Sermons

This is a collection of Michael White’s sermons, from CityLIght Church in New York City.

How to Get Promoted

      How-To-Get-Promoted-041419

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How to Get Promoted’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/14/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

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In Part One,[1] we discussed the reality that every believer is called to greatness. Moses (Exodus 3), Saul (1 Samuel 10), and David (1 Sam 16) all had their lives divinely interrupted by God, as He called them out of the mundane and into their destiny. Saying yes to God’s call would position them to fulfill their design: a function that would facilitate God’s plan and change the world.

In Part Two,[2] we examined the various forms of resistance that typically rise to the surface when we say yes to God’s call on our lives. When you say yes to greatness, unfortunately the enemy – Satan – typically paints a target on your back. Sometimes the enemy will defy you to your face (see David and Goliath; 1 Sam 17); but more often than not, he will work through other people to try and get you to give up your destiny and sacrifice your call to greatness.

In Part Three,[3] we looked at the reality that destiny takes time. David was a man who waited well; and as he waited for God to fulfill the call to greatness on his life, David “behaved himself wisely” (1 Sam 18:5, KJV). He protected the condition of his heart! When we wait well, we optimally position ourselves for alignment with God’s purposes and plans for our lives.

order now Biblical Promotion

In this chapter, I want to show you something I call the Biblical Pathway to Promotion. Every Biblical leader – the men and women whom God thrusts into their destiny – has something in common. They approach – and receive – promotion the same way.

You may have heard the old adage, “It’s not just what you do; it’s how you do it.” How you go about seeking promotion is just as important as receiving the promotion you seek. So, let’s talk about how to receive the promotion you crave in a manner that honors God.

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard about getting promoted? Here are “11 things that will get you promoted,” from the financial education resources site, LearnVest,[4] taken from conversations with managers in multiple fields including marketing, tech, media, executive recruiting, and financial planning:

buy now 1) Tell Me I’m Wrong. Bosses like to be around people who challenge their thinking in a healthy way. This isn’t about being annoying and disagreeing; it is about being willing to go against popular consensus, with the data to back up your thoughts.

visit website 2) Bring the Bad News First. Don’t just tell your boss what’s wrong; tell her how you are going to fix it. This shows your manager you’re on top of your work responsibilities, and have the ability to creatively solve problems.

3) Be Drama-Free! Gossip Girl should not be your real life: especially not in the office! One boss in the survey said this: “Your job is to make your boss’s life easier, not plop your drama on his or her lap. Save that for your friends and family or your diary.”

4) Smile! “Your boss would like to harbor the fantasy that you actually like your job, since she is paying you, spending more time with you than her family, and helping you more than you realize,” one boss said. “You can at least smile and seem like you are enjoying things in return.”

When I first started preaching as a very young man, I tried to “look serious” at Sunday service by keeping a straight face. Since I was so young, I thought it would make people think I was older and more mature. Instead, I found out it just made me look angry. Don’t turn people away by scowling instead of smiling!

5) Take Notes. I love it when I see people with a pen and paper in church. I immediately want to have a conversation with them to find out what they’re all about, and how I can help them achieve their goals. It shows me they’re focused and serious about what they’re hearing.

Did you know that writing something down with pen and paper helps you to remember it better? Writing with pen and paper boosts memory and enhances your ability to understand concepts and facts.[5] Unfortunately, the same benefit doesn’t apply when we take notes with a cell phone or laptop.

6) Never Skip the Office Party. Sometimes deep bonding can only happen outside of work. People want to get personal! But not too personal 😉

7) Don’t Expect to be Rewarded. “Don’t walk around with the air that you deserve it, because that sense of entitlement is going to get you nowhere,” one boss advised. Are you completely your assignments because you want to honor God with your work? Or because you’re expecting to be rewarded?

8) Hold Up Your End. Be a team player! As one boss lamented, “It’s awful when you claim to be a team player, but complain when you are given responsibilities to help.”

9) Ask How You Can Help. Don’t wait around for your boss to give you work! Be proactive. Take initiative! Make yourself irreplaceable by working harder at solving practical problems than the people around you.

10) Have A Solution. Don’t make your problem your boss’s problem. If you tell your boss something’s broken, bring a solution on how you plan to fix it.

11) Know Your Job – and Do It. Prioritize your responsibilities in such a way that the most critical things get done first. What is your boss ultimately paying you to do? Do that first; and save everything else for later.

Self-Promotion

There is an entire industry built around how to get a promotion. According to the dominant thought of today’s business leaders, your promotion hinges on what you do to get there. The world’s way says that self-promotion is essential: if you want to get promoted, you have to make it happen on your own! March into your boss’s corner office and ask for that raise!

In January 2018, the Harvard Business Review ran an article titled, “How to Ask for a Promotion.” Jospeh Weintraub, the founder and faculty director of the Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program (CLTP) at Babson College, said, “…to advance in your career, you’ll need to learn to advocate for yourself. You can’t assume that the organization will take care of you just because you do a good job. There is a degree of self-promotion that’s needed.” Put simply, he says, “If don’t you ask, you don’t get.”[6]

This same theme – you have to promote yourself – is evident in most of the literature you read about success in the workplace. We’ve been taught since a young age that, if we want to get ahead, we have to advocate for ourselves. We’ve learned by experience that the squeaky wheel gets the grease: so if you want to get what you feel you “deserve,” you had better speak up!

The Bible Way

But the Biblical Path to Promotion does not involve promoting self. The world says, if you want to get promoted, you have to advocate for yourself (self-promotion!). But God says, if you want to get promoted, you have to lay down your desire for promotion at His feet.  

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 14:7-11 

Do you see it? How the way of Jesus stands in such contrast to the suggestion of the world’s greatest leadership coaches? Business culture says, “Get up and advocate for yourself!” But Kingdom culture says, “Serve others, and let God advocate for you.”

If you insist on taking the “best place” (v 8), God will eventually humble you. Self-promotion might work for a time; but eventually the house of cards is going to come crashing down. If you build it, you have to maintain it! But if you will take the “lowest place” (v 10), God will exalt you. You won’t have to exalt yourself! If you let God build it for you, He will do all the work to maintain it.

I love God’s response when we humble ourselves and willingly take the lowest place: “Friend, go up higher” (v 10). First, we see that humility leads to intimacy. If you come proudly before God and insist that you should be up higher than you currently are, He won’t call you friend! But if you will humble yourself and concede that His plans for you are better than your plans for yourself, He will call you friend. Second, we see that humility leads to promotion. Do you want to go higher? Get lower! Do you want to be exalted? Humble yourself, so God doesn’t have to do it for you! 

Jesus’ Thoughts on Self-Promotion

James and John were devoted disciples. They had powerful ministries; so much so that they were known as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17). If Jesus had a Dream Team, James and John would have been on it!

But even James and John had to fight a desire for promotion. They had to fight the temptation of self-promotion!

At one point in their walk with Jesus, James and John tried to promote themselves:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” – Mk 10:35-37

It wasn’t enough for Jesus to be glorified. James and John wanted to be glorified with Him! It’s easy to give James and John a hard time for their request; but how often do you and I act the same way? How often do we pursue God’s glory, only to ask for a little glory for ourselves on the side? How often do we approach God with the attitude, “I want You to do for me whatever I ask,” instead of going to Him with the humble admission, “I want to do for You whatever You ask!:

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” – Mk 10:38-40 

James and John didn’t know what they were asking for; so Jesus made clear that they were not asking for the right thing. They would indeed “drink the cup” that Jesus drank. James would be the first apostle to be martyred; and according to church tradition, John was boiled alive in oil for his faith in Jesus Christ, but would miraculously survive to later be imprisoned on the island of Patmos. Jesus laid down His life to suffer and die for the church; and James and John would follow in His footsteps. Be careful what you wish for!

Do you know how the rest of the disciples responded? “They began to be greatly displeased with James and John” (v 41). They were upset, because James and John were promoting themselves instead of the Gospel! The truth is, they also might have been upset because they hadn’t thought to have the self-promotion conversation with Jesus first! But Jesus quickly intervened, as He always does, to remind everyone what mattered most:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mk 10:42-45

“It shall not be so among you.” You don’t have to fall into the trap of self-promotion that the rest of the world is subject to! You get to be above the jockeying for position and recognition that everyone around you can’t ignore. Do you wan to be promoted? Become a servant. Do you want to be first? Put yourself last. Thus is the counter-intuitive nature of God’s kingdom!

The disciples had some trouble embracing this message. Before long, they were at it again:

Now there was also a dispute among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And [Jesus] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. – Lk 22:24-27

Jesus’ constant message was the opposite of what we hear in contemporary culture today. Do you want to be “great?” Serve. Do you want to “govern?” Promote the people around you, instead of promoting yourself. The disciples wanted to know who was greatest, and Jesus reminded them: it was HIM. And even He was the “One who serves.”

Every great leader you see in Scripture had one thing in common: a willingness to serve. Jesus provided what is perhaps the most adequate summation of His teaching on this subject to a group of religious leaders in Luke 14:

So [Jesus] told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 14:7-11 

The way to promotion is humility. The way to greatness is to serve! The Biblical path to promotion does not entail convincing your superiors that you deserve it; it involves serving whomever God calls you to serve, for as long as He calls you to serve them!

Let’s not forget that the promotion you experience in this life is not the most important goal. What better promotion is there than to be seated in Christ, at the right hand of God “in heavenly places,” (Eph 1:20) for all eternity?!

Come Up Higher

At the time of this writing, I’ve been in full-time ministry for six years. Full-time ministry is not easy; but being a pastor has been the most rewarding calling I never asked for. That’s the truth: I never really wanted to be a pastor. I just had a desire to serve; and the more I served the church, the more the Lord promoted me.

When I first came to our church more than ten years ago, I had just moved to New York City. I wanted to meet other guys my age and form a good group of friends. So, I signed up to be an usher. I quickly met some of the men who are still – to this day – some of my closest friends.

Soon after I became an usher, I joined the worship team. I played jazz saxophone all through college and I could improvise well, so I told the Worship Director. He asked me to audition for the worship team, and I made the cut. Before I knew it, I had a church community that felt like family: all because I had made the simple decision to serve.

One day while I was ushering, I met my wife. She was on the First Impressions team: greeting new guests as they walked into service. I wasn’t trying to meet anyone; and neither was she! But the Lord saw that both of us were serving, so He honored that and put us together. When my wife and I got married several years later, our Lead Pastor made us Care Pastors (our church’s term for lay pastors). We never asked to be ordained and given a title; but because we were so focused on serving, God’s response was, “Friend, go up higher” (Lk 14:10).

Several years after that, I got laid off from my job in finance. I had six months of severance to think about next steps. In that time, our Lead Pastor came to me and asked if I would be interested in coming on full-time staff as the Executive Pastor. I would manage the church’s staff, finances, and administration during the week; and on the weekends, I would preach and pastor at our Manhattan location.

Again, I cannot stress this enough: I never asked to be a pastor. Quite frankly, I never even knew I wanted to be a pastor. But God knew my design – what He had created me to do – and as I demonstrated a willingness to serve, He promoted me to where He wanted me to be.

You don’t have to promote yourself to fulfill your destiny. Serve God, and He will promote you.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-031019.mp3

[2] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-Part-2-032419.mp3

[3] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-Part-3-033119.mp3

[4] https://www.themuse.com/advice/bosses-tell-us-11-things-that-will-get-you-promoted

[5] https://www.medicaldaily.com/why-using-pen-and-paper-not-laptops-boosts-memory-writing-notes-helps-recall-concepts-ability-268770

[6] https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-to-ask-for-a-promotion

Called to Greatness Part 3

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness Part 3’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/31/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Called to Greatness Part III

In Part One,[1] we discussed the reality that every believer is called to greatness. Moses (Exodus 3), Saul (1 Samuel 10), and David (1 Sam 16) all had their lives divinely interrupted by God, as He called them out of the mundane and into their destiny. Saying yes to God’s call would position them to fulfill their design: a function that would facilitate God’s plan and change the world.

In Part Two,[2] we examined the various forms of resistance that typically rise to the surface when we say yes to God’s call on our lives. When you say yes to greatness, unfortunately the enemy – Satan – typically paints a target on your back. Sometimes the enemy will defy you to your face (see David and Goliath; 1 Sam 17); but more often than not, he will work through other people to try and get you to give up your destiny and sacrifice your call to greatness.

