What They See Should Be Who You Are

As believers in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are called to bear witness to Him in thought, word and deed. Our lifestyle – the way we live, what we purchase with our money, how we invest (or waste) our time, who we hang around with, what we do for entertainment – should all speak of our loyalty to Jesus Christ and the fact that we are a follower or disciple of His. We are to be living testimonies of His grace and His goodness. And, our words, our attitude toward others and our actions should be telling others the night-and-day difference that Jesus has made (and is making) in our lives (1 Peter 2:9 The Message).

There are some basic core beliefs of the Christian faith. This summer I have been preaching weekly on “The Basics” (these sermons are posted on-line and are free to listen to. As well, the written text is also available for download). The list of basic beliefs keeps growing so the series will not end when the summer weather does. But, it has been fun to revisit some of the basic beliefs and to share them in a simple way so that they are understood and can be applied instantly. I have discovered that many Christians do not know what it is they are suppose to believe nor how to apply the things they do believe to their lifestyle. These basic beliefs are suppose to be foundational to our lives. But they can’t be if we don’t know them – really know them deep in our hearts as well as understand them mentally. Afterall, it is upon these foundational, basic truths that we are to build and consciously design a lifestyle that speaks to and reveals our beliefs and the Savior we follow.

From these core basic beliefs we then determine our personal core values – what it is that we, as an individual follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, hold to be foundational to our personal life. What is it that we are doing with the core basic beliefs of the faith? How are we applying them to our own personal lives? They have to be more than a philosophy of life. They have to be more than something held at arms length that we pay lip service to. They have to be more than a comfortable thing to trust when we are approaching the end of our lives (eternal fire insurance). What we believe as Christians must help to determine and shape the way we are going to live our lives and what we are hoping to accomplish with our short time on Earth.

Most believers that I relate to could not tell you their ‘core values’ or the building blocks upon which they are building their lives. They have not internalized the basic beliefs of the faith. Some – dare I say most – could not even tell you the basic core beliefs of the faith they claim to follow. I don’t blame the followers. I think it is the direct result of too much pop theology from the pulpit mixed with self-help psychology. The Church is in sad shape.

When a believer knows the basic beliefs of the faith and have allowed them to form the foundation of their daily life – creating their own personal core values based upon what the Bible-believer knows to be truth – their core values then help them to form life principles. A life principle is the actual way that they are going to live their lives which of course then determines what others see and hear.

A personal example of a “life principle” that I live by is what I call “My LAF Principle”. This means that one of the guiding life principles of my daily life is that I “Love,” “Accept,” and “Forgive” people all of the time. I try to express love towards everyone – the love of God that I have personally experienced. I love them by the way I act, talk, and respond. I accept them just as they are. I do not judge them. I do not form a preconceived idea of how they are going to react or respond. I don’t judge how they look or dress. I simply accept them as Jesus would (unconditionally). Afterall, that is how Jesus accepted me. And, I determine ahead of time and on a daily basis to forgive anyone who hurts me or offends me – a decision and not a feeling. I do this even when they don’t deserve it. Did I deserve to be forgiven? Absolutely not! So, I live my life based on three life principles that determine what others see in me and hear from me. Of course, there are many other life principles by which I form my lifestyle. This is simply one of many.

When all of this comes together – and it must for the believer – then we live a life of integrity. People should be able to look at how we live our lives and what we are doing in our lives and recognize and know that we are believers…. our words, attitudes and actions should line up with our core values which are based on the foundational truths we have determined to personally embrace. Of course, all of this must, for the Christian, be rooted in the essential, non-negotiable, doctrines of the Christian faith. Our basic beliefs.

Talking to Whom?

Acts 2 … “everyone heard the message in their own language” and three thousand people came to Christ that day. They understood the Gospel and with the Holy Spirit bringing conviction and godly sorrow, they repented, were forgiven and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they became born again.

