Simon (the Rock) Peter

One of my favourite people in the Bible is Peter the fisherman. I relate to his inconsistencies, blunders, and well-intentioned failures. Like most of us, Simon didn’t have the credentials expected of a spiritual leader or hero. Many would have described him as unstable, unpredictable, and impulsive. But Jesus saw more in him than others saw. And, because of this fisherman’s story I know that Jesus sees more in you and me as well.

Calling Simon to be His disciple, Jesus gave the fisherman a new name that carried a new purpose (see Matthew 16). After Jesus plays a round of spiritual Jeopardy! Asking His followers who He really is, Peter lands the big money with the right answer. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” In recognizing Jesus’ true identity, Simon is stepping into a new name and a new position within the group of 12 disciples and in the future Church. 

Jesus says, “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.”

(Matthew 16:17-18 emphasis mine)

He is no longer Simon, but Peter. He will no longer cast nets for fish, but now he will be a fisher of men. God will use him to win people into God’s Kingdom.

Now, if you know anything at all about Peter, even after Jesus’ declaration, Peter didn’t always live up to his new name. Like us, he still had much growing to do as a believer, a disciple, and as a leader. Numerous times Peter fell short of faithfulness. When the guards confronted Jesus near the Garden of Gethsemane, rather than responding as Jesus taught him, Peter resorted to violence and sliced off a soldier’s ear. I’m only guessing, but I am pretty sure Peter was swinging for the head and missed.

Peter’s most infamous failure followed on the heels of his boldest declaration. When Jesus explained that many would fall away, Peter fought back, promising his allegiance. “Even if everyone else in the world falls away and leaves you,” Peter declared with unbending boldness, “I will always be there for You and never let You down. (Mark 14:29, paraphrased). If you know the rest of the story, before the rooster crowed, Peter denied even knowing his Lord, not once, but three different times.

Even though Peter didn’t initially live up to his new name and purpose, God helped him grow into it. His consistent shortcomings became his best teacher to learn about the grace and redemption of God through Christ, Since he was forgiven much, he knew how to preach on repentance and forgiveness. It’s no wonder that God chose Peter to be the keynote speaker on the day of Pentecost as he unwaveringly told people to turn from their sins and turn to Christ,

Peter the Wishy Washy grew into his new name and purpose — Peter the Rock, called not to fish for fish but to fish for souls. History shows us that Peter died a martyr’s death for his faith in Christ. Tradition says that his enemies planned to crucify him on a cross just like Jesus to mock his faith in Christ. But Peter begged them not to, explaining that he wasn’t worthy to die in the same way as his Saviour. Many Christians believe that Peter was crucified upside down, displaying his love for Christ and his unwillingness to end his life in the same way as his Saviour. Peter may have been born as quicksand, but he died a rock. 

So, like Simon, when Jesus looks at you He does not see what others see. He does see what you see. So often people are labeled for one or another aspect of their lives. And then they wear the label like this is who they really are. Like this is all they really are. But Jesus sees past the self-imposed labels. He sees past the other-people-imposed labels. He sees the real you, the potential that He placed within you. We need to get past the identity baggage and see ourselves as Jesus sees us.

You don’t need to think long and hard to name people who’ve been labeled. There is Attila…the Hun. There is Conan …the Barbarian. Billy… the kid. Buffy… the Vampire Slayer. And, a child’s favourite, Winnie … the Pooh. Right or wrong people are known for what they do. Tiger Woods was known for being the best golfer in the world. Unfortunately, because of his extracurricular activities, he has now picked up less favourable labels. Some people’s names even become synonymous with their crimes or failures. No one wants to be a Benedict Arnold or a Doubting Thomas. You get the idea. There is Pam the People Pleaser. Evan the Evasive. 

Whatever you have labeled yourself; whatever others have labeled you — you are more than that. Much more. And, Jesus sees the real you and wants to work with you, walk with you, to bring the real you into the sunlight. He wants to help you lose the identity baggage and become whom He created you to be. No matter what others think or see, Jesus looks past all of that and sees the potential.

Like Peter we can find forgiveness and redemption in our walk with Jesus. Like Peter, Jesus will help us to see and realize the potential that is within us. And, with His help he will lead us into His eternal plan and purpose for our lives. You and I are on an amazing and exciting journey to discover who we really are ‘in Christ.’

