Ten Days a Week

We are living 24/7 and most of that life, it seems, is lived on the surface. I found an interesting statistic the other day: “Overall, US Internet users spend an average of 13 hours online each week, browsing 99 domaines and 3,123 web pages. The time spent on an individual website, however, is just fifty-six seconds.” In short, the river of information we see is a mile wide and a quarter of an inch deep. We live life in the fast lane but see little depth as we speed through the day, the week, the month, and then wonder where the time went. Our internet use is simply an indication of how we are living life in general.

But, we were created in God’s image and God rested on the seventh day. Something very important about the character and nature of God is revealed on the seventh day of creation: God stops. Stopping is a problem for humans. We get a comfortable house, and then we want to fix things up so the house is better, bigger, more comfortable. We get enough to eat, and then we want more. The end result of never being satisfied is that we end up on the move 24/7 and live a very shallow, often unexamined life.

Think about it, God did not need to rest after creating the universe because He was tired. He rests because He is holy. And everything that God does is holy. God rests. God is holy. Therefore, rest is holy. It’s simple math. Rest shows us who God is. He has restraint. Restraint is refraining from doing everything that one has the power to do. We must never mistake God’s restraint for weakness. The opposite is true. God shows restraint; therefore, restraint is holy.

After its introduction at the start of Genesis (the creation account), Sabbath (the rest) doesn’t show up in the Bible again until Exodus 16. Not one word about it through all the generations of begetting that started with Eve. No mention of it when the Flood comes, when God scatters the people of Babel, or when Abraham and Isaac make the most awkward ride home in history. Not so much as a ‘Sabbath shalom’ when Joseph goes from riches to rags to riches. Four hundred years pass between the close of Genesis and the start of Exodus with nary a peep about anything – including the Sabbath rest.

When Exodus comes, four centuries have gone without a sign from God. The Hebrew people have gone from honoured visitors in Egypt to slaves building warehouses for Pharaoh. When they complain, their work gets harder. The meaning of their lives is bricks, bricks, bricks – ten days a week. You see, the ancient Egyptian year was divided into three seasons with a three-week month and a ten-day week. Then a hero comes on the scene: Moses.

God hears the cries of His people, and the battle for the Hebrews is on. Guess who wins? This is one of the pivotal moments in all of history, when God brings His people out of Egypt.

God had much to teach His people. So, He wanted to spend some uninterrupted time with them. Thus the wilderness wandering. It’s an eight hour drive from Cairo to Jerusalem. It takes a week by donkey, and you can walk it in less than a month. But on the occasion of emancipating His people, God made a slight detour. He took them for a 14,600-day ride in the country. I mean, what better time to educate the human race about rest than after twenty generations of slavery? What better way to teach dependance than to go to a place with no food or water? What better time to learn monotheism after living in a culture where you can have as many gods as you want – just cast them in a kiln? What better way to demonstrate the illusion of Pharaoh’s immortality than to make his body disappear in the sea?

For forty years, God feeds the people every meal, shades them during the day, and guides them like a GPS. A few months into the trip, the tribes of Israel pull up to the base of Mount Sinai, and Moses climbs up to have a few words with the Maker of the universe. During this epic journey, God gives the Hebrews a total of 613 laws. But here at Mount Sinai, God personally pens the Top Ten.

If the Ten Commandments are written on apple pie and you get to choose which slice to have based upon size, choose the fourth. You will get more than a third of the pie put on your plate. Here is the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day (God knew that we would forget – this is the only command that starts with ‘remember’) to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Because we ignore the need for this rest and thus live contrary to the way we were created to live (and in disobedience to our Creator God) we live a life that is a mile wide and an eighth of an inch deep – lacking meaning and purpose. We are simply part of the rat race. It may be time to rethink the way we are living and make some needed course adjustments admitting that God knew what He was doing when He created us; admitting that we honestly do need a day of rest (a Sabbath) and then figuring out how to obtain that goal.

