Integrity Deficit – Part Three

Let’s look at four serious benefits of living a life of integrity. While there are many more, these are some of my favourites:

1> You’ll walk closely with God.

Think of it like this: If I can clearly impart my family values to my children, and they choose to live their lives according to those principles and values, then obviously, this will increase our harmony with each other. On the other hand, consider what would happen if I clearly shared my important values with my children, and one or more of them decided to go their own way, contrary to what I had taught them. Now, of course, I’ll still love that child, but certainly their choices are going to interfere with our intimacy, our communion, and our ongoing fellowship. Our relationship with God follows a similar dynamic. When you live according to His values, you’ll naturally walk with Him, enjoying His presence daily.

2> You’ll have divine GPS.

Proverbs 11:3 says that “the integrity of the upright guides them.” When you allow integrity to lead you, you don’t have to guess what’s right. Decisions become much easier when they’re based not on what you think you can get away with but on what’s right in God’s eyes. It’s the difference between following your best guesses on how to reach your destination versus using a first-rate GPS that tells you how to proceed every step along the way. We must allow our integrity to guide us.

3> You’ll feel constant peace.

This is the benefit that means the most to me. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I don’t ever lie there worrying, “Man, I sure hope nobody finds out what I’ve done today.” When you live with integrity, you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder, fearful of getting caught, wondering how long it will be until you’re found out. When you simply do the right thing, you abide in constant peace. There’s no fear, guilt, shame, or regret; just peace.

4> You’ll gain trust, respect, honour, and influence.

If you want to lead and inspire your family and friends, be a person of integrity. If you want great children, be a parent of integrity. If you want influence in the business community, be a person of your word. When you live with integrity, people will follow you and honour you. They’ll listen when you speak. Over time, they’ll even begin to seek out your wisdom and advice. Such is the legacy of integrity.

The benefits of integrity may seem obvious, yet they remain out of reach for many people, including those who should be the best examples — Christians. One of the most common complaints I hear from people outside the church is that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites, clearly a problem since a hypocrite is the opposite of a person of integrity.

Hypokrites, the Greek word that we translate “hypocrite,” means literally “an actor or stage player.” In the tradition of ancient Greek drama, each actor played several different roles. They used a different carved wooden mask for each of the various characters they were playing. Maybe you’ve seen the smiling comic mask alongside the frowning tragic mask used as symbols for the theatre or to represent drama in general. When an actor in ancient Greece needed to switch to a different character, he simply picked up a different mask and held it in front of his face. It was as simple as that.

I think many of us do exactly the same thing. For each social circumstance we find ourselves in, we present ourselves in the best possible light, even if it’s not honest, accurate, or authentic. We calculate who we think someone wants us to be, and then we select the appropriate mask to play that part for them. But it’s only a mask. It’s not who you really are; it’s just who you’re pretending to be.

It may be hard to see it in yourself, but each of us lacks integrity at some point or other. But it seems like we can always justify our pet behaviours, whether it’s by calling them “little white lies” or telling ourselves that we’re protecting the feelings of others. But consider how God looks at our “little quirks.” While Jesus openly welcomed repentant prostitutes, adulterers, and other vile sinners into His Kingdom, He was relentless in condemning hypocrites. Here’s what He says in Matthew 23:25-28:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus exposed them for what they were. He essentially said, “You fakers. You play actors. You have zero integrity. You put on your game face and you look religious. You look nice and righteous on the outside. But inside, your heart us absolutely filthy with sin.”

It doesn’t make any difference if people appear to be righteous. What matters is to be pure on the inside. Woe to you if you lack integrity, full of hypocrisy. We must start with what’s inside us, allowing Christ to transform us, and then our actions will follow suit. Through Christ, we clean the inside of the cup before we move on to the outside. We sacrifice our selfish, deceitful, ego-driven impulses on the altar of truth so that our behaviour reflects God’s righteousness. Integrity starts from the inside out, not the outside in. 

