Business As Usual

You hear it said often from many different people and places. People are looking forward to getting back to normal. As Covid supposedly is coming to an end in a lot of nations people are hoping that things will return to normal – in other words, as they were before Covid. Of course, now we have a war that Russia started with Ukraine and that will impact the lives of many including ours as there are economic consequences, supply chain issues, and relational issues to be sorted out now and well into the future. Add to that rapid inflation and it seems like “normal” is not about to happen soon.

I would suggest that business as usual will not return in the near future – if ever. And that there is a need for many changes in the way we view and live life on Planet Earth. Foundational changes. And, as a result the Church of Jesus Christ needs to also make rapid and substantial foundational changes. For the Church it should never have been business as usual. And, certainly not now as we see the world changing in so many ways with respect to the essentials of life and liberty.

When looking at what the Church does and how it how does it, maybe it is just me, but so much of current church life seems totally irrelevant. Obsolete. Not relevant. Embarrassing. Antiquated. Even, in my opinion, stupid as it is so out of touch with the world around it. And will be more so unless it responds to the changes happening in the world. It can not be business as usual. It should never be business as usual.

We need to remove a lot of the programs we have and begin to build relationally. We need to stop preaching verse by verse, book by book and start to teach as Jesus did … using things that were happening in the world and worldly activities to speak bible truths in a way that people could understand and wrestle with the principles and truths. Less performance by a worship team and more leadership into His presence during worship. We need to stop yelling at the darkness – whatever version of darkness your particular branch of the church thinks is #1 evil – and start being the ‘quiet’ salt and leaven in the loaf of life. Instead of yelling at he darkness try being the light in the darkness. And, the list of foundational, basic changes needed goes on and on. 

    • No longer see pastors leading a church – but adopt the biblical fivefold ministry model
    • Stop using roles within the Church as titles for those in the ministry – Paul always said, “Paul, an apostle” and did not say, “Apostle Paul” using his role as an official title
    • Teach to touch the heart and not just fill the head – in another words, teach for life transformation and not head information
    • Cut out the performances – both in the pulpit and on stage during worship
    • The Church not being led by a single person but by a team of elders
    • Women taking their rightful role in ministry as allowed in the New Testament Church
    • Every member trained and equipped to be a minister and touch people with the love of Jesus
    • Becoming supernaturally empowered by receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and stop fighting theologically over something that was taken for granted for believers in the early church
    • Stop thinking you are right and everyone else who does not think like you is wrong. Pull down the arrogant, prideful, opinions which, according to Paul, are strongholds that keep you from experiencing the fullness of the life Jesus wants you to have
    • Stop investing in buildings and start truly investing in people – the poor, those caught up in sex trafficking, the hungry, those in prison. And, not as a program but as a way of life

As I said, the list of needed and beneficial changes could go on and on. It just cannot be business as usual any longer. The world needs to hear and, more importantly, see the Gospel of the Kingdom.

This is the one thing that never changes….


Train Your Brain

There is so much going on in the world and also in the Kingdom right now …

There is also so much going on at the same time in our personal lives …

For me, it can, at times, be overwhelming

The Lord is doing so much with all of us during this season as we face so many events and situations that are new to many of us: Read more

Heaven On Earth

In Exodus (second book of the Bible) God tells us that He “will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God” (Exodus 29:45). Millennia later, John, the writer of Revelation, tells us he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). This is a major theme throughout Scripture (Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 26:12; Zechariah 2:10; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3).

So one of the overarching themes in Scripture — from the very beginning to the very end — isn’t to “get people saved” but for God to dwell down here with His people. We are so concerned about going up to Heaven, but God is concerned with bringing Heaven down to earth. Revelation, chapter 22 even says the new heavens and the new earth won’t need a temple because God will be our dwelling place (think back to Genesis!). We are working so hard to get out of this place, while God is working hard to recreate and come down to this place. Read more

The Power of Possessions

Jesus was speaking to a young man who was blessed financially and had few concerns regarding material possessions and his financial stability.

“Now as Jesus was starting out on his way, someone ran up to him, fell on his knees, and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ʻDo not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.ʼ” The man said to him, “Teacher, I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth.” As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful, for he was very rich” (Mark 10:17-25 NET).

