numerous appearances to all of them, some of them, and even a few one-on-one, some could still be struggling with doubts. 

But, it should not surprise me, I suppose, as Jesus even told us this would be the case. John records the words of Jesus…

“The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.”        (The Passion Translation)

Here Jesus apparently is prophesying what Matthew would later record. That some of those who heard the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom and even followed Jesus – seeing Him raised from the dead – would simply never come to fully believe and give Him their complete obedience and allegiance. Doubt would defeat them.

Well, the same is still true today – some are not fully convinced that they should give Him 110% holding nothing back. There are many who say they believe in Jesus. However, they don’t live like they do. They are not applying God’s Word to their life style – their words, actions, attitude. They are not obeying the Scriptures. Remember, Jesus said, “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” So, although they confess to follow Jesus and that they believe in Him, it would seem that they don’t. After all, when it comes to the Scriptures, you only believe what you have applied to your life. It is always much more than mental assent – it is heart transformation leading to total obedience. “But some doubted.” 

Jesus says that, in Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who hears my teaching and applies to the his life…”

Application is the key. Living what you say you believe … And, if you don’t, maybe you don’t really believe. Some won’t really believe. Jesus prophesied it. They will know God’s Word in their mind but not be applying it or living it from their hearts. They will doubt and allow those doubts to sidetrack them.

I recently spoke with a graduate engineer and we got around to talking about the age of the earth. His area of engineering is the study of the earth’s surface. So, his scientific approach and his university education taught him that the earth is millions if not billions of years old. And, that seed of doubt planted has sidetracked him and moved him out of the faith. “And some doubted.”

And, there are some who are apparently walking in the power of the Spirit. They are healing people, casting out demons, and even prophesying in the Name of Jesus. Yet, they too are not true followers and have missed the point. Jesus says of them…

Matthew 7:21-23 ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the realm of heaven’s kingdom. It is only those who persist in doing the will of my heavenly Father. On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’”

They were doing what they wanted and not the will of the Father. So, maybe they were born again and initially followed Jesus but somewhere things took a left turn and they began to believe in themselves and their own ministry – leaving God’s ministry and entering their own – following their own agenda and not God’s will. They doubted that God knew best. 

Jesus says, that on the last days they too will be banished from His Kingdom. They too doubted God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s way. Instead they did what they thought was right and did it in the way they thought was best. And God’s ways are much higher than our ways. 

So, we are still in decision time. We can choose to believe in the resurrected Jesus, His will, His way, His love, His Kingdom, and His purpose of seeking and saving the lost. And follow Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Or, we can choose to allow doubt to enter in and derail us from walking in God’s perfect will for our lives (Romans 12:1-2). 

Our choice – and it is a daily decision. 

Seized With Power

The early Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost when those gathered together were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In Samaria (Acts 8) Philip brings people into the born again experience and then a few days later apostles from Jerusalem travel to Samaria and we see the Holy Spirit decent upon the new believers and they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The same experience is noted in Acts 10 with Peter while he was preaching to Cornelius and his household. 

The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a powerful part of the life of the early Church. An essential part. Today, it is given lip service, people pray in tongues, and we call ourselves Spirit-filled believers. Well, not really. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is much more than the gift of a private prayer language. 

First is a fulfillment of a promise that our heavenly Father made to His people (the gathered ones) many centuries before. Jesus told His disciples:

Luke 24:49 “And I will send the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you.” 

(The Passion Translation)

The word “promise” here – the Aramaic reads “the kingdom” or “rule.” In other words, the Father’s promise would be the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in them and empower them (come upon them) as a sign that the Kingdom is now established upon the earth and that His rule is now active in the lives of the believers. So much more than speaking in tongues. 

Jesus comments again about the importance of the experience and encounter.

Acts 1:5 “John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”     (The Passion Translation) 

Again, in the Aramaic, it implies that the disciples would be the ones who would do the baptizing: “John baptized you in water, but you will baptize [others] in the Holy Spirit.”

And, as we are aware, the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not that we could speak in tongues and have a private prayer language – as important as that might be. The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to empower the believer to move in the supernatural power that raised Jesus from the dead and, in so doing, to give witness to non-believers that Jesus is alive and the Saviour.

Acts 1:8 “But I promise you this – the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers…”      (The Passion Translation)

Again, in Aramaic the phrase “seized with power” could be translated “you will seize power. This, of course, changes the whole picture giving us the task of seizing and not just passively receiving. We have to desire it, reach for it, receive it, and then use it.

The early Church seized this power and were seized by it. Their emphasis was not speaking in or praying in tongues. In fact, the only main reference to tongues being a private prayer language is in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul the apostle mentions it. Tongues as a way for God to communicate with us (connected to the interpretation of tongues) is mentioned more often than a private prayer language. 