Integrity Deficit – Part Two

With integrity we see a consistency of character. A person of integrity is the same no matter where he is or who he is with. One of the best examples of a person of integrity is the biblical Samuel, from the Old Testament.

Toward the end of his life, Samuel recaps his record of faithful service before the Israelite people:

Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”

(1 Samuel 12:3-4 NIV)

At the end of his life, Samuel stood before his entire community and said, “Have I lived a life of integrity? If I’ve ever wronged any of you, just tell me, and I’ll make it right.”

And they answered him, “No, you’ve always done the right thing. You are a person of integrity, Samuel. You’ve been faithful.”

At the end of my life, I want to be able to ask the same question and get the same response. I want my children, my grandchildren, and generations of Howes after me, to be able to do exactly as Samuel’s community did. At the end of my life, I want to be able to say honestly, “Here’s your free shot. Did I do what I claimed I would do? Did I practice what I preached?”

People may even answer, “Well, we didn’t like your sense of humour or the way you dressed or your style of ministry. But, yes, you are a person of integrity. All the things you said you believed you actually lived.”

Another biblical man of integrity was David, perhaps made more credible because he failed big time and tried to hide it but in the end couldn’t live with himself. He offers another picture of what integrity looks like. In one of his psalms, David asks, “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” And then catalogs the traits of such a godly person (Psalm 15:1-5):

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,

who does what is righteous,

who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,

who does no wrong to a neighbour,

and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person

but honours those who fear the Lord;

who keeps an oath even when it hurts,

and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;

who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

will never be shaken.

David asks, “LORD, who gets to enjoy your continued presence? Who gets to walk with you and fellowship with you?” In each case, the answer is the person who lives a life of integrity, and the promise is that “whoever does these things will never be shaken.”

When we live this way, we will never be shaken! Do you realize what an incredible statement that is?

So, the question remains: Are you a person of integrity? Be really honest with yourself. And, if there are some areas where you could do better, where your walk and talk don’t line up … decide today to make some changes. You may be able to make the changes on your own or you may need someone to walk with you through them. But, the bottom line is simple: do what it takes to be a person of integrity.

Integrity Deficit – Part One

Isn’t it tragic that we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than a lack of it? More and more often, people seem surprised when someone does the right thing instead of when someone fails the morality test. This inversion is a sad indictment of how corrupt and self-absorbed our culture has become. Our ethics are determined by what we want and when we want it. It is all about us.

Integrity is living what you believe. It is walking on the outside what you believe on the inside. As Tony Dungy so brilliantly stated, “Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t.” Integrity is living with all aspects of your life lining up into one whole.

You don’t have to look far to find a story about people who lack integrity. Maybe it’s a professional athlete everyone looks up to. He’s the best at what he does, but on top of that, he selflessly gives of himself to some charitable organization that’s making people’s lives better. Then one day the news comes out: he had a whole other sordid secret life that we never knew about.

Some politicians do this same thing. They run for office on a platform to make things better, and one day we discover they’ve been living covertly s though they’re above the law. It even happens to Christian leaders – pastors, ministers, evangelists – who preach God’s Word but are taking drugs, visiting prostitutes, or embezzling from their churches. They are living without integrity. They are not ‘integrated’ or functioning as a unified whole. They live contrary to their beliefs. They say one thing and live another.

All of these things are so “normal” that they don’t really take us by surprise anymore. It’s only worse, it seems, when the same thing happens to a close friend. You thought you knew them. You loved them, trusted them, and then boom, the curtain falls and you see the mess that was going on all along behind the scenes.

So if the lack of integrity is clear, what is true integrity? Here’s a simple definition: Practicing integrity means that your behaviour matches your beliefs.

