Just Be You!

Every one of us is unique. God created us and we are “one of a kind.” There has never been someone exactly like you before you. There will never be someone exactly like you after you are no longer on the plant. And, each one of us is called, through our uniqueness, to do good works that He has prepared for us even before we were born (see: Ephesians 2:10).

Because He created you and has selected specific things for you to do within His wider plans and purposes, you have everything you need to fulfill your purpose. So, you have everything you need to do everything God wants you to do.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look at what Scripture says: “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). FIRST, notice that according to this verse a godly life doesn’t happen under our own power; it happens by God’s divine power. NEXT, make sure you realize what God’s divine power have given us. Every thing. Every thing. Everything. In case you’re wondering, the Greek word translated as “everything” in this verse, pas (pronounced PAHS), means “everything.” It also means “each, every, any, all, the whole, all things.” You know … “everything.”

God is never caught off guard. He doesn’t ask people to do something, then realize later that they weren’t equipped to do it and say, “Whoops! My bad! I don’t know what I was thinking. You don’t have what you need to do that!”

When God called Moses to lead the Hebrew people out of their slavery to the Egyptians, Moses didn’t believe he was good enough to do it (see Exodus 4). He didn’t believe he was that unique person designed for this specific task. He argues with God, “I’m not a good speaker. I can’t do this!” And you’ll remember from the story that God slapped His forehead and answered, “Oh, my Me, Moses! You’re right. I guess I just thought you could do it, but you’re obviously not good enough!”

Of course, God never did that. When God calls you, He equips you with everything you need to do everything He wants you to do. I believe that this “I can’t do it” mentality boils down to each one of us comparing ourselves to others we know and see around us. When people compare themselves to other people, we end up making excuses for ourselves:

      • “Well, I’m not a good speaker like Stephen.”
      • “Dave’s really good with money, but I never have been.”
      • “I sure wish I had Beth’s confidence.”

Scripture tells us that when we compare ourselves with each other, we are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, we should be focusing on the unique ways God created us. We say, “I wish I could do that!” Instead, we should be discovering and acknowledging those things that we can do. What are the things you can do that other people can’t? God has given you everything you need to ado everything Her wants you to do.

When I speak God’s Word, I can sense God’s Spirit empowering me. God created me to share and teach His truth. Of course, there are far more things that I cannot do.

I can’t sing. When I try to sing, dogs howl and birds migrate. I’m pretty sure what I do doesn’t even qualify as a joyful noise.

I can’t fix anything. I may be the only person I know who’s gifted at breaking things that are already broken. You may have heard that old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t let Howe anywhere near it!” I’m so bad at fixing things that I can’t even fix a sandwich.

But those things don’t bother me. Because I wasn’t created to sing. I wasn’t created to fix broken appliances. And what difference does that make in God’s blueprint for my life? Other people were created to do those things, and it’s my great joy to let them live out the talents God made them for.

Stop focusing on the things you can’t do. Turn your attention to the things you can do. Don’t flip through the catalog of things you aren’t, wishing you could order a few nice things for yourself. Instead, look at the sales brochure for you. Start meditating on the truth about you: “I am a unique person created by God. One of a kind. I’m a new creature in Christ Jesus. I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.”

One Of Those Days!

Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

If you are having one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong and you are struggling just to stay sane and get through it without killing someone or simply giving up altogether …. Remember that you need to rise up, face the current ‘hard thing’ that is happening and let the ‘wind’ push you up and over. 

Years ago, during a particularly hard time, the Lord taught me that “dead fish float downstream.” And that “live fish swim upstream to span and birth new life.” Since then I have welcomed the hard days and simply see them as an indication that I am alive and facing a new challenge – another time to swim upstream and not give up and simply go with the flow and float downstream.

The truth is that life has a way of hitting us hard. You’re either coming out of a tough season, in the middle of a tough season, or heading into a tough season. How true!

I work hard to remember, in the midst of the hard time and current challenge, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks that question that then proceeds to answer it

Romans 8:32 “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”

Paul’s point is so urgent and all-consuming that the drives it home by asking…

Romans 8:35 “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

His answer is a definite NO! Paul tells us this in Romans 8:37….

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Another version – a bit more expressive and accurate to the original states- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

It’s important that we acknowledge that this promise is fulfilled not through our own power but through the power of the risen Christ, who loves us. If you follow Christ, you are more than a conqueror, more than an overcomer.