Regretfully today we have majored on the ‘speaking in tongues’ both as a sign that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and as a major benefit of the baptism. I believe that the main focus of the Baptism is to empower us to witness – not to empower us the talk to the heavenly Father as we can do that, in His presence, in our own natural language any time we want to. It is time to emphasize the biblical reason for the Baptism – not tongues, but witnessing and fully proclaiming the Gospel. It is time to walk in the power and see miracles, signs, and wonders backing up the sharing of the gospel.

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

A Revelation of the Power of God

I am of the opinion that believers today need a fresh and new revelation of the power of God. The power that raised Jesus from the dead. The power that brought each one of us from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son Jesus. The power that lives in us because we are born again. The power that enables and empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus and move in supernatural gifts because we have received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

We acknowledge all of the above because we have read about it. We hear it preached. We have a limited understanding of all that it means if it is really true – and it is. But, I don’t think most believers have truly grasped what all of this means to us personally and to the Church that Jesus is building. It is as if we acknowledge it and then simply put it to one side. We believe it but brush it off. We even celebrate it when we come together as believers but place it on a back burner when facing our everyday life among the non-believers.

In 2 Timothy Paul is writing to a young spiritual son and apostle named Timothy whom he has been discipling and mentoring  – fathering – and he writes: “…overcome every evil by the revelation of the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8b The Passion Translation).

I believe every born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit believer needs a fresh “revelation of the power of God.” It may be a refreshing of what they have already experienced and know or it may be their first true encounter with the power of the Spirit since their salvation. Either way, every believer needs to be praying for “the revelation of the power of God.” 

Every believer in their own life have this power to “overcome every evil.” But, by their lifestyle and even their own admission they are not overcomers. They are struggling with their faith. They are fighting temptations and often losing. They are living at the same moral levels as most of their non-believing friends and neighbours, watching the same television programs, listening to the same music, and even viewing the same pornography. 

I was recently at an event where a believer and I were in conversation together. He drew my attention to one of his grandchildren. This young man was sitting near where we were standing. This proud grandfather was telling me how on fire for Jesus this young man was. Well, as the night went on this young man continued to drink and then drink some more until he was no longer in control of his faculties. And, his conversation was anything but becoming of a believer – especially one on fire for God. And, he was not the only believer not “overcoming every evil by the revelation of the power of God.”

Every one of us needs a fresh revelation and encounter with the “power of God” on a daily basis. It would serve as a reminder that we can overcome all temptations and every evil we may face during the day. It will remind us in a powerful way (no pun intended) that God is still God and He is most certainly still in control. And, it will allow us to minister to others and see them set free and come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Without a revelation of the power of God and walking in that revelation we are simply followers of another religion. 

TGIF

I know that it is not Friday… but I just needed to share this thought with you. One of my all-time favourite authors and speaker is deeply involved in teaching in the social work field. Her name is Brene Brown. Her Ted Talk on vulnerability is amazing and one of the top 5 Ted Talks of all time. Her six books are life-changing. She has a new Netflix production which I have not seen yet but plan to take time to watch it next week. She has tremendous insights that help heal the heart and set the soul free of shame, rejection, expectations, and pain just to name a few. 

Recently she has restarted a Friday blog which had been discontinued some time ago. It is entitled TGIF. The letters don’t stand for “Thank God It’s Friday” or “Thank Goodness I’m Fabulous.” They stand for: Trust – Gratitude – Inspiration – Fun.

So, on Friday you are to reflect on the past work week and think about what and who you have trusted; something or someone that you are thankful for and should be expressing your gratitude for; something or someone who inspired you during the past week; and then the fun things you did during the week. You reflect on Trust – Gratitude – Inspiration – Fun.

Let me repost what she chose as her four things …

For my first TGIF back in the saddle:

I’m TRUSTING that it’s ok to just keep doing the next right thing – even when the long-term plan isn’t quite clear. Enough right things will get me where I need to go.

I’m deeply GRATEFUL for the support around The Call to Courage Netflix special. It’s felt equal parts exciting/scary and brave/vulnerable. Researcher, heal thyself.

I’m INSPIRED by the women I sat across from over the last month. Abby Wambach for the launch of her new book, Wolfpack, Laverne Cox at the Netflix launch in Los Angeles, Melinda Gates for the launch of her new book, Moment of Lift, and Laura Mayes at one of my favorite conferences, Mom 2.0.

What’s FUN? 

I come from a long line of product evangelists. My grandmother used to hold up a can of beans or a shortbread cookie and basically do a commercial about why it was the very best (including the aisle location at your neighbourhood Piggly Wiggly). Now it’s my turn!

