How To Be A Water-Walker: Discover Your Gift!

It Isn’t The Emotional High Of Being A Water-Walker That Motivates Us—It’s The Desire To Engage The World For The Kingdom Of God Using His Spiritual Gifts.

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Let’s read the story again for this series from Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)

25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified.  In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.

Sometimes, in our desire to serve God, we make rash judgments.  We rush into action rather than seeking permission.  Even though I’ve been challenging you to get out of the boat, we don’t engage in Water-Walking for the sake of Water-Walking.  We are talking about choosing Extreme Discipleship Over The Desire For Comfort.  We have to understand something from Matthew’s account.  Peter is not in charge of this Water-Walking ExperienceJesus Is In Charge

Even though he looks before he leaps, when he gets permission, he takes his leap of faith.  That Leap Of Faith Was One Of The Defining Moments In Peter’s Life.

Sometimes when we feel life is boring, or we feel like life is passing us by, we can make a rash decision that is not in line with God’s call for our lives.  We can make risky decisions that are short-sighted and absolutely dumb.  But When Jesus Calls Us By Name, It’s To Join In Walking With Him On The Water.

In this Series, I hate to say this is the most important one of all—because it’s not the most important one.  But today’s message is the Pivotal Message; your notes are on the front and back.  Miss this one and the previous 2 mean nothing; and the remainder will not help you become The Water-Walker God empowers you to be!

This leads us to the one thing you need to remember from this message:  It Isn’t The Emotional High Of Being A Water-Walker That Motivates Us—It’s The Desire To Engage The World For The Kingdom Of God Using His Spiritual Gifts. 

Our Gifts For The Mission Only Work While We Walk On The Water.  Every person is gifted by God, through the Holy Spirit for The Mission of the Church.  The Mission of the Church is to do exactly what Jesus did:  To engage the world for the Kingdom of God.  Jesus did that with His Words, Attitude, and Actions. 

One morning after a daylong session in Capernaum of healing and casting out demons, Jesus left.  But the people looked for him until they found him and begged him to stay.  But Jesus told them, “Look, The Father sent me to tell the world about The Kingdom, and that’s what I’m going to do!”  (Luke 4:43)

The way we join in The Mission is through the use of the Spiritual Gifts God gives to everyone.  Question:  Do you believe the Bible is God’s Inspired Word?  It’s what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:7—“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”  Help each other do what?  To Engage The World FOR The Kingdom Of God

Sometimes we try to barter with God by saying we want to know what the gift is before we make up our mind to become a Water-Walker.  But it doesn’t work that way.  You have to unconditionally trust the Lord Of The Gift

At this point we should lay out a principle that is to be understood and accepted:  Everyone Is Gifted To A Mission And Ministry.  It’s not just pastors and missionaries and teachers and exceptional people.  God Gifts us all in different ways.  You need to be able to recognize The Gift that God has given you.  Here’s some easy ways to recognize The Gift:

1.  Your Gift Reflects God’s Image.

Let’s begin with a profound theological question:  What Does God Do All Day?  If we were to answer this question with one word, what would that word be?  A great insight into this question is found in the very first book of the Bible, in the very first chapter.  The word would be:  Work!  God is at Work.  For 6 days, God is at WorkAnd On The 7th Day, He Only RESTS, Not Retires.  God forms us with His very own hands to join Him in the Work.  When Jesus came to earth, he Worked.  First as a carpenter, then as the Messiah, God’s anointed one!  And then as The Conqueror Of Sin and Death.

You Are A Piece Of Work By God.  You were made in God’s image.  You are created to Work, to create, to lead, to study, to organize, to heal, to cultivate—to do something that engages the world for The Kingdom Of God. 

In Discovering Your Gift, It Will Say Something About God By Reflecting God’s Image.  This means that you must get to know Him personally and deeply.  Knowing God more deeply helps you know Your Gift.  You experience God for yourself.  Your Gift will reflect God’s image.  Here’s a second way to recognize Your Gift:

2.  Your Gift Is Essential To The Work Of The Kingdom Of God.

When my kids and grandkids were little we bought them gifts, and the 3 words I dreaded most were:  Some Assembly Required.  Inevitably, there would be a few parts left over, lying alone and not in the finished project.  I always thought the factory just put some extra parts in there because someone just slipped up and put useless parts in there—parts not needed for completion of the project. 