More tomorrow…

The Collision of Word and World

God desires to make His goodness and greatness, His grace and His Gospel known among all the people of the planet Earth. If this is true then this changes everything. Christianity is not about me and what fits my preferences and my comforts. It is about Him. It’s about making His glory known in the world no matter what the costs to me personally. Yes, the reward is greater than anything this world has to offer but we don’t spread the knowledge of Jesus to every people group because we will be rewarded. We do so because we love Him and thus obey Him. Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” And it is His command to “go into all the world and make Him known.”

So, as we read and study His Word, the Bible, we must understand that this Word we are absorbing and growing by was meant to impact the world for Him. As we are transformed – more than just informed – by the Word we then take the Word with us into our world and, in fact, the whole world. There must be an intersection of our life lived by His Word and the world we are called to influence. There must be a collision between Word and world in my life. Otherwise, I am simply on a “what’s in it for me” journey like the rest of the world who don’t know Him.

The collision of Word and world. I have seen it many times. It means that the Gospel message impacts people and influences society – the community, the culture, the nation. But recently I have had a familiar feeling that has haunted me a number of times in the past. The feeling that I was missing the point of all this “church stuff.” That I was losing sight of that needed collision between Word and world. Thus, I was simply spinning my wheels and going nowhere. Resulting in no one being seriously impacted by the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Now, we can’t afford to go nowhere – simply spinning our wheels. If the Bible is true, that means over 4.5 billion people in the world right now are lost and apart from Christ and on the road that leads to eternal Hell. Yes, I believe in Hell. A couple of billion of those have never heard the Gospel. This is not tolerable. We can’t coast through a nice Christian life feeling safe, secure, and comfortable; knowing we are going to Heaven when we die. We were created for so much more – the spreading of His Gospel to the ends of the earth. That calls us to live more simply, give more sacrificially. And if we are really following Christ, we are going to find ourselves going against the grain of the culture around us in many different ways. We are called to be a counter-culture and not a sub-culture.

To impact the world with the Word we cannot be passive. We must engage with the culture and speak into the hot button issues of the day. And what might they be – abortion, poverty, sex-trafficking, marriage, and sexual immorality. And when we face these issues, confront these issues, we are going to find ourselves face-to-face with the trends in culture and it is going to be a lot less comfortable, a lot more costly.

But the key is that we must believe that God’s Word is true and our only authority. But when we see what God’s Word says about homosexuality or marriage then we are inclined to wonder, “Can we trust God’s Word on this? Is this antiquated? Is this open to interpretation now, when maybe it wasn’t 100 or 1,000 years ago? We start to question the authority of God’s Word, the timelessness of God’s Word. Our confidence in God’s Word begins to wane. We see this, unfortunately, all over the Church today. And that leads to a real fear and hesitance to speak and proclaim God’s Word, whether it is in public ways or even just in personal conversations.

Even for those who have confidence in God’s Word, there’s a lot of fear when it comes to personal conversations. We ask ourselves, “Am I going to share what God’s Word says about this knowing that it will make me look crazy to some of the people around me – or offensive, narrow-minded, or even hateful?”

If we don’t have rock-solid confidence in God’s Word then we are certainly not going to speak up in those kinds of settings. Even if we do, there is often a fear that breeds reluctance. So, we need, like the early Church (see Acts 4) to pray for greater boldness and the willingness to sacrifice our reputation and even our lives for the true Gospel of the Kingdom and the truth of God’s Word. We need to stand strong and speak up so that there is a collision of Word and world because of our life, words, and actions.

God’s Kingdom Invading Our Lives

Leadership in the Christian Church is difficult. Often more difficult than leadership in the business or political world because you are dealing with people who attend because they want to and volunteer to work with you because they choose to – not because they are being paid to do so. As well, leaders in the Church are tugged at from all sides by people who want their perspective affirmed, or their agenda adopted or their beliefs validated. Leaders at all levels are temped to please people rather than cast vision, tempted to become a yes-person rather than making the hard call. Most of all, we are tempted to settle, time and again, for smaller visions rather than the big, transforming vision of God’s Kingdom invading our lives.

