I Am Afraid

Bill Lewis is a teacher and preacher who ministers apostolically and prophetically. Nearly 50 years of ministry is reflected in his writings. He currently lives in the State of Ohio, U.S.A. and is a friend and co-worker in the Kingdom.

I am afraid. I am not afraid. I think it is a threat and real. I think it is a hoax and a plot to manipulate. I am staying home. I refuse to stay home. You are a racist. I am not a racist. Black lives matter. All lives matter. The president is doing a great job. The president is insane. I love the president. I hate the president.

We live in a bowl of toxicity. No one is right; no one is wrong. Opinions are flying at the rate of a 100 mph fastball. No matter what you say or do; it is a swing and a miss.

Even sitting down to write this blog, (which I have put off for a long time) I am concerned to even express anything.

However, in studying history, we have as humans been here many times. Even in American history we have survived events like these time and again. Going back to the American Revolution we had folks split down the middle on issues to the point of demonstrations and  loss of life. Even a few years later the country was divided breaking into political parties and branding one another as un-American. Moving to the Civil War period the country was divided deeply and Lincoln was vilified to the end that he was assassinated. Pre World War Two, there were many Americans who thought Hitler was a great leader moving Germany out of financial collapse. Later, of course, Hitler’s true colors were revealed. When we live in that moment, it is hard to see clearly at times. History tends to sort it out years later. As they say, “Hind sight is 20/20.”

As a minister of the Gospel, the real issue comes to the wicked heart of man. Man is fallen. His nature, without redemption, is self centered, wholly carnal, hedonistic, and spiritually lost. While the world swirls around us, there is one thing that remains true; the sovereign will of God will be executed in the long run. There is a definite plan revealed in the word that brings things to a culmination. Jesus indicated that nations would rise and fall, wars and rumors of wars would persist. He said that there would one day be a false peace.

Personally, we, as believers, need to focus on principles of God’s word. We lose the power of the Gospel when we trade heavily in political parties. We become enmeshed in the platforms of the philosophical and political agendas of those parties. We slowly become more avid about the platform than the Gospel.

I am not advocating un-involvement, nor a position of disengaged pacifism. I know there are principles that must be upheld, talked about, embraced, and action taken. However, the real answer is Jesus. Seemingly simplistic, I know. Rather a pat answer you may say, maybe even trite. But contained in that simple statement is salvation, humanitarian reform, Prince of Peace, love, dignity, value, altruism in its best form. “Come unto me”…rings true today as it did when spoken for the first time.

I do not know when all this will end, but I do know that the Gospel is the best answer. Historically, America in its worst times, has been the seed bed for evangelical revival. The gospel has risen in each crisis to bring hope and restore civility. This should be our prayer and answer…Jesus.

I sincerely believe we need a move of God and thus I pray

Confessing Your Sins Over and Over Again – Part Three

As we have been discovering, in the Bible confession is never offered as a substitute for repentance. It’s but a first step toward repentance and then restitution. James, the half-brother of Jesus, had this to say about the role of confession in the life of a believer:

“And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:15-16).

James calls for confession to one another as part of our repentance and restoration. James seems to indicate here that illness is sometimes caused by hidden sin. Regardless of where you land on that one, don’t miss the implication in James’s words: Because hidden sin may be the cause of visible illness, the smartest thing you can do is confess. Not only to God, but to the people. In other words, bring out your secrets into the light.

According to this passage, confession precedes physical and spiritual restoration. Again, there’s nothing here about relieving your conscience or feeling better about yourself or wiping the slate clean with God. Confession is the first step towards change. And change is the goal of confession.

No doubt this is what Jesus had in mind when He shocked His listener with this bit of instruction:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

I can imagine someone in Jesus’ audience thinking, Now wait a minute. You’re telling me I’ve walked all the way to the temple, stood in line for half the day, and brought an acceptable sacrifice. And I’m supposed to up and leave? You want me to tie up my lamb or hand my pigeon off to someone else, just to make peace with someone who’s mad at me?

This was certainly a new wrinkle on the Law. Worse than new, it was terribly inconvenient. And besides, isn’t our relationship with God supposed to be our ultimate priority? Isn’t God more interested in our getting right with Him than is getting things right with our next-door neighbour? Aren’t we suppose to put God first? Certainly, we should be concerned about a strained relationship — but surely it could wait until after church!