But this is not how God works.  He does not make spare parts.  You are not spare parts.  You Have A Purpose—A Design That Is Central To God’s Dream To Engage The World For His Kingdom.  God has given you talents, longings, and passions.  God knows how to use those talents, longings and passion along with your Gift in order to engage this culture for The Kingdom. 

In the movie “Blues Brothers,” John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd were ex-convicts on a trip.  They were trying to raise money for an orphanage.  Anytime they were asked about their work, their standard response was: “We’re on a mission from God!”  Here Is The Story Of Your Life:  You Are On A Mission From God.  And your mission is essential to the vitality of the Kingdom and key to God’s purpose for creation.  And the third way to recognize Your Gifts is this:

3.  Your Gift Is Something You Discover, Not Something You Choose.

You did not arrive on earth with your Gifts pre-developed.  You arrived with a little warning:  Some Assembly Required.  The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocatio’ meaning ‘a calling, a being called.’  Discovering your mission involves careful listening.  God is the Call-ER and we are the Call-EE. 

So how can we discover this Gift, this call?  I’m not going to give you a magic formula to discover your gift—because there is no magic formula.  But, as Nick Saban is fond of saying, there is a process that we have to buy into or it doesn’t work.  Let me share what this process involves, in no particular order—but you will go through all of them:  Let’s consider these your Next Steps:

God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.  Think about it this way:  have you ever received a gift from someone where you smiled and said, “That is exactly what I’ve been wanting!”?  But inside your mind you’re thinking, “What a hideous gift!  What were they thinking?”  Don’t say anything in case that person is in this room.  You hide it in the back of a closet and only get it out if you know they are coming to your house or you’re going to see them.  But God’s Gift for you always brings feelings of great enjoyment.  But there’s more. 

God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.  Here’s why:  The Enemy doesn’t want you to use that Gift and will try to prevent you from using it.  Why?  Because He Fears You When You Operate Out Of Your Gift Rather Than Out Of Your Ability.  If Satan doesn’t fear you, it’s because you’re still in the boat. 

God’s Gift Fills You With That Sense Of Urgency And Necessity.  The word “necessity” comes from 2 Greek words that mean “intensity” and “ache”.  When You Discover Your Gift, There Will Be An Intense Ache Inside You When You Are Not Faithfully Using Your Gift.

Your Gift will far exceed your abilities.  Remember that Gifts are about what God does through you rather than what you do for God.  Your Gift is Spiritual not natural.  Use your abilities for the Kingdom, but do not neglect your Gift.

Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom. These people will help you identify your Gift because they are also in tune to listening to God.  They can help you name your Gift and help you use your Gift.

Align Yourself With People Who Pray.  In discovering your Gift and in using your Gift, you need to be surrounded by Prayer Warriors.  People who frequently pray are in frequent conversation with God.  Remember, Satan is afraid of you when you use your Gift—so we need the Hosts of Heaven’s Armies all around us.

Start Using The Scientific Method.  I know that sounds so unspiritual.  But if you are still having difficulty identifying your Gift, the Scientific Method helps.  In case you may have forgotten, the Scientific Method is Trial And Error.  Try using a Gift to see if it works in you; try more than once.  If it doesn’t work, try something else.  According to a legend, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb.  When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”  Did Peter know he had the Gift to Walk On Water?  I don’t think so.  But he had to try, otherwise he would have never known—and neither will you.

Your Gift Is Found By Listening.  When you have truly listened to God, you heart will drive you to use that Gift and step out of the boat.  Spiritual Gifts Are Designed To Work On The Water, NOT In The Boat

Giftedness is different from abilities, skills, and your wheelhouse.  You need to use Your abilities, skills and wheelhouse here.  But Giftedness is different.   It Originates From Outside Us—Works Its Way IN Us—So That THROUGH Us We Engage The World For The Sake Of The Kingdom Of God.  But it takes a surrender of what you know—in order to find out what God knows.

Peter knows, at least he should know—that this is outside his abilities, skills and definitely not in his wheelhouse.  The Gift God gives you is to make you into more than you could ever become—to do more than you ever thought you could do.  But it is never beyond what God can do—through you!

We’re Not Gifted To Work FOR God, But We Are Gifted To Work WITH God.  Remember, you are on a mission from God.  And it’s yours—yours to discover—yours to claim—and yours to live!

We’re Not Gifted To Work FOR God, But We Are Gifted To Work WITH God.

Live In A Different Story!

