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.  

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.