Loving Difficult People – Part Three

Another person who is difficult to deal with is the THUMB SUCKER. Thumb Suckers tend to pout, are full of self-pity, and try to get people to cater to their own desires. This pouting is used as leverage to manipulate others. If things are not going their way, they can create a heavy atmosphere that is as oppressive as a rain cloud. They can do this very cleverly. Often they employ the silent treatment to get what they want.

Here is a strategy in dealing with this individual.

First, make the Thumb Sucker aware of the fact that moodiness is a choice. This is essential. People become moody to manipulate people and gain control. They are very seldom moody by themselves. Teach them that they are responsible for the atmosphere they create, especially if they are in a position of leadership in the team or the church. Everyone in the world has problems; the Thumb Sucker has no right to add his or her personal petty grievances to the load. They can choose to be even-tempered and no longer impact a situation or others by their pity party approach to life. 

Sometimes it is helpful to expose Thumb Suckers to people who have real problems. Perhaps it will cause them to see themselves in a different light and to have a more grateful heart and positive attitude. 

It is important to never reward or give attention to moody people. Giving them an opportunity to publicly exhibit their negative attitudes gives them a sense of recognition. The best method of attack is to praise this person’s positive ideas and actions and ignore him when he is sucking his thumb.

Thumb Suckers are subject to mood swings; they’re negative only part of the time. However, THE WET BLANKET, on the other hand, is constantly down and negative. He is the classic impossibility thinker who see a problem in every solution. He is afflicted with the dreaded disease of Excusitis — finding problems and making excuses.

The most difficult thing about working with a person like this is that he or she usually takes no responsibility for his or her negative attitude and behaviour. It’s either “the other guy’s fault” or it’s “Just the way I am,” — a way of blaming God. Again, don’t reinforce the Wet Blanket’s behaviour by providing a platform from which to make excuses. Kindly but firmly point out that you have confidence in this person, but his or her present attitude is hindering progress. He needs to choose whether or not he is going to  risk being positive and responsible. If he chooses to change his behaviour, he’ll have a cheering section. If he chooses to not change, though, your best move will be away from him.

THE GARBAGE COLLECTOR is locked even deeper into the mire of negativity than the Thumb Sucker and the Wet Blanket. Garbage Collectors have surrendered the leadership of their lives to negative emotions. Oh, how they love to rehearse and replay the injuries they have suffered at the hands of other people. They nurse their wounds and hold onto their wounded ill spirits. Briefly and concisely, they stink! The fact that there is garbage in life is depressing enough, but to collect it and haul it around town in a dump truck for public viewing is downright sick.

How do you deal with these people? First confront them about the way they try to represent other people. I never allow a person to tell me “there are many others who feel this way also.” I won’t hear them out unless they give me names. That single requirement takes a lot of the “stink” out of their garbage because it usually boils down to just one or two individuals who have an affinity for garbage too. I challenge their statements by pinning them down when they make generalizations and exaggerations. If they have created a serious enough situation, it may become necessary to destroy their credibility by exposing them to a decision-making group.

THE USER is the person who manipulates others for his or her own personal gain. Users avoid responsibility for themselves, while demanding time and energy from others to benefit their own situations. They often use guilt to get what they want. The put on a weak front in order to get people to feel sorry for them and help them out.

How do you work with USERS? First, set predetermined limits on how far you will go to help them. Otherwise, they will push your guilt button and you will weaken. Remember that these people will not only take you the second and third mile, they’ll take you to the cleaners if you allow them. Require responsibility from the User. Even if you feel disposed to help him, make sure he is responsible for some part of the job. Otherwise, you will wind up carrying the load while he goes on his merry way — more than likely looking for another gullible soul.

Last, don’t feel obligated to Users, and don’t feel guilty for not feeling obligated. Most of the time a simple, firm no is the best medicine.

More next time …

Feeling Confident In Life – Part Two

So, why do we need confidence?  Why do you need confidence in yourself as we saw yesterday from Hebrews 10:35?  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” 

First of all, it will give you stability in every area of your life. Confidence equals contentment with self; contentment is knowing you have all you need for the present circumstances. This leads to confidence.

