Category Archives: Religiosity

True Love Requires Truth

Have you ever wondered how many lies you encounter in a day? According to researcher Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, the average person is lied to more than 10 times per day. Depending on the life situation, that number can sore to more than 100 ties per day.

Years ago, a study in the UK found that on average, 60% of people lied at least once in a ten-minute conversation. I still don’t know if I believe that one. 

Speaking truth can be hard to do. Speaking the truth in love can seem almost impossible.

So, why is truth critical to experience true love? That may seem like an easy question to answer. But it may also be harder than you think. People today have very different definitions for love. One word can mean so many different things.

The verse I want to explore today is Ephesians 4:14-15.

Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV)

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

The key concept in this passage is “Speaking the truth in love.” Interestingly, this concept occurs in a chapter with a focus on unity in the body of Christ. We are unified for a mission. And our purpose isn’t to just keep the peace or to make everybody feel good. We are to be unified to grow and reach maturity (v14), striving to reach the fullness of Christ.

Our mission is to seek God’s will and to let go of anything that gets in the way. When this happens, we will no longer act like babies in our faith, that is what Paul said. We won’t be tossed back and forth by various false teaching. We won’t fall prey to schemes of people who are looking to deny God’s truth.

In order to do this, we must speak the truth in love – especially to those who belong to God’s family.  But this can be hard to do.

 

Here are Some Things to Remember When It Comes to Speaking the Truth in Love

  • Many times, Christians only tell part of the truth. We withhold the hardest part because we don’t want to risk a relationship or hurt the feelings of the other person.
  • People tend to error on one side or the other. We are only “love” and will not share the truth. Or we brutally share the truth without compassion and mercy. Which one are you? Truth without love. Or love without truth?
  • Pray for guidance and talk to the other person second. Bathing a situation in prayer can give you the grace you need to navigate any situation.
  • The objective is to come to a restored relationship between us and the other person as well as God. Restoration cannot happen without truth.
  • Restoration happens when we go directly to the other person first. We can go to God for guidance. But we shouldn’t really involve third parties in most situations until our face-to-face efforts have failed.
  • If you are helping to mediate a situation, you aren’t looking to pick sides, you are trying to honor God and others in the relationship as you seek a resolution.
  • Words are not weapons. Be careful what you say that you can’t take back.
  • You can disagree and still love each other. Disagreement does not equal hatred.
  • Check your motives? Do you really love this person and have a relationship to have standing to have this conversation?

 

Love Is Based on Truth, Otherwise It Isn’t Reliable.

Today, the culture is confused about the difference between Love and Tolerance. People will say, “If you love me, you wouldn’t say anything to me about sin.” But the opposite is true. Sin is like playing with a cobra. It can kill you. Let’s look at this video about love and tolerance.

Love is better tolerance. And God’s love is better than human love.

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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. 

Follow Me…

Christianity starts with this simple command that Jesus gave His disciples. He said, “Come, follow me.” The Apostle Paul said that people should follow him as he followed Christ. When we are called to make disciples, we are inviting others to follow our example as we seek to be like Jesus.

This should cause all Christians to stop and ponder what others would be like if they followed their example. Does your life look like Christ? Do others see Jesus in you? Will your life be an example for others to follow?

Chances are that others are following your example. You may not realize. But it is especially true if you are a parent, a boss, a teacher, a church leader, etc. At some point in your life, you are likely the most powerful/important person in the room. How you handle this responsibility is critical. And the best way to live a life worth mimicking is to follow how Jesus lived.

We are called to make disciples of Christ not of us. And the only way to do that is to continue to pursue and to strive to live like Christ by God’s power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So who are you following? And what kind of example are you setting? The little things do matter.

Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

Closer

There is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God. And there is also a big difference between God with us and God in us. And that difference is closeness. In John’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples that as great as it was for Him to walk and live among the people, there is something greater than the physical proximity of Jesus standing right next to us. And that is the Lord putting the Holy Spirit within His people. But too often I don’t recognize how glorious this really is. And I know that I am not alone. While the hearts cry of many Christians is closeness to God, we don’t understand how close we already are if we simply take hold of the reality by faith and silence distractions and other pursuits in our lives.

Prayer for Intimacy
Holy Spirit, forgive me for seeking after everything else but Your voice.
Open my eyes to see the wonder of what angels longed to see — God’s Spirit dwelling in His people.
Cause me to burn with passion for the things that move Your heart and bring You glory.
Keep me from distractions and unbelief that would rob me of Your best realized by faith.
May I be a vessel for Your fire so that I can be pure and holy.
May my prayers be an incense coming up to Your throne, moving against the realms of darkness.
For the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. And Jesus, You have made me righteous.
Refine my desires to be what matter most, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.
For God, You are a consuming fire.
Amen!