But Jesus comes along in His characteristic fashion and reverses everything. In effect He says our relationship with God hinges on our relationship with other people — the two are inseparable. He seems to imply that our ability to worship God sincerely and fellowship with Him unashamedly is contingent upon the status of our relationship with others, including those we’ve offended in some way. 

Part of walking with God is making that call you dread making; setting up that appointment you know will be incredibly awkward; writing that letter that you should have written long ago. It means humbling yourself, owning up to your part of the problem, and doing everything within your power to make those relationships right. And when you swallow your pride and take that extra step, something remarkable happens. Guilt loses it foothold in your heart, and the power of sin is broken in your life. 

Open confession has the power to break the cycle of sin. Actually, that’s the purpose of confession. And like most medicinal remedies, it works when applied properly.

If you start confessing your sins to the people you’ve sinned against, odds are that you’re not going to go back and commit those same sins again. Maybe that’s the reason we would rather just confess our sins silently to God — it gives us an out. We can be repeat offenders without embarrassing ourselves. I say “maybe.” In fact, that’s exactly why we confess secretly: In many cases we know we’re going to repeat the offence.

But if you force yourself to confess to your sales manager that you inflated your numbers last quarter, assuming you keep your job, you probably aren’t going to inflate them again. Not if it means having to confess the same infraction a second time.

If you muster the courage to confess to a friend that you revealed to someone something she’d told you in confidence, chances are you’ll never do it again. Not if it means having to confess it again.

If you confess to a teacher that you cheated on an exam, that will probably be the last exam you ever cheat on. 

Guilty people are usually repeat offenders. And as long as you’re carrying a secret, as long as you’re trying to ease your conscience by telling God how sorry you are, you’re setting yourself up to repeat the past (and keep on sinning). However, biblical confession — the way God designed confession to be applied — breaks the cycle of sin and guilt.

So the major carry away: Public confession has the power to purge our hearts of the guilt that keeps us from living out in the open with integrity; secret confession does not. 

Confessing Your Sins Over and Over Again – Part Two

So, let’s continue our look at the religious practice of “confessing our sins over and over again.”

The English definition of confession is to admit to or acknowledge something. But in the Scriptures, confession is associated with change. Confession is just one step in a sequence of steps that leads the guilty out of the darkness and into the light; it’s simply the beginning of a process that ultimately leads to a change in lifestyle or behaviour.

The early Catholic literature on penance and confession support this broadened definition. In the early days of Catholicism, you weren’t allowed to confess the same sins over and over. Only once. Because after you did your penance, change was expected. Penance comes from the word repentance. Repentance is often pictured as a person walking one way, realizing the error of that way, and changing direction to walk in the opposite direction. 

In the Scriptures, confession is clearly connected with restitution, repentance, and restoration. In the Old Testament, confessions was always public and was associated with restitution. Consider this edict from God to Moses: “Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged” (Numbers 5:6-7 NIV).

For the Jew, this wasn’t about feeling better about yourself; it was about making things right with the one you’d sinned against — with interest. It wasn’t enough to be sorry. God was interested in change. And having to go public with your sin and make restitution certainly motivated people to change.

When John the Baptist waded onto the scene, he called people to repentance as well as the confession of sins: “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:4-5 NASV).

This wasn’t private confession. This was public confession made in connection with public repentance. Joh’s audience was going public with their intentions to live a different kind of life. They weren’t confessing just to silence their conscience; they were really to leave their sin behind and head in a different direction. Confession wasn’t simply a means to feeling better about their sin; it was a public step toward abandoning sin.

A bit further into the New Testament we find the infamous tax collector Zacchaeus following this Old Testament model of confession. But instead of the required one-fifth that God instituted in the law, Zacchaeus gave back four times what he’s taken illegally.

Zacchaeus wasn’t the cute little man depicted in our childhood songs and Sunday school classes. He was a wicked man considered a traitor to his nation. He’d wronged many of his fellow Jews, leaving a trail of relational wreckage in his wake. But when Jesus invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’s house that fateful day, the little tax collector was changed. He found in Jesus the hope and forgiveness he has long since given up on. But Zacchaeus knew instinctively that it wasn’t enough to confess his sins to Jesus. That was a first step, but only a first step.