Time To Leave?

We seem to be in a season of change. A time when we are having to leave what we know. What is safe, comfortable, and secure. Or, at least, what we believe is safe, comfortable, and secure. I am sensing deep in my soul that it is “Time to Leave” what is known and stretch; reaching out to what is yet unknown. Unknown but challenging and certainly exciting.

What about you? Do you sense something new happening in your life? Can you smell the change in the wind? Even if you don’t feel like anything is different right at the moment, it’s always a good idea to keep your heart prepared for change. Because it happens to us all: a new step of faith, a new venture, a new opportunity.

You’ll face something new or different, maybe something you didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid change. Sometimes we’re called to stand our ground when change blows in, but many times we need to take a risk and step into the change. God may have planted a restless desire (what I call ‘Divine Discontent’) in you to serve Him in some surprising way. Maybe He’s given you a burden for a specific group of people or inhabitants of a special place. Maybe He’s calling you to go. Follow that hunch and see where it takes you. Take that leap of faith. Embrace the adventure. The best way to make a big jump is to get a good running start. 

There’s a great story in the Old Testament about Abram and Sarai (who later are renamed Abraham and Sarah) that I think illustrates this perfectly. In Genesis 12, God speaks to Abram. At the time, Abram was living in a town called Haran, but he was from a city called Ur of the Chaldees. Back in Abram’s hometown of Ur, the people worshipped a false moon god named Nannar.

What’s significant here is that the one true God chose to reveal Himself to Abram, a guy whose only exposure to religion was seeing people worship the moon. God gave Abram a very simple, direct command: walk away from everything you’ve ever known. “Leave your country and your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV emphasis mine).

Leave and go.

It may seem obvious, but to go somewhere else you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable, and what’s easy. To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security. 

Just imagine the kinds of things that must have been going through Abram’s mind. But I’ve lived here for years, God! I moved here with my dad. This is my home. I like it here. All my friends are here. My house is almost paid for. The schools are great. (I know Sarai and I were never able to have kids, but still.) My best friend lives right down the street from me. Over there is where I get my hair cut. I get my camels groomed just around the corner, and I really trust that guy. I don’t want to leave!

Abram had all these things he was used to. A life that was comfortable. And here comes God, calling him to go some place he doesn’t know anything about. But God makes Abram a promise. He says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).

I can imagine Abram talking back to God. “Say what? A great nation is going to come from us? Maybe you missed this, God, but uh, we have exactly zero kids. None. We’re childless. Sure, we tried for years – and trying was fun! But that never got us any results. Now here I am, seventy-five years old. It’s really kind of too late for us. Surely we can’t start having kids now. And you’re telling me you’re going to make us into a whole nation.

I wonder if you’ve ever made a promise to God like I have.

      • “God, if you’ll just help me pass this one test, I promise I’ll study next time”
      • “God, if you’ll just let me not get caught, I’ll never do this again, I promise”
      • Lord, if you’ll help me finish this big project for work, I promise I’ll start sooner next time”

I don’t know about you,, but most of the promises I’ve made to God didn’t stick. That’s because we’re not changed by the promises we make to God; we’re changed by believing the promises God makes to us.

Let’s look in verse 4 at what happens to Abram after God makes His promise:”So Abram left, as the LORD had told him to.” Simple as that. Just what God told him to do., Abram did. But what if he hadn’t? What if instead Abram had tried to rationalize everything? What might have happened?

Today, because of Old Testament tradition, we sometimes refer to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If Abram hadn’t gone, God wouldn’t have changed his name to Abraham later when He made a covenant with him (Genesis 17). There wouldn’t have been an Isaac. There wouldn’t have been a Jacob. We wouldn’t know God today as “the God of Abraham” because Abram would have continued serving his old moon god Nannar.

If Abram hadn’t had the faith to obey God and step out, who knows what consequences we might be living with today? Would you refer to as “the God of Carl, Alex, and Jeff?” We can’t know. Thankfully, because Abram had faith in the one true God, we don’t have to.

Where is God calling you to venture into new territory? We are entering into a season of change. Embrace it. 

God’s Ultimate Over Your Immediate

Here is something we all need to keep in mind: “You will very likely overestimate what God wants to do through you in the short run. But you will very likely underestimate what God wants to do through you in the long run.