The little Greek word that appears in various translations as “conqueror,” “winner,” “victor,” or “overcomer” is the word niko, which means “to win, to be victorious, or to gain a surpassing victory.” But that’s not the word used in this passage. The word Paul uses here is hupernikao, which means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to gain a decisive victory, to conquer exceedingly.” With Christ, you are hupernikao! You are not going to just eke out some tiny, insignificant victory. No, you’re going to demolish the opposition. 

Your victory is the God kind of victory, where God vanquishes the opposition beyond recognition. Imagine Pharaoh’s army chasing the Israelites to the edge of the desert, and God parting the Red Sea in front of them. The Israelites cross on dry land, and the entire Egyptian army follows them in. Then God withdraws His hand, and whooooosh! all of them are washed away. It’s total victory!

Consider Gideon, God’s reluctant warrior, in my butchered paraphrase from Judges 6 – 8, God tells Gideon, “I want you to take on the Midianites.”

But Gideon responds, “I just can’t do it! I’m too scared!”

“No! You’re a mighty man of valour,” God tells him. “You might not believe it yet, but you are!”

“But I have only thirty-two thousand men!” Gideon whines.

God shoots back, “You’re right. That’s no good. That’s way too many for Me to get the glory!”

So God pares those down to just three hundred and tells Gideon, “Now, you guys take your weapons and your pitchers. Light some torches, cover them up, blow your horns, and break your pitchers.”

Gideon says, “Uh … I’m sure you don’t know what you’re talking about, but we’ll do it. You are God and everything … I guess.”

Then when Gideon’s men work God’s plan, the whole Midianite army turns on itself in confusion and wipes itself out. And that is hupernikao. That is who you are in Christ! You’re more than victorious., You are hupernikao

Now, what I’m not saying is that you’ll never have a hard time in life. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. Jesus makes it clear that “in this world you will have trouble.” But think about this for a minute: to be an overcomer, you have to have something to overcome. And Jesus continues, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Breeds Of Belief

There is a difference – a distinction – between believing in something and believing it

You can believe in airplanes – but be afraid to fly

You believe that airplanes are a good thing

But do not believe that thy will carry you safely to your destination

In the same way, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God

James reflected this truth when he wrote:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)

Demons know God its real, but obviously, they don’t serve Him

For many people today they try hard to believe in God without fully believing God

There are at least three types of faith on the spectrum between “believing in” and “believing”

I think that I have experienced them all!

1> The first kind of faith is held by the person I would call a casual believer

Such a person believes in God but has not fully surrendered to Him

He may be a church attender

He could be a very moral person

He most likely is kind and generous

BUT, even though this person believes in God, he lives his life as if God doesn’t really exist – He would be a Christian atheist

These people – casual believers – appear to be Christians

They pray a polite prayer at Thanksgiving and Christmas family meals

They attend church on Christmas and Easter

They tell you they are “thinking about you” during difficult time

But these same people

Don’t let God affect their spending habits

Don’t take God into consideration regarding the movies they watch

He doesn’t keep them from swearing – using God’s name in vain

He not involved when they fudge on their expense reports

Gossiping, Stretching the truth, telling a white lie

They believe in God, but they still do whatever they want

2> The second kind of faith is that of the convenient believer

This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves a potential benefit.

This person is quick to talk God-talk if it might help seal a business deal or score a date

They will speak “Christianeze” if it helps them to get a promotion

This person uses God to leverage a situation for personal benefit

Their life is a mess as they do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it; and when it reaches crisis mode they call the pastor

3> The third type of faith belongs to the committed believer 

This is the kind of faith Jesus calls us towards

The road to committed faith is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial

Life ceases to be about is – and it begins to be all about God

The committed believer doesn’t waver because of the crowd and what others might be doing

He isn’t moved by other people’s opinions

He is a Christ follower all the time – complete obedience and faithfulness are his goals

A 99 percent commitment to Christ is not enough

So, what kind of faith is yours?

Casual belief – you are a good person who believes in God, but doesn’t let your faith dominate your life?

Convenient belief – living right when someone’s watching, or when it might benefit you, but doing your own thing when you want?