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“But my servant Caleb—this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately.” (Numbers 14:24 The Message)

I absolutely love the Story of Caleb.  Read Numbers 13 and 14 and how can anyone NOT love Caleb?  I love this man so much I just finished a sermon series about him.  There are so many things about this guy and I could preach a year or more just on him, if The Spirit would allow me.  I am blown away by how The Message translates God’s opinion of Caleb.  (You do know that God has an opinion about you, don’t you?)  “But my servant Caleb—this is a different story.”

How was his story different?  God sent 12 spies, leaders actually, into the Promised Land with very specific orders.  But it was never in their directive to determine if they could succeed at occupying and conquering the land.  But 10 of these alleged leaders exceeded their directives and made a decision that wasn’t theirs to make.  “We can’t do it!  We’re whipped!  Lets get a new lead pastor and go back to Egypt where we can eat all the onions and garlic we want!”  OK?  So, you want bad breath instead of God’s Promise?  Ain’t it amazing what good church folks will give up for bad breath!

It would now seem, if they are going to be a good old American democracy, that God’s Promise would never happen, at least by the story of the Halitosis Ten.  But there is another Story being told and written.  Caleb, along with Joshua, has a Different Story to write and tell.  Allow me, if you will, to share just a little bit about That Different Story.  It’s a Story of living in The Promise, not The Halitosis.  There is much to be said, but I will share 4 of the Key Qualities of Caleb.

1.  He Had A Different Mindset

Caleb isn’t being naive.  He saw the well fortified cities.  He saw that the land produced NFL Linemen sized people.  He saw every obstacle in front of them.  But Caleb saw more.  He saw God’s Presence through The Promise.   He saw the challenges in front of him through the faithfulness of God.  He had the mindset of looking at The Problem Solver, not the problem; of looking at the Giant Slayer, not the giant.  Caleb was really radicalhe trusted God.  I am amazed (probably more like disgusted) at those who say they are a Christian while insisting that as a church we have to play it safe.  Where’s the faith in that?  And where did Jesus ever say that following Him was safe?  See your situations as an individual and a church the same way Caleb saw what was in front of HimGod’s got this!

2.  He Had A Different Purpose

Caleb knew that his purpose was to be a reflection of GodHis heart and His purposes.  Caleb was willing to give up his Story to become a part of a much bigger Story, the Story of God’s purposes.  Ever since Adam and Eve messed it all up and ever since we perpetuate The Fall with our sinfulness, God has been at work and His work is very clear.  He wants to Redeem The Sinner, bring Recovery For The Broken, and to Restore His Image Bearers.  All of us have a Life Purpose, good, bad or indifferent, you have a Life Purpose.  Your Life Purpose will be based and built upon the information you believe is true.  Caleb believed God’s Promise is greater than any obstacle, so he chose as the Purpose of his life, to work where God is workingRedeeming, Recovering and Restoring.

3.  He Had A Different Courage

Caleb’s courage came from his Trust in God.  Caleb saw God as Trustworthy.  He didn’t stutter, blink or hesitate.  “Come on, gang!  God is Trustworthy!  You say you Trust in God?  Well, let’s put some action in that trust!”  Caleb’s roots grew deep in God.  Caleb understood that “roots” are not what holds us down to the ground, but enables to grow up and out.  This courage came out of something Caleb did not fully understand, but somehow knewthat God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, was inside him.  He knew that wherever he went, God was with himand that was enough.

4.  He Had A Different Plan

His plan was to stay close enough to God so that he could see how God would work it out.  He didn’t trust himself to figure it outhow it would happen.  He knew that God had a plan and all he needed to do was to be available for the ways that God wanted to use him.  Translated to 2017, the work of God is a Spiritual Work that requires Spiritual Tools (known as the Gifts of the Spirit), A Spiritual Heart (which is the heart of a servant), and A Spiritual Attitude (known as HE is the vine and we are the branchesbranches designed to bear much fruit).

Goodness gracious!  Where have all the Calebs gone today?  You can find the next Caleb by looking the mirror.  He’s longing to get outbecause there is a Caleb in you but you need to make the choice between The Promise and The Halitosis.  Which do you really want?

And remember to love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

You Are Gifted, But You Are Not THE Gift, Part 2 of 2

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Let’s pick up where I left off yesterday.  Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  There is a simplified way to make followers for Jesus!