In the first century world, for a wealthy man to give up all his possessions (in this case, all his real estate) meant a demotion in social class. Were the wealthy man to have followed Jesus’ command, he would have not only lost the cushion of wealth but also experienced a social demotion and had to start a whole new life with a faith community that refused to make money or class the basis of its pecking order. So in effect, this rich young man’s priorities were the problem, not his possessions.

The Bible presents no data to support the idea that being wealthy is wrong. Ion fact, we find evidence tp the contrary. 

Proverbs 10:22 NET “ The blessing from the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.”

Scripture also offers many notable examples of godly, wealthy people — Job, Abraham, Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas, and Philemon.

Do God does not disapprove of people with money. But He does speak out agains those who rely on riches, as this man did:

Proverbs 11:28 NET “The one who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”

Mark 10:23 NET “Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Amos and James in particular also warn against hoarding riches, exploiting the poor, and refusing to help those in need 

Amos 4:1-3 NET “Listen to this message, you cows of Bashan who live on Mount Samaria! You oppress the poor; you crush the needy. You say to your husbands,

“Bring us more to drink!” The sovereign LORD confirms this oath by his own holy character: “Certainly the time is approaching when you will be carried away in baskets,

every last one of you in fishermenʼs pots. Each of you will go straight through the gaps in the walls; you will be thrown out toward Harmon.” The LORD is speaking!

James 2: 14-16 NET “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it?

James 5:3 NET “Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure!”

It is our attitude toward our wealth that matters to God, because our attitude will determine how we manage the possessions He entrusts to us. 

The Dangers of Traditions

My family has a number of traditions. Good ones that remind us of our connection to each other and that often celebrate special occasional. With one daughter our tradition, on both Christmas and her birthday, is to go for lunch together and then to the local bookstore to add to her collection of books. We have been doing this for close to 30 years. It is a good tradition.

Jesus comments about traditions…

“For Moses said, ʻHonour your father and your mother,ʼ and, ʻWhoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.ʼ But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, ʻWhatever help you would have received from me is corbanʼ (that is, a gift for God), then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this” (Mark 7:10-13 NET).

According t the scribal tradition that Jesus cites, someone could declare some or all of their property “Corban,” or “devoted to God,” and thereby release themselves of any obligation for the welfare of their parents. This “gift” did not have to be presented to the temple; they could use it for themselves in whatever way they chose. But the tradition set aside the biblical commands for children to honour their parents and take care of them in their old age.

Exodus 20:12 NET “Honour your father and your mother, that you may live a long time in the land the LORD your God is giving to you.”

Exodus 21:15,17 NET “Whoever strikes his father or his mother must surely be put to death … Whoever treats his father or his mother disgracefully must surely be put to death.”

Pastor Kent Hughes writes: “This amazing twisting of God’s Word by people who esteemed it as holy is especially revealing. Those who try to justify themselves by the Law end up modifying it in order to escape its authority.” 

This is the danger of following human traditions rather than God’s heart as expressed through His Word, the Bible. 

So we need to be careful that we don’t twist the truths of Scripture to justify a lifestyle that is actually contrary to the Kingdom lifestyle as set out in the Word of God. Be careful we don’t create and worship a god of our making. Let’s live the way Jesus commanded and follow His example of a life pleasing to God the Father.

There can be dangers in our man-made traditions. Be careful. 


Steps and Stops

The Psalmist wrote that “the steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way” (Psalm 37:23). But someone has wisely observed that God lovingly orders not only our steps but also out stops.

At one point in his second apostolic journey, the apostle Paul experienced successive divine “stops” within Asia Minor (known then as “Asia). The first time, the Holy Spirit prevented him and his team from pushing on to its western reaches – the coastal area north of the city of Ephesus. The second time, they tried to go north into Bithynia, “but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7). Finally, Paul looked to the northwest – to Troas – a seaport just across the Aegean Sea from Macedonia. Given the roadblocks of previous days, he may have turned toward Troas somewhat tentatively. But whatever uncertainty he arrived with was quickly dispelled. God met him there with unmistakable instructions; sometime in the night, Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man pleading with him, “Come … and help us” (Acts 16:8-9).

