It doesn’t matter

In a world where everyone wants something to matter, there are a few things that don’t matter at all when it comes to our Commission as believers.

1. It doesn’t matter where you are.

Matthew 14:13

Bono had it right when he penned these words:

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

We can get so caught up in our doing that we don’t notice that Jesus has gone somewhere else and we’ve failed to follow. The crowds that followed knew that Jesus had something they needed. It didn’t matter that he was in a boat and they were on land. They followed.

There are times that we may be hesitant to leave what we’re doing because we have so much time, energy, and resources invested. But is it really worth missing Jesus? We must all learn to keep our eyes on him and follow at a moments notice.

2. It doesn’t matter how you feel.

Matthew 14:14

Jesus had just received news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded in prison. He wanted to be alone. Yet the crowds followed him and, even in his grief, he had compassion, ministered to them, and healed the sick. Whether we feel like it or not, our call to minister doesn’t go away or get put on hold. Jesus didn’t say, “When you feel like it, maybe go across the street and tell someone about me.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

How we feel is not included in our call. In the following verses we will see that, even in one of his darkest moments as a man, Jesus was able to perform a great miracle and reach thousands of people. Perhaps by going ahead, especially when we don’t feel like it, God is able to accomplish more through us.

3. It doesn’t matter what is (or isn’t) in your hands.

Matthew 14:19

If you’re a pastor or a leader in your church and 10,000 people show up one Sunday and want to stick around all day, what would you do? Feed them or send them off with an invitation to return and hope they’ll come back? If the disciples had their way, they’d have sent away the crowds. Their hands were empty. Jesus had been performing miracles all day and the men who were closest to him still didn’t see that just because their hands were empty, it didn’t mean they had nothing.

Whether we feel qualified or equipped to fulfill the Great Commission is irrelevant. What’s in our hands doesn’t matter. It’s probably even better if our hands are empty because then we have no other recourse than to depend on what’s in Jesus’ hands.

When Jesus handed off the bread and fish to the disciples, they then handed it off to the people. And then it came back—far more than what they’d started with. Every hand that touched the food was a part of the miracle and as more people handled it, the greater it became.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

The message of Jesus is completely counter to our culture. We cannot maintain popular ideals and still be effective in ministry.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 4:30 (NIV)

Power to the people

As a church leader, it always surprises me when I hear Christians say that they have no need of the local church. They’re good to worship God alone in the privacy of their own home. I don’t disagree with private and personal worship, but I strongly disagree with individuals distancing themselves from the group that Jesus himself ordained.

Reading through the Book of Acts, I am more and more convinced of the benefit as well as the need for Christians to be a part of a local body. In an article titled 4 Reasons Christians Need the Church, the following reasons are given:

  • We need other Christians. If you want to know what you believe, listen to what your friends say. The more time we spend around people who ridicule God, the more we allow their attitudes to affect our thoughts and attitudes. The more time we spend with God’s people and in His presence, the more like Jesus we become.

  • We need opportunities to discover our spiritual gifts, Every one of us has a skill God wants to use to help others know Him and follow Him. We will never uncover what God has equipped and called us to do if we don’t get involved.

  • We need authority. We don’t have to believe anything anyone tells us about God. He appointed men and women in the church to lead us and to teach us. God gave us the Bible and the church so we can know what’s from Him. Through the church’s authority structure, we can test and see what’s of God and what isn’t when we can’t tell on our own. When we’ve prayed, read the Bible and still aren’t sure what to do, the church is where we go for advice.

  • We never stop needing grace. Church people are not perfect people. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are going to screw up, fall short and sin. And when we do, we need a place where we can come to be healed, restored and renewed. That place is the church.

I believe there are a few other reasons why Christians need the church.

  • We need to see signs and wonders. That I can find, the Bible has no record of a single person going around performing miracles with absolutely no support system. Miracles, signs and wonders are always tied to a group of people serving God. When we see God move, our faith is stirred to see Him move in more and greater ways.
  • We need accountability. Try driving your car down road a dark night with no moon or stars, and no headlights to light your path. How long are you able to stay on the road? Our church family is there to help keep us on the road. Do we always like to be corrected? Certainly not! But it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. By walking out our faith together, we keep each other on the right path. Alone, people have the tendency to wander and get lost.

And finally:

  • There is great strength in numbers. Study revivals. Study the great evangelists of the modern era. When people gather with a common purpose, God moves in mighty ways. When God moves mightily, people will come to watch. Soon those people have been added to the Church and more people will come to see what’s happening. Yes, the church can grow by individuals discipling individuals. In fact, we need mentors. But we also need numbers. The Great Commission is not a solo project. It is a global project.

Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people… And more and more people were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16

All the reasons why

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)

In my life, I think I’ve been both Martha and Mary. I’ve been concerned about getting everything just so and complaining about the people who sit around seemingly doing nothing at all. And I’ve been the one sitting and drinking in what is being offered rather than running around making sure everything runs smoothly.

If you’re a Martha, you’re not necessarily wrong. Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke her. He didn’t tell her that what she’d been doing was wrong. He told her that there were more important things.

If you’re a Mary, I believe that there are some times that we need to look to Martha for direction. But, Jesus knew he would only be with these people for a short time. He had to teach them as much as he could before his time on earth was up. Mary was right to pay as close attention to him as she did.

In our Christian walk, there is a time to emulate both of these women. If we act like Martha all the time, we can very easily fall into empty works. We get so busy doing that we can forget the reason why we’re doing it in the first place. If we act like Mary all the time, we risk becoming spiritual gluttons. If you’re always being fed and never doing the work, you become at fat and useless Christian because you will never be able to fulfil the Great Commission of bringing the Gospel to a lost world.

