2011 – A Repeat of 2010?

Key: “Begat” = give birth to

Healthy sheep begat healthy sheep. Healthy Christians are instrumental in bringing others into God’s Kingdom seeing them born again (becoming sheep) and discipled.

Led anyone to the Lord recently? No! Um, does that mean that you are not healthy and thus not reproducing? Maybe you are not really a true sheep! Could be you are simply behaving badly and not doing what you are suppose to do as a healty sheep and a member of the flock. Time to take a good, hard look at yourself? I would suspect so!

In the Church today it often seems that we are expecting the pastor to be the one who is influencing non-believers and leading them across the line of faith into the Kingdom. Afterall, that’s what we pay them for. They are full time and we have a job to do in the “real” world. They have been to seminary or Bible School so they have been trained to do this. They are the clergy and we are simply the laity. Isn’t this what we pay them to do? Wrong on all counts. Absolutely dead wrong!

God’s plan was that God’s people would be telling others about His Son Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom and leading them into a saving relationship with the Lord. Read the Gospels! Read the epistles (letters)! Read the book of Acts! It is in every book of the New Testament. As you read the Old Testament it becomes abundantly clear that the one thing that God called His people to do – which they never really did correctly or continuously – was to influence the other nations around them and to reveal their God to them. This was and is called proselytizing and they failed miserably at doing it. So is the Church today.

Healthy sheep begat healthy sheep. Pastors don’t begat sheep; apostles don’t begat sheep, prophets don’t begat sheep. Sheep begat sheep! Christians influence non-Christians and let the light of Christ shine into the spiritual darkness. Christians share the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made in their lives with others who do not know that He can and will make a difference. Christians ernestly content for (fight for and spread) the Gospel once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Christians are responsible for going into all the world and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Christians are called and empowered to be witnesses (Greek word is martyrs) for Jesus (Acts 1:8). No excuses; no reasons why we can’t; no rationalizing; no cop-outs. It is simply to be a way of life – as normal as having children after being married.

We are a week into the new year. Is it really going to be “new” or is it just going to be filled with the same-old, same-old? Is anything really going to change? Will your prayer life remain as it has always been? Will your Bible study be non-existent? Will you even fail to maintain a daily Bible reading time? Will your Christian faith be something that adds excitement and life to your regular daily existence – the daily grind? Will your prayer times take on a new dynamic and a powerful edge that sees significant answers? Will this year simply be a repeat of last year and the year before and the year before and the…?

The answer is a resounding “yes” if you are not witnessing and sharing your faith with others on a reular daily basis as you go about the normal activities of your world. The only activity or focus that makes prayer, Bible reading, Bible study, and your faith come alive and become a real adventure – something to celebrate – is evangelism.

Sheep are to begat sheep and when they do the whole of the Christian lifestyle takes on a new and powerful dynamic. Once experienced you would settle for nothing less. Once experienced – you will never let it go. Once experienced – nothing else will satisfy. Once experienced you will admit that this is what has been missing all these years! Once experienced you will wonder why it took you so long to become involved.

I am praying that you will find the courage, the strength, the desire, the fortitude, and the desire to do what you know you must do to be a healthy believer. I am praying that your love level for the Lord – the passion you feel for Jesus – will literally drive you to begin to share your faith. Jesus said we are to “go into all the world and make disciples.” This was a command and not an option. Jesus also said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” So, our love for the Lord is seen in more than worship and tithing – it becomes evident to others when you simply obey everything He has commanded and at the top of His list is that you join Him in “seeking and saving the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

So, will 2011 be any different than 2010? You decide!

Supernatural Body Building – A Church With Muscle

God is speaking to His Church and saying it is time to take body building seriously (Ephesians 4:11-18). And, to do that we need to be taking the Gifts of the Holy Spirit seriously (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). And to do that we need to begin to realize that we are called to be new, supernatural creatures and walk in the same anointing that Jesus had doing the same things He did (2 Corinthains 5:17; Acts 1:8; John 14:12).

