Category Archives: Everyday Observations

No One Else Is Coming

That sure sounds like an awkward theme for a Christian conference. But that was the theme for the 2019 Vous Conference in Miami. This theme hit on a key point that strangles today’s churches and Christians. Frequently, we look around waiting for some charismatic leader, innovative ministry or new move of God before we act.

But Jesus left His earthly ministry thousands of years ago. And Christ sent us forth to carry forward the Gospel. So, what are we doing standing around with our hands in our pockets?

Each person in the body of Christ has something to offer. We can’t stand around and say we don’t have what we need. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and hearth has been given to me, so therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Sure, this command was directed to the disciples. But it equally applies to Christians today.

Christians have the call, the example, the resurrecting power of Christ, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. What else are we waiting for? Nobody else is coming.

Vous pastor, Rich Wilkerson Jr., challenged the conference attendees. He said, “Reaching the world for Jesus depends on the Church. Everyone and everything we need to change the world is in this room. We shouldn’t look around waiting for somebody else? We have a responsibility to carry forth the Gospel. If not you, then who?”

We all know people who need to know Jesus. So, why don’t we just make an introduction? We don’t have to cram religion down somebody’s throat. All we need to do is tell our story. We need them to know that Jesus is for them, no matter what they have done. Repentance is sweet, and it is the key to unlocking freedom from our past.

Rich said, “The Church of Jesus is the most powerful force on the planet.” Jesus declared  that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. Gates are defensive measures. Basically, Jesus was saying, “Not even hell is protected from the Church.”

The key point that Rich made in his opening talk was the importance of unity. He admitted,  “The devil doesn’t fear a big church; he fears a united Church.” Unity is crucial for the Church to fulfill its mission. Rich added, “If you don’t have unity, you can’t have community.”

The key Scripture that Rich used was Jesus’ prayer as He approached the cross.

John 17:20-23

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus stressed unity that leads to intimacy. It centers on love and directs people to God. More than just unity, Jesus was calling for oneness — when people are unified around the thoughts and plans of God.

Rich talked about the four things that get in our way:

1.) Comparison

Rich said, “It is really hard to carry out your calling if you are focusing on what others are doing around you.” You must be who God has designed and called you to be. Comparison is a trap that robs us of our potential. And in this social media driven culture, comparison is like a plague.

 

2.) Competition in Ministries

Many of those you are competing against don’t really care about competing against you. People want to do big things for God. But sometimes our call is smaller than we wish. As Rich said, “You will never get big if you refuse to be dedicated to the small.”

Rich stressed, “Authenticity comes from identity – what God has put inside of you that attracts others.”

The big problem is that competition causes jealous, which brings division. We need to get to a point where we say, “Your win in ministry is my win…Collaboration is multiplication.”

Rich said, “I am super competitive. You just have to know who your real competitor is.”

 

3.) Critical Spirit

Sure, we need to be discerning. We don’t need to approve of everything that another preacher or ministry does. My motto has been, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” I try to look for what I can learn from others, even from those who may a bit off in places.

I also know that other ministries are not accountable to me. There is one Lord, and He will judge each believer for our actions. As the Apostle Paul asked, “Who am I to judge somebody else’s servant.” But Christians can be the worst in shooting our own.

Rich admitted, “I was ready for criticism. I just wasn’t expecting so much friendly fire.” If you are doing anything for Christ, expect to get some crossfire.

Where does a critical spirit lead? It will always lead to a doubting heart. It makes your vision smaller. We can choose if we want to a critic or if we want to be creative. But it is hard to truly be both.

 

4.) Character Falls Apart

Rich pointed out, “Charisma gets man’s attention. But it is character that gets God’s attention.” Your character is critical if you want a long, successful life and ministry. Charisma can only carry you so far if you don’t have the character to sustain your life pace. Every minster that falls starts with subtle compromises. We stop reading the Word for ourselves. We stop praying for the Lord to search out our heart and show us any wicked way within us. Character is not optional. It is the one thing we need to be a leader worth following.

Have any of these four stumbling blocks impacted your life or ministry? What is getting in the way of reaching your full potential in Christ? How could unity make the difference in your community? Now more than ever, it is critical in a country so divided.

God has sent you. Nobody else is coming. What are you going to do with God’s call?

Note: This is the first blog post in a series that is going to explore key themes and messages from the 2019 Vous Conference. 

Advertisements

Camping with Jesus

Have you ever wondered if Jesus was an outdoorsman? I think he must have been to gain the respect of a bunch of fishermen. He walked from place to place and lived on the move during his three-year ministry. He sometimes didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Jesus loved to find solitude in the wilderness. Yeah, I believe Jesus must have been at home in the great outdoors.