When it comes to suitcases, hair spray, or sparkling water, I have strong opinions. So it was a fun assignment to put together a round-up for The Strategist’s “What I Can’t Live Without” column.

She concludes with…

What are you trusting, grateful for, inspired by, and doing for fun? Post it with some pics on social and tag us #TGIFpractice.

If you want to sign up for next week’s TGIF newsletter, subscribe here.

You do what you want with the idea. I am making a serious decision to do a personal TGIF every week. I am not planning to hashtag it or even post it on my own blog other than on a special occasion. I just plan to take a few moments at the end of each work week and reflect on the past seven days…. And do my own TGIF.

Enthusiasm and Confidence

I have noticed something recently. Not a new revelation but a revisit of an older one that is being renewed in my heart at the moment. A bit of background: I have slowed down a bit recently. It has been a conscious decision to work a little less and enjoy the stage of life I am in a little more. Less rushing, less travel, less ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously enjoy what I do in my ministry but a recent prophetic word over my life has spoken strongly to me that this is the third and last season of my life. And, that I was to do new things in a new way. So, I wondered space to do that – emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical space in my active life. 

So, as a result, I am taking a little more time to step back and reflect on my life, my ministry, the Church, the current political and social situation we see unfolding all around us, and what it is God is doing right now in all of the above. And, a side benefit is that I am spending more time with Jesus and in the Word of God deepening my connections with both. 

I am not one to live on the surface. Never have been. I don’t handle surface conversations known as small talk. I don’t appreciate relationships that don’t have any depth or substance to them. I look for churches that are ‘going deep and that want meaning and purpose in all that they do. It has always been this way in my personal relationship with the Lord and with His Word as well. I want to go deep and be very transparent, vulnerable, open, and humble before them. I don’t do plastic.

During some reflection recently I realized that when my relationship with Jesus and His Word are growing and deepening I have greater enthusiasm regarding life and ministry. If I have had a bit of a dry season in the Word – and it does happen – then my enthusiasm for the Lord, for ministry, for life seems to dribble away. Definitely suffers and diminishes. But, when I am focused on Him and His Word and digging deeper – on purpose avoiding surface situations and relationships – then my enthusiasm grows and becomes much stronger impacting all aspects of my life.

And, recently I have realized that this enthusiasm is the foundation for an increased confidence in the ministry the Lord gave to me many decades ago. I had not made that connection before. But, I do feel more confident in what the Lord has called me to do. It is growing as the changes the Lord prophesied over my life begin to grab hold in my heart and bear fruit in my life and ministry. I feel strong as I face the challenges and changes He has spoken about to me a number of times since October, 2015. I feel confident. 

Then as I was writing a blog a few days ago I was working in Romans 15:18-19 and happened to glance back at verse 17. It reads in the ESV “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” No big deal. 

But, I am currently reading The Passion Translation which is amazing in its accuracy to the original language and its insights into that language. I have been gainly tremendous insights as I read this new version – partly because the verses sound different and it is not the same old, same old. And, partly because of the insights both in the way the verses are translated and expressed and footnotes as the translator dug into the original language and found new shades of meaning and new ways that original language could have been translated. 

So Romans 15:17 reads… “Now then, it is through my union with Jesus Christ, that I enjoy an enthusiasm and confidence in my ministry for God.” (The Passion Translation)

There it is – linking enthusiasm to confidence. And both definitely linked to the depth of my union and relationship with Jesus. Just what I have been going through and what I have been discovering as I have stepped back and slowed down a bit. I am always amazed when the Word speaks like that. I shouldn’t be because I know that God’s Word is alive and active. But, I am surprised when these fresh revelations come.

Hebrews 4:12 “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts” (The Passion Translation). 

So, I am approaching a new season of new ministry being accomplished in new ways with enthusiasm and confidence. 

A Drink Becomes a River

Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. It is noon in the Middle East. The story is found in John, Chapter 4. The conversation starts with talking about physical water and quenching one’s thirst from the noon day sun that was beating down. Jesus quickly turns the conversation to spiritual water – a life-giving spiritual drink.

John 4:13-14 “If you drink from Jacob’s well you’ll be thirsty again and again, but if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never thirst again and will be forever satisfied! 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!”

This is a direct reference to Isaiah’s comment:

Isaiah 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

So Jesus is speaking of a well or a fountain that supplies you with spiritual water so that you will never thirst again. You are born again (saved – salvation) and thus have God’s life-giving Holy Spirit in your spirit and He will satisfy your thirst for meaning, purpose, direction, guidance, acceptance, and forgiveness and lead you into your divine destiny. You will have abundant life and be extremely fulfilled as your walk with Him in God’s perfect will for your life.

