New Year Goals

2017 goals - New Year resolution concept - word abstract in vintage letterpress wood type blocks against grunge metal background

As a new year approaches I always work with reviewing the past year and the goals I set at the start of the year. And, I spend a good number of hours thinking through and setting goals for the coming year. This is an annual process that admittedly takes a fair amount of time, introspection, and sincere honestly about my personal life and ministry – where it has been and where it is going. In the midst of this self-examination and personal goal setting I also do a thorough spiritual inventory of my walk with the Lord.

By this time – between Christmas and New Years – I have a considerably detailed and lengthy list of goals for the approaching year in a number of categories – and written in a way  that they are measurable which brings them out of the “daydream” category into the possibility realm … a goal that is not specific enough to allow you to measure your progress is simply a daydream.

The Bible encourages planning in harmony with seeking the Lord’s will. For example,

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
~ Psalm 20:4
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
~ Proverbs 3:6
“The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.”
~Proverbs 12:5
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
~Proverbs 15:22
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
~ Proverbs 16:3
“Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.”
~ Proverbs 20:18
“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”
~ Proverbs 21:5.

Goal setting is a critical part of planning. Here are several things I’ve learned about how to effectively set goals:
1) Write each goal down and mark the date next to each goal when you want to see it come to pass. Break the goal down into smaller parts if necessary and mark the day you want to see each part achieved.
2) Make each goal highly specific. Vague has no place in goal setting. It must be detailed, specific, and measurable.
3) Review the goals each month in the Lord’s presence, asking Him to give you wisdom and courage to bring them to pass.                                                      4) Every quarter (every three months) review the goals in detail, examine your progress, and adjust the goal or the way you are going about to achieve it as needed. Like a financial budget goals need to be constantly examined and adjusted according to lie’s actuality and the details of every day living.



The Foundational Question

I have been stuck recently on a very specific verse

It just keeps repeating and repeating and repeating, over and over again

Usually means there is more for me to learn from the verse

A familiar verse – part of a familiar passage and story

The Passage:

Matthew 16:13-219 “  “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Read more

The Growth Of the Early Church – Part Two

We are looking at how the early Church grew. Last time we looked at public proclamation and private conversations. There were two other normal-to-life ways of seeing people hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and thus enter into the Kingdom as born again believers…. Power encounters and the proliferation of new house churches. Let’s look at these two today.

Power encounters: A common feature accompanying both public proclamation and private evangelist conversation was supernatural healing and exorcism, and the moving of revelatory gifts such as a word of wisdom and word of knowledge. These are sometimes referred to today as “power encounters”.

There are several stirring New Testament reports of large groups responding positively to the message brought by Christians because of the miracles that were done by God through their hands. In a typical episode, so much healing and demonic deliverance was wrought through the apostles’ hands in Jerusalem that large crowds were even gathering from neighbouring cities. Some were laying their sick on the ground in the street hoping that Peter’s shadow would pass over them and heal them. Consequently, there was a steady stream of people continually added to the Church.

Planting and multiplying new house churches: Lastly, although never stated explicitly, whenever a house church grew to exceed the physical limitations of the host home, it is safe to conclude that Christians would simply multiply the group into two or send a few people out to start a new home church. This is the most probable scenario because the first-century church never owned any property or constructed any buildings. This can be inferred by the fact that a given town or city (Jerusalem, Ephesus, and Rome) contained numerous homes that hosted Christian meetings.

So, the early Church grew by four basic, regular life means… Public proclamation, Private conversations, Power encounters, and Proliferation of new churches. The same should be true today if we will simply venture forth in faith and “go into all the world” telling others about Jesus and making disciples.

Next time – the first-century Church as a movement

The Growth Of the Early Church – Part One

As I look at the early Church – the Church as we see it in the various books of the New Testament – I see that people came to know Christ through a variety of methods used by the first Christians. The four primary approaches were public proclamation, private conversations, power encounters, and proliferation of new house churches. These were not expensive and highly organized programs or projects dependent on mere human genius, but rather natural, spontaneous, passionate, prayer empowered, and Spirit-led expressions of faith. Thus, the general principle of first-century outreach can best be described as wherever, whenever, whoever, and however.

