Christianity 201

January 23, 2022

Baby Steps: Carrying Out Christ’s Most Basic Command

Some will think today’s “baby steps” devotional isn’t very 201-ish. It’s more like 101, or pre-101. But over and over again this weekend it has been impressed on me that the pastors and leaders I’m watching or listening to online are concerned that the church in North America, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand is missing out on Christ’s elementary teaching that we reflect love in all we do and say. Or to put it another way, our orthopraxy matters as much if not more than our orthodoxy. Especially in these times of dissension and division.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7 reminds us here that much of what passes for spiritual activity doesn’t ultimately guarantee us standing before God. I was thinking of this today in reference to a very familiar passage in I Corinthians 13. This is often referred to as “The Love Chapter” though it falls into the middle of a larger passage on spiritual gifts. The actual “Love is patient, love is kind…” section has more affinity with Paul’s teaching on the fruit of the spirit than it does with things he says elsewhere about Christian marriage. Someday in the future, I hope to walk up to Paul and say, “Hey, you know that stuff about how ‘love is patient, love is kind…;’ did you know that used that as part of our wedding ceremonies?” And he’s gonna be like, “Weddings? Wow! I didn’t see that coming.” But I digress.

The set-up to the classic love reading is three verses that are not as well known:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

The principle here applies to many other dynamics of the Christian life. Using the second part of verse 2 as an example:

  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but lack humility, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but am prone to anger, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but ignore the marginalized, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but cause controversy and division, I am nothing.
  • if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have stopped hungering and thirsting after God, I am nothing.

I can be so very spiritual in so many ways but also so very lacking spiritually. It’s interesting to look at the various ways these outward manifestations of great faith are articulated in different translations: (NIV unless indicated)

  • speak in the tongues of men or of angels
  • speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy (Message)
  • speak in different languages (NCV)
  • have the gift of prophecy
  • I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose) (Amp)
  • can fathom all mysteries
  • understood all of God’s secret plans (NLT)
  • understand all the secret things of God (NCV)
  • have the gift to speak what God has revealed (NOG*)
  • can fathom all knowledge
  • speak God’s Word … making everything plain as day (Message)
  • can move mountains
  • my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock (The Voice)
  • give all I possess to the poor
  • give over my body to hardship
  • go to the stake to be burned as a martyr (Message)

[A more complete list of the supernatural gifts can be found in I Cor. 12: 8-10.]

The Voice Bible bookends this first section of chapter 13 with this commentary:

Gifts of the Spirit, which are intended to strengthen the church body, often divide the body because members of the church elevate those who possess the more visible gifts over those whose gifts function in the background. In fact, this is the very problem facing the Corinthians. So while talking about the importance and function of these gifts in chapters 12 and 14, Paul shifts his focus to the central role love plays in a believer’s life in chapter 13. Love is essential for the body to be unified and for members to work together. Members of the body that are very different, with little in common, are able to appreciate and even enjoy others because of the love that comes when a life is submitted to God.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Often, non-believers look at us and merely see religious people busy doing religious things; church people running to and fro with church activities. Or, more specific to today’s passage, they hear of spectacular miracles or visions or healings, but don’t see anything tangible manifested in how we live our daily lives in the neighborhood, the workplace, at the school committee meeting, or at family occasions.

Decades ago, in a book titled The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer exhorted, “Love — and the unity it attests to — is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.”

I’ll admit the third-to-last one in the list, giving all my money to the poor, sounds impressive, but even that can be done in the wrong way or with the wrong motives. (Flip back a few weeks to this devotional.)

In certain Christian quarters, supernatural gifts are treated as the gold standard of faith, but without humility or love, we come up empty; and all our co-workers, neighbors, or extended family see is a preoccupation with religious things that really don’t appeal to their felt needs.


*Names of God Bible, a 2011 edition from Baker Book House just added at Bible Gateway.

November 28, 2021

Ministry for All the Wrong Reasons

This is a part two to yesterday’s post.

We usually don’t continue a theme into a second day, but I felt there were a few more things that could be said about pursuing church growth at all costs, and doing ministry for the sake of having good optics online.

First, later in the day a verse came to me which should have been part of the discussion:

Proverbs 16:2

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord. (NIV)

Because we just spent time in this verse two years ago in a piece titled Motivation Matters, I don’t want to spend a lot of time except to note that God is concerned with the why we do things as much as the what we do.