Today we do not see multitudes being saved and the majority of churches do not see even one new convert a year. Let’s remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit still works today – His task has not changed and He is neither on holidays nor retired. So, the problem we have is that apparently we are either not sharing the Gospel one-on-one and from the pulpit or the way we are sharng it is no longer speaking to the people listening. In other words, they are not hearing it “in their own languge.”

Here is what I believe to be another major truth: There is no stopping the church from reaching people and impacting the world when they communicate God’s powerful truth and life-changing hope in the language of the culture with passion, focus, and faith. In other words, in order for people to genuinely benefit from and apply God’s truth to their lives, they have to hear it in a language they can understand.

Paul writes (the Holt Spirit is communicating to us through his writings): Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. [1 Corinthians 9:19-23]

It is time for the Church and individual believers to take seriously Paul’s comments and learn how to be with and communiate to the people they work with and live beside – family members, friends, fellow workers, and all others. We have become so accustomed to sharing the Gospel with each other (other Christians) that we often no longer know how to communicate it effectively to those who do not know the story (most of the younger geneerations today) and those who do not know the terminology of the Bible.

Add to that “language barrier” a general inability to even express the Gospel in a way that makes sense to anyone. In other words, maybe you are saved or born again but can you explain to another person why they need to be born again and how they would go about becoming born again. Often believers know the message in their heart but honestly are clueless in how to communicate the message in a way that will make sense to non-believers and help them to understand the peril of their spiritual condition.

Let me get personal – are you sharing your faith and the Gospel with others on a regular basis “as you go into all your world doing your daily activities?” Are you being obedient?

Let me get personal – if you are, how well do you know the Gospel?
Not asking here if you know it in your heart or head. I’m asking you – can you talk about it in a way that makes sense even to other believers? Many times we can know something “inside” and not be able to adequately express it in words.

Let me get personal – if you know the Gospel well enough to share it with others, are you doing just that – sharing it with others? Statistics prove most believers do not!

Let me get personal – if you know the Gospel and can communicate it in a decent way so that it can be understood – are you are working at sharing it with others, are you presenting it in words and phrases that a generation which has no Christian consciousness can understand?

In other words – it is one thing to talk with others who understand the need and the terminology but are you able to communicate to those around you do not go to church, many have never been in a church, they have not read the Bible and may, in fact, not own one. They do not base their lives on Christian absolutes or standards and, in fact, don’t even believe in “absolutes.” And, they don’t speak Christianese. How well can you communicate the precious truths that can save a soul from eternity in hell?

I believe it is time for each individual Christian to take a good look at their knowledge of the Gospel, their skill set in presenting the Gospel, their ability to speak in a way that they are being understood so that each can hear the Gospel “in their own language,” and to be serious honest with themselves about their lack of obedience in doing the one thing the Lord commanded His Church to do … “go into all the world and preach the Gospel, making disciples in all nations.”

Sameness is not in God’s Dictionary

As someone who is in worship services in numerous churches on a regular basis (sometimes weekly, sometimes many times a week, and often 3 to 5 times a day when ministering overseas) I have to admit that a lot of services are fairly predictable (I know we don’y have a liturgy – but we really do), often seriously centered on us and not honoring to God, and downright boring. Come on now – be honest!

Something needs to change. God is not boring and so the way we represent Him and honor Him on a Sunday should not be boring either. Also – just a side comment – He is not weird, wacho, or flaky so the services and believers should not be either. We need to get a grip on regular, every day life and a grip on the One, True God and bring them together so that non-believers (we exist to win them to the Lord) find God exciting, dynamic and alive – and, may I suggest, find our churches to be the same. When church is creative, it helps to keep faith and the desire for God alive in believers and becomes mighty attractive to non-believers, especially those honestly seeking God. But, of course, some people will get mad if you are constantly changing things. They like sameness.

The problem with being predictable and doing the same thing each week is that it presents to people a wrong image of our God. The same was true is Jesus’ day and so He was known for His surprises and the fact that God continually invaded people’s lives through His life and ministry. Each day was different – each meeting was different. Sameness is not in God’s dictionary.