Suddenly all those stops made sense! God wanted them to bring the message of Christ to Macedonia. Paul and his apostolic team were so certain that God had made Philippi in Macedonia their top priority that Luke writes: “Immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).

Leaving Troas on a ship, they docked overnight on the island of Samothrace and landed at the coastal city of Neapolis the next day. As always, Paul wanted to get to work quickly, which in this case meant travelling to Philippi, the leading city of the region.

The one thing lacking in Philippi at that time was a Jewish sanctuary. Consequently, the Jews who wanted to gather on the Sabbath did so on the banks of the Gangites River – a source of fresh water necessary for ritual cleansing. So that’s where Paul and his companions went, finding a group of women assembled for prayers. One was named Lydia, an apparently prosperous Gentile businesswoman who worshipped the God of the Jews but knew nothing of their Messiah, Jesus Christ (Acts 16:14). When Paul spoke to the group about Jesus, Lydia responded with faith. Afterward, her home became the gathering place for all the early converts in Philippi (Acts 16:40). Thus the church in Philippi was planted, and Philippi became the first European city to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom from Paul. 

As with many other places where Paul preached, persecution followed close behind the founding of the church in Philippi. But not even persecution and imprisonment could taint his memories of ministry in that city – a ministry that was sparked by a vision in the night and launched on the side of a river with a group of godly women.

Some years later, during his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul thought about and prayed for the church he had established there, writing those believers perhaps his most intimate and personal letter. By then Paul had spiritual children across much of the Roman world, but the Philippians had a unique place in his heart. In just four chapters, he uses I, me, and my well over 100 times, with the word I appearing 69 times. In this spirit of constant gratitude, Paul expresses his heartfelt affection: “I thank my God in all my remembrances of you” (1:3), “I hold you in my heart” (1:7), and “I yearn for you all” (1:8). This is a book about fellowship from the hand of a man who intimately loved his brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Imprisoned, not knowing his fate, Paul nevertheless wanted to express his love for this group of believers, along with the deep satisfaction and pleasure he gained from their fellowship and their progress in the Lord. Well aware of their concern for him, Paul longed for them to look at his difficult circumstances in a positive, hopeful way – understanding that God could use these events to advance the Gospel and reach people Paul might not have otherwise reached. He strongly urged them to refocus their gaze on Christ, strive for unity, and be on guard against the false teachers who had slipped in among them.

When the Philippian church learned that Paul was imprisoned in Rome (around AD 60-62), they sent him a gift by way of an emissary, Epaphroditus (4:18). While serving the Philippian church in this way, Epaphroditus fell ill. It appears as though this illness was a source of distress for Epaphroditus, and Paul felt it necessary to pave the way for this faithful servant’s return to the church (2:25-30). In this instance and throughout the letter, Paul’s correspondence is marked by love and joy, from a spiritual father (apostle) to his beloved children in the faith. 

You might, with this summary as background, spent some time reading Paul’s letter (epistle) to the Philippians in the New Testament. 

The Revolutionary Message of the Gospel

The Revolutionary Message of the Gospel

Paul writes to the Christians in the city of Rome

The political center of power in the vast Roman Empire 

Romans 1:16 NET “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is Godʼs power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

MSG: “It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else!”

TPT “I refuse to be ashamed of sharing the wonderful message of God’s liberating power unleashed in us through Christ! For I am thrilled to preach that everyone who believes is saved—the Jew first, and then people everywhere!”

This verse is just about as famous and as powerful as John 3:16 Read more

An Ancient City and God’s Judgment

I recently reread the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. You know, the story of the prophet of old who was in rebellion to the call of God on his life. And, in the process of running from God is thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. Now, don’t get caught up in the nonsense of arguing big fish – little fish. I have worked in several countries and actually seen fish (not whales) that are big enough to swallow a person. I recently wrote a blog in this regard (see:        “Swallowed By a Huge Fish” – blog for February 24, 2022).

Let’s look at the history of the City of Nineveh, the then capital of the Assyrian Empire to which Jonah had been sent to prophesy its doom if it did not repent.

Archaeology has shown that ancient Nineveh was indeed a ‘great’ city in terms of its size and scope. The capital of the Assyrians, it housed anywhere from 120,000 inhabitants to nearly 600,000 and was perhaps the world’s largest metropolis in Jonah’s time.