Hurry Up and Wait

In this chapter, I have some sobering news for you: your destiny is going to take some time to unfold. Quite often, God will show you some major things He wants to accomplish in your life up front, and all at once; but what we don’t always want to hear is that those things are going to unfold slowly, in a process that often takes years or even decades.

So, once we accept the call to greatness, how do we wait wisely for God’s destiny over our lives to unfold?

He Behaved Himself Wisely

We turn again to the story of David. In Part One, we saw David’s Call to Greatness:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:13

What an incredible scene. Historians estimate David was between 10 and 15 years old when he was anointed to be king. He was called from the field, shepherding sheep, and the Old Testament prophet Samuel anointed him in dramatic fashion. David was anointed, “…in the midst of his brothers;” in other words, this was not a private ceremony! Everyone around David – his father and brothers included – knew there was a kingly call on David’s life!

But do you know what David had to do next? Wait. David was anointed at a young age; but David wouldn’t become king until he was thirty years old:

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. – 2 Sam 5:4-5

At age 30 David became king over Judah. Then, 7 yeas and six months later, he became king over the entire nation of Israel.

God’s destiny for David was real! But what David didn’t know up front was that his call to greatness was going to take some time to unfold. So, how did David wait well? What did he do in between receiving his call to greatness, and seeing it play out in his life? How did he position himself to receive everything God had to offer, and make sure he didn’t miss out on everything God planned to do, in and through him?

Here is our answer:

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. – 1 Sam 18:5

David “behaved wisely.” The King James Version says David, “behaved himself wisely.” To “behave wisely” is the Hebrew word, sakal (Strong’s H7919). It means to be prudent (i.e. showing care for the future), to be circumspect (wary and unwilling to take inappropriate risks), and to wisely understand: to have insight and comprehension that result in prosperity.

You see, David had plenty of opportunities to be foolish. He was young when he was anointed to be king. He could have told everyone around him, and bragged about the calling on his life. He could have adopted a lavish lifestyle, knowing that some day he would be able to pay down his debts. He could have become a complete jerk, because he knew he would rule over the people around him!

But David did none of those things. He understood that his future was much more important this his present. He “behaved himself wisely;” and because of that response, God had everything He needed in the form or a response, to make David’s destiny come to pass.

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted[3] (Hebrew: he “made them glad”) in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” – 1 Sam 18:5-8

David’s actions made the people glad; but they made Saul mad! The people were falling in love with David! But Saul was starting to hate him. What’s the point?

When you “behave wisely” in response to God’s call to greatness, not everyone is going to be thrilled. But your job isn’t to please people; your job is to simply step out and do whatever God is calling you to do, with, “…clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:4).

So Saul eyed David from that day forward. And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. – 1 Sam 18:9-12

As time went on, Saul lashed out at David more and more. But notice why David made Saul so uncomfortable: Saul was “afraid” (v 12). Saul knew the Lord was with David, but no longer with Saul.

What does it mean that a, “…distressing spirit from God came upon Saul” (v 9)? I believe God was trying to make Saul uncomfortable, because Saul was no longer supposed to be king! David was the one who had the Holy Spirit on him to be king! But Saul was afraid to lose power. Saul started to give away the kingdom with his words (v 8); and David would be there to accept the throne.

Sometimes other people won’t respond well when they see the call of God on your life. But your response should not be to prove them wrong. Your response should not be to try and silence them! Simply “behave wisely.” Trust that God is going to put you in the right place, at the right time, to step into your divinely appointed destiny. It may take some time, and other people may not like it very much; but God will do everything He has promised to do.

Saul hated David so much that he threw spears at him! But David didn’t fume and try and get him back. Years later, David would have two chances () to kill Saul! But his response was, “Who am I to stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed?” At every turn, David did the right thing. He refused to take matters into his own hands, and attempt to accelerate the destiny over his life. He “behaved wisely;” and that was all God needed to see.

Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. – 1 Sam 18:13-16

What Saul meant as a punishment, God turned into promotion. By the time David was forced into exile, all of Israel loved him. On the surface, it seemed like things couldn’t be going worse for David: he was being pushed out of the country he was supposed to rule, by a king who didn’t want to give up the throne! But the whole time, God was perfectly positioning David to step into the call of greatness over his life.

It’s All About Your Heart

As you’re waiting for destiny to unfold over your life, what matters most is the condition of your heart. God had plenty of warriors to choose from! He had plenty of men who knew His word. But He had only one who was, “…a man after His own heart” (1 Sam 13:14).

What is your heart condition like? Are you frustrated God is taking so long? Are you angry at the people around you who are making your life difficult? The unfortunate reality is this: you are going to have to wait for God to fulfill the call to greatness on your life. Greatness takes time! But as you wait, are you willing to “behave wisely?” Are you willing to protect your heart? Are you willing to act with integrity and character while God takes His time? Are you willing to refuse to take matters into your own hand, electing instead to allow God to do everything in His own time?

David constantly invited God to examine his heart:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Ps 139:23-24

Was David perfect? No (see 2 Sam 11:2). But what David had going for him is an insistence to “behave wisely:” to make sure he didn’t do anything on his own, but that he waited on God for every good and perfect thing to come to pass.

As you position yourself for greatness, can you stand before God and honestly declare that you are a (wo)man after His own heart? Can you bare your heart before Him, and confess that you have zero ulterior motive to serving Him? Can you say your heart hasn’t been tainted by the people around you who aren’t as excited about your destiny as you are?

It’s not just about what you do as you wait for your destiny; it’s about how you do it. David “behaved wisely” because his heart was right! He constantly let God in to poke around under the hood, and examine what was going on in his heart condition and his thought process. And the result was that David did all things well.

Anger and Bitterness

Anger and bitterness can interfere with your destiny. If you are angry and bitter, your emotions will cause you to hear things you think are from God, that aren’t really Him. Jesus explained this to His disciples:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Matt 5:23-24

Take this test: when you go to pray, who is the first person you think about? It should be Jesus! But many of us think about someone else. We go to pray, and we think about other people. God, change him, we start. Lord, tell her to help me! But whenever you think about someone else instead of Jesus in prayer, we have a problem.

Remember this: bitterness and resentment will negatively impact your ability to hear from God objectively. If you want to “behave wisely,” you have to let it go! Whatever people have done to offend you: is it worth hanging on to the offense at the expense of your destiny?

David didn’t allow Saul’s hatred to penetrate David’s heart. He refused to, “…give place to the devil” (Eph 4:27). David knew this powerful truth: if your heart is anything put pure before the Lord, the enemy has a foothold to your life. But if you constantly come to the Lord and ask Him to protect and preserve the state of your heart, He will answer your prayer!

The battle is in your heart. Do not give the enemy room to disrupt the call of God over your life. Do not give the enemy room to delay the call of God over your life! Forgive quickly, and love lavishly; and you will find yourself perfectly positioned to receive everything God wants you to have.

It’s All About Perspective

When did David really become king? He was thirty years old when other people first recognized him as king (2 Sam 5:4). But he was just a boy when God recognized him as king (1 Sam 16:13).

I would like to argue that David really became king when God anointed him, not when the world finally recognized him. David knew it. He didn’t need affirmation from other people when He already had it from God! He knew he was already king in God’s eyes, so it didn’t matter what anyone else thought! And if he was already king in God’s eyes, what reason did he have to be impatient?

David had plenty of opportunities to become frustrated and offended; he just didn’t take them. And neither should you. Behave yourself wisely. Ask God to keep your heart in the right place; and you will find yourself perfectly positioned to step into the call to greatness God has over your life.

You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. – Ps 71:21

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://intelligentcharismatic.com/called-to-greatness/

[2] http://intelligentcharismatic.com/called-greatness-ii/

[3] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/yatab.html

yatab; Strong’s 3190

Called to Greatness II

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness Part II’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/24/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

You Are Called

Last week[1] we discussed the reality that you are called to greatness. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done: God has a purpose for your life that is greater than you could ever imagine! You might feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job today; but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have something great for you.

Moses was, “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1) when God interrupted him and called him to greatness. Saul was wandering around, looking for his father’s donkeys, when Samuel, “…took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: ‘Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?’” (1 Sam 10:1). David was “keeping the sheep” (1 Sam 16:11) when God interrupted his life and anointed him as the next king over Israel! Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing now. You are not defined by your present! The only thing that matters is what you will do going forward. You are defined by your future in Christ!

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. – Jn 14:12

You are called to greatness. Are you ready to accept it?

Once You’re Called

That was the good news. Now, are you ready for the bad news?

Just because you’re called, doesn’t mean the way there is going to be easy. Here is the reality: as soon as you accept your call to greatness, you will start to experience resistance. I wish I could stand here and tell you that walking out your destiny would be straight forward and simply; but unfortunately, it’s just not true! Your destiny will unfold over your life; but you’re going to have to break through some resistance on the way.

Just because David was anointed as the next king over Israel, didn’t mean his life would be easy all of a sudden. As soon as he was called to greatness, he faced resistance from multiple places. The purpose of this message is not to discourage you that your destiny will not come easily; it is to prepare you for the resistance that is coming, so you 1) will not be surprised, and 2) will be prepared to deal with it!

Level One

The first layer of resistance David faced came from his family. Before we go any further, take a moment to read 1 Sam 17:1-16. The armies of Israel were gathered against the Philistines. Every morning, the “champion” (v 4) of the Philistines – this giant named Goliath – would present himself before the armies of Israel. He would taunt them. He would beat his chest, talk about how awesome he was, and tell the armies of Israel how pathetic they were.

Nobody wanted to fight Goliath. Saul was the king; but he didn’t want any part of Goliath (v 11). None of the best warriors in the armies of Israel wanted anything to do with this giant, and for good reason: his height was “six cubits and a span” (that’s about nine feet tall!),[2] “the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels” (v 7). When the warriors of Israel heard Goliath calling them out, “…they were dismayed and greatly afraid” (v 11).

But then there was David. David was the youngest of all his brothers; and his three oldest brothers had followed Saul to battle. One day, Jesse (David’s father) sent David on an errand:

Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. – 1 Sam 17:17-19

Jesse wanted David to bring his brothers some food; so David went.

What I want to highlight is this: what seemed like an errand was actually God positioning David for victory. David thought he was just dropping off food to his brothers; but God was actually bringing David to the battle. God knew Goliath would be spouting off and defying the armies of the living God. God also knew that David was the only man in all of Israel who would not allow Goliath to talk like that.

When David heard the giant challenging God’s armies, David knew Goliath might as well be challenging God himself. Where everyone else saw certain defeat; David saw victory. Where everyone else saw an enemy, David saw an opportunity!

But his brothers didn’t want to hear it:

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” – 1 Sam 17:28-29

David had done nothing wrong. He faithfully dropped off food for his bothers. While he was there, he heard the enemy asserting himself in a way that David knew was not God’s will. So, he decided to do something about it.

But look how his brother’s responded! Eliab was angry! He mocked David for being a shepherd instead of a warrior. He accused David of 1) pride and 2) insolence of heart.

This is the first level of resistance. David got pushback from his family: those closest to him, who should have supported him the most, supported him the least.

Do you know why I think Eliab was really mad? He was mad because he knew David was a bigger man than he. Eliab had watched as David was anointed in front of his entire family (1 Sam 16:13). Now, Eliab was standing back – afraid of Goliath – as David approached the battle and wondered out loud if he could take Goliath down!

Sometimes the people whom you expect to support you the most, will support you the least! Are you ready for that resistance? When it comes, don’t be surprised; be thankful that you are on the right track.

When I told my parents I wanted to leave a career in finance to take a call into full-time ministry, they thought I was crazy. They tried to talk me out of it. “Think of your future,” they begged me (they’ve accepted my decision since then!). They thought I was throwing away my future by chasing after what God wanted me to have!

I didn’t take it as discouragement; I understood it was resistance. They simply hadn’t heard God’s heart on the matter like I had. I wanted to charge into battle against the enemy, and take ground back for the Kingdom! But not everyone would understand.

Level Two

The second level of resistance David faced came from his mentor. When Goliath spoke, David responded:

“For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” – 1 Sam 17:26

He spoke with confidence and boldness. He stood out so much because of his words that Saul took notice:

Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” – 1 Sam 17:31-32

David wanted to fight Goliath. Saul should have been ecstatic! After all, Saul – as king – was the one who should have been bold and brave enough to face the giant. Now, here was David, offering to take one for the team, and charge into battle against the greatest enemy Israel had ever faced.

