Leaders in the Body of Christ are called, among other things, to be lifeguards. Watching is the key function of a prophet or intercessor. Rescuing is a priority for the evangelist. Guarding is elementary for the pastor. Warning is a main component of teaching. Vision is essential for the apostle. Believers in the Kingdom of God are expected to be on guard, or more specifically: to keep watch.
My pastor runs a waterskiing ministry at the lake near his church in the summertime. On days when he is alone, the kids know that if he is out on the water training someone, no one swims until he gets back to the dock.
I have been a missionary both at home and abroad. I have traveled to dangerous inner-city ghettos and dusty, dirty African compounds. I have sung songs with poor children in the streets of Mexico and built houses for the homeless in the streets of New Haven. And found that there was only one thing I needed.
I have been trained in every type of evangelism possible, from “Evangelism Explosion” to the “Four Spiritual Laws” to “Romans Road” to simple John 3:16 evangelism. I have sat on park benches in Michigan sharing my faith with passersby, and preached, awkwardly, on a street corner where no one really listened. And learned that there was only one thing I really needed.
I have served to weariness in churches near and far: sharing my testimony, praying, giving, counseling, worshiping, cooking, organizing, leading, following, discipling, and teaching, in the hopes of reaching others for Jesus. And seen that there is only one thing I’ve ever needed: to be with Jesus.
The simple truth is that people recognize when you have been with Jesus.
All the training in the world – all the sophisticated techniques we develop for reaching the world for Christ – are nothing without Christ Himself. They are helpful, yes, but the real power to reach the nations for Christ is in the Presence of Jesus. And there’s only one way to get that: you must be with Jesus!
What sounds so simple and seems so obvious is often missed.
Acts 3 and 4 tells the story of Peter and John: ordinary, unschooled men, who went up to the temple to pray. They had no agenda other than to be with Jesus – to seek God in prayer. On the way, they healed a man. The healing opened the door to some local “street peaching” about Jesus, and in the end, the number of those who heard and believed grew to about 5000! (Acts 4:4).
What’s interesting to me is that when Peter and John are examined by the Jewish council for this healing, the conclusion that the elders draw is this: “They recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV).
Over 5000 men, from peasants to priests, recognized that these two praying men had been with Jesus.
There are Old Testament examples, too. In Exodus, the Israelites recognized by the sheen on Moses’ face that he had been with God. The Bible says: “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” (Exodus 34:24, NIV). And in the Psalms, David writes that “those who look to Him are radiant” (Psalm 34:5, NIV). Our time with Jesus transfigures us and causes us to radiate His glory to a darkened world.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says it this way: “Whoever turns his face to Jehovah will receive reflected brightness on his face; as when a mirror is directed sunwards, the dark surface will flash into sudden glory. Weary eyes will gleam. Faces turned to the sun are sure to be radiant.” (Expositor’s Bible, commentary on Psalm 34:5, as found on Bible Hub).
This kind of power to reach others with Jesus is still available to us today. Yet we rarely see thousands of people coming to Christ at one time. Why? I believe the main reason we are powerless is because we are distracted by too many worldly things.
A Modern Example
Recently, I attended a Christian worship gathering where the Presence of God felt so “thick” in the room you could almost touch it. It was at a church where prayer is practiced on a regular basis and seeking God is the essence of who they are. And it shows. When you enter a place like this, you just know that you are with God!
I know of someone at this gathering who, during the worship, had a vision in which she saw Jesus standing directly in front of her in heaven. He was facing her, with His hands on her shoulders. The Lord was looking intently at her, as if trying to hold her attention.
But then she turned away, and stooped down to gather things on the ground around her. She became concerned with the minute details of life, trying to pick up things she thought were important. Even as she did it, she wondered: Why? Why, in the Presence of the Lord, would she turn away and become consumed with such minor details?
A voice spoke to her and said “You cannot lead others to a place where you do not dwell yourself. When you remain in My Presence, standing with Me, people will look at you but see Me. This is your place of authority, and this is one way I draw mankind to Myself.”
She knew she was hearing from Jesus. And I believe this is a picture of the Bride of Christ, a vision not meant just for her, but also for us.
There is only one thing we need to reach the world for Jesus, and that is to be with Jesus ourselves. To be so full of His radiant glory that others say of us, also: “we recognize that you have been with Jesus!”
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions
…I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel
The apostle Paul is, next to Jesus, probably the most respected and influential leader in the New Testament. He has an almost superhuman status within the Christian faith, including elevation to sainthood within the Catholic church. Because we tend to emphasize his teachings, it is easy to overlook the essential, life-changing truth that God reveals to us through this man’s life: ministry is not just for clergy.
I’ve been studying Paul’s conversion again this week and, for the sake of encouragement, want to focus on the details behind Paul’s calling. Everyone knows he was blinded by the light of God at Damascus, but I wonder if everyone sees the transforming power of what can happen to us as a result of Paul’s experience.
A self-described “zealous” adherent to both religion and Greek philosophies, Paul was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, Abraham’s seed, and a Pharisee (See Philippians 3:5). He was trained in the classics at a Hillel school under Gamaliel. He says of himself: “I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14).
Such a man would seem to be a prime candidate for ministry. And he was, but not because of his resume. Look at what Paul writes in 1 Timothy:
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it in unbelief.