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

How did Jesus respond? He didn’t say, “Oh no, no, no, Zacchaeus! You’re forgiven! It was enough that you confessed your sins to Me. There’s no need to make a public spectacle of yourself.” Instead, Jesus said in effect, “Now I know for sure that salvation has come to this house. Your public admission is evidence of a changed heart.”

Zacchaeus didn’t just admit to his sins of the past, he took public responsibility for them. He confessed in the truest sense of the biblical term.

Over and over the Bible speaks of confession, not in terms of conscience relief, but in terms of life change. Never is confession offered as a substitute for repentance. It’s but a first step toward repentance.

More next time…

Confessing Your Sins Over and Over Again – Part One

Here is something to think about. We confess our sins to God telling Him what it is we believe we have done or thought or said that might have been offensive to Him. Then, we ask for forgiveness and believe the slate is clean. There are many versions of this game. And, it is a game. 

We confess to God, to a priest, to a minister, a rabbi, a friend, or … Then we go about life and continue to live the same way, committing the same sins, and needing to be forgiven again and again, over and over again. So you find yourself – if you are religious – confessing your sins (often the same sins) over and over again and again. Nothing changes but for a few short hours (or minutes) we feel good about ourselves as we have relieved the guilt and done what we believe is right and good. 

Confession then is about guilt relief or, worse still, fulfilling a weekly or monthly religious requirement to remain in good standing with the Church. We know, even while we are confessing our sins, that we will be back the next day (week, month) confessing the same sins again. Our routine has nothing to so with change. We just want to feel better or fill some religious obligation passed on to us by our parents. 

Chances are, you play your own version of the confession game. Some confess to a priest, some confess directly to God, but none of us is really interested in changing anything. But we sure feel better about ourselves. The cloud lifts. The slate’s clean. And now that we’ve gotten God off our case, we think perhaps He’ll be on our side. But would you side up with someone who treated you that way? Who used you that way?

Imagine you had a brother who continually stole from you, embarrassed you publicly, and talked badly about you behind your back — but once a week he came to you and said, in very general terms, he was sorry (which you already knew). But no sooner did you turn around than he was right back at it again. To make matters worse, he has the nerve to ask for your help whenever he gets in a bind. How would you characterize that relationship? Even if you were able to genuinely forgive him each time, what would eventually happen to the relationship? There would be no relationship. At best, you would feel used; more than likely, you would feel insulted. What kind of idiot does he take me for? Does he really think that I believe his apology is sincere when he turns around and does the same things again and again? 

Need I make the application?

Let’s face it; our approach to confession is an insult to our heavenly Father. We certainly wouldn’t dream of staying in a relationship with anyone who treated us that way. It’s a good thing His love is unconditional — otherwise, we would all be in trouble.

So where did we go wrong? Why this endless cycle? How is it that we’ve allowed confession to become a tool to facilitate our sin rather than ending it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Or I’m glad I asked. Anyway, that’s a great question and one that deserves consideration.

We Play the confession game because somewhere along the way we were taught that the purpose of confession was conscience relief. That is, we confess in order to make ourselves feel better about what we’ve done. And if you want to put a theological spin on it, we confess because we think it will somehow help God feel better about what we’ve done. According to our twisted way of thinking, confession puts everything back just the way it was before we did whatever it was we did that made us feel like we needed to confess.

But come on, that doesn’t even make any sense. How can confessing to God what you did to another person make everything right? How does that restore anything? What about the person you’ve wronged?

Not only does it not make sense, it doesn’t work. This pseudo-confession doesn’t remove our guilt. Like Tylenol, our quick confession prayers take the edge off our pain, but they don’t heal the wound caused by our sin. It does not heal the relationship (with God and others) caused by your sinful actions – thoughts, words, deeds. This is why you find yourself repeating and confession the sins of your past (and present) over and over again. The guilt is still there. The issues have not been resolved. Restoration has not been accomplished. In reality, nothing has changed.

More next time…

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?

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?

The Right Thing To Do!