Remember that ministry and impacting others with the Gospel of the Kingdom and the love of God is a marathon and not a short sprint. 

Our walk with God and our daily lives is really a series of small decisions that we make and choices that come along that don’t seem to be life-changing or earth-shattering. Just small every day choices and decisions that will determine the future that we will have. The impact we will have. 

There were two brothers – Esau and Jacob. Esau was the oldest and he was a hunter. He was, of course, his father’s favourite. And because he was the oldest son he was given very special treatment as he would be the heir to his father when Isaac died. He came in one day from hunting and was seriously hungry. He made one small decision that impacted the rest of his life and the history of the world as we know it. He traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. After all, he was hungry and was not thinking long-term or even short-term repercussions of this one decision.

The same is true of us. We generally have short-term vision and think only of the immediate need or want. We make decisions based on our feelings and current situation without much thought – if any thought – about what will change in the future because of this one small decision or choice that we are making in the immediate – the now! So, really we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us in every minor and major decision of every day.

Paul told us to “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT). As God’s Spirit guides us, we won’t be seeking the bowl of stew, another Oreo cookie, or a scoop of ice cream. The Holy Spirit replaces our lower, self-serving, demanding desires with God’s higher, Kingdom-serving, selfless ones.

Think about this for a moment. For centuries God’s name has often been tagged by the patriarchs who loved and served Him faithfully. You’ve probably heard God referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If you pause and reflect on the story we mentioned above, you’ll see something that will stop you in your tracks.

Esau was the older brother with the birthright. When Jacob tricked him into giving away his birthright, Esau traded the ultimate for the immediate. If he hadn’t made that devastatingly destructive shortsighted decision, throughout history you would have heard God referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. Esau lost his standing.

You’ll be wiser. I know you will. When faced with temptations, you’ll look beyond the moment. You’ll remember that patience is better than power. Self-control is more important than conquering a city (See Proverbs 16:32). You’ll choose God’s ultimate over the immediate. You’ll never trade your birthright for a simply bowl of stew. You’ll no longer sacrifice your destiny for distorted or daily desires.

As you realize how much God has planned for you to do in this world, I pray you will live with a long-term perspective – a Kingdom perspective – making decisions that will honour God and propel you forward over time. You sacrifice your own ego-driven agenda in order to experience the perfect timing of God’s plan and purpose for your life. Instead of demanding that you want now, you’re often infinitely better off waiting. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (NLT).

Living with patience is better than muscling forward to demand what you want before the time is right. Self-control often unlocks the door to blessings that are longer lasting and more meaningful. Patience comes from knowing you already have enough of what you need the most because you are God’s child and He knows what you have need off even before you ask. And He has given to you all that you need certainly to life and to godliness. 

 

May I Take Your Order?

It happened again the other day. To be honest, I couldn’t even estimate how many times I’ve had some version of this conversation. I met someone new on my walk with my dog. Like always, we talked about dogs (I mean, what else, right?) And, as usual, I ask what they do for a living. They reciprocate and ask what I do. This is an automatic into the Gospel of the Kingdom and an invitation to our local house church. This time, when I brought up church, I found out that this person was already a Christian – a very frustrated one.

Within seconds, he had already told me about seven different churches they had tried in the past several years. The conversation went something like this: “We’ve been church shopping now for a long time, but we just can’t find anything that works for us. We liked the worship at one church, but the teaching wasn’t deep enough. Then at this other church, we loved the teaching, but the kid’s ministry was lame. We tried one church that we thought might be pretty cool, but no one talked to us the whole time we were there.” He finished with the line that to me is the death blow. It still breaks my heart every time I hear someone say it: “We just can’t find a church that meets our needs.”

Now, before I start sounding like critical, out-of-touch leader guy, let me say that I am thrilled that this person and everyone like him wants to find a great church. But the language in this conversation is troubling. For example, “We’re church shopping.” It sounds like you’re out looking for the perfect item of clothing. And the phrase “I can’t find a church that meets my needs” is one of the most unbiblical statements any Christian could utter. This is the have-it-your-way mindset. We see ourselves as spiritual consumers. The church is the product. We want to find a product that meets our needs. Before long, this polluted mind-set creeps into our theology. Well, since I’m going to church and doing good things, then God should answer my prayers, get me the job I want, help my sports team win the championship, and ensure that my twelve-year-old becomes class secretary. And if any of this doesn’t happen the way I want it to, then God failed me. Because, remember, everything is all about me. Right?

