I was reading the account of the time William Booth sent out his annual Christmas encouragement to his workers. Times were tough and the ministry didn't have much money, he only had enough to send one word, he chose the word "others".

This got me thinking of where we are in our present day culture. The bible says in the last days men would be "lovers of themselves". In our quest to be relevant to our culture, I fear our culture may have more influence on us then we think.

Our Christian walk can easily turn into a self help program or worse a self love program. Jesus speaks in Mathew about this reality taking people by surprise at the judgement when he separates the sheep from the goats.

Our ministry to the lord is linked with our ministry to people, probably more than we think. It's very clear when Jesus judges the nations many will be shocked at the revelation that the heart of God is for "others" this really messes with our me Christianity that most have come to know.

Yes we are called to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling and yes we are to love God first, but Jesus spoke much about laying down our lives.

In the Iraq war re enlistment has always been way up. The media never mentions this but it's true. Why do they re-enlist?

They re-enlist for "others" they go back to help their fellow soldiers, they fight for each other. This really needs to happen again in the church. The bond that is formed in battle is one that's not easily broken. It's a committed love that produces courage and trust, I believe this only comes by laying our lives down for others, for the vision Jesus set before us.

In this "what's in it for me generation" of self lovers we are called to be different.
We are called to love, to sacrifice, to go the extra mile, called to reach out at the risk of looking foolish or being rejected.

The gospel is an escape from the coming judgement, yes it's wonderful to live for God but our freedom is for others. It's not so we can just shake our "ankles" for the lord. It's not so we can just have a happy life until Jesus comes.name=
I remember waiting for the Christmas parade to start in downtown Winston Salem this past December. Just before the parade a few thousand people lined both sides of fourth street eagerly awaiting the parade.

I couldn't help but think about preaching the Gospel at full volume in the middle of the street. I also couldn't help but think how inappropriate that would be.

Well that's the million dollar question isn't it. When is it appropriate to share the gospel? Are people really going to hell?

Did God really commission the Church to bring the good news miracles signs and wonders?

Is God really expecting us to penetrate this world with the Gospel?

I guess I would have to say it is absolutely appropriate. We tend to er on the side of caution more worried about how we come across or if this is the right time.

We listen to that voice of sophistication that says " oh that would be inappropriate."

Jesus said "today is the day of salvation" I know we really don't have much persecution in this country maybe it's because were so passive and cautious about bringing the truth.

Here's an account I found of how Timothy was martyred:

Timothy tried to halt a pagan procession of idols, ceremonies, and songs. In response to his preaching of the gospel, the angry pagans beat him, dragged him through the streets, andstoned him to death.

The Christmas parade we watched was probably just as bad as the one Timothy couldn't sit still for. Santa, a Homo float and one with a transvestite waving to all of us. Next time I need to be more bold.

Are we more worried about offending people then offending God?

Is there actually a godly tangible boldness, a cheerful courage available for us to walk in ?

I believe there is!

What are we seeking first?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and happened to invite him to go on outreach with us. He responded by saying "hey maybe I will if I don't have anything else to do later".

I new we wouldn't see him because the reality is there is always "something to do later". This is one of the main strategies from hell to keep us distracted from the very heart of God.

Maybe his response just came out wrong, but it really got me thinking. This is the mindset in much of our Christian culture today. Jesus said seek first the kingdom and His righteousness but to many times we try to fit it in when we have time.

Our natural tendency is to take the best for ourselves and give God what's left. The default setting for our flesh is always the path of least resistance.

We purposely schedule our outreaches many times at the best time of the day to help break us out of our selfish mindset, because the reality is, we will never have the time, love will always challenge us to take the time. When we do, God always seams to heap on us much more than we could ever gather for ourselves.

What ever happened to good old fashioned giving God our best. I believe if we just got back to basic worship, things would radically change. Instead of giving God left overs what if we gave him our first fruits in every area.

What if what we gave him actually cost us something. "Ouch"( that's starting to hurt a bit) but seriously, What if a new culture is emerging where God gets the "prime time slot".

What if a new breed of Christians is emerging who won't love their lives unto death. A people sold on being followers and not just believers.

What if as the darkness covers the earth and deep darkness the people, the Lord arises over us and His glory is seen upon us.

I believe it's coming, it's here and I want in on it!

No guts no glory

Jesus warned of a wave of deception that would come in the times we live in. One of the dangers of our generation is that we are increasingly elevating image over reality. Think about it, with the introduction of the internet, many people today have much of their identity wrapped up in their online "image".