Too often, as a leader, I have made the mistake of thinking that my own success was predicated on meeting people’s needs. I have written teachings based on what I thought people would like. I’ve made decisions to appease. I’ve caved in to criticism. But too often, while attracting the numbers, a crowd, I have created chaos. This changed a number of years ago when I realized that these people will never be satisfied with what Jesus wants and will leave as soon as you ask for a serious commitment that will be personally costly to those who allow the Kingdom to truly invade life and grasp the personal involvement and sacrifice needed to see the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) fulfilled. As soon as it is no longer about them – you will see them leave and go find a church that will cater to them – their whims and their needs.

I have recently noted, even deeply discovered, that the “crowd” in the Gospels, was a negative thing, not a positive thing. The crowd was generally whiny and disruptive to Jesus. They were seeking to have their needs met, their agenda adopted, their thoughts and lifestyle affirmed. All the while Jesus was working to introduce the Kingdom and, what today we would call a Christian worldview – a prophetic Kingdom perspective.

We have created a pastoral model of the church. This is not the Church that Jesus is building. The original plan for God’s people was that they would all be priests and prophets. We are to be part of the “priesthood of all believers” reaching the lost and prophetic (as indicated by Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophetic word… and the addition to that quote from Joel of an extra reference to the prophetic (see Acts 2 and compare it to Joel 2). So, the “pastors” who lead the church today are seldom allowed to be the leaders God called them to be. Seldom are they “prophetic” – casting the vision of the real Church that Jesus is building. So, we gather a crowd or have a circus (a continuing rotation of guest speakers and specials) but we are not building the Church.

To help with building the Church that Jesus is building we need to speak out with vision and with courage and boldness. We need to call God’s people to truly live as “new creatures in Christ.” We need to challenge those who say they are disciples of Jesus to do as He commanded: “Take up your cross daily and follow Me.” We need to no longer pamper those who say they believe but live like they don’t. It is time to cast the vision of the Kingdom which is bigger than the local church. It is time to focus on the Kingdom (which means focusing on the lost) and be a part of seeing it constantly expand and absorb more and more territory today and every day. Jesus told us to do this when He said, “Occupy till I come.” The word ‘occupy’ meant to ‘take more market share’ as it was a business term very familiar in the market place of His day.

This means letting go of those who think the Church is all about them – having their needs met, their agenda accepted, their understanding received. This means being willing to make the tough calls – and preaching about a biblical lifestyle that no longer accepts what we are coming to see a “regular life with a Christian veneer.” Don’t want to build relationships and see the lost come to know Jesus – maybe it is time to declare yourself for what you are – non-Christians. Don’t want to tithe – maybe it is time for you to realize that your god is really Mammon and that you can’t worship Mammon and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is time to stop deceiving yourself and move on with the Kingdom or move out of the way so that the Church can move forward and fulfill the call on it’s life – which is not to make you feel comfortable, safe, secure … or accepted, needed, wanted, and loved.

It is decision time – and it is no longer good enough to decorate the outside so we look like we are a successful church because we have attracted a crowd. Time to stop decorating the outside without reordering the inside. Otherwise we are simply another group, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who are ‘hypocrites’ and ‘white-washed tombs,’ polished on the outside but seriously rotting on the inside.” (Matthew 23:27).

Let’s take seriously every word that Jesus spoke (and speaks today) and stop deceiving ourselves that everything is fine when it is not. It is an amazing challenge to be on a journey with Jesus. Let’s rise to the real challenge of the day and be the Church that Jesus is building. Let’s “seek first the Kingdom….” Let’s continue to pray “Thy Kingdom come.” It is time for self-examination and to “test ourselves,” as Paul states in 2 Corinthians, to see if we are still in the faith or ever were. It is time to confront those who are saying they are believers but live a life that seriously (and publicly) denies their claim.