We forget that we are not made to be spiritual consumers. God has called his to be spiritual contributors. And the church does not exist for us. We are the Church, and we exist for the world.

When my mind shifts from being a spiritual consumer – it’s all about me, what I want, what I get, what I prefer – to becoming a spiritual contributor, everything changes. I am here to serve God and to love people. I exist to make a difference. God created me to be a blessing for others. My food is to do His will and to finish the work He sent me to do. When we stop just serving because it is the right thing to do and instead start seeing ourselves as servants, that’s the moment when we die a bit more to ourselves and Christ is free to live through us to bless others. 

Here’s a fun assignment: ask yourself, “Am I more of a consumer or a contributor?” If you are a Christ follower, hopefully you are a valuable part of a life-giving church. When you think about church, how would you rate yourself? Do you drop your kids off at the nursery (without ever serving there), eat a free donut or drink a free cup of coffee, sit in a seat that someone else paid for, enjoy the service, then pick up your kids and go home? If so, you are a consumer.

On the other hand, do you use your gifts to make a difference? Do you invite people to your church? Do you pray faithfully? Do you tithe consistently? And do you serve passionately? Then you’re more of a contributor.

Now think about the other areas of your life. When was the last time you gave a whole day to help someone in need? If you’ve done that several times this year, you’re contributing. You’re using your life to serve others. If you’ve never done that, or if you haven’t given much of yourself in other ways, then you should face up to the truth: you’re more of a consumer.

What about your prayers? Are you faithfully praying for others? Do you ask God to draw those who don’t know Him into a relationship with Him? To heal those who are sick? To help orphans find homes? To bless those who are hassling or hurting you? If you do, then you’re contributing with your faith and prayers. If, on the other hand, most of your prayers are focused on yourself – “Bless me, protect me, help me” – then call that what it is: at least in the area of prayer, you’re a consumer.

I’m not trying to be harsh. I’m not trying to heap guilt on you. I simply want to encourage you to be honest with yourself. If you are using your life to be a blessing to others today, then later you will relish sharing the stories that God will  allow you to tell. But if you’re more focused on self-service than on serving others, you’re going to end up with many blank pages – lost blessings that you can find only by contributing what God created you to give to the world. 

What The World Needs Now

We are called to share Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom with others at all times. Actions and words. Oftentimes the best way to open the door for sharing Jesus with someone is to begin a civil conversation. This means we maintain a sincere, kind, and respectful tone as we dialogue. It also means praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance about what to say, including when and how to say it.

As Christians, many of us tend to fall into two different extremes. There are some who don’t engage with non-believers at all about spiritual matters because they feel afraid, intimidated, or ill-equipped. There are others who do, but it can be in a manner that is obnoxious or argumentative. Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:15 as the remedy to both extremes. It says:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Our effectiveness for the Gospel begins with a reverence for Christ as Lord in our hearts. We are called to always be ready to give an answer to those who ask us the reason why we have hope. We are to do this with gentleness and respect.

What the world needs now, more than ever before, is for believers to be open, engaging, and available to civil conversations in a culture where people are becoming more and more hostile to Christianity – and to each other. Just look at any comments section of a social media post or news article. It can be the simplest topic to the most controversial. Doesn’t matter. In just about every instance you will have people who disagree with one another and begin labeling and attacking with no filter. Civil discourse seems to have left the building. And we Christians are just as guilty of this as nonbelievers.

The truth is, we are not going to win anyone or convince anyone of anything with our harsh and obnoxious Facebook posts over petty differences. We are not going to argue anyone into God’s Kingdom. Instead, let’s begin in civil dialogue.

Throughout Scripture, almost every conversion story began with some type of civil conversation. In Acts 8, Philip had a conversation with an Ethiopian who ended up getting saved and baptized. In Acts 10, Peter and a man named Cornelius had a conversation and the next thing you know, Cornelius and his family surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. It was in Acts 16:13-14 during a conversation with Paul and his companions, that a woman named Lydia opened her heart to receive Christ as Lord.

