Do You Believe It Can Happen Again?

Jesus’ Great Commission

The book of Acts is an exciting book to read if you’re a genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the early Church was bold & intentional to obey Jesus’ Great Commission to “make disciples”; and, the results were inspiring! On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter and others preached the Gospel in the Power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it says  “…that day there were added about three thousand souls” (ch. 2:41). Wow! The 1st church started with 3,000 people! And then we read that “…the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (ch. 2:47).  A couple of chapters later we read, “Many who heard the message believed…and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (ch. 4:4). The next chapter uses the term “multitudes” to describe those added to the church, “…all the more believers…multitudes of men and women were added to their number” (ch. 5:14).  From that point, the text says the number of disciples was “multiplied”; and, “…the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (ch. 13:49).

Disciple-Making Math

That’s the math of disciple-making— God first “added” to the church; then, “multitudes” were added; and, finally, the number of disciples “multiplied.” Once the Spirit begins to “multiply” the number of disciples, you have an incredible movement of God! What’s in your heart as you reflect on those events? Is it simply “historical” to you— another great BIBLE STORY that doesn’t hold much meaning for today? Or, do you believe that God still works like that when His people are genuinely broken enough to repent of their disobedience to His Commission; and, begin to intentionally love people & disciple them into the kingdom? Do you believe it can happen again?

The Fields Are White

It was like a couple of years ago that I had the opportunity to be part of a Gospel Coalition meeting in Omaha; and, I found it incredibly refreshing talking with several “20-somethings” who were passionately taking the Gospel to the city of Omaha. The number of new believers, coming to Jesus, is happening so quickly that they hardly have enough workers to disciple them all! By faith, they simply believe what Jesus said: “The fields are white, ready to harvest…pray the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers!” Oh, how the church, here in the West, needs to faithfully & passionately pray that same prayer!

Yes! It Can Happen Again

Steve Smith, who wrote “A Discipleship Re-Revolution”, said this: “A discipleship revolution ignited a firestorm of loving evangelistic zeal and fervent obedience that took the kingdom into the remotest corners of the known world in a period of years & decades, not centuries…This process of winning new believers and training them to witness to others who believed & witnessed to others cascaded out in ripples that touched the farthest reaches of the empire.” Hey Church— let us repent! Let us come back to “ground zero” on this matter! For too long we’ve simply waited for unbelievers to just show up at our Worship services! For too long we have held onto unbiblical strategies for growing the Church! Jesus said, “I will build My Church” Matthew 16:18. The Church belongs to Jesus! And, He already gave us the strategy for building it! We are called to “make disciples”! That’s the way we change America and the world!

Motivated By God’s Glory

What Does A “Win” Look Like?

I greatly enjoyed the years I helped coach the varsity boy’s basketball team for our local Christian school! One of the things we constantly focused on was cutting down on the number of “turnovers”— giving up the ball to your opponent because of a bad pass, a double dribble, or some other violation. Our mantra was:  “Every PASS counts! Every SHOT counts! Every DRIBBLE counts!” The ultimate goal was to win more games & it’s hard to win when you keep giving the ball away to your opponent! So, what does a “win” look like, if following Jesus is the goal? To the Church of Corinth, Paul wrote:  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” 1 Cor. 10:31.

A “Win” Is When God Is Glorified

To use the basketball analogy, Paul is saying that a “turnover” occurs whenever we do anything that FAILS to bring glory to God! And, a “win” happens whenever God is glorified! Someone said it like this:  “When someone or something evidences the reality of God’s existence, that revealing is God’s glory. We don’t see God; we see the evidence that He has been at work; we see His glory.” So, glory is like a “trail” that evidences that God had been there; that, He has been at work! It’s like His “supernatural signature.” 

Show Me Your Glory

That’s what Moses saw, in Exodus 33,  when he asked God for permission to see His glory. He couldn’t look upon God; or, he’d die, God said! So, God showed him his “back”; or, literally where God had been; or, His “trail.” Here’s the application we take from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian believers:  we will see the glory of God; or, the evidence of His presence; or, His supernatural signature, on our churches, in the changed lives of our members! Changed lives— that’s the proof that God has been there! Lives that do everything with a passion for God’s glory!