My space, face book even blogs can present an image that isn't exactly reality. Even our communication e-mail, texting etc...takes away some of the face to face accountability and reality of life.

Although these tools can be useful we need to be careful. Worshipping image over reality will be one of the greatest tests that comes upon the world. We are extremely vulnerable, if we don't hold to the truth we will be deceived.

Sadly many believers are caught up in this as well. Many of our websites, blogs, my space etc.. even our vision statements can be designed to impress and portray an image that isn't reality at all. Don't get me wrong I'm all for technology but we need to be careful we don't leave reality behind.

I began to think about this last year as I visited a church, they had a holiday outreach with a handbook to go with it. The pastor gave some of his testimony in the first part of the book and he prefaced it with an apology. He said he usually writes more academically, but so people could better understand, he would write more plainly. (I guess he was referring to us peasants and chickens.)

Well since I don't have as many letters in front of my name as this "highly intellectual" pastor, I went and looked up the word academic. Here's one of the definitions:

Theoretical or hypothetical; not practical,realistic ,or directly useful.

Bingo, that describes much of whats going on in these times. Much of what is preached today is very theoretical, not practical, realistic or directly useful at all. It's evident in a lot of christian bookstores where the christian fiction section is growing and growing and the applied truth section is shrinking. This breeds a comparing of ourselves among ourselves mentality and a false image based Christianity.

This type of deception is what Jesus warned us of. He also warned of the leaven of the Pharisees. He said do as they say but don't do as they do. They had a religion of image and not truth, sacrifice but not mercy.

The never ending search for another way will always be a temptation. There is a way that seems right, but it's end is the way of death.

Living for God will never be convenient, true love never is. Reaching the world with the gospel of the kingdom will never be easy it will always require courage and sacrifice.

The testimony for every follower of Jesus Christ will always be, he who endures to the end will be saved........No guts.......No glory!

Our unchanging mandate

Jesus said there is a time coming when we will be hated by all nations for His names sake. It used to be hard to imagine that our generation would see such times, but I think it's obvious they may be closer then we think.

Although our world is ever changing, the bible is very clear, our mandate never changes. The call to spread the gospel, make disciples and release the kingdom is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago. In the United States we still have freedom to preach the gospel. In many other nations there is still favor and freedom to preach. Many people are still very open to hear the gospel, however things won't always be this way.

An accelerated change is occurring world wide, the stage is being set and lines are being drawn. The spirit of the world and the Spirit of God are headed right for each other and soon everyone will have to choose.

If we can't keep ourselves motivated in a time of peace, how will we in a time of persecution. How will we stand when the atmosphere changes? Will we suddenly be enabled with courage and boldness from on high supernaturally? I hope so but it's not likely, the grace and enabling is released in the going, it will always require a sacrifice on our part. Jesus said " he who has, more will be given but he who doesn't have even what he seems to have will be taken from him."

In the parable of the talents the wicked and lazy servants excuse was fear and a mindset that says"it's hard and it's just not for me." The comfort that comes with disobedience, is only temporary, and it does nothing to relieve the guilt and shame silent Christianity breeds.

Now is the time to boldly walk in the joy of obedience, if we don't now, how will we then.

The cost of joy

We all know joy is available to us as believers but did you know there is a price to pay for it. Before you accuse me of being religious let's think about it.

Tell me one thing in life that brings you joy that doesn't cost you something. When I think of my life and the joy in my life I think of my marriage, my daughter, the joy that comes with a family camping trip, even the joy of a new puppy brings incredible cost, I have the scars to prove it. I also know from experience you can't have one without the other.

It's no different in the kingdom of God, to many times we keep the truth of God's kingdom and real life on two totally different planes. Jesus said "the kingdom of Heaven is at hand". It's within us, it's in real life, Jesus died on a cross made out of wood not some sort of mental picture of an abstract cross. His pain was real and His joy was real.

In the kingdom of God there is a price to pay for joy, oh I know we try to mentally grasp some sort of theological joy as we ascend to an academic intangible place that doesn't exist, but this is not what Jesus is talking about.

The joy of the lord is found when we are joined with the Lord, laying down our lives, responding to his call of "come and die". Destiny awaits us if we are willing to respond, true fellowship and unity awaits us if we are willing to lay our lives down together for the gospel. Now is the time to shine, now is the time to advance, if we won't break through that thin veil of intimidation and self love now, how will we ever.