The Least, The Lost, and The Last

If you want to find out what Jesus is doing today then look for the least, the lost and the last. That is more than a fancy slogan for some ministry that is out to take money out of your pocket. It is a memorable expression of the Gospel that we believe.

Jesus walked among the least of His day. He fellowshipped with the ordinary. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus would be an example of this. He attracted ordinary people who knew they were spiritually empty and in need of something or Someone. The multitudes that followed Him consisted of the least. His dinner party was interrupted by a prostitute who wanted to anoint Him and thus honour Him and express her love for Him. Another one of the least.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Especially those who knew they were lost in life and in need of a Saviour who would do more than save them from their sins. They were looking for hope, direction, and acceptance. They found al three in Jesus. They had lost hope and Jesus gave them their hope back. He gave them fresh direction by speaking of a Kingdom that was not of this world but was in this world. He accepted each and everyone for who they were and just as they were. He did no0t demand that they change first. In time and when the time was right He would help them to change.

Jesus served and saved the last. Often we look at the front of the parade and want to work with the leaders and see them come into the Kingdom. Artful, they have so much that they could offer the Kingdom and the Church. But, at the back of the parade there are the last. Those who no one notices or pays attention to. However, this is where you will find Jesus. And those who follow Jesus. He always stops for the one and love even the last in line.

It’s time that we, as disciples of Jesus, examine our life and see if we relate to and touch the lives of the least, the lost and the last. Or do we simply spent the majority of our spare time with those who are like us and believe what we believe. Are we touching lives or simply loving those who will love us back? Are we responding to the challenge of the Holy Spirit and reaching outside our comfortable circle of friends to touch the lives of those who are different than we are? Have you recently thought about touching the lives of the least, the lost, and the last?

Our personal intimate relationship with Jesus (being born again and receiving the gift of eternal life – see John 17:3) is suppose to lead to influencing others with His love and thus impacting our community. Intimacy leads to influence and impact. True if and only if we stop for the least, the lost, and the last.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Those are words that those in the space industry do not want to hear. But, in the Church world they are words that I believe we need to hear. We have a problem or two. Here is an obvious one – and one which Jesus warned us about. We need new wineskins to contain what God is doing today to reach our culture and the fast changing society in which we live. Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins. However, he also said that no one who has tasted the old wants the new. This is the problem.

Change is never easy. And, it is not something we look forward to. However, in the Church it is inevitable. Followers of Jesus can be assured of one thing – change is a constant when you are a disciple of the Lord. Because it is we need to learn to welcome and embrace change.

Here are some changes I believe we need to embrace:

1> We need to embrace new methods and new ministries to reach new generations.

2> We need to stop trying to be relevant and start becoming more meaningful – living and presenting a Jesus that transcends our culture with a message of hope for the new world order we are facing.

3> We need to do away with the North American prosperity and success gospel that is not a gospel.

4> We need to understand that a lot of what North American Christianity embraces as normal and a sign of success is simply an anomoly and will not work in most other cultures and nations – thus is not a biblical measure of anything important and should not be used to measure success.

5> We need to become more transparent offering hope, love and grace. This will mean engaging the unchurched beyond a weekend service. God’s people need to be missionaries of grace. This means we must recognize that our cool, slick, overly programmed worship services are only attracting other Christians, not the unchurched. We need to learn how to have a service that allows people to “see Jesus” and his unreachable riches.

6> We need to shift from a performance style of worship, whether traditional or contemporary, to a hospitality model. Churches need to be offering a face-to-face fellowship of a meal combined with elements of worship. This would be a return to the pattern of church found in Acts 2:42.

7> We need to do away with the model (wineskin) that was created to entertain, retain, and maintain the church (the truly saved and the unsaved who come to our churches believing they are saved). This model means we spend a great deal of time and effort tweaking elements of the worship service hoping to find just the perfect combination so that “the door will spring open, there will be lots of dancing, singing rainbows and unicorns.”

