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. 

The Perfect Storm

The disciples were following Jesus wherever He went, assisting Him in all His ministries. They were listening to His Word and helping Him preach and share the Gospel of the Kingdom, yet they found themselves being tossed up and down by a storm and in real danger of drowning. The disciples were learning a difficult lesson – one every believer must learn: we can find ourselves in the middle of God’s perfect will and in the middle of a perfect storm at the same time!

When author Gary Thomas and his wife considered buying a house, they prayed diligently for God to guide them. If it wasn’t His will, they figured He would close the windows of opportunity.

The window did not close, so they proceeded with their purchase. Five years passed, during which they enjoyed their home and the blessing of God. Then the economy entered a tailspin, and the house was suddenly worth less than they had paid for it. They wondered why God hadn’t stopped them from making a bad investment. They had prayed. They had listened. They had not heard “no.”

As Gary’s wife was seeking God one day, she heard His answer: Have you considered the possibility that I wanted you in that neighbourhood to minister rather than to bolster your financial equity? That insight caused them to rethink their questions about God’s guidance. They realized it was all about lives touched for Christ rather than value earned from holdings. Now the question was, did they trust God enough to follow Him down a path with no financial profit, but with great spiritual profit?

Christ doesn’t ask us to take up our portfolios and follow Him; He says to take up our crosses. Comfort is not a factor. But He does promise that the way to grow into the image of Christ is by trusting and obeying in all circumstances.

As in the case of Gary and his wife, the will of God is not always crystal clear. But on that day by the Sea of Galilee, God’s will couldn’t have been clearer to the disciples: Jesus had said, “Let’s go!” They didn’t call a meeting to deliberate; they didn’t pray; they didn’t seek counsel from others. God’s will has been right there in front of them, so without hesitation, they got into the boat. And now the thing that loomed right in front of them was death.

This unexpected peril was something new for the disciples. So far, following Jesus hadn’t been overly costly – little more than quitting their jobs and getting a bit of carping and criticism from local religious leaders (Mark 3:22). But they had faced nothing life threatening. In fact, it had been just the opposite: they were close associates of the most popular person in Galilee. They’s been welcomed in small towns as heroes. This movement of God was working; and all systems were go. 

Then came the perfect storm. It certainly raised some questions.

Many people believe faith is some kind of insurance against high blood pressure and heartache. Trust God and you’ll have no worries. But a great paradox of Christianity is that trusting Christ does not keep the storms away. In fact, sometimes it pushes us into deep and turbulent waters.

Jesus faced a perfect storm when He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. He knew what He was about to face – unthinkable torture and death – and He dreaded it. In the garden He cried out, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). He was fully aware of the storm He was heading into.

The disciples in their tossing boat weren’t cognizant of these underlying spiritual issues. Fear gripped them, pushing aside all concerns about being in the will of God. But they were about to learn a priceless lesson: there is security is the heart of God’s will. Storms are not punishment for lack of obedience; oftentimes they are the result of obedience! Those men were in that storm because they had jumped in the boat when Jesus said, “Let’s Go!”

You will follow Jesus in a storm someday. And you will learn that, although it may be overwhelming, it’s the safest of all places to be. 

Becoming “Favour Friendly”

The Bible states that “As a person thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). So, what we focus on and think about has a powerful impact on the direction that our lives take. 

As I was thinking about that verse recently, I realized that God’s grace (favour) is impartial from one person to the next. It simply is not compatible with everyone’s attitude and mind-set. Believers simply don’t expect to see God move in their everyday life and thus limit what God is doing in and through them. The attitude and mind-sets of some people keep God’s favour at a distance, while the attitude and mind-sets of others draw it in.

1 Peter 1:13 states, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace (favour, charis) that is to be brought unto you.”

The word “charis” comes from the Greek ‘xdris’ and from the Hebrew word ‘kand,’ which is a reference to God’s grace expressed through His favour and kindness towards us. But it has an even deeper connotation: ‘charis’ describes God reaching (inclining) to people because He is ready to bless them.

A visual image of ‘charis’ pictures God leaning in, eagerly extending Himself to show His favour to us. The apostle Peter, the author of this verse, is telling us to rein in our thought life so we’re not distracted or drawn into speculations and fears but we remain hopeful, expecting to experience God favour (grace) at all times. He’s saying that we should stay mindful ( keep your mind full) of favour so we can experience the fullness of favour that is “to be brought unto you.” There is favour that is coming our way! We should remind ourselves, Don’t blow it … Don’t let your mind mess it up … Heaven has some awesome things planned for you! 