Thinking about this led me to consider what I like and dislike about camping. I love getting away from everything, especially technology. I really like all the varied landscapes and outdoor activities. There is something just soul filling to stare into a camp fire. So, what don’t I like about camping? That’s easy — the difficulty cleaning up after cooking, not taking a shower for days and having to leave at the end of the trip. I always want to stay a little bit longer. But sometimes, you just have to go back down the mountain to reality.

While Scripture doesn’t tell us if Jesus ever enjoyed a smore, we know that he once took his three closest disciples to a high mountain to experience something that they would never forget. This story in Mark 9:2-10 is a first for the disciples. This moment cracked the divide between heaven and earth, revealing just how amazing Jesus truly was.

 

Mark 9:2-10 (NIV) — The Transfiguration

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

 

Sometimes Jesus has to takes us away from the crowd to get our attention. He knows that we need to get away and unplug. These three disciples had no idea what the Lord had in store for them.

Suddenly, Jesus was transformed before their eyes. The disciples got a glimpse of Christ in some of his true glory. Jesus became what he always was. His clothes became a dazzling white suggesting his purity. And as if this wardrobe change was not enough, suddenly Elijah and Moses show up and start talking with Jesus. These are two of the most important figures in Jewish history. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah was one of the foremost prophets from the Hebrew Scriptures. I have always wanted to know what they talked about. But the Bible doesn’t tell us. These little missing details always bug me, but they also create a sense of wonder and mystery.

The three disciples must have been stunned, amazed and frightened. Then, Peter said (Chaille translation), “This is amazing, let’s stay right here. We can pitch three tents — one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Let’s just camp in this moment for a while.”

Maybe Peter said this because he wanted to mark this unbelievable situation and create a memorial to it. Maybe he was scared and didn’t know what to do, and he wanted to create some privacy and protection for this unique encounter. Maybe he just wanted to make this amazing interaction last forever.

The whole situation got more intense when a cloud covered them and suddenly a voice from the cloud identified who Jesus was and his relationship with God the Father. Secondly, the voice instructed the disciples to follow what Jesus instructed. Without any time to debrief or discuss what happened, you see the disciples quickly coming down the mountain.

That was the last thing they probably wanted to do. I can just see them asking, “Where did Moses and Elijah go? Can’t we just stay here a little while longer? Why do we have to go down the mountain?” Even if they didn’t say those things, that would have been what I would have thought and maybe had the courage to say.

I believe that Peter wanted to camp out in this moment. It was the kind of thing that was so unreal that you would want it to last forever. But Jesus knew something that Peter did not realize at the time. The crowds were waiting at the moment. Jesus’ mission was going to be fulfilled down there not up here.

Sometimes we can be transformed and inspired on the mountain. But we can’t fulfill God’s mission until we come down the mountain.

The mountain experience is meant to sustain and inspire us when all those people and situations down there become too difficult to handle. The mountain may seem like a safe place, but it can be perilous to stay up on the mountain when a storm comes.

Take note that Jesus did not turn this miraculous encounter into a self-promotion vehicle. Quite the opposite, he told the disciples not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Even this command, was a head scratcher. The disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant by rising from the dead.

The two lessons that I see here is that sometimes what we experience with the Lord is just for us. We aren’t intended to share it with others until the time is right. We need to just marinate on it ourselves and let the experience transform and fuel our lives. Secondly, we may not always understand in the moment what Jesus said and did. Our job is to trust and obey not to fully grasp the entire plan. For those who like to be in control and know what is going on, this reality can be a huge challenge. But just as this episode with the disciples demonstrates, many times we aren’t in control. We just need to let God be God. We need to embrace the unexpected.

That is all part of moving on from transfiguration or God moments so that we can embrace our primary mission. The people we need to impact aren’t usually found on the mountain tops. They live in the valley and on the hills. We find them in our everyday routines and lives. As great as it is go camping, we can’t live forever high atop the mountains. We have to return to “normal” life and that is where we can have the greatest impact if we don’t lose sight of what we discovered on top of the mountain. Think about those moments as fuel for what awaits you down the mountain.

Consider this question, “Why do you need to come down the mountain?

Why worry?

Scripture is full of great questions. Jesus knew how to ask some real zingers. This is one of the hardest for me to grapple with in my everyday life.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

Honestly, I tend to worry too much. Prayer should be my default response, but sometimes, I find it so easy to worry instead. I am getting better. I am taking so much more to my Heavenly Father in prayer than  I did in the past. But it is a struggle.

In Jesus’ question, we see the futility of worry. It accomplishes nothing. It tends to hurt ourselves and the situation we care so much about. Worrying can’t even give us an extra hour in our day — actually it robs us of precious time to actually act and pray.