Only The Holy Spirit Can Do That

And, we can’t manufacture that! We can’t produce changed lives! Only lives, under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, will live for God’s glory rather than for self-glory! God’s glory isn’t present where ministry is done “in the flesh”— leaning on our own understanding! It’s worldly wisdom that says, “God helps those that help themselves.” You won’t find that anywhere in the Bible! That’s man’s glory, not God’s! God reveals His glory through us as we yield to Him & His wisdom! We leave room for God to be glorified when we come to Him and say, “God, I’m just your little child down here & I don’t know what to do in this situation! I need you to lead me & guide me! Otherwise, I’ll just mess it up!

When It’s Not God’s Glory

The more I get used to “walking in the Spirit”, the more terrified I become of doing anything, in my life, that’s not for God’s glory; for, His praise & honor! The opposite of His glory is “my glory”; and, that’s pride. God hates pride! “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him,” Proverbs says (6:16-19). And, what is #1 on the list? “A proud look.” Anything that looks like pride is an abomination to God! We need to pray that Christ’s Church would be motivated by a passion & a desire that our Sunday Worship services bring Him glory; that, our Small Group ministries shine forth His glory;  that anything and everything we do be bathed in prayer, with a God-honoring longing for God to be revealed in our cities and our nation! God is glorified when we make much of His preferences, plans & program!

Leadership Principles!

-Preparing Joshua To Lead!

In my last post, I introduced you to the Old Testament ministry team of Moses and Joshua. We talked about how Moses invested himself in training Joshua to succeed him in leading the nation of Israel into the land God had promised them. Today, I plan to share a few leadership principles that Moses passed on to Joshua— some intentionally, some not! Each of these prepared Joshua to lead; and, I hope that in each principle, you’ll also find that it applies directly & personally to you.

-Don’t Mess With God!

From Moses, Joshua learned that God will not tolerate the rebellion of men against Himself. In Exodus 17, Joshua observed how the Amalekites attacked Israel. Their attack was a rebellion against God’s right to rule over all of HIS worlds! As Creator, God had the right to remove the Amalekites from the land they occupied because of their rebellion; and, give it to other people. The principle Joshua learned? Don’t mess with God! There’s another leadership principle that Joshua learned, from Moses, in this very same battle against the Amalekites. He learned that God is the power behind the leader and the sword!

-The Power Behind The Leader!

As Israel’s General, Joshua led Israel on the battlefield; while Moses, Israel’s preeminent earthly leader, intervened spiritually at the top of a hill.  As long as he kept his hands raised toward heaven— symbolizing Israel’s dependence on God— Israel prevailed in the battle. But, when his hands dropped the Amalekites would gain ground. Interestingly, after Israel defeated Amalek the Lord told Moses to, “…write this down for a memorial in the book as a reminder & RECITE IT TO JOSHUA” Exodus 17:14.  Do you see the significance? It was God who delivered Israel! He was the power! It wasn’t General Joshua or Moses! It was God who fought for Israel; and, Moses needed to rehearse that with Joshua!

-God Delivers Victory!

Can we apply that to our church faith community? I’m pretty sure we can! Did Israel have to fight? Yes! Did Joshua have to lead bravely & courageously? Yes! But, when it was all over, God was the One who delivered the victory! If we desire to see God work in our city; if we want to see people disciples & our church grow, we have to put in the work & effort! But, it only happens when God does it! Like Moses, with hands lifted toward heaven, we have to pray & seek God’s help even as we do our part & work! But, there was another principle that Moses clearly wanted Joshua to learn.

-Seeking God’s Glory!

