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!

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…

The Four “P’s” of Everyday Life

Do you really know who you are? Have you discovered the real you or are you still simply being what you need to be or others want you to be? Have you taken the time to discover the real you that God created – the ‘inside’ you? And, in the process, have you also discovered ‘who you are in Christ’? The ‘who’ God created you to be changed from the inside out by an encounter with the living Jesus Christ. 

Most people have not taken the time or put in the effort to discover who they really are. Often because they are afraid of what they will find if they look inside. For some it is easier to just fit in (see yesterday’s blog – “Belonging or Fitting In”) and not rock the boat. Others are simply living life on the surface and really can’t be bothered to dig deeper and find meaning and purpose. They are “enjoying” the pleasures of life.

These people fall back on the “4 P’s” to hold things together…

1> Perfecting – people are trying to be the best they can be in the way that they live, work, and relate to others. They know what is expected and they perform well. Even when it comes to the Christian faith – they perform well.

2> Pleasing – People don’t want to upset others and so they work hard to please others. They do what is expected, show up when they should, live in such a way that people will like them. These are often “yes” people who have little to no depth to their lives.

3> Proving – People who are out to prove they are better than others, know more than others, have more possessions than others. Maybe they are still trying to prove something to a parent long dead or to the world which they don’t find very friendly.

4> Pretending – This is where people pretend to be having a good life, pretending to enjoy what they are doing and what they possess, and pretending to be happy and contented. 

But for people who want to fulfill God’s call on their life and reach their divine destiny, looking inside and discovering the ‘real you’ is an absolute necessity. Perfecting, pleasing, proving, and pretending is no longer cutting it. They want real life and not a plastic existence where no one really knows them. 

If you want to be ‘the real you’ and live with integrity… then adopt the following:

Boundaries: Learn to set, hold, and respect boundaries. The challenge here is letting go of being liked and the fear of disappointing people.

Reliability: Learn how to say what you mean and mean what you say. The challenge is not overcommitting and overpromising to please others or prove ourselves.

Accountability: Learning how to step up, be accountable, take responsibility, and issue meaningful apologies when we are wrong. The challenge is letting go of blame and staying out of shame.

Vault: Learning how to keep confidences, to recognize what is ours to share and what’s not. The challenge is to stop using gossip and oversharing as a way to hot wire connections.

Integrity: Learn how to practice your values even when it is uncomfortable and hard. The challenge is choosing courage over comfort in these moments.

Non-judgment: Learning how to give and receive help. The challenge is letting go of “helper” and “fixer” as our identity and the source of our self-worth.

Generosity: Learning how to set the boundaries that allow us to be generous in our assumptions about others. The challenge is being honest and clear with others about what’s okay and not okay. 

Then you will be living the life God intended, you will be expressing the real you, and you will have a healthy level of self-love and self-respect. 

Belonging or Fitting In

In a recent survey of young teens they were asked what the difference was between belonging and just fitting in. The answers:

  • Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

The same survey revealed the heartache of not belonging. Why? Because it is natural and normal to want to belong and not just fit in. There is an inner need to belong. Many of the students felt that even at home they did not belong. When asked what they meant, the following responses:

  • Not living up to your parent’s’ expectations
  • Not being as cool or popular as your parents want you to be
  • Not being good at the same things your parents were good at
  • Your parents being embarrassed because you don’t have enough friends or you’re not an athlete or a cheerleader
  • Your parents not liking who you are and what you like to do
  • When your parents don’t pay attention to your life

This same issue of not belonging can be present in a marriage between spouses. And, of course, it can be an issue in the local church. 

People join a local church because they want to belong. However, often the church has an unspoken, or even spoken, set of rules and expectations. You have to believe certain things, dress a certain way, live a certain way, and do certain things. This means that to be a member of that church you must change and “fit in.” You can no longer be yourself but now must follow the crowd if you hope to remain a part of that local church. 

Of course, there are things to believe and certain lifestyles that should change. But, lasting change starts on the inside and people need to feel that they are in a safe place so that they can embrace the needed changes. The safe place is found by belonging and not by some outside pressure to fit in. Once they sense that they belong and are accepted for who they are – then the changes can begin from the inside out and with the help of God and others. 

But when a person simply adopts the external rules and expectations and “fits in”  they simply put on their plastic Christian face and behave like everyone else – never really belonging on a heart level and truly never becoming all that God would have them become. 

To truly “be yourself” and express yourself in your own unique way you need to know who you are deep inside and be very secure in who you are. You need to know that you belong to Him. You need to have a firm grasp on God’s unconditional love and acceptance – especially when others are not loving you or accepting you for who you are. You need to have confidence in your personhood and personality and be bold in expressing the real you regardless of what others may think or say. 

This may leave you standing alone at times but you will stand with integrity knowing who you are and that is a great feeling.  

