Act In Faith

Here is a truth to remember: You can’t play it safe and act in faith at the same time.

At a meeting of church leaders in the late 1700’s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the value of overseas missions. He was abruptly interrupted by an older minister who said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

The reason that attitude is inconceivable today is largely due to the subsequent efforts of that young man, William Carey. Carey worked in various jobs to support his family while he continued to educate himself, even teaching himself New Testament Greek. In 1792 he organized a missionary society, and at the first gathering he preached a sermon with the call: ”Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Within a year, Carey, his family, and some like-minded daring people were on a ship headed for India.

In many ways, Carey was a catalyst for change, helping to inspire a big-thinking, risk-taking, faith-filled approach to modern missions. He served the rest of his life in India at a time where there was no modern travel or communication systems. He was a minister, a translator, social reformer and cultural anthropologist who founded the Serampore College and the Serampore University, the first degree-awarding university in India. Carey even translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit. He also translated parts of it into twenty-nine other languages and dialects. He helped educate horticulturists, which raised the quality and productivity of the nation’s agricultural industry. His life was a living, breathing example that big things happen when we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

Our tendency is to make decisions that we are comfortable with, to play it safe and do only what we feel is rational. But God has called us to acts of faith. We’re not meant to spend our lives as mere observes and spectators who hang out in the bleachers and offer commentary as world everts play out in front of us. We’re here to engage potential, explore possibilities, and act in faith. 

Scripture tells us, “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39). If you’re a Jesus follower, this applies to everything God has for you. When you have challenges, setbacks, even failures and mess-ups, you are not meant to be like those who shrink back. No, you are meant to take on the challenge and push through resistance that tries to contain you.

God has something for you to do for Him and needs you to keep walking by faith. Remind yourself that big things happen when you act in faith. Keep going big. Keep believing in what you don’t see. Pray bold prayers. Your life story will be dramatically different with acts of faith. Doors will open that would otherwise stay closed. Relationships with like-minded people and God-assigned connections will happen that would have otherwise never happened. When you live out of faith and not in fear, you will accomplish more, experience greater fulfillment, and leave a lasting legacy. 

Rather than seeing a need, you may start to see the opportunity. Rather than just thinking, Why doesn’t someone do something?, You may find yourself saying, I’m going to do something. 

Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. You won’t regret it!

 

Playing It Safe

Because we have all been hurt by others at one time or another we tend to “play it safe.” You don’t let people get too close to you again. Or, you keep your conversations superficial, sharing little to nothing of your personal or private life. We do whatever it takes to protect ourselves from being hurt again and so play it ‘safe,’ whatever that looks like in your life currently. The interesting thing is that when we do this, it seems that it rarely occurs to us that there are some very real dangers in playing it safe as well. 

Helen Keller said, “Avoiding danger in the long run is no safer than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

This logic is counterintuitive to most, if not all people – most believing that avoiding danger is safer than outright exposure. So, they avoid risk no matter the cost. What I am saying is that avoiding risk is not a less dangerous approach to life than taking risks. Avoiding risks has it own horrific consequences that most people are less aware of because they don’t appear in the media reports and are not talked about nearly as much.

Playing it safe is the ultimate attempt at self-preservation. It passes up the opportunity to have an incredibly meaningful life in exchange for mere existence. The sure way to look back in the future with massive regret is to pay it safe, be guarded, be suspicious of people who are friendly, assume the worst, and refuse to take chances. Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” That’s a big thing thing for a guy whose life was filled with lots of mischief and adventure to admit.

When you play it safe, you pass up the opportunity to have the conversations that could have changed your life and someone else’s. When you play it safe, you never discover or know what is possible. When you play it safe, you lack passion for life, other people don’t feel your love, your potential is not discovered, and God’s purpose for you goes unfulfilled.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about four lepers in Samaria in a time of famine. The only food source was in the neighbouring community, where food was stockpiled by their enemy. These lepers were starving to death. They had every reason to believe that the enemy would not give them food and would kill them if they made any attempt to enter enemy territory. That’s when one of the lepers did a risk assessment. He began to question the sanity of staying where they were and certainly dying versus taking the risk of going to the neighbouring city in hopes of finding food.

“Why stay here until we die?” He asked (2 Kings 7:3). He wasn’t being irrational. He was pointing out the danger of playing it safe. He was saying, It may be risky to walk towards our enemy, but at least there is a potential for a better life than we’ll have here if we stay where we are.”

It’s true for us as well. The dangerous consequences of playing it safe may be less obvious, but they pose a greater threat in the end. The dangers aren’t sudden and dramatic. They develop slowly over time and can be difficult to identify, which is what makes playing it safe more dangerous than the high-profile missteps we hear about or see in the news. Like a slow leak in a tire, the dangers of playing it safe aren’t something we see or feel on a daily basis. We become aware of them only when we realize we’re stuck and wondering how it happened. That’s when we take note of the bigger picture and realize that playing it safe isn’t as safe as it appears to be.

What I love about the story of the four lepers is that heaven suddenly backed them up when they finally make their gutsy move to stand on their feet and begin walking in the direction of the food. When they headed into enemy territory, God caused the enemy to hear loud, thunder like noises, which they thought were the chariots and horses of an army coming to attack them. The enemy fled for their lives, leaving behind everything, including the food that they had stockpiled. The four lepers walked into the city and found it vacated and filled with plenty of food, not only for themselves but also for the people of Israel. 

This is what happens when we have the courage to not stay where we are or as we are even if it means risking failure. Acts of faith always attract God’s attention and cause Him to move mightily on our behalf. This doesn’t happen when we sit in safe places. It only happens when we dare to move in the direction of our dreams. 