I have a membership at a local gym in the city where I live. I go every day that I am actually here in the city and not out ministering. The young man who owns the gym along with his father is a personal trainer and he often helps me with the various exercises and routines I work with every week. He also helps me adjust my form when using the machines or free weights so that I don’t hurt myself and so that I will receive maximum benefit from my 90 minutes a day of sweat and effort. He is helping me “build my body.” In the Church there are also a group of personal trainers – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11) and they are to help build the body up so that it reaches maturity and develops spiritual muscle and learns to use the weapons of our warfare – the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These “personal trainers” work together as a team in training the saints – discipling, equipping, mentoring – and then releasing them into the fullness of the call of God upon their lives. Apostles help you to see what the body will look like after all the hard work is accomplished; Prophets point you to the various things that need developing and accomplishing for the “body built” to be eventually seen. Evangelists bring more muscle into the picture and add any body parts that are missing to enable the final body to look symetrical and be fully functional. Pastors help with the health of the body caring for any issues that might arise and thus need a healing touch; teachers train the body in nutrition and good life-skills and eating habits. Together as a team these personal trainers bring the body to the place of ultimate health where it is functioning in peak condition – strong and whole.

My prophetic sense is that we have entered a season when apostles and prophets will be working together in teams laying correct foundations in the local church – the body of Christ. They will be training and equipping the saints as they lay new foundations and adjust and correct already existing foundations. It is a season during which body building will begin in ernest and many who have sat and observed and not participated will be drawn in by the Holy Spirit and actually come to like the exercise. Training will be intense and the whole body will need to be exercised and every part of the body will need to develop and grow muscles at the same time and at the same rate. At times you will feel like Church has become more like an exercise club in a gym … and you would be right. The Bible states:
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
The concept in the Greek here is exactly that – practice and training in a gymnasium.

Then, we will see the raising up of the five-fold evangelist who will join the team and begin moving the troops out into the mission field along with the apostles and prophets. The believers will be proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom in places that it has never been heard before. They will move in an apostolic and prophetic anointings – with an evangelistic zeal and the power to release miracles, signs and wonders. A powerful force is about to be released upon the earth and the forces of Hell will not prevail against it. We win! And, many tens of thousands will come to the Lord.

It is a great season to be alive as God releases His personal trainers to train the body so that it grows healthy and becomes whole – muscular and developed – mature and able to fight the good fight of faith and spread that faith worldwide.

True Disciples Don’t Just Sit

The Church is failing to fulfil lthe mandate that the Lord gave to her when He ascended into the heavens. He told us that we were to “go into all the world and make disciples…” We are going into all the world, we are preaching the gospel of salvation (hopefully the gospel of the Kingdom), and we are seeing many turn to the Lord and be born again.

We are seeing many converts to the Christian faith. But, I believe that often we are failing them and the Lord by not realizing that their salvation is just the beginning of a process that Jesus calls “discipleship.” He told us that we were to go into all the world and make disciples – and we are failing to do just that in many places. We are making converts, born again believers, Christians, church attendees, Bible believers, and on and on the list goes. But, they are simply people who sit, look bored, do little of anything, (thus the picture) never change and certainly are not on their feet following Jesus. For them the Christian faith is more like fire insurance when it should be the greatest adventure they have ever had. We are failing to make disciples.

The definition of a disciple is:

The Greek word “mathetes” for disciple used nearly 270 times in the Gospels and Acts denotes a pupil who submits to processes of learning under a teacher. It literally means “disposed to learn.” The concept prevailed in the Old Testament with “sons of the prophets,” understudies of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha, and later, Paul, “brought up at the feet of Gamaliel.” In the New Testament, the term is used of the disciples of John the Baptist (Mat 9:14), the Pharisees (Mar 2:18), and Moses, indicating latter day adherents of his teachings (Joh 9:28).

In the epistles the term “mimetes”, “follower,” “imitator,” occurs in exhortations to pattern one’s life after God (Eph 5:1), or to follow the life and example of the writer (1Co 4:16; 11:1; Phi 3:17; 2Th 3:7,9), and other believers (Heb 6:12; 13:7).

In a broad sense, Jesus used “disciple” as descriptive of all His followers coming under the influence of His teaching, striving to conform to His principles. Luke refers to “the whole multitude of the disciples” (19:37). In Acts 6:2 he states that the Twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (Joh 8:31). Jesus’ disciples then and ever are those who respond to His invitation, “Learn of me “(Mat 11:29).