But Saul’s reaction was not good. He was anything but ecstatic:

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” – 1 Sam 17:33

Now wait just one minute! Saul already knew about David. Specifically, Saul’s servants had told David that David was, “…a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18). So why now, all of a sudden, would Saul forget everything he knew to be true about David, and tell him he wasn’t good enough?

Maybe Saul didn’t think David would win the fight, and he was trying to protect him? Maybe Saul was jealous that David had the courage he lacked? Whatever the reason, David came to Saul – his spiritual leadership – and instead of receiving the support he needed, he got completely shut down. This is the resistance you might face as you embrace your call to greatness.

Now I want to be very careful here. I am not saying you should not seek out wise counsel from people who are “older” (i.e. those who have been a Christian longer) and more experienced than you. I am saying that you should be prepared – and not let down – if they don’t immediately support what you are proposing as you charge after God’s plan for your life.

But watch very carefully how David responded. He did not punch Saul in the face and burn a bridge with his spiritual leadership. He did not go and fight for another nation (i.e. he didn’t leave his church and go find another one because the pastor didn’t agree with him)! David continued to serve Saul, even though Saul didn’t think David could do what God had called David to do.

So, have a conversation with your advisors. Seek wise counsel! Hear them out, and heed their advice. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what God is telling you to do.

When I was growing up, I played jazz saxophone. I practiced hard all through high school. Our school’s jazz band went to the Berklee College of Music’s annual jazz festival, and we did well. I had a solo in one of our songs, and I won an individual award for musicianship.

When we got home from that trip, I was flying high. I felt like I could take over the world! I asked my saxophone teacher, “What do you think about me moving to New York City to make a living as a saxophone teacher?” His reply? “Do you like waiting tables?”

This was the dose of reality I needed. I didn’t let it discourage me; I just received his comment as something to think about. At the end of the day, I had to discern that God’s will was not for move to move to the world’s greatest city and try to make a living as a starving artist. Sometimes your mentors will give you a healthy bucket of cold water in the face, and keep you from doing something silly; but other times, they might discourage you from charging into a God-ordained battle and taking the victory He promised you. Wisdom means knowing the difference!

David would not let resistance interfere with his destiny. He explained himself to Saul:

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” – 1 Sam 17:34-37a

You see, David had a history with God. God had given David victory before; and David knew God would do it again! David had already experienced a string of smaller victories with God. He knew God’s faithfulness because of his testimony! So when David faced the biggest adversary he had ever faced, he already knew what God was going to do: give him victory, just as He always had before!

Because of David’s persistence, Saul was convinced:

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” – 1 Sam 17:37b

David was ready to charge into battle. But the resistance he would face was not over yet!

Level Three

The third level of resistance David faced was outright resistance from the enemy. Did you really think the enemy was just going to let walk into your destiny without putting up a fight? Did you think Satan was just going to let you reach out and seize God’s best, without trying to fight you for it?

David was ready for battle; but Goliath would give him the worst verbal abuse he had heard yet:

Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” – 1 Sam 17:40-44

Goliath made fun of David. David had a staff, some stones, a pouch and a sling: exactly what God told him to bring into the fight. But Goliath taunted him that it wasn’t good enough! Goliath’s shield was so big that somebody else had to carry it (v 41). So when David showed up with just a staff and some rocks, Goliath laughed in his face!

And the enemy will do the same to you. Don’t mind what Satan says. God knows what you need. Carry whatever He has told you to bring into the battle you are facing. You don’t need anything else!

David responded to the enemy out loud:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Sam 17:45-47

David didn’t back down when the enemy taunted him. He replied with an understanding that if he had the “name of the Lord” (v 45), he had all the power he needed. Did you know there is power in God’s name? Did you know that at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow (Phil 2:10)? When you charge into battle in the name of God, you are not just fighting for yourself; you are fighting on behalf of God! And when you fight in His name, there is no way you can lose.

By the way, this is how you should respond when the enemy taunts you: out loud. When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (see Matt 4:1-11), the enemy came with a litany of different attacks; yet Jesus’ response was always the same! He responded out loud, with Scripture. So when the enemy taunts you, respond out loud, with the word of God!

David would not allow the taunts of the enemy to interfere with the supernatural confidence God invited him to have. Goliath laughed in David’s face! Yet David was the one who would be laughing at the end:

So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. – 1 Sam 17:48-51

David used God’s strategy to disable the enemy; and then he used the enemy’s own weapon to cut him apart.

How Will You Respond?

God has called you to greatness! Some people may support you as you pursue His call on your life; and others may not. But what other people say about you is none of your concern.

You might face resistance from the people closest to you. You might face resistance from people in your life you expected to champion you the most. You will face outright resistance from the enemy, as he tries to intimidate you and force you to abandon God’s call on your life! But when resistance rears its head, how will your respond?

Let God’s voice be the only voice you hear: even if the room is full of doubters. When all is said and done, He will bring you to the victory every else said was impossible.

Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” – 1 Sam 17:57-58

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-031019.mp3

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/how-tall-was-Goliath.html

Called to Greatness

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/10/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Called to Greatness

You are called to greatness. Each and every single believer is called to greatness. If you believe in Jesus Christ, God will do something through you that has never been done before!

Do you believe it? Do you believe that God put you on this Earth to accomplish something that nobody else can do? Do you believe that there is a work He has given you to do, that will impact the world in a way that blows your wildest expectations out of the water?

Witness the intricacy with which God designed you:

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. – Ps 139:13-16

David is talking to God; but he is also reminding himself of his intricate design. Here is what we learn about ourselves from David’s words:

1) God made you. You did not make yourself. To simply do what you “want” to do is dishonoring of your design. To do what God created you to do is the only logical fulfillment of the creation process.

2) You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God thinks you’re wonderful! And then enemy is afraid of you. Jesus has given you, “…authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19). You have authority over all the power of the enemy! Not just to hold him back, but to trample him! What more confidence do you need that God believes in you, and has equipped you with everything you need to do His work?

3) You are a “marvelous” work (v 14). David knew it through experience; but do you? Have you given God the chance to show you His goodness, by trusting Him that His word is true?

4) You are “skillfully wrought” (v 15). God does not make mistakes. Better still: when you make mistakes, God redeems them!

5) The days are “fashioned for you” (v 16). God created today with you in mind! There is no such thing as “luck” or “random occurrence.” God put you on this earth – here and now, today – to do something that will reverberate for all eternity! Praise be to God!

What did God create you to do, that nobody else can do? And are you ready to step into that design, full of faith, and embrace the calling He has on your life?

Moses

Moses had a call to greatness on his life. He just didn’t know it! Maybe you’re in the same boat. Perhaps God has designed you for something amazing and intricately specific, but you’re the last to know about it. So if you don’t think you’re designed for greatness, you’re in good company. Moses was there too:

“Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” – Ex 3:10-14

When God called Moses, Moses wasn’t ready. He was, “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1), when all of a sudden, God showed up! “Come now,” God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you bring My people…out of Egypt” (v 10). What an amazing call! What an incredible destiny!

But look at Moses’ response: “Who am I” (v 11). Who am I? Moses wasn’t convinced. He was making a mental list of all the reasons the call of God on his life didn’t make sense. He was coming up with excuses as to why God had the wrong guy. Yet watch what God does. He forces Moses to take his eyes off himself, and put them right back on God: “I will certainly be with you” (v 12).

It doesn’t matter who you are. Your qualifications and level of preparedness are absolutely irrelevant to God! All that matters is who He is. Moses asked God, “Who am I?” And God responded, “I am with you.” When God is with you, nothing else matters. When you have His presence, you have all you will ever need to do everything He has called you to do!

Moses was actually the only man alive who could do what God was asking him to do. Moses was born a Hebrew (Ex 2:1), but raised an Egyptian (Ex 2:10). And Moses wasn’t just raised as any Egyptian; he was raised in Pharaoh’s house, as Egyptian royalty!

God needed someone who was Hebrew – one of His people – but who also understood the customs and norms of Egyptian nobility! Moses was His guy! But Moses didn’t want to believe it.

Who has God called you to be? Are you having trouble believing it?

King Saul

Saul was Israel’s first king. It was never God’s will to give His people a king. He wanted to be their king! But Israel cried out for a king, and God gave them their desire:

Then Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah, and said to the children of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.” – 1 Sam 10:17-19

Saul had a call to greatness on his life, too. But just like Moses, he was the last to know it!

When the people of Israel cried out for a king, Saul was God’s answer to them:

And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.” – 1 Sam 19:20-22

But Saul didn’t believe the calling on his own life! When God crowned him king in front of all God’s people, Saul didn’t step up and accept his calling with his head held high and a smile on his face; he hid!! Saul was so reluctant to accept the crown that other people had to run and “bring him” to the throne!

So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” – 1 Sam 10:23-24

This says something about the people God chooses for greatness. Saul never asked to be king. He never wanted to be promoted. Saul was simply made king. God called him to be great, even though Saul never asked for it; and from that point forward, it was Saul’s responsibility to step up and accept the call!

King David

David was the second king over Israel: Saul’s successor. But just like Moses and Saul before him, David didn’t ask to be king. He didn’t want to be promoted! He was simply minding his business when God interrupted the trajectory of his life and called him to greatness.

One day while David was tending to his flock, the prophet Samuel showed up out of nowhere to anoint David as king:

So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” – 1 Sam 16:8-11a

What was it about David that attracted God’s attention? Why did God pass over all seven of David’s brothers and choose him?

David had a humble heart. He was a shepherd, “…keeping the sheep” (v 11). You see, God does’t need a fancy resume or the perfect credentials to use someone for greatness. He simply needs to see a humble heart.

Before God called Moses to greatness, he was “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1). Before God called Saul to be king, he was looking for his father’s donkeys (1 Sam 9:3)! Before David was anointed king, he was watching his father’s flocks in the field. What’s the point? When you simply serve well with a humble heart, you won’t have to look for greatness! Greatness will find you.

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:11b-13

Nobody expected David to be the next king over Israel. Even Samuel thought it must be one of his older brothers! But God, “…does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

It doesn’t matter what somebody else has told you. It doesn’t matter what you accept – or refuse to believe – about yourself! God has called you to greatness; and that is all that matters.

Greater Things

Do you know what Moses, Saul, and David all had in common? God had greater plans for them, than they had for themselves. And do you know what? He has “greater” plans for you too.

You’re no Moses. You’re no Saul! You’re no King David. But you are you; and God has called you to greater things:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” – Jn 14:12-14

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How to Build Wealth

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How to Build Wealth’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/24/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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How to Build Wealth

Successful investing is simpler thank you think. What do I know about investing? Sure, I am a pastor now; but prior to taking a job at the church I was a Risk Arbitrage trader at a major bank on Wall Street. Prior to that, I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics and Management. I hate to pull a Paul in Philippians 3 (see vv 4-6), but I have the background to preach this message.

The key to successful investing is making your money work for you. Compound interest! They key is investing funds in a vehicle that is going to produce consistent and reliable returns. Note there is a difference between trading and investing. We are not here this morning to talk about buying and selling something to make money fast. We are here to talk about wisely investing money to build wealth slowly.

Warren Buffett – the founder of famed investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, and at this time the 3rd richest man in the world – has said the single most powerful factor behind his investing success is compound interest:

“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.” – Warren Buffett[1]

In a 1964 letter to his investors, he bragged about the power of compound interest to his investors. His wife had recently taken an interest in investing in art, and Mr. Buffet was not a fan. Here were his comments:

“Francis I of France paid 4,000 ecus (European Currency Units) in 1540 for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. On the off chance that a few of you have not kept track of the fluctuations of the ecu 4,000 converted out to about $20,000. If Francis had kept his feet on the ground and he (and his trustees) had been able to find a 6% after-tax investment, the estate now would be worth something over $1,000,000,000,000,000. That’s $1 quadrillion or over 3,000 times the present national debt, all from 6%. I trust this will end all discussion in our household about any purchase or paintings qualifying as an investment.” [2]

The current value of the Mona Lisa is around $820 million dollars. But wouldn’t you rather have one quadrillion dollars? Such is the power of compound interest.

