Passion For the Lost

Jesus called us and saved us so that we could do the works that He did (John 14:12) and that includes seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). He came to earth because He had a tremendous love for us. During His life time He showed a tremendous passion for the people who were lost without a shepherd – us! He expects us to share His passion for the lost and thus continue His ministry to everyone who does not know Him – especially the poor.

Now, many believers are waiting for the Holy Spirit to do a work in their heart and give them a passion for the lost. Then, once they feel this passion – compassion for the lost – they will immediately get busy and reach out and seek and save the lost. Not how it works. Will never happen. Not biblical.

Many years ago – probably a good thirty considering last November I celebrated my 34th anniersary of the night I was born again – I thought this way as well. I prayed and asked the Lord to give me His heart for the lost. I wanted to feel what He felt so I would do what He did. Didn’t happen. So, I worked hard for a number of years reading everything I could find on evangelism and winning the lost to the Lord. I listened to anyone and everyone who was doing it and peppered them with questions any opportunity I had. As I did this I began to share my testimony and the Gospel with whoever would stop long enough to listen. In some cases when they wouldn`t stop I simply walked alongside them as they went about what they were doing and shared “on the run.” And strangely enough – people began to get saved.

Fast forward a number of years. During thìs “fast forward” season I continued to tell others about Jesus every opportunity I was given or could some how create. But, no feeling for the lost was to be felt. No sentimental, empathy towards the lost was evident anywhere in my life – suface or deep in my heart and soul. Nothing, Zero, nada, zilch, nil.

Then about 6 or 7 years after I was saved and telling others about Jesus because He told us to – I attended a Billy Graham School of Evangelism (my first of two). As I stood there worshipping with hundreds of other leaders from across the western part of my nation – as I sat and listened to the hearts of those teaching us who had worked with Dr. Graham for decades – I continued to pray for the heart of God towards the lost. I wanted to feel what He felt towards the lost. I wanted the same love / passion that Jesus had that allowed Him to go to the cross for lost sinners.

On the last day of that first School of Evangelism… SUDDENLY I felt it. I was overwhelmed with passion and compassion for the lost. I wept and wept and wept and wept. For days I cried out loud when I thought about the sin-sick, unsaved people around me. It continues through to today – 25 years later. But, it really was not a result of a sudden answer to prayer or a sovereign move of God to deposit this love and passion for the lost into my heart and mind. No! Not at all.

We need to understand that passion for the lost and the resulting evangelistic lifestyle is a result of simply obeying the mandate and direction of the Lord to seek and save the lost. Passion follows obedience and not the other way around. You do what you are told to do (commanded to do) because you are commanded to do it. As you act out of obedience the feelings will usually follow and you will experience passion and compassion… However, if you wait for the feelings before you act you never will.

So, today is a good day to begin to obey the Lord and reach out and touch someone in His Name. Do so even if you don’t feel like it. Then, do it again and again and again… Until, one day, the feeling of passion and the overflow of compassion will flood your heart and mind and you will feel what the Lord feels when He considers all those lost in sin and on their way to hell. But, be prepared to weep!

The Imam and Jesus – The Muslims and You!

In Mererani, Tanzania, Imam Sheik Omari lectures students at the new mosque Taqwa that “Islam teaches us that your body is a weapon.” Christianity teaches that your body is a temple. Imam Sheik Omari is wrong. Jesus is right.

I have been reading up on the Muslim faith – book 5 or 6 at this point in time.

I like what Leonard Sweet had to say… “We are all global citizens. We must become global Christians. How many people in our churches are studying other cultures and learning other languages? How many are taking mission trips abroad? How many…Christians hold a passport? How many can locate South Africa on a map? How about the Persian Gulf? Try the Pacific Ocean?” I was recently texting a young college student and let them know I was going to be Kazakhstan for several weeks and thus out of touch while there. They did not know where that nation was. Case in point – we are not global believers by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet, Jesus said we were to go into all the world. So, we should be students of our planet and the many cultures that thrive on the planet. We should be especially well informed on any group that is threatening our faith and is out there preaching their radical beliefs that are not in line with the Truth, Jesus Christ. Such a group is the Muslim faith.