When you have the right mind-set you become ‘favour friendly.’ You’ll think in way that cause favour to be released and drawn into your life and be a part of your life. Nothing increases favour in our lives like thinking about favour and expecting favour.

Being favour minded means you have hope … you live with expectation of the best, God’s best in your life. You have a confidence in God and believe that He is for you and with you, and that He is working all things for your good, even when you can’t see it and are not experiencing it yet. 

Nobody is ‘favour minded’ every moment of every day, but being favour minded means you are intentionally doing what the Bible refers to when it tells you that you can be transformed by the “renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

For centuries renewing the mind was mostly a biblical concept that wasn’t supported by science. During most of the twentieth century, the consensus among neuroscientists was that brain structure was fixed and didn’t change after early childhood. Since, then, however, scientists started changing their opinions and created a term – neuroplasticity – that is defined as “the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.”

What God has known since the beginning, science is now discovering: no matter what our age, we have the ability to change the habits of our mind.

Research shows that how we think repeatedly does literally create small pathways or ‘grooves’ on our brains. With some intentional effort, we can redirect our habits of thought and create new grooves or pathways in our brains. It takes time and effort, but it is the key to transformation.

For example, you may have heard it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit. The reason for this is it takes about that much concentrated time for our new thoughts to build a new path to travel on. In other words, this is what the Bible refers to as the renewing of the mind.

One reason for this renewing of the mind is so that we will think in a way that is congruent with having faith in God. If someone hasn’t been thinking about God’s grace (favour), blessings, and promises, new thought patterns will not be set overnight. However, by being deliberate, the mind will adapt quickly to a new way of thinking – becoming “favour friendly.”

Lids On Our Lives

So much of what has happened in history was once beyond imagination, which shows how limits in our minds and hearts can create lids on our lives. Here are some examples of what some people once said that must have seemed reasonable at the time, but looking back it is clear that the limitations were in their thinking and believing, in their head and heart, not in reality.

      • Simon Newcomb, an astronomer in 1902 said, “Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.”
      • Grover Cleveland, president of the United States, said, “Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.”
      • Harry Warner of Warner Bros. Pictures in 1927 said, “Who wants to hear actors talk anyway?”
      • Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corporation, said in 1977, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

Limits are broken and lids are lifted by people who have great hope and big dreams … 

      • In a time when segregation was the norm, Rosa Parks broke a racial barrier by sitting in and refusing to move from the “whites only” section of the bus.
      • For years the four-minute mile seemed unreachable, and then in 1954 a young student at Oxford University, Roger Bannister, stunned the world by breaking the four-minute barrier.
      • In this generation, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have both led barrier breakthroughs in technology that have revolutionized the world.
      • Chuck Yeager, an American test pilot, defied fear and doubts to become the first human to break the sound barrier.

You see, “with God nothing is impossible.” If we want to experience all that God has for his, we need to keep our minds and hearts open to the possibilities that seem impossible. Rather than accepting the self-imposed limits that a lot of people place on themselves, we have to keep imagining the possibilities and believe that with God all things are possible. They are!

Limits are broken and lids are lifted by people who have big dreams.

God’s power and His guidance and direction are not needed when you are settled and satisfied. If you are seeking comfort, safety, and security then your mind and your heart will no longer think and believe outside the box. You have then put a lid on your life. A glass ceiling that hems you in and limits what potential God has placed in you. To remove the lid we need to use our faith and imagination to stretch and reach beyond our current conditions and comfort zones. 

Don’t get stuck in the “good old days” and miss out what God has for you today and tomorrow.

Think beyond where you are. Keep reminding yourself to avoid limiting thoughts. Remind your self to not settle for life as you now experience it. Reach beyond today. Keep believing that God has more for you! And that with Him nothing – absolutely nothing – is impossible. God’s plan for you is that you will walk in faith into your future – a future that is amazing and awesome where you will constantly experience His presence and His power as you pursue His plan and purpose for your life. A plan and purpose which requires us to remove the lid on our life. To live lid-less hand-in-hand with Jesus!. 

