Every time I am in Togo, West Africa, I notice something in every village we enter in to.
They all look different. Some look like a blob of cement or clay and others are a little bit more detailed. No matter what, every village has one.
These idols represent a deity that the people in that area sacrifice to. It's like when you enter your neighborhood and there is a sign with the name of your neighborhood on it. This sign represents where you live.
The difference is, you probably don't give up the only meat that you and your family will eat that week, to this stone image.
You don't look at that sign for protection or peace.
You probably aren't concerned with your sign not being pleased with you and as a result becoming cursed.
This is a daily worry and responsibility that these people deal with.
It is so easy to see how the enemy works in this area of the world. I mean we all know the ten commandments, right?
"Thou shalt worship a stone image"?
Kids are born every single day in Togo and grow up thinking that they have to please this stone and the deity that it represents to have a prosperous life. They will worry about not having the proper amount of food to sacrifice to this idol and go without food themselves.
It is so easy to sit back and think, "wow! How could they live that way?". "How don't they see how foolish this is?"
I grew up as a pastors kid and am so thankful and blessed to have been brought up in Gospel centered family that shared the love and hope of Jesus. One day I made my own decision to follow Him and was forever changed.
The reality is, these people have not. They have grown up in a family that clung to the hope of an idol. They don't know about the One True God who created them. They don't know about His only Son who sacrificed Himself for them so that they will never have to sacrifice anything to find favor. They don't know that they can have hope, peace and freedom in Christ.
Romans 10:14-15 says,
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Can you imagine living a life trying to please someone and never being able to live up to the demands? Can you imagine living in fear and desperation, just looking for some hope? Can you imagine being so lost that you just didn't know what to do any more?
The answer to all of those should be, YES!
Because before you knew Jesus, that was you.
Maybe you were lucky enough to not grow up in the eleventh poorest country in the world. What a blessing!
Yeah, your life before Christ may have looked a little different than someone who has grown up in a voodoo culture.
But the result is still the same. You. Were. Lost...
Now, you're not! Now you have a hope! You have Good News to share with those who don't know!
Never take for granted the gift of salvation.
Have you ever questioned your "calling" in life?
"Calling" is a hot topic in the church because it is so important but sometimes we over complicate it.
This message walks alongside Moses and his journey to discover what God had for him.
Learn how to discover your calling!
In culture today, we are so careful to be politically correct for fear of offending someone.
No matter what is done or said, it seems to offend someone these days. Anything is considered offensive now if one person claims to have been offended. That's all it takes.
We are so careful to be offensive to someone or be offended ourselves. Especially when it comes to religion.
I think that is so interesting when the Gospel we believe in is the most offensive. If we don't feel personally offended every time we read scripture and allow it to analyze our hearts and lives, then we are reading it wrong.
In John 6 we find a story of Jesus preaching in a synagogue. What he is teaching makes quite a few people upset.
Jesus claims that He is the "living bread" in verse 51. He then says that "this bread is his flesh" and that you live forever when you eat it. Then he goes on to say to drink His blood. I can only imagine what this crowd was thinking.
Jesus is asking a lot from them. This is how they respond to all of it...
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, 'This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'
These followers of Jesus were just confronted with something that didn't quite make since. It made them a little bit uncomfortable.... well maybe a lot.
Jesus has quite clearly offended the crowd. He's about to offend them even more...
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
Jesus calls out the ones that are questioning him. He is about to see who is here to just to see some cool things and who is really here to follow him.
These people are now confronted with the decision to allow this offensive truth filter through their life and put their faith to action... or give up and leave.
The truth of the Gospel always demands a decision and it always weeds out the spectators from the players.
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Only the original 12 remained.
It's scary to see the response from these so-called followers. They were amazed at what Jesus just did by feeding the 5 thousand earlier in this chapter... but as soon as Jesus said something to make them uncomfortable it changed everything for these followers.