Have you ever been to Manhattan? Several years later, Mr. Buffett reminded his investors that Peter Minuit purchased the island from the Manhattan Native American tribe for $24 in 1626. The current value of all real estate on the island is somewhere between $1.1 and $1.74 trillion dollars, depending on the estimate. Seems like a raw deal for the original owners, doesn’t it?

But if the Manhattan Native American tribe had invested that $24 at a 7% annualized interest rate over the next 393 years, they would currently have $8.4 trillion dollars: or seven times the value of all the real estate in Manhattan. Such is the power of compound interest! You might ask, where can I find an investment that will return 7%? To which I would reply, the average annualized return for the S&P 500 over the last 90 years was 9.8%.

Investing isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. It’s crafted as complicated because finance professionals need something to charge you for (trust me, I was one)! But real wealth is built with simple, Biblical principles like these:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Prov 13:11

The earlier you start investing, the better. Stay away from schemes that promise overnight success. Instead, gravitate to time-tested principles.

Dave Ramsey is a leading expert on personal finances. Lucky for us, he’s also a Christian. More than one million families have taken his Financial Peace University course;[3] and the average family that completes the course is completely out of debt in 18-24 months. The financial principles of the course are simple: pay off your debt, and start saving. Once you have an emergency fund built up, start investing. This is compound interest! Don’t pay interest to someone else (debt); earn interest from someone else (investment)!

As a practical example, imagine the following three cases.[4] Michael, Jennifer, and Sam all save $1,000 a month for 10 years ($120,000 total). Michael starts saving at age 25, and stops on his 35th birthday. From that day forward, he allows his money to compound interest in an investment account at 7% annualized until he retires at age 65. Jennifer starts a little later than Michael, saving $120,000 over 10 years from age 35 to 45. Sam took a little longer to get bitten by the investment bug; so he saved $120,000 over ten years from age 45 to 55. All three saved the same amount. All three let their money accumulate at the same rate (7%) until the same age (65). Yet when they retired, they had vastly different sums:

  • Michael: $1,444,969
  • Jennifer: $734,549
  • Sam: $373,407

Do you see the power of compound interest?

Sowing Seed

Now what would have happened if Michael, Jennifer and Sam hadn’t invested anything? It’s not a trick question. They wouldn’t have had anything left for retirement! The reality is, if you want to reap a harvest, you have to sow seed. If you want to have a return, you have to invest!

Jesus explained the principle of sowing and reaping to His disciples as follows:

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” – Mk 4:26-29

Money – just like seed – has inherent growth properties. You don’t have to work for money; money will work for you. But if you want to benefit from the inherent growth properties of money, you have to invest it! What farmer would expect a harvest without first putting seed in the ground?! Yet how often do you and I expect to have a solid financial future without making the investment required? Instead of responsibly investing, we come to God with a lottery mindset – expecting Him to drop money into our laps out of the sky – instead of following the simple principles He outlined for us in His word!

The Apostle Paul explained principle of sowing and reaping to the Church at Corinth:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Cor 9:6-8

If you sow a lot of seed, you are going to reap a big harvest! But if you refuse to sow a lot of seed…well, you know…

Too often, we take the seed God has given us and we do something else besides sowing. Some of us keep our seed in our pocket. We convince ourselves we aren’t smart enough to invest our money, so we keep our cash under the mattress. But the seed won’t grow out of the soil! Some of us eat what God wants us to sow. We live lives of frequent spending on things like going out to eat, instead of keeping the money God has given us. Still others of us scatter our seed somewhere it won’t take root: we spend our funds on depreciating assets like fancy cars and then have nothing left to invest (but at least we impress our friends)!

If you don’t sow – or sow in the wrong place – the results will be predictably disastrous; but if you sow it in the right place, the results will be incredible!

Investing for Eternity

Now here’s what I really want to talk about. You’re probably reading this article because of the title. You want to know how to get rich. Maybe you’ve read some books on investing and devoted some time to figuring out how to exercise healthy, Biblical financial principles.

Now here is my thought for you: if were willing to spend so much time & energy learning how to invest for your time-limited future on earth, how much more time & energy should you spend learning to invest in your eternal future in Heaven?!

Jesus reminds us, His disciples, that we should spend our lives building wealth in the right ways:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matt 6:19-21

It is a waste to spend our lives accumulating things we can’t take with us when we die. But wait a second, Pastor Mike. Didn’t you just talk about building earthly wealth for three pages? And now your conclusion is, Build up heavenly wealth instead? Yup!

You see, I believe God wants you to build wealth in multiple ways: 1) financial wealth here on earth, and 2) spiritual wealth in Heaven. The reason He is willing to help you build financial wealth is because He wants you to bless other people with it!

The currency for the things of Heaven is faith. Every single thing you’ve ever gotten from God has come by faith. But the currency of Earth is…you guessed it…money. If you want to be a blessing to other people during your time on earth – to relieve poverty, feed the hungry, and house the homeless – you need earthly wealth! And if you want to be blessed during your time in Heaven, you need spiritual wealth!

Will investing for eternity be a sacrifice? Will it mean you might have to pass up some things in the short term, to invest wisely for the long term? Absolutely. But here is Jesus’ promise when we give up anything for Him:

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” – Matt 19:27-29

Investing for eternity might seem like giving up something now; but Jesus’ promise is, in return, you will gain so much more. You shall receive “a hundredfold” in this life, and inherit eternal life after that (v 29)!

You saw the impact compound interest can have on your financial future over 30 years in our example earlier. How much more impact can your investment in the Kingdom of God earn over the same period of time? Over the next 300 years? Over the next 3,000 years?!

Giving to the Church

I believe the best way to invest in the Kingdom of God is to give to the local church. But don’t just take my word for it. Look at God’s promise to those who sow into His “storehouse:”

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts; “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. – Mal 3:10-12

When you tithe into the local church, God will open the windows of heaven for you. He will pour out a blessing that is so immense that you won’t even have room to receive it! He will protect you by rebuking the devourer for your sake. Aren’t you glad God will not only build wealth in your life, but also protect what He’s given you?

But it all starts when you make the choice to sow seed. It doesn’t matter to me if you tithe to our church, or to another church; but every Christian’s responsibility is to sow into something. Pick a church, and give! And watch God give it back to you with interest.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://compoundingmyinterests.com/favorite-quotes/

[2] https://www.safalniveshak.com/wit-wisdom-warren-part7/

[3] https://www.daveramsey.com/pr/fpu_passes_1_million_families

[4] https://www.moneyunder30.com/power-of-compound-interest

The Point of Prayer

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Point of Prayer’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/3/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE

Week Four: Getting to the Point of Prayer

We’ve covered good ground so far. In Week One,[1] we digested our responsibility to share the Gospel with other people. In Week Two,[2] we saw that God will give us a specific group of people with whom He wants us to share the Gospel. In Week Three,[3] we discussed one of the most important principles of evangelism: Talk to People! Now, in Week Four, I want to give you another key to effective evangelism: getting to the Point of Prayer (PoP).

Pray It, Don’t Say It

My wife and I founded the Healing Rooms at CityLight Church in 2012. Twice per month, we open our sanctuary on a Saturday and invite people who need physical healing to come in for prayer. We have teams of volunteers who are trained to pray for physical healing who stand on the word of God, and believe that whomever they pray for will be healed in the name of Jesus.

After we opened, our motto in the Healing Rooms quickly became, “Pray it, don’t say it.” We realized right away that telling someone what the word of God said is mildly effective; but praying the word of God over someone causes genuine breakthrough to take place. Talking about God’s will to heal might result in an occasional healing, but praying God’s will to heal over a broken body quickly causes healing to happen!

Whenever you set out to tell someone about Jesus, the end goal of your interaction should be prayer. Get to a “Point of Prayer,” and invite the power of God into the room. Ask God to move on the person’s heart, and to show him or her how much He loves them.

Our Flawed Model

How do you typically approach evangelism? If you’re like me, you were taught that evangelism is all about telling. You have to tell people about Jesus! You have to tell someone through a well-thought-out conversation (an intellectual “argument” or presentation) why they need Jesus. You want them to realize their need for a Savior, and make a decision invite Jesus into their life.

But here is the problem with that approach: it assumes your primary responsibility is to convince someone to believe in Jesus. I want to show you that the purpose of evangelism is not to convince someone they need Jesus. In fact, contrary to the model we typically employ, the purpose of evangelism is not to convince anyone of anything!

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest evangelists to ever walk the earth. He wrote 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament, so he certainly knows what he’s talking about. We typically attribute his evangelistic effectiveness to his education and argumentative skills: Acts 22:3 tells us Paul was, “…indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of [Jewish law].” Paul was the best student of one of the most respected teachers of Jewish law in all of Israel! He knew Scripture like the back of his hand.[4] Surely his intellectual ability was what made him more effective at sharing the Gospel, right?

Wrong. Notice how Paul describes his evangelism process:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul’s goal was not to convince people to believe in Jesus with “excellence of speech” or “wisdom.” As smart as he was, he didn’t rely on an intellectual proof to lead people to Christ! He knew that “persuasive words of human wisdom” wouldn’t get the job done. Instead, he relied on, “…demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Paul was on to something. He knew words would get him only so far. At some point, if he wanted to be effective at introducing people to God, he had to do something more.

Jesus knew the same thing. Yes, He was an anointed Teacher. We see Him teaching in the synagogues everywhere He went. But we also know there was something different about the way He taught:

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. – Matt 7:28-29

Jesus didn’t teach with words only; He taught with authority. “Authority” is the Greek exousia,[5] which means the power required to establish rule and reign. Jesus knew what we should know: “No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent [Jesus] draws him” (Jn 6:44). Jesus’ goal was not to convince anyone to believe in Him with words; it was to allow them to experience the presence of God and His authority here on earth.

So here is my question for you: If Paul was one of the best in history at theological debates, yet even he didn’t try to convince people to believe in Jesus, then why do we? If Jesus was the Son of God, yet even He didn’t teach “as the scribes” (i.e. with fancy words and well-thought-out arguments), then why do we? Do we think we’re smarter than Paul? More effective than Jesus? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, and convince people to believe in Jesus?

We’re not that smart. That’s not meant to be insulting; it’s meant to be empowering. Thank God He doesn’t rely on our intellectual abilities to win people to Jesus. Thank God we don’t have to convince people to believe something they don’t want to believe! That takes all the pressure off us, and puts it back on Jesus.

The Point of Prayer

I’m inviting you to change your paradigm for effective evangelism. Your job is not to win anyone with words; it is to pray and watch God move.

Here’s how it works. You start by talking to people (TTP![6]). Ask people about their lives. Meet them where they are! Instead of telling them what you want them to hear; ask them how they want to pray. As they’re telling you about their life, pick a real prayer need, and start to pray. Invite the presence of God’s Holy Spirit into your prayer. Pray it, don’t say it! By the end of your prayer, your goal is to ask God to fundamentally change that person’s life by His miracle-working power. Your goal is to allow that person to experience His presence. Your goal is to have them so changed by prayer that you won’t have to “give them” Jesus; they will be chomping at the bit to receive Him.

Do you see the difference? It’s not about you; and it’s all about Him! God doesn’t need your well-thought-out arguments or your clever introductions. He just needs you to reach a Point of Prayer, so He can make people hungry for Jesus through you!

You might ask, well when do I tell people about Jesus? My response: pray it, don’t say it! If you get to a genuine point of prayer, God is going to show up.

Last Monday, my prayer on the subway during my morning commute to work was, “Lord, give me one person I can share the Gospel with today.” I came off the train excited! Nothing gets your pulse going like being ready to tell people about Jesus!

I squeezed off the train and headed up the stairs from the subway platform to the street. I walked through a tiny park with some picnic tables where people had stopped to suck down a morning coffee. On the other side of the park, a woman who looked to be in her mid-30’s was swaying back and forth, asking for help. “Do you have anything to eat?” she asked. I didn’t have anything to eat; but I knew I had something better.

I walked up to her and dropped my bags and held out my hand. “My name’s Mike.” She took my hand and gave me a limp, dispirited handshake. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Kelly.” “How long have you been living on the street?” I continued. Since she was eighteen. Kelly was 35 now. “So you’ve been living on the street for seventeen years?” I asked? Kelly nodded.

