The Individual

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis, apostle and teacher

People, precious people. Individuals, humans, all shapes and sizes, various races, multiple cultures, habits, traditions, all these stirred into one earth. Basically, it is the individual. It is the one soul, one spirit, one body that makes a human being. This human being is birthed, grows an awareness of self and family. The awareness continues to expand to the society that forms their culture. Later the awareness may expand to recognize and appreciate other cultures and individuals of various ethnicities.

The individual becomes aware of life and its progress. Early the individual learns that they will grow, mature, and at some point, die. Some recognize their mortality early. Some do not pay attention to it at all. It is lingering there, but they refuse to look at it. Some just give up and take it as a fact, but one that needs no attention.

The statement of John, the apostle, sets an interesting thrust of intervention. “For God so loved the world…” Into this awareness of mortality, a hope was given. It speaks of a creator. There is a God. This God loves humanity. He loves the individual. It is personal and it is the collective world. He loves His creation and particularly each individual.

When men govern, they do so collectively. They do not know each person in their constituency. It is purely collective. They can love the idea of everyone, but they do not know everyone. But God knows the individual. He knows the number of hairs on their head. He cares for each and can communicate love to each. He can speak to each, not collectively, but personally to that individual heart and mind. Each individual can respond to that love and communication. Sometimes it is so personal that it seems no one else matters; yet He can do that with everyone at the same time.

John, the apostle, again writing the things that God shows him in the Revelation, reports that all of us have been created for the pleasure of God. Individually, we are to bring pleasure to our creator. The Westminster Confession states that the sole purpose of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

While human history marches along, God has a divine plan that is unfolding as well. Whatever man does, it will move toward God’s ultimate intention. On the macro scale, God is preparing a kingdom to rule and serve man without death. On the micro scale, each individual is important to Him that each enjoy eternity with Him.

From the hovel to the palace, God loves the individual. Each person is important. God has made provision that the awareness of mortality can be changed to the joy of immortality. The inevitable, fatalistic doom of death is changed into the glorious hope and the internal guarantee of life forever with our creator.

This hope is accomplished by God through Jesus. God made it possible for mortals to become immortals through Jesus’, death and resurrection.  The story of this amazing love and sacrifice is staggering in its sheer genius. It covers stealthily ever facet of dealing with eternal requisites and blindsides the enemy of mankind while defeating sin and death. The story is known as the gospel, the good news. Individuals who listen and believe, live forever.

Asian, African, European, it does not matter what part of the globe you live on. The individual counts. Cultures, traditions, habits, make no difference to Him. He loves each and is seeking each person. That one body, one soul, one spirit is important.

You count! You are important. Your awareness should grow to being aware of eternity and the necessity to do something about it. You are so important that Jesus made provision for you to live eternally with him!

Think about it, you, among billions is known as an individual by your creator and you really count, stand out, are worthy of individual attention, and loved,

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner! WRONG!!

“Hate the sin, not the sinner” isn’t working. Honestly, I am not sure it ever did work. When hating the sins of others, people just simply don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. Let me encourage you to instead “Love the sinner, not the sin.”

Remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary, and start reflecting an image of Jesus that portrays Him differently than a man standing on a soapbox wielding a megaphone. I can’t ever recall a person who came to faith because of hate. Let’s start a movement of people who are willing to take hate out of the equation and love people regardless of their sins.

When Jesus called us to love one another, it wasn’t limited by guidelines or parameters. The commandment was simple and to the point: “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

There are no regulations on who and when to love. Love is not ours to control, monitor, and divvy up. Love was never intended to be kept to ourselves. It was meant to be shared with anyone and everyone willing to accept it.

The idea of loving without limits may seem a little intimidating, but that’s the raw beauty of it. Sometimes loving people might not make sense, but it still makes a difference. 

There is a man named Emmanuel, who was part of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. As part of the Hutu majority, he assisted in the killings of nearly a million people, and one of those people was the husband of a Tutsi woman. Emmanuel later came to find shame in his actions, and he then asked for the forgiveness of the man’s wife. Not only did she express that God had already forgiven him for his actions, but that she did as well.