Committed belief – wholly devoted to the One who’s wholly devoted to you

Theodicy

You may be familiar with the cliche “Life is hard; God is good.” Maybe you’ve even said it to help get you through difficult times. If so, you’re going to appreciate knowing that it is more than a cliche. It’s a strong and solid theological truth. If you’re like me you are going to be encouraged by the fact that some really smart people who were here before us have wrestled with questions such as, If God is good, then why if this happening? Why is injustice allowed, and why does life have to be so hard? Why are children starving the death in Africa?

Philosophers and theologians refer to their conclusions on this topic with the complicated-sounding word theodicy (pronounced: thee od-euhsee), which is the name given to the study of how God’s goodness exists alongside the pain, suffering, injustice, and inequality of life.

Our problem is that we tend to assume that if life is hard, then God must not be good. But it’s not an either/or scenario — it’s both.

Life is hard; God is good.

Here are five statements that pretty much summarize the deeper reasoning behind Life is hard; God is good:

      • Although evil is an undeniable part of the world, the existence of evil cannot and never will cancel out the existence of good
      • Human beings don’t have to offer explanations for why evil is allowed to exist, only that it does. And by the same rules of reason, good exists as well
      • In the same way that Adam through disobedience opened the door of undeserved hardship for all of us, Jesus through obedience opened the door of undeserved favour for all of us
      • The fact that we experience undeserved consequences for someone else’s sin is now trumped by the fact that we experience undeserved favour for someone else’s righteousness
      • God’s undeserved goodness is not just equal to the undeserved hardship. It is surpassing in greatness

The evidence of these two realities is front and center in our lives every day. But what’s most important is which reality we choose to live our life from.

People who live from the “life is hard” reality see everything from that perspective. Sometimes when people are living from the “life is hard” reality they don’t even want to hear the good news. They have already decided that good news is not their reality. If you’re talking about something positive or something good, they usually wait for a chance to quickly turn the conversation back to the “life is hard” reality. It has become such a way of life for them that they don’t usually realize what they are doing.

The contrast between the two perspectives is so stark that it makes it difficult for people who choose to live in one or the other reality to get along. It’s like oil and water —the two don’t mix. You see things differently. You talk about things differently. You approach problems differently.

The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God. In the natural realm we know that the presence of clouds doesn’t mean the absence of the sun. The clouds may temporarily block it, but the sun is still there. Even when you can’t see the sun directly, you can see it’s light as evidence that it’s there.

It is the same way with God’s goodness and favour. There are times we may not be able to see those attributes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When we don’t get the job we wanted or the person we were dating breaks up with us, we’re often quick to assume God’s favour and goodness is far away from us. But in time we come to realize that God was actually doing us a favour. He was saving us from hardship and struggle we would have had if we stayed in that relationship or got that job we thought we wanted.

So there you have it – Theodicy.

Now you know.

New Every Morning

The manna God provided for Israel in the wilderness was a huge demonstration of God love, His provision, and His care for His people as they moved through the wilderness going from Egypt to the Promised Land. 

It started like this: The Israelites were running short of food, only to wake up one morning and see the ground covered with manna. Chaos broke out as everyone scrambled to pick up all they could gather in their pockets, baskets, and other containers. Their thinking was, We better get all we can while we can. In their minds, that kind of heavenly provision would be short lived, so they decided to ration the gathered supply and make it last as long as possible.

What seemed like a reasonable plan was spoiled, however, when that night while they were sleeping, maggots infested their stored manna. God sent them a message that said, Yesterday’s provision is not today’s provision. He clearly did not want them to eat today’s leftovers tomorrow. Rather than trying to preserve today’s provision, He wanted them to engage every day with a fresh, new expectation and anticipation of what God would do new, new every morning.

God wanted them to believe that there’s always more where that came from – more blessing, more provision, more healing, more power, more of God’s favour (see Exodus 16).

Another thing that happened was that after the Israelites ate the manna, they complained that it was not “the same” as the corn and melons they had enjoyed while in Egypt. The form of God’s favour and provision had changed, and they were sentimentally attached to the old form of God’s favour and provision, which hindered them from fully appreciating and receiving the new season they were now in (see Numbers 11).

Here’s the takeaway: As good as yesterday may have been in your life, God doesn’t want you living there. He has new experiences, new discoveries, and new opportunities for you in the current season of your life.

I am thinking this through because recently I was thinking that maybe I should retire. That it is just too much to continue travelling to nations to share God’s Word. I am getting old, feeling old, and thinking that maybe I am done. Nd God spoke to me in a number if ways to let me know that it is not over – and that it is new every morning. 