Philippians 4:11-13 provides the basis for this thought. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

These verses cannot be separated because there is an absolute relationship between experiencing life’s lows and enjoying its highs. The apostle Paul is resting on the assurance that his strength is in God alone. And, he understood that confidence and contentment gave him stability in every situation he encountered in his tumultuous life. 

Contentment is taking your present situation — whatever obstacles you are facing, whatever limitation you are living with, whatever chronic condition wears you down, whatever has smashed your dreams, whatever factors and circumstances in life tend to push you under — and admitting you don’t like it but never saying, “I can’t cope with it.”

Contentment means you may feel distress, but you may never feel despair. You may feel pressed down, but you may never feel defeated. Paul says there are unlimited resources, and as soon as you say, “I can’t cope, “ you are failing to draw on these resources that Christ has readily, by His loving-kindness, made available to you. Contentment, therefore, is being confident that you measure up to any test you face because Christ has made His strength available within you.

If the first thing confidence does is to stabilize you, the second thing it does is to stretch you. The moment that I have my foundation strong and stable, I am in position to begin stretching. Insecure people and those who lack self-confidence seldom stretch because they are not willing to live on the edge of adventure in life. They are too insecure to risk what they have for what they might achieve and gain if only they let go and stepped out in faith. 

Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

Think about a rubber band which is totally useless unless it is stretched. When insecurity and lack of self-confidence keeps us from stretching and growing, we end up with a life that is as unexciting and useless as a limp rubber band. 

We need confidence so that we can be stable in life not allowing neither want or abundance to control our response to daily circumstances and situations. Secondly, confidence allows us to risk stepping out in faith and in the process stretching and growing. 

Transferring this truth to the leadership level we see that confidence helps a leader to believe in other people because they are secure and confident. I mean, don’t we see others as we see ourselves? Show me a leader who believes in other people, and i will show you a leader who has a lot of confidence in their life. An insecure leader, on the other hand, believes neither in themselves nor in others. Insecure people are afraid to risk building up others with compliments, because they are constantly in need of compliments themselves.

A leader with confidence is a leader who brings about positive change in people. People must have affirmation, praise, and encouragement in order to believe in themselves, move forward, and maintain a high-level of excellence in the things they are called to do. Withholding negative or critical comments is not nearly as important as giving positive input through complements and praise. Again, the only people who can do this are those who feel positive about themselves. Work plus praise increases energy, but work without praise drains energy.

If you study the life of Paul, you will note he uses the word “confidence” in three distinct but related ways. Six times Paul refers to confidence in his relationship with Christ, six times to his confidence in himself, and six times he mentions his confidence in relationships with other people. There must be a balance because all three areas are related. Without confidence in Christ we could be tempted to become egocentric and cocky. Without confidence in ourselves we are defeated, powerless Christians. Without confidence in others we are suspicious and untrusting. 

Paul learned this lesson and it made him a successful motivator, leader, and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. The price tag the world puts on us is just about identical to the one we put on ourselves. Self-confidence is the first prerequisite to doing great things for the Lord and the Kingdom of God. 

Retire? You Must Be Joking!

Paul the apostle said in his final letter: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He finished well and was ready to face those who were about to put him to death. 

I am planning on finishing well. To do so I have had to decide the retire with resilience — and with some sanctified resistance. Someone asked the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar if he was thinking about retiring. He laughed and said, “Retiring? No! I’m re-firing.”

There is someone I recently read about who is still active in his mid-nineties. For the last twenty or so years, people have asked him is he was retired. His rely: “Yes, I retire every night to go to bed so that I can get up the next morning to find out what God has for me to do.”

When psychologist Michael Longhurst left his high-level management position in the corporate world, he undertook a major research project on the subject of retirement. He interviewed over two hundred retirees and discovered that too many are unprepared for retirement — especially mentally and emotionally. 

One man summed up the problem when he wrote, “I feel so lonely and depressed. I miss my job, the office, my lunch buddies, and friends at work. I used to be very busy at work, and now suddenly there is nothing to do, no deadlines, etc. So, this is what retirement is — boring and lonely. I wish I [could] be happy again like the good old days.”

A wife said to her retired husband, “What are you planning to do today?” He replied, “Nothing.” She responded, “But you did that yesterday.” “I know,” he said, “But I’m not finished yet.”