The apostle Paul saw this happening even back in his day. In Philippians 1 he wrote,

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

I think this is an important passage in our time because ministries do compete with each other, so let’s visit the same verses in The Message:

15-18 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

Paul was able to see the good that could come out of such proclamation, even when the motives were suspect. The grace he shows in this situation is remarkable. In I Cor. 4:4-5 he again says,

My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.  So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due. (NLT)

The last two sentences suggest that are reward will be based on the motives which drove our activities. (Someone has quipped, ‘There will be a lot of surprises in heaven,’ for reasons such as this.)

Although I don’t have a copy, earlier in the year I was intrigued by this book title: Rooting for Rivals: How Collaboration and Generosity Increase the Impact of Leaders, Charities, and Churches (Bethany House, 2018).

When the church growth movement is analyzed, it’s said that much of the growth that takes place is transfer growth, in other words, people moving from one church to another. (This isn’t always true of fresh church plants however, in which genuine overall growth can be measured.) Transfer growth means that church leaders are competing for the same people, the same bodies if I can use that term.

But rivalry can also get to the point of bad-mouthing another organization without justification. The blurb for the book says,

Faith-based organizations are sometimes known for what we’re against—and all too often that includes being against each other. But amid growing distrust of religious institutions, Christ-centered nonprofits have a unique opportunity to link arms and collectively pursue a calling higher than any one organization’s agenda.

In today’s polarized world this comes as no surprise…

…Although I’ve looked at our opening verse many times, it was only today that I caught that it’s repeated at 21:2. Taking one last look, I noticed something at BibleHub.com that I’d also not seen before, the inclusion of the Brenton Septuagint Translation. Its rendering of 21:2 is:

Every man seems to himself righteous; but the Lord directs the hearts.

We can really deceive ourselves sometimes or decide that the end justifies the means. But God’s concern is always deeper.


Again, if you missed yesterday’s thoughts, click here.


Bonus article: It wasn’t the type of article we’d run here, but earlier in the week, Ruth Wilkinson’s conviction and courage converged and she ended up in a very foreign environment and made a new connection. Click here to read.

November 27, 2021

Evangelical Obsessions

Earlier today, tongue-in-cheek, I posted two mis-quoted passages on social media:

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds … to be seen on Instagram. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

and

And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s branding?’

As one gets older, it becomes quite apparent when people are doing ministry for the purpose of promoting themselves and their church or organization. The blurred ministry motives become so blatantly obvious, that you have to ask yourself why the people are not more spiritually self-aware to realize the pride which drives much of their activity is staring them in the face.

First, let’s look at the verses:

And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” – Luke 2:49 NASB

The context is the short snapshot we have of Jesus at 12-years of age when he gets separated from his parents. They retrace their route and find him back “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” vs. 45

The phrase in vs. 49 that Jesus is “being about my Father’s business is unique to the KJV. We’ve never discussed it here before, but the phrase ‘kingdom business’ gets used to describe all manner of church activity (and busy-ness), but it’s important to notice that Jesus was discussing theology, not planning a building program, or starting an organization, or discussing a stewardship campaign.

Our satirical ‘my Father’s branding‘ is seen so frequently these days. It’s about lifting up the name and tag line of a single congregation or organization, not the name of Jesus who ought to be the central focus of the worldwide church referenced in The Apostle’s Creed.  (‘Catholic’ in that context meaning universal.)

The other verse alluded to is

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. – Matthew 6:1 NIV

which is echoed a few verses later:

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. – 6:16 NLT

Practicing good works to be seen on Instagram is more common than you might think. It’s all about optics.

Back in 2014, I looked at this, writing

I Samuel 16 offers us a verse we know but tend not to practice:

7bI do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.

The Louis Segund translation renders it this way:

…l’homme regarde à ce qui frappe les yeux, mais l’Éternel regarde au coeur.

In English, it would read that man looks at what “strikes the eyes;” in other words first impressions and superficial indicators.

Creating Instragram moments in ministry is more commonplace than you might think. Perhaps in some small way it can be justified in that it models or encourages others to think about their own Christian service or lack thereof.

But it’s often a thing in and of itself.

And therefore it’s not about Jesus.

The last part of Matt. 6:5 reads,

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, they [already] have their reward in full. – AMP

This self-promotion mentality goes all the way back to Babel.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:14

They wanted to make a name for themselves; “…This will make us famous…” (NLT) This is so backward and the polar opposite to the upside-down kingdom of Christ which is characterized by humility. Philippians 2: 3 begins

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes…

Four times at Thinking Out Loud, you’ll find this quotation which we heard in a sermon and it has stuck with us.

