Breaking Free – Part Two


Yesterday we began our look at breaking free from fear and the idol of safety… And we saw that we need to stop saying no to everything just because it is scary. Today, let’s look at the second step to overcoming our hunger for being safe, secure, and comfortable.

2> Start praying some dangerous prayers

The most dangerous prayer you will ever pray is, “Thy will be done.” Jesus prayed this prayer. You and I need to learn how to pray dangerous prayers more often. Once we pray it, we need to start listening for the call of God in our lives and then act on what God tells us. Remember, prayer is not a way for us to get what we want from God. Prayer is our way of discovering God’s plan for our life and then beginning to walk in it. He is not here to serve us – we are here to serve Him.

So, When you pray this dangerous pray you will need to listen. Long ago I remember saying to God that I was bored with my prayer life … or prayer death, as it really did not have much life. Two out of three mornings I would find myself falling asleep and getting nothing out of my time with the Lord. So, I told Him how bored I was. And, His answer was, “You think you are bored.” So, I asked Him what I should do. And His answer was blunt and real: “Sit down shut up, and listen first!” I have been doing that ever since.

Think about it… He is God and we are not. We were saved by responding to His love. “While we were yet sinners He sent His Son to die for us” (Romans 5:23). He initiated and we responded. Then, once saved, we initiate and expect Him to respond. That’s backwards. Worse, that is walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Paul writes to the Galatians and says, “You foolish (real Greek word is ‘stupid’) Galatians. Having begun in the Spirit, why are you now trying to fulfill things in the flesh?” Good question! And we could ask ourselves the same question. We got saved by responding to His initiative. Then we turn it around and expect Him to respond to our initiative in prayer.

When you sit down and shut up and listen – you will hear Him. And, then you pray (talk) to Him about the things He shared with you. Now you are discussing His Word, His will. And, 1 John 5 tells us that if we ask according to His Word and His will we are guaranteed that He will answer … So, really, as believers and disciples, we should see all of our prayers answered. However, that only happens if we listen before we speak and respond when spoken to.

Try it – you might like it. And, remember, He will speak to you of big things that He has planned for you and Him to do together. As you speak to Him about these plans and His purpose for your life you will be “praying dangerous prayers.”

And, of course, because He is your Heavenly Father He already knows what you have need of and will make sure your needs are met. So, at the end of your listening-responding time with Him, simply thank Him that all your needs are going to be met.

More tomorrow…




Breaking Free – Part One


When I was in seminary many years ago – all right, many decades ago – I read a number of books by Paul Tournier. He was a Swiss physician, author, and pastoral counsellor. He wrote: “All of us have vast reservoirs of full potential. But the roads that lead to those reservoirs are guarded by the dragon of fear.”

One night Jesus took Peter on a real adventure. He put the disciples in a boat and sent them ahead of Him to cross the Sea of Galilee – a five-mile-wide lake. And then a storm hit. late at night, hours into the dangerous deluge, they were still labouring to get to the other side. That’s when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water.

Matthew records Peter’s response… “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. (14:28-29)

You also may know the rest of the story. Peter has taken flak for two thousand years for taking his eyes off of Jesus and starting to sink. But, really he is the hero of the story. The other eleven disciples stayed in the boat and never even gave it a shot. They played it safe. They missed out on their once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk on water. The only reason: They were playing it safe. They lived with fear.

The only way to break the grip of fear is to get out of the boat. John Wimber use to say that faith is spelled R-I-S-K. Let’s look at the way we can treat that fear that keeps Christians wanting safety, security, and comfort and refusing to risk.

1> Stop saying no to everything just because it is scary

Everything the Lord has ever asked me to do was scary – and risky. But, early in my walk with the Lord I made a quality decision that regardless of what the Lord asked me to do, that the answer would always be yes. In fact, I told Him that before He asked me, before I knew what He was asking of me, the answer was “yes!” I believe that this is one of the key reasons He has used me as He has over the last 40 years since I was saved.

I don’t believe that the Lord wants any disciple to be comfortable. I know He sent the Holy Spirit to be “another Comforter” but the Greek word translated ‘comforter’ could as easily have been translated ‘challenger.’ But, because of the culture and the non-biblical way that Christianity is seen, understood, and lived the translators apparently decided not to rock the boat and use that word. Thus He becomes the Comforter and we become the comforted.

Sad, as we then miss out on the challenge and the stretching that was meant to be a part of every believer’s life. The Christian faith is meant to be a faith adventure. But wanting to be comfortable, safe, and secure … because of FEAR … causes us to play it safe as the eleven disciples did.

Fear is the darkroom where negatives develop. Fear will cause you to miss the best thing God wants to do with you. Your inability to move forward in faith because of your fear will prevent you from getting off the couch and living life as it was mean to be lived – a daily adventure of taking up your cross, following Jesus, and facing challenges with courage and boldness.