Yes, I hear you say, but if things are constantly and continually changing people will get mad. So what? Who are you trying to please? Welcome to Jesus’ world. It’s obvious that Jesus preferred their anger to allowing a polluted view of God to continue. Better some emotions rather than no emotions whatsoever. Church isn’t suppose to be a place of comfort and be without challenge. It is suppose to be a place that wakes the dead – and there are a few Christians with spiritual lives in that condition. They need us to worship, preach and pray in such a way as to wake the dead.

Church needs to reveal that God is still alive and working. If people get mad about that truth, so what. The church needs to be creative and innovative because God is. Being fresh and creative is not merely a good idea – it is our God-given assignment. It’s the church’s job. And, as a by-product, it will then grow because it will be dynamic, powerful, and attractive to non-believers just as Jesus was, is, and always will be.

Baptized With Fire

When you read the Gospels – it becomes obvious very quickly that no one ever knew what Jesus was going to do next, not even those closest to Him. He kept surprising people, and it ticked off the religious people and their leaders, the Pharisees. They preferred routine, sameness, some of which had become tradition. Like so many Christians and churches that seem to walk in the footsteps of the Pharisees, they thought it was appalling that Jesus kept breaking routine. Afterall, they had determined who God was, how God behaved, and how God would accomplish things – such as who the Messiah would be and the way He would behave when He came.

But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus came to reveal God to us (John 14:8-9). Along with many other characteristics, He revealed a compelling, powerful, relevant, passionate, unpredictable, exciting, and personal God. Totally foreign to the religious people of His day and today. Certainly not the God being spoken of in the synagogues and worshipped during the temple services.

Since the Church was birthed on the Day of Pentecost, churches (believers) have been given the same assignment – to reveal God to the world. Unfortunately, when the church is old and tired, irrelevant and boring, powerless and predictable, people conclude that God is also like this. When the Church becomes stale, it paints the wrong picture of God. And, in my experience, travelling from church to church and ministering in many situations, this is often the case today as well. It is time to bring about a radical change.

The world needs churches that allow the real God to stand up and stand out. If the church is going to represent Him properly, the church must always be fresh and creative, alive and dynamic, powerful and relevant, passionate and purposeful. Believers must be on fire.

An interesting prophetic word (soon to be posted on this site – from a prophet in the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan) talks about the Church not being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). Here in part is what it said: “…My Church, My Church that belongs to Me, is not lukewarm. My Church is baptized by fire!…” John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize people “in the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The early church was birth in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. Fire is always unpredictable and so alive and dynamic that it consumes everything it comes into contact with. Ah! An ideal picture of the Church of Jesus Christ. And someone baptized in fire can never be lukeward or cold.

Many years ago when I was in my first seminary there was a wonderful little book written by a Jesuit priest called “Good Old Plastic Jesus.” Even back then, as an unsaved church attender, that book impacted my life. In spite of reading 100+ books a year I still remember that specific book – long ago lost in books piled everywhere in my office, study, library, basement…. The world is not looking for a predictable, containable, controlable God to worship and follow – a plastic Jesus!. The heart cry of believer and non-believer alike is still the same as when Jesus was training His disciples … to know the One True God and not the religious counterfeit often presented by churches today and seen in the lives of many followers today.

Jesus was a radical revolutionary who came to reveal the One true God to the world that He created. He did not come to establish another religion but to enable us to have a personal dynamic relationship with our heavenly Father. The Church – a gathering of men and women who have dynamic daily walks with the living God through Jesus Christ – should be and must be the most actively alive, vibrant, dynamic and relevant gathering upon the earth.

Time to see some changes in what we do and how we do it so that we can reveal the Father as He truly is.

One Year Ago – The Death of Michael Jackson

It is appointed unto man one to die and then the judgment. That’s what the Bible states. And, one year ago yesterday Michael Jackson, the king of pop, died suddenly and unexpectedly and stood immediately before the King of kings and was judged.