What reckless love was shown through the actions of this woman. Where the rest of the world might give her an excuse to eternally hate this man, she instead harnessed the love of God and offered a place of forgiveness and grace.

If anyone should be leading the way for love and compassion, it should be the followers of Love Himself – Jesus. When we begin to view people through the eyes of Jesus, we are less likely to see their flaws and more likely to see their need for love. 

All throughout Scripture we see Jesus loving people whom others deemed foul, broken, dirty, and unworthy. For us that may mean the homeless drunk guy, the prostitute hanging out downtown, the person in jail, the drug addict – even the convicted sex offender. People may criticize you for giving your time and attention to people who are ostracized or considered permanently broken. They may say it’s not safe, that they’re not worth your time, and that these people gave up the right to be treated well when they made their bad decisions. They said that to Jesus too. But while self-proclaimed followers of God sat back and criticized the openness of Jesus’ love for people, He called them out for their lack of it:

“And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:14-16 ESV)

Take note that even the Pharisees and other religious leaders are confused as to why Jesus is extending love to those who are sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves. The love Jesus showed to these people was without boundaries or regulation. He was giving it all to people who might not even recognize Him as the Son of God. The beauty of this is that Jesus knew these people couldn’t offer Him anything in return, and yet He still embraced their friendship and presence.

Jesus’ response to the religious elite was nothing short of jaw-dropping: 

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 ESV)

The sick, or the sinners, were the people who needed the most urgent shot of love. You probably have someone in mind right now who could be classified as one of “those who were sick.” Hey, it may even be you. But no matter the person or their beliefs, when you show them love, you show them the Spirit of Jesus Himself. 

Six Things Jesus Didn’t Die For!

We often hear a sermon on all that Christ’s death on the cross accomplished for us. If you haven’t heard one recently it might be a good indication that you need to switch church fellowships and find one that majors on the Gospel of the Kingdom. Just a thought.

However, I can’t ever remembering hearing a teaching on things that are not ours because of Jesus’s death on the cross of Calvary. In other words, “six things Jesus didn’t die for.” So, let’s summarize them because there are many church assemblies that think – or at least live life – as if these are part of the work of Christ’s death and resurrection. These have become part of a number of false gospels preached in many churches in many nations.

1> Jesus didn’t die so that we could take advantage of His Grace

Grace is never deserved, and it also is not to be taken advantage of. While God’s grace flows in abundance, this does not give us the right to missue it for the benefit of our selfish desires.  This doesn’t mean we are expected to be perfect, but instead progressing toward real righteousness, God’s way.

Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…”

2> Jesus didn’t die so that we could reflect Christianity in a hateful way

Whether in person, on social media, or even through the grapevine, Jesus did not die on a cross so that you could claim to love Him yet reflect an opposite result to others.

1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

3> Jesus didn’t die so that we could pursue money, fame, and materialism

The cross points us to Christ, not creation. The gift of grace was not presented so that we could become infatuated by the pursuit of riches, titles, and glory. The cross of Christ gives us a new hope, a new vision, and a new purpose – beyond all that. We are called to be “not of this world.” As a Christian, your life should reflect an image of grace and selflessness, not greed and self-entitlement.

Romans 12”2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

4> Jesus didn’t die so that we could wear crosses around our necks honouring the sacrifice that was made on one

A cross isn’t just a fashion accessory. The significance of the cross has more weight than any symbol in the world. And while many use this symbol as nothing more than a piece of bling, God highlights it as the very thing He sent His Son Jesus to die upon.

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

5> Jesus didn’t die so that we could make money off His Name

Biblically there is nothing wrong with having a Christian company. The problem is when one uses the same of Jesus to strictly make a profit, with no vision of expanding the reach of His hope and His Kingdom. It all comes down to one’s motives.

2 Corinthians 2:17 “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

6> Jesus didn’t die so that we could live a life free from pain

Free from pain? Nope. But with strength to lean on during trials? Yes. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that life will be just peachy, but it does mean you will have Someone to rely on during times of pain and suffering.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

There are so many other things we could say here …

Jesus didn’t die so we could have religion. Just the opposite. He came to destroy religion.

