Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part One

Let’s consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential:

      • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
      • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
      • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

To look at and illustrate these three types, let’s look at the life of David in the Old Testament to see the people that God used to make him the man God wanted him to be.

First, everyone needs a friend who makes them better, and makes them want to be better. You don’t have to know much about David’s life to know he was far from perfect. But even with all his mistakes, sins, and shortcomings, David was still described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). If you study David’s life, it becomes clear that the right people at the right time helped him become the right man.

Although David had many people who made him better, I’d like to start with Samuel. During the time when God rejected Saul as king (and this is a different Saul than the one we read of in the book of Acts), God chose Samuel the prophet to identify and anoint the next king of Israel. When Samuel visited the house of Ben Jesse (David’s dad), he saw an obvious candidate. The oldest son was strong, handsome, and qualified. Samuel thought that surely this man was God’s chosen king. But God told him not to consider his stature, because God doesn’t look at the same things people look at. Most people judge others by their appearance, but God looks past their appearance and into their heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

When all the obvious sons turned out not to be God’s chosen one, they finally called in the least likely one, the youngest, who was out tending sheep. And God spoke to Samuel and said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12). Everyone would have been shocked by this announcement. David was just a kid, and a little rough around the edges, camping next to his family’s flock of sheep. There wasn’t a single person in David’s family who would have picked him as the next king. But God used one man, Samuel, to help David see that God’s will for his life was more significant than anyone could have imagined. 

Samuel made David better – much better. The prophet helped David see himself the way God saw him – as a leader, warrior, poet, and king. He wasn’t just some kid, cut out for nothing more than wrangling sheep for his whole life. Samuel told David, “You’re the one! God has chosen you!” God had a glorious plan, and Samuel helped David glimpse it.

Do you have a few friends who make you better, people who see your potential? Think about it. Do your buddies at the gym make you better? Or the ladies in your Bible study help you grow? Do the people you work with make you sharper? Do the people you run with make you stronger?

If not, connect with someone new, someone who makes you better.

If you need to get closer to God, connect with the right person who can help. If you want a good marriage, there’s nothing like befriending people who have strong marriages. If you want to grow in your parenting skills, you might find someone wise and do life with them. Walk with the wise and grow wise. If you hope to start a business, then gleaning from someone who started a successful business is a great place to start. If you need to learn to handle your finances better, I know that if you pray for the right influence, God will answer that prayer.

David’s son Solomon, the wisest man who ever lives, said, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT). Instead of hanging out with people who dull your skills or put down your dreams, it’s time you start finding friends who make you sharper. If you connect with someone who makes you better today, then you will write a totally different future for yourself – God’s future. This is what David did with the help of Samuel.

Who sees you, the real person inside you, the way God sees you?

More next time….

YOU ARE LOVED AND CHOSEN

In July, 2007 when I became serious about Ralph Howe Ministries – the exact launch date being July 1st – I started using what was then a new copy or a new version.

A  new version to me – ESV (English Standard Version)
It is now the battered and tattered well-worn friend that I still preach from although near  retirement as I have broken in its twin brother recently…
The first thing I read when I first started this version was the book of Ephesians
In this book Paul, the author and apostle, tells us a lot about who we are as believers and what we have been given…

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COMPELLING

Several years ago I was in a rundown Russian resort built by the Communists during their control in the U.S.S.R.

No heat, no hot water, and a building that hardly slowed the wind down
It was February and cold but a powerful 4 days with 350 youth from 5 nations
I was sitting waiting to listen to the night speaker – my night off – when someone came to me and told me the car and driver were waiting
They had forgotten to inform me that I was heading into the city of Yaroslavl to minister in a church that served only addicts
Several hours later after driving through a blizzard we arrived to a group of 200+ addicts
Drug addicts and alcoholics who were in recovery

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YOU MIGHT DIE TOMORROW

The Coronavirus and its current form called Covid-19 has certainly suddenly ended what we consider to be “normal life” here in Canada and around the world
International flights (except to London) have been cancelled
Schools and universities are closed for March and maybe into April
Events being cancelled …
Sports leagues cancelling a substantial number of games and even, in several situations, the rest of the season
Playing to empty stadiums and arenas or not playing at all
Airlines cancelling all international flights

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We Tend to Pretend

I make a lot of homemade soups …
Take the carcus of a turkey or chicken – boil it – let it cool – pick out all the bones and pieces that you can’t eat o0r don’t want to eat
I work hard doing this and it can be a long and messy task
Then it is done and ready to go – “all” the bones are out
Add: vegetables and spices
Cook – cool – ready to eat
Perfection … I mean great and seriously healthy soup

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There Are No Part-Time Disciples 

If you claim to be a Christian, then the questions of “the meaning of life” is already solved and answered for you! The purpose of your life is to share the Gospel of the Kingdom and the redemptive qualities of Christ (Matthew 28:19). You ARE in the ministry. 

Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, 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 loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a vital truth to what this verse states. It is no longer YOU who lives, but Christ who lives IN you. Meaning, it’s no longer about your agenda, your desires, and your needs. If you call yourself a Christian your agenda is now filled with an all-consuming calling from Christ Himself.

So, your current situation and workplace are your personal mission field. Why? Because you can reach people a church can’t. You’re on the front lines! You might even have a better opportunity to reach people than a missionary or church professional does. Don’t let anyone tell you that full-time ministry can only be found within the confines of a church building. God is bigger than four walls and a steeple. 

God has put the people around you in your life for a reason. Find out what that reason is, and make it your mission to empower their lives with Christ. Jesus will always supply you with the necessary tools and weapons needed to conquer anything that comes in your path. 

Work at a grocery store? Perfect. You have the opportunity to share and reflect the love and servanthood of Christ to dozen of customers a day. Work for a restaurant? Awesome! Use your time at work to share your testimony with your coworkers, or even share a reflection of Jesus’ kindness to each person who walks through your doors. If you really look, there are endless possibilities for anyone who is looking to be a full-time disciple of Jesus Christ.

Your job title doesn’t matter, but the way you use your time does. Stop letting people tell you that working for the government or for your company isn’t God’s plan for you. Stop allowing the opinions of man to keep you from being a light to your current workplace (Matthew 5:14). Just because you may not have a seminary degree and a position serving in a local congregation doesn’t mean you’re not in full-time ministry.

Jesus Himself wasn’t paid by a church. He was a carpenter who used His everyday knowledge of work and carpentry to relate to the people He was surrounded by. Yes, men like Paul and Peter dropped everything to follow the plans of Jesus, but don’t forget about the thousands of other people who stayed where they were in order to be a light where it was needed.

The New Testament couple Priscilla and Aquila are perfect examples of this. Acts 18:2-3 tells us:

“And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.”

We see that both Priscilla and Aquila were tent makers who helped Paul on his apostolic journey by allowing him to live and work with them in order to provide for himself. Their regular work flowed seamlessly into their ministry – a ministry that happened to help during one of the most critical points in Christian history. Tent makers, Yes! But, history makers as well!

So, step out and start vocalizing what God has put on your heart. If you’re not willing to do it where you are, what makes you think you would do it somewhere else?

This ideology of every Christian embracing a lifestyle of full-time ministry has the potential to transform the world from the inside out. It’s a possibility that could truly reach the far ends of the world for the sake of the Gospel. Imagine if everyday people, working everyday jobs, meeting everyday customers, all shared the extraordinary salvation given through Jesus Christ. The potential is limitless.

In order to embrace the fullness of what Jesus is calling us to, embrace the mission of using every moment available to share your faith in Christ. There are no limitations on where God can work.

So, know this: Jesus is not hiring part-time disciples. While this may discourage you in the beginning, I would encourage you to allow it to fuel your purpose in life. Stop, take a deep breath, and make today the day you start using every avenue available in every place, no matter how mundane, as a way to share the hope, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ. Trust me, it’s worth every moment. 

REVELATION

Paul was an apostle saved by the grace of God

Delivered from religion – rules, regulations – rituals
He had an encounter with the Lord on the road to the city of Damascus (Acts 9)
Jesus revealed Himself to Saul and Saul became Paul
Radically and totally altered forever
He had two callings on his life
He was called to be a disciple of Jesus and to follow Him

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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. 

THE DYNAMIC DUO

There are times when, like you, I am:

Discouraged
Unenthusiastic – nice way to say semi-depressed
Leaning on my feelings and not walking by faith
Disappointed with the way things are going
Things not working out as ‘I planned’
This aways results in a season when:
I am not very excited about life
I suspect I am not fun to be with
Bottom line in a season like this… I want to be left alone
But, more importantly – foundational – I don’t feel loved!

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HAVE A MERRY (SUPERNATURAL) CHRISTMAS 

CHRISTMAS TODAY:
It is great to be out and about and be able to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone we meet
It is still an acceptable greeting – so far!
It can be said to both those we know and those we are standing in line with at the Post Office or check-out counter of the many stores we frequent at this busiest shopping season of the year
I am sure few if anyone takes the time to think about “CHRIST”mas … the ‘Christ’ in Christmas
It has become just another secular holiday with little to no religious significance
And, even for true believers, we can simply get swept up in the activities and events of the season and soon miss even the basic meaning of the Christmas season
Christmas has become a time for family, fun, and food

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