More tomorrow…



Truth or Tradition


People are fed up with traditions … things from the past that no longer speak to today. In fact, these things from the past often prevent the church from speaking the truth to those alive today. So many things that pass as Christian and biblical are really simply people’s preferences and not even biblical.

Here is a truth to note: If a practice or issue isn’t outlined in the Bible, then It is a preference, or merely a habit based on tradition.

Jesus said, “You set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). The minute that happens, the church becomes petrified, the preferences of people replaced the principles in God’s Word, and the people who need the church the most grace it with their absence. As a result, in most nations the church is in decline.

What do the following things have in common: VCRs, Flip phones, Answering machines, folding maps, floppy discs, drafting tables, movie rental stores, analog TV, phone books, landlines?

What do all of these have in common? Great start – lousy finish. Unfortunately, we can add one more to the list … most local churches today.

The sad truth is that the church is in trouble because it is holding to man’s traditions and preferences and not to the Word of God, the Bible. In North America (but true in other nations as well in principle but maybe not statistics)….

The percentage of people unaffiliated with faith doubled from 1990 to 2008. The percentage of people willing to describe themselves as atheists or agnostic grew fourfold during those same years. American Christians today have the least amount of influence they have ever had, are plummeting in likability, are burning out pastors, are seeing their teenagers walk away from the faith. and have all but lost their impact on culture.

Between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors every year and it’s getting worse. Thom Rainer predicts the annual rate of church closings will continue to soar to 10,000 churches a year.

The percentage of self-professed Christians is down 13 percent over two decades.

Less than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church. And, American church attendance is steadily declining.

Established churches, 40 to 190 years old, are in rapid decline.

In 2050, the percentage of the US population attending churches will be almost half of what it was in 1990.

Newsweek magazine concluded that the Christian God “is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory.”

The Bible tells about a rich church in the wealthy city of Laodicea, a community with many of the conveniences we have today, including. the equivalent of indoor plumbing, shopping malls, and hugh sports stadiums. Perhaps the church also had beautiful grounds, gifted preachers, and the applause of the people. The only thing this church was missing was the one thing it needed – the blessing of God. Ultimately, the reason that was missing, in the words of Jesus, was that they were “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16).

Holding to traditions and not God’s Word…


It’s Not A Spectator Sport

Within the first month of being born again and entering the Kingdom of God 40 years ago I made an important discovery which led to an even more important decision

I discovered that Jesus was more than my Saviour

Saviour from my sin and from going to hell when I died

I discovered that he was and is also Lord

In fact, He cannot be your Saviour if He is not your Lord

Lord and Saviour go together in the Bible and cannot be separated Read more

Convictions Without Compassion


On a recent trip into another nation I noted that people of a particular ethnic group gathered together in a church that was being planted to minister to and attract those who belonged to that ethnic group. In attendance one evening were a few – very few – of those who were from that nation. The vast majority of people in attendance were from the ethnic group for whom the church was planted. All the leaders were from this ethnic group, all the worship team, and all those helping to bring a good worship experience to fruition.

I was an outsider – a “foreigner” – and not simply because I was a Canadian in a foreign nation. Even those who were citizens of that nation by birth would be considered “foreigners.” It would not have appeared to be a church for them.

Someone tells the story of an African American man who moved into an all-white community, not realizing how unwelcome he would be. On Sunday he went to a local church, but no one talked to him. He went for four straight weeks and then made an appointment with the pastor.

“I’ve been coming to church here, but I am having a real hard time connecting,” the man said. The pastor looked at him and said, “Well, maybe God doesn’t want you at this church.”

Four weeks later the guy ran into the pastor in a store. The pastor said, “Hey, I haven’t seen you. Did you pray about it?” What did God tell you?”

The guy said, “I prayed about it, and God told me, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve been trying to get in that church for years, and they won’t let me in either.”

The Bible is crystal clear that there is no male, no female, no ethnic differences, no “Jew nor Gentile,” no rich, no poor, but we are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Churches are sometimes not as clear about that.

People respond to the church when our compassion break down barriers.

A great true story….

In Sacramento, California a few years ago, white “Christian” supremacists firebombed three Jewish synagogues. Shortly after the attack a local pastor in the city was driving home after church and felt as though God whispered, “So-called Christians destroyed those synagogues. Real Christians ought to rebuild them.”

The next week the pastor announced that they were going to receive an offering on the following Sunday to rebuild these synagogues. Word of the offering spread across all that part of the state. People drove from all over Northern California to be a part of the services in order to give to that offering.

A Jewish couple drove for hours to sit through the service and hear for themselves what was happening. After the service, they came up to the pastor and said, “We drove three hours to see this. We have never heard of any Christian doing anything nice for a Jewish person – ever. We couldn’t believe this was actually happening. We had to come and see it for ourselves. We want to say thank you. We didn’t think Christians like this existed.”