I am concerned for our own churches today. I am so afraid that we have so many spectators that are just hanging around for all the great things that God will do, but the moment it becomes a little hard to obey and follow they will give up and leave.
You know, it's interesting that as Christians we call ourselves "followers of Christ". To follow means you have to actually be moving and pursuing Christ. Following takes action. So, if being a Christian means to follow Christ and there is no active movement is there a Christian?
I am so frightened that our churches hold far too many people who are watching Jesus and they think that's good enough.
The Gospel is offensive! It creates tension in our lives not to bring us down, but to build us up. This tension is called conviction and conviction is when we allow the Truth of God to be a mirror into our life. Once we see the ugliness of our sin we can claim victory over it in the name of Jesus and grow.
I am burdened for the ones that do not allow conviction to change them. They run away and hide from it as if ignorance is bliss.
We can't afford to water the Truth down. We can't afford todays culture of political correctness to stop the True work of the Gospel and the Holy spirit in our lives. It's not supposed to be easy. It's not supposed to be comfortable. It's just simply supposed to be Truth and that Truth moves us closer and closer to our Creator.
Maybe, the title of this blog makes you a little uncomfortable. Maybe, it makes you a little upset and up for a good challenging argument. What ever emotion you are feeling, just hear me out...
I think the church in America has completely lost what it is to be the Church.
I want you to seriously consider and ask yourself this question.... does my church look like the church that Jesus described in the New Testament?
When reading Acts, the launch of the church planting movement, can you honestly say "my church is a good representation of that"?
In this season of life I find myself in a bunch of churches. All different kinds of churches. Non-Denom, southern baptist, charismatic, conservative... the works. And I am sad to say that there are so few churches that look like the church I read of in the New Testament.
On a positive note, there are some! And these churches are doing incredible things and seeing God move in unbeleivable ways! Some churches even openly acknowledge they have done it wrong for far to long and are attempting to get back on track.
But... not the majority.
Here's the problem... pastors are teaching their people the wrong thing.
I spoke at a church in the South Florida area and I spoke on Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20. You know.... the typical missionary passages. (you can listen to it here. It is the same message but at a different church)
I spoke primarily on how we are all commanded to go regardless of geographical location.
It was really meant to motivate people and move them to get out of the church building and actually be the church! I was commissioning them to go and make disciples just like Jesus commanded us!
At the end of the service I had this very nice lady who walked up to me and told me that she appreciated my message. She than told me a story about the family that lives next door to hers and how they always invite them over for dinner.
She then proceeded to tell me, quite proudly, that she always tells them; "I'll come to dinner when you come to church with me!"..... So far neither has happened.
In my mind I immediately began thinking, "did she hear my message at all?".
I very respectfully replied, "well what if you went to dinner and brought church to them? Who knows, maybe they will even one day come to church after all."
This story is the perfect example of the problem in our churches today. And pastors, we have to take responsibility for it. We have communicated this message of "bring your lost friends to church and we will take it from there"! Wether this was intentional or not, we have to honestly look into our churches and ask, "who is actually Going"?
We have to commission our people to go and make disciples just like Jesus did! And we need to help them realize that they really can do this. This isn't a job simply for pastors. We are "the Royal Priesthood of believers" (1 Peter 2:9)!
It's time we get back to being the church rather than going to church.
On my last trip to Togo, I got to witness the incredible Gospel movement that God is starting there.
He is truly lighting up the darkness.
While I was there the team recieved an incredibly generous donation of a partner church and we were able to purchase new property for a brand new church plant.
I had the opportunity to go walk the land and see all that God is going to do in this area.
This story is the perfect example of why we do what we do.
As we were walking through the villages, dreaming of all the posibilities with one of our local pastors, a man approached us.
We were just exploring what could be and will be and this man walks up and says something in French. They translated it for me and this local man had come and said, "I feel like you have something to tell me".
"Are you serious?", I asked.
Did that really just happen? Did he really just come up and ask us to share the Gospel with him?
He sure did!
