At the end of every year, I enjoy reviewing the most read posts of the past twelve months. I’ve included links to all ten of them below. Just click the pictures and it’ll take you to the articles. Interestingly, the top three haven’t changed in several years. I haven’t written much new content in 2019 (I plan to change that in 2020). Oddly, this has still been an exciting year for Apostolic Voice; we leaped over the million click mark, gained a tremendous number of new readers, and made progress on relaunching the podcast. I deeply appreciate your confidence and support. Thank you for allowing my writings into your life. God bless you all, and may 2020 be your best year yet. If you’re new to the Apostolic Voice family, welcome and I hope you find something helpful, inspiring, or at least mildly interesting.
I know in my life it can become difficult to keep the right things in focus. We live in a world where so many things are fighting for our attention, our time, our money, and our devotion. There are moments when I have to slow down and think about my priorities. Consider for a moment what Jesus said in Matthew 6:23, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” A powerful spiritual principle emerges as Jesus shows us, that when we put God’s Kingdom first, the rest of life’s moving pieces begin to fall naturally into place.
Sadly, many people place God’s priorities near the bottom or the middle of their To-Do-List. This creates a life that is constantly out of sync with the benefits of God. If you are peace-less, than you probably have a priority problem. If you are joyless, than it’s probably time to reevaluate who’s kingdom is first in your life.
Everybody instinctively longs to be loved (by the way, love itself is a phenomenon that the atheist simply cannot explain scientifically), but our fallen nature tricks our minds into believing that love is something that we must search after selfishly. Our human default settings look for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrongs ways, and with all the wrong resources. Looking out for “me first” is not a strategy that invites God’s Kingdom to rule our individual world.
In actuality, true love is only accessible when we humble ourselves, seek God’s plan first, and allow Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. And Christ’s lordship must apply to every area of our hearts; that includes the secret places that no one can see or hear. We must allow His lordship into the things that we grasp tightly onto: finances, time, family, relationships, attitudes, lifestyle, culture, and behavior. Deception tells us that we know best, and that we should simply follow the desires of our hearts; but God warns us that our hearts are not to be trusted (Jeremiah 17:19). Like the song we cry, “Lead me Lord, I will follow.”
Consider another Scripture found in Mark 1:15 as Jesus preaches, “…the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel.” Thus, we see that God’s Kingdom is only available to us through repentance and obedience to the Gospel (for a brief description of the Gospel which requires: repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name, and Spirit baptism visit Acts 2:38). If we are Kingdom minded, than we must realize that it is not enough to be satisfied with our own salvation; we are called to reach others and bring them into the Kingdom as well.
The Apostle Paul demonstrated admirably how a Kingdom minded individual operates with those who are lost, “…there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not (Acts 28:23-24).” It is, I think, important to remember that we can reach for the lost, but we cannot impose God’s will upon them. Even God does not impose His will upon us. However, we are mandated to lovingly reach for every single person that we possibly can.
So as we rush through the busy month of August, let’s intentionally seek the Kingdom of God first. Let’s refocus our minds upon spiritual things, rather than allowing the busyness of our daily lives to be an overwhelming distraction.
I remember a kind of gloomy fog settling over my mind after hearing from my Pastor (who doubles as my father) that we would be planning preaching and teaching strategies for the entire upcoming year. Dread! Panic! A throbbing, and all too familiar migraine, began forming in the base of my skull. Up until that point, I had mostly been a high powered evangelist approaching each new service like a maverick gunslinger. On some, albeit rare occasions, I even went to the pulpit with a few scribbled notes and an open Bible. I had a preaching mindset that prided itself upon being highly in tune with the Spirit, and evidently (according to my youthful way of thinking) the Spirit could only see a few days (or even hours) into the future.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a certain kind of desperate advantage to that style of ministry. Certainly, an evangelist is charged with the sacred duty of stirring a sudden response to the Gospel that is often best served with a large dose of spiritual spontaneity. But my role in the Body of Christ had shifted, and now my pattern was being drastically jolted.
Plan we did, with calendars and coffees in hand. We planned teaching series for Midweek Bible Study and Sunday School, and preaching series for Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings (we have lots of good church at Apostolic Tabernacle). Thankfully, we left some wiggle room for my coveted spontaneity. We left no stone unturned. We met with our church staff (paid and volunteer) to plan yearly events and activities. Meanwhile, I held my breath and nursed a silent tantrum fully expecting this strategy to fail magnificently. Not only did it not fail, it excelled beyond my wildest ability to believe. When I say excel, I mean far more than that the church received good sound doctrine, grew at a reasonable pace, and enjoyed good health (although all of that is true); I mean that the process has been a tremendously freeing experience.
This is shocking to me because it seemed so constricting at first. I discovered a profound peace in having a structure (loose but not too loose) in which to study and seek God’s heart. Also, it seems that God is fully aware of what will be happening next month or even (gasp) next year. God can give direction far in advance of any man made time stamps. Not only that, God operates according to a certain command structure. God honors us when we surrender our stubborn will to ordained authorities.
Fast forward several years later, and I can’t imagine ministry without a well-planned preaching and teaching schedule. I just happened to mention this to Dad at lunch the other day, he laughed and gave me a knowing look; then he said something profound (as he often does), “If you approach study without self-imposed parameters of difficulty you will always seek the most familiar path or the mediocre path of least resistance.” In other words, when we approach preaching and teaching like a maverick gunslinger we never challenge ourselves to learn, study, contemplate, and digest things that are unfamiliar. It’s well and good to have a favorite soap box or a tasty candy stick but those things, although comfortable, may become little more than an excuse for intellectual laziness if we are not very careful. So father does know best (sometimes).