The offering was huge – not enough to rebuild three buildings in the State of California, but it was a significant help to those Jewish leaders. Yet as soon as it was over, the pastor received one of the angriest letters from a Christian he had ever received. It said, in effect, “How dare you raise money for those people!”

Maybe that person would have said nothing if the church had compromised on helping others (compassion) and spent the money on new church carpet got ourselves.


All They Want Is My Money


People are tired of churches that keep score with money. My brother, when he was alive, use to go occasionally to his wife’s church – a church that printed all the members’ names in the bulletin at the end of the year with everything they had given over the last twelve months. The pressure on those people must have been off the charts.

Christians are called to be generous, but the church is never called to manipulate or guilt people into generosity. Some Christian (I use that word lightly) radio programs, on a station in a neighbouring city to where I live, spend more time asking for donations than they do preaching Jesus.

I read a story that sets this type of “money emphasis” in context… One night a Christian radio program took their normally long appeal for funds up a notch. He said, “We need seventy thousand dollars. We also believe that God will give you ten times what you send in. So, figure out what you need, send a tenth, and God will give you ten times that amount.”

A listener wrote to him:

Dear Sir,  I understand you need seventy thousand dollars. I also understand you believe God will give you ten times what you give. The good news is this: I have a solution to your problem. Send me a cheque for seven thousand dollars, and God will give you the seventy thousand. I will be waiting for your reply.

He is still waiting.

People are tired of the church’s constant talk and emphasis on money. Yes, we need funds to operate. But, what are we doing with the funds we are blessed with? How are we using these funds to impact the community that we are called to serve? And, maybe, just maybe, money is not the real issue. Maybe there is a deeper issue to be examined here.

Recently in a church that I work closely with one of the leaders had one of those “God moments.” We were talking in an elders’ meeting about the financial situation of the church and he pushed his chair back and said, “We don’t have a money problem, we have a leadership problem.” And he was right. Money is really never the issue. If there is a money problem then the root is somewhere else – leadership, vision, a disconnect from the real world (see yesterday’s blog)… it is always connected to something else.

Paul, the apostle, realized this and uncovered this truth when he wrote, “They exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5). They gave of themselves first to the Lord, then to others. Their spiritual commitment let to compassion. And, compassion led to giving to Paul and his cause of the moment.

The same is true today … we don’t have a money problem, we have an issue of being committed to the mandate of the Church – seeking and saving the lost.

When that becomes the burden of the hearts of those who say they are disciples of Christ then money will no longer be an issue and offerings will no longer play a major role in the Church. If we are following Jesus and becoming fishers of men then our money will be where our heart is – and if we are not fishing then maybe we are not following … and that is why money is such an issue and appeals for money turn us off.




I was recently in a church where they are impacting their community and making a difference. That should be the norm for churches but it is not and that is why this church was so different, so dynamic, so alive. It had many of the trappings that most churches have – buildings, programs, worship, youth worker, home groups, and a paid staff. But, the people were seriously influencing and impacting those around them – their neighbours, their friends, their families, and those that they worked with.

This was so different than most churches I work with that it stood out and was so very evident and “in my face” in a good way. I mean, let’s admit it, you could shut the doors of the average church and the community wouldn’t even know that they were gone. Why? Because most Christians and churches are disconnected from the people and needs in their own community.

The Bible teaches us to be separated from the world, but as Ed Cole once wrote, “We preach separation, and practice isolation.” Somehow we have removed ourselves from the mainstream of everyday life in fear of being influenced and sucked into the things of the world.

One author wrote: “In my area, 87 percent of people do not attend any church, and it seems like it doesn’t really bother anyone. This is amazing to me…”

He goes on to say:                                                                                                             If 87 percent of people where keeping their kids out of school…                           If 87 percent of Apple computers weren’t functioning…..                                       If 87 percent of Toyotas broke down in their first year….                                       If 87 percent of people who went into a hospital for help died…

….everyone’s alarm bells would go off! Any one of those would be considered a crisis.”

Yet somehow it never dawns on good Christians churches that the same kind of ordinary people who flocked to Jesus two thousand years ago are now staying away in droves. Forget the church bells – our alarm bells should be ringing off the walls.

A pastor was playing golf with three business men he did not know. The conversation, as it usually does with men, started with what they did for a living. The pastor, when it was his turn to share, gave his usual answer. “I pastor a church for people who don’t like church.”

Everyone laughed. One guy said, “Must be.a big church! Let’s admit it, nobody wants to go to church!”

To which the pastor responded, “It is, and you’re right.” He wasn’t being rude – he was just being real. We are the ones who have disconnected from real people like him.

It is time to reconnect. After all, an appliance works much better if it is plugged in. We, the church, need to plug in and impact the community.