Many people have followed the general expectation in North America and the western world that when we reach a certain age, we retire. It’s just what you do. Retirement has become the final rotation in the cycle of life. Just as we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask adults, “What do you plan to do when you retire?” Seldom do we hear the value of typical retirement plans questioned, and certainly not the value of retirement itself. 

But retirement as we know it today was virtually nonexistent throughout history. Retirement made little sense when the average age expectancy was only thirty to forty years. It has its roots in the early 1900’s, when many large industries, including railroads, banks, and oil companies began offering pensions.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act. An employee’s income was taxed throughout his or her working life to fund a retirement income beginning at age sixty-five. In North America today, most workers expect to retire, and the culture is geared to accommodate it.

Interestingly, the Bible records only one example of retirement: “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties” (Numbers 8:24-26).

While the Levite tabernacle workers were instructed to retire at age fifty, they were not put out to pasture to spend the rest of their lives twiddling their thumbs and gazing at the sundial. They were charged to minister to the younger Levites who took over their jobs. They became mentors and advisors. Today they would probably hand out business cards and call themselves consultants.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take advantage of your retirement income or pension benefits. But you might want to avoid the word retirement. You don’t have to continue in your profession until you are just about to drop dead. But if you do leave your job, remember — retirement is simply God’s way of freeing you up for further service. God always has a plan for you next day. 

2021 – Be Who God Called You To Be! – Part Two

When you think about it, there’s no story in the Bible without a little fear and excitement. God always calls us into the unknown. I have never seen one single story in the Bible where God enters someone’s life and says, “You know what? You’re doing great. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

No. He always calls his people to new levels of obedience, if not a new direction entirely. God enters Paul’s life and everything changes. God enters Jonah’s life, and everything changes. God enters David’s life, Moses’s life, Mary’s life. The list goes on and on. He’s a disruptive God. Even Job, who actually was doing great, had his life changed when God intervene. No one is safe.

I think Jacob got to do physically what we get to do daily, and that is wrestle with God.

In 2005, Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computers) gave a commencement speech at Stanford University. He shared with the students a profound practice that he did daily. Every day, Steve Jobs looked in the mirror and asked himself the question, “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?” He then observed, “Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I’d say, whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, you’re probably not hearing God’s voice. Or you’re not responding to His leading. Because He isn’t silent. He’s quite loud once you want to hear. I just don’t know if you want to hear Him. I think this is why Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Of course, everyone has ears, but only a few use them.

Have you ever heard the Holy Spirit referred to as the Comforter? That’s such a funny name to give the Holy Spirit. Talk about misleading! Sometimes I think that name is just an inside joke they giggle at in Heaven, because here’s the truth. In all my life, no one has asked me to do more uncomfortable things than the Holy Spirit!

He’s always got something new for me to do, and it’s rarely safe, easy, or convenient.

However, over the years, the Holy Spirit’s direction has become less scary and more exciting. Not because there’s no risk now. If anything, the stakes are higher. The difference is that I’ve seen His faithfulness. I’ve even seen His ridiculousness. I’ve seen His show up, and I’ve seen Him show off.

I feel like God is slowly but surely trying to make us comfortable in the uncomfortable. Our plans and God’s plans don’t always line up. But maturity comes when we trust His ways more than our wants. 

When was the last time you felt God calling you to do something that scared you but also got you a little excited to see how your obedience could play out?

This generation will continue abandoning the Church if the Church continues to abandon the mission. But show me a church led by fearful, exciting obedience, and I’ll show you a church full of young people forming new heroes. 

2021 – Be Who God Called You To Be! – Part One

There is an author I have been recently introduced to. He has written a number of Christian books on loving others as Jesus loves us with the slant towards loving the non-believers into the Kingdom (the word we all hate: ‘evangelism’) I have taken a liking to him because he is simply being himself and being real. And young people are drawn to him.

There’s an idea floating in the church that you have to dress really cool, be up to date with pop culture, use all the new slang, maybe get some tattoos, and then maybe you’ll be able to connect with young people for Jesus. But this author is breaking all the rules. He’s just being unashamedly, unapologetically who God’s called him to be, and it’s a breath of fresh air for young and old alike. But the really religious people find him hard to swallow.