I told Kelly about the Bowery Mission: a great organization that cares for people experiencing homeless in New York City. Kelly replied that, after seventeen years, she knows how to find food and shelter on the streets. She wasn’t interested in housing or clinical care. I knew my role wasn’t to convince her otherwise; it was to empower her by listening to her desires and respecting her decisions as an adult.

Kelly went on to tell me her story. She has a son who is two years old. She couldn’t care for him on the street, so he was taken into foster care. She misses him every day. She longs for the day when she will have her own home and be able to care for him the way she wants. I saw the entry point I had been waiting for: “Kelly, can we pray together?”

I prayed for reconciliation in Kelly’s family. I prayed God would give her a permanent roof over her head so she could raise her son in their own home. I prayed Kelly would be reconciled with her parents and God would bring healing into her family. I prayed God would make His power real to her. I prayed He would make His presence known to her. I prayed everything in the name of Jesus.

Tears started to stream down Kelly’s face as we prayed. Her body was responding to God’s presence. I could feel His presence too! I thanked her for spending a few moments of her day with me. I gave her an evangelism card from our church, with a Gospel message printed on the front, and a directory of NYC homeless resources on the back. I gave her money for breakfast, and invited her to reach out to me any time. If she wanted to hear more about Jesus, I wanted to tell her. She looked into my eyes and said, “God bless you.” That is a look I will never forget.

Could I have had an effective encounter with Kelly if I had stopped and told her about Jesus? Probably! God will use whatever we give Him. But I believe I had an even more effective encounter with Kelly because we were able to pray. She left our conversation not only knowing about God, but also having experienced His presence. I didn’t tell her something I thought she needed to hear; I met her at her point of need and brought her to a Point of Prayer.

Peter and John

Peter and John knew that praying with people was the most effective form of evangelism available:

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. – Acts 3:1-5

Peter and John encountered a man in need. He was in need of money (“asked for alms”). He was in need of healing (“lame from his mother’s womb”). But more than anything, he needed Jesus!

Peter and John didn’t stop and ask Him if he wanted to hear about Jesus. They didn’t try to convince him of his need for a Savior through an intellectual debate! They got him to a Point of Prayer.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. Acts 3:6-7

Peter issued a powerful, decisive, commanding prayer. Notice he told the man about Jesus in that prayer. How do I know this? Look at the man’s response:

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. – Acts 3:8

The man came into the temple to praise God. He knew Who was responsible for this miracle! He wasn’t getting dragged into the temple by Peter and John, not sure if he was going to like church service! He was “walking” and “leaping:” excited to praise the God who had just met his most urgent need!

The effect was contagious:

And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:9-10

What if every single one of our church services was filled with people, “…walking, leaping, and praising God?” What if we didn’t have to settle for convincing friends and family members to reluctantly accept an invitation to church? What if their lives were so transformed at a Point of Prayer that they wanted to come and praise God for all He had done?

Your Family

Do you know how you’re going to win your family to Jesus? It won’t be through an intellectual debate. It will be by getting everyone in your family to a Point of Prayer.

For years, I tried to tell my parents about Jesus. My parents have always gone to church; but for years I wondered if they had ever really received Jesus. They go to a church based on Christian tradition, but void of any discussion of what it really means to know God.

My Dad was always the toughest nut to crack. Growing up, my Dad was my biggest mentor. He coached every sports team I was ever on. He taught me how to ski and ride a bike. So it was a bit awkward for both of us when I turned around – forty years his junior – and started asking him if he had a relationship with Jesus. Did he know for sure he was going to heaven? Who was I – just a kid – to question his beliefs? He had a whole lifetime of experience that I didn’t have!

Finally, after years of conversations that felt more like arguments, I just gave up. Instead of trying to convince him of his need for Jesus, I just decided to pray. I would take the next opportunity he gave me, and make it my goal to pray with him. I wanted him to experience the power of God. I wanted him to feel God’s presence!

The next time my wife and I visited home, I was sitting and talking with my Dad. He told me his back was hurting. I jumped up. “Can I pray for your back?” My Dad looked a little startled; but he said yes. I prayed, and I released the power of God over his body. I prayed that Jesus would invade his life like never before. By the end of the prayer, my whole body was tingling. I asked my Dad how he felt: “Better,” he smiled.

Did I lead my Dad into a radical moment where he dropped everything he was doing and said, “What must I do to be saved?” Nope. Did I so wow him with my extensive knowledge of Scripture that he was convinced of his need to know God? I don’t think so! But I did jump at the opportunity to get him to a Point of Prayer.

Several weeks later, my Mom gave me some news. My Dad now reads his Bible every day. Every day! And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in his life next. God is moving; and it all started with a Point of Prayer.

Get to the Point of Prayer; and watch God do the rest.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://bit.ly/2CTq6ya

[2] http://bit.ly/2ScO15q

[3] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk

[4] Pharisees were required to memorize large sections of Jewish Law.

[5] Strong’s G1489; https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/exousia.html

[6] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk

Talk to People!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Talk to People!’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/27/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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We know from Week One[1] that we have a responsibility to share the Gospel with other people. We know from Week Two[2] that God will give you a specific group of people He wants you to reach with the message. Now, for Week Three in our Evangelism Series, I want to give you what I believe is the single most important principle for winning people to Jesus. Are you ready?!

T.T.P.

Talk to people. You might laugh out loud at the apparent simplicity. But even though it’s simple, how often do we forget it? If you want to win people to the Lord, you have to start by talking to them first! It’s impossible to tell people about Jesus if you don’t talk to them!

I remember hearing about an Executive Pastor at a large church (20,000+ members) in South Africa. Whenever he hired new staff, he told them there was only one thing they had to do: only one thing that mattered for their job performance. Talk to people. TTP! The health of the church, he said, would depend on it. Whenever the church staff seemed to be forgetting that most important principle, he would threaten to come into the office and write “TTP” in giant letters all over the walls. The staff’s job was not to forget to talk to people; and as evangelists, that is our job too!

Talk to people is an important principle in the business world, too. If you want to be successful, you have to talk to people. Dale Carnegie wrote the first edition of his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936. Warren Buffet, one of the richest people on the planet, credits that book with fundamentally changing his life.[3] Carnegie took simple principles and explained their importance for everyday interactions, focusing specifically on lessons that would translate to the business world. Here is one of the most memorable quotes from his book:

“Winning friends begins with friendliness.”

It’s deep, isn’t it? But he included it because so many of us forget it so often! Carnegie wrote from a secular perspective: for him, “winning friends” means enlarging your social circle. But we can read it from an evangelistic perspective: winning friends [for Jesus] begins with friendliness.

Do you like talking to people? When you meet someone you’ve never met before, are you friendly? If the answer to one (or both!) of those questions is no, is it any wonder why you aren’t leading more people to Jesus?

If you want to be successful, you have to talk to people! Every job I’ve ever had has been the result of talking to people: I usually knew someone who could get my foot in the door, and then I secured the job by having an interview (i.e. a formal “talk” with people). When I met my beautiful wife Rachael, do you know how our relationship started? By talking to people. I had to open my mouth and say hello; and over time, our trust deepened and our relationship grew because we talked to each other! Do you know how my relationship with Jesus has blossomed? By talking to Him in prayer! Everything I have ever received that is worth celebrating has come about because I talked to people: TTP!

If you don’t like talking to people, you are missing out. David Burkus wrote the book, Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career. He notes that small talk (i.e. “friendliness” or “talking to people”) is more than just polite. He says it is, “…crucial for your success in different spheres of life. And if you hate small talk and do your best to avoid it, you are just cutting yourself off from lots of meaningful social interactions.” [4]

If you want to win friends, you have to talk to people. If you want to win friends to Jesus, you should want to talk to people even more!

Becoming an Everyday Evangelist

Evangelism is not just a one-time special event. Contemporary church culture might suggest that evangelism is something we do once per year, with a bunch of other people, just to invite people to church. But evangelism is not just an event; it is a lifestyle. Are you “doing evangelism;” or are you becoming a supernaturally normal evangelist?

Can I tell you a dirty little secret? I am not a natural evangelist. The summer before we launched our Brooklyn church location, we did servant evangelism (our church’s term for street outreach) almost every single Saturday for two months straight. I remember standing on the corner of Manhattan and Montrose Ave’s in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, handing out granola bars and church invitations. And can I be honest with you? I hated it.

I hated the feeling of putting myself out there and inviting random strangers to church, because many of them said no. I hated watching people laugh and snicker right in my face as I tried to tell them about Jesus. I hated the fact that, because we were in a trendy up-and-coming neighborhood, the most common question I would get was not, “Can you tell me more about Jesus?” It was, “Are the granola bars vegan?” Are you kidding me?!

But several weeks in, I had an epiphany. Why would anyone want to come to a church, if the person who was inviting them was absolutely miserable? If I looked like I was grimacing in pain as I tried to hand someone a granola bar and a church invite, why on earth would they say yes to my invitation: so they could come to church and look just like me?

I realized something that summer. If I was going to be successful at evangelism, I needed to develop a deep, supernatural love for people. I needed to be able to smile and start a conversation with a stranger without looking like I was in physical pain, or letting their response dictate my emotional state. I knew it was time to get good at talking to people.

If we want to get good at reaching people for Jesus, we can’t be afraid of simple conversation. We have to love talking to people!

Conversation-Starters

Tasteful, effective evangelism is not about telling people something they don’t want to hear. It’s not about convincing them Jesus is Lord with a rational, intellectual argument. It’s about meeting them where they are, and inviting the Holy Spirit to move.[5]

Again, I am not naturally good at this. It’s taken years of prayer to get me comfortable talking to people. It’s taken a daily request every morning for God to put me in conversations with at least one person whom I can tell about Jesus.

Do you know what I love about our team at CityLight Church? Our pastors and our staff are all different. We learn from each other in the areas where we’re similar as iron sharpens iron; but we learn even more from each other in the areas in which we’re different.

Pastor Mohamed is our Community Pastor. I count him one of my best friends in the world. And even though I’m not a natural talker, Pastor Mohamed is.

Pastor Mo is a big dude. Years ago, when we took all the men at the church bowling, I was sitting at the back of the bowling alley with Pastor Mo. We were in the middle of a conversation, and someone came up to us and asked him, “Do you know where the bathroom is?” “No,” he answered politely. Five minutes later, someone else approached: “Hey man, what time do you guys close?” Now I realized what was going on, and I started hysterically laughing. Everyone thought Pastor Mo was the bouncer! They assumed he worked at the bowling alley as security, so they were asking him all sorts of questions about hours of operations and where the bathrooms were located!

So now you know just how big Pastor Mo is. But do you know what? Pastor Mo loves talking to people. If you ever ride the New York City subway with Pastor Mo, you will see exactly what I mean. He will lock eyes with random people, just to give them a smile. Why? Because he knows something we should know: a smile can soften someone’s heart. A smile can open the door to a conversation about Jesus. A smile can result in someone giving his or her life to Jesus because of the conversation that follows. Dale Carnegie put it this way: “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”[6]

One of the reasons I love hanging out with Pastor Mo is he makes me better. I do not lock eyes with people on the subway. In fact, I hate it when people lock eyes with me. Growing up, I hated that one kid in class who would always sit at the front of the room, but periodically turn around to scan the rest of the room and lock eyes with people. I don’t like the people in church who turn around and look at other people during the sermon. I’m just not built that way! But Pastor Mo is making me better.

And now it’s your turn! Are you a natural lover of people? When you meet someone new, are you naturally curious about their life? Could you care more? Or could you care less?

Along with being a pastor, I’m a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of the things I love about going to the gym is talking to people. I’ve never walked into the gym with the intention of preaching the Gospel; but I arrive in every day with a mission to talk to people and an invitation for God to move as I start a conversation.

Several months ago, I was talking with a friend on the mat after practice. He told me his older sister had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I had a meeting scheduled right after practice, but I made a decision: right now, the most important thing I can do is sit here and listen.

He started to tell me how unfair this whole situation was. It didn’t make any sense. His sister was young. She was healthy! She ate well, and exercised often. She was a loving, devoted mother to her two kids. So how could it be, all of a sudden, that she was diagnosed with lymphoma?

I sat and talked with him for 15 minutes. He was blown away that I actually cared what was going on in his life. I told him I would be praying for his sister, but I didn’t stop and pray with him right then and there. I left the conversation beating myself up a little bit. Should I have been bolder? Should I have told him about Jesus? Should I have insisted that we pray – right then and there, on the spot?