I originally did not know much about this world-wide faith. I admit that I was somewhat ignorant. However, in the past few years I have been slowly reading and studying up on this extreme faith that calls for the conversion or death of all infidels (anyone who is not Muslim). It is not a passive, peace-loving religion. It is not wanting to co-exist with the Christians. Thy are not looking for a worldwide discussion on working together to help the human race. No! Not at all.

There are some great books on the market to help you to become informed and aware of the Muslim threat and the cultural changes that the Muslim faith brings to any area that embraces their radical beliefs and way of life…

1> Inside the Revolution (book and DVD) by Joel Rosenberg
2> Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg
3> The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg (novel)
4> The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg (novel)
5> A God Who Hates – Wafa Sultan
6> Radical Islam on the March – A Biblical Response to Modern Day Jihad – a Coral Ridge Ministries DVD

These will get you started in understanding the very serious threat that the Muslim faith is to the world and to the Christian faith. Take it seriously. Ignorance is not bliss. We cannot and will not co-exist side-by-side. Learn all that you can so you can win as many as you can to the Lord Jesus, the one true God.

Drawing Near

‘Drawing near’ is this is the first step in connecting with people. Jesus came from Heaven and “tented among us” according to John, Chapter one. He cared enough, loved enough, that He drew near. We too must do the same. Jesus became flesh – put on skin. We must be God’s love in the flesh. We must be love with skin on it. He became incarnate – we must represent the incarnation by allowing the Spirit in us to connect with those around us. God spoke to us in and through Jesus and not by some thundering voice from the heavens. The transcendent Word came within a human body, making what was distant and abstract now scandalously tangible. We must do the same.

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Rut, Rot, Rob, Resurrection or Revolution

Jesus is alive…and He is very active in His Church and in His Kingdom – not to mention His world – today and every day. And yet the Church in general is in a rut. We are doing the same old thing we have always done. Of course, it is no longer working and so instead of seeking the Lord for what we should be doing now and doing next we simply redouble our efforts and do everything that doesn’t work twice as hard. Two times nothing is still nothing.

If we are not vigilent this rut can turn into internal rot. We simply rot away – decay, hold to the outward form of the religion but deny it’s life-changing power (never see anyone saved or transformed), go through the motions without the emotions. Endure this long enough and it will totally rob you and the church you attend of any joy, expectation and anticipation. It will simply become business as usual – except there is no new business.

What we need is a resurrection that leads to a complete revolution. We need to throw out (gently) what is not working and stop trying to fix it. We need to look to the now and the future and not to the past. We don’t need a revival – breathing life into what is dead – nor do we need a riot simply overthrowing what is. We need to recognize that what we have is dead and bury what is and believe God for a resurrection into new life. We need to plant the church that is and watch what happens after a death and burial – watch for the resurrection. And, the new “body” of Christ will be seriously different than the one we currently experience.

The new Church will be revolutionary – bringing a revolution to the life of the believer, to the assembly of believers, as well as changing society as we now know it. In the Book of Acts it states that the believers were known as those who turned the world upside down. Sounds like a revolution to me. It can happen again. It needs to happen again. It must happen again. But, this time it must first turn the Church as we know it upside down first.

I like what the book of Hebrews states: Hebrews 13:20-21 “So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … one last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase ‘one last shaking’ means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.” [The Message Version]

This is the season we are now entering – like it or not! I, for one, am seriously excited. What a tremendous season to be alive and part of the Kingdom. What a time to be alive!!!
We need a resurrection to life and into a supernatural church. We need to get out of the rut. Afterall, a rut is simply a grave with both ends knocked out!

Heaven Is So Big – Be Thankful

A wise pastor once said, “You are always going to meet Christians that make you thankful heaven is so big.” (Larry Osborne, Sermon at North Coast Church, Vista, CA)

Yes, some Christians can really rub us the wrong way. They are simply annoying and we would really rather not have to relate to them, talk to them, or deal with them. Regretfully, they seem attracted to you and are always there wanting to talk to you after church on Sunday, before Bible study starts, by text messages during the week. They are annoying at the best of times, all of the time. And, they seem to be picking on you. You are right – they are. It is their ministry!