Another author I read a lot of wrote about this first author I mentioned:

“A few years ago, some friends and I had the privilege of grabbing lunch with him. And by that I mean he put his phone number in the back of his national bestselling book, so I called him. (Talk about making yourself available for people to join your life.) It was one of the coolest experiences because he told me something I’m never going to forget. Let me preface, however, by saying that he is a husband, father, bestselling author, public speaker, the director of Restore International, a lawyer, a professor, and the honorary consul of the Republic of Uganda. He’s also fifty-eight years old. 

Baffled by the amount of work he does for the kingdom, I asked, “…how are you able to do so much? It’s inspiring. But honestly, I don’t know how you get it’ll done at your age.”

“I don’t sleep,” he told me without missing a beat. My friends and I laughed because we thought he was joking. He continued, “No. Really. I don’t sleep. Lat night I slept for five hours and got my first call from Uganda at five in the morning.” He smiled and then said three sentences I will never forget. “I want to die exhausted. We have eternity to rest. Until then, let’s do things.”

He continued… 

That statement was so incredibly simple yet so incredibly profound, It wasn’t inspiring because he works so hard and doesn’t sleep. It was inspiring because he’s a fifty-eight-year-old man who dares to sacrifice his sleep and comfort for the greater cause. I have never in my life heard an older Christian say anything remotely close to “I want to die exhausted” for the gospel’s sake. A statement like that is seen as irresponsible and audacious. But I think the church needs to redeem the word audacity. Sometimes what the world calls audacity, God calls childlike faith.

My comment…

So, as I read all this and more I personally related to this man’s heart. There is so much to accomplish for the Kingdom and yet so few bothering to fulfill the call that is on every believer’s life. And, it seems the older a person becomes the less they are willing to step out in faith and risk their comfort and safety and security. I think that is seriously sad. And not biblical.

Here’s what I do know. When Christians have outlandish, outrageous faith, it reveals cultural Christianity for what it actually is: boring and ineffective. That kind of faith is contagious. And when it’s coming from an older Christian, it’s inspiring. It should make young people think, Man, I want to have that kind of faith at that age. What will it take for me to live like that when I’m older?

Someone once said, “If the size of the vision you have for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.”

And just to be clear, a big vision doesn’t need to be moving to another country or having a large platform. It just has to involve doing something that scares you a bit, but excites you a ton. The younger generation wants to be disciples by older men and women who walk in a little fear and excitement when they respond to the Lord. 

More next time…

2021 – Living What You Believe – Part One

As we enter the first full week of the New Year 2021 my thoughts turn to behaviour and lifestyle. 

As a leader I realize that I can’t lead what I don’t live. In other words, my actions can speak louder than my words and nullify what I am saying. As a leader I can’t ask my people to do what I am not willing to first do myself. 

As believers we should take the start of a new year to examine what is it we believe as Christ-followers and then see if how we live lines up with what we say we hold to be the truth. Again, often the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we behave can speak louder than what we say we believe deep in our hearts. One contradicting the other. Our talk and our walk must line up. What we believe on the inside must effect and even transform how we live on the outside – in our family, at work, in the community, and even in the church fellowship itself. 

This is a question of integrity. Living what we say that we believe. Leading in a way that shows what we truly believe. 

We are flawed, weak and broken people being put back together by the grace of Jesus. That is all our God has to work with. Even the apostle Paul, after being transformed by the grace of Jesus, was still in awe that God would use “the worst of sinners to accomplish heavenly purposes” (1 Timothy 1:15).

So, how do we live (and lead) with integrity when we are broken vessels?

I have been a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Church and ministry now for45 years and have some thoughts that help me to navigate this journey with Jesus that we are all on. Life as a believer can be complex, complicated, and often challenging. As I walk with Jesus year after year I have become stronger in my faith. But, I have also become more aware of my personal weaknesses. I am humbled to be called a child of God, and amazed that the Lord would use me as an instrument to expand His Kingdom and even lead His Church. There is a tremendous obligation on each of our lives to live and relate in such a way as to impact those who do not know Jesus and to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with the lost, the least, and the last. Maybe you feel the same way. To fulfill this mandate we must be people of integrity.