It is the task of the Church to not simply bring people to the Savior – it is also our task (you and I are the Church) to see that they are following Him as Lord. Lord and Savior cannot be separated. To be a disciple Jesus must be Lord and Savior. It is the task of the Church to teach and train these new believers in all the things that the Lord taught – or, as the Great Commission states – “teaching them to observe (know, understand, apply, and teach others) all that I have commanded you…”

Salvation as an experience or encounter with the Lord is simply the start and not an end in itself. The Church is responsible to see that the new believer is discipled, trained, equipped, and mentored in the faith. The person who leads them to the Lord is responsible to see that they enter this training and that they are literally being taught to follow Jesus in all aspects of their lives. We are to help them “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). As well, the Bible states that if we are diligent in this process and lifestyle we “will be saved from the wrath to come” ( 1 Peter 1:9). It is a bit bigger than saying a Sinner’s Prayer.

Salvation is not just an experience. You have an experience to enter into salvation but salvation is a process of becoming like Jesus. The Bible states: you have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved… So, you are in process of becoming and thus a true follower (disciple) of Jesus Christ.

For many in the Church today they will be unable to fulfill The Great Commission to “make disciples” because they themselves are not one and you cannot give what you don’t have… you cannot reproduce what you are not. So, this is a wake-up call to many who believe that they are disciples and are simply fooling themselves.

The Bourne (Again) Identity

Christians need to know who they are in Christ. As they discover this they will come to know who the Father created them to be – not what He is asking them to do. As this happens they will come to love the person they are now getting to know. The Bible states that we love our neighbors (evangelize) as we love ourselves. So, discovering who we are in Christ, who the Father created us to be and loving what we discover is key to winning the world for Jesus. We need to know our born again identity – who God the Father created us to be and who we are in Christ.

Identity issues are found throughout the Bible. The Bible is filled with stories whose root issue is the identity of either God or the person God is dealing with. Examples:

Moses is apprehended at the burning bush, God speaks to him and tells him what he is being called to do. Moses finally realizes that he is going back to Egypt to bring God’s people out of slavery and to the mountain to worship… Moses asks God: “And who should I say sent me?” – An identity issue.

Gideon is hiding in a wine press thrashing his wheat crop. He is a coward and he is hiding from the Midianites. An angel comes from the Lord and calls him “a mighty man of valor.” This is his identity in God and it is being prophetically spoken to him. The angel is speaking out Gideon’s potential or his possibility – his future identity in God should he choose to respond. – An identity issue.

Jesus asks His disciples who do men say that I am?” He follows this question up with another, “Who do you say that I am?” – An identity issue.

Jesus intercepts Saul on his way to Damascus and Saul falls to the ground at midday with a light shining in his face brighter than the middle-east noon day sun. In the midst of the conversation Saul (soon to be Paul) asks, “Who are you Lord?” – An identity issue.

The Bible tells us who we are in Christ – different from the established fact that, as born again believers, Christ lives in us. It is time then to discover who you are in Christ. As well, while you are at it, it is time to dicover who the Father created you to be. These identity issues are foundational to you being able to love yourself, accept who you are and who you are bcoming, and forgive all that needs to be forgiven. This is foundational to your calling to evanglize, your ministry for the Lord, and your final rewards when you face Jesus on your judgment day. Basic Christianity.

Of course, this assumes you already know who Christ is – and that should be well established in your life as well – and is already if you have been faithfully walking with Him on a daily basis since you were born again.

Your born again identity – different than who you thought you were when you were taking your clues from your friends, family and the world. But essential to living a life pleasing to God!

Surviving the Deep Winter of the Church

Originally published by Charisma Magazine – Monday, 04 October 2010. Written by: David Housholder

The current economic recession is much more severe than we first thought, and the discouraging thing about it is that it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Along with this financial downturn, we, as a church, seem to be approaching a spiritual “deep winter.”

The church of Jesus Christ has gone through more ups and downs than any other institution in history. Saying, “We have seen it all before,” is never an overstatement with us. We’ll get through this coming season as we have (100 percent) in the past. We outlast every other endeavor on earth, over time—always have, always will.

Please hear me: I am a militant optimist about the eventual outcome: God will get His way with all creation. But I am also good at reading the signs of the seasons. (Remember Jesus talking about the fig tree in Matt. 24:32?).Many of us came to faith in the heady days of the Jesus movement, the explosion of praise music, the charismatic renewal and the church-growth movement. We had spring, summer and even—as these movements matured nicely—autumn.

You may disagree with me, but I sense the chill of a long winter setting in. It could last a half generation, or longer.

Many Christians are just tired. One visitation pastor said to me last week over Thai food, “I am just so over church.” She echoed the feelings of many young adults raised in our congregations who are staying away in droves.