Let’s look at these briefly…

Public Proclamation: A very common apostolic practice was that of verbal proclamation of the message of Christ in a public setting. The strategy used by the apostles was to find an area in a town or city that acted as a natural gathering place for its citizens, whether it was a riverbank, a synagogue, the Jerusalem Temple courts, a lecture hall, or a marketplace. They would then verbally present the good news of Christ.

Typically, they would tailor their message to suit their hearers, thereby making it seem less foreign. Paul, for example, appealed to the well-educated Greek listeners by weaving into his talk references to Greek religion and poetry as a connection point. Similarly, when talking with a Jewish audience, apostles and evangelists would relate how Christ was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies and was, in fact, the long-awaits Jewish Messiah.

In both situations, anyone who responded positively to the message of Christ would either be encouraged to join an existing house church or, if this was a new work in the area, would be encouraged to open up their own home as the first spiritual beachhead in that town. This approach in looking for a “man of peace” in a new area being evangelized was modelled by Jesus and imitated by both Peter and Paul.

Private Conversations: Individual believers also had private conversations with and prayed for people in need on an individual basis. These were not programmed or planned endeavours, but rather spontaneous interactions during the daily ebb-and-flow of life, sometimes referred to as ‘lifestyle evangelism’. Whether they were walking by the roadside (Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch), languishing in jail (Paul and the Philippian jailer), visiting someone’s home (Peter and Cornelius; Ananias and Saul), or when a non-believer visited a home meeting, ancient Christians were always awake to the opportunities of sharing Christ with others in a natural unforced conversational way.

More tomorrow…

New Insight – Part Three

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are living life in a way that requires little faith and even less effort. This is not what Jesus planned for those of us who are born again Christians. Passive has never been a character trait of those who follow Him. Passion is. Jesus wants this passion (extreme love for Him) to be aggressive and actively engaged in winning the lost. And, you cannot do this if you want to be safe, secure, and comfortable.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – spend all of their time ministering to other believers. or, worse than that, being ministered to by other believers. Instead, they should allow the Great Shepherd, Jesus Himself, to help and deliver them from their self-centred, egotistical issues, hurts, and pains so that they can focus on the lost, the least, and the last. Believers need to push past their “issues” and move forward with the call of God on their lives to “seek and save the lost” as they “go into all the world and make disciples.” As they do what Jesus has commanded us to do they will find healing and wholeness. It is always more blessed to give than receive – but, in giving and focusing on others you will receive.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are not actively engaged in expanding the Kingdom and helping Jesus build His Church. They are either doing little to nothing at all for the Kingdom or they are actively engaged in building their own reputation and ministry. Jesus states that His Church will storm the gates of hell and rescue the lost. In fact, He has told us that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.” Remembering that a “gate” is not an offensive weapon – it is defensive. So, Hell is protecting itself from the onslaught of true believers who are winning the lost – and the gate it has built will not prevail. Attack the gate and it will open. Doesn’t sound passive to me – sounds seriously aggressive and like lots of fun.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – have not taken seriously the words of Jesus. He said, “Since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of God has suffered violence; and the violent take it by force.” We take the Kingdom into the world and help in its expansion (as it pushes ‘hell’ back) if we are “violent.” This means we are called to be active, engaged, involved, aggressively telling others about Jesus and thus walking in His presence, His power, and His peace that passes all human reason and understanding.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are being “light in the light.” It is much more fun to be light (Matthew 5:14) in the darkness. It is time to take seriously the call of God on each believer’s life … Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will Mae you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). If we are not fishing then we are not following. We are simply deceiving ourselves and fooling no one.

Church Life Today

I enjoy reading the Book of Acts. It is the story of the birth of the early Church and its growth as it spread into the majority of the Roman Empire over the first several decades. And, each and every time I read through this exciting account I see more about the life of the Church and Church life in the beginning. And, I gain fresh understand and admiration for the early Church recognizing that we today have much to learn from them if we want to become a viable option for the younger generation today.

The first Christians allowed their beliefs to determine their behaviour. Their function determined their form. And, their mandate determined their method. Let me unpack that a bit….