When the French archaeologist Austen Henry Layard unearthed the city of Nineveh, he found the city’s hub to be one mile in width and two and a half miles in length. Its metropolitan area, however, stretched up and down the Tigris River for more than 20 miles. The outward perimeter of the city — which included other “suburbs” – was determined to be more than 60 miles in length. The 60-mile wall around the city was estimated to be 100 feet tall. In addition to this wall, there were 1,500 towers that were 200 feet in height.

As great as the city was, however, its people – the Assyrians – were equally cruel and wicked. These idol worshippers were especially wicked toward the Israelites. All of Israel hated the Assyrians for their cruel, barbaric ways. The armies of the Assyrians often skinned their captives alive, removed tongues, gouged out eyes, and mutilated the population of entire cities by driving over people with chariots affixed with iron spikes. They also burned children alive and committed other atrocities that were designed to terrorize their adversaries and make them submit.

The Ninevites may have been guilty of much cruelty and injustice even among their own people. That their king decreed they should “turn from [their] evil way and from the violence” when they heard the prophetic message may refer to repenting from violent crimes within Nineveh. It is recorded in Jonah 3:8. “Every person and animal must put on sackcloth and must cry earnestly to God, and everyone must turn from their evil way of living and from the violence that they do” (NET).

I was thinking of how this large city repented in response to the prophetic message brought to them by one man who was from a nation that they hated and almost destroyed. A message from the God that they did not believe in and did not recognize or worship as God. It was a powerful time of God’s grace and mercy moving upon non-believers and calling them to repent and turn to Him. 

My point: We could use prophetic voices like this today in both the Church and to the nations. Too often the prophetic voices today speak only what we want to hear and not what we need to hear. Too often the teachers of the Word today are teaching pleasantries and things that we want to hear. The Bible calls this “teachers who tickle our ears.”  It seems that the message of the radical and revolutionary Gospel of the Kingdom has been muted and is seldom heard any more. 

An example: We are currently witnessing a war started by Russia and destroying an innocent nation of Ukraine and her people. Where are the prophetic voices speaking for God? Where are the prophets who should and could bring a word to the Russian leaders (and nation) regarding the need to repent and turn back to Him? In the same light, where are the prophetic voices to the Ukrainian people bringing comfort and hope in a very difficult time? The Church seems to be silent. Even in my nation I don’t hear prophetic voices – or even the voice of Christian leaders – speaking against what is now taking place or giving a God-point of view in the midst of very trying times. As a number of young men I mentor who live in the regions of the war have noted – the Church is saying nothing, maintaining the false separation between religion and politics. They are not impressed. Neither am I.

It is time for a new generation of prophets like Jonah to rise up and bring the Word of the Lord to current situations in many troubled areas of the world. 

Theology or Bible-based Common Sense

A few weeks back there was a news item that caught my attention. And, over the past few weeks I have frequently thought about it, mulling over the details and wondering how we have reached this stage in the “Christian faith” (note the quotation marks). Let me summarize the news item in case you missed it.

It happened in mid-February of this year … PHOENIX — The priest was beloved by his parishioners — yet for years he made a one-word ritual mistake, repeatedly, that has caused confusion and anxiety for thousands of Catholics in the Phoenix area now worrying that they were improperly baptized.

Under scrutiny are baptisms performed by the Rev. Andres Arango, who served in Arizona for 16 years. Catholic officials estimate that thousands of baptisms are now presumed to be invalid because he used incorrect wording, and they say those affected may need to be re-baptized. Some may feel obliged to have other church ceremonies performed again, even including marriage. Arango’s error was in saying, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” when he should have begun the sentence by saying, “I baptize you.” The difference is theologically crucial, the Vatican ruled in 2020, because it’s not the “we” of the congregation doing the baptizing but the “I” of Jesus Christ, working through the priest.

With two Master’s degrees from recognized seminaries in my nation I do understand the theological issues involved. However, I can’t help but ask, “Would Jesus really care?” Is it not the heart of the people that matters not some words of a formula used in a Church ritual?