“There is no limit on what can be done for God, as long as it doesn’t matter who is getting the earthly credit.”

If that’s true, then if a church or organization is always consciously aware of building their own brand, logically, there are going to be limits on what they will be able to accomplish…

…The other Evangelical obsession I want to touch on quickly here is a preoccupation with numbers.

Earlier this week we listened to a podcast where a pastor was clearly boasting about all that his church has accomplished in the last several years and it came out in phrases (which I’ve altered slightly here) like,

  • We have 150 people serving in this department of our ministry
  • We’ve prayed for a thousand people in this area alone
  • We want to be a church of 12,000 people

The numbers I’ve changed, but the substance was real. It was about building a brand, promoting a book, and, inevitably, hosting a conference.

Sadly, it somewhat undermined the good things he shared. Let me clear on that, there were some excellent takeaways that I will remember, but I’ll also remember the attitude and how reminiscent it was of another pastor we’ve been examining on another podcast who eventually crashed spectacularly.

Instead, we should be looking at partnerships where we work in cooperation with other ministries to build the Kingdom.

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. – 1 Cor. 3:8 NLT

The passage that comes to mind here is one where John expresses concern to Jesus that a group that is outside their circle of disciples is ministering in the name of Jesus. Mark chapter 9 (CEB) reads,

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”

39 Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. 40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. 41 I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.

I once heard someone’s unique interpretation of the “mark” in Revelation represented by “666.” They said the mark was simply numbers. It was an interesting take, and one that fits our data-driven society.

We in the church can indeed be easily obsessed with likes, website stats, church growth, average attendance, yearly budgets, numbers of people baptized.

Numerics are simply not the name of the game.

April 17, 2015

Reminder Ministry

Today’s writer is a long-time acquaintance of Thinking Out Loud and C201. Years ago, I ran a profile/interview with Kevin Sanders aka Kuya Kevin, a guy from Alabama who found himself doing youth ministry in The Philippines. He’s now married and back in the U.S. and still blogging at KevinSanders.org

To read today’s article at source — where we’ve also poached a picture of Kevin preaching — click the title below.

The Ministry of Reminding

“I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. . .  “ -Romans 15:14-15

KevinSRCOne of the greatest joys I had in the Philippines was teaching the Scriptures to students who had never really studied them before.  I’d hand out copies of the New Testament and tell them the page number where they could find the passage we would study.  It was the first time many of them had experienced a simple, verse-by-verse discussion of God’s word with someone willing to answer their questions.

The same goes for my preaching ministry: I had to be careful about assuming my listeners knew anything about the text I would be sharing.  This was particularly true in some of the evangelistic preaching opportunities God gave me.

There was something extremely refreshing about doing ministry in this kind of setting.  What an amazing privilege!

This is not to say that Filipinos are Biblically illiterate –- there are thousands of faithful believers there who diligently study the Bible.  But my ministry was focused more on those who were new to the faith.

My ministry took an ironic turn here in the States.  I’ve had the privilege of preaching (short-term) in three churches.  All three congregations were of an older demographic: the average attendee had probably been listening to sermons since before I was born.

“What can I share that they haven’t already heard many times before?”  I asked myself this question as I embarked on this new season of ministry.

God taught me something very important: I don’t have to teach/preach anything “new.”   I’m not saying God lead me to “recycle” old sermon outlines from C.H. Spurgeon.  Preaching, after all, is applying the timeless truths of Scripture to our modern context.  But I realized that preaching is a ministry of reminding for many of us who have had already learned the basics doctrines of the faith.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m always learning new things when I prepare for (or listen to) sermons.  But I’ve let go of the need to hear “I’ve never heard anything like that before” when I preach. I’m just as content to know I have reminded my listeners of things we need to hear over and over again.  Here are a few examples that quickly come to mind:

  • It’s not about us.
  • We can trust God.
  • Life is fleeting.
  • God expects obedience.
  • We are forgiven in Christ.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  We need to constantly hear the gospel preached because we are a forgetful people.  I’m thankful for the ministry of reminding–both as a preacher and hearer of God’s word.

May 22, 2014

Gatekeepers

Nehemiah 7:1

After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.

1 Chronicles 9:26

But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.