Jesus didn’t die so you could have an easy life. He died that you could have eternal life

And, on the list could go. If you think of another one – jot me a note and we can together add to the list I have started….

Gathering and Scattering

There are five stages of God’s relationship with man.

1> God and us … Adam and Eve walked naked in the garden with God. They had no shame. God and man lived in perfect harmony with one another. Unfortunately, this was short-lived.

2> God for us …After the fall, man couldn’t be in the presence of God. God, however, sent guidance. Whether He did it through prophets, judges, commandments, or covenants, God was still for us.

3> God with us … Then God took on the form of man. He sent His Son to preach the good news and call people home. His Son was born in Bethlehem, and His name was Immanuel, “God with us.”

4> God in us … As Jesus predicted, the temple was later destroyed (in 70 A.D.). Fortunately, God’s presence was no longer bound to a temple and accessed through a high priest. Jesus put an end to animal sacrifices when He became our sacrificial lamb. The temple’s curtain was torn. The altar closed. And the temple was multiplied. The cross of Jesus changed the church. God moved from being for us, to being with us, to being in us. We became the temple of God. And the Bible states, “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

This idea of God being in us is laced throughout the New Testament.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
  • 2 Timothy1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
  • Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

All these verses point to one revolutionary idea. The Church is no longer a place. It’s now a people. Wherever we are, there the church is. Basically, Christians turn buildings into churches. Churches don’t turn people into Christians.

How you view God’s Church changes how you view God’s mission. And vice versa.

According to the Barna Group, 71% of Christians say the main influence in their salvation was not going to church but a personal relationship with a Christian. This is so important for us to recognize, because this generation don’t trust institutions. But they will trust someone who represents one.

Things have changed in this generation. Young people don’t read the Bible. They read Christians. Although millennials and Gen Zers may not be going to the event on Sunday, they are meeting Christians throughout the week. They’re meeting us at their job, in their neighbourhood, in their daily rhythms. We have ambassadors all over the world. But many don’t realize they are called to be ministers of reconciliation right where the live, work, and play. 

One of the issues is that churches are strong at gathering and weak at scattering. Barna found that within two years of conversion, 80% of Christians give up their former friendships with unbelievers. We subtly construct holy huddles. We become comfortable with the 99 and forget the one.

Remember, the Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news” (Romans 10:15). Not, “How beautiful are the churches we bring people to.” When we shift our focus from creating great temple experiences (Sundays) to training Great Commission disciples, we leverage the full benefits of the cross. After giving us His commission, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). So God is with is, because God is in us. 

Do people in the pews live like this? What a shame if they don’t realize it’s “through the church [that] the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Ephesians 3:10).

5> God and us … One day Christ will return and all things will be made new. God and man, back in harmony. What a redemption story! The beautiful irony is that there is a fifth stage, which is simply a return to the first stage. 

This is good news. This is worth sharing. 

Uber and Airbnb

Jesus had 5,000 people following Him, far away from their homes, without food, and with no clear idea of where they were heading. And yet they went anyway. They followed because that’s how badly they wanted to hear Him and learn from Him. This wasn’t a seeker-sensitive group. This group was hungry to learn more than they were hungry to eat.

But what is even more intriguing and inspiring is not what the masses do but what Jesus does when He gets His largest audience to hear His life-changing message. He doesn’t start a megachurch, He doesn’t create a conference, and He doesn’t launch a podcast. He preaches the Word of God, feeds the people physically, and then jumps in a boat with His disciples to sail away somewhere else!

What was He thinking? Most church leaders today would call that a wasted opportunity. Possibly even foolish. But not Jesus. Jesus was not using the same scorecard we use to measure our ministries.

Jesus saw His main ministry as discipling His chosen twelve. So, he left the multitude and went off to have quality and focused time with His disciples. We often see discipleship as a burden and something we don’t have time for because we are busy ministering. Jesus knew that faith a mile wide but only an inch deep could never compare with a few good men and women who were fully devoted to the cause. Most of us in ministry are focused on building an audience, but Jesus was committed to building an army. It’s far easier to build an event people attend than a culture people adhere to. 

John Wesley, one of my heroes, understood this when he said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, [they] alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.”