Jesus preached and taught people, but in His one-on-one conversations we see that He would often take on a different approach by conversing and asking questions. One of the best examples of this is recorded in the 3rd chapter of John. A man named Nicodemus had an encounter with Jesus – and his life changed forever. And, in John, chapter four, Jesus engages in a conversation with a woman at the well and that one conversations leads to a whole village hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom.

What the world needs now is for Christians to engage with the non-believers in their neighbourhood and, treating them with dignity and respect, watch for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. Because what the world needs now is love. 

Let’s look at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus next time…

A Friend Of Sinners

If the church wants to reach the next generation – and we are the church – it has to allow more apostles, prophets, and evangelists to lead and influence the direction of the church. Right now the ministry office that impacts the church the most if that of pastor-teacher. Once the other offices of the fivefold ministry begin to influence the church that Jesus is building we will inevitably move the body from a church-focused mindset to a culture-focused mindset which will also then include a Kingdom-focused mindset. The apostles, prophets, and evangelists think externally, which is where the young people are. When we keep our people inside the church by keeping them busy with “Christian activities,” we reject culture. But when we disperse our people, we redeem it. Maybe even create it. 

There was a day when Christians created the culture. (Now we just seem to copy it). Our faith influenced the birth of hospitals, universities, and even some nations. For example, 106 of America’s first 108 colleges were started as Christian institutions.

I like to remind people that Jesus, during the course of His public ministry, performed around forty miracles. Most of them happened outside the temple. The same goes for His disciples. Of the forty miracles in the book of Acts, only one happened in the temple. You don’t get labeled a “friend of sinners” if most of your time is spent in church. 

The mantra of shepherd and teachers leans towards “Come as you are.”

The mantra of apostles, prophets, and evangelists leans towards “Go where they are.”

Which one sounds more like the mantra of the younger generation? Honestly, both. They’re inclusive and adventurous. So what if we changed it to “Go as you are”? Wherever God has you,, be all there. It reminds me of Matthew 10:7: “As you go, preach” (NASB). Steward the mysteries of God exactly where God has placed you. If you are a scientist, do careful research in the context of learning and caring for God’s creation. If you are an athlete, compete with self-discipline, resilience, and integrity. If you are a business owner, make high-quality products while serving the dignity of both your customers and your employees. 

Shepherds (pastors) and teachers tend to want young peopler to come in and serve the church, giving up or minimizing their outside activities. But pastors need to understand that the more you empower young people to go and serve outside the church, the more they will be inspired to come and serve inside the church.

The test for gauging whether your church is internally or externally focused is a simple question. If your church closed its doors, how long would it take for the neighbourhood to notice?

A week? A month? A year? Would the neighbourhood ever notice? And if they did, would they care? This is how young people think – and all Christians really should be thinking this way as well. It is a very practical question that each and every believer needs to answer for themselves. 

I believe it is time to return to the mandate Jesus gave to the Church. Jesus only left us one task to be involved in as the church. And remember, you are the church. The mandate was and still is: “Go into all the world and make disciples.” It is time we make whatever changes – all the changes – needed to refocus on that one mandate. It is time that we, like Jesus, “seek and save the lost” and stop playing church. 

For this to happen we need to welcome and release the ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist into the leadership of the church. 

Don’t Settle In Spain!

Christopher Columbus, the great renowned explorer, grew up in Spain at a time when Spain was very proud of the fact that they were the last point of solid land for sailors going westward. When travellers arrived in Spain by boat (usually from Africa), the first thing they would see as they entered the strait leading to the port of Spain were two large pillars on each side of the canal inscribed with Spain’s national motto. The motto in Latin was Ne Plus Ultra, which means “No More Beyond.” These same words showed up on Spain’s flag and coins as well.

This message was one the nation took pride in and believed as their outlook on life. “No more beyond” was not considered to be negative in nature. It was mainly a reference to the geographical location of Spain in the world, as they knew it. Many people saw Spain as a major destination in that day because getting to Spain meant you had gone to the end of civilization and reached the ultimate place on earth. There was now no more beyond.

The fact this had on people, though, was that they settled there. Since there was nothing beyond, why think beyond there? Or dream beyond there?

This is the message that young Christopher Columbus saw everywhere as he was growing up. It’s how everyone thought. But it wasn’t the message Christopher believed. In fact, he put everything he had into the idea that there was something beyond., That belief is what inspired and fueled his vision. He raised support  and the backing of the king to sail west into uncharted waters. 