Ezra 2:70

The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.
The dictionary of Bible themes tells us that two primary meanings for the term gatekeepers.
Levite temple servants, responsible for protecting the palace and the temple from those who would desecrate it or steal its treasures. City gatekeepers also existed.
In other translators the words doorkeepers, porters, watchmen, and guards are used.
In modern times, especially here in the world of Christian blogs, we have many “watch” ministries who keep an eye on ministry leaders and organizations lest they fall astray.  This type of role is the theme of a lengthy article on this subject at The Christian Gazette  which begins:

Gatekeepers have three primary roles

  1. To protect the Lord’s house.  This means they defend the gospel, the truth of the Word and Protect the holiness of God’s house. Their hearts are on fire with the Fear of the Lord. They want the Lord’s house to be a house of Prayer and they are not content until they see the Lord’s will come to place. The gatekeeper protects the House. They know the scriptures well and are full of understanding. They are bold to speak out against the sins of the church- even if it means they will be mocked, hated or even kicked out of the church. They stay close to the House of the Lord
  2. They keep the Lord’s people on the right path, keeping them from drifting from the Lord. As a staff or sheepdog would keep the sheep together from straying, so the role of gatekeeper is the same. He is responsible to oversee the people, gently guide the drifter back and keep those on the threshold of evil paths from taking another step in the wrong direction. They are bold and not afraid to tell the truth of God;s word, knowing full well they are saving many from the fires of eternal hell.They are prayer warriors and intercessors for the people
  3. They keep watch for the master’s return; ready to usher in the King of Glory

There is also an interesting article at Supplication International which compares the role of gatekeepers and watchmen to the roles of apostles and prophets.

Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are to lay the foundation of the apostles and prophets, they are to lay the foundation of reformation, and reformation will lay the foundations for lasting revivals. –(Eph. 2:20)

Apostles are sent, and prophets are send, apostles come with divine works, and prophets come with divine messengers, apostles are call to be gatekeepers and to open the gates, and prophets are to be watchmen over the gates and to guide the people of the Lord through those gates. Apostles are leaders of leaders, and prophets are called to lead the church through divine guidance. Apostles are first, and prophets are second in the order of church government. –(1 Cor. 12:28)

Apostles and prophets are foundational ministry, revelational ministry, and impartational ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are reformational, revival, social transformation, and harvest ministry, and restoration ministry to the church. Apostles and prophets are supernatural ministry to the body of Christ. –(Eph. 2:20,3:5)

Apostles and prophets are gate ministry to the church, the apostles are gatekeepers at the gates, and prophets are watchmen at the gates, both are called to stand together at the gates. –(Rev. 21:9-21, Matt. 16:18-19, Jn. 4:1-26,Ezek. 3:17-21)

Apostles and prophets have gate ministry, they are gate ministry of the church, they have 12-gate ministry of the church. Each of these 12 gates is apostle and prophet gate ministry, only apostles and prophets can seat at these gates, as gatekeepers and watchmen. –(Isa. 1:26)

This article then goes on to describe the specific ministry of the watchmen at each of the twelve gates in Nehemiah.

watchman-on-the-wallIn our work at the Christian bookstore, a local pastor once described us as gatekeepers. I had never really thought about our work in those terms — in the spiritual warfare metaphor I saw us more as running the supply lines — but I can see both the necessity and how we were already fulfilling the doorkeeping role in many ways and didn’t realize it.

Perhaps there is some area where, although you don’t have authoritative oversight, you can, using the gift of discernment serve as a watch-person or a gatekeeper who can alert ministry leaders in your community to situations that might be of concern.

Read more: Daily Encouragement covers this same theme today in a different way at this post.

 

 

February 6, 2014

Breaking the Predictable Ministry Pattern

Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,  the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Today we pay a return visit to the Living Truth website, the ministry of Charles Price, pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto. You can read this at source here.  For broadcast times of Living Truth in your country, click here.

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” —John 21:6

Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out we have to shake our heads in awe. What is there about Jesus that will surprise us almost every time?

In Luke, Chapter 5, Jesus tells Peter to go out into the deep and let down his nets for a catch. It’d been a long night. They hadn’t caught anything, and Peter was reluctant, but followed Christ’s instructions. Then in John, Chapter 21, Jesus stood by the Sea of Tiberias, and called out to His disciples, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they replied, and He said to them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

On both occasions, the disciples were hesitant and sceptical, but after obeying Jesus’ instructions, they were left in awe of the massive amount of fish they had caught. Why do we think the disciples were fishing out of one side of the boat? Because that’s what they always did. In the process of fishing for people, we like to work in the same way; reduce it to a predictable pattern, because that’s how we’ve learned to do it; however, it does not require the initiative of God. We often diminish the work of God by doing what we’ve done before, and then wonder why we’re not catching any fish.