That’s all there is to it. All the parts of your life seamlessly form one united whole. There are no secret compartments or double lives. What you say actually matches what you do. Your lifestyle is integrated. Your private life matches your public life, with no surprises. What other people see is that they get no matter what the setting in which they meet you. You may have heard the term defined  this way: “Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.”:

Just to clarify, personal integrity is not the same thing as your reputation. No, your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity (or lack thereof) is who you really are.

God’s Word tells us, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3). How true. Just think of all the people who were destroyed when their house of cards – built on the shaky foundation of deception – came crashing down. I think many segments of society are being destroyed today by the duplicity of leaders, even entire organizations, who claim to believe one thing, yet practice something else. 

Some biblical examples next time (Part Two)

I Know, It’s Crazy, Right?

Jesus said to His disciples that we were to go into all the world and make disciples. To do this He appointed us as ambassadors of His Kingdom which means we represent Him and the Kingdom as we go into our neighbourhood, work place, and community. We are ministers of reconciliation. Crazy, eh?

And, He tells us that we have His authority to be the ambassador of His Kingdom and ministers of reconciliation. Not only do we have the appointment and the authority, He promises to go with us and be there for us each and every time we step out “in His Name.” I know, it’s crazy, right?

And, He promises that we need not worry about what to say or do because He will give us the words to speak when we need them and will show us what to do and how to do it. So, we don’t need to know what to say or what to do; just listen to the One who sent you. It’s His authority that authorizes us to speak on His behalf and not our own. We are speaking on God’s behalf. Again, crazy, right?

Take Paul; over and over again he said, “I’m not an eloquent speaker, I just preach by the power of the gospel. I’m the least of all the apostles. I just do this in the authority that’s been given to me by Christ.” And he wasn’t afraid of what people thought or how they might misunderstand. He explained, “I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn’t tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority” (2 Corinthians 10:8 NLT).

We must not be ashamed of using the same authority. It’s not our power; it’s the power of the One who appointed us. If I stand in the middle of the street with traffic everywhere and you’re driving towards me and I tell you to stop, what could you do to me? You could run me over, right? Because I’m just some goofy guy standing there talking. I’ve got no authority to tell you to do that.

If, on the other hand, I have a badge that says I’m a police officer and I tell you to stop, you know what you’d better do. I have the whole government standing behind me, and it’s not me telling you to stop; it’s the law. And so, as Christians, I come not in my own authority, but in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First-century believers understood that their power was in Jesus and not in themselves, that they had that authority to use His Name. They would say, “Sick person, I’ve got no power to heal you, but in the Name of Jesus Christ, be healed,” and sick people were healed. They would say, “Demon-possessed person, I’ve got no power over demons, but in the name of Jesus Christ, come out!” or, and this is freaky, they would say, “Dead person, you’re dead; in the Name of Jesus Christ come back to life.” I know, it’s crazy, right?

Even crazier is that the New Testament says that we, as believers, can do even greater things (see John 14:12). Why? Because there’s no such thing as a “regular Christian.” You are an ambassador of Christ. You were not elected by people, but you were chosen and appointed by God to represent heaven on earth. I know, crazy!

You carry with you the message of reconciliation, as if God were making His appeal through you. And you never represent yourself; you always represent God. Why? Because just like Paul, you can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; my old life is gone. Nevertheless, I live. But it’s no longer I who live, you see; it’s Christ living through me.”

“But I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” You are not just a stay-at-home mom! You are an ambassador raising the next generation of world changers. You are called by God in your home with a divine mission.

“Yeah, but I’m just a student.” You’re not just a student! You are an ambassador in your chemistry class; you are an ambassador to your teachers at your school.

“Well, I’m just an entry-level bank teller.” You’re not just an entry-level bank teller; you’re a secret agent of the most high God, planted in that bank to represent Christ to people that you see all the time!

When you know who you are, you will know what to do; and you are, if you’re a Christian, an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, not elected by people, but called and appointed by God. You never represent yourself, but you always represent Him. This is not your home; you’re from another country. You represent the King from the Kingdom that sent you, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and that makes your role on earth very important. There’s nothing regular about you, you see. You are the highest-ranking diplomat sent by God from the Kingdom of heaven, to this earth.