Evangelism (actually leading nonbelievers through Christian conversion) seems like pushing water uphill. Most of our evangelistic tools from the ’60s are totally ineffective with many of today’s folks. (If you haven’t had to rewrite your “napkin drawing of a bridge” illustration about salvation, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I can’t tell you the last time we had a wave of “church shoppers.” It seems like we have to create the demand for churchgoing itself. Many of our churches would not fill up next Sunday even if we offered $100 bills to new visitors.

Everybody wants to be “spiritual” but not necessarily committed to church.

Can you remember the times when thousands of young people, after attending concerts at Calvary Chapel church, were baptized in the Pacific; or the first time you heard “Shout to the Lord”; or the first time you saw signs and wonders blowing through your congregation full-steam; or when starting contemporary worship and small groups actually led to church growth?

We’re simply in a different season now.

We also find ourselves, as a church, in the razor-sharp meat grinder of the culture wars between the political right and left, which is shredding what little stability we have as wintertime approaches. Some of our congregations have literally been torn asunder by this “perfect November storm.”

This winter “season” could last many years; there’s no way of knowing how long it will last. So what good news is there in all of this?

Actually, there’s a lot for which we can be thankful:

1) Winter is a time for study. Picture Abraham Lincoln reading his Bible in the log cabin, to candlelight, in the primeval winters of a younger America. I like to imagine my Scandinavian ancestors huddled around the stove reading the classics, with everything pitch-black outside. We’re too busy planting and harvesting during the sunny days to take study and growth seriously.

2) Winter is a time for relationships. In the kingdom, we are brothers and sisters for eternity. As some church programs dry up for lack of interest, we can refocus on eating and praying with those people in our fellowships who mean the world to us. When the task-orientation of high summer sets in, it’s easy to see relationships as disposable. In the winter, we have to huddle together for warmth.

3) Winter is a time for prayer. In the frenetic days of summer, it’s easy to be too busy to pray. The darkest days of Advent are the time to light candles. Cultivation of a prayer life is hard when church life is at full throttle. Busy pastors never have time to pray. The best time for that is winter.

4) Winter is a time to turn your heart toward home. It is not a time of travel. That comes later. Our church buildings were packed during the Jesus movement. Now, during an emptier season, we can focus on a Josiah-like repair of our houses of worship. You church building has deferred maintenance that needs attention.

5) Winter is a time to safeguard our treasures. The “weather” can be hazardous outside. In past winters, Christians in monasteries had to safeguard the treasures of the faith while pagan hordes ravaged the countryside. We also need to keep the fire burning in the fireplace. The flame of the Holy Spirit must not be allowed to go out, or we will freeze to death. We need to defend the bride of Christ and keep her warm at all costs.

6) Winter is a time for dreaming about the coming spring. Planting season is around the corner. The trees will bud. The robins will return. God will do all kinds of new things among us. Many will come to faith. Our churches will fill again. But God will do that in his time. We don’t know the day or the hour; we can’t even predict a simple childbirth, let alone a spring thaw.

7) Winter is a time for faith. The church is sturdier than you think it is. It is not going under or out of business. Jesus guarantees us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

God must love physical seasons—He invented them. And plainly, by history, He also loves spiritual seasons. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season.”

Not every season is a season of revival. Don’t beat yourself up as a leader because things are not as they were in the spiritual summer. You are not the master of the weather. Another summer will come.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a lengthy winter season is not coming to the church. But I think it is. Winter is not a bad season. It’s just different. Is it time for you or your church to embrace the good parts of winter?

And it never hurts to look forward to spring—which always comes: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

About the author: David Housholder is the lead preacher and teacher at Robinwood Church in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Read more: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/prophetic-insight/29361-surviving-the-deep-winter-of-the-church#ixzz12xnOzNN4

Dignified or Desperate

Have you noticed how the Christian Church – thus believers – do not look or live in a way that is that much different than non-believers? In fact, statistics and surveys prove time after time that believers live almost identical to the way non-believers live. I believe it is time, as we begin a fresh new year, to examine our lives and then to take a deep look at the life (and not just the ministry) of Jesus as found recorded in the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As we do this and compare our lives to His we will see we need to make some major adjustments.