We have to allow the Lord Jesus, Himself, to be the origin of how we are going to reach out to people. We can’t tie Him down to familiar methods or programs that have met with success before. We simply will not be fruitful operating in automatic mode. Jesus is original every time, and it’s when our relationship with Him is alive and fresh that He initiates, directs and enables. We should not be looking at patterns, but at the principle that lies behind them. The patterns we bury, but the principle remains the same. And that is in our obedience and dependence on Christ, we give Him freedom to operate through us in His way and His time.

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That means we keep in step with Him. Then He says, “And where I am, my servant also will be” (John 12:26).The fixed point is always Jesus, and keeping in step with Him will sometimes take us to unexpected places in unexpected ways. In relationship with Jesus, we learn to discern His will, reading into it all the circumstances of divine providence and divine initiative that works out His purpose. That often means casting our nets in different ways and in different places. It’s when we wait for His direction and follow His leading, that again and again, Jesus will astound us.

Matthew Henry writes:

He from whom nothing is hid, no, not [even] the inhabitants under the waters (Job 26:5), knew on what side of the ship the shoal of fishes was, and to that side he directs them. Note, Divine providence extends itself to things most minute and contingent…

Charles Price’s devotion concludes:

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You amaze me again and again, and I pray, Lord, that I will always be able to discern your voice and follow your leading. Thank You, Lord.

TO REFLECT UPON: How has Jesus led me in an unexpected way?

May 25, 2012

Apostolic Passion

Some of you will recognize the name Floyd McClung in context with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) or more recently, All Nations.  Today we discovered Floyd and his wife (of 40 years) Sally are bloggers, and found this article.  This is lengthy, and you need to click here to read the article in full; what appears below are just a few sample paragraphs:

What is Apostolic Passion?

The term “passion” is used to describe everything from romance to hunger pangs. I don’t know what it means to you, but for me passion means whatever a person is willing to suffer for. In fact, that’s the root meaning of the word. It comes from the Latin paserre, to suffer.  It is what you hunger for so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it.

The word “apostle” means a sent one, a messenger. To be “apostolic” means we are sent people. The apostolic calling of the church includes forging new ways for how we do church and pioneering new places where we do church. To be apostolic is to be radical, to be adventurous, to think strategically and to listen prophetically.

“Apostolic Passion,” therefore, is a deliberate, intentional choice to live for the worship of Jesus in the nations. It has to do with being committed to the point of death to spreading His glory. It’s the quality of those who are on fire for Jesus, who dream of the whole earth being covered with the Glory of the Lord…

Floyd then lists some ways you can tell when you’ve lost such passion, and then begins describing the process of getting it back:

…Paul says in Romans 15 that it is his ambition, his passion, if you will to make Christ known. It began for him with a revelation of Jesus that he nurtured all his adult life. Paul not only encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he kept on meeting Jesus every day. This revelation of Jesus, and his study of God’s purposes, gave birth to Paul’s apostolic passion. Knowing Jesus and making Him known consumed the rest of Paul’s life. He “gloried in Christ Jesus in his service to God” (Rom 15:17). By comparison, everything else was dung, garbage, stinking refuse. Paul’s ambition was born from his understanding that God longed for His Son to be glorified in the nations. Paul did not waste his passion, but focused it on spreading the glory of God to the Gentiles, that they “…might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:16).

Human enthusiasm cannot sustain apostolic passion. When God invests His own passion in you, you must build and develop what God has given you. Four things will help make that happen:

1. Apostolic Abandonment

Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. This strong-willed, opinionated man knew that he must die to self. He knew that in his flesh, he couldn’t generate the revelation of Jesus; he couldn’t sustain the heart of Christ. So he died. He abandoned his life. He abandoned himself…

2. Apostolic Focus

The greatest enemy of the ambition to see Jesus worshiped in the nations is lack of focus. You can run around expending energy on all sorts of good ministries, and not get one step closer to the nations. I don’t have anything against all the projects and ministries out there done in God’s name. God’s people do them, and I don’t question their obedience to God. But the Church has an apostolic calling, an apostolic mission. God has called us to the nations. We must focus, or we won’t obey.