Here are some reflections on growing to be more like Jesus and thus living with integrity in our hearts and lives. These ideas apply to every aspect of life and ministry.

1> Practice what you believe (leader: Practice what you preach)

We believe that there is no other way into Heaven other than by being born again and receiving the gift of eternal life which by biblical definition is to have a personal and intimate love relationship with the Lord and with His heavenly Father (see John 17:3). 

We believe that the Lord has called each one of us, as believers and followers, to take this message out into our personal world – where we live and work and play. And then even to the whole world. We call this The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and commands us to work with him and complete this task. 

Do we live what we believe?

In my experience most church leaders do very little to reach the lost outside of the formal church services and programs. It is not a way of life for them. The same is true for those who attend church services on a regular basis and are thus “active Christians.” 

To lead and to live with integrity is to align our lifestyle with the things the Bible teaches and what Jesus expects from us as followers. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He expects us to fish – to seek the lost, the least, and the last – and not to rest until every people group in every nation (including where we live) have heard the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). I once heard a preacher say, “If you are not fishing, you are not following. You are simply deceiving yourself that things are good between you and God.”

This will mean learning how to share our faith in a natural and organic way. We need to be praying for the lost, building deep and decent friendships with people who are far from God, and regularly having spiritual conversations with people in our lives. This alignment of words, actions, and beliefs is a powerful witness. 

The Lord Said! Really?

As I work with believers I often hear them say “the Lord told me…” or “I heard the Lord say…” followed by some nice thing that He is promising. Something He plans to do for them. An adventure that He is sending them on. A vacation. A blessing. A financial breakthrough. A calling. A ministry. The list is endless.

And, they are so sure that they have heard the Lord speak to them that they begin immediately to make decisions based on what they believe they have been told. And some of these decisions are fairly life-changing affecting family and friends. 

However, often what they believe they have heard simply justifies their existing lifestyle or the sin they are living in. Thus they don’t have to change and believe they are in the Lord’s will and thus He is blessing their current situation or circumstance and the decision they have made.

They don’t test what they are hearing to the Word of God, the Bible. They don’t seek the wisdom of more mature believers with whom they fellowship. They don’t take into account the timing of what they think they have heard. And, they don’t question that what they heard might not even be the voice of the Lord for them – but more their own desires and emotions. 

I have found over my 50+ years of walking with Jesus and listening to what people think that He has spoken to them that 90% or more of what they hear is simply their own emotions, desires, and dreams. It is their soul speaking to them and not the voice of the Holy Spirit living in their spirit. 

If God is truly speaking to us then, again by experience, I have discovered a number of things…

      • What He is saying will stretch you and make you somewhat uncomfortable and is usually life-altering.
      • Whatever He is asking you to do will be greater than what you are able to do on your own. You will need to join with others and work as a team.
      • You will need to go through a season of learning and growing; developing new skills and understanding.
      • What He is calling you to is most often not something you would desire in the natural.
      • It will cost you something. It comes with a price. You will be taking up your cross.
      • It will challenge what you know and cause you to grow spiritually before it begins to come to pass.
      • You will need to build new relationships with people who can help you to achieve what the Lord has spoken – someone to disciple you, mentor you, and walk with you in this stage of your journey. This will require you to submit your life to others and be accountable.
      • There will be many tests and trials along the way which you will need to go through so as to grow into the calling and be strong in your faith. Joseph, in the Old Testament, went through ten different tests before reaching the fulfillment of what the Lord said to him. (See “The Ten Tests” article in the resources section of ralphhoweminsitries.com)  
      • It will involve hard work and a good length of time to see what the Lord has said come to pass. 

So, my observation is that what most people think “the Lord said” is not Him at all. And, because people are fairly vocal about what they think the Lord said to them the world gets the impression that believers are unbalanced and not to be taken seriously. 

We need to be really careful with “The Lord said…” and make sure that He really did!

 

What Do You Worship?

The question is “what” do you worship – not “who” do you worship. I am quoting from a book I recently read while on a three week retreat in the north of my province….

And, please note my definition of idolatry. Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.