John Wesley discipled young men reproducing himself so that these young men would buy into the cause of the Kingdom and multiply the work that he was doing. 

Jesus changed the world, even though He lived in only one tiny corner of it. He discipled people who discipled people who discipled people who discipled people, creating an unbroken chain that continues today all around the world.

The great thing about discipleship is that when we start making disciples, we stop relying on the church to feed us. Instead we start relying on the church to launch us. We move away from being a mere member and turn towards being devoted owners. We move from an audience mentality to an army mentality. This is not only what most people want (especially millennials); it’s what they need. It’s what we all need.

The irony is that the business world is doing a better job at this than the church is. Here’s what I mean.

Do you know what car company has more cars on a global scale than any other?

More cars across the world than Ford?

More cars across the world than Volkswagen?

More cars across the world than Toyota?

That company would be Uber.

Do you know what company rents more property globally than any other hotel chain?

More properties across the world than Hilton?

More properties across the world than Marriott?

And definitely more properties across the world than Motel 6?

That company would be Airbnb.

You know what’s brilliant about their strategies? The companies don’t own any of what makes them so powerful and successful. Uber’s platform has access to millions of cars globally, but they don’t own any of it. Their people do. Airbnb’s platform is disrupting the hotel industry, but they don’t own any property. Their people do.

These companies are benefiting from the perks of discipleship and multiplication. They haven’t just gained an audience off fans (like the charismatic leaders of churches). They have raised an army of owners and have thus decentralized leadership. What is beautiful about decentralized leadership structures is that they’re not dependent on their charismatic leader for survival. It’s the devoted contributors who are the real heart and soul of the operation. 

This is what discipleship is all about. Training. Growth of the person. Ownership! Decentralization! Multiplication! 

And in the process, taking a greater market share which is what Jesus meant when He said, “Occupy until I come.” Uber and Airbnb are doing what the Church should have been doing. But, it is never too late to adjust the way we do church and become biblical. It is time to tear down the church that man has built and allow Jesus to build His church, His way.

Living For Jesus! Really?

We are all busy trying to live life for Jesus. Live a life-style pleasing to Him. Fulfilling His command to love God with everything we are. Loving others as He would love them. We are “living for Jesus” or, at least, trying to. 

But, I had a thought the other day. Yes, I do think and often think deeply about things we simply take for granted or look at but only with a surface glance. I hate living life on the surface. I detest life being an inch deep and a mile wide. So, I give a great deal of thought to a great many things.

Why are we “living for Jesus?” After all, most times we would have to admit that we fail when we try and life life for Jesus. We simply are not Jesus. We don’t love like He does. We don’t forgive as freely and deeply as He does. We are not as accepting and understanding as He is. So, we try to be like Him and end up, most times, failing. Then we feel guilty We condemn ourselves. We feel like we failed again. 

Here’s a question… Where in the Bible does it say we are to be “living for Jesus?” You know what? It isn’t in the Bible. It is something man has made up and we were taught to do because it sounds biblical and spiritual. Could it be simply more religion?

How did I get started going down this path of thought? Good question. I was reading my Bible and I saw that Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ (so we are dead). It is no longer I who live (because we are dead), but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

The Passion Translation puts it this way… “And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives His life through me – we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that He gave Himself for me, and dispenses His life into mine!”

So, instead of living for Jesus we are to die to self and let Christ live His life through us. That is much more biblical than the former way of trying to live life.  

This means we must yield to Him and trust Him. This is what Ephesians 5:18 is all about. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Paul is stating that just as the alcohol in the wine, when you are drunk, controls your thoughts, words, actions, and attitude. So, yield to the Holy Spirit and trust Him so that He can live life through you and your words, thoughts, actions, and attitude would be that of Christ Himself. 

Henry Blackaby wrote, “We are so activity oriented that we assume we were saved for a task we are to perform rather than for a relationship to enjoy.” I agree. Remembering that out of that amazing relationship with Jesus will come things He will want us to become involved in (Ephesians 2:10). These involvements are so we are in the right place at the right time to release Him to minister through us.