8> We need to build churches that are practical, Bible-based, and truth-focused. We do need to be loving, we do need to meet needs and we do need to do our best not to be boring, but most importantly we need to have a hunger within the Church concerning the importance of Scripture, the truth of His Word, and an unwavering tenacity at applying its principles. That’s what speaks to the needs of the people, both churches and unchurched.

9> We need to end the “sense of privilege” most believers have. This attitude of privilege prevents them from owning the mission of the Church. It allows them to sit and expect to be served and ministered to instead of realizing that each and every believer is a minister and must be up and out of the pew touching lives for Jesus. It is not about the privileged few but about the lost whom Jesus died to save.

10> We need to stop repackaging what doesn’t work, giving it a new name hoping that it will work. Said another way: we are manufacturing old wineskins with new names, and passing them off as new wineskins. God is not fooled and neither are the unchurched and unsaved.

I could go on but the point is – “Houston, We have a problem.” Sand, until we recognize the problem we will simply continue to do what we have always done and thus get what we have always gotten. Poor English, but true nonetheless.

5 Reasons Creflo Dollar Shouldn’t Buy a New Jet

After hearing CNN and Fox News talk about Creflo Dollar’s 64 million dollar appeal to purchase a new jet for his ministry every time the program changed and a new announcer came on screen… I decided I wanted to comment.

My first thought was that Dr. Billy Graham preached the Gospel of the Kingdom (not the false gospel of prosperity) in more nations to more people than Dr. Creflo Dollar could ever hope to – and did so flying economy class on commercial flights like the rest of us who go into all the world to preach and teach.

My second thought was about how much could be accomplished in the nations of Eastern Europe and Asia where I work with 60 to 64 million dollars. I recently sent $1,000 over to a person who is church planting in a nation in Eastern Europe and his response of thanksgiving and comments about not feeling alone because someone else believed in him… and what that small amount of money could accomplish…Heart warming.

I had a number of other thoughts – but Lee Grady says them better than I can. This was issued yesterday and can be found at http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/22834-5-reasons-creflo-dollar-shouldn-t-buy-a-new-jet#sthash.rNodFo4t.dpuf

Last week Atlanta-based prosperity preacher Creflo Dollar announced to the world that he needed $65 million to buy a new Gulfstream jet. He asked 200,000 of his followers to donate $300 each so he could ride in style. He told his audience that the plane was needed so he could “continue reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A few people dug into their wallets to send Dollar the needed cash. The rest of us started feeling sick to our stomachs.

By this week, after the blogosphere blew up with angry reactions to Dollar’s outlandish proposal, his public relations firm announced that “Project G650” had been placed on hold. Dollar reluctantly caved to public pressure and decided that, for now at least, he will have to be content to either charter a private jet or—heaven forbid—fly first-class on a commercial plane.

I am not sure which is crazier—that Dollar insisted on being treated like the king of a small country, or that his church-owned PR firm didn’t realize this inane fund-raising plan would backfire. Hello? Welcome to the year 2015, a time when Christian people are smart enough to smell a religious scam before they get bamboozled.

I hate to even give this scheme any attention, but there are naïve Christians who don’t realize when they are being taken to the cleaners by a man who claims to speak for God. Rev. Dollar and those who follow him should be ashamed that he has dragged the name of Jesus through the mud and made all Christians look greedy and egotistical.

Here are the five top reasons why I would never give Creflo Dollar money for a private jet:

1. Private jets are a foolish use of donor funds. The Bible calls us to be good stewards of God’s resources. Private aircraft cost an exorbitant amount of money compared to commercial flights because the owners must provide service and upkeep on the vehicles. If a preacher insists on renting a private jet, the cost to fly from Fort Lauderdale to New York would be in the ballpark of $59,000, compared to a $652 ticket on a commercial plane. People who own private jets spend as much as $4 million a year just on maintenance.