Many of us grew up with a ‘negative’ faith: Don’t do this or that; don’t say this or that; don’t visit that place or think that thought. In other words, we don’t want to create sin or fall into sin. But if our focus is on consistently not doing something, at the end of our life all we have done is … nothing. We may have been faithful but have we really been fruitful? We’ll have been like dead people walking with nothing to show for our time on the earth.

A corpse doesn’t ”sin.” But does a corpse display the glory of God? Is a corpse fruitful – accomplishing the basic commands of the Lord to His followers and thus to the Church? Of course not. Jesus defined fruitfulness as being a necessary part of faithfulness. And, fruitfulness comes out of intentional obedience to the things the Lord has commanded.

Luke 13:6-8 “Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was a man who planted a fig tree in his orchard. But when he came to gather fruit from his tree he found none, for it was barren and had no fruit. So he said to his gardener, ‘For the last three years I’ve come to gather figs from my tree but it remains fruitless. What a waste! Go ahead and cut it down!’

“But the gardener said, ‘Sir, we should leave it one more year. Let me fertilize and cultivate it, then let’s see if it will produce fruit.’”

We have made Jesus Lord of our lives. This means we are to obey everything He has commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20). If life is about obeying and, as a result, accomplishing a very particular task, the “obedience” and the “right thing to do” (James 4:17) must mean accomplishing that one particular task – seeking first the Kingdom, bearing fruit in His Name, and in the words of Titus 3:14, being devoted “to doing what is good.”

Is I send an employee to a gas station to fill the gas tank of a company car and they return to the office saying, “I had a great conversation with Skip. I washed the windshield. I picked up some litter in the parking lot. And I even brought back donuts for the entire office” but he didn’t fill the gas tank, has he really been obedient? He may have done some good and noble things, but those other things got in the way of the first thing.

Worse, if he added, “And you should be proud of me because I didn’t steal from anyone, run over anyone, gossip about anyone, or lie to anyone.”

Fine, but did you fill the gas tank?” That’s why you were sent out. 

We are a people with a mission. A people on a mission. And, that mission is not simply to avoid the wrong things. That mission is to seek first the Kingdom and do all that the King has commanded us to do. His generic commands to the Church, His people. And, His specific commands to each unique believer. Anything or anyone that keeps us from fulfilling the mission is a danger to our being fruitful and thus obeying the Lord. 

We should not focus on our own safety, comfort, or security. The purpose of life is not to protect our joy, our peace, our reputation, or even our sanity even though these are all good things. The Christian life is primarily about protecting our mission, avoiding things and people who distract us and cause our focus to be on other things. Jesus has commanded that we live life that are fruitful for His cause.

We are enlisted in a great cause and called to do great things for Jesus. We don’t have time to be distracted by clever or even wounded people who soak up all our energy and efforts in any other cause. There are many worthy things we can embrace and accomplish but are they seriously a part of the cause, the Kingdom? We must keep our eyes on the Kingdom, seeking it first and foremost. Many times we pour ourselves out on people and things that keep us from this one cause and primary focus. Pouring ourselves out on ‘other things’ is spiritually like trying to wash rain. It’s a waste of time that keeps us from more fruitful endeavours. 

We are saved to be fruitful as we seek first the Kingdom. We are saved to bear fruit, good fruit. Our story from Luke 13 ends with this verse … “If it doesn’t bear fruit by next year, we’ll cut it down.’” (Luke 13:9). 

That is a comment worth thinking deeply about.

Your Kingdom work does matter. You need to know this, feel this, live this, to be rightfully protected from people and things that try to distract you and take your focus off of the Kingdom. You may not be widely recognized as God’s worker, but just as wars are won through the secret sacrifices of unknown soldiers, so God’s Kingdom is built on the backs of quiet and faithful servants. What you do for the Kingdom matters. 

It is time to do the right thing – not just any thing or even everything. The right thing!

Heroes and Villains

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis, Apostle
In life we like to reduce things to a simple dime store novel filled with villains and heroes. We want the cowboy western with white hats and black hats. We like a predictable ending as in a Hallmark movie. We want the hero to win, ride off into the sunset, or kiss the girl and live happily ever after.  Life is not quite that simple. I wish it were, but it is not.

A speaker I was listening to recently said that change is a part of progress. Every entity has to change to stay current. Every business has to refresh itself, change the menu, re-decorate, do something to attract attention and customer loyalty.

