It’s Time to Decide

The song played quietly from the piano. My preacher would lead only this one song. It followed his sermon each week and was labeled in the printed program as the “Hymn of Decision.” Some Churches call it an Invitation Hymn, but I always preferred the idea that it was a time to decide something.

Usually, there were only a few songs that were played during this time. Great hymns like Amazing Grace, Just As I Am, Wherever He Leads I’ll Go and the granddaddy of them all; I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.

After his sermon, my preacher would lead this song, and between each verse, he would hold up his hand and pause the pianist, and he would give another appeal to decide today. This would be repeated through each verse until we reached the end. Some weeks, people went to the front of the Church and talked with the preacher. He would announce that it was a re-dedication, transfer, or baptism. The congregation would be seated, and the program would end with their public decision. Other weeks nothing happened, but that did not deter him as he led us through the song the following Sunday.

For years in my ministry, I tried to emulate what I saw growing up with limited effect. I always knew who was coming up at the end, and if not, I was terrified. Quite often, it was a person who wanted to say something to the congregation, and it drifted into less of decision time and more of a time for people to share “what God was laying on their heart.” After a few years, I abandoned the practice and started standing at the front after worship, making myself available to anyone who wanted to talk. I started teaching a membership class, and the number of people who came to follow Jesus rapidly increased, and I never went back.

I suppose, as with all traditions, something was lost. The drama at the end of the program and the occasional spontaneity of someone coming to Jesus was removed. The biggest thing that may have been lost was that there was no longer any special moment for people to make a decision.

The word decide comes from the root word “cis” and its variants “cid” and “cide.” These originate from Latin and mean to “cut” or “kill.” Think about words like suicide and genocide. Therefore, a decision is a “cutting off” of all possibilities except for one; if you are decisive, you have “killed” all other options. The word is a conscious choice to move forward in one direction.

No longer do I stand at the front of the Church after the sermon and offer a formal decision time. That does not change the fact that each one of us must reach a point where we decide about Jesus. We need to burn our bridges or ships and move forward with only him as our leader.

I know when I preach, teach, and even write, there is someone who is wavering in their commitment. Someone is straddling the fence while trying to move forward. Maybe for you, today is the time to quit trying to walk two paths and finally decide.

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Three Unspoken Indicators of Faith

Would people know that you follow Jesus by watching your life? If you did not share any verse on social media, would people know you were a Christian? If you removed all religious imagery from your clothing, vehicle, and home, would anyone have any idea that you were a believer?

There are three things in your life that demonstrate your faith without you ever saying a word.

  1. How you spend your TIME. A glance at your schedule, and you can see your priorities without any explanation.
  2. What you do with your TALENT. God gives each one of us unique gifts and abilities; the question is, “Are you using them for the kingdom of God?” Do you see your talents as reserved for work or as a means to make money?
  3. What you are willing to share of your TREASURE. Jesus could not have been more understandable, “Where your money is, there your heart will also be.” A quick scan of your finances and where your money goes will also reveal your heart.

These are the three most prominent indicators of faith, and none of them require you to say a word. I guess that it is easier to share posts that you agree with on social media than to do any one of these things. Decorations and religious paraphernalia demand less of you than a daily sacrificial commitment.

It is easy to let our words about Jesus be many, and our actions be few. A real test of your faith is what you are doing with your time, talent, and treasure. All other measurements of your commitment are flawed.

Making Room For God To Work

A follower of Jesus should not always be busy. That sounds so counter-intuitive to us in so many ways. We believe, if we want to make an impact for the kingdom of God, then we need to be doing as much as possible. We need to attend more classes and small groups. We need to volunteer for every good thing in which we are asked to help. We should allow our children to be involved in anything to show them that we love them as God wants us to do. The fuller our schedule, we think, the more significant our imprint on the world and the better we appear as a believer.

Through the years, I have noticed that there is one major flaw in this thinking. We do not leave space for God to work. Reading through the stories of Jesus, I am continually reminded that he never seemed to have much of an agenda. People would sometimes come to him, and other times, he almost blindly walks into things. He happens to be at a well when a woman comes for a drink. He runs into a funeral procession on his way to something else. People stop him for conversation, healing, and confrontation. His days always appeared full, but it is not because he is overly committed to activities. He moves and works, and God puts everything together.

One of the primary reasons you need to keep free time in your schedule is so that God can use those moments to do his work. I am not saying he is doing nothing when your days are packed, but I think you may be missing some interactions that might be divine appointments.

There are two questions God is placing on my heart this week. First, do I have enough room in my life for God to direct my steps? Are there moments in which I have no agenda? Second, am I allowing God to work on me and through me during those times?

This week is full of possibilities for God to do amazing things with your life. Have you left enough room for him to do his work?

Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best articles I have read in the past few weeks. I hope you enjoy them and have a great weekend.

‘You may think you’re too far gone – you’re not’: 90-year-old accepts Jesus as Saviour and gets baptized – This post makes me so happy.

THE “OTHER” 10 SECOND RULE – This is incredibly thought-provoking.

How to Have an Affair-Proof Marriage – Vintage Bob Russell

What Makes a Good Marriage? The 3 Ingredients that Matter – Sheila writes so many good articles about marriage. This is a prime example.