But it is not all that easy but it is really simple.  If we believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died on the Cross for our sins, that He arose on the third day, that He ascended back into heaven and sent down the Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of believers, and that this is true IN us, then we have to believe what Jesus told His first Followers is what He tells us:  Go make followers!  Listen, Jesus didn’t say, “Uh, folks, I would like for you to try to make more followers.  As long as you try, that’s good enough.”  No!  He said:  “Go make Followers!”  If we aren’t making followers then we are not the Church.  Some of you may be thinking, “Preacher, that’s hard to do!”  My response is this:  It’s NOT hard to do.  It’s not hard to do, if we remember 3 things:

 1.  Presence. (Verse 3—So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.)

We live with the confidence that He actually is present with us.  Only His presence gives us the passion, the desire to do what we are redeemed to do.  The Holy Spirit is who sets our hearts on fire.  If Jesus has never done anything for you, then there is no fire in our hearts.  But we can have a fire when we realize what God has done for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God is doing for us.  We can have a fire when we realize what God will do for us.

And what has God done for you?  He has nailed your sins to the cross and you bear them no more!  What is God doing for you?  He is at work transforming you and your moments for your good and His glory.  What will God do for you?  Stay by your side until you as you live forever in His Kingdom!  To make another Follower of Jesus doesn’t take a committee nor a team, but the passionate conviction that God has been, is now, and will continue to be present and at work in your life.  The Passion To Make Followers Comes From Knowing The Presence Of Jesus.

2.  Power (Verse 4—There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.)

The source of our power is the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever been surprised or amazed by something you did or said?  Then afterwards you wondered, “Well where did that come from?”  Those are moments when HE has complete control of us.  It is so important that we stop relying on our abilities by living in His power.  Do you know why some meetings are irrelevant, dull and boring?  It’s because we have forgotten the real power of the Church.  Whatever it is that God calls you to do, He will give you the strength and power to do it.

When you feel the nudging and prompting of the Spirit to do something, do it because with His Prompting comes His Power.  God designed the Church to withstand the power of hell itself!  And this is the power that lives in us.  Did you hear me?  The power that conquered death, the power that hell cannot overcome, is the power that lives inside each and every one of you when you desire God above all else.  Remember the third thing:

3.  Provision (Verse 7—A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.)

To engage our heart in what God is doing, we have to know the Provision of spiritual gifts that are designed by God for the common good.  The gift God gives you is designed so that you are able to help others both inside and outside of the church.  The Work Of The Body Of Christ Is A Spiritual Work And Requires Spiritual Tools.  These provisions are not rewards for us being good, but they are the result of our God being awesome!  God Gives Us The Tools We Need Not To DO Church Work, But To BE The Church That Is The Body Of Christ In Your World.  You have to know your spiritual gifts.  God does reveal your spiritual gifts.  If you do not know your Gifts it’s your fault.

It’s not easy, but it’s not hard.  I know, I know, I’m sounding like a politician.  You’re thinking if it’s not hard, then it is easy, but if it’s not easy then it must be hard.  If you think it’s too hard to do the ONE thing God wants this place to do, then remember Genesis 18:14—Is anything too hard for the Lord?  God had just told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son within a year.  He was an old man and she was an old woman.  Looking at them, you would be right to believe that they were too old to have a child.  It was impossible for them.  But do you know what?  By the next year, they had a son.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is too hard for the Lord.  All you have to do is Trust Him with all your heart.

When you give Him all of your heart, over and over again, when you worship Him with all of your heart, when you listen to Him with all of your heart discovering the truth about God, the world and yourself, here is what you will discover:   God Is Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!

Failure To Do This Is Failure To Love God, Worship God and really, Failure To Know God.  Pursuing the heart of God means that after surrender, after worship, after studying The Word, we must be doing the things that will make disciples of others, which will bring them into this process of surrender, worship, study and doing!  This is the cycle of Kingdom Life.

You and I NEED His Presence.  You and I NEED His Power in order to be faithful to our Primary Task.  And You and I NEED what He alone can provide to be more than disciples of Jesus in name only, to be real Followers of Jesus by doing what HE wants done.

And the question for you in such a time as this, is Do You Have It?  To have it you must WANT it.  You and I must say:  I WANT Your Presence.  I NEED Your Power so that I can be found Faithful.  I MUST HAVE what You Provide for the Task You have given me.  Without it, you miss not only The Gift, but most importantly, the Giver…

 

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!