Believers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who have received His forgiveness and worship Him as God (which He is) and serve Him with their whole hearts honoring Him in all their ways (having made him Lord and Savior recognizing He is the only way to Heaven) are not judged for their sins as they have all been forgiven and the penalty has been paid by the Lord when He shed His blood on the Cross of Calvary. They are, however, judged for the good works that God prepared and planned for them to accomplish in His Name (Ephesians 2:20). These good works see us doing what He did in His ministry during His three years leading up to the Cross and Good Friday – Easter Sunday (John 14:12).

But, non-believers, the instant they die face judgment for their sins because they have condemned themselves by refusing to believe on the only One who offers forgiveness and life – Jesus. The Lord said this Himself immediately following the most famous and well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Let’s look at it for a minute.

John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Belief (total trust) in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life is the way to be forgiven and to enter into Heaven. Failure to acknowledge Jesus and accept his sacrificial death on the Cross on our (your) behalf means we have condemned ourselves to an eternity in Hell without Christ and the love of the Father. Good works will not get you there – even the good works that have been attributed to Michael Jackson. Nothing counts except knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. And, regretfully, having grown up as a Jehovah Witness and then converting to the Mormon faith Michael was not a born again believer and thus the king of pop stood before the King of kings and was judged for his sins as all unbelievers – even religious ones – are.

Yesterday thousands of fans flew from all over the world to walk past where Michael Jackson was buried. Others worldwide celebrated his life and legacy in numerous ways. I hope someone was there letting them know, either by preaching or through literature, that there are two things they need to know and two things they need to do to have a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ His Son and thus be assured of a place in Heaven when we die.

Two things we need to know:
1> That God loves and that He loves everyone equally. And in this love He wills that all people would be saved or born again so they can spent now and forever in a relatiosnhip with Him. Their choice.
2> That like all those who are in love He gives a gift to us -the gift of His Son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of our personal sins to open the way for this personal relationship.

Two things we need to do:
1> Believe in Him (Romans 10:9-10) which means to totally trust Him in all areas of your life and recognize that He is the only way into Heaven and not one of many ways.
2> Receive from Him the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3) which is a personal relationship with Him now and forever.

As far as we know Michael Jackson did not believe and did not receive. The Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed and declared by the Bible. So, one year ago yesterday, the king of pop stood before the King of kings and faced eternity without having his sins forgiven and washed clean. Really not something to celebrate nor a life worth following regardless of his accomplishments. Really just simply a sad man who needed to find true meaning and purpose in a personal relationship with the living God and failed to do so.

Students of the Culture

I like what Bred Powell (Senior Pastor of NorthRidge Church in Plymouth, Michigan) said when discussing how to be culturally relevant so that your town or city will listen to you and your message –the Gospel of salvation.

Of course, there are a number of key disciplines necessary for learning to communicate God’s truth in a culturally relevant way. We must become honest students of God’s truth. We can’t allow ourselves to continually accept and embrace what we’ve been told. We must honestly investigate God’s truth on our own. We must become students of people. This is the only way to insure that your ministry (and life) is connecting to the genuine needs of people. And finally, we must become students of the culture.”

We must:
1> Become students of God’s Word – read and realize
2> See Scriptures through new eyes – honestly investigating God’s truth – remove and reveal
3> Become knowledgable of the people around you – reconnect and relate4> Know and understand the culture you are working in – research and relish

As believers and as churches – to reach out and touch the lives of those who are lost and who do not personally know Jesus as Lord and Savior – we must work hard and consistently as there are a number of major changes that we are needing to make. I believe, right now, that most churches are “culturally irrelevant” and that is why so many people choose to simply ignore their existance.

From what they know of the Church (and it gets less and and less with each new generation) they see little to no value in spending time with this group called Christians. They do not know our message and because of the way we have handled ourselves in our culture they do not believe there is any need to come to know the message. In fact, the impression they have of us (the image we are publicly portraying) is so far from the true Christian message and the real issues that they face daily that they have simply written us off.