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Four

As we draw this study to a close – let’s review what we have learned.

We are studying mistakes or pitfalls that many Christians fall into and thus destroy the potential that is available in them as believers. We have looked carefully at…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

5> Defame others or misrepresent them or their work (especially fellow believers).

6> Rarely (or never) read books with spiritual depth or listen to Christ-centered messages by other servants of God.

7> Have no fellowship or relationship with other believers. Live as a solo Christian.

8> Let envy and jealousy take hold of your heart and drive your actions

Envy and jealousy are often the root behind slander (see #1 and #5 in this series). Incidentally, countless Christians don’t know what slander looks like and fail to recognize it when it is right in front of them But, know what it is or not, engaging or listening to slander proves toxic to your spiritual life.

Slander is …The noun

A false tale or report maliciously uttered. and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing them to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing their means of making a living; defamation.

Slander is … The verb

Disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.

To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting a person; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.

The Bible calls this giving an “evil report” and God does not turn a blind eye to any situation where an evil report is present. 

9> Never learn from your mistakes not take responsibility for them.

Blame others instead. Blame your past and claim victim status. Blame the situation you now live in. Blame the circumstances of life. Never take responsibility for what is happening in or around you. 

An example: “I drink because of my wife, my job, and the current situation I am facing in my life.”

That is a person who is blaming other people or other things and is not taking responsibility for their own behaviour. They drink because they have made a choice to do so. No one or any thing is forcing them to pour that alcohol into the glass and down their throat. (Feel free to substitute your word for “drink”… eat, spend, do drugs, watch pornography.

These people never apologize for their behaviour, attitude or the harm they have inflicted on others. They never even recognize the people they have wronged. 

10> Waste every crisis that comes into your life.

A crisis is a difficult and unwelcome opportunity to discover Jesus Christ in a new way. Don’t look for the hand of God behind the crisis and submit to it. Forget James and Peter who both said, “Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, and He will exalt you.” 

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Instead – blame God and others and feel sorry for yourself. That way you will not grow through the crisis or learn anything that might help you be a better person and a more mature Christian. 

The above 10 points we have been looking at over the last few days are in no particular order. And, many other points can, I am sure, be added to the list. But each of these is a sure-fire way to hamper your growth in Christ and waste your time being a follower of Jesus.

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Three

We are looking at how to waste our time as believers in Jesus…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

5> Defame others or misrepresent them or their work (especially fellow believers).

6> Rarely (or never) read books with spiritual depth or listen to Christ-centered messages by other servants of God.

Forget the contribution of the Body of Christ, past and present. Throw out spiritual education. Live under the delusion that all you need in the Holy Spirit and your Bible. 

Many believers live this way and don’t take advantage of the large number of resources that are available today on-line and in print. Many Christians who are young are not readers. So, even to convince them to read the Bible is not easy. Many of the young men that I disciple and mentor readily admit that a book a year would be a miracle. I recommend a book a week. 

There are so many amazing Christian writers – past and present – who have insights and understanding that could benefit the whole Body of Christ if those who follow Jesus would simply pick up the discipline of reading Christian literature. And, it is a disciple. 

First, you need to decide to read what great Christian authors have written. Then you need to carve out time daily to read so that it becomes a habit. It can be 15 minutes, a half hour, or whatever you can release from your regular routines to invest in your growth as a believer. And then you need to journal or record the things that the Lord is showing you from the books that you are reading. 

Recording what you are learning is really important as then you retain the lessons you have learned as well as being able, at a later date, to look back and examine the growth that has taken place both spiritually and mentally. 

So, get started. Speak to a Christian leader or a friend who is a reader and see what they are reading and would recommend that you read. 

A warning: 95%+ of the books being published currently in the field of Christian literature are simply not worth reading not the money it costs to purchase them. Choose writings with depth and substance and avoid the pop theology and Christian self-help books being published by the thousands every year. 

Another way to waste your time and not grow as believers…

7> Have no fellowship or relationship with other believers. Live as a solo Christian.

Many use the excuse that they simply don’t have time to have meaningful fellowship with another believer or believers. Others are so self-contained and spiritual arrogant that they use the excuse that they can’t find any other Christians who are mature and who love Jesus like they do. 

Every believer needs to have a number of others in their lives who are sharing their journey with Jesus with them. 

First of all, every believer needs a mentor. This is someone who is more mature and knowledgeable in the faith with whom you can relate. Thy will share their experience and knowledge with you and help you to grow and mature, developing some of the weaker areas of your character and Christian walk. They might even ask you to travel with them – family holidays, fishing trips, ministry trips – opportunities to come to know them in the fullness of their personhood. So, like Timothy in the New Testament, you need to find a Paul (or two).