In Exodus 24, when Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with God, it says, “So Moses arose with his assistant (or APPRENTICE) Joshua and went up the mountain of God” where v.17 says they saw, “…the appearance of the LORD’S GLORY.” And, in his training with Moses, before the Lord’s Glory, he came to understand that God’s Glory must always be sought rather than one’s own personal accomplishments. As church leaders, God’s Glory must always be our passion; not, personal accolades or attention. Joshua learned another valuable leadership principle (Exodus 32) from Moses as they came down from Mt Sinai, carrying God’s 10 Commandments. As they came into the camp; and, observed Israel’s idolatrous activity worshipping a golden calf, Joshua watched Moses’ righteous indignation toward their sin! He learned the principle that God blesses leaders who love what He loves & hate what He hates! Godly leaders hate sin!

 

A Faith That Doesn’t Serve!

-It’s A Questionable Faith!

Faith that fails to serve is, at best, questionable! Listen to what James writes, in his epistle:  “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” James 2:14-17.  “Is that even saving faith?” James seems to be asking,  “What good is that kind of faith?

-Can That Faith Save Him?

If I understand the text correctly, in the original Greek it has the definite article relating to “faith”; so, the question James really seems to be asking is, “Can THAT faith save him?” Can a faith that has no passion for serving the needy & the less fortunate even be genuine, saving faith? It’s questionable! The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Church of Galatia: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” Galatians 5:6. In other words, if we are “in Christ” HE will produce a faith, in us, that is working through love! God IS love! So, if God— in Christ— is IN us, we’ll love more & more as we are sanctified more & more. We’ll look like Jesus!

-Looking Like Jesus!

He loved the rejects of society, the wounded, the hurting, the forgotten & those who’ve been kicked to the curb! So, if the Spirit of Jesus is “in us”, that has to work its way out through acts of love & service! If you don’t care about those in need around you, perhaps you ought to question if your faith is the real thing! James seems to say that any faith that fails to serve is worthless! What good is it?  Young’s literal translation asks, “What is the profit” of a faith that doesn’t serve? It’s worthless! Jesus lived the most profitable, worthy life ever lived because He lived it for God the Father & for others! For US! He gave Himself up for all the sins of all people of all time! So, how can we say we love Jesus if we live our lives just for ourselves? That’s the message James is trying to get across to the churches he’s writing to:  “A loveless faith is worthless!” It has no value to God; or, to anyone else! He finishes by saying that any faith that fails to serve is DEAD! (v.17)

-As Good As Dead!

He says, “…faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself” (v.17).  He’s NOT preaching that we are saved by good deeds; or, that we serve others to earn our salvation! No! It’s in the serving & the ministry that our “faith” PROVES to be ALIVE! Otherwise, “…it’s dead by itself.” It’s just empty words! The 16th-century reformer, John Calvin, once said:  “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone!” There have to be acts of service & works of love to prove it’s genuine faith. So let me close by making this appeal to you—seek service & ministry opportunities both within your faith community & your city! Not on the basis of obligation; but, because your faith is genuine; and, like Jesus, you’re a “friend of sinners.”

 

The Problem With Loving God!

-What Does It Look Like?

Through the years, I have met many people who claim that they love God; and, I’ve asked them what that looks like! What does it look like to love God? How would you answer that question? In Mark’s gospel, chapter 12, Jesus said:  “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  In fact, Jesus says that to love God personally is THE most important command! But, there’s a 2nd point to draw from His words— we’re called “…to love God WITH ALL WE HAVE.”

-Love God With All We Have!

Therein lies the problem with loving God! How can we love God with all we have; and, again, what does that kind of love look like? Four times He uses the word “ALL”; which, literally means “the WHOLE.” In other words, Jesus is saying that genuine love, for God, has to be “ALL IN.” We can’t love Him half-heartedly; or, we’re a liar!  Real love, for God, is comprehensive! It’s all inclusive! There’s no area of our life that can be left out! We love Him with “…our whole heart…” So, our heart is devoted to Him. There’s no pretense! No hypocrisy! We can’t say we love Him & live our life like He doesn’t exist! We don’t ignore those we truly love, do we?

-Get Emotional Over God!