I am resolving to worry less and pray more. Who’s with me?

 

Time

Time is something that we only have a limited amount of, and at the end of our lives wonder where it all went. Time is worth a lot more than dollars per hour; it is a measure of what we value and what kind of legacy we hope to leave.

How we spend our time shows our priorities and what we think is truly valuable. Tell me what you think is important all you want, show me your calendar, and then I will know what you prioritize.

When we die, time is something we will have an infinite amount of if you believe the Scriptures, and what we do in this current life echoes into the next one — especially our relationship with God and dedication to His mission.

Time is a lot like water. We waste a lot of it because, we are lazy and tend to follow the path of least resistance. But properly channeled and used, our time can achieve great things, such as creating a major canyon in the middle of a desert. Wisdom and character can help us know how to use time. But as a Christian, I believe the best guide is the Holy Spirit. He should direct our days. Sadly, I know I call the shots way too often.

What we post about on our Facebook page and Twitter account shows a lot about how we spend our time and what preoccupies our thoughts. I agree that 50 million babies killed in the name of convenience is more than just a tragedy. It is the shame of our generation and a stain on our “progressive” culture.

Ultimately, God is the only one who stands outside of time. That is why He alone has the best vantage point on how we should spend the limited time we have in this life.

The Holy Spirit Inspired the Dream

If you have ever heard Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech it is impossible not to be stirred and feel that you are listening to something epic. It is as if that speech was not mere words. It was a spiritual experience that broke a yoke off the necks of millions of people.

I always thought that when I heard it I was reminded of some of the most moving sermons I had listened to in my life. King was a preacher before he was a civil rights icon. And he knew what it meant to be inspired by God to action. And when I heard a recent TV show exploring the story behind King’s famous speech, I knew that I was right. Those were not mere words.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis, spoke about that day. ABC News journalist Byron Pitts spoke with Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, one of King’s top aids, about King’s speech. This transcript is incredible.
———————————————————-
Andrew YOUNG: He was determined not to speak more than 10 minutes. And he did. He finished his prepared address in just about 9 minutes.

PITTS: But he wasn’t finished. Sitting behind Dr. King was famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who shouted to her friend, tell them about the dream. It’s a theme he’d used before in smaller settings.

KING: I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

PITTS: Why do you think he made that transition to talk about the dream?

YOUNG: As a preacher, there’s something we, we call being led by the spirit.

LEWIS: The spirit told him to lay that paper down and just go for it.

KING: I have a dream. My four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

PITTS: And it’s a dream that still lives on 50 years later.

(See more on this news discussion at
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/rep-john-lewis-remembers-historic-march-on-washington)

——————————————————–
This transcript clearly shows that the Holy Spirit inspired one of the most incredible political moments of the last 100 years. When people ask, “Where is God with all this injustice in the world?” I can point to moments like King’s speech and know that God’s Spirit stirs mens’ souls. The Holy Spirit moves behind the scenes, and one day, we will realize that the Lord was in those moments after all.

I am not surprised that the Holy Spirit breathed life into words that King had said at other times without the same effect. It was the power of the Spirit that made those words electric. He is moving in history. We just have to see it and know that the Spirit brings the fire that changes history.

I don’t say this in any way to disrespect King’s impact or his personal sacrifice to gain what he fought for. While those were his words, the concept he fought for is deeply rooted in the vision that the Apostle Paul outlined in the New Testament. Primarily, I am pointing out that King was divinely inspired, which should give more credence to his dream.

Praise be to God that we have come so far because Scripture says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” May we continue to bring God’s principles of love, hope and mercy to those who are not free or struggle due to injustice. While our job is not done, history shows that we have come a far way in establishing liberty and freedom in many places in the world.

Sorry I Said That…

The most recent election has produced some very strong feelings and words by many Christians. Some people have really said things that are hard to reconcile with what I know about those people. Ultimately, we are only responsible to God for what we say. But we must remember that our public witness does reflect on the cause of Christ.

I believe that we can state our opinion and even enter into political discourse without getting into name calling, yelling or being rude. Some of the best posts that I have seen on Facebook suggest that any Christian who acts like all is either won or lost just because of an election has put too much faith in people and politics. I certainly agree although I believe it is perfectly fine to either celebrate or mourn depending on your opinion.

I personally am mourning the fact that I believe this nation is swinging further away from the heart of God and at the same time both political parties refuse to do anything about pressing issues such as a skyrocketing debt, immigration concerns, boosting the economy, education, regulatory reform, etc.

As I was reading the Word today, I was challenged by these statements made in the book of James…

James 1:19-21: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Sometimes we need to think twice before we hit the “send” button on the email or Facebook post. Our first reaction, may not be a Biblical one. I was hit hard by the statement that the “anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Wow! If what I desire is righteousness, then me torching somebody in an argument may not be the best way to accomplish what I say that I want.