 

You Are Gifted, But You Are NOT The Gift! Part 1 of 2

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As many have read and heard me say so many times, somehow the Body of Christ has got off track in a big way.  We have change the Message of Jesus from The Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church has had an interesting narrative that has resulted in a lot of folks encountering Jesus and finding the life they were created for, BUT…

Nowadays that message has been diluted into a very human-centered message rather than the Kingdom of God’s Epic Saga!  The result is that Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters have entered into the Enemy’s delusion that we are now the experts on all things related to the church.  They see themselves as THE GIFT rather than being Gifted By The Giver.  And while they may be experts on all things related to the church, they are missing out on something much bigger, and a whole lot better.  Let’s look at the passage found in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 from The Message:

1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

4-11 God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts

proclamation

distinguishing between spirits

tongues

interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

Think about the things that make up our day to day ordinary life.  What is the story that you are telling your world and culture?  In the beginning of the Body of Christ, the vast majority of disciples understood they lacked the moxie to do what God was calling them to do.  The result was they opened their heart, mind and life to God so that HE could equip them with what was needed for this enormous task of being the presence of Jesus in a fallen world.

And God provided what they needed through His Spiritual Gifts.  And I Believe That Today God Is Still Making Available To Us His Presence, Power And Provisions  To Fulfill Our Primary Task in His Kingdom And That Is To Make More Followers For Jesus!  These gifts are not merit badges or rewards for us being so good.  Spiritual Gifts are the only way to fulfill our primary task as Followers of Jesus in the Body of Christ, which is to make more disciples for Jesus.

Let me tell you a story.  After Satan could not convince Jesus to avoid the Cross, he began to worry.  After Jesus conquered death, Satan began to wonder how he could stop the Gospel.  Eager to please their master, demons did a variety of things.  One began to persecute the believers, even having them killed.  But this only led to the Gospel being spread out further.  Another tried to get the early church to dilute the Gospel by mixing it with other beliefs and religions, and while it did capture a few souls, it wasn’t the huge success he was wanting.  The Gospel continued moving forward.  The demons tried and persisted with their evil designs.  At times they seemed to be successful by getting the church to replace relationship with rituals and rules.

But then there would be someone like Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, or Billy Sunday (to name just a few) came along who would get the church back on track.  One demon though, patiently watched and studied all the efforts being tried before he came up with his idea.  At one particular business meeting as the demons were all bemoaning their failures, fearing the wrath of their master, this one demon spoke up.  He said, “I have an idea.”  Just about everyone, including Satan, rolled their eyes as if to say, “What failure do you have in mind for us?”  And the demon said, “It’s obvious that we can’t stop the Gospel, but I have a way to slowing down its impact on people.  I call it ‘Committees’.”  Someone asked, “What’s a committee?”

The demon explained—“It’s a group of people who sit around talking about what they should be doing.  The key concept is ‘talking’.  Committees will then insist that everything in their area has to done their way; this will stifle creativity.  Some churches will make it that only a committee can do something in their areas, this will create a spectator mentality.  If some people don’t get on a committee, or a particular committee, they will get angry and stir up trouble, this fuels selfishness.  Committee meetings will become irrelevant, long, boring, or heated, and eventually, all of the above and this creates division.”  The Board room of hell was silent, until they saw their master with his infamous sly grin.  And though they couldn’t stop the power of the Gospel, they had found a way to slow down a church by making it ineffective.

From my story you may think that I don’t like committees.  I want to set the record straight.  I don’t like committees.  I don’t like committees that talk more than they do, stifles creativity, creates spectator mentalities, fuels selfishness and creates division.  But I am not against having committees.  But because of the well-earned reputation of committees, I prefer to form teams.

I am against the thought that the vision and mission of the church is to serve committees or teams.  This happens when more emphasis is put on committees and teams rather than the mission.  If you’re on a committee/team and I’ve made you mad, just listen to one more thing—The purpose of our Committees and Teams is to serve the vision and mission of the church.  That’s all.  Now that I’ve adequately offended some of you readers, I have something more to say.

Every church of every tradition and size has only one mission from God:  To Make More Followers For Jesus.  This is why every church exists.  It’s not to serve us, but to give us a place to serve God through serving others.  The vision must be to serve the mission of making Followers for Jesus at all costs.  Folks, we have made church more complicated that it really is.  To understand how to simplify this, read the next edition!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!