God brought them into your life as His gift of grace to you. They are there to teach you to love as Jesus loves. To love unconditionally. To love in such a way that you can accept them for who they are and as they are. To love as Jesus did and forgive them every time they hurt you. We need to be taught to live like this – a life of grace – and they are God’s gift of grace to teach you to walk in a way befitting of a believer and a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When an oyster gets a piece of sand inside their shell – it is seriously annoying and begins to rub them raw. The same as that person in your church can get in under your skin and rub you raw. The oyster begins a process of coating that aggrivation with liquid so that it becomes less abrasive and causes less wounding. We are to treat the “gift of God” in our life with loving kindness so that they will be less wounding and less abrasive. In time the oyster has created a pearl often of great price but always attrative and beautiful. In time, with love, you too will be an instrument in the transformation of your irritant into someone beautiful and more loving – while at the same time also being personally transformed into something more beautiful and priceless.

That annoying person is a gift of grace from God to you – to transform you and them into the image and likeness of His Son, the Lord and Savior – Jesus. And, if handled right, when you get to heaven you will request the mansion next to their’s because you will have grown to seriously love each other and want to be close by. Then it won’t matter how big Heaven is.

Why not, right now, text or call that person in your life who can be seriously annoying and let them know you love them.

I Am That I Am NOW

We need to stop dreaming about being somewhere else and just be where you are. Circumstances, situations, even geographic location. Just be there – at this moment be you where you are.

So many live for the future. Many believers live in the past – victims and not victorious. Living for the future or living in the past absorbs so much time that when they die they have never lived the “now” moment that God has given each of us to celebrate and grab hold of. The past is the past – suck it up and get over it – it is water under the bridge. Learn your lesson from what happened and move on. No more parking in the past. And the future is not guaranteed, retirement may never happen. You may die tonight! So, live for the now.

One of the most difficult phrases to translate in the Bible is the answer that God gave Moses when he asked God “What is your name?”

The most common translation of the answer to that question is, “I am who I am.” Toward the end of his life, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of the 20th century, Martin Buber, admitted that the phrase, “I Am who I Am” was probably a mistranslation. After a lifetime of study, Buber came to a different translation. God’s name is best translated, Buber argued, as “I will be present as I will be present.” Or else, “I shall Be There.” This giving the understanding that wherever you are – there He is. Thus, my suggestion that you need to be fully present wherever you are right now.

The Psalmist knew this truth… “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10

So, believer – live for the now. Grab hold of today and live it to the fullest. Let God heal and deliver you from your past – it does not need to be a part of your identity nor a part of the now – today! And, although the Lord may have revealed some of His future plans for you – you are still called to live today to its fullest. Just as God said: “I will be present as I will be present” so should you be. And, know that right now God is also present. And tomorow, should you have one, He will again be present and living in your “now.”

It is time for the Christians to live life to the utmost and to enjoy each and every moment as it arrives. Living in the “now” that the Lord has given to us and meeting God there. Then you will hear His voice. Then you will see His hand. Then you will sense His presence. Then you will know and experience His power. Then you will walk with Him in an intimate relationship. For you see, the Lord only lives in the now.

The Real Reason We Don’t…

Jesus said – if you love me you will obey me. That’s seems simple and straighforward. He told us we are to go into all the world and tell others about Jesus. That too seems simple enough and straighforward. So, why has the Great Commission to go into all the world starting with your neighbors, friends, and people you work with become the great option. It seems like it has become that at least with the Christians I fellowship with. They apparently decide if they want to do this or don’t want to do this – and usually it comes down on the “I’ll pass on this one” side of the equation.

Let’s follow the logic here. Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey Him. Jesus commanded that we go into all the world – not an option but a command – and so if we do not obey this command then we do not love Him. If you love Me you will obey Me… seems straightforward to me.