James 1:26: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

Ouch that just hurt so good! We should not think more highly of our own moral high ground than we ought. We should be careful what we say. Or else we can become deceived and produce a life that is worthless in God’s eyes.

The last thing I want is to have a “worthless religion.”

Lord, help me to speak only Words of life not doubt and fear. Yes, I may even need to say a hard word at times. But may everything that I say and do be rooted in love. May I be quick to pray and slow to  speak. May I have eyes to see through the lens of mercy and grace. Help me to love and live like You did — Jesus.

WWJD? – Would Jesus Burn a Koran?

Now that the Florida “pastor” has agreed to cancel his Koran burning ceremony this coming weekend, it may seem like old news. But I would like to comment on the idea that many “evangelicals” presented this controversial action as something Jesus just would not do. Although I am not Jesus’ publicist or the official PR spokesperson for God, I am a Christian and do know a thing or two about following Christ. For the record, I claim no divine direction on this matter or supernatural vision. But I would like to take a look at what Scripture recorded that Jesus did to see if burning a Koran is something that Jesus just might do.

Controversy…
Jesus loved to do controversial, almost disturbing things. Jesus was a prophet. And prophets tend to make bold, brash claims that fly in the face of the conventional wisdom. Jesus was no exception. He made divine claims about Himself, forgave sin (something only God was supposed to do according to Judaism), talked about the Temple being destroyed and resurrected in three days, and called the religious leaders of His day “a den of vipers.” Jesus further insulted some of the Jewish religious leaders saying that they were “sons of hell” who followed Satan as their father.

After Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown, the crowd got so angry that they moved to kill Him. And as most people know, Jesus made such a spectacle of things that the religious leaders incited the crowd and Roman authorities to seek Christ’s execution. So far, this is not the picture of man who was afraid to stir up controversy.

Even Jesus’ followers were not immune from criticism, He saved some of his “harshest” comments for His disciples. Remember that Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan, you have not the thoughts of God but the thoughts of man.”

Yet, Jesus did not seek to make controversy for controversy sake. He said that everything He did was led by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God the Father. Christ claimed that His words served a higher purpose than self promotion or His own personal agenda.

Spotlight…
Jesus was not a camera hog. After some of His most unforgettable moments, Jesus told His followers to keep it a secret or avoid making a public spectacle out of what He did or said. Quite the opposite from call a press conference, Jesus would sneak away from crowds and avoid publicity. That is one major difference between the recent situation with the Florida pastor and Christ. Jesus didn’t perform for the cameras.

Pick the Right Battles…
Jesus waited for the right time to do everything. The Gospels present Jesus as a man who did everything with purpose – picking the right time and the right battles to fight. Jesus knew when to make a whip and clean out the Temple or stay away from the crowds and seclude from outside pressures. Jesus knew how to avoid confrontation with religious opponents as well as to turn around public arguments.

Jesus Didn’t Focus on the “Bad” Guys…
Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about the “bad” guys or trying to fight them. Instead, Jesus focused on the message that He had been sent to preach and embody. He only talked about Satan or religious opponents when trying to setup the agenda or explain certain concepts to His followers. Even some of Christ’s most controversial statements came as teaching moments to correct wrongful thinking among His disciples. There may be no greater example of this then when Jesus talked about the Temple being destroyed. Imagine just how scandalous that would have been in Jesus’ day. He was responding to a comment by one of His disciples about the massive size of the stones around the Temple complex. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that God was building a new Temple inside the hearts of the faithful. Their focus should not have been on what was visible in the existing religious establishment.

Comparing Christ’s statement to today’s world, it might seem similar to a prophet touching the side of the U.S. Capitol building and saying it would soon collapse into a pile of rubble. Jesus spoke the truth – a harsh reality to prepare His followers for what was to come.

Wisdom…
Jesus called His followers to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” This suggests that Jesus wanted His people to be smart about how they lived. They had to use wisdom. Ask yourself, “Will this accomplish a greater, divine purpose?”

Thinking through all these aspects of Christ’s life, I don’t see Jesus as being a big fan of Koran burning. That would just give too much focus to the wrong place. It would embolden and provide a rallying cry for enemies abroad with no real benefit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t need to win an ego contest with false religions.

I think Jesus would instead be like one of the missionaries who recently died for the Christian Gospel in Afghanistan. He would be willing to sacrifice to accomplish a greater good without caring if CNN were there to cover the event. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus’ enemies should think of Him as weak. Scripture is clear that when Jesus returns (whatever that looks like), He will come back as a conquering hero and the King of Kings.