Know this: God will use whatever you give Him. I left the conversation wondering if I could have done more. What I didn’t know, however, was this: about a dozen other people were listening to us as we had our conversation on the mat. When I got to the locker room, another guy came up to me. “I heard you talking up there,” he said. “What did you think?” I smiled.

As we talked, this guy started telling me his religious history. He grew up going to church; but at a certain age, he left. Why? Because he didn’t feel like anyone really cared about him. He had attended a big church, and he felt lost in the crowd. Leadership wanted him to get on board with their agenda; yet no one seemed to care if he even had personal hopes and desires. We talked for about fifteen minutes, and he promised to come give our church a try. He told me about a desire to get plugged into a men’s ministry, so we made a bro-date to go find one!

What happened there? I wasn’t trying to shove the Gospel down people’s throats. I simply made a decision to demonstrate compassion by talking to people, and listening to what they had to say. And in our culture, that is so different and abnormal that people took notice.

When you make a decision to love people through conversation, God will do the rest. Even if you feel like you missed it in one conversation, God will still use it all for good! Don’t worry about saying the perfect thing at the perfect time! If you just talk to people, God will use it all for His good!

The Woman at the Well

Do you know who loves talking to people more than anyone else in the whole world? Jesus!

In John 4, Jesus is in the middle of a missionary journey. He’s traveling with His disciples; and do you know what His main goal is? To talk to people! To tell them just how good God is!

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. – Jn 4:5-6

Jesus is in the middle of a long day. It’s 12 noon, and He is tired. So he sits by a well and takes a rest. And watch what happens:

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. – Jn 4:7-9

Jesus was exhausted! But even the King of Kings was never too tired to talk to people.

What’s also important here is that Jesus was crossing racial and cultural divides by engaging this Samaritan woman in conversation. Look how surprised she is (v 9)! At that time, Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk! They didn’t respect each other, and they didn’t want anything to do with each other! Yet here is Jesus making a decision to overcome the racism and classism at play by having a simple conversation. Remember that Jesus’ primary mission was to save, “…the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). But He was willing to put that mission on pause to introduce someone to His Father.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” – Jn 4:10-12

So far, Jesus and this woman were engaged in small talk. Jesus was hinting at something deeper; but this Samaritan woman thought He was talking about a physical well! But all of a sudden, the conversation took a sharp turn. As soon as Jesus had the opportunity to give her the Gospel, He took it:

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” – Jn 4:13-15

Wow. Just look at the way Jesus handled that conversation. Our typical Christian approach is to try and tell people what we think they need to hear. We come along with our Christian fire hose and start blasting people in the face with our opinion on everything from abortion to homosexual marriage. The consequence is that, instead of people knowing what Christians stand for, they only know what we stand against.

But Jesus didn’t do that! He didn’t force the woman to choke down something she didn’t want to swallow! He made her thirsty. You see, we (the church) come along with our fire hose; but Jesus reminds us that our job is simply to make people thirsty enough to want a drink. What would our conversations with non-Christians look like if, instead of trying to get them to see our point of view, we met them where they are and just made them thirsty for the things of God?!

Jesus had the invitation He needed. He told her He was the Messiah (v 26). He told her about salvation, and lovingly challenged her to live a life worthy of repentance. And do you know how she responded? She wanted to go and tell everyone about Him! In one conversation, Jesus made this unrepentant, unsaved woman into an evangelist!

And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. – Jn 4:27-30

All of a sudden, the entire city wanted to meet Jesus. They knew this woman! They knew her story! And now they also knew that after one prophetic encounter with Jesus, she was completely changed!

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. – Jn 4:39-41

Your job is not to convince people to believe in Jesus with an intellectual argument or a theological debate. Your job is simply to talk to them, and invite the Holy Spirit to make them hunger and thirst for Jesus.

My Friend in the Park

Several months ago, I started going out and telling people about Jesus every week in Tompkins Square Park. Our church is in New York City’s East Village. It’s a neighborhood that has rapidly gentrified over the past two decades. Drug use and homelessness are epidemics. One morning in prayer, God showed me a vision of me, walking around Tompkins Square Park, and handing out invitations to church. He showed me a picture of myself, stopping and talking to people in the park, and asking to hear their stories.

Several weeks ago, I was out in the park. I was walking around, smiling, speaking in tongues, and asking God whom He wanted me to talk to. I turned a corner in the park and saw Joe from about 40 years away. Joe was sprawled out across a bench, drinking a beer and smoking a joint. I wasn’t sure Joe would want to hear what I had to say, but I knew the Holy Spirit was pushing me in his direction. I excitedly walked toward him. We locked eyes, and I swear I saw him roll his eyes at me from 40 yards away. But that didn’t bother me. I was ready to hear Joe’s story.

Joe asked me what I had in my hand. “Invitations to church,” I said. “I’m not interested,” Joe quipped. “That’s fine,” I replied. So I asked Joe how his day had been. How long had he been living in the neighborhood? I told him I was a pastor at a local church, and asked if there was any way I could pray for him. I didn’t try to sell him the church; I just tried to love him like Jesus.

Joe was brutally honest. “I hate the church,” he confessed, “But I kinda like you.” That was the only invitation I needed. I sat down on the bench next to Joe, and we talked for the next 25 minutes. He told me he had grown up in church, but had left because he felt like no one really cared about him (just like my friend from the gym)! Joe had been the victim of emotional abuse in the church, and sexual abuse in his home. All of this came out on a forest green bench in Tompkins Square Park, on one of the coldest days in January.

Eventually I noticed that Joe was losing interest in our conversation. I slowly rose to my feet, and placed an invitation to church on the bench next to him. “If you ever want to come to church,” I said, “We can go grab lunch after.” Joe’s response? “Not going to happen.” I smiled, and went on my way.

I left that conversation beating myself up again. Had I said the right things? Did I try to pray too soon? Should I have left the invitation on the bench for him, or was it too much?

I haven’t seen Joe since; but one week after our conversation, I got a surprise. We were having 21 days of prayer and fasting at our church, meeting every night for prayer at 7pm. The Monday after I met Joe, there was a knock on the door. A man I had never seen walked in. “I saw the light on. Are you having service tonight?” I explained to him that, while we weren’t having service, we would spend about an hour praying together. He smiled: “That’s exactly what I need.”

I asked him how he had heard about our church. He dug into his pocket and showed me a blue card. “I found this invitation on one of the green benches in Tompkins Square Park.”

God will use whatever you give Him. You don’t have to have the words for a perfect conversation. Just talk to people, and God will do the rest.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://bit.ly/2CTq6ya

[2] http://bit.ly/2ScO15q

[3] https://read.bi/2B9F3vW

[4] http://bit.ly/2HGAfUo

[5] For more on this, listen to Week Four (next week) where we talk all about getting to the “Point of Prayer.”

[6] Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Whom Should I Tell?

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Whom Should I Tell?’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/20/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Whom Should I Tell?

Maybe the last chapter left you in a bad place. We’ve established that we have an amazing gift in the Gospel. We have eternal life! We have access to the things of Heaven here on earth!

But we also have a responsibility to share. Ezekiel 3:16-21 taught us that if God asks us to share the Gospel, and we don’t do it, we will be accountable. That doesn’t mean our salvation will be in question; but it does mean we will have to answer in some form of Heavenly accountability for what was done or not done!

But we also noted that Ezekiel’s responsibility was not to share God’s word with everyone; it was to speak to a specific group of people to whom God called him:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel…” – Ezek 3:17

Ezekiel was to be a watchman for the “house of Israel.” He didn’t have to travel the world, and spend every waking moment stopping people on the street to let them know that Hell is a real place. He simply had to go where God called Him to go, and say what God called him to say, to whom God called him to reach.

Your Assignment

Your job is not to save the world. Jesus already did that! However, God has given you a specific assignment. He has given you access to a group of people – friends, family, and co-workers, in particular – whom no one else can reach! And I would like to suggest that it is your job to 1) find out who those people are, and 2) tell them about the love of God.

God sends specific people to specific places to preach a specific message. We’ve already established that we have to share the Gospel with someone. In this chapter we’re going to work on identifying your “target audience:” defining that group of people God created you to reach with the Gospel message. In the following chapters, we’ll develop specific strategies for reaching those people in ways that are both 1) tasteful and 2) effective.

Jesus Had A Primary Mission

Did you know that God gave even Jesus a specific audience? There were people who came to Jesus in Scripture who were not part of the group He was sent to reach. I know it doesn’t sound nice or fair; but Jesus actually prioritized His ministry around reaching the people God called Him to reach first. Yes, everyone needs help! But God has given you a specific grace to help certain people.

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. – Matt 15:21-23a

Why would Jesus completely ignore this woman! She was desperate and needed help! Finally, frustrated with Jesus’ lack of response, the disciples’ emotions got the best of them:

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matt 15:23b-24

Wow. Even Jesus had a primary mission! He knew the primary calling on His life was to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He would not allow Himself to be distracted by a seemingly endless river of dire need flowing towards Him (which is often what full-time ministry becomes, and why full-time ministers so often burn out). He knew His calling; and He refused to be distracted from it.

As we keep reading, we notice that Jesus does end up helping this woman:

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. – Matt 15:25-28

Jesus helped her because she was hungry. We’ll talk about this in the next chapter. The implication is two-fold:

1) We need to be aware of our primary mission. When “ministry opportunities” arise that do not align with our primary mission, we have be very wary about accepting them.

2) We also need to stay available. God responds to hunger. He will send us people who aren’t part of the primary people group He wants us to reach, but show us just how darn hungry they are. He will ask us to put our primary mission on pause to reward their hunger with a touch from Heaven!

Do you see the balance here? Jesus was focused, but He was also available. He knew His primary purpose and He constructed appropriate boundaries to get it done; but he also stayed available so that when someone who was hungry came to seek Him, He was ready and waiting.

So, the question Jesus’ ministry poses for you and me is: who is your primary mission?[1]

Paul Had A Primary Mission

Paul was a machine. After Jesus appeared to him on the Road to Damascus,[2] he quickly and fully embraced his calling to share the Gospel with much of the known world at the time. He willingly went wherever God called him, whenever God called him!

Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. – Acts 16:1-5

But did you know that even Paul had a primary mission? Watch this:

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. – Acts 16:6

Why would the Holy Spirit ever forbid someone to preach? Isn’t it God’s will that no man should perish (2 Pet 3:9)? Isn’t preaching a good thing? So why, when Paul and Timothy tried to go into new places and preach the Gospel, would God ever tell them no?

This didn’t happen just once by the way:

After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. – Acts 16:7

What is going on here? Paul and Timothy had plans to preach the Gospel in multiple places, but the Holy Spirit 1) forbade them (v 6), and 2) did not permit them (v 7). What’s the lesson for us?

Just as important as knowing where you are called, is knowing where you are not called. Paul and Timothy had the right heart! They wanted to do the right thing! But God didn’t want them where they were trying to go.

I know so many people in ministry who have the right heart to do the right thing, but try to do it in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we don’t have an active relationship with God where we are listening to His Holy Spirit, we can waste years trying to do good work in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paul and Timothy had a calling to preach the Gospel on their lives! But they still had to listen to God. They still had to ask, Lord, where do you want us to go?

Finally, God showed Paul and Timothy why He had been keeping their schedules open.

So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” – Acts 16:8-9

Now this is starting to make sense. Paul and Timothy wanted to stay east and preach in what is now modern-day Turkey; but God wanted them to head west to what we know as Greece. God told Paul and Timothy not to go into certain places so they would be available for their primary mission when God gave them more details!

What would have happened if Paul and Timothy had gone into Asia or Bithynia? Maybe they would have preached, but their preaching wouldn’t have been fruitful. Maybe they would have preached, but they would have been in danger. Maybe they would have been stepping on someone else’s toes! What if there were people in Asia and Bithynia whom God wanted to raise up to preach; and by going into those places – even with the good heart and the right intentions – Paul and Timothy would have been stifling someone else’s growth?

What an exciting adventure it is to walk with God! Paul and Timothy were gradually feeling out what God wanted them to do. They didn’t put on blinders and plow forward into something that seemed good, even though God hadn’t blessed them to do it! They knocked on doors to see if God wanted them to go! When He didn’t want them to go to a certain place, the Holy Spirit said no; but when God was ready to tell them their mission, He swung doors wide open and made their destination abundantly clear.