The early believers lived what they believed. In fact, they made life choices on the basis of their beliefs. Every day, according to Acts 2:42, they met daily and during these times learned the basic doctrines of the Christian faith – the “apostles doctrine”. Then, they lived out their beliefs in every day life. For this reason people joined with them in their faith and became members of their community of faith. This was a daily occurrence. The saints in Jerusalem sold their real estate holdings and gave the money to the Church so that the poor could have their needs met. They were sharing their faith daily because they actually believed that people went to hell if they did not have a personal relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3). They lived what they believed.

In the early Church their function determined their form. In the early Church the people had their needs met by other members of the Body of Christ. There was no official ruling class of priests or pastors. Everyone had a ministry. The five-fold ministers (Ephesians 4:11-12) had the task of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament and, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12, the various members of the Body ministered to the other members of the body. The clergy-laity (expert – amateur) divide did not yet exist. And, the five-fold ministry team would help to “equip the saints” for this ministry.

So, the early Church was both inwardly focused helping their own members without neglecting the outward focus of telling others about the Lord and seeing the lost saved.  In fact, their form and function enabled them to influence and impact the unsaved.

They lived in “community” and were involved in each other’s lives on a daily basis. They were connected, supportive, and involved. Transparent, vulnerable, and accountable. They were literally the “body” of Christ in their world. Because of this form they were known to unbelievers as “those who loved one another.”

Thirdly, their mandate determined their methods. The early Church understood their mandate. It was “to go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). It was to continue and complete the task that Jesus came to do … “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The mandate was a large determining factor in the way they lived (see above) as well as in their methods of outreach.

They understood their culture; they were connected to the real world in which they lived; they were in the world but not of it … they were not so different from the world as to be strange and “separate.” They did not speak “Christianese” but related to others in the working language of the day. They were naturally supernatural and not strange, spooky, super-spiritual, and scary like a lot of believers today. They simply lived life with a new focus or perspective, new values, and an attitude that allowed them to fulfil their mandate.

The first Christians allowed their beliefs to determine their behaviour. Their function determined their form. And, their mandate determined their method. We would do well to study to Book of Acts and see exactly what they did and how they did it … and then think deeply about what you (we) do and how you (we) do it. Maybe as a result we will change and become more relevant than we are, touching our communities with the love of God as found only in Jesus.

Beliefs determine behaviour.                                                                              Function determines form.                                                                               Mandate determines methods.

Very pragmatic but it worked… as the early Church impacted, influenced, and changed the Roman Empire.

New Insights – Part Two

In Paul’s letter named Colossians we read, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him” (2:6). If you read that as a command to live for God, you are not reading it right. It doesn’t say live FOR Him. It says live IN Him. Big difference.

It is an invitation. God isn’t saying, “If you claim to know Jesus, you had better live LIKE Him.” He is saying, “If you know Jesus, you get to live WITH Him. It’s a privilege and a relationship. And, careful, the verse ends with the phrase “in Him.” It doesn’t say IN IT; it says IN HIM. The Christian life is not an it. It is a Him. It’s not a principle to base your life on – it is a relationship with Jesus. It is not a program – it is a person. It’s Jesus.

So, when things don’t appear to be working out … then maybe you have stopped living life “in Him.” You are walking in your own wisdom. You are relying on your own strength. You are moving forward with human understanding. You are following a program (weight loss, financial budget, how to get ahead and be a success) and not a person – THE Person, Jesus. It is about focus.

The author of the book of Hebrews (New Testament – Bible) states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Remember Jesus. Focus on Jesus. Rely on His truth and His grace (John 1:14). How will we finish the race as believers? By looking to Jesus and living life in Him. He is the pioneer and initiator of our faith, and He is the perfecter and finisher.

This sound too simplistic? A little abstract? But really, it is as simple as focus. If your thoughts are on how far you have to go, your steps will feel heavy and uncertain. But if your focus in on how far God has already brought you, the energy and spiritual strength to continue and endure will be yours.

“Finish what you started,” the world says. But God says the opposite: “Just continue what I have already finished, Enjoy what I have already won.”

Jesus died for you, and He rose for you, and He declared that you are forgiven and free. Keep walking. Do another lap. He’s teaching you. You are growing. You are getting closer to Him. You are not perfect yet, but you’re in a process and on a journey with Jesus, and that is what matters most. Live life IN Him.