You know who you are.

So you know what to do. 

 

You Are God’s Gift – Part Two

We know for certain that we are not made right with God by our good works. We are saved only by grace through faith. And while we’re not saved by good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10). 

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Jesus instructs us to let our light shine so that others may see our good deeds and glorify God our Father.

Matthew 5:16 NLT “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Not only is God calling us to serve in His Church, He’s also calling us to serve as His Church. Don’t miss this important distinction. Yes, we have the honour of serving other believers inside the church, strengthening them to do the work and will of God. But our most important ministry doesn’t happen inside God’s Church. It happens as we are the Church, shining His light into a dark world desperate for His goodness. Our flame never diminishes when we light the fire of God’s love in someone else’s life; it only shines brighter. And when we decide that we want to be who God made us to be and to give our gifts away, He gives us even more opportunities to shine – and to be blessed by serving – in return.

No one intends to be a greedy, selfish person; we all justify our sinful decisions at some point. But the choices we make about serving others help us to take the focus off ourselves and to see the needs of those around us. You get to decide right now what your story will be, both the one you tell and the ones told about you. You can eat the fast food of selfish choices that tastes good in the moment, or you can eat the eternal soul food of serving others and grow closer to God.

For most people, the meaningful stories we have to tell involve doing things that matter. How often do you sit around with friends and brag about that time when you cheated to get ahead? Or that moment when you cut corners to get something you wanted? Those aren’t exactly things you’re likely to put in your highlight reel or your life story, are they? Chances are good that when you’re accepting some aware for job performance, you won’t be thanking all the coworkers you stepped on to get promoted.

No, the stories you love reminiscing about are the ones when you helped others, made a difference, lifted someone up. The times when you were a blessing to someone, when you were focused on others, when you served. The decision to serve may not feel natural at times, but when serving becomes our default ambition, we grow closer to God and experience more of who He made us to be.

The moments when you choose to serve others, to put their needs first, determine the kind of stories you tell tomorrow. And allows you to be God’s gift in someone else’s life. This is what we were created for. This is what brings great joy to the Father’s heart. This is how we and others give Him the glory that only He deserves. 

You Are God’s Gift – Part One

We are the Church. We don’t go to Church, we are the church. And since we are the church, God wants to use us to serve Him. And, we serve Him by serving others. We are His gift to the world which does not yet know Him. As we serve they see His love, His mercy, His forgiveness and will be drawn to Him.

And, He has given to us gifts that He wants us to use as we touch lives through serving. He wants us to use our gifts to strengthen the Body of Christ, the Church. And, of course, to reach out to others and fulfill the mandate of the Church to “make disciples of all nations.” 

God’s Word offers several different lists of spiritual gifts that God gives to people. One of my favourites is in Romans 12 – the motivational gifts that the Father gives to every human being. These are the gifts that determine who you are and what motivates you.

Paul tells the Roman Christians, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well (Romans 12:6 NLT). When you think about it, surely there are certain things that just naturally come easy to you. You’re wired to do things that other people can’t do, and they often admire that you can do those things.

Paul listed seven different gifts: “So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8 NLT my emphasis)

You likely have at least one if not two of these gifts. One of the ways to discover and remember which gifts are yours … Imagine you’re at a table in a restaurant with your close friends, about to share a delicious dessert. You see one of your friends is about to stick their fork into their piece of cherry pie. As the fork descends towards the dessert, you notice that the plate is dangerously close to the edge of the table. Before you have time to warn them, they push their fork into the pie and it plops into their lap. What you do next might be a clue to your gift or gifts.….