Five Major Challenges Facing Churches Today

While the universal Church of Christ is as strong as ever, many local churches in the United States are struggling. Mainstream denominations are in decline. Up to 48% of pastors experience burnout or depression so severe that they decide to leave vocational ministry, according to Beliefnet.com. Localities are rocked by scandals at churches. Longstanding congregations split over leadership and theological differences. It can be difficult to lead a local church. And many top pastors feel isolated or insecure in their positions.

In our fast-paced world, many Christians struggle to figure out what it means to follow Christ and impact the world in their current culture. I know that I have had my own challenges with discovering this path for my life. A lot of people talk about discipleship. But actually shepherding people in authentic discipleship to Christ can be difficult.

Steve Saccone in Protege: Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders, wrote, “Four critical things that church leaders continually struggle with are burnout, moral failures, irrelevance to the surrounding culture and division within.” These are certainly four crucial areas of concern in local churches and the reason why many fall apart.

But I think this book missed one of the biggest weaknesses facing churches today. And that is appearing to be successful by putting on attractive programs and services while failing to accomplish the main mission of preaching the Gospel, which is to make disciples of all nations. Worse than having no mission is for a church to have the wrong mission. The reason is that churches with no mission with die a slow death. They will not really impact the future discussion of what it means to lead a local church. But a church with the wrong mission may grow and attract a lot of people while the real aim of Christianity is ignored. Spending lots of time “doing good” can be a distraction and lead to a great delusion if churches are not oriented around the truth of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit and the mission that Christ gave His Church.

Discipleship first requires evangelism. And evangelism usually starts with meeting people’s needs, relating to the unbeliever and sharing the good news of Christ. But the focus should not be on just meeting physical needs or attracting large crowds of people. Our good works must be accompanied by the Gospel or else we have withheld the greatest gift we have to offer.

Are you busy doing good but failing to do what is best? Are you really on mission and in alignment with God’s command to the Church? Christian leaders need to worry more about succeeding in what doesn’t matter than failing in what the world values and is less than God’s ultimate mission for the Church.

Hearing the Voice of God

Through the years, I have definitely struggled to know the heart of God and understand when He is truly speaking to me about something. I wonder, “Is that really God or is that just bad Taco Bell that I ate last night?” I have even asked, “Why does God sound sarcastic?” I have also thought, “That must be God because I would never think something like that.”

I recently spoke at the Mix  youth group retreat on hearing the voice of God. And as the Lord frequently likes to do, He gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach the morning that I was supposed to speak. I woke up and spent some time listening and praying. The idea kept coming up that I was supposed to sing “Jesus Loves Me” over the middle school and high school students at the retreat as I started my talk. But I wondered why that would be a good idea. After all, these are teens. They will think Jesus loves me is for little children. Plus, I thought, “What does that have to do with my topic?”

Sure enough, the Lord used another Christian to confirm what He had spoken to my heart. A good friend and brother in the Lord walked up to me and said that he felt impressed to remind me that many of these teens struggle to hear God’s voice because they have the wrong notion of who God is. They believe that God is angry with them or is a harsh, demanding Father. This friend said that they need to know that Jesus loves them before they can listen to the voice of God.

This was the confirmation that I needed to hear. I explained my struggles that morning and set up song. I told the crowd that this was a demonstration of hearing the voice of God and taking a small risk. As I sang, I believe that something broke over the hearts of many in the room that morming. One student came up and said what I did was liberating. Others said they just felt God’s love all over what I was saying.

Here are some of the key points that I shared that morning. May these little insights help you discern whether the voice in your head is really from God or some other source.

Things to consider when testing a voice….

1.) Does this sound like something Jesus would say? Does it line up with the Bible?

2.) God speaks to us through someone us. Many times this is to confirm or put perspective on what God has already been laying on our hearts.

3.) God isn’t usually urgent or in a rush. Jesus even took His time when it came to healing Lazarus.

4.) God’s voice may surprise us. It might unsettle us. Just ask little Samuel, the first time that he heard from God, the Lord spoke a harsh word about Samuel’s spiritual mentor.

5.) God may not work in us or speak to us in the same way that He does with other people.

6.) God’s voice will prepare us for the future although He doesn’t usually give us all the details.

7.) Does this voice agree that Jesus came in the flesh? (1 John 4:1-6) The voice of God will lift up Jesus as the source of live and God’s revival power. Jesus came down as a man and can relate to your experiences.

8.) The voice of God never calls us to do something that only God can do.  For example, God will not push you to change your heart. Instead, He will ask you to yield to His power and then maybe go act in a way that aligns with this heart change.

9.) God knows where we are and won’t test us beyond what we can bear in Him.

10.) God’s voice will always be calling us to Himself never driving us away. God’s voice may  sound harsh at times, but it is always inviting us to greater relationship and truth.

11.) God may convict us of sin, but He won’t condemn us for it.

12.) God’s voice frequently will call us to action or rest. God may call us to take a leap of faith. Or quite the opposite, He may tell us to rest from our labors and trust in Him. Both of these require faith because we have to let go and trust God with the situation.