Everything changed in Spain after Columbus discovered the New World. Spain entered what was called the Age of Discovery. The national motto changed too. The king ordered that the “Ne” be dropped so that the new motto was Plus Ultra. Flags were changed and they engraved new coins with the phrase Plus Ultra, which means “More Beyond.” The nation embraced the reality of more beyond where they were.

Sadly, I have found that it’s a common tendency for people to settle in their own version of Spain. The no-more-beyond mentality falls far short of what God has in mind for their lives. They get to a certain point and begin to believe there’s nothing greater left for them. They accept something far less than God’s bigger, greater plans for their lives. 

Men and women settle. Old and young settle. People of all ethnicities and economic statuses settle. Believers and unbelievers settle. Businesses and churches settle. Even while people are active, they settle. Just because people go to work, clean the house, balance the chequebook, and go to the kid’s games doesn’t mean they haven’t settled in their own version of Spain. Life may go on for them, but it’s still Ne Plus Ultra. 

There seems to be three reasons people settle…

1> People settle when they get sentimentally attached to a past season of their life

Sometimes people are suppose to stay where they have been, but nothing is suppose to stay like it has been. When people don’t evolve with life and embrace change, they settle for a lifetime in what was meant to be a season.

2> People settle in a place of relational wounds

Relational wounds can be terribly debilitating, and many people settle in the place of a lost relationship. They allow themselves to linger mentally and emotionally in a place that God wants them to move beyond. The loss of a friend. The death of a loved one. The end of a marriage. Relational woundedness can cause you to settle where you are.

3> People settle because where they are is “good enough” and they want to stay comfortable.

Yes, settled people can still enjoy a good life. But just because someone makes the best of his or her life doesn’t mean]they are living their best life. “Good enough” is the enemy of “better than ever.”

Don’t make the mistake of settling for good enough. Good enough is not your destiny! Are you aware that being comfortable is way overrated? The best things in life don’t come when you’re comfortable. If fact, being too comfortable can clog your arteries, soften your muscles, and make you weak and tired. Your body may want to settle and be comfortable, but that’s not how you experience the healthiest and best life. 

The place of “good enough” might sound tempting because it’s more comfortable. But it’s not the place God has for you. “Good enough” is not your destiny. Ignore the signs that say “no more beyond.” That message is a lie that wants us to settle and miss out on all that God has beyond where we are right now. 

The new motto is Plus Ultra – “more beyond!”

Sounds Like Today

I love the way God’s Word, the Bible, speaks to today. It is as if He had just recently had a look at what was happening in our world and then specifically spoke to the situation. It is amazing, to me anyways, how alive and relevant the Word of God is to the world in which we live and find ourselves. Let me give you a recent example from my reading…

“Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.”               2 Timothy 3:1-5 The Message Version

Does that sound to you like a picture of today’s world? I realize it’s easy to be discouraged. We could throw up our hands and simply quit trying to make things better. You know, don’t cause waves; go with the flow. It’s not all that bad. Such is not a godly attitude, according to the Scriptures. In a time like we are living in – when so many things that were once foundational to our culture are being torn down and destroyed – we are to be about His work of building up. In a destructive world, we are to maintain constructive attitudes.

In the book of Ecclesiastes we are told “There is a time to tear down, and a time to build up” (Ecclesiastes 3:3b)

In this season we are seeing both happen at the same time. For some reason – from top leadership on down to the man on the street, we seem to be in the business of demolition rather than construction. We have become adept at poisoning the wells of culture, politics, business, spirituality, the family, and every other sphere. For reasons unknown, we’ve been tearing down everything between ourselves and the horizon:

        • We’ve torn down integrity
        • We’ve torn down purity
        • We’ve torn down honesty
        • We’ve torn down national pride
        • We’ve torn down respect for others
        • We’ve torn down ideals
        • We’ve torn down dreams
        • We’ve torn down our sense of shame
        • We’ve torn down political aspiration
        • We’ve torn down ________________ (add one you can think of)

I believe that it is up to true believers to maintain a constructive attitude in the midst of this destructive, every-person-for-themselves narcissistic culture in which we find ourselves. We are to lead and set the example about what real life – life the way God planned it – is really all about. As we face these perilous times, our message must be fresh, positive, exciting, energetic, and eminently constructive. 