So, seeing that the Church is God’s idea and that Jesus said He will build His Church (through us), it would be a good idea to become serious students of God’s Word. A fifteen minute devotional reading of some passage in the morning (a jolt of God along with a jolt of coffee or a Red Bull) simply won’t do it. We need to READ and study, delve into the Word of God and come to realize and even practice the wonderful truths that are found there. The Word needs to be read, studied, understood, and applied daily to our personal lives. We – the believers – need to come to REALIZE that the Bible truly is living and active and powerful (Hebrews 4:12 and Isaiah 55:11) and that we cannot live spiritually without our “daily bread” … and we need to hear from God daily what He is saying today for “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” To offer life to others we must be experiencing it ourselves.

We must see God’s Word through new eyes – we have to REMOVE the colored glasses through which we now view the Scriptures. We all see the words of the Bible and understand them through colored eyeglasses. We see them through the lenses of what we have been taught over the years – some of which has been good and some has been tradition. We see the Word of God through the lenses of the religious group that we grew up with – and every group has an “axe to grind” or a reason they exist and thus a slightly different slant on key teachings of the Bible. We have our own opinions based on our experiences and these are often non-biblical. We need to become honest with ourselves and become ruthless – throwing things out and making room for God to REVEAL new truths from His Word. Of course, it won’t be new – just new to us.

Thirdly – to become evangelistic and effective soul-winners – we need to get to really know those we are going to be reaching for Jesus. We need to RECONNECT and RELATE. We need to really live among them, spend time with them, listen to and come to understand them, and simply come to know who they really are beneath the busy lifestyle and what their deep concerns and fears are.

Often believers live in their own little world relating to other believers (we call it fellowship) and interact with the world in a superficial way because we are so busy in the Church and with the Church. It is time to become part of our local communities and connect with people. It is time to learn their language and stop speaking in a way that only believers can understand. It is time to become involved with the things they are involved in so we can come to know them in their natural surroundings. And, it is time to change the way we present or deliver our message so it relates to and can be understood by those who think we are ancient history and wish we would simply go away.

And finally, taking a larger look at the people we have come to RECONNECT with and now RELATE to we need to come to know and understand the “culture” we find ourselves in (or are ministering to). We need to RESEARCH and RELISH the society… the historical roots, the make-up of the society (the cultural mix), the traditions, the activities, the modes of entertainment, the standards by which they operate, their beliefs… Because you are an “ambassador for Christ” you must understand the culture that you are representing (the Christian faith) and those to whom you are presenting the message (the culture). You are to “be in the world” without being sucked in to being “of the world.” You are to be a valuable part of the culture in which you find yourself – dress like, look like, speak like, and live like – but basing what you do on the unchangable standards and message of the Christian faith. So, enjoy the culture you find yourself in as you are a cross-cultural missionary to them and so RECONNECT and RELATE to those you are called to minister to in the Name of Jesus.

Sound like a lot of work? Yes, it is! But even if one soul is saved and enters eternity knowing Jesus Christ it will be worth it. And, if the church that you attend and love wants to survive and even thrive – fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for it – then it is absolutely necessary that you and others begin to change and become active in the only task the Lord left His Church (you and I) to accomplish – seeking and saving the lost.

If your church is not growing and seeing new converts on a regular basis – then this blog is for you. Take it personally!

Burger King Spirituality

B.J. Gallagher – a sociologist and best-selling author of business and inspirational books is quoted in Outreach Magazine as saying: “I take a bit from various religions to put together a theology that works for me – what M.Scott Peck referred to as ‘Burger King’ spirituality (“Have it your way”). I like what author Matthew Fox says: God is like an underground river flowing deep beneath the surface of the earth. Different groups of people dig wellls, and when they find water, they think they have found the only water! In truth, all these people are tapping into the same divine water. So it doesn’t really matter if I get a few teachings from Buddhism, a couple from Judaism or Hinduism and lots from Christianity; it’s all coming from the same source.” (Outreach Magazine, May/June 2010, page 116)

She is not alone. Many are doing this in our world today. And, you have to add to the mix beliefs that are uniquely their own and that are not gleaned from any other religion. People have their own ideas and concepts of what truth is for them and often it is a mixture of personal opinion, influence from their section of the current culture, and pop pyschology gleaned from local music trends or some professor they are studying under. It seems that truth today is whatever you want it to be. And because we live in a society that values tolerance we simply accept what others believe with the attitude that “if it works for you – that’s great.”