Finishing a Good Work – YOU! (Part Two)

Philippians 1:6 refers to the work that God is doing in us and also then through us as we touch others with His love, grace, and mercy.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

There are two kinds of unfinished works of God:

1> There’s the work He’s doing in you: He who began a good work in you…”

2> There is the work He is doing through you: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

God works in us getting us ready and prepared so that He can then work through us. And we often forget that His has not finished working in us or through us yet. His incomplete work is not his final work.

Don’t be discouraged by the way something looks right now. When something’s half-finished, it lacks the clarity of a complete work. When something is half-finished, it can make you wonder what is happening or not happening. It often leads to speculation, assumptions, and uncertainty.

When a cake is half-baked, it doesn’t look that great.

We we drive by a construction site we might say, “I wonder what they are building there?” 

Because that’s how half-finished projects affect us. They cause us to question what it is or why it is. It can be tempting to judge it before it’s done, but we know it’s not wise to judge a half-baked cake or a construction project while work is in process.

The incomplete works of God are the same as the half-baked cake, and the unfinished construction project. They can look odd when you are looking at them.

If you are a parent who raised your children in church and now that they are older they don’t even want to attend church, that feels odd to you. You have probably lost sleep wondering why they turned out this way.

If you’re a single person who has been putting God first, staying away from the social scene so popular with your friends at work or school, and not seeing any sign of that right person coming along,  you may sometimes wonder, “Why? What’s wrong with me?”

Maybe you’ve worked hard on your education and prepared diligently for your career, but no doors are opening up in your chosen field. If so, you may be thinking it’s really odd that you have put in all this work and now have no opportunities to use the skills you acquired. Why hasn’t God opened a door for you? But sometimes roads have to close and things have to get worse before they get better.

It’s the same way when God is doing a work in us or through us. You may have heard it said before, “Delayed doesn’t mean denied!” The work He’s doing may require your patience. The only way to respond during that season is to embrace the delay, hold on to your joy, and remain confident that God will continue the work to completion.

So be confident and continue doing what you know to do. I’m not just talking about going through the motions with no sense of expectancy. I’m talking about keeping your expectations strong so that He who began a good work in you will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

There’s a verse in Acts 2 that says the disciples “devoted themselves to [their] teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.” 

There are some things we are to do and never stop doing. There’s power when you continue and never stop doing what you know to do, regardless of what is happening in your life:

        • Continue in prayer
        • Continuing attending and being an active part of God’s church
        • Continue in giving your tithes and offerings to God
        • Continue to proclaim God’s goodness
        • Continue to be thankful
        • Continue to look for and expect God’s favour in your life

When you get discouraged and the “construction” seems to be taking a long time, remind yourself that God’s not finished. Keep your whole heart in the unfinished work God is doing in you and through you!

Finishing a Good Work – YOU! (Part One)

Philippians 1:6 refers to the work that God is doing in us and also then through us as we touch others with His love, grace, and mercy.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

God has some unfinished works in your life right now. Something’s missing. Something’s incomplete. There may even be things you look at and see no way that something good can come of them. They may look now just like big messes.

But, let me remind you … God’s not dead and God’s not done!~ God wants you to know that even though some things in your life look unfinished, He is still at work. He is still doing His creative and brilliant work in your life.

There are two kinds of unfinished works of God:

1> There’s the work He’s doing in you: He who began a good work in you…”

2> There is the work He is doing through you: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

These are both current, moment-by-moment works of God’s grace and favour.

Sometimes God has to make us bigger on the inside before He can bring increase on the outside. This was the case with Christopher Columbus (see blog “Don’t Settle In Spain – April 24, 2020). As told in a legendary story, Columbus’s inspiration to venture out of Spain was most likely connected to the day that one of his ancestors, Stephen Columbus, saved the life of a Spanish monk named Romon Lull. Lull was preaching the gospel on the African coast when he was beaten and lay near death. Stephen was one of the men who picked him up, treated his wounds, and attempted to bring him home to Spain.

As they were crossing the Mediterranean, Lull lay in the bow of the boat and, in one of his final moments of life, pointed his finger westward over the horizon and said, “Beyond this sea which washes this continent we know lies another continent we’ve never seen . . . Send men there, send men there!”

These words lived on in the minds of the men who rescued him and were passed down through the generations to a young Christopher, who became convinced that God had chosen him to spread the gospel to the land beyond the seas. It took years of appealing in the royal courts before Columbus received permission to actually set sail. But he refused to give up because he believed there was more beyond Spain (see previous blog). 