New Insights – Part One

Almost weekly now I am gaining new insights into very familiar passages of the Bible. At times they come when simply reading scripture. Other times I gain a fresh understanding through a book that I am reading. Sometimes it simply “pops” into my spirit and I simply have a deep understanding of something I was not aware of before.

One recent one was from the time Jesus was speaking to His disciples about the Church. In Matthew 16 Jesus says, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and quietly said, ‘a gate is not an offensive weapon. It is a defensive posture.’ In other words, we build a gate in the fence to keep people out. So, Hell has a gate and it is meant to keep us out – keep us from rescuing those who are going to Hell when they die because they don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus.

This gate is not attacking us. It is not dangerous. We did not send weapon inspectors over to Iraq to see if there had ‘gates of mass destruction.’ Police do not carry ‘loaded gates.’ And, we don’t post signs on our fences saying, ‘Beware of the gate.’ A gate cannot hurt us. And, Jesus said, it cannot “prevail” against us. In other words, it cannot stop us from doing what He has commanded we do … “go into all the world and make disciples.” In other words, storm the gate and rescue the least, the last, and the lost. We have nothing to be afraid of. We don’t need to hide behind the four walls of our church building or in our prayer closets for fear of the devil and his demons. Attack!

So, we do not need to be afraid of the “gates of hell.” We need to understand deep in our gut that the devil is  defeated. He was defeated by Jesus through the Cross of Calvary and the resurrection on that first Easter Sunday. Peter writes that he is “like a roaring lion.” In other words, he makes a lot of noise but he doesn’t have any bite.

John, the apostle of love, states “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.” This verse states … we who are born again don’t continue to live in known sin; Jesus, the first born (or begotten) protects us and the evil one, the devil, can’t even lightly touch us even with one finger. There is no need to live in fear of him and hide from the reality of the call on our lives to “seek and save the lost.”

Just a simple, but very profound, insight into a well know scripture verse.


Time to Wake Up

This morning the United Nations released the newest world statistics. There are now 7.4 billion people on the planet. That means the number has grown by 0.10 of a billion or 100 million since the last time the world population figure was released. For me, no surprise there. We are doing what God told us to do – “be fruitful and multiply.” But the interesting statistic for me is that over 50% of the world’s population is 24 years old or younger. That speaks to me. Really, it should scream at us.

This means that we need to catch up with what is happening in the world. For example, we need to learn to speak to people whose eyes are fixed on small screens from smartphones to laptops. The younger generation is a ‘screen culture.’ We can ignore that fact, we can argue about it, we can wish it were not so, or we can leverage it. Of course, this will mean we need to change the way we relate and the way we teach. Think about it. It is now possible to reach infinitely more people through media that we could ever hope to reach by standing in front of a room of people sitting in seats facing one direction. That excites me.

The younger generation do not attend weekly. They consider regular attendance to be two – at the most three – times a month. Most often they don’t tithe – instead, they tip if it was a good service and the message spoke to them personally. So, if you preach in series then those who are younger will miss every second or third episode of the series. But, if you place the series on line as a podcast most of the younger generations will tune in and even, at times, binge watch an entire series in a day or two. The “talking head” up-front no longer suffices. The younger generation want to interact with the truth and thus discuss the ideas and information being presented.

Outreach through social media is a must. People live on social media. On my smartphone I work with Skype, Twitter, Viber, Kik, Snapchat, Tweegran, whatsAp, Linkedin, Tumblr, Slack, Facebook, Messenger, Podbean, Podcasts, and the list goes on. We can impact a young person through social media long before they enter the doors of the local church. But, we need to adapt to the new ways of communicating and connecting.

This also means we need to be speaking to the issues that are current in our world and culture today. Topics like sex, marriage, gender, drugs, welfare mentality, parenting, sexuality, finances, terrorism. People are no longer putting up with condescending, ‘think happy thoughts,’ it-will-all-work-out teachings. Time to teach hard, biblical truth because life is hard. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble,” but take heart, don’t give up, Jesus has overcome. Preach it!

So, the way young people “do church” is radically changing and will continue to change, if not accelerate. As people’s attention spans continue to decrease (generally), we will have to change the way in which we expect people to interact with the church and the way we present our message – not just on the weekend but daily.