Thus the initial call and ministry of every believer is to “Follow Me.” As we do He works in us to form and mould us into people with hearts for the lost. Then He works through us touching lives with His love, acceptance, and forgiveness. We simply yield and follow His lead allowing the Spirit who lives in us to flow from us touching others and setting them free. This was plainly set out for us through the teaching and words of Jesus…

John 7:38-39a “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of the hear will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit…”

“Believe in Me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says! Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit…” (The Passion Translation)

Again, please note, it is the Spirit flowing from within you not you trying to live for Jesus or being like Jesus. Just trust Him and follow Him as He said. And He will live His life through you and touch many others with His love. Jesus

The Knowledge of Jesus

Last time we were chatting about “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:17). And, we saw the necessity for releasing revelation in our lives as believers and disciples of Jesus. Let’s continue with the verses we are looking at.

Ephesians 1:16-18a “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened …” (ESV)

The Passion Translation: “… my heart is always full and overflowing with thanks to God for you as I constantly remember you in my prayers. I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know him through your deepening intimacy with him.

I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination …”

The key to receiving revelation is found in coming to know Jesus better and deeper every day. The spirit of wisdom and revelation is released in direct relationship to our level and depth of intimacy with God the Father and Jesus His Son. When we are born again God, our loving heavenly Father, gives us a gift. This gift is deposited in our born again spirit. Romans 6:23b states, “… the gift of God is eternal life.” This is not ‘to live forever’ because all human life ever conceived lives forever. The gift called ‘eternal life’ is defined for us in John 17:3 … “This is eternal life, that you may know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent…” The word ‘know’ means “intimacy with.” We have the supernatural ability to ‘intimately know’ God the Father and Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

The more we come to know Him the more godly wisdom we will have. Not worldly wisdom but godly wisdom (James 1:5). The more wisdom our hearts hold the more revelation we will receive. So, our focus in the coming months must be to know Jesus better. The real Jesus. The radical revolutionary that we see in the pages of the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The same radicalness that transfers over to the apostles and the early believers when they were born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Their story starts in the book of Acts and continues through all the letters addressed and written to the church fellowships in various cities and towns as the gospel was preached and the Kingdom spread pushing back the darkness.

Get to know Jesus. Look at how He lived. What did He value? What did He say and how did He say it? How did He treat people? Who were His friends? How did He disciple and mentor His followers and disciples? What was His relationship with non-believers like? His attitude? His prayer life? His heart for the people? These and many other questions can be answered as we read the four accounts of His life and ministry. But, as we read we need to read slowly and let the words and actions of Jesus sink deep into our hearts. We need to dwell on what we see and discover. We need to apply the truths we are observing about His life to our own lives … so we can become more and more like Him as the Scriptures state so clearly.

There is much that can be said in this regard …

John 15 – He is the Vine and we are the branches

John 14 – You will do what I do 

Acts 17 – “In Him we live and move and have our being”

But, like Paul the apostle we should pray a second prayer…

Philippians 3:10 “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (ESV)

The Passion Translation: “And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. I will be one with him in his sufferings and I will be one with him in his death.”

Let’s view 2020 as a gift from the Lord to come to know Him intimately; deeper and better than ever before.

Spirit of Revelation

There is a real need today in the Church – even the Spirit-filled side of the Church – to be praying what Paul the apostle prayed for his people in the city of Ephesus. This was a church that he had planted. In Acts 19 Paul finds a group of disciples. He soon discovers that they are not disciples of Jesus. They are disciples of John the Baptist. So, he shares the gospel with them and they are born again. He immediately baptizes them in water by immersion. As they come out of the water he lays hands on them and baptizes them in the Holy Spirit. The begin to prophesy and speak in tongues. (Acts 19:1-6)

He stays with them in Ephesus and lays the foundation for a very powerful church. This church within two years of being birthed has reached every person in Asia with the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10). They were a powerful and Spirit-filled church expanding the Kingdom and making disciples as Jesus had commanded. (Acts 19:10)

In writing a few years later to this church now numbering 50,000 in a city of 200,000 he tells them that he is praying for them. This is not out of the ordinary as apostles are fathers and they pray for their children. What is fascinating is what he prays. Listen to his prayer very carefully…

Ephesians 1:16-18a “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you I’n my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened…”

These were Spirit-filled, Baptized in the Holy Spirit, moving in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit believers. Yet, Paul prays for them that they might receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation…” Why?