I learned a few other truths during this season of wrestling with my feelings and thoughts… 

The best way to honour the past is to not get stuck in it! Stay creative and confident in today’s fresh supply of favour and provision. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to get sentimentally attached to a past season of God’s favour and means of provision versus moving forward to experience a new season and experience His provision and favour in new ways.

 

God’s favour was on yesterday, yesterday — it’s not on yesterday, today!

The Psalmist said, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 NKJV). He didn’t say he will rejoice in yesterday; he said he will rejoice in today!

God’s favour and provision is new every morning!

Live in today!

Expect great things today!

Draw on God’s favour and provision today!

So, as I said, in my life recently I hit the “I’m tired” button because I was depleted – emotionally and mentally. I began to think I should tap out because I am getting too old for all of this; too old to make a significant difference.

Here is what I discovered once again: When you feel weary it may mean it’s time for some course correction or new habits. It might be time, as I discovered, to get some outside voices speaking wisdom and clarity into your foggy set of circumstances. But the main thing I learned (again) and that I want to impress on you is that God’s plan for your life is not over and we must continue to expect and anticipate that things will become new every morning until the morning you see Him face-to-face in Heaven. New hope. New perspective. New direction. New insights. New wisdom. New provision. New direction. New challenge. New every morning. 

God’s favour and provision – and His call on your life – isn’t finished when you feel tired or weary. God has fresh favour and provision for you just on the other side of this season you are currently in. You are about to start a new chapter of your life. God will refresh you, renew your strength, and make you strong all the days of your life!

You may still be young, but you’re not too young to start thinking about staying strong, and finishing strong!

I love the words of Caleb who, when he was 85 years-old, said, “I’m still as strong today as I was in my youth … Now give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11-12)

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).

Cam Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, flew to Moscow and began learning Russian to assist in Bible translation work in the Caucasus. The nation was still under the iron grip of communism, and he was 72 years young.

Colonel Harland Sanders was 65 years old when he started actively franchising his chicken receipt. His face later became the second most recognized in America.

John Wesley preached over 40,000 sermons and travelled 225,000 miles and foot and horseback. But get this: these figures belong only to the latter part of his life, from age 35 to 88.

President Roland Reagan was 76 years old when he pointed to the Berlin Wall and said those famous words that ushered in a new era: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

No better what your age or circumstances, your past supply and provision is not your last supply! There is no end to the favour and provision of God. It has no quota and no limits. The Lord’s eyes are on you for your entire lifetime! Not a day goes by that He is not watching over you: “The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).

He has fresh, new ways to provide for you and bless others through you in every chapter of your life, and every day that you live. 

Change Your Life

The Bible speaks a great deal about the changes we need to be making in our lives now that we are followers of Jesus. Of course, He will help us with these changes as we journey with Him in our daily life. As believers we are to live differently than the world. We are to be a counter-culture and not a sub-culture; living within the world but with a Kingdom perspective and biblical values, morals, and ethics. 

We have many examples to follow. As we are discipled and then mentored we can see and follow the example of those who are walking with us on the journey. We can read the Bible and see how early believers lived. And, there are numerous books that can help us get a handle on the changes that we should be making for our own benefit and spiritual health as believers.

Paul’s words to the Colossians are particularly fascinating in this regard because he was writing to a young Christian community that didn’t really know how Christians were suppose to act or live. They didn’t have Christian grandparents who had been believers before them. They didn’t know any mature believers who had spent decades walking in the faith and who could model the way Christians live. In Colossae, faith was brand-new. Everyone was a pioneer of sorts, with no generational influence to build on. They were the first Christians they had ever known, forcing Paul to be clear and precise as he taught them how to behave. Without getting all flowery, Paul writes to the Colossians with explicit and specific words: This is how Christians act. This is how our faith and belief affect our attitudes and actions. 

Paul tells the Colossians that a central theme of behaving like a believer is first taking something off: “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8).

In other words, “Don’t be toxic.” The entire human disposition that intentionally hurts others has to die in us. Toxic people are always putting themselves first in all relationships. They say and do things that hurt you and the relationship. They are controlling and manipulative. Harsh in what they say and how they say it. And usually abrasive.