If you’re working, take a break to refresh yourself in the Word of God. If you’re being taught, go out and put what you’ve learned to work. Whether you’re Martha doing the work or Mary being taught, don’t let yourself forget all the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42

Shake the dust off

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

Mark 16:15 (NLT)

This verse is probably as well known to you as John 3:16. We call it the Great Commission. Every Christian is called to bring the Good News to a lost world. But what if the lost world doesn’t want the Good News?

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.

Mark 16:16 (NLT)

It sounds a little harsh, doesn’t it? Some churches might even preach that hearing the Good News is good enough. Surely God wouldn’t condemn someone who has heard His Gospel.

Yet that is exactly what this scripture says. Believe and be saved. Refuse and be condemned. It’s a pretty simple, but hard truth to swallow. And, once we come to the realisation that not all who hear the Good News will accept it, how do we, as the ones who present that Gospel deal with the guilt of seeing someone condemned to a life of eternal torment?

We shake the dust off our feet and move on.

If the people of the village won’t receive your message when you enter it, shake off its dust from your feet as you leave. It is a sign that you have abandoned that village to its fate.

Luke 9:5 (NLT)

We can and should hold ourselves responsible to the Great Commission. We should be sharing the Gospel and spreading the Good News to the best of our ability, but we cannot and should not hold ourselves accountable for those who refuse our message. In Luke 8, Jesus addresses the different types of people that will hear the Word. He wouldn’t have talked about the seeds that would never grow if everyone who heard the Good News accepted it with joy.

Let this lesson free you—not from the burden to share the message of salvation—but from the guilt that may come when there are those who refuse your message. If you have prepared yourself and presented Jesus to the very best of your ability, you have fulfilled your Commission. If your message isn’t received, shake the dust from you feet and move on encouraged that you are still doing the work of the Father.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 10-11, Luke 9:1-36

With you always

As a single person who lives alone, I find it difficult (and sometimes even unappealing) to imagine never being alone. But that is exactly what Jesus promised when he appeared to his disciples after being raised from the dead.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:20b

This statement immediately followed what we now refer to as The Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

Matthew 28:18-20a

When we take our roles as disciples of Christ seriously. When we do his work. He is with us always. And not only is he with us, his power is to. That complete authority in heaven and on earth follows us around giving us the power we need to complete the Commission. Always.

Daily Bible reading: Leviticus 20-21, Matthew 28:1-20

We can work it out

Did you know that every Christian is called to full-time ministry?

But wait! I don’t want to be a pastor!

Full-time ministry isn’t just what we refer to as the five-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers according to Ephesians 4:11). Full-time ministry is the Great Commission.

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Mark 16:15 (ESV)

Some – a lot of – people really aren’t called to preach. We make a mistake when we believe that ministry is limited to those five specific roles. But there are other roles in ministry that are just as, if not more, important than preaching and teaching.

In Acts, we see that there were certain people whose physical needs were being neglected. Now, if all the Church had to offer were pastors, those people would never have their daily needs met. Instead, the disciples held a meeting and said, “Hey, you guys, we feel we need to keep on preaching, but we need some help in other areas. Who’s in?” (Paraphrase.)

So a group of people who were full of faith and the Holy Spirit were appointed and anointed to do a different work. These weren’t lesser men by any means. They were called to a different type of ministry.

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit… These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:5-7 (ESV)

Did you know that the Gospel can be proclaimed just loudly with a helping hand as it can from a stage with a microphone in your hand?

There is a place for everyone in the ministry. If you know it’s not your job to be doing the preaching and teaching and prophesying, look for another area where you can use your gifts to help spread the Word. If you’re still not sure, ask your pastor or church leaders. I know I can speak for my own church when I say that we will never turn down willing hands.

Daily Bible reading: Esther 7-10; Acts 6

Prayer for the Church

I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time reading the news these days. When it comes to politics and law, a lot of changes are being made. A lot of changes that – whether you realise it or not – affect the Church. And by church, I don’t necessarily mean individual churches or organisations, I mean The Church. The global Church. A group of individual believers striving together for the Great Commission. There are individual churches that I do no include in this group.

But the church is the church, isn’t it?

Is it?

Reading through the book of Nehemiah, I am struck by how relevant the prophets words are even today. Nehemiah has taken on the great task of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem and at every turn, he’s met by resistance.

And they plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.

Nehemiah 4:8 (ESV)

Does this sound like anything that’s happening right now? Government officials along with public opinion are pushing against the church trying to cause confusion. Telling half-truths (which are really lies) or outright lies insisting this is the way things are and that to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ is considered hateful.

In the fifty-two days it took to rebuild the wall, the Jews banded together. Not only did they work together, they fought together. There were workers and their were soldiers. And even the workers had swords strapped to their sides while they worked.

Do no be mistaken, Christianity is not for the faint of heart. We are not called to a happy little hippy community to sit around draping each other with daisy chains. There is a war and it is real and it’s not just being fought in the Middle East. It’s a war that is already in our schools, our churches, and our homes.

My prayer for the Church is this:

God, let us stand strong.
Set a guard of protection around our hearts and minds.
Lead us in the Truth.
Your Truth.
And only Your Truth.
Help us to stand when the world would see us fall.
Give us strength when the world sees us as weak.
Make our mind and path clear.
Go before us.
Victorious.

If you’re Canadian, remember this: engraved on the tower of Parliament is Psalm 72:8 – He shall have dominion also from sea to sea.

If you’re American, look at the change in your pocket. In God we trust.

The founders of our countries knew what they were doing even if many of our current leaders don’t. These ideals were firmly set in the foundation of our nations and, if we don’t stand up and fight for them, they will be removed and anything and everything that was built on them will crumble.

I leave you with Nehemiah’s words:

Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.

Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 4-6; Acts 2:14-47