Why You Might Want to Reconsider Your Short-Term Trips – I have had dozens of conversations about this very topic. Worth considering.

Sometimes the Problem with the Gym can be a Problem with the Church – simple encouragement with an easy to understand analogy.

The Art of Self Deception

I cannot be trusted. I don’t mean I cannot be trusted as a pastor in this Church, although to a minor degree this is true. No, I mean that I cannot trust myself. The prophet Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (NIV 2011)”

It is hard to imagine in some ways, but the person we should trust the least is ourselves. Our own heart can deceive us and do it very well. In the next verse in Jeremiah, he pleads with God to examine his heart, but then he adds an interesting line. He wants God to reward each person according to their deeds and what their actions deserve. What Jeremiah sees is what few of us like to admit; we deceive ourselves when our hearts and our actions are not aligned.

We spend so much time inside of our heads, and we know our thoughts can be good, just, and righteous. Our natural tendency is to evaluate our relationship with God and our spiritual growth based on what goes inside of ourselves. We know the right thing to do. We have excellent intentions to one day do them. We are against people who don’t do those righteous acts we admire. We support people who are living out what we believe. The only problem is that we never do anything with it. Our actions do not reflect our heart.

In the New Testament, James, the brother of Jesus, writes to the Church and says this, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22 – NIV 2011)” James tells the followers of Jesus that we can deceive ourselves by knowing God’s word, but never acting on it.

One of the biggest tests that I encourage people to use is to listen to yourself. When you talk about faith as something between you and God, that is a warning sign. When someone questions your commitment, and you say, “God knows my heart.” This can be another warning sign. I once heard Edwin Louis Cole say, “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.”

The other way to check yourself for internal deception is even more practical. Write down your actions each day for a week and see how much of it reflects your heart. My professor told the story about a class at Bible college. The teacher asked the student to list their priorities on the chalkboard in the front. The class was happy with the list they compiled as good Bible-believing leaders. Then the professor said, “Now take out your calendars and see how that looks compared to your listed priorities.” Suddenly everything changed because their actions did not line up with their perceived needs. Why? The heart is deceitful.

There are other things you can do to test yourself like having an accountability partner, having close Christian friends and seeking wise counsel, and perhaps those would be helpful to you. Find a tool that works for you and aim to become more self-aware. All of us lean toward self-deception, so I am here today to warn you, be careful who you trust.

Is it Time to Resign or Re-Sign?

Recently I heard another pastor say that this year he had to make a decision about his ministry. He needed to decide whether it was time to resign or re-sign. As he said it, I made a quick note of his words. I mean, that one little dash is enormous.

A resignation is a decision to voluntarily quit what you are doing. In my experience, a few departures are forced. As in, “you either resign, or you will be fired.” Would you like to save face at this time? A few of them are the result of poor performance. You tried to be the best possible coach, and you are not talented enough in this situation, so you willingly give up. Many of the resignations I have witnessed were years in the making. A person had once worked diligently to make things happen, and then they began to coast. Eventually, they quit working altogether and tried to sail into the future off their past performance. Slowly the erosion of the past led to a change in the present. One day, after months, if not years, of nominal effort they throw in the towel and quit.

A determination to re-sign is entirely different. This is a statement to the world that you want to keep working. You are not giving up. You are going to give your best effort to make a better future. It involves a commitment to hard work.

In any form of service to the Lord, whether paid or unpaid, there comes a moment of truth. A time when you need to ask yourself if it is time to resign or re-sign. Are you riding your past work and hoping no one will notice? Are you willing to commit to working hard to make a better future? These are two completely different attitudes, and we must be honest about what is going on inside our hearts. Following God is not the work for half-hearted people to do with minimal effort.

There are days, months, seasons, and years in which it is essential to re-evaluate your level of commitment. Maybe now is one of those times. Perhaps you have been thinking about resignation, and God is providing opportunities for you to make a more significant impact. Are you up for the challenge? To me, there is nothing worse than someone who keeps going when they just want to quit. There is also nothing more powerful than people who are sold out on that they are doing. Is it time for you to resign or re-sign?

No More Need for Christian Consultants

When I launched a new Church many years ago, I began by hiring a consultant to come to our location, do an analysis, and give me ideas to help us get started correctly. My newly hired associate hated the idea. This staff member came from the business world, and his experience with consultants was never positive. He explained to me that usually, a consultant was a person with all kinds of ideas about how things should be done, with little personal knowledge. Those who did have experience left the competitive business world years before for the security of a consulting business.

Recently I heard a preacher use a two-minute illustration that reminded me of that exact experience. He said, “the Church has no more need for Christian consultants.” Then he further explained, “You know what I am talking about? People with lots of ideas for everyone else to do, but little personal experience.” Immediately all those words from my associate filled my mind.

Consultants may have a place in the world, but their usefulness is limited. And yet, I have encountered numerous people who feel their God-given call is to be a Christian consultant. They no longer work in sales or development; instead, they fill their heads with ideas, and they enjoy telling other people what to do.

The Church needs disciples. It needs people who are fully devoted Christ-followers. It needs servants and shepherds. The Church has many needs, but it does not need more people whose idea of faith is merely telling other people what they can do better without doing it themselves. So before you instruct someone else on how they should live in faith, ask yourself, “Am I speaking from personal experience or being a consultant?”