Does this not bring to mind Jesus’ comments … Matthew 15:6-9 NET You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition. Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Really, do we think Jesus will reject people just because a priest – in a sacramental ritual (note the word ritual) – used the word “we” instead of “I”? This is the Jesus who welcomed Children who had not been baptized and used them as an example of what the Kingdom was all about. Do we really think Jesus would reject a person because they were not baptized with the right formula? This is Jesus who welcomed the thief on the cross into His Kingdom while dying on the cross next to Him without being baptized.

I understand the theology. I was once a priest in a major worldwide denomination who held to the same theology. The teaching is that there are two sacraments (church rituals) that are necessary for salvation – Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mass, the Eucharist). Two outward rituals that open the door into Heaven if done correctly. Really, now?

Is this the Jesus we see in the New Testament? Is this really the heart of God who sent His Son that “whosoever believes” would be saved? Is an outward sacrament as important (or important at all) when compared to the condition of the heart and the call to repentance? Did Jesus require people to be baptized to be a part of the Church that He was and still is building? How about the issue of baptizing just true believers and not young children? And, why just a sprinkling of water and not total immersion as we see in the history of the early Church? So many things to stumble over. So many man-made traditions that really have nothing to do with a personal relationship with Jesus.  

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry” (Matthew 11:28-30 NET).

The Message Version reads: ”Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I was one who was tired and burned out on religion. That is why I am no longer a priest in that denomination. But I am a born again believer who was convicted of his sin, experienced godly sorrow, repented, and received forgiveness (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). And I know from the teachings of the Bible (not the traditions of men) that I am a child of God and walking with Jesus as I fulfill the divine destiny that is on my life. Nothing to do with baptism or some man-made, tradition or formula. The news article goes on to say that now people are being rebaptized. In some cases, because the baptismal phrasing was wrong priests are having to be baptized again and then ordained a second time because the wrong formula when they were 6 days old makes their ordination (and call from God) invalid. And, of course, everything they did as a priest is also called into question. The list of things you can trip over increases as you work through the theology of “We” verses “I” in the baptismal formula.

Doesn’t it just make you want to scream, “Get a life!” So much concern and guilt over something that has absolutely no connection to whether you are in God’s grace and will enter Heaven when you die. So much religion controlling people’s lives and instilling guilt instead of grace.


Becoming a Disciplined Person – Part Four

The final step in being self-disciplined is #6 …


People usually don’t quit striving for their future, their dream, their destiny because it suddenly is no longer worth the effort. They quit because they are not willing to pay the price of being self-discipled. They are not willing to follow through with the daily disciplines needed to achieve the dream or the goal. To be successful and thus fulfilled, we need to do what we should, even when it hurts.

Self-disciple is the fuel that keeps you going. The willingness to hold on in spite of problems, the power to endure — this is the quality of someone who achieves their goals and crosses their personal finish line in the race of life.

Tony Robbins – speaker and author – states, “I believe that life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment, and life’s greatest rewards are reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve.”

The bottom line is that you cannot manage your life if you do not manage yourself. You cannot maximize your capacity for achieving if you cannot increase your discipline. Life continually gets busier and more complicated. It doesn’t go the other way. If you are older, as I am, you recognize that. Even now with my six children grown up and with 15 grandchildren and one great grandchild, I don’t have time for all the things I want to do. And if I live yo be a hundred it won’t be enough time to accomplish all the dreams I have.

I can’t have any more hours in a day. So what can I do? Two things. First, I can focus on my self-discipline so that I make the most of the time I do have. Second, I can guard my time and not let others waste it. There are only three things you can do with the time you have – waste it, spend it, or invest it. The latter is what you should always be aiming for. And, so don’t let people waste your time or simply use up what limited time you do have called life. 

To increase your discipline, you don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t need to come from a great family. You don’t need extraordinary talent. You just need to focus and follow through. 

You need self-discipline. 

So, in review…

1> Know what is important (prioritize)

2>Get rid of excuses

3> Take action before you feel like it

A> Think about the consequences of not acting

B> Focus on doing the right thing just for today

C> Make yourself accountable to someone else in your weak area

4> Don’t let distractions distract you

5> Be aware of time

A> Set upfront expectations

B> Set external deadlines

6> Follow through, even when it hurts.