So, you go to worship with other believers on Sunday and raise your hands and use the words of the worship choruses to let the Lord know that you love Him. Yet, during the week, you didn’t speak to anyone about Him and His love for them. There is an apparent disconnect here. You tell Him you love Him on Sunday but you don’t obey Him Monday through Saturday simply ignorning the Great Commission. There is a word for this – hypocrite. Another word – disobedient. Another word – self-deceived. Another word – trouble.

The Great Commission really could be written as The Great ComMISSION as it is the only task or mission that the Lord gave to His Church to accomplish. Much of what we call “church” today was not designed by the Head of the Church – Jesus. It is man’s design and meets the needs of man. Jesus left us one task – to seek and save the lost. To win people to Him. To rescue people from the domain of darkness and bring them into the Kingdom of Light. And, to be honest with you, we are not doing a very good job of it.

What are the reasons we are not evangelizing – sitting with others over a relaxing cup of coffee sharing the difference that Jesus has made in our lives?

As I have spoken with people three key ones keep coming up…
1> The fear of man
2> The gospel is not clearly understood and thus the person feels unable to present it in a way that it would be correctly understood
3> We REALLY don’t believe that Jesus is the only way and that there are no second chances after we die

Note that “disobedience” is not in the list. Interesting, eh?

But, I don’t believe that they are in this order… I honestly believe that many Christians don’t witness because we don’t REALLY believe that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to Heaven. We have bought into the wide-spread belief that there are many ways to Heaven and this includes the belief that a loving God would never condemn anyone to an eternity in Hell. That Jesus is the ONLY WAY is not a firmly established belief in the hearts and minds of many Christians who say that they are born again.

Yes – it is obvious that many believers don’t have a proper grasp on the Gospel and so can’t share it with others in a way that it could be understood. They may know it in their heart but their head is unable to detail it accurately for others to grasp. However, I believe that many so called believers are not even born again. They did not really understand the gospel when it was presented to them. Oh, they did say a sinner’s prayer and so were told that they were now safe and going to Heaven. This, of course, is absolute nonsense. There is no salvation without repentance. So, for many in the Church the gospel is not clear and often not embraced correctly on a personal level and so there is a lot of resulting confusion that leads to a lack of obedience to The Great Commission.

Yes – I believe that many fear what others will think of them. Belivers fear being rejected. Christians don’t want others to shun them and avoid them because they are wanting to talk about the difference Jesus has made in their life. Fear is a big issue in the life of many who call themselves believers.

But – the key issue is still that many believers think (believe) that there are many acceptable routes whereby we reach Heaven. Absolutely wrong.

The Lord in calling His first disciples said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” I believe that if we are not fishing – evangelizing and working at winning the lost – we are not following. We are not His disciples. And we are to be pitied as we are self-deceived.

As followers and “fishers” our evangelism (soul-winning) efforts must be:
1> Personal – only you can reach those you relate to on a regular basis
2> Intentional – talking about Jesus never happens by accident
3> Daily – it should be a way of life and thus be a part of your daily life
4> Pro-active – not waiting for doors to open – but making opportunities and opening doors

So, the next time you tell God you love Him – remember the words of Jesus – “If you love Me you will obey Me” and connect these to His command to “go into all the world and share...” and realize that this is a command and not an option.

Think about it!

How Four Specific Prayers Changed a Preacher

After two degrees and twenty years’ experience, Joe McKeever didn’t need more education, but he needed help.

I had been preaching for more than two decades, and I should have been at the top of my game. The church I served ran up to 1,500 on Sunday mornings, and the live telecast of our services covered a fair portion of several states. Most of my colleagues thought I had it made, and if invitations to speak in other churches were any sign, they thought I could preach.

But I didn’t think that.