It is not so that they could speak about future events coming upon the Church and the world. That is the role and ministry of both apostles and prophets. I believe there are two main reasons a regular believer needs to activate the Holy Spirit’s role of bringing revelation to God’s people

First, when reading the Scriptures the believer needs the Holy Spirit to guide Him in all truth. And, to reveal the things that Scriptures speaks to us that Jesus did not while with us ministering for three years. As well as understanding the depths of the truths that He did share during His early ministry. (John 16:12-13)

An example would be when the disciples witnessed Jesus praying afterwards said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) When the average believer reads this their mind says, ‘teach us how to pray.’ And so, we have systems of prayer that have been developed from the Lord’s Prayer (really the disciples prayer) teaching us “how” to pray. But this is not what the Word said. 

The disciples witnessed Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Heavenly Father and the way they spoke to each other. They realized that the way they were praying was nothing like what they were witnessing. They realized that they were not praying – they were simply following a formula and a ritual. Which, while watching and hearing Jesus pray, suddenly seemed totally inadequate and not really prayer as it should have been understood and practiced. So, they said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Teach us how to have this intimate relationship that we see you have with the Father as you share fellowship with Him. 

Powerful revelation brought to my heart and mind while reading Scripture recently. 

And, secondly, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. And so the Holy Spirit can reveal truth that we need to know for that specific day. He can reveal to us situations where we will have opportunity to share the word of the Lord as the church in Ephesus did. He can give us a word for a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger. He can reveal wisdom – godly wisdom – to counter the worldly wisdom that we come up against daily. 

So, Paul prays for his people to release the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. And, I believe that we need to be praying that same prayer for ourselves and for others today so we can walk in the fullness of the calling and purpose that is upon our lives as disciples of Jesus in the world today.

Com’n Church

Well, I just finished several hours of conversation with a wonderful Christin man here in my city. We have known each other for many years, even decades. So, a long coffee and a chat about an upcoming event that I will not be able to participate in because I will be in the nation of Vietnam. However, he needed someone to bounce things off of and give feedback and suggestions regarding what is being planned.

During the conversation I was thinking about how out of touch with reality – today’s society, culture, and younger generations – the Church really is. I spoke up and shard what I was thinking and what I know by experience as I speak with both believers and non-believers. I shared because I honestly think we need to be much more aware of what is happening around us and what the current trends are so that we don’t continue to be, in many ways, irrelevant in the eyes of the world.

A positive example of an organization that is recognizing reality and grappling with it is the Canadian Legion. They have come to realize that their membership is dwindling rather quickly as those who fought in World War One and Two and other lesser wars since the end of World War Two die off. So, they have begun to advertise in the media for new members. You don’t need to be old. You don’t need to have been in the armed forces or have fought a war. If you want to help with their programs and be a part of their corporate life then you are welcome to become a member.

In Canada there are several negative examples of being out of touch with the world. Radio Shack use to be a key player in the electronics business – even selling some of the earliest desktop computers. However, they did not keep up with the times and their stores closed one after another. Some underwent a major revamping and became Circuit City but the major role that the original company played was never recovered. The business is a shadow of what it once was.

A second example would be the Christian Church – especially denominational churches. We are living in challenging times. Our society here in North America is post-Christian. Our world is now centered around instant communications and social media. We don’t wait until 11:00p to watch the evening news. You can watch it on-line any time you want. We text. We don’t often call. People shop on-line … yes, even for a church to attend. You can get better music and worship on line than in the local church. The same can be said for teachings. And yet we often simply do what we have always done and wonder why the results are dismal. The Church is thus seen as irrelevant and, like the dinosaurs, something that will soon die off. So, Com’n church – it is time to change.

Again, to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with non-believers today is totally different than 40 years ago. In fact vastly different than even 10 or 5 years ago. The younger generations no longer enters a church building for wedding or funerals. Most take place in alternate facilities. The younger generations do not have a Bible or have really never read one if they happen to possess one. The Bible is not seen as inspired or even God’s Word to people. Common church words like sin, sinner, repent, justification and sanctification simply have no meaning and no reference point to even glean some meaning from them. We need to adjust our approach (methods) accordingly. Not the message. Just the methods we use to share the message. 