Secondly, every believer also needs a Timothy – someone you are relating to who is not as far along in their personal journey with Jesus as you are. This enables you to help them grow and mature. Like Paul had Silas and others. What’s in it for you? They will challenge your beliefs and test your character and cause you to grow in many ways.

Thirdly, every believer needs an accountability partner. This is someone you have grown to totally trust and can be 100% open, transparent, and honest with. They will come to know you better than any other person on the planet. And, they will ask you the hard questions and keep you honest with yourself. These questions could include some of the following. 

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?

2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?

3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?

4. Have you been honouring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?

5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

6. Have you given in to an addictive behaviour this week? Explain.

7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?

8. Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?

9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?

10. Have you been completely honest with me?

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part Two

We are looking at the ways we, as believers, can waste our time being a Christian…

1> Allow yourself to be bitter against someone who has hurt or offended you

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs

3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone

4> Neglect reading the Scriptures (your Bible)

The Bible contains God’s Words and is the first and best way that He speaks to us. The Bible reveals Christ to us so we come to know Him better and on a deeper level as we journey with Him in daily life. In fact, Jesus tells us that His Words (contained in the New Testament Gospels) are “spirit and they are life for the believer.

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

The Bible accounts of Jesus’ life bear witness to Him and reveal to us who He is, His character, His nature, His mind (we can have the mind of Christ) and His heart for us and all people. 

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…”

And, the Bible goes on to tell us that the words recorded are inspired by God – set out for us to have life and have it more abundantly. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

If we take out the extra phrases … “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and training” we end up with the basic point that is being made.

My personal version: “All Scripture is given by God that the people of God may be complete and equipped.”

The word “complete” means to be like Jesus

The word “equipped” means to be able to do what Jesus did (John 14:12)

So, if you want to waste your time as a believer, avoid reading the Bible.

5> Defame others or misrepresent time or their work (especially fellow believers).

If you want to waste your time on the journey with Jesus don’t go to people directly if you have a concern or a problem and ask them for clarity. And, if you do go to them, don’t really listen with your heart to what they have to say. 

Don’t be deceived: To speak ill about or misrepresent another follower of Jesus is to speak ill about or misrepresent Jesus Himself. And, He does not take Kindly to it.

The Bible is very clear about this:

Matthew 25:40 “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Acts 9:1-4 “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’”

Titus 3:2 “… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

Slander is a serious sin and it is a transgression of Jesus’ teaching…

Matthew 7:12a “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…”

More next time…

Pitfalls On Your Walk With Jesus – Part One

Paul, an apostle whose life was totally transformed by his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, tells us – no, stronger than that – exhorts us to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

On our journey with Jesus we have much to learn and it takes time to get to know Him better as each day comes. It takes time to learn how to live a life pleasing to Him. It takes time to learn to live before Him. It takes time to grow in His life – learning to release His life from within and allowing Him to live His life through us. And, I observe that a lot of believers are wasting their time. And, let’s admit it, our time is limited and each day seems to have more to do than we can accomplish. So, we cannot afford to waste time.

Here are some ways I see that we waste our time as believers and disciples of the Lord…

1> We allow ourselves to be bitter against someone who has hurt us

Bitterness rooted in unforgiveness will destroy your spiritual life and take others down with you. You will also defile many as a result.

Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”

Here is how that works. Someone offends you or hurts you. God immediately pours out His grace upon you. If you grab hold of the grace you will forgive and go to the person who offended or wounded you and deal with the issues. If you “fail to obtain the grace” you will go to others and share your hurt and tell them your side of the story. Of course, it is only one side and only a partial truth. The person, being a good Christian, loves you, listens to you, and prays with you. You feel better. They feel good that they were able to help you.

But, the root is still there and it will fester and grow again – the spiritual pressure and anger will grow inside of you and then you will go and seek someone else out who will listen and “minister” to you. This can go on for months even years. Then, one day you wake up spiritually and realize you need to go to the person who offended you and deal with the issue or issues. And, the grace is there to enable you to do so.

However, every person you have spoken to now has a different picture of the person who hurt you. They have a twisted view of this person. And, although you are now reconciled and doing great…those you shared with and who ministered to you do not have the grace nor, most likely, the opportunity to deal with what they are feeling towards your once one time enemy. So, you are good and many are defiled.

Such a total waste of time and so destructive to both your spiritual life and the many relationships which will be adversely effected by your actions.

2> Use your time, your money, and your resources only for yourself and your needs.

Being selfish and being the center of your life (self-focused) is never healthy or beneficial to your walk with the Lord. We need to be Christ-centred and focused on others. There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament. Love one another, forgive one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens… you get the idea. You cannot and will not fulfill any of these “commands” if you are the center of your own universe. And, when you don’t fulfill these commands then this has an adverse and negative effect on your relationship with Jesus.
3> Spend little to no time with the Lord in solitude – just you and Him alone.