Where does that leave the believer in Jesus Christ? Where does that leave those who believe there is only one source of truth and that it is God and that His truth has been revealed in Jesus Christ who states, “I am the way THE TRUTH, and the life?” Where does that leave those who believe that the Ten Commandments are still the moral standards for behavior today and thus the truth upon which life is built according to God? Where does that leave those who believe there is only one road to Heaven and it is Jesus or, to follow the writer’s idea, only one well that you can dig that actually reaches true living water. Well, it makes us appear antagonistic, narrow-minded, judgmental, and non-acepting of other beliefs.

So, believers have their work cut out for them – we must present THE TRUTH regardless of what others believe to be the or their “truth”. We must share that Jesus is the only way to Heaven and that the Gosepl is the only way to salvation. We must present the truth. We must defend the truth. We must earnestly content for the faith (Jude 3). We must not allow the current deceptions to go unchallenged. We must present the truth every time we sense an opening. We must take advantage of every opportunity we are handed and, if at all possible, create our own opportunities to share Jesus with others. We must share the truth gently and lovingly but we must share it nonetheless. And, we must do it often and everywhere.

Of course, this assumes we know exactly what it is the Bible teaches and what it is that we believe. And, it assumes that we know how to present what we believe in a way that communicates clearly and lovingly. And, this assumes that we know how to defend what we believe from other competing beliefs and prove that we are right and that the other philosophies and religions are wrong. This assumes we are strong enough in our faith and beliefs to withstand the opposition and hold our own in a discusion or a debate. This assumes we are able somewhat knowledgable in what other religions teach and know the difference, subtle at times, between what they believe and preach and what we believe. This assumes that we understand that we are fighting systems and beliefs that belong to the god of this world and that are blinding the minds of those who might believe (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that we know that others are preaching “another Jesus, another Spirit, and a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4). This assumes a lot.

This must be something we do intentionally. We must decide to learn the truths of our faith and how to communicate them well. We must intentionally set out to know what others believe and how to present what we believe in a way that will place the truth before them. We must decide that this is truly something the Lord has commanded that we do and that He demands we become involved in this task – and respond in total obedience. We must make some serious decisions that will commit us to a new path and a new way of life and then simply determine to do it. Or, we will see the Gospel of life simply become less and less known and no longer being an influence in our nations.

The Way Up Is Down

Jesus taught His followers that His Kingdom was different than what they could see working in the domain of darkness. That the Kingdom worked by principles that were different than the ones used to function in the world. That the Kingdom He rules functions opposite to the way that the world His followers know did. The way “up” is “down.”

I like the way that Leonard Sweet put it…

“The Lifted Up One, the One who sits high and walks low … (taught us that)….
The way up is down
The way in is out
The way first is last
The way of success is service
The way of attainment is relinquishment
The way of strength is weakness
The way of security is vulnerability
The way of protection is forgiveness (even seventy times seven)
The way of life is the way of death – death to self, society, family
Know your strengths. Why? Because that’s the only way you can lay them down
God’s power is made perfect …where? In our weakness
Want to get the most? Go to where the least is
Want to be free? Give complete control to God
Want to become great? Become least
Want to discover yourself? Forget your self…
Want to ‘get even’ with enemies? Bless and love them…”
(Leonard Sweet in “Jesus Drives Me Crazy” – page 16)

Too often, when looking at the way that believers live and work non-believers cannot see much, if any, difference between their own lifestyle and that of those who confess Jesus as Lord. This should not be the case. The way of life for believers and followers of Jesus should be so radically different than the way others live that the difference is not only seen but tasted. Jesus said, “taste and see…” and when the world does this they often don’t “taste” or “see” anything different in the life of a lot of their friends and co-workers whom call themself followers of The Way!