And, then, Jesus says that to love God with ALL we have—or, to be “ALL IN”—is to love Him “…with all your soul…” Our soul is the seat of our emotions! He gave us emotions so we could love Him & worship Him. So, love Him & worship Him deeply! Get emotional over Him! Desire Him! You ought to be concerned if you can get all emotional over an animal; or, a Hallmark Christmas movie; or, a football game; but, you have no emotions for God! Is that kind of love and faith even genuine? Jesus also says that to love God, with all you have, is to love Him “…with all your mind…” So, while we love Him with our emotions, it’s not mindless emotion! We think about Him; and, we submit our thinking to Him! We love Him because we’ve considered Him! We’ve meditated on Him; and, we’ve made a conscious decision to love Him because we really know Him! We know His infinite worth!

-Love God With Your Strength!

Finally, Jesus says to “…love God with all your strength.” That is the BEST we have! We’re to love Him out of our STRENGTH; NOT, our leftovers! This word relates to our physical being. We love Him in our ACTIONS!—with our hands & our feet! If our love for God is genuine we’ll serve Him and others with a passionate energy—with our STRENGTH! As I worked through this passage, I was moved—I believe by His Spirit—to ask myself the question, “Why do I love God?’ And, one Scripture echoed, “We love Him because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19. I am only capable of loving God with ALL I have because He loved me first! I’m a sinful, broken man; and, the only way I can grow to love God “ALL IN” is by His Spirit’s power!

Worshipers Are Thankful People!

Next Post August 8th

A Little Vacation Time!

-Give Thanks To Yahweh!

The Ark, of God’s covenant with Israel, was coming back to Jerusalem! King David, the newly installed King, made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of Yahweh! You might recall that the Ark had been captured, by the Philistines, while Saul was Israel’s King; and—though it had been returned to them after God broke out against them with plagues—it had been neglected under Saul’s leadership.  So, returning the Ark to Jerusalem was one of King David’s 1st orders. “On that day David decreed for the first time that thanks be given to the Lord by Asaph and his relatives: ‘Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name’ David said, ‘proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!’’-1 Chronicles 16:7-9.

-Where Worship Begins!

God’s Holy Spirit inspired David to write that genuine worship begins with a thankful heart.  It’s his initial point! It’s impossible to worship God rightly if your heart is bitter and unthankful! The old preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once wrote: “All the good that we enjoy comes from God. Recollect that! Alas, most men forget it. Rowland Hill used to say that worldlings were like the hogs under the oak, which eat the acorns, but never think of the oak from which they fell, nor lift up their heads to grunt out a thanksgiving. Yes, so it is. They munch the gift and murmur at the giver.”  True worshippers, of God, must quit taking God’s blessings for granted! Our faith will grow deeper & deeper the more we thank God for everything in life—the good with the bad!

-Worship God In Song!

And, then, David calls out the children, of Israel,  to worship God by singing praise to Him. Notice, it’s NOT a “suggestion”; but, rather it’s an imperative or a command. David doesn’t tell them to sing only if they’re good at it. He’s preaching to the congregation; and, he commands all of them to sing! The psalmist wrote, “make a joyful noise to the Lord”-Psalm 98:4.  It seems that God may actually take a bit more delight when the musically ungifted or unskilled, in the congregation, sing with all their heart, because they’re not doing it for the praise of men; but, for the genuine love of God.

-Worship Is Seeking God!

David also tells the congregation, of Israel, to worship God by seeking Him— “…let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice,” he says, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always” 1 Chronicles 16:10.  It’s an act of worship to seek after God! In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that God “…is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him” (ch. 11:6). God actually REWARDS the worshipper who seeks Him! He hides Himself from those who seek Him for their own selfish interests; from, those, who want Him to be a genie in a bottle. But, to those who seek him so that they might know Him, He will be found! Do you seek Him? Do you pursue Him with greater passion than you pursue the fleeting interests of this world? Only than will you find Him! Seek Him as though He were the greatest treasure in life; because, HE IS!