In the kingdom of God, the kingdom is eternal. It moves and changes in forms, but the core message remains the same. Churches come and go. If you look at the pages of the New Testament and list the churches mentioned, you would be hard pressed to find them today. They vanished centuries ago. Yet, the kingdom of God is flourishing throughout the earth. God moves constantly to reach lost humanity. Humans change their cultures and habits; yet their core issues remain the same. How to address the changing cultures is the kingdom’s ability to adapt and keep the message addressing the age old issues of humans.

People, however, do not like change. They want to find something familiar and stick with it till they die. When I started out, planting a church in a rural, bedroom community, I had only two people who were over 50. The church was made up of young families and singles. This couple was just retired, 65, mail carrier and school teacher. However, they were into the current move of God. Change did not bother them; they were ready to be on the cutting edge of what God was doing. Maybe they were visionaries as well. They supported us all the way.

We live at a crossroads in some ways. God is raising up all kinds of new churches, some small and some rapidly growing larger ones. We live at a time when denominationalism is dying and many independent, or networked churches are flourishing. However, the kingdom of God is strong and growing.

Going back to my novel analogy, the churches that are closing, ceasing to exist, are not attended by unbelievers, but good people who have struggled with change. These churches have held on to the move of God they enjoyed when younger. There is usually a commonality in all these situations, the young people are missing. Somehow there was a disconnect between the older members and their ability to attract and retain younger people. Just as when we planted a church, it was all young people except for the one couple. Today, it is all older people except for a handful of young in most situations.

We may ask, “What is it?” Style, music, decor, language? Is it as simple as young draw young and old draw old?

I strongly believe there is an issue that is common and it is not the above. I strongly believe that the issue is the lack of inclusion and opportunity for younger people to engage, participate, and move into leadership positions. I have been to churches, and attend one now, that is trans-generational. There is a large group of young people and many interspersed into leadership and there is a good number of people of all ages worshipping and serving. Churches can serve and prosper with all ages being represented.

As churches age, they usually keep raising the bar for anyone to come into leadership. More rules, longer wait periods, limited opportunities are common in churches that are just surviving. One international leader I know, puts young people and new converts into roles of service as fast as she can. Her church is packed with young people. I also have known churches that have hard fast rules that no one can do anything until they sit for months or years. There are reasons everyone has for the various approaches, but the first engages and draws young people.

I know a church I worked with that was filled with young families and some great potential leaders. I was excited for that church. I came back a few years later and they were all gone. I asked what happened and found that all opportunities had been shut off to them. They are now leaders in other churches. What a missed opportunity!

Paul, the apostle, constantly encouraged his team to find young people and entrust them with the gospel. It was preparing the next generation.

In this book of life the villain is really complacency fueled by fear and lack of adaptation. Its symptoms include no change, keep the status quo, remember the good old days, and make little or no room for the next generation.

A good read along these lines is Kevin Gerald’s book, Naked and Unafraid which just came out.

The hero in all this is Jesus. He is able to reach every generation and keeps his kingdom growing. While some camps of his are shut down or absorbed into other camps, his kingdom adapts and keeps the message and the hope alive to every generation and culture.

Eight Differences Between a Believer and a Follower

1> A believer believes in Jesus. A follower honours His commands

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

2> A believer reads the Bible when things get tough. A follower reads the Bible to engage in a deeper understanding of Jesus Himself.

“Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always.” (Psalm 105:4 NIV)

3> A believer prays when things get tough. A follower gives thanks no matter the circumstance.

“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NIV)

4> A believer twists the Bible to fit his or her lifestyle. A follower works to make his or her lifestyle resemble the teachings of the Bible.

“Some of His comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16)

5> A believer gives when it is easy. A follower gives out of the abundance of his or her heart.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, our in everything – all she had to live on.” (Matthew 12:22 NIV)

6> A believer conforms under the pressure or culture. A follower holds fast against temptation.

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)

7> A believer will share his or her faith when it’s comfortable. A follower will share his or her faith regardless of the scenario.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15 ESV)

8> A believer knows about Jesus. A follower knows Jesus as his or her Lord and Saviour.

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 ESV)

Which are you? A believer or a follower?.