2. Ministers shouldn’t use donors to boost their egos. So why would any preacher need his own plane? They can give you a litany of reasons: Time saved, hassle-free travel, no worries about lost luggage. But the real reason is obvious: It makes them look good. It’s all about image. It reveals a pride problem. And the Bible says: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b). If someone needs to fly to the most remote village of Borneo, and there are no commercial planes, then I can understand the need for a private plane. But Rev. Dollar is not going to Borneo. Usually he is flying to his satellite church in Brooklyn, New York. (Delta has a round-trip ticket for $337 from Atlanta.)

3. Ministers who demand luxury deny the core of the gospel. Rev. Dollar has been known to twist the gospel in the past, proposing that Jesus was independently wealthy. Dollar invented this gospel to make it easier to build a case for his own wealth. But the prosperity gospel has become a hollow message in our generation. We are confronted every day by the reality of poverty and suffering in our world, and we know that true followers of Christ are called to give and share, not take and hoard. We also know that a preacher who gets rich off of the offerings of poor people is involved in exploitation.

4. The world doesn’t need a message of greed. The prosperity gospel was popular during the 1980s, when many Christians in the United States were riding the wave of American capitalism. But most of the get-rich preachers of that era either landed in jail or fell morally, and we reaped a whirlwind of bad fruit. We were supposed to learn a lesson from that failed experiment. God blesses us not so we can become selfish consumers but so we can become selfless channels of His blessings to others.

5. Jesus rode a donkey. When the Son of God was about to be presented to the city of Jerusalem as the promised Messiah, He didn’t raise money to buy a gold chariot drawn by Caesar’s best horses. He rode on the back of a rented donkey, the transportation of a poor man. He didn’t require a first-class seat or a luxury vehicle.

Jesus humbled himself. He lowered the bar and invited all of us—especially those who call themselves ministers of the gospel—to model servanthood.

Ever Been Criticized?

Ever been criticized? Well of course you have. Anyone who has ever attempted to do something for Jesus has been criticized. Usually the criticism comes from those who are doing little to nothing for Jesus. Occasionally it actually comes from others who are walking closely with the Lord and are actively involved in seeing people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord and become born again. The latter you should listen to – the former have not earned the right to be critical.

Recently a Facebook page posted a fairly scathing criticism of a ministry I use to be involved in. The leadership shut down the ministry after realizing that it would be impossible to bring it back to any semblance of health. In fact, it was “dead” and simply needed to be buried. However, some of those involved – both leaders and followers – are still, a year later, being critical of what happened. Of course, they have their own point-of-view and we need to accept that. Of course, they are accusing me of unilaterally shutting the ministry down – which is not true. Reading through the posting and some of the comments posted by others, anyone who had any knowledge of what happened would know that the comments made are not based in truth. But, this is usually what happens – people justify their position and actions regardless of the facts and the reality of the situation.

So, some of the others who were involved and have read the posting have come and asked what they should do. They realize that the situation has been badly misrepresented and that what was posted was not what happened. Here is my advice… not just in this situation, but in any situation where others, even believers acting in a non-biblical way, are speaking critically about you or a situation you were involved in.

First, remember that criticism is inevitable for those who are attempting to following the biblical commandments out of love for the Lord. Throughout biblical history and beyond, prophets, priests, pastors and God’s people have dealt with criticism, adverse circumstances, and even persecution. The question is not whether tough times and criticism will come; they will. The question is how will you respond in those tough times. Here are seven suggestions:

1> Don’t take most of the criticism personally. Most of them are really not about you, your character, or the real situation. They are about a different opinion, a different perspective, or someone attempting to justify their non-biblical behaviour and attitude. And some of the criticism may have no logical basis whatsoever. They can come from a person who is hurting deeply. They arise out of the need to justify and explain their actions – not yours.

2> Pray for the critic. Your feelings towards the critic and the criticism will change when you do. Remember that God loves them and so must you because that is a biblical command. Even if there is no love expressed in the words of criticism you must return love – in your thoughts, attitude, and actions.