Being a Christian means we are on a journey of faith to become more and more like Jesus the Christ (CHRISTian). The Bible tells us that He is God and God definitely has stated a number of times that He does not change. So, on this journey of faith we are the ones to change – and we are to be changed into His likeness. This means living as He lived – having the same priorities, the same values, the same life principles, as well as the same mission. This means that each one of us will need to make some major changes.

Is it my imagination or has the Christian Church become “dignified?” Has it reached the point of being respectable and acceptable? It was never meant to be. Dignified has never changed the world. Desperate has. And Jesus was desperate to fulfill the will of His Father and to fulfill His mission to seek and save the lost. This is the same mission He then gave to His Church – His disciples. And, I believe we need to become so focused on this mission and on fulfilling it and obeying our Lord that we dismiss the notion that we should be socially acceptable and politically correct – dignified – and simply become desperate to be like our Lord and desperate to do what the Lord has called all of us – each one of us – to do!

Dignified has never changed the world. Desperate has. And, I personally am desperate to grow in my relationship with the King of kings and my Lord and Savior. I am desperate to become like Him – to love like He loves. I am desperate to know His heart and to have the mind of Christ in each and every daily situation. I am desperate to do as He did and tell others about the Kingdom of God and the need to repent and be born again to enter that Kingdom and find eternal life. I am desperate.

Maybe it is my age (which is really none of your business) or simply my 40+ years of ministering full time but I am no longer willing to be dignified. I want, each and every day, to be desperate. Desperate for more of Him and to become like Him. I believe it is time for the Church and true believers to stop playing games and to no longer be acceptable and politically correct – it is simply time to be desperate – whatever that may look like.

I invite you on this journey in 2012. I don’t know where it will lead us to but I do know it will be blessed by God and will be life-changing and world-impacting.

You Cannot Give What You Do Not Have

God apparently lives and works in a four dimensional world. Paul writes about the love of God and talks about it’s length, width, depth and height … Ephesians 3:18 “…may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” We live in a three dimensional world. However, we are expected to walk in His four dimensional love.

As I though about this – and I have really given it great thought over a number of days recently – I realized that there are four steps to walking in this love.

1> The first step is to recognize that God loves us – but make it more personal than that. You must know that God loves “me.” John 3:16 states that God so loved the world (human beings) but it has to be personalized if we are ever going to walk effectively in His love – and we must. We must come to realize that God loves each one of us unconditionally. He can’t help but love us because His very nature is love. The Bible states that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) God’s love is consistent and constant. He never has a ‘bad hair day’ and He cannot love you more or love you less tomorrow than He does today.

So, recognize that God is love and that He loves “me.” But more than that – receive that love personally.

2> The Bible also states that because He first loved us we can now love Him. (1 John 4:19) So, the second ‘dimension’ of love for the born again believer is to love God in return. To express our love for God in a personal way that comes directly from our heart and not just our head. We can do this in worship. We do this by obeying His Word … the Bible clearly states that “if you love Me you will obey Me” (John 14:23). We do this when evangelizing and telling others about Him. But I am getting ahead of myself.

3> The third dimension of His love is that we then must come to love ourselves. Jesus states that we are “to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” (Matthew 22:39) Here is the biggest stumbling block we have in knowing, experiencing and walking in His four dimensional love. We really do have trouble loving who we are, as we are, in spite of who we think we are. It is time for believers to come to see ourselves as God sees us and learn to like – even love – what we see. God does.

Yes, everyone of us has things we would like to change. In each of us there are things that God will be changing. But, His love that we are called to walk in is not at all dependent upon behavior, actions, attitude, or whether we are overweight, underweight, fit or out of shape. No matter what you see in the mirror in the bathroom or in the mirror of His Word – you must come to love yourself because He loves you!

This is absolutely essential if we are to ever walk in the fourth dimension of God’s love and love our neighbors enough to tell them about Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel states that we are “…to love our neighbors as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22:39) and so if we do not really, actually, deep inside love ourselves we will be unable to love our neighbors sufficiently to tell them about the love of God. If we are not walking in the love we will be unable to share it with others. You cannot give what you do not have.

4> This is, of course, the fourth dimension – giving the love away to others and telling them about God’s love – the love that you have encountered when born again and that you now experience daily in your life. As one church states in it’s slogan – “to walk in God’s love and give it away.”

Because God first loved us – and while we were yet sinners – we can respond to His love, experience it and become born again believers – true converts. Once we have had this encounter we are to experience His love each and every day. It must permeate our very being – mind, soul and spirit – until we reach the place where we can love ourself because He does. Then, and really only then, can you see this love grow and overflow and splash out on all others (1 Thessalonians 3:12) “And may the Lord make your love to grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love does toward you.”