Focus on what? I believe God wants a people for Himself. Activity for God without a sharing God’s passion to have a people for Himself is good activity, but it’s not the mission of God. You can have evangelism without fulfilling God’s mission. You can care for the poor without connecting with God’s mission. You can do short-term outreach without obeying God’s mission…

3. Apostolic Praying

A young man in Bible school offered to help David Wilkerson years ago when he was ministering on the streets of New York City. Wilkerson asked him how much time he spent in prayer. The young student estimated about 20 minutes a day. Wilkerson told him, “Go back, young man. Go back for a month and pray two hours a ay, every day for 30 days. When you’ve done that, come back. Come back, and I might consider turning you loose on the streets where there is murder, rape, violence and danger. If I sent you out now on 20 minutes a day, I’d be sending a soldier into battle without any weapons, and you would get killed.”…

Paul said that he prayed “night and day with tears without ceasing with thankfulness in the Spirit constantly boldly for godly sorrow against the evil one.”

4. Apostolic Decision-Making

If you live without a vision of the glory of God filling the whole earth, you are in danger of serving your own dreams of greatness, as you wait to do “the next thing” God tells you. There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun…

…Apostolic decision-making starts with a passion for God’s glory in the nations, then asks: “Where shall I serve you?” Most people do the opposite. They ask the where-and-when questions without a revelation of His glory in the nations. Is it any wonder they never hear God say “go!” They have not cultivated a passion for the passions of God. Lesser desires are holding them captive…

Read the entire article

Here’s a short article by Floyd  on this subject for church leaders.

June 19, 2011

Adding to “Male nor female, slave nor free…”

You know the verse.  In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…  The ground is level at the foot of the cross.  But when it comes to serving God, sometimes I wish the verse also said, “…neither young nor old, academic nor uneducated, rich nor poor.”  The call to active service in ministry is open to all who have surrendered their lives to Christ, regardless of their station in life. Rick Apperson captured the heart of that this weekend at his blog, Just a Thought, with this post he titled, Age is Relative

You are never too young, too old, too uneducated, too poor, or too busy to serve the Lord!

I wasn’t much older than 20 when I was asked to be a youth pastor. I was the missions director of my church at 15. When I was 21, I traveled with an itinerant evangelist in his late 70’s. I could not keep up with his energy!

It is a sad, but true fact, that over the years, the church has relegated the young and the aged to the pews and youth groups. I have heard numerous stories of people who were told that they needed to be older in order to serve God. I have also seen the elderly members of a church ignored when it came to ministry opportunities.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

 How can we do good? By serving others, by loving others and by sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. For that job description, age doesn’t matter.
You may be familiar with this Scripture:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;” (Acts 2:17)

I like the following passage found in Joshua 14. Caleb is telling part of his story to Joshua and the Israelites and he says this:

And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

He was 85 years old and still ready to go for God! However, even the youth can be mightily used by God! Remember, Samuel the prophet was called by God as a youth.

The Bible talks of two kings: Joash who assumed the throne at the age of seven; and Josiah who became king at the age of eight. The Bible says that both of them obeyed the Lord. (2 Kings 12:2, 2 Kings 22:2)

Nor do you need to be educated to serve God. True Biblical education happens when you leave the Bible College, the missionary training school, etc… . It happens just like it did for the apostles…when you rub up against the world. Remember that Peter and a few of the others were just plain old, uneducated fishermen. Yet God used these uneducated men to change the world!

I am not knocking education; however, any education or lack thereof, is not an excuse to sit idly by on the sidelines and hope others will share the love of Jesus Christ. Any one at any age can and should do that. The Great Commission is for all of us!

December 31, 2010

We Don’t Need Another Hero

When Pete Wilson mentioned this piece, which he originally titled Plodding Visionaries, as one of his top posts of 2010, I decided to give it another read.    It’s true.   We don’t need another Christian superstar.

So this is me, re-blogging Pete re-blogging Keven…

So, I read a blog post last week that has challenged me all weekend as I’ve reflected back on it. I rarely quote this much of someone’s blog post but I couldn’t do it justice any other way. The following post was written by Keven DeYoung on the Ligonier Ministries blog. Do yourself a favor and read the post in its entirety.

I’m quite confident many of you won’t agree with the entire thing but man did he challenge me. There are times I get so frustrated with the church that I just want to scream and walk away. Generally it’s because I see something in her that reminds me of something glaringly obvious in my own life.  Trying to consistently lead a church to be everything God has called her to be is the biggest challenge of my life. So thankful for all the “plodders” God has put around me. Don’t know where I would be without you!!

It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being un-Biblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risk-taking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono — Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too — same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people.

But in all the smallness and sameness, God works — like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days.

Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.