They spent the next twenty minutes or so sharing the incredible story of our savior with this man who had quite possibly never heard it before.
This could be the very first person in the entire village that heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. He did not come to Christ on that day. Pastor Joshua invited to his church just a kilometer up the road, but in this culture it would be very rare for someone to walk that far.
But this summer (2018) this man will have a brand new church were he and many more in his village could hear the Gospel and be discipled.
Hundred will have the opportunity to make the ultimate decision to trust Jesus as their savior and live forever changed. They will then be discipled to go out and make more disciples.
This is why we do what we do.
The Gospel is needed. It's desired. It's just not known in Togo.
But it's coming! God is moving in Togo and stiring a complete revival!
Join us in prayer for this movement and find out how you can be a part of the incredible opportunity of reaching the unreached.
In our society, we seem to have such a strong desire to make sure that anyone who does something bad to us, has some sort of judgement or punishment. We really just want to make sure people get what they deserve.
Am I right?
Nobody wants to see someone have good things happen to them if we feel that they have wronged us or wronged someone else.
We are almost obsessed with this.
Just read the news sometime.
Just listen to a random conversation.
It is all over the place. And my favorite part is everyone thinks that they are the right ones.
It sounds like a perfect world when everyone that does something wrong to us is called out and brought to justice.
If you aren't a follower of Christ, I don't expect you to understand or care about what I am about to say next, but I think it would improve your life if you applied this principle.
If you are a Christ follower... stop fighting for judgement and punishment in people’s lives just because you think they deserve it!
What right do you have?
Last I checked, we are convicted felons on our way to Hell.... but something called GRACE was shown to us. And you know what... that grace ruined everything.
That grace broke the chains that we were eternally destined for. Grace ruined the black and white version of what should be done to those who wrong us.
Grace ruined everything!
And if you have experienced this Grace, it should change the way you give it.
The bible is full of stories of this ridiculous grace. One of my favorites is the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50).
Joseph was loved by his father but his older brothers were jealous of him and couldn't stand Joseph.
Joseph kept having dreams that represented his entire family bowing down to him. This was too much for his brothers so they planned on killing him.
They don't kill Joseph but they do sell him into slavery and tell their father that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
Just that alone sounds pretty unforgivable, right?
Well, the story for Joseph get a little crazier. He finds himself in Egypt, working for Potiphar. Potiphar loves Joseph and puts him in charge of his entire house.
Potiphar’s wife also likes Joseph and frames him after Joseph shows incredible integrity and character by not sleeping with his masters wife.
Joseph finds himself in prison now because of the lies of this woman. Pretty unforgivable, right?
Joseph finds favor with the jailer and he puts him in charge of all the prisoners. He interprets two dreams and asked the prisoner that would be restored to Pharaoh's house, to remember him.
After the dreams that Joseph interpreted played out exactly like he said it would, the prisoner forgot about him. He went back to work while Joseph remained in prison. Totally unforgivable, right?
A few years later the prisoner seems to remember Joseph when Pharaoh needs a dream interpreted. Long story short, Joseph interprets it and becomes the second in command in Egypt. Things are finally looking up!
Now Joseph's brothers re-enter the scene...
Joseph has so much power now and could do anything he wanted to get revenge on his brothers who absolutely wronged him.
But Joseph doesn't do that.
Come on Joseph! Seriously? You have them right where you want them!
Joseph shows the most ridiculous grace ever to the family that hated him before.
Joseph could have brought the hammer down and no one would have judged him. They may have even nodded in approval.
But grace ruined any "right" Joseph had to get revenge.
The same way that grace ruined your eternal destiny is the same grace that ruins your right to bring judgement on those that do wrong to you.
I know it doesn't make since!
But neither does the grace that Christ showed you!
It is an absolutely ridiculous love that Christ has shown. It is a grace that makes no since.
That is the grace we are supposed to give to everyone.
So let’s be a generation that loves ridiculously!
A society that gives grace unconditionally!
We do this because GRACE RUINS EVERYTHING!