Do you see why it’s so important to know your primary mission? Don’t waste your time trying to do the right thing in the wrong place. God created you to do something unique: something special that no one else in the world can do as well as you! But if you want to walk that out, you have to listen to God and find out what it is.

Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16:10

Peter Had A Primary Mission

Peter was a busy man. In Acts 2, he gives the first sermon after the early church gets baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. In Acts 3, he heals a man lame from birth. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested by religious leaders for preaching the Gospel; but instead of becoming afraid, they asked God to give them even more boldness to share the Good News (Acts 4:29)!

Peter was a man who was sent by God: he was willing to go wherever God sent him, whenever God sent him. But did you know that even Peter had a primary mission?

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. – Acts 10:9-16

Peter was sent to the Jewish people. Up until Acts 10, he hadn’t played a role in getting any Gentiles saved. His primary mission was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24): just like Jesus! But God was about to change all that. God was telling Peter not to call the Gentiles “common” (v 15). He was getting Peter ready to have his primary mission changed!

Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. And they called and asked whether Simon, whose surname was Peter, was lodging there. While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” – Acts 10:17-20

Here is that balance again. Peter already had his primary mission! But at a moment’s notice, God asked Peter to change his focus. He asked Peter if he would be willing to minister to Gentiles. Peter, because he was hearing from the Holy Spirit, was prepared. He knew what to say! So when an opportunity to share the Gospel arose, he was ready.

The Healthy Balance

What does all this have to do with sharing the Gospel? This chapter is devoted to asking God to help you define your “target audience:” Lord, whom do You want me to tell? You have to tell someone! But you don’t have to tell everyone.

You have a primary mission: just like Jesus, Paul, and Peter. God will send you to 1) specific people and 2) specific groups of people so you can tell them about Jesus. It’s not your responsibility to save the world (Jesus already did that)! But it is your responsibility to identify whom God is asking you to reach. Then, ask Him for a strategy to talk to them, and set out to engage.

Our Christian mission is not to sit on our hands and close our mouths, keeping salvation all to ourselves for fear of being tainted by the world. But our mission is also not to beat people over the head with something they don’t want to hear! Our mission is to go where God calls us to go, and tell the people He asks us to tell.

Situational Grace

Here is why all this is so important: once God defines whom He wants you to tell, He will anoint you to reach those people! Remember that it is wasted effort to try and do something God hasn’t anointed you to do, even if it’s a “good thing” and you do it with a good heart!

I believe in situational grace. That means God will anoint you to do His work: in a certain place, at a certain time. Situational grace is an empowerment from Heaven to persevere, no matter how difficult things get: as long as you stay where God has called you do be.

Here is how God explained this concept to the people of Israel:

And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. – Deut 11:13-14

God wanted to bless His people! But they had to correctly position themselves to receive His blessing. They had to love God, and love His word. They had to do what He asked them to do (i.e. they had to be obedient). His promise was to give them rain for their land in its season: in the right place (“your land”), and the right time (“in its season”)! God wants to bless you! But you have to be in the right place, at the right time.

When I graduated college, I went to work as a Risk Arbitrage trader at one of the biggest banks on Wall Street. For almost five years, I was incredibly happy. I was working long hours, but I loved the work. I was making lots of money, and I loved the people with whom I was working! But one day, all that changed. For years, the hand of God had been on my life to work in that industry. I had God’s situational grace! But one summer, I felt less and less satisfied. I was sick of the early mornings and late nights. I wasn’t excited about my work any more.

Out of nowhere, I started having existential moments at work. I would stand up in the middle of the trading floor, watching other traders interact and make trades. But all I could think was, What is the point of all this? Am I really making a difference?

One Saturday, I was looking out the window of our living room (my wife and I had been married almost 2 years at that time). Our apartment had a perfect view of my work building (not the healthiest setup in hindsight!). I started to pray, and God gave me a vision of my work building shaking violently, and splitting in two. I asked Him what it meant. Get ready for a moving and a shaking, I heard Him reply.

Several months later, I was let go. The bank didn’t want to be heavily invested in Risk Arb anymore, and I would pay the price. Part of me was shocked and hurt; but part of me completely knew it was coming. God had warned me that His situational grace was lifting! It would soon be time to move on and do something else.

I was blessed with a 6-month severance package, so I had plenty of time to stop and consider next steps. I interviewed for several roles in finance that were very similar to what I had been doing; but none of them felt right. I would get to the final round interview, and everything would go better than expected; but for whatever reason, it wouldn’t work out. Then one day, the Lead Pastor at my church approached me about a role on staff. Our church needed an Executive Pastor: someone who could do the church finance and administration during the week, and then preach on Sundays. Was I interested? One month later, I started in full-time ministry; and since that day, I have never looked back.

Are You Satisfied?

Are you happy with where you currently are? Do you feel the hand of God on your life? Are you doing what He created you to do?

If not, I believe it’s because of one of three reasons:

1) Maybe you’re not in “your land.” Maybe you’re in the wrong job, the wrong city, or the wrong relationship. If you’re sharing the Gospel with people but it seems like nobody’s listening, ask God: Lord, is this my land? Is this where you’ve called me to be?

2) Perhaps it’s not your “season.” Maybe God is getting ready to bless you, but He has to build a foundation in you first. When I first became a pastor, I thought I was going to take the Christian world by storm! I wrote a book by age 28, because I knew God had given me something to say. But I had to wait for the right season to see the hand of God on what I was doing. The difficult truth is some people just have a hard time hearing from a young pastor! But the older I get, the better it gets.

3) The third possibility has nothing to do with you, or with God. Maybe the enemy is trying to frustrate your plans. When I preached this message in church, I stopped and ministered to a young woman who was an actress in the middle of service. She knew she was called to New York City; and she knew she was born to be an actress! But she kept hearing this nagging voice: Give up. Move on! That is not the voice of God’s Holy Spirit! That is the voice of the enemy. When God speaks, you will be encouraged; but when the enemy speaks, you will be overcome with insecurity and doubt.

So how do you know the difference? Talk to God. Lean on His Holy Spirit. Ask Him if you are where you are supposed to be. Ask Him if you are doing what He called you to do! Ask Him if you’re sharing the Gospel with the people you’re supposed to reach. As you ask Him, He will tell you.

Activation Exercise

Make a list of five people God wants you to talk to. Ask Him: God, where do You want me to go? Whom do You want me to tell? I believe that as you ask God, He will tell you.

Keep that list of five people in a prominent place in your home: your fridge, your desk, or even taped to the door as you leave your apartment. Ask God to fill you with a passion to reach those people, and plant a seed so they can fall in love with Jesus. In the coming chapters, we’ll talk about formulating strategies that are both 1) tasteful and 2) effective so you can share the Good News and see them give their lives to Jesus.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] For another example of Jesus’ moving on to His mission despite an obvious need from people who were looking for Him, see Mark 1:32-39.

[2] Acts 9:1-8

Duty to Warn

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Duty to Warn’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/6/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click 

      HERE

Evangelism: Week One

The State of Evangelism

I recently attended a meeting for pastors in Manhattan. The keynote speaker was a very well-known pastor with a large church, who is incredibly well-respected, both in pastors’ circles and secular media.

His subject matter was unrelated to evangelism and outreach; but at a certain point in his conversation, evangelism came up. He recalled having a youth leader who was a natural evangelist: the type of person who would take a trip on a plane, and by the end of the flight would have everyone in Coach giving their lives to Jesus.

He remembers that same youth leader encouraging him to take steps out in faith and boldly share the Gospel. His response? “I didn’t feel gifted in that area.” He went on to say he didn’t think the poking and prodding to share the Gospel was fair, because some people are gifted in that area, and others are not. From that day forward, he always wished he were more gifted as a natural evangelist, but never took steps to more actively share his faith with people he didn’t know.

This, to me, is where most of the church currently is when it comes to evangelism. We have an understanding that we are called to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), but we have different ideas as to what that “looks like.” We’re vaguely aware of an abstract need to share our faith in certain situations; but we’re 1) terrified at the concept of ruining existing relationships by introducing the Gospel, and 2) completely turned off by the idea of engaging a total stranger to talk about Jesus Christ

I left that pastors’ meeting discouraged. Was it really justifiable to say we’re not “gifted” in evangelism, and keep living our lives the same way? Is it justifiable to agree that the church is the greatest vehicle for local evangelism, but restrict our efforts to reach new people to having service on Sunday? I agree church service is – and should be – powerful; but at some point, don’t we have to get outside the walls of the church and start reaching people who haven’t ever even been to church? At some point don’t we have to let the Gospel spill over into our everyday life if we want to reach the people who have really never heard the Good News? 

When it comes to evangelism, I do not believe the concession that “I’m not gifted in that area” is good enough. Do you know why? 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matt 7:7-11

Sharing the Gospel is a good thing (v 11). So why wouldn’t God make us better and more effective at it when we ask Him?

Why We Need to Share the Gospel 

Scripture teaches that Heaven and Hell are real. We do not live for this life on earth; we live for an eternity that is coming when we leave this life. If we are serious about taking God at His word, the consequence is that there is a Heaven to gain, and a Hell to shun! 

The Bible addresses Heaven and Hell in many places,[1] but the Book of Revelation contains one of the most stark contrasts between each place:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. – Rev 21:1-7

There is a Heaven to gain by believing in Jesus! And oh how awesome it appears. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes! There will be no more death! Sorrow and crying will be things of the past: things that we remember from our time on earth, but no longer feel. Pain will be no more, because the old things have passed away. Jesus has made all things new: and when we get to Heaven, we will enjoy the fruit of that newness!

But there is an alternative for people who do not receive Jesus as Lord over their lives:

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” – Rev 21:8

Do you really believe Hell is real? If you do, there will be a new sense of urgency in your work. There will be a healthy desire to let people know that they have a choice to make in this life that will echo for all eternity!

I remember sitting at a pastors’ lunch recently in the East Village, close to our church. One of the men there – whom I consider a mentor – looked up and said, “If we really believed the Gospel, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here right now.” We asked him what he meant, and were floored by his response. “If we really believed in Heaven and Hell, there would be such an urgency to let people know that we wouldn’t be able to sit here.”

Do you really believe what the Bible teaches? I do! And if we do, shouldn’t that change the way we live our lives?

Scripture tells us how to get into Heaven, and thereby avoid Hell:

…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Rom 10:9-13

Believe in Jesus! Declare that He is Lord over your life! Believe it in your heart, and make a confession with your mouth (v 9). Call on Him; and whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (v 13)!

It’s so easy, isn’t it? We are righteous by faith, not by works (Eph 2:8-9). But here is the truth: many people you know in your life – family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances – won’t get into Heaven.

Let that truth settle in. It hurts; but if we believe Scripture, it is true. Jesus took time to explain this to His disciples:

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”

And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.” – Lk 13:22-30

Much of the world will not get into Heaven because they never give spiritual concerns a second thought. They will live their lives, unconcerned with God, and simply roll the dice as to their eternal dwelling place.

But even more terrifying is the reality that some people who think they are getting into Heaven, won’t! You and I both know people whose response to the Gospel is something like this: “I don’t know about Jesus and church, but I’m just going to live my life and be a good person, and hope that God will see it in the end.”

Here’s the problem with that line of thinking. When you die and God evaluates your life,[2] He is not going to compare you to an axe murderer or a serial rapist. You are going to be compared to Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God. If you have any sin in you, you will be completely sinful.[3] The only way you can stack up to Jesus is if you are hidden in Him:[4] completely covered by His blood!

Salvation Is A Blessing!

Salvation is a blessing! We were far from God, but now we have been reconciled to Him. We were lost, but now we are found. We were condemned; but now we have been set free to live lives of purpose, and to spend eternity with God in Heaven!

Recently as we were sitting at dinner, my 4-year-old son found out that the streets in Heaven are made of gold.[5] His jaw dropped to the table and he almost fell out of his chair. “Gold?!” He couldn’t believe it; and he had a smile plastered on his face for the next two hours as we talked about the reality of Heaven and what it means to be saved.

When you believe in Jesus, you have an amazing eternal future ahead of you. But it doesn’t stop there! Because you are saved, you get to experience the goodness of God here and now, in the land of the living (Ps 27:3). You don’t have to wait to get to Heaven to experience the blessings of God! He will cause His goodness and mercy to follow you: here and now, in this life (Ps 23:6)!