      • Do you jump up and offer to help? Do you grab a napkin and rush to do whatever you can to clean up the mess? If so, you probably have the spiritual gift of serving.
      • Do you look at the poor victim and offer wise advice? “You know, there’s really a better way to eat pie. First, you should always keep it half an arm’s length from the edge of the table.” If you’re inclined to lead a Bible study on the subject, you might say, “You know, this incident reminds me of when Jesus gathered His disciples at a table. In fact, I discovered that the Greek word for table is…” If you find yourself offering instructions, you likely have the gift of teaching.
      • If you slap your leg, laugh out loud, and exclaim that you’ve done far dumber things, because you want to make your friend feel better about what happened, you probably have the gift of encouragement.
      • If you offer to buy your friend another piece of pie and then offer dessert to everyone else at the table, you can be pretty sure you have the gift of giving. (Or a sweet tooth and a giver’s heart).
      • If you start organizing a crew, getting everyone else to follow your detailed instructions to clean things up, you have the gift of leadership.
      • And if you look on and say, “Wow, I can’t believe you didn’t notice how close your plate was to the edge of the table. You should have seen that coming,” chances are that you have the gift of prophecy.

No matter what your gift, God has given it to you not just to make your life better but to serve Him and others in the Church and in your neighbourhood. If you are just going to church and not serving, I can promise you that God wants to do more in you and through you. 

God wants you to serve in His Church. His Church is a body. And every member, every part is important. So if you are a part of a local church but you’re not serving, then something God wants accomplished isn’t getting done. Because God wants to use everyone – and that includes you – to serve in His Church. Because we don’t go to church; we are the church.

God uses His Church to feed and nourish His people. God wants you to contribute, not just consume. Your spiritual food is to do the will of God and to finish the work of the One who sent you.

What are some ways you’re serving others in your community? In your church? Where – or whom – do you sense God calling you to serve next? 

On a notepad or in a journal, describe a couple of places or ways you believe God wants you to serve others and His Church?

The Burger King Church Culture 

All of us can be a bit self-centered. By nature, we are selfish people. Just think about it: you don’t have to teach a child to be selfish. Have you ever seen someone sit down with a two-year-old and say, “Sweetie, today I’m going to teach you to be selfish. It won’t be easy, but I think you’re old enough now to make the jump. So I just want you to hold this ball, and when I ask for it back, you scream as loud as you can, ‘Nooooo! Miiiine!’”

That’s never happened in the history of the would. When push comes to shove, as it often does, we all look out or number one – me, myself, and mine.

Not only do we have our sinfulness working against us, much of what we see in culture affirms our self-centred tendencies. Some argue that a massive cultural shift in 1973 changed everything and made being focused on self culturally acceptable and solidly confirmed as right and okay. You might not have been even close to being born then, but it was a change experienced by my generation. It was a major cultural climate change. A new perspective on life. 

For decades, if you wanted a hamburger at almost any fast food restaurant, it would come however that restaurant prepared burgers. If you didn’t like the tomatoes, you could take them off yourself. If they used mayonnaise and you preferred mustard, you were free to scrape off the mayonnaise as best you could and squirt a mustard happy face across the bun.

Perhaps the best-known fast food chain at the time, McDonald’s, had a song about one of their burgers. When you ordered a Big Mac, you got, “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” If you didn’t like the special sauce, the lettuce, the pickles, the onions, or the sesame seed bun (and trying to pick off the cheese was the worst), too bad for you. Why didn’t you order a Quarter Pounder instead? The song told you what you were getting. That’s how to burger was meant to be eaten.

Until the competition changed the rules.

In a move that rocked the fast food world, Burger King boldly declared that you had choices, options, decisions to make: if you wanted a burger, you could “have it your way!” You read that right. It was crazy! It was your burger, and you could choose what you wanted on it. No mayonnaise? No problem. No pickles? No big deal. No onions? No worries. Extra ketchup? You got it. Burger King even developed a song that, once you heard it, was stuck in your brain forever:

Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce,

special orders don’t upset us.