A friend of mine who visited a remote, impoverished village in India told me a story. He saw a woman sacrificing a chicken as an act of worship to her god. My friend was shocked to see such blatant, modern-day idolatry. After striking up a conversation with the woman, he was impressed with her. She was well-spoken, kind, and educated.

When he learned that she had visited New York City three years earlier, he asked what she thought of America. She explained that she hated it. She had never seen more idolatry anywhere in her entire life. When my friend pressed her, she described three areas of idolatry that she saw.

First, she said, not so gently, the Americans worship their stomachs. Her eyes wide as she talked, this woman from a simple village described the massive stores overstocked with food to sell to people who had already had too much to eat. Evidently this woman was offended by people who are overweight when so many people in her village go hungry. 

Second, she described how Americans worship television. From her perspective, they design their homes around the television. It takes the most prominent place in the most important room, and the furniture is arranged not for talking to people but for watching television. It was almost too much for her to comprehend that some people even allow a television in their bedroom — of all places!

Finally, she said the worst form of idolatry was in the relationship people have with their phones. She was deeply offended that people use them while driving. Even worse was that no one (at least in her experience) could have a full conversation without reading something on their phone.

Kind of gives new meaning to American idol, doesn’t it. My friend didn’t try to disagree with the Indian woman. He knew he couldn’t. Everything she said was true. And she hadn’t even scratched the surface. 

Without getting into our obsessions with food and media, I’m simply raising the question about what we worship when we click. You are probably not putting a statute of a turtle ahead of God, and you probably aren’t a star-worshipper, but is your obsession with your phone gearing out of hand?

Some of us can honestly answer no. We are already using technology with good boundaries. We control it. It doesn’t control us. We might have a healthy view of social media and how we interact with it. If so, I’m thankful, and you should be too!

Yet I know many well-intentioned followers of Jesus who are being seduced, sucked into, and consumed by the virtual world. They think, “I just want to help my business.” Or, “This will give more exposure to my ministry.” Or, “I just love staying in touch with so many friends and family members.” 

As I read this and then took a long walk to think about it I had mixed feelings and several distinct reactions. I was pleased that for several years now I have set boundaries on my iPhone. It turns on at 9:00a. Before that is my time with the Lord, in prayer, reading and studying the Bible. It turns itself off at 10:00p so that I have an uninterrupted 90 minutes to read before heading to bed. I work so many hours in front of the computer screen in my office (9:00a to 1:00p) with emails and texts and then shut it down and go about other things – appointments, meeting with non-believers, and time in my study writing a book I am currently working on.

But I did realize that I needed to put up better boundaries regarding how much time I “waste” watching television some evenings. I realize there are more productive things I can do. But, after a normal day and early evening I am tired and want to simply relax and not have to think. But, that is simply a rationalization and an excuse. So, I have been changing my evening routine and putting my time and limited energy to better use. Establishing boundaries. No longer spending more time binge-watching than I do with the Lord in any given day.

Idolatry is still very much alive in the world today … no matter where you live or what language you speak. And, with all the technology now available idolatry has become an acceptable aspect of life. It is time to reclaim the precious time the Lord given to us each day. 

Remember: Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.

A Friend Of Sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Three

We have been looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are 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

We have looked briefly at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. And, a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith. The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth – the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check. And the more successful you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find.

King David discovered this the hard way. During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle. One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house. His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him. What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes. But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told. He summoned the woman to the king’s palace. And if you don’t know the story well. One thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant.

Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation. He called he husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his. But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics. He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed. And he was.

Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth. So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path. The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this. “Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other was very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for a meal.”

When David heard this story, he was beside himself with anger. David ranted, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6). Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth. “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man’” (2 Samuel 12:7). That was enough to jolt king David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God. 

Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth. And the more successful we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart. That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest. In other words, a true friend. 

David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT). 

When was the last time a friend loved you enough to give you an open rebuke? Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction? If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed. Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth. Maybe you need to connect with someone who’s willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you’re suppose to be.

Winding up the three blogs…

Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now? Someone who helps you be better? Someone who helps you draw closer to God? Or someone who tells you the truth about yourself?

Is one person’s name popping into your head right now? Someone you could consider getting to know better and sharing your need for this kind of connection? If not, ask God to provide the right person at the right time, that friend who can help you grow closer to Him and to make decisions leading you in a divine direction.