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. 

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.

Christians Can’t Be Passive

Jesus said, “”From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

The Passion Translation reads, “From the moment John stepped onto the scene until now, the realm of heaven’s kingdom is bursting forth, and passionate people have taken hold of its power.”

The original language reads, “The kingdom of heaven is entered into by force, and violent ones take hold of it.”

The message of this verse and others like it in the New Testament indicates that you cannot be passive and a believer. You Can’t get saved and then simply sit. You were not saved to sit. You were saved to serve. You cannot be laid back and letting life just happen to you and still call yourself a believer.

A true disciple of Jesus, a believer, will be aggressive. They will be passionate about Jesus and the cause of Christ. Their love for God will grow and overflow onto those who do not yet know the love of God. They will not be passive about sharing God’s love. They will be seriously intentional. 

In their own personal lives they will have a deep hunger to know and to grow. The major constant in their life, other than Jesus, will be change. And, this hunger to know and to grow will not settle for anything less than becoming more and more like Jesus and more alive and active for Him in their relationships. 

Again, this hunger, this passion to learn and grow,  will cause them to look for leaders who will disciple and mentor them. They will be constantly reading, applying what they are learning, and assimilating the lessons and insights into who they are and how they live. 

If you want to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit that you receive when you are Baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can’t be passive. You need to be passionate, aggressive, on fire, and even “violent” in the Bible sense of that word. The power is only released by those who are aggressive and passionate. The apathetic and passive need not apply. 

I have personally found that most people who ask me to mentor them are approaching the mentoring relationship passively. They are not taking the lead. They are expecting me to contact and connect with them. They do not come to a coffee appointment or an on-line connection loaded with questions that they need insight into. They apparently see the time as more a fellowship occasion than an opportunity to learn, to grow and to mature. So, they are passive. And boring!

In one particular case I am facing the person does not initiate the mentoring appointments. Coffee yes, mentoring no! This person does not read on a regular basis. It takes forever to get through a simple and relatively short book. And then the discussion is painful with me asking all the questions. Where, in a mentoring relationship they should come with all the questions ready to be asked. We work through life issues after I bring them up because they are so obvious. But, there is no follow through. So, a year or two later we are facing the same life situations again. And again and again. Although I have not asked I can almost guarantee that this person is not reading the daily blogs I post. Nor are they reviewing the teaching that come out every week. But, time for a coffee. Certainly. Passive, not assertive and aggressive.

Passive people are not moving forward in their personal lives. Nor are they grabbing hold of the Kingdom. And, they have absolutely not “taken hold of its power.” So, I am hoping that one day I will meet a passionate disciple who really does want to reach his or her full potential in the Kingdom and who actually wants to be be mentored. A person who is “violent.”

Embrace Change

We are looking at things that need to change if we hope to be a dangerous church. We saw that we need:

1> To see things through the eyes of the unchurched and de-churched

2> Let guests and visitors be anonymous

Today – Let’s look at the need to EMBRACE CHANGE

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Let Guests be Anonymous

We are looking at things that need to change in some churches so that we can better be about the Father’s business of seeking and saving the lost. Last time we look at the need to see things through the eyes of the unchurched or de-churched…Today, let’s look at how we make visitors or our guests feel – when and if we have someone new attend our service.

When people go to watch a movie, many people like to sit in the back row, just like the many people who enter our churches wanting to test the waters. They appreciate and value anonymity. Unfortunately, in many ways, our good-intentioned desire to recognize and honor visitors in our services often has the opposite effect. Imagine if you can what it feels like to darken the doors of a church for the first time. Most visitors want to be warmly welcomed, accepted as they are, and allowed to journey at their own pace. Are we letting them do that?

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Your Religion is Showing

As we examine the life of Jesus (a good thing to do but first take off your religious glasses), we see that He was amazingly brilliant at cultivating relationships with people who didn’t fit in with the established religion or had been rejected by the religious leaders. Jesus at times even went out of His way to disrupt the established religious practices in an attempt to help people grasp the passionate core of His mission: reaching lost people.Establishing another religion was the last thing Jesus wanted to do. His real goal was to make disciples, devoted followers who would carry forward His mission with the same passion and commitment to reaching people who were far from God.

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Stop Playing God

The fourth step towards showing the love of God to our unsaved friends and neighbors and thus becoming dangerous disciples … STOP PLAYING GOD

Hypocrisy in our lives (see the last blog), hiding who we really are to cover our sin, always leads to judging. When we judge others, we play God and excuse our own sin by focusing on the sins of others. While there is a need for wise discernment and loving confrontation of sinful behavior, this is different from being judgmental. I once wrote in the margins of my Bible (I’m not sure where I heard it), “There is a world of difference between making judgment and being judgmental.” The problem is not that we make judgments but that we make judgments to excuse our own sinful behaviors.

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Stop Being a Hypocrite

The third step to change so that people will be attracted to us, to the Church and, of course, to Jesus. The third step to becoming different and dangerous…  STOP BEING A HYPOCRITE

A pastor writes: It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was in the parking lot of a downtown Portland mall… We were in a bit of a rush, as I had just realized that I was going to be late for the start of our weekend services. That weekend, I was preaching a message about God’s love. As we were rushing to enter the mall, we passed a young teenage girl. She was obviously homeless (Oregon is in the top 10 percent of the nation for homelessness), and as we walked by, she looked up at me and asked, “Sir, do you have any spare change for the bus?” Without hesitating, I mumbled a quick no and kept moving. But as I pushed open the glass doors, I clearly heard God speak these words into my heart: “You are a hypocrite.”

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