3> Develop a winsome spirit. Defensiveness and bitterness never help. Learn to laugh at yourself. Have a joyous spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always.

4> Be transparent. Criticism often goes to far greater depths and frequency when there is a sense that those involved (leaders and others) are not being totally upfront on an issue or perspective. The transparent disciple will be given the benefit of the doubt more times than not. Of course this will not eliminate criticism, but you will be able to go to bed at night with a clear conscience.

5> Pray for your own attitude. True Christians, disciples who are following Jesus and His Words, are not perfect. They can have bad attitudes. They can see critics as the enemy. They can have a spirit of defensiveness and even retribution. Disciples of Jesus must constantly be on guard with their own attitudes. If they do, they not only will deal with ministry in a more effective and godly way, but they also will develop thicker skins for dealing with criticism.

6> Focus on the majority. Almost all of the time, more people are with you than against you. The minority critics can seem so loud that we get the impression that everyone is against us.

7> Look in the mirror. We are all wrong sometimes. Some of the criticism is not without justification. The true disciple will gain more respect and credibility with a response that admits wrong when it is there and apologizes.

If you are doing anything for the Lord, criticism is inevitable. Examine your heart and conscience, deal with your feelings, do everything you can to bring peace into the situation, and then move on and continue your work for the Lord. Don’t defend your actions. Don’t get involved in a fresh discussion of the issues. Never let a criticism or a critic stop you from labouring in the harvest field and seeing others saved.

An Organism That Changes and Adjusts

“The birth of the Church” is an appropriate metaphor of its origin, for in the Church, the Spirit did not inaugurate an organization, but birthed a living organism. Growing, adapting, without changing its essence. Throughout the book of Acts Christ-followers receive the Word and wisdom they need for each new context. In other words, the Church was built by revelation as God revealed what they were to do and how they were to accomplish it.

Because of this, the church spread; beginning at Jerusalem, to the end of their known world. They quickly learned that this new thing – the Church – through the Holy Spirit within them, conveyed its timeless message appropriate to the times in which they moved and the cultures they encountered. The message never changes but the methods we use to present the message must. Thus the ‘structure’ of the Church will obviously change as well. Otherwise, as good as the message it – and it is Good News – it will not be properly heard nor received and thus will not influence nor impact the culture.

We have a global faith for all nations, an ageless faith for all generations. And the Great Commission tells us this is true. We are commanded to “go to all the nations” and do so “until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). This means that in the time that we are alive, as the pace of change accelerates and convulses culture, the Church meets it, in each context, adaptable, flexible, and ever new. If even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, we might imagine cultural shift can do little more than dent it.

So, as Spirit-filled believers, we need to be re-envisioning and restructuring in response to the changing culture and the resulting changing needs within that culture. We must respond to these evolving trends and thus show the world the Spirit-infused flexibility of this living, breathing, organism, the Church.

A New Thought For An Old Man

I have always thought and focused on establishing churches (church planting) that does outreach. However, recently I have begun to think about and act upon this new thought: Why not establish an outreach that becomes a faith community (a church, in time). Then the focus is outreach and seeing the lost saved – the focus is not establishing a church and all that this entails.

I know, not very interesting for a topic of a blog. But then, it’s my blog and I am interested in it. And, I believe that it is a God-thought and one worth thinking about. So, let me think out loud. In the United States there are now 71 distinct lifestyle segments and 66 in Canada. And these numbers are growing, multiplying annually. What fits for one group will not work with another. Each group has its own focus, interests, understanding of life, lifestyle, and needs.

So, planting a church and gearing it for “people” is simply not working. Even planting a church and gearing the services for a broad group such as “seekers” and “unsaved” is really not working. But, moving in to a neighbourhood and opening a home to a specific, targeted group of people (a distinct lifestyle segment) and allowing them to feel at home, comfortable, accepted, and safe does work. Here in this “outreach” you might have the seeds for and the start of a new church. Maybe! But, right from the start the focus is outreach and the lost – not the church and all its organizational needs and issues. It is just people hanging out together, drinking coffee and eating home-made brownies.