God worked all those years in him causing him to think beyond the sea, to unknown continents. For al those years God was at work in him because of what He wanted to do through him. Although he was surrounded with signs that said, “No More Beyond,” God was using audacious prophetic words passes down through his family to make him bigger on the inside than the messages surrounding him.

God works in us first. If we listen closely, we’ll see He is at work in you and me right now. He’s telling us He’s not finished working in us and through us. His incomplete work is not His final work. 

But we often become discouraged because of how things look right now. We wonder what is really happening and that leads to speculation, assumptions, and uncertainty.

We will look at this next time….

Don’t Settle In Spain!

Christopher Columbus, the great renowned explorer, grew up in Spain at a time when Spain was very proud of the fact that they were the last point of solid land for sailors going westward. When travellers arrived in Spain by boat (usually from Africa), the first thing they would see as they entered the strait leading to the port of Spain were two large pillars on each side of the canal inscribed with Spain’s national motto. The motto in Latin was Ne Plus Ultra, which means “No More Beyond.” These same words showed up on Spain’s flag and coins as well.

This message was one the nation took pride in and believed as their outlook on life. “No more beyond” was not considered to be negative in nature. It was mainly a reference to the geographical location of Spain in the world, as they knew it. Many people saw Spain as a major destination in that day because getting to Spain meant you had gone to the end of civilization and reached the ultimate place on earth. There was now no more beyond.

The fact this had on people, though, was that they settled there. Since there was nothing beyond, why think beyond there? Or dream beyond there?

This is the message that young Christopher Columbus saw everywhere as he was growing up. It’s how everyone thought. But it wasn’t the message Christopher believed. In fact, he put everything he had into the idea that there was something beyond., That belief is what inspired and fueled his vision. He raised support  and the backing of the king to sail west into uncharted waters. 

Everything changed in Spain after Columbus discovered the New World. Spain entered what was called the Age of Discovery. The national motto changed too. The king ordered that the “Ne” be dropped so that the new motto was Plus Ultra. Flags were changed and they engraved new coins with the phrase Plus Ultra, which means “More Beyond.” The nation embraced the reality of more beyond where they were.

Sadly, I have found that it’s a common tendency for people to settle in their own version of Spain. The no-more-beyond mentality falls far short of what God has in mind for their lives. They get to a certain point and begin to believe there’s nothing greater left for them. They accept something far less than God’s bigger, greater plans for their lives. 

Men and women settle. Old and young settle. People of all ethnicities and economic statuses settle. Believers and unbelievers settle. Businesses and churches settle. Even while people are active, they settle. Just because people go to work, clean the house, balance the chequebook, and go to the kid’s games doesn’t mean they haven’t settled in their own version of Spain. Life may go on for them, but it’s still Ne Plus Ultra. 

There seems to be three reasons people settle…

1> People settle when they get sentimentally attached to a past season of their life

Sometimes people are suppose to stay where they have been, but nothing is suppose to stay like it has been. When people don’t evolve with life and embrace change, they settle for a lifetime in what was meant to be a season.

2> People settle in a place of relational wounds

Relational wounds can be terribly debilitating, and many people settle in the place of a lost relationship. They allow themselves to linger mentally and emotionally in a place that God wants them to move beyond. The loss of a friend. The death of a loved one. The end of a marriage. Relational woundedness can cause you to settle where you are.

3> People settle because where they are is “good enough” and they want to stay comfortable.

Yes, settled people can still enjoy a good life. But just because someone makes the best of his or her life doesn’t mean]they are living their best life. “Good enough” is the enemy of “better than ever.”

Don’t make the mistake of settling for good enough. Good enough is not your destiny! Are you aware that being comfortable is way overrated? The best things in life don’t come when you’re comfortable. If fact, being too comfortable can clog your arteries, soften your muscles, and make you weak and tired. Your body may want to settle and be comfortable, but that’s not how you experience the healthiest and best life. 

The place of “good enough” might sound tempting because it’s more comfortable. But it’s not the place God has for you. “Good enough” is not your destiny. Ignore the signs that say “no more beyond.” That message is a lie that wants us to settle and miss out on all that God has beyond where we are right now. 

The new motto is Plus Ultra – “more beyond!”