All we ask is that you let us serve you your way.

Have it your way.

Have it your way at Burger King.

And the self-centered, consumer-is-king mindset spread like wildfire. There was a new sheriff in town who was always right – you.

You deserve it.

You’re worth it.

Get what you want.

Enjoy life your way.

It’s natural in our world (and even today in the Church) to want it our way, and Burger King nailed it, even if it was just a smart marketing move. According to Jesus, life (and Church) is not all about us, and everything in culture tries to tell us that it is. Without realizing what a rabid monster we’d unleashed, we became more obsessed with self than ever before. 

One of the quickest ways to forget about God is to be consumed with self. It is also one of the fastest ways to destroy the Church. Jesus had pretty direct works for those who wanted to follow Him. He said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). We are called not to celebrate, promote, or advance ourselves but to deny ourselves. To pick up our cross, to suffer through not having everything our way, to die to our selfish tendencies.

God wants us to have it HIS way.

And we’re not talking burgers. 

“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!

What’s The Question?

A note from a pastor I recently read…

Something just happened that made me stop and think. I was sitting in my office, typing away, when Package Delivery Guy dropped off a package. (I know his name but I’m guarding his anonymity). I like this guy a lot. I see him often, and he’s really cool, but he just said something that makes my skin crawl.

Package Delivery Guy told me, “I finally found me a good church.” (This is after several years of church hopping and shopping.) “All the other ones didn’t meet my needs, but this one does.”

Why would I shutter at that statement? Think about it. I’ve heard it hundreds of times: I’m looking for a church that meets me needs.

Can you admit for a moment how incredibly unbiblical that statement is? When did we, as Christ followers, start to think that the Church exists for us? When did we forget that we are the church? And that we’re here for the world?

Here’s our problem … Christians have become spiritual consumers – observers, not participants

Here’s the solution … Stop observing and get in the game. Reach out. Use your gifts. Give recklessly. Serve passionately. Make a difference!

Love those whom others reject, even those who aren’t like us – especially those who aren’t like us. Love not only nonbelievers, but also “second-class Christians.” Jesus did; so should we.

The Church is not here for us. We are the Church, and we are here for the world. When I ask church people to serve somewhere, I often receive a polite, “I’ll pray about it, Pastor.” (Which generally means, “Oh, crap. I don’t want to do that, but I’ll say something spiritual that may buy me time to plan my excuse.”)

I love the story about the guy who waited patiently in line to greet his pastor one Sunday after the sermon. “Pastor,” this eager, sincere Christ followers said, “I have only one thing to tell you. My answer is yes. Now, what’s the question?”

The pastor looked at him, confused, and smiling awkwardly, fell back upon the pastor’s safety net: “God bless you.” The pastor politely brushed the man off and turned to greet the next parishioner.

The next week, the same guy waited in line and repeated the same words. “Pastor, my answer is yes. Now, what’s the question?”

The pastor pondered this enigma. Wanting to get to the bottom of it, he invited the young man to lunch. Over a midweek meal, the young man once again blurted out the intriguing mantra: “Pastor, my answer is yes. Now, what’s the question?”

Finally overcome with curiosity, the pastor asked, “Can you please tell me what you mean by that?”

The young man smiled and, with passion, began, “Pastor, I was hooked on everything bad, about to lose my family, sliding down a slippery slope toward certain destruction. Then Jesus intervened.” Tears welled up in his eyes. “Because of what Jesus did for me, my answer to you in yes. You are my pastor, and I’ll do whatever you need.

“If you want me to rock babies, I’ll rock babies. If you want me to usher, I’ll usher. If you want me to mow the churchyard, I’ll be there at 6:00 a.m. every Saturday. My answer to you will always be yes. Now, what’s the question.?”

When it comes to your church (assuming you have one), what’s your answer? Is it, I’ll pray about it, while you look for an escape? Or is it …

Yes?

Act In Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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