A few days ago I acted upon this thought. And, with the kind help of a couple of wonderful believers who opened their home, met with 8 people… the vast majority of whom do not attend church in any form. It was simply a night to ask any question you might have. After three hours we settled down to just relating and talking. But, before this gentle ending we had questions from young people who are in university, a university grad looking for a job, a young Christian from another church that does not believe in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, several young people who are struggling with life, and an atheist. It was an “outreach” to those who would not likely seek out and attend a local church. It was amazing. Powerful! Energizing! Repeatable….

The questions were amazing and wide-ranging; the young people were open and honest; the discussion was frank, in depth, and engaging. Some questions were easy to answer; others were not. But, it was open, honest, searching, and engaging. It was a discussion and not a lecture (sermon). it was interactive and not a teaching (sermon). It was geared to those in attendance and the questions were initiated by those attending. So, they were attentive and interested.

As we continue to meet weekly I am hoping we will see more emphasis on personal spirituality, experiencing God, and providing community. Moving forward from questions and issues – an outreach group – and building it into a (house) church that is strong and vibrant as well as reproducing … moving down the neighbourhood and opening up another lighthouse for the Gospel as they “go into all the world”.

Exposure to Jesus

As I minister in various nations and in a number of provinces within my own nation I see an issue that we need to deal with. I am calling it the need to have more exposure to Jesus. You see, I believe that if a believer, no matter how long they have been followers of Jesus, were exposed to the real Jesus as represented in the Gospels and then to the way the Church in the book of Acts put that personality into play through the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church… Then we would have a dynamic and very alive Church of Jesus Christ.

When people become really familiar with Jesus and find that He is irresistible – there is an amazing and permanent change that takes place. When people catch a glimpse of the real Jesus and fall deeply in love with Him, then you will have a burden for the lost and embrace winning the lost as a lifestyle. Once we are deeply in love with Jesus so much of the Christian faith that is currently missing will suddenly take front and centre. The Bible states: nothing can separate us from the love of God. The Bible states: Love covers a multitude of sins. The Bible states: Love never fails. The Bible states: Faith works by love. The Bible states: Love your God with all of your being. The Bible states: Love yourself and thus be able to love your neighbours. The Bible states: Without love you are simply hollow and empty.

So, because the Bible tells us that God is love. And, of course, Jesus is God. Then the more we come to know Jesus the more we will love. And the more we love the more we will show people the real Jesus. And, the more we love as a community of faith (the Church) the more we will expose our neighbours and friends to Jesus – the real Jesus. It is not rocket science. But, it is powerfully electrifying and builds with its own energy. And it is this energy that is contagious.

When you study the early Church and the book of Acts in particular you note that they had two topics of conversation – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the Kingdom of God … the resurrected Jesus and His Kingdom. Regretfully, much preaching and teaching today touches little of these two topics. Think about it: When was the last the that you heard a good and a biblical sermon on the Kingdom? And, how many sermons that you have heard over the past three months have actually dealt with Jesus. I am not talking about what He can do for you or what your blessings or inheritance is in Him. I’m not referencing the Jesus who supposedly promises that you will be prosperous and safe and secure not to mention comfortable. That’s not the real biblical Jesus. That is a man-made god that many believers around the world today worship. How many teachings have you heard recently about the real Jesus who demands total obedience and self-sacrifice?

Let’s dig deep in the Scriptures and personally discover (or rediscover) the real Jesus and fall deeply in love with Him. Then so many other things will simply fall into place – tithing, evangelism, prayer, worship, holiness, discipleship, church planting…

Exposure to Jesus on a daily basis in our time with Him and in everyday life is what is missing and it is what will bring life and energy making the Church that He is building powerful and dynamic and something that cannot be ignored.