After 51 Years of Preaching

I love God’s Word and since preaching my first sermon in May of 1969 I have believed in the power of God’s Word to change lives. I have preached in many places in numerous nations and have seen countless lives transformed by those who received God’s truth, applied it, and walked out the truth that they received from His truth. In the book of Hebrews God speaks of His Word as a two-edged sword working inside us to divide what is flesh and what is spirit, what is soulish and what is Spirit-led.

Paul writes about God’s Word, “…take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword of the spoken Word of God’” (Ephesians 6:18 TPT) 

Since my encounter with Jesus and being born again I have loved, read, memorized and taught this powerful Word of God. As I read and study it I take notes and research what I am reading and discovering. Many times what I am discovering ends up, in time, in a teaching. But, I am reading and studying primarily for my own growth and spiritual maturity. My journey with Jesus is always empowered by His Word and comes first. My focus has been and still is personal growth first. Sermon research is a separate event.

Several years ago the Lord spoke to me directly and then through several leaders whom I work with and, on occasion, work for that I would be preaching more by revelation. That God would show me specifically what to preach from His Word to each specific church or group of people. And, that I would be preaching by revelation, often without a lot of time to prepare. That He would reveal what to preach and how to preach it in each situation I would find myself. Preaching without a full text as led by the Holy Spirit.

So, I continue to read, study, and research but what I learn is simply the raw material that God can then use to construct the teaching – release the revelation – I am to share. So now, a lot of what I teach is by outline and not full text, and I add my own personal experiences into the teaching to illustrate and share examples of the message. So, everything has become much more personal, real, and applicable to real life. And, I am learning to wait on the Lord for the revelation of what I am to share, teach, or preach. 

A side note: so different than what I was taught in seminary and what most preachers do … the old line upon line, precept upon precept … preaching through each book of the Bible. Which is good but not what the Lord has asked me to do at this time in my ministry.

A second side note: This does not mean that there is a lot of fluff and little substance. That is not what teaching by revelation means. In fact, it is really just the opposite … lots of substance with practical examples of how the Word applies to life. 

Paul writes to the believers in the city of Ephesus … “And pray also that God’s revelation would be released through me every time I preach the wonderful mystery of the hope-filled gospel. Yes, pray that I may preach the wonderful news of God’s kingdom with bold freedom at every opportunity” (Ephesians 6:19-20 TPT)

So, as I read and study God’s Word I realize that I gaining understanding and insight into His Word. That I am learning personal truths that I must apply in my life. I am having encounters and experiences with the Lord through His Word and even more so as I apply His Word to my daily life. Then out of this knowledge, wisdom, and the personal experiences I receive, solid revelation and fresh understanding and insight happen that I can then share with others. Not theory or simply more information – but practical, applied truths that releases life and transform people. 

And, as a result my preaching has taken on a new dynamic and people are receiving God’s Word in new ways – ways that releases life and bring freedom with a fresh and new dynamic. 

What a Wonderful World

Early in life I learned that it is what happens in you that determines your destiny and future. Not what happens to you – your circumstances, situation, and relationships. What’s in you is more important than what’s around you.

Another way to think about this would be to recognize that the thoughts you have impact and change the circumstances around you. An example: If you put a messy person in a clean apartment, it won’t be long until the apartment is messy. On the other hand, when you put a clean person in a messy apartment, it won’t be long until the apartment is clean!

Never let circumstances determine what’s in your mind; what you focus and dwell on. Always remember that God loves you and His grace is always sufficient for whatever you are facing today. His grace towards us is expressed through His favour and His kindness toward us. In other words, He is always ready to guide and direct us; to bless us; to honour us; to help us. So, be careful what you are thinking and what your mind dwells on. Remember, “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). 

The good new is that when our thoughts are confident and we approach life with expectation of the best, we usually experience the best possible outcome in every situation. When we approach that job interview with confidence that God is in control and He will give us the right words at the right time, we then can do our best and walk in God’s grace and favour. When we prepare to give that speech or take the test or do that audition and we envision ourselves doing well, we create a place for God to act, guide, and direct. His grace will enable and empower us to do our best.

When we have positive expectations and confidence that God is for is, we experience what the Bible calls “the favour of God.” We can’t control the circumstances, but we can create the best possible outcome by being positive in every situation giving God a place to work and prove how great He really is and how much He loves us.