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30 Books Every Christian Should Read

If you are a leader or a leader-in-training and being discipled, trained, equipped and mentored by a leader you need to become a reader if you are not one already. A mentor of mine a long time ago told me that “LEADERS ARE READERS.” I believe that and so I began then to systematically plan my reading so that my knowledge and skills would continue to grow and my leadership would always be relevant and usable in God’s hands. My plan still remains the same today – in spite of my busy traveling and ministry schedule I read a book a week or better…

However, a lot of the thousands of books a year that are published in the Christian market are certainly not worth wasting money or time on. They lack depth, often are simply popular beliefs pushed by motivational speakers and psychological self-help material. When they actually are rooted in biblical truth they are often based on personal experience and often end up proclaiming heretical teachings as Christian truth. So, good books worth your time and effort are often hard to come by. So, as I have found a list of books compiled by a young American pastor which might help steer you to some excellent books in which to invest… I have read almost all of them during my many years of building a library of decent Christian reference books and classics of the faith. Have a look and remember, leaders are readers. Stop reading and you will literally, one day, stop leading for others will no longer be following you.     ~ Ralph

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What Has God Been Saying to You Lately?

The Bible states that His sheep (born again believers) can hear His voice (John 10:10). I believe that. I mean – I seriously believe that.

When believers tell me that they do not hear God speaking to them – I let them know that it is not true. If I have to decide between the Word of God and the experience of a person -that is a no-brainer. I chose to believe God’s Word and not a person’s experience. And, I tell the person that I am speaking with that they are hearing God (based on His Word and the fact that they are a born again believer). They may be unable to distinguish His voice from the many others that can be heard – the media, the soul, the flesh, demonic voices, expectations of others… Oh! So many other voices that we hear constantly. But, they are hearing God speak to them.

One of the things that prevents people from hearing God clearly is what I call “clutter.” Clutter comes in all shapes and sizes – but no matter the brand or variety it will create static in the spirit realm so that the voice of God is no longer loud and clear – but rather faint and often hard to distinguish and separate from all the other voices we hear regularly. This can be mental clutter, emotional clutter, relational clutter, financial clutter … any one by itself can scramble the sound waves and cause so much static that God’s voice is not heard clearly. But, everyone who is truly born again does hear God’s voice. The Bible states this truth. The clutter simply keeps His voice from being recognized as God speaking.

Think about it. To be born again means having a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. When you were born again the Lord gave you a gift called “eternal life.” (Romans 6:23b). This gift is the ability to personally relate to God the Father and Jesus Chist whom He sent out of love to die for our sins. This is an intimate relationship with God – or, at least it should be. (John 17:3 contanins the definition of the gift called eternal life). The word “know” in John 17:3 means “to have an intimate relationship with” God. Wow! God gives us a gift called eternal life – a permanant and eternal relationship with Him. Neat, eh? Question: Have you unwrapped the gift yet?

So, If I asked you what you heard from the God today about your day or about situations you will be facing or people you will be talking to … If I asked – would you have something to share, shomething you heard, something you know that God spoke to you? If not then there are three things you need to do immediately…

1> Believe the word of God, your Bible. Believe that when you repented with godly sorrow and were truly converted and born again that He placed this gift of eternal life within you. Believe what the Word of God states that this gift is the supernatural ability to intimately know God – His heart and His mind. And, believe it enough that you will spend time unwrapping the gift – that is, you will spend time developing this relationship between the natural (you) and the supernatural (God). It’s okay – He wants to have this relationship more than you do so He will help you every step of the way.

2> Believe the Word of God. Believe it when it states that YOU can hear God’s voice. And, with that as a solid foundation, begin to listen for His voice. This will mean that in your prayer times with Him you will need to listen as well as speak. Most believers talk too much – even when having their quiet time. Know why it is called a quiet time? Because you talk so much that God simply remains quiet (I just made that up but it may be seriously true). Try listening – you will be amazed when you really do hear Him speak.

3> Clean out the clutter. Deal with issues in relationships, offer and receive forgiveness, pay off your debts to those you borrowed from, tell people you love them and mean it… The more you clean things up and the less clutter you have the better you will be able to discern the voice of God from all the other voices you hear.

“My sheep hear My voice” Jesus said. I believed Him over 34 years ago when I was born again and have been hearing Him speak and reveal His heart to me ever since. Join me on this great journey and adventure of listening for the Lord to speak. If you heard God speak to you about you – it is prayer. If you hrear God speak about others – then that can be prophetic. Both arise out of your relationship with Him.