But the drink can become a river so others can drink from it and be refreshed, encouraged, and receive eternal life, endless life. We find this mentioned in John, Chapter seven…

John 7:37-39a “Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds—“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 innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive…”

Once a person drinks of the waters of the well (fountain) of salvation and is saved they receive so much from the Lord on a daily basis that they will not thirst for meaning and purpose – the reason and purpose of life – ever again. But, with the second encounter with the Holy Spirit – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 1:8) – the drink becomes a river and many can drink from this inner river flowing out from you. And, as they find answers for their questions and drink deeply they will receive living water – the fountain or well… and the cycle begins again. This new convert needs to then be told of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit so that their drink can also turn into a river and others will come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and be refreshed. 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is so important today. With this experience and encounter with the Holy Spirit you then have the power of God working through you to touch others with the “river.” The Baptism is important and absolutely essential for sharing that “drink” with others. 

So many believers have the well or fountain but never receive the river. So, in their life the drink never becomes a river. And, they seldom see miracles, signs, and wonders or people delivered from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of light. They can share the knowledge of the Gospel but cannot demonstrate that it is true. So, they help people understand the message of the Gospel in their heads but their hearts are left in the same state they were in before coming to understand the message. There is no conviction of the Spirit resulting in true repentance and forgiveness. They say a sinner’s prayer because they understand but without repentance there is no salvation. But, with the river flowing people will be convicted of their sins and their hearts will be transformed while their hearts are being informed. And, they will then taste of the real water – they will have a drink. 

Paul states that to fully proclaim the Gospel you need words (the well or fountain) and miracles, signs, and wonders (the river). Listen to his words:

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

So, after you have had a drink, don’t settle for just a well of living water. Seek after and receive the river of living water that come through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then others will come to know the Living Jesus Christ through your words and deeds as you fully proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

Skilled Instruction and Training

If you were to attend an average worship service on any given Saturday or Sunday you would sit and listen to the pastor – teacher – priest give a teaching – sermon – homily. This is true whether it is a mainline, traditional church, a born again church, or a Spirit-filled church. It is the custom of the people to have the leader spend time during the week seeking God’s heart for a word for the people. Then after he or she has been in the presence of God in their study, the people gather to hear what God has to say through the leader. 

This is much like Moses in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The people watched as he ascended the holy mountain to meet with God. And, then they waited for him to come back down the mountain from the face-to-face meeting with God and tell them what God said speaking to them about what was on His heart and what He shared with the leader, Moses.

In the early church, it states, “Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone…” (Acts 2:42-43a The Passion Translation”).

And so the practice continues – the leader or leaders listen for God’s voice, study God’s Word, and bring a message from God to the people when they assemble. We misuse this verse to back up a practice that was never meant to be in the New Testament Church.

However, the word translated ‘teachings’ is the Greek word ‘didache’ which means “skilled instruction and training.” So, the teaching should be more an equipping of the faithful believers – an equipping and training. This, of course, connects directly with Ephesians 4:11-12 which states, “And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

The more familiar version states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

Every believer can go into the presence of God during the week. The believer can enter into the presence of God and approach the throne of grace and hear the voice of God for themselves (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus made a way for us to do this by His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. We don’t need to wait for the weekend and the assembly to hear what God wants us to know. It can be and should be a daily thing. Then, when we come together on the weekends it is not to hear a well crafted sermon or teaching and receive the polished “word of the week” because we have been receiving the raw, unpolished “word of the day” all week. We come together and share what it is we have individually heard the Lord speak so others can be encouraged and we can find support in our revelation.

Then, on the weekend we come together to have the fivefold ministers equip and train us in the things that we need to know to continue to minister to those in the world who do not know Jesus. And, they equip us with the skills and knowledge we need to use the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) that He has given to every born again, Baptized in the Holy Spirit believer and follower of Jesus. In other words, we receive “skilled instruction and training” for the ministry that God has called us to do for Him during the week where we live, work, and play.

So, the assembly should be more like going to a gym than going to the movies. We should be practicing and sharpening our skills in sharing the gospel of the Kingdom. We should be learning how to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should be practicing using the revelation gifts like a Word of Knowledge, a Word of Wisdom, and the Discerning of Spirits. We should be hearing how to live as believers in the current culture and still impact those who do not know Jesus and have not experienced salvation. 

Hebrews 5:14 (ESV) states: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Passion Translation: “But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters. And they have been adequately trained by what they’ve experienced to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.”

This would, of course, totally change the way we “do church.” Even altering the reason we “come to church.” But then, in my opinion, it desperately needs to change.

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.