You have probably heard the classic song, “What a Wonderful World,” first recored by Louis Armstrong. It is my life’s theme song. If you don’t know the song or would like to refresh your memory you can watch and listen at https://youtu.be/CWzrABouyeE  The lyrics express wonder and gratitude concerning beautiful trees and flowers, the sky, a rainbow, babies crying, and people enjoying one another. The key phrase repeats several times, “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

Please notice those words, that line. “I think to myself….” That’s what I want to do! I want to think that way to myself. Positive. Encouraging. Up-lifting. 

A lot of people around you might wake up every day and their version is more like this:

“I see traffic jams, cloudy skies, annoying people driving by, and I think to myself … what a difficult world.”

Don’t let what’s around you get inside you! Guard your mind because when you guard your mind, you put yourself in a position for God’s best to come into your life. Always think something good to yourself.

There’s a story, from when Jesus walked the earth, of a woman who had been haemorrhaging for twelve years. Jesus was near her hometown one day, and the Bible says, “She said to herself, ‘If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.’” (Matthew 9:21) Note: “…she said to herself…”

Other people were saying negative things, but what she said to herself was more influencing on her than their comments. What she was verbalizing was affecting her physically – her body was moving in the direction of her internal dialogue. What if she had said to herself, “I’ll never get to Him … it’s not gonna change anything”? Her body would have slowed down, stopped, and she would have turned around.

Ultimately, what she said to herself became a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ – she did make it to Jesus and she was healed. 

Keep your mind full of the right thoughts and remember that God loves you and is for you and not against you. His favour already rests upon you, just receive it and walk in it. And you will discover that truly “It is a wonderful world.”

The Quest For Excellence

I love book buying on-line. You get surprised when the mail comes and there is a parcel for you. Wow! Like Christmas every other day. Did I mention I’m addicted to books and buy (and read) a lot of them? So three or more times a week, it’s Christmas all over again regardless of the season.

When I read and there is a typo in the text I actually cross out the mistake and write in what should have been there. If there is a word missing I add it. And, believe it or not that is happening more and more often. Which is interesting in itself because I read a lot of older editions of classics like Moby Dick, The Phantom of the Opera, and Robinson Caruso and very seldom if even do you find a mistake or a typo. It seems like in days gone by publishers took pride in their work and saw it as more than a skill or a business; maybe more an art. Today we seem to be in a hurry to publish another book and so skip over part of the editing process allowing mistakes to be found.

Today I received in the mail “The Kingdom New Testament by N.T. Write. I am a fan of his. He has written an amazing number of fantastic books including “Simply Christian” and “The Day the Revolution Began.” He is not light reading but if you like substance then he’s your man. Nine years ago he first published his translation of the New Testament. I just heard about it and ordered a copy. He is a New Testament scholar and studies God’s Word its original language. It is a really decent read and the way he has expressed some familiar verses bring them alive as never before. He seeks after excellence.

On the back cover of the paperback it states “…gives us in The Kingdom New Testament a readable and dynamic tranlation marked by precision, personality, and power.” Did you catch the typo? “tranlation instead of translation. It seems that we are no longer working towards excellence. Good enough is good enough. Or so it would seem.

Think I am being a little too picky? In the write-up at the bottom of the back cover telling us who N.T. Wright is it reads in part, “Wright is the award-winning author of Simply Jesus, How God becam King, After You believe… Did you catch it? Becam instead of Became. Really now. Where is the quest for excellenc?. After all, we do represent the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, on a less spiritual note – where is the spell check? 

I am hoping that as I take time during this pandemic to read the whole New Testament in this “new to me” version that there are fewer typos on the inside than on the cover. Especially considering this is God’s Word. Excellence should be part of the publishing process so that His Word is properly presented. And God appreciates excellence in His followers and what they do for Him. 

If and when a non-believer might pick up this paperback they could wonder if we really care about how we represent this God that we believe in. And, you might say, “Well, it’s just a secular publishing company and they don’t care.” Well, a head’s up here – it is a Bible publishing company that printed this edition – Zondervan. A large and well known company that publishes a large number of the different versions of God’s Word worldwide.

I am sure for most this is not a big deal. You know – “No one’s bleeding and no one has died. Step back and take a deep breath, Ralph” But as someone who publishes daily on line and posts weekly teachings I work diligently to edit and correct so that my God is represented well and I do everything I can in the quest for excellence in what I do for Him. 

So, For me, it is a big deal. Sloppy work is not something a committed believer should tolerate and we do all things as onto the Lord. Thus we should settle for nothing short of excellence in our work for Him.