You see: salvation has benefits. Scripture reminds us to never forget them: 

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. – Ps 103:1-5

When we give our lives to Jesus, there is healing. There is complete forgiveness of all sin. There is redemption from the warpath of destruction we were on before we met God. There is mercy to cover our past mistakes, and grace to pave the way for our future![6] God will satisfy us – inside and out – and keep us young and alive!

But not everyone knows it. Most of the world is not even aware that Jesus died for their sin! And that means we have a responsibility to tell them.

Being A Good Neighbor

First, let’s tackle this from a logical standpoint. If your neighbor’s house were on fire, would you tell him? If your neighbor were fast asleep with his family upstairs, but flames completely engulfed his living room, wouldn’t you do everything you could to keep them from dying? Wouldn’t you run to your phone and dial 9-1-1 so they could be rescued? Wouldn’t you yell for everyone to wake up? Wouldn’t you call them, and scream and shout, until they got the message so they could run to safety?

The answer is obvious: of course. You would do everything you possibly could to make sure they got the message. You wouldn’t care what your other neighbors thought! But here is the issue: if you would drop everything and potentially even risk your life to save someone from physical death, how much more should you urgently and persistently try and help save the people around you from spiritual death? After all, physical death only ends a lifetime; but spiritual death lasts for eternity! In the end, isn’t one more important than the other?

How selfish would it be if we – as saved, Heaven-bound believers – just sat here with this amazing and blessed gift God has given us called salvation, and didn’t let anybody know? How crazy would it be if we knew salvation was free and available to everyone (!!) but we didn’t tell anyone?

Duty to Warn

Now, let’s look at this from a Scriptural standpoint. Scripturally speaking, when God gives you a message to deliver, you have a responsibility to get it done:

Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” – Ezek 3:16-21

I don’t know about you, but that passage scares me silly. This means we have a duty to warn people that spiritual death is coming if they don’t receive Jesus. This means that if God tells us to give them the message about Jesus, but we deliberately ignore His voice, we will share in the responsibility of their being cast into Hell for all eternity.

How are you going to respond to that? I don’t know about you, but even thinking about the weight of that makes me want to jump out of my skin! Even grappling with the enormity of that responsibility makes me want to go and preach on the subway, and tell everyone I can that Jesus is Lord, and Heaven and Hell are real!

Now here is where we – the church – typically go crazy. We read the passage above, and we assume it is our mandate to tell everyone – right away. But look at God’s instructions to Ezekiel. He didn’t have to tell everyone. God made him the “watchman for the house of Israel” (v 17). In other words, there was a specific group of people (or “people group”) God was asking Ezekiel to reach with the message God had given him.

Your job is not to save the world. Jesus already did that! Your job is, however, to share the Gospel – the message God has given you to share – with the people He tells you to reach. That means God will give you 1) a specific audience, and 2) a specific strategy to engage that audience in ways that are both tasteful and effective. And we’ll talk about all of that – finding out whom your audience is, and formulating strategies to talk to them – in the coming chapters.

Wrestling With It

I understand I’ve built up a lot of pressure here. Maybe I just took you from 0 to 100 miles per hour in one chapter. Maybe I just messed you up: here you were living your comfortable Christian life and enjoying the blessings of God, and now I’m telling you to get off your butt and go and tell the people around you about Jesus!

Remember what we’ve already covered. God is pleased with you. Because you believe in Jesus, God is pleased with you! You are getting in to Heaven by faith: whether you share the Gospel with zero people, or one million people!

But that doesn’t excuse you from the duty to warn. Can we get comfortable with that balance as the church? Yes, Jesus loves us infinitely! But yes, He also asks us to tell the rest of the world His infinite love is available to them too.

There are people in your life who won’t know about the love of God unless you tell them. I get it: your natural inclination is to keep it to yourself! I’ve been there too! God will ask me to speak with someone on the subway, but in an effort to avoid rocking the boat I stuff that responsibility deep down and decide – against my better judgment – to say nothing. Somebody else will do it.

But let’s be bold. Let’s make a decision to refuse to resist our calling to open our mouths and share the Gospel any longer.

God’s will is that none should perish:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.– 2 Peter 3:9

And you were born to keep them alive. God wants to save people through you. Are you willing to go out and tell them?

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] Matt 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thess 1:9, Matt 13:50, Acts 2:27, Mark 9:43, Jude 1:7, Prov 15:24, Prov 23:14, Matt 13:42, Matt 25:41, Rev 19:20, Prov 15:11, Matt 16:19, 2 Pet 2:4, Rev 20:13-14, Matt 10:28, Ezek 18:20

[2] “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” – Rev 20:12

[3] “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” – James 2:10

[4] “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” – Col 3:3-4

[5] “And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” – Rev 21:21

[6] Mercy means we don’t get the bad things we do deserve from our past. Grace means we do get good things we don’t deserve in our future.

Presence Leads to Purpose

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Presence Leads to Purpose’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/30/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Year In Review

We’ve had an amazing year in 2018 here at CityLight Church. On Sunday, September 2nd, 2018, we hosted our first service at our new venue in Astoria. We spent the summer raising $75,000 to move from our existing sanctuary into our new home. The move required countless hours of effort for our staff and volunteers, but it was well worth it! We now have space for more than 250 guests each service. We also have an entire floor for our growing CityKids ministry (children’s church), which used to be confined to a single room  at our prior venue.

In Manhattan, we studied prayer for 10 weeks this summer. I’m currently refining the content from that series in to a book on prayer that will be released in mid-2019. We believe more than ever that prayer is the highest calling: the most powerful pursuit in which we can engage, and the absolute most productive use of our time available.

Looking ahead, we are going to have an awesome 2019. We are starting 21 days of prayer and fasting on January 1, 2019. We will meet every day for corporate prayer at 7pm at one of our church locations (full schedule here). We’re also inviting each of our members and attenders to seek the Lord as to how He would have them fast during (all or part of) those 21 days.

We’re getting ready for another in-depth study – this time on evangelism – to start the new year. I’m so excited to hear the Lord speak to us about engaging people who don’t know Jesus with this life-changing, eternity-saving truth that Jesus is Lord! The contents from this next series will be refined and released in book form in early 2020.

Everything Worth Doing

Here is how I would like to close 2018, and start 2019: with a reminder that everything worth doing starts in the presence of God.

I use the phrase “worth doing” very intentionally. You see, you can do stuff outside the presence of God. You can accomplish things without prayer! But if we are to live fruitful lives for Jesus, we must draw a line in the sand between things that are worth doing, and those that are not.

Scripture denotes that distinction as follows:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. – 1 Cor 3:9-10

You are building something, whether you like it or not. You are establishing a legacy, whether it’s worthwhile or not. So shouldn’t we take the time to stop and consider: is what I’m building really worthwhile? Will your legacy be something that is going to stand the test of time? Will what you leave here on this earth be something you want other people to see? Is what you’re offering to Jesus on a daily basis something He would want to receive?

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. – 1 Cor 3:11-15

We should only spend our time doing things that are worth doing: things done in service to God, that will stand the test of time. We need this reminder from time to time if we are going to live lives of purpose.

So what if you’re reading this, but you’re not sure if what you’re doing is worth it? What if you want to have a divine purpose, but you’re just not sure what God put you here on this earth to do?

Everything worth doing starts in God’s presence. It is in that place, that you will receive the vision required to live the life of your dreams!

Moses on the Mountain with God

Before Moses could lead the people of Israel, He had to spend time in God’s presence. God first calls Moses up Mount Sinai to meet with Him in Exodus 19. From that point forward, Moses ascends and descends the mountain to meet with God multiple times (up to eight, depending on how you read the text). On each occasion, God communicates something new to Moses. What we see is that, without these tremendous encounters with God, Moses would never have had the 1) strength and 2) vision to lead God’s people into their destiny. He never would have had the strength and vision to do what God created him to do!

God communicated purpose to Moses in His presence. God communicated instruction in painstaking explicit detail to Moses in His presence. God reminded Moses that he had a calling on His life, and a destiny that could not be canceled, in His presence.

And here’s the best part. Not only did God call Moses – the leader of His people – into His presence; He called all the people in as well. God wanted to show His people the power they could experience in their lives when they experienced His presence! But the people backed away:

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. – Ex 20:18-21

The people were afraid of God; so they left it to Moses to hear from God on their behalf. God’s original intention was always to speak directly to His people! But our sin nature recoils at the seemingly impossible suggestion that the God of the universe wants to spend time with us.

The presence of God is not a private place for leaders only. The throne room of God is not reserved for full-time ministers only! God designed His presence for you.

When Moses spent time in God’s presence, he changed:

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. – Ex 34:29-32

I love that even though Moses was changing, he didn’t even know it at first. The “skin of his face shone” (v 29) while he talked with God! But Moses didn’t feel any different. It took Aaron and “all the children of Israel” (v 30) to tell Moses that he was different before Moses fully recognized what God was doing.

When you spend time in God’s presence, you might not feel much different at first. But you have to know that God is changing you! He is refining you! He is doing something new in you, and filling you with purpose! His presence is changing you from the inside out!

Moses had powerful encounters with God that led to powerful leadership. If Moses hadn’t spent time in God’s presence, we wouldn’t be talking about him today. Are you making time in God’s presence a priority in your life?

Jesus: Our Perfect Example

Jesus did all things perfectly; so when He makes a habit of doing certain things in His life, we should pay attention!

This is how Jesus handled success:

However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. – Lk 5:15-16

His ministry was exploding! People came to Him from all over the known world to be healed of their infirmities and set free from bondage. But look at Jesus’ response! He didn’t set up a 501c3 and expand His staff to meet growing demand! He didn’t buy a huge building! He spent even more time with God.

Here is the key to Jesus’ ministry: He spent time with His Father. He was a Lover of God’s presence! If you want to move the way Jesus moved, speak the way Jesus spoke, and serve the way Jesus served, it all starts with time spent in the presence of God!

Now, look at how Jesus responded to adversity and criticism:

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” – Jn 5:18-21

Whether things were going well and everyone loved Him, or things were going terribly and everyone loathed Him, Jesus’ ministry formula was simple. 1) Talk to the Father, and 2) do what God shows you!

Think about this with me for a moment: if even Jesus, the very Son of God, refused to make His own agenda, how much more should you and I stick to the daily script God gives us?! Why do we step out of bounds and try to do things of our own invention, if even Jesus refused to do that?

Presence leads to purpose. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to spend time with His Father to get the vision He needed to walk out God’s call on His life. How much more do we!

The Disciples

Jesus taught His disciples the importance of spending time in God’s presence first-hand:

And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons… – Mk 3:13-15

Two things stand out to me. First, they disciples had to come when Jesus called (v 13, “And they came to Him”). Jesus called; but they had to answer! Some of us are missing out on our purpose because we don’t come when God calls us into His presence.

Second, Jesus prioritized the disciples’ tasks: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out…” (v 14). Priority one was to be with Him: to simply enjoy the presence of Jesus! Then, from a place of His presence, the next action item was to be“sent out:” to go out and do what Jesus was calling them to do!

How often do we get that backwards? We launch into the work without spending any time in the presence of God first! Jesus’ message to the disciples was always, God first, work second. If you try and do what God has called you to do without first spending time in His presence, you will fail! But if you make His presence a priority, the work will get done.

Several chapters later, we see the fruit of the disciples’ decision to spend time in God’s presence:

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. – Mk 6:7-9, 12-13

The disciples were able to do what God called them to do, because they spent time with Jesus first. Jesus taught them, and He showed them what He would ask them to do (He led by example). And from that place of intimate fellowship and firsthand learning with Jesus, the disciples lived out their destiny.

Power comes from the presence of God! If you try to walk in power without the presence, you will fall flat on your face; but if you enjoy the presence first, God’s power will lead you straight into your purpose. It was the disciples’ time with Jesus that gave them the power to walk their purpose out.

What Will Your Life Look Like?

What will the next year of your life look like? The next five years? Twenty years?

I’m sure God has some excellent plans for you. He’s made some amazing promises that He plans to keep! But will you try and walk out your purpose without first spending time in His presence?

God’s presence leads to purpose. When you spend time in His presence first, everything else will fall into place.           

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.