Then you are a four-dimensional believer walking with Jesus!

Young People and the Church

Perception is reality. What people perceive to be true may as well be true because it is being treated as if it is. The youth of today perceive the church in a certain way. Whether it is true or not – it is true to them and they base their involvement upon their perceptions.

Perception #1 – Church is boring
Youth, if they attend a youth meeting, do so for the food and the time they can spend with the other youth. They consider the “sermon” or the “spiritual devotional” as useless and just something to tolerate. Remember that the average church in North America has less than 75 people and so youth groups are small and leaders are volunteers. Sundays are seen as a loss.

Perception #2 – Church is non-stop activity
Because of the way youth today are engaged with technology and electronic media they have short attention spans and need to be entertained. As a result most succesful youth groups are jam packed with activities. To keep them involved and interested, constant activity is almost a necessity and so most youth group just keep the youth going, and going, and going. But, seldom stop to ask “going where?” The youth are aware of this issue.

Remember, these are perceptions the youth have – not what the reality really is.

Perception #3 – Church isn’t the biggest influence in my life or my spiritual development
When asked to rate what youth believed influenced them the most – the church was 7th on their list and carried as much influence as their music did. Movies and TV did not have a great influence over them according to the survey … friends and parents did. Of course, a lot of their parents are not church attenders or believes and neither are their friends.

Perception #4- Church seems like just a series of events to me
Church seems more like a tennis match than a block party. They are places to come to listen and observe not to participate and interact. Their perception – there is little room for relational interaction about the truth of God’s Word. They are not relationally engaged so really not engaged at all.

Barna states: “One of the distinguishing marks of today’s kids has been their insistence upon the importance of personal relationships … they appear to esteem relationships more highly than has been the norm for more than a quarter century.”

Spectator events have their place, but when it comes to a relational, community-minded, interactive generation, mere church events don’t cut it.

Perception #5 – Church may help save my soul but it won’t help me grapple with the real issues of my life
The messages the youth hear on any given Sunday from the pulpit are not helping them grapple with issues they are facing in their every day life. And they are looking for input as 74% state that they don’t have life figured out and 63% say they don’t have any comprehensive and clear philosophy about life that consistently influences their lifestyle and decisions.

Young people today are looking for a discovery process about life and life issues – interactive, relational, relevant, and real – relating to every day life. They are not rejecting God. They simply see little use or reason for the church.

To correct this distorted (or is it really that distorted?) view that our young people have embraced and to see their lives truly transformed will require a fundamental change in the way most churches are doing ministry and most families are raising their young people.

There is a great challenge out there for anyone who wants to grab hold and run with it.

God ALWAYS Answers Your Prayers

In 2011 we will see a much greater emphasis on prayer in the life of the believer and in the local church. Often we give a great deal of lip service to prayer – the need to pray, the power in prayer, the purpose of prayer … but there is little action backing up the words. We often, it seems, talk about prayer more than we actually pray.

Prayer, it appears, is a struggle for many believers. Christians are often discouraged in the area of their prayer life because they don’t receive the answers they are looking for. God, at times, seems not to be listening or maybe He is away on a well-deserved vacation and so not available. Often we assume the answer is a flat-out “no” and wonder why we bother trying to get God to do anything for us because this seems to be the normal response to all of our prayers. Doubts about the power of prayer and the practicality of this daily exercise flood our minds and souls. It feels like an effort in futility most days. We persevere and hang-in there for only so long – and then begin to fade slowly but fade we do until prayer becomes an “emergency exit” used only when in a crisis that becomes so great that we are at a total loss – I mean we are at wits end – as to what to do.

The good news is that as I read my Bible it assures me that God ALWAYS answers my prayers – and yours as well! In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells us to ask, seek and knock. After He states this here is what it says:
“Everyone who asks …” – next word – RECEIVES
“He who seeks…” – next word – FINDS
And to him who knocks, it will be…” – next word – OPENED

There are no loopholes in those promises. It does not say anywhere in the Bible that God answers some prayers and not others. This passage does not imply that if we pray, God might hear us, or He might not! God’s guarantee for us is this: He hears and answers EVERY prayer.