Christians fill their lives with all sorts of activities staying busy from early morning to late at night. Most times these are good activities and even necessary things that need to be focused on and accomplished. However, maybe we need to slow the pace of life down somewhat and make room for the most important thing – your relationship with your Lord and Saviour, the living Jesus Christ.

This means taking a hard look at your daily schedule and weekly routine and creating some margin. Everyone today lives on the edge. They are filling their calendars full. They are spending everything they are earning and then some. They are emotionally exhausted. There is no extra (margin) at the end of the day. So, we need to slow things down, prioritize somewhat, and then schedule time with the Lord first before everything else. Then, never fill a day full (or spend to the limit, or emotionally give till you are empty and stressed out… step back a bit and fill 90% of the waking hours … giving you some margin. Spend 80% of your money, save 10% and give 10% (tithe) and thus create margin (space to breathe). You get the idea.

So, the third pitfall in our journey with Jesus is living on the edge and not prioritizing and creating margin in every aspect of our life as we do so.

More next time….

A Personal Reflection / Observation

I attended a service recently where after the main event and lunch we took some time to listen to the voice of the Sprit and then report back to the others in attendance what we believe God was speaking to us as an assembly.

The main event did not end with a knock out. It was your regular Sunday morning assembly. It had decent worship and a decent, Bible-basic teaching. The lunch following the main event was good, the fellowship was better than the meal. Good conversations. Some honest and open dialogue with a number of people. Refreshing.

One conversation I found intriguing was with a mother of a teenager. The teen had stopped attending church some time ago. The young man had recently attended for one Sunday. He saw that, in his mind, nothing had changed and so has not returned since. 

As people shared what they heard the Lord saying it was, in my humble but experienced opinion, that we should continue on being faithful. God confirming what we were currently doing.  How we are faithful as believers because we continue to worship, pray, and hold services. It was the regular “God is pleased with us” and we need to keep Jesus at the center of what we do comments. Nothing challenging or stretching. Little that was truly biblical. 

I mentioned that maybe we need to change some of what we believe and most of what we do as believers. The focus became the technology. Not what I was referring to. I mentioned that although the message – the Gospel of the Kingdom – has not changed, the methods by which we communicate the message must change. Some became defensive as if we were attacking them personally. Maybe we were. Others wandered off into sharing their own thoughts and feelings about things not related to the topic currently under discussion – escapism or simply a wondering mind … one comment led to a new thought led to a rabbit trail excursion.

But, the point was missed – even after I mentioned the story of the young person who had seen no outward change to the way we “do business” (after being away for a number of years) and, as a result, has not bother to return. 

One young man – husband, father, and business owner – mentioned that in his opinion the church of the future was going to be directly connected to the business world that he was involved in. You know, build community among the staff of the company, begin to win them to the Lord, and then have a daily or weekly gathering in the business facilities where they could share and pray. Another business man agreed. Others – by their comments and by their faces and body language – were certainly not in agreement. For them it was “business as usual,” church business that is.

It was good to air our thoughts on what the Lord was saying to us in our time together. However, there were a number of things that I observed.

1> There is a definite divide between the younger generation and the old timers.

2> Some old timers are moving forward in the things of the Kingdom . They are the ones who are readers and who are interacting with believers in other geographical areas and from other flavours of the Church and who are also involved in reaching the lost.

3> In general, believers do not want to change. They may not like what they have and are experiencing but it is better than the “unknown.”

4> The heart for the lost is missing in most believers. They are focused on what they want, need, like, desire or already have. It is a series of unending “what’s in it for me” comments without that phrase being spoken.

5> Most believers think they are hearing the voice of God but they are not. When all you hear is that things are okay, it is usually not the Lord speaking. When what you hear is not challenging you or stretching you spiritually, emotionally, relationally, even physically then it is most likely not the Lord. Believers have not taken the time to sort out which inner voice is the voice of the Spirit.

6> Believers who have been raised in a traditional setting for church will usually not be flexible when it comes to doing things a new way. Oh, there may be small concessions and minor changes but basically the format and content of their experience and the expression of their faith (the church service) is not going to see any changes. It may be time to move on and start something new.

7> The local churches are dying. This is seen in the definite lack of life in the services. Not to mention the declining numbers, the decreasing income, and the increase in the average age of those in attendance. 

8> There is a “protect the fort” mentality and little sign of a desire to attack the gates of hell and rescue the lost. The lost seldom come up in conversations between believers. 

I walked away somewhat frustrated even though everything I heard and experienced during the day I have come to expect. I work with many groups in many areas of my country and elsewhere in the world. What I experienced yesterday can and does take place in every country and in a lot of churches. 

In the book of Acts, chapter eleven we read “Who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 

Well, many should be asking themselves that same question because in the church today many are standing in the way. Yesterday was simply one small example. 

Just a personal observation.