Today may be a good day to spend a few minutes taking a closer look at the way we live as believers and followers of Jesus and see if others could notice differences in the way that you live compared to the thoughts, words and deeds of those who are non-believers in He who said that “The Way Up Is Down.”

I Am Seriously Abnormal

Heard about a church in Charlotte, North Carolina – it’s mission is to reach those who “live and move and have false being” – those the church usually names “lost,” “unsaved,” “pre-Christian,” “seeker,” “unbeliever,” “unchurched,” “worldly,” “unconverted,” – or “pagan,” “heathen,” “infidel.” Except this church perfers to call those for whom the church exists the “normal” people. You see, there is a world and wisdom according to normal. Then there is a world and wisdom according to Jesus.

I like what Leonard Sweet states … “There is a world and wisdom according to normal. There is a world and wisdom according to Jesus. The world according to normal is the world that is. The wisdom of the world is “normal.” People who don’t know who Jesus is are the “normal people.” People for whom God is, to quote Edwin Muir, ‘three angry letters in a book’ are the normal people.” Jesus’ followers are the abnormal ones.”

He goes on to say, and I agree with Him, that the “Disciples of Jesus are deviation from the norm. They mess up the world as it is, drawing outside the lines, thinking outside the box, resisting off-the-shelf solutions. Christians simply can’t ‘do normal.’ Once you become a disciple of Jesus, normal isn’t good enough anymore. Christians are part of the wisdom of the world that is to come.”

As a believer I should not see the world as the world sees itself. I should have an off-kilter, offbeat view of the world. I simply see things from a Kingdom perspective. I am looking at things from living in the light (Kingdom of Christ) and looking back into the domain of darkness from which I came (the world). I am not “normal” and should not want to be “normal” as the world defines it. I want to be “abnormal” … not natural but supernatural.

Sweet goes on to say, “It is not enough to say that Jesus redefined what it means to be ‘normal.’ Everything Jesus taught goes again how ‘normal’ people see and function in the world. Turning the other cheek, going the second mile, giving the spare coat, washing underlings’ feet, heaping blessings on those who curse you, living without anger, laying down your life – all these things ‘normal’ people have a hard time understanding, much less thinking and living…. The truth is, Jesus stood ‘norma'” wisdom on its head.”

And, if we truly live this way and see the world in this manner – acting and speaking in accordance with the way we see things and view life … then we will, as the early disciples did, turn the world upside down (which happens to be from my vantage point – right-side up). Acts 17:6 states, ” These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” What a great way to have people refer to you – to be so radically different that they see you as a revolutionary who goes about turning the world on its head.

So here is the point: Are you radically different from the world – and thus seen as abnormal? Or, are you living in such a way that when people look at you they see you as normal – just like they are?

Christian Leaders State

In a survey of Christian leaders – they were asked to identify the top ten “life issues” that they considered critical when looking at their people – especially their youth today. They published the top five priority issues…

1> That people who experience a transformed life in Christ – 84% of those answering the survey chose this one
2> That people would know why they believe what they believe (41%)
3> That people develop healthy relationships in life (35%)
4> That people learn to resist ungoly influences (23% of those surveyed)
5> That people discover and learn how to make right choices (18%)

The top five challenges facing Church leaders who deal with the youth of today:

1> Developing passionate followers of Christ
2> Making Christ and Scripture real and relevant
3> Getting people to know – and live – the truth
4> Helping people combat ungodly influences
5> Ministering intergenerationally (due to the large gap in values and attitudes between generations today).

It is interesting that those who conducted the survey concluded that these were all good but that the Church today was not addressing any of the above in any meaningful way. They concluded that to meet these needs and speak to these 5 priority issues will require a fundamental change in the way most churches are doing ministry.

It is time not for a renewal or a revival – we need a serious revolution in the way we approach ministry and today’s culture and their issues.