In the front of one of my old, retired Bibles I once wrote this (source is Bill Hybels):
If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”
If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”
If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”
And if the request is right, and you are right, and the timing is right, God says, “Go.”

In each situation (and prayer) God hears our prayers and answers them immediately. We don’t like three out of four of the answers we receive (guess which ones) as we want instant, positive answers to every prayer and immediate solutions to all issues we talk to God about. But, regardless, God does answer each and every prayer. Always according to His will and not ours, of course.

2011 will have a prayer focus greater than we have seen in many decades. God needs His people to pray to release His plans upon the earth and to allow more of His Kingdom to be revealed and known (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth…”). You will feel the call of God upon your heart to enter into His presence more often and to stay longer. This will mean rearranging some priorities and learning to say “no” to some good things so that you can have the best – more time with the Creator.

Listen to your heart (spirit) and respond when He calls. Like young Samuel in the temple, come to recognize His voice and respond to Him calling you by name. Listen first and then, after having heard what is on His heart, share what is on your heart – and remember, God answers ALL prayers.

The Young People Are Speaking

Data shows that the younger unchurched see Christianity as relevant and viable at the best of time. However, regretfully they do not see the Church as something needed to embrace the faith. The look at the church and believe that, in practice, it turns out to be more about organized religion than loving God and people. As a result they believe that the Church is full of hyprocrites and is unnecessary for spiritual development. As a result they stay away and find their answers to spiritual questions elsewhere – often totally out of line with biblical truth, of course. But, itn is not a rejection of the Christian faith.

However, the truth be know, much of what they are looking for can be found in His Church if the Church were functioning properly. Research reveals that the younger generation is looking for a church that is an embodyment of authentic community, is living a life that touches reality and has depth, embraces a responsibility to serve others and has a real desire to connect with other generations. These are the things that the younger unchurched deem to be important. These elements are, according to the Bible, suppose to be found in the life of the local church. There is a disconnect however – the youth look at the church and simply don’t see what really should be there and visible.

So, you look around most local churches and you will not see many young people. However, they are often asking questions that the Church can and should be answering. Many of the youth today are simply searching for answers to their questions and meaning for their lives. But, the Church gives them little that adds meaning and purpose, signifigance and depth and certainly does not answer their questions. In fact, experience has taught me that most older believers are not even listening to the questions the youth are asking – and so answers are not being heard.

Here is the good news. God is not planning to lose another generation. The generation before this one has, in many ways, been lost to the Church in North America and elsewhere. But, this younger generation (18 to 28) will not be lost as God is moving mightily in the hearts and lives of many of them. Their questions are right – and God is raising up many concerned and well-grounded believers (fathers in the faith) to answer their questions in groups and one-to-one (discipleship and mentoring). They will find what they are looking for and they wil lfind it in the Church and through the Church.

God is raising up a strong army of young people who are looking for purpose and something worthwhile to invest their lives in and have found it in the Christian faith and in Jesus but often not in the Church. So, they are and will be embracing the faith and the radicalness of Jesus – loving Him with their whole hearts and embracing His plans and purpose with their lives. All this outside of the local church as it now exists.

So here is what needs to happen in the new year the Lord is giving to His corporate body, the Church. We need to take a close look at the call upon our corporate existence to “go into all the world and make disciples…” This is where we are failing. We are not going into our daily “worlds” and finding those with the questions and helping to lead them into the answers – the truth. And, if and when we do, we are not making disciples. In fact, often believers today have not be discipled themselves and so often are clueless as to what a discipleship process might even look like. In 2011 the church must, therefore, make a whole-hearted effort to refocus the Church’s life and resources areound the ‘going’ and the ‘making’.

And realize that the majority of this ‘going’ and ‘making’ will happen outside of the church’s four walls and away from programs and organized activities. It will be happening in homes and coffee shops, offices and workplaces as relationships are formed and sharing and shaping happens. This does not make it any less an activity of the church for it will be the church at work in society having an impact one person at a time. It will be the church becoming salt and light in the world as we have been called to be. Not to change companies, cities, and the culture – but to change hearts and lives so that they turn to the Lord.

The youth are ready. The youth are asking all the right questions. The youth want and need what we, when true to the real faith, have to offer. God is going to bring the questions and the answers together in this new year that is dawning and we will see a rising up of a mighty army for the Lord consisting of radical revolutionaires who are following Jesus with their whole hearts along with those who are discipling and mentoring who will help to lead the way.