No “Christianeze” Spoken Here


Churches make people feel like outsiders. We have created an alien environment that seems designed to communicate to the vast majority of non-believers that they are outsiders who don’t belong. We have insider customs. We sing insider songs. We use insider language, which usually does not communicate what we want it to – and, in fact, does not communicate at all.

Bible study becomes hermeneutics.                                                                     Preaching becomes homiletics                                                                             Teaching the Christian faith becomes apologetics.                                                   A church service becomes a liturgy.                                                                            The Ten Commandments become the Decalogue.                                            Loving Jesus becomes Christology.                                                                   Church life becomes ecclesiology.                                                                            Talk about the universe, and it’s cosmology.                                                       Have a faith-based worldview, and it’s epistemology.                                   Christ’s return becomes eschatology.                                                                         The closing song is the doxology.                                                                              Talk about the Holy Spirit, and you’re pneumatological.                                Teach about salvation, and you’re soteriological.                                                  Get together with another church, and you’re ecumenical.                              Drink coffee with another believer and you are having fellowship.                    Tell others about Jesus, and you’re missional.                                                       The Bible becomes the canon

The more unchurched people I talk to every day the more I realize our phrases are unintelligible. I work hard not to use Christianeze or any big word for that matter. I am not out to impress people – I am out to see them meet Jesus and receive salvation.

Think about it… the preacher says to the people, “Turn to Joshua.” And, a non-believer will look around to find a guy named Joshua. We mention “general revelation,” and people think we are talking about a war hero. And, the best one I have caught is: “Turn in your Bibles…” and a visitor will wonder why we can no longer have our own Bible and must turn them in.

And, it all adds up to creating an elitist, foreign environment guaranteed to make most visitors feel like they don’t belong.

Fact: People are fed up with churches that treat people like outsiders.

Three Steps to Impact


In a study of the Book of Acts in the Bible it became evident that there are three steps to impacting a culture, a community, or a neighbourhood.

1> “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45).

2> “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people” (Acts 2:46-47).

3> “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47)

It seems that the early Church started with good deeds, which led to good will, which created openness to the good news.

1> “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45) …GOOD DEEDS

2> “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glass and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people” (Acts 2:46-47). GOOD WILL

3> “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47) GOOD NEWS

So, the early Christians began with good deeds. They decided to sell stuff in order to take care of other people.

That led to good will. Then they enjoyed the favour of all the people. The people had good will towards the Christians. This does not happen in most places today.

Because good deeds led to good will, it created an openness to the good news being shared. Also not seen in most places in our world today.

Most churches today are trying to deliver good news without good deeds, so there is no good will. And, the Gospel of the Kingdom is simply not received or acted upon.

It just may be time to rethink the way we are working to impact our communities.




Stop Praying


Moses killed a man trying to do God’s work his own way. He ended up a fugitive hiding out in the wilderness, a runaway murderer, and escaped felon – a has-been.

Thinking he was washed up, Moses saw God in a burning bush, heard the call of God, and eventually went back to Egypt. After a ten-round prizefight, Pharaoh let the Israelites start marching out, only to run straight into the banks of the Red Sea. They were trapped. So Moses stopped going forward and prayed.

I love what happened next, because it is the only time in the Bible that I can find God telling somebody to stop praying. God said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15).

God said not to stand still or move sideways but to go forward. He said, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea of dry ground” (Exodus 14:16).

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night God drove the sea back. The next morning, the Israelites were able to walk over on dry ground, with a wall of water on the right and left. The Egyptians pursued, so all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots followed them into the sea. Then God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the water again – and the entire Egyptian army had to learn to tread water.

Now think about it. Moses’ best moments in life began when he finally said yes to God’s plan for his life and started to fulfill that plan God’s way. In other words…

When Loses finally stopped say no; When he stopped making excuses; When he stopped being overcome with fear and discouragement; When he stopped thinking, ‘It’s just too late for me;’ When he finally stopped saying, ‘I’m too old,’ and ‘I’ve messed up too much;’ When he finally stopped being driven by his insecurities; When he finally said yes, obeyed God, took a risky step with God, and moved forward…

Look at what happened…

The minute Moses said yes to God, he experienced the unlikely but commanding performance before Pharaoh. After he said yes, two million people were freed from hundreds of years of slavery. After he said yes, he watched the Red Sea part and two million people escape through on dry land. After he said yes, he received the Ten Commandments, wrote the first five books of the Bible, and experienced the miracle of the manna, Mount Sinai, the promised land, and the glory of God…

The best years of Moses’ life happened only after saying yes! None of these experiences would have happened had Moses not stopped wallowing in self-pity and finally started to say yes to God.

When you say yes to God incredible things happen.

On the other hand, nothing much happens to people who always say no.

So which are you going to be?

You want adventure? You want a sense of purpose? Say yes, and then hang on for the ride of your life.