Paul then tells the Colossians what they are to put on: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

These qualities are the polar opposites to toxicity. Compassion means you feel for others rather than setting yourself against them. Kindness means you want to help, not hurt. Humility puts others first instead of wanting to control them. Gentleness means you are tender, not harsh, and patience means you are encouraging rather than abrasive. 

Notice something that is crucial for personal transformation: before Paul tells the Colossians how to behave, he reminds them of how much they are loved and prized by God, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12).

Knowing that we are chosen and loved by God is the essential mind-set through which we love others and reject being toxic. With all our spiritual needs met in God, we can live in a toxic world without becoming toxic ourselves, providing we remember we are chosen and dearly loved. Because we live in a toxic world filled with toxic people, we will be treated in a toxic manner. We avoid responding in a toxic way by living out of and being motivated by the gracious love of God, who chose us when we were still living toxic lives and who ushers us into gracious living.

Toxic people find sick satisfaction in being mean, controlling, and hurtful. Believers find true satisfaction in being chosen and loved by God. That love is so overwhelming that we don’t expect people to meet our needs. We don’t want to control people or hurt people; we want people to experience the same joy and satisfaction in God that we have come to know.

God’s love and affirmation lift us to a dimension of living where fighting each other doesn’t make sense. When I feel spoiled by God, what you do to me or think of me doesn’t matter all that much, because God’s opinion is superior to yours. God’s protection makes me feel secure in the face of your assault. God’s affirmation speaks louder than your opposition or hatred. One of the primary ways we show that God has taken such good care of us spiritually is how we live and take care of others. 

And, the key to that is to allow God to transform us … and we cooperate by “taking off” and “putting on.” We are partners with God in bringing about these needed changes in our life as believers and disciples of Jesus. 

Bad Eyes – Good Eyes

Jesus told us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34 NKJV).

This really hit home recently while I was ministering in Southern California. My glasses were not sitting right on my face (I had dropped them) and after prophesying over a pastor he came up and asked if he could adjust them. His full-time job in Seattle was working with eyeglasses … he was a church planter. He had travelled many hours to be at our meetings. I so appreciated him correcting the fit of my glasses as then I could see properly out of my progressive lenses. 

My eyesight is not as poor as some people’s. But when my glasses fit properly I can read with a lot more ease and catch details that I otherwise miss. Just as people go to an eye doctor to get glasses or have surgery to give them better eyesight, we’re not stuck with our current life paradigm. We can choose a better one!

The word paradigm come from the Greek and is, in a general sense, a reference to a set pattern or way we see the world – not in terms of our physical eyes but in terms of our assumptions, beliefs, and overall perspective. It’s what we might call our mind’s eye.

This is what Jesus was referring to as He explained the eye as the lamp of the body. He was saying that the eye can be good or the eye can be bad, and the condition of our eye affects what we see or don’t see, what we experience or miss out on. If our eyes are good, it’s like turning on a lamp inside of us. We brighten up in our spirits because we’re living with a greater awareness of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. 

The opposite is true about bad eyes; they miss seeing the good. They may or may not take in darkness, but they definitely don’t take in light. What they don’t see is not what they are incapable of seeing but typically what they are not trained to see.

In a similar way, the only thing that’s different between a negative person and a positive person is what they “see.” Two people can grow up in the same home with similar life experiences, and one will be negative about life and the other will be positive. Even though they have been surrounded by the same environment and have the same parents, what they see and the way they see it is different.

Negative people are not bad. Pessimistic people are not ignorant. In fact, oftentimes negativity is a trait of people who are highly informed in what they call reality. When passing along their perspective, they will tell you, “I’m not being negative; I’m just being real!” And they are being real in what they are aware of and educated in, which is the “life is hard” reality. They have taken pages of notes and have the data to support the fact that life is not a gravy train!

When people are deeply educated in the “life is hard” reality but undereducated in the “God is good” reality they lean towards the unfavourable possibilities versus seeing the possibilities of something good. The reason these people can get stuck in their negativity is that they have accepted that the “life is hard” reality (paradigm) cancels out the “God is good” (paradigm) reality.

I have found that anyone, even people highly aware of the “life is hard” reality, will become authentically optimistic when they educate themselves in the “God is good” reality. You don’t have to deny the realities associated with life being hard to see the realities associated with God being good!