So, I have been examining my values. I have been taking a good, honest look at the way I live. I have been reading myself into the pages of Scripture to see what might need adjusting. I am being observant to the way I relate to people, how and what I pray, where I am investing my time and money. I am working to widen my perspective so I see what Jesus sees and can then constructively interact with my neighbours and with my city. I am working to become much more Kingdom-minded. And to live more in line with the Scriptures.

It has not and is not an easy adjustment but it is a necessary one. Because, without being intentional about all of this I can quickly find myself in Paul’s list of people to stay clear of. 

Preaching Without a Pulpit

The idea of preaching without a pulpit might seem a little crazy to some, evoking images of shouty people standing on street corners, waving Bibles at pedestrians. But the concept of pulpit-less preaching is not so narrow not so strange.

Jesus did not have a pulpit. He simply taught and shared with people who were hungry enough to take the time to listen. And, preaching without a pulpit is one of the callings God has placed on each of our lives. Not only are we called to share the gospel with the nations, but we are also called it do it in a fearless way: “Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12).

A question to consider: If you were to ask yourself when the last time you shared Jesus with someone was, what would the answer be? The answer will tell you a lot about your relationship with Him. After all, He did say, “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). So, if you are not fishing then you are truly not following Him who came to fish – to seek and save the lost (Luke 10:19). 

I work with young people in most places where I am honoured to minister. I love seeing teenagers who are fired up for Jesus sharing His story with people at malls, schools, and grocery stores. Many of today’s youth have more audacity and boldness than those who claim to be mature believers in Christ. 

The quietness of those who are older and more mature in the faith may be the result of “growing up,” and being told to chill out over the years and act more mature. But I believe this is something my generation needs to evaluate and change our view on. We need to go back to being radical. I believe, we can keep that radical way of living in our hearts. We can keep living an audacious life in the Name of Jesus. We are called to be radical. There is no other way to live the Christian life. So, those of us who were once wild stations for Jesus and were tamed and told to be still and be quiet need to regain the enthusiasm and boldness that we once had. Today’s youth are an example of how it should be – how we should be living our lives as believers and disciples of Jesus.

I see youth groups and young believers excited to use the people around them as personal mission fields. I would hope to see my generation and beyond once again passionate for the same thing.

So why do so many of us hold on to the idea that we need a church building, or some sort of official sanction or title to preach the Word of God? There are many events in the Bible where Jesus preaches to the masses. Not in a church building, temple, or religious organization, but in the open for all to hear. Jesus constantly used His surroundings as a platform to share truth and religious liberation. 

One of the most classic examples of this is described in the book of Matthew. The story goes, “One day as He saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around Him, and He began to teach them” (5:1-2). No pulpit, No ushers. No printed bulletins. Jesus saw the people, and dug in for the long haul. He must have looked around and seen the faces of hundreds of people who were hurting – who needed hope. And He reacted with a set of teachings we now call the Sermon on the Mount. It’s one of the most intense streams of wisdom in the Bible. All from a dusty and windy hillside in Judea. 

When you are at work. When you are at home in your neighbourhood and community. When you are out with friends. You don’t need a pulpit. We simple need to share boldly and with confidence what the Lord has done and is doing in our lives. As Paul the apostle wrote: “Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:12).

Eight Differences Between a Believer and a Follower

1> A believer believes in Jesus. A follower honours His commands

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV)

2> A believer reads the Bible when things get tough. A follower reads the Bible to engage in a deeper understanding of Jesus Himself.

“Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4 NIV)

3> A believer prays when things get tough. A follower gives thanks no matter the circumstance.

“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)

4> A believer twists the Bible to fit his or her lifestyle. A follower works to make his or her lifestyle resemble the teachings of the Bible.

“Some of His comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16)

5> A believer gives when it is easy. A follower gives out of the abundance of his or her heart.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, our in everything – all she had to live on.” (Matthew 12:22 NIV)

6> A believer conforms under the pressure or culture. A follower holds fast against temptation.

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)

7> A believer will share his or her faith when it’s comfortable. A follower will share his or her faith regardless of the scenario.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15 ESV)

8> A believer knows about Jesus. A follower knows Jesus as his or her Lord and Saviour.

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 ESV)

Which are you? A believer or a follower?.