And then you read in Acts 17 where it talks about disciples of Jesus entering the city of Thessalonica and the townspeople panic because those who have turned their world upside down are coming to their city.  (Acts 17:6)

We need to become aware of what is happening around us and then change so as to respond in a meaningful, in-touch way. Thus we would actually be able to influence and impact where we are living with the Gospel of the Kingdom. We need to become a counterculture and no longer settle for being a subculture. Jesus was a radical revolutionary who hated religion and loved people. We should follow in His footsteps as we take the good news to those He loves and died for on the cross. 

So, com’n church! If we want others to find Jesus we need to speak into where they are at. On a daily basis people struggle with depression, addictions, loneliness, financial issues, relational stress, paying the bills, and a multitude of other issues. They are not thinking about the mark of the beast and the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15) with the approaching of the end times and the rapture. Com’n church! Let’s get real and become aware of what is going on around us outside of the small and closed off church world that we find so comforting and safe. Let’s speak into our culture and society and talk about things that matter to those who are not saved. 

Come, Follow Me

The Church has lost the message of “Come, follow Me,” replacing it with … what? “Come and listen to me.”

That is not what Jesus said or did. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” The Passion Translation renders this verse as: “Come and follow Me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God.” So, the obvious points here…

1> If we are not fishing (sharing the Gospel) and love of God with others) we are not following Jesus. We are literally deceiving ourselves that everything is alright between us and God. It’s not, unless…

2> As we follow Jesus He will be forming and transforming us into people who attract others into the Kingdom. He will be working on our character, our values and morals, our perspective on life, as well as our daily life-style. So, if we are not changing, growing, maturing then we are obviously not following Him. We are not disciples. Fans, yes! Disciples, no!

3> This is a process which takes place over time as we follow Him and, in the Scriptures, see how He relates to people and how He shares the love of God. We are then to follow His example and implement changes that allow us to become more like Him. So, there is a desperate need to study the four Gospels examining in detail the way Jesus lived His life and how He treated people and built healthy, Kingdom relationships.

4> We learn by studying His actions, attitude, and His relational skills as recorded in the Bible. But, it is more than information. What we observe and learn must translate into action and life change in us. Or, as James wrote, we must be doers of the Word and not just hearers. Faith without works is dead.

5> We need to become sensitive to His voice (the voice of the Holy Spirit) so that He can speak directly to our hearts and minds as we follow Him and go about our daily activities. Opportunities are there to share Jesus each and every day as we “go into all our world.” We need to slow down so we can see the opportunities and take advantage of the doors God is opening.

6> Obedience is necessary – For disciples this is not an option but a command. Whatever He says to us we must obey and do. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” Very plain and seriously blunt. 

7> Obviously, we need to make a decision to walk closely with Him and follow Him regardless of where that might take us and allow Him to transform us. Give Him permission to change us. This means trusting Him with everything we are (our inner life), everything we have (our outer world) and all that we do. 

8> Following Jesus will certainly take us out of our safe, secure, and comfortable place and seriously challenge everything about our life; stretching us mentally, spiritually, relationally, socially, and emotionally. No stretching going on then maybe you are not following the biblical Jesus – the real radical revolutionary we read about in the four gospel accounts of His life. 

9> “Come, follow Me” is an invitation to a life-long journey of becoming which does not end even when we die and enter Heaven. There is always more to know about Jesus and thus more personal growth and development as we apply what we are seeing and learning to our daily lives.   

10> This means we need to stop seeing salvation as the destination. We have our ‘fire insurance’ and we are good to go. That is a ‘salvation culture’. We get saved, we come to church, we learn, we go home. Repeat. We need to embrace a “Kingdom culture” where salvation is seen as the start of a long journey as we join the great cause of establishing the Kingdom of God in every corner of every nation. We don’t come to just listen, we come to grow and be equipped so that we can then “go.”

Let the change begin now. Let it begin with us. You, me, and the corporate “us” known as the Church.