When you look through ‘good eyes’ you see, recognize, and accept that there is a problem and life is difficult. But, you first see it as a challenge and an opportunity to see God move and do something amazing and supernatural. You rise to the challenge that the reality offers to you. You accept the negative reality as something God knew was coming and has prepared you to handle. His grace being more than sufficient. So, both ‘good eye’ and the ‘bad eye’ see the same reality … but the ‘good eye’ sees it as an amazing opportunity for God to show Himself strong in the situation and for them to learn and grow in their walk of faith as a believer. 

“Yes, But…?”

I connect with believers every day. Even when I am not on the road ministering my “office time” is usually absorbed by connecting with people. I love it. After all, ministry is about people. So, as I sit in my sunny office in the morning I connect with people through emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, iMessage, and FaceTime. Topics vary. People are looking for help. A prophetic word. Some information. Planning of a future trip when flights go back to normal (hopefully). Just to touch base with a person who cares because they are on lockdown like most of the world. Some people are connecting because we are friends and so keep in touch on a regular basis regardless of where life is taking us. You get the idea. 

I also hear from leaders and believers who want to share what is happening in their lives and ministries. That’s good. I want to know. I care. And, I read a limited number of “Christian” newsfeeds. I don’t read or watch or listen to anything anyone “forwards” to me. If I didn’t ask for it, I don’t have the time or the interest to work with it. 

In the midst of these connections with leaders and believers I hear about the “Christian” conspiracy theories. I hear that people are focusing just on prayer and no longer teaching on the Church, the fivefold ministry, or other topics. Just prayer. I relate to people who are convinced that ‘the government’ is behind the Coronavirus pandemic. All night soaking meetings of worship and prayer. “Burn” meetings. That we need to fight the demonic powers that are preventing Christians being free to minister and preach – especially in the prisons during the COVIT-19 outbreak. Christian television and radio and the deception and false teachings propagated through this segment of the media. Prophetic words being declared. Prophecy being examined and interpreted in light of the pandemic. The anti-christ that is now loose on the planet.  And, on the list could go. 

This goes on even when we are not in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Believers, churches, denominations, movements … the focuses are constantly changing. There is an old or new bandwagon for us all to jump on (Toronto Blessing, Bethel…). There are church planting movements where we franchise out a form of planting and running a church (MacChurch franchises). 

I sit back as all of this swirls around me. I have been in ministry for over 50 years. I have seen a lot of this many times over … it is like the waves on a beach. New programs. New methods. New presentations. New television shows. New ways to communicate. They just keep coming. New outreach methods. New worship styles. New dress code for with-it senior leaders. And, each wave continues to keep us focused on something other than what Jesus told us to do. Jesus gave a mandate to the Church. Marching orders to His arm. He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples…”

So, as I hear about all this “stuff” going on and everything that people are focusing on I have to ask myself, “Yes, But…” 

Yes, but how is this helping people to know the love of God?

Yes, but  how is this increasing the influence of the Church in the world?

Yes, but is this really training and equipping the saints for the work of ministry?

Yes, but how is this helping people to be born again?

Yes, but how is this working to move people forward in their walk with Jesus?

Yes, but, what about discipling?

Yes, but what about being salt and light, impacting your community?

Yes, but how is this communicating the life-changing gospel of the Kingdom?

Yes, but how is this in any way impacting the culture?

Much of what we do today in and with the church is seriously just maintenance and not ministry. We are maintaining the sheep – caring for them, loving them, making sure they are comfortable. Real ministry is reaching out to the lost as Jesus did on a daily basis. And, while doing so, discipling those closest to us. Again, as Jesus did. If what we are spending our time on does not encourage and strengthen our evangelistic outreach, it is not the right focus. If what we are doing simply occupies the believer’s time and energy taking them away from building relationships in their community … then we are simply spinning our wheels and playing church. 

So, I am constantly asking myself, “Yes, but…” 

In fact, I have become bold and have begun to ask those I am communicating with, “Yes, but…” and the responses are interesting. Very interesting. And, there is a lot of silence and fewer long conversations. But, that’s okay.

In your walk with the Lord it might be good to occasionally ask yourself, “Yes, but …” what difference is ‘this’ (you fill in the blank _______________)  making in my life, the life of the church I attend,  and the life of others who don’t know Jesus?

The answer – if you are being honest – might cause you to pause and reexamine your Christian experience. I hope it does!

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. 

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!