Paul says he was “put into ministry.” But he had no degree! Some argue that he didn’t need one, because his training in Judaism was so extensive as to be sufficient. However, he repeatedly states that he was “given” his ministry, as opposed to earning it. Besides that, he was one of the most feared persecutors of the Christian faith in his time. God chose him to be a minister of the Gospel!
Certainly, his knowledge of Old Testament scriptures later helped him “prove that Jesus was the Messiah” (Acts 17:2-3). Yet it was not his training that he relied upon. What's interesting is that despite his strict adherence to Judaism, Paul did not recognize Jesus when He first appeared to him:
As (Paul) journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, “Who are you, Lord?
It was Ananias who confirmed to Paul that Jesus Christ had appeared to him. Who was Ananias? “A certain disciple at Damascus.” (Acts 9:10).
Did you catch that? Here is the conversion and call to ministry of a major figure in the Christian faith, and it happens through someone described only as a “certain disciple!” God uses ordinary people to set amazing things in motion. The details of Paul’s future ministry were first given prophetically to Ananias:
“But the Lord said to (Ananias): Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” -Acts 9:15-16.
While Ananias helped Paul get started, Paul writes in Romans 1:5 that he received “grace and apostleship” from God directly. He “did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor with the other apostles,” but went into Arabia before returning to the disciples at Damascus (Galatians 1:11-15). I believe, as many scholars do, that Paul had some time after his "ordination" when he was alone with the Spirit of God, perhaps even in the desert as Jesus had been years prior. After being abruptly "introduced" to Jesus, he got to know the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says that “immediately” after his conversion, Paul was baptized and began preaching in the synagogues. True, he spent time with the disciples at Damascus and later with the Apostles in Jerusalem, but the Bible stresses that he began his ministry immediately once he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This challenges our normal ministry paradigm.
When someone becomes a Christian today and wants to get into ministry, we often impose rigid standards upon them. Certainly, we would never allow a new believer to begin preaching in our churches or synagogues! The pulpit, as we all know, is reserved for clergy – for the ordained and the trained. We might notice a gift someone has and encourage them to attend seminary, to practice speaking at Toastmasters, or to do some street preaching (since that does not come with the accolades of a pulpit position). This, however, is not what happened to Paul.
And it wasn't a mistake, either. Those who heard him were “amazed.” Acts 9:21. His experiential preaching was so powerful that it created an “uproar” among the Jews who heard him. Does this remind you of Someone else?
It is no accident that the writer of Acts used the word “amazed” to describe the reaction of the Jews to Paul’s preaching. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all say the same thing about Jesus’ initial teachings. Mark writes that “the people were amazed at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” –Mark 1:22. These authoritative words that bring amazement to the crowds also lead to uproar and confusion that threaten to kill both Jesus and Paul.
While Paul had the equivalent training of a teacher of the law, he was not recognized as a scholar when he preached. He famously stated that he counted all his accomplishments as loss (some translations say “dung”), for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” –Philippians 3:8. He was recognized for the ministry of the Spirit.
Paul demonstrated the power of God everywhere he went. It wasn’t his eloquent speech that stood out; people called his speech “contemptible!” (2 Corinthians 10:10). He preached so long once that a (bored?) congregant actually fell asleep, tumbled out a window, and died! The sermon was only revitalized when Paul raised the boy from the dead. His personal presence was weak. But the Presence of God in him was strong. His relationship with God changed the entire course of human history.
He has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant.
Do you believe that ministry is not just for clergy? That your relationship with God gives you the authority and right to preach to the nations? Jesus does! He called all disciples to do exactly that in Matthew 28. “But I’m not a minister,” you argue; “I’m just a lay person!” I am too. But 2 Corinthians 5:18 says that because I have been reconciled to Christ (as Paul was), I, too have been given the ministry of reconciliation. All disciples are called as Ambassadors for Christ. Where and how we minister is up to us to decide as we listen for God’s leadings.
A close look at Paul’s life quickly demolishes any insecurities we may have concerning our lack of degrees or our low stations in life. “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends,” writes Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:18.
When God set His seal upon you through the Holy Spirit at salvation, you were immediately “ordained.” You have all the credentials you need to be a minister, because the gospel has been committed to your trust, just as it was to Paul’s. (See 1 Timothy 1:11). There may be a specific call God gives you as you progress in Him - a specific purpose for your life, as there was for Paul's, but all are called to preach the good news of our relationship with Him. The only question is, how soon will you start your new job?
c.Deborah Perkins, 2015. All references NKJV unless noted.
There’s going to be a time, in your life as a believer, when your witness or your worship of God differentiates you so much that it infuriates the enemy. When you suffer, not because of some sin in your life, but because of something you’ve done right. It is a time when your enemy turns the fiery furnace up seven times hotter – and then throws you into it. Congratulations… you’ve just been promoted!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego faced this problem when they would not serve or worship king Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. (See Daniel 3). They had lived blameless lives, along with Daniel, during their Babylonian captivity. But their refusal to worship other gods caught the attention of certain Chaldeans, who accused the three Jews of insubordination. They stood out because of their purity of spirit and their confidence in God’s goodness.
Amidst taunts: “Who is the God who will deliver you?” (Daniel 3:15), they were thrown into a furnace to be killed. At normal furnace temperatures, the boys could have died, but the king in his fury ordered that it be “seven times hotter.” Those who threw them into the furnace were consumed immediately.
Where Was God?
What’s amazing to me is that the three boys were not prepared ahead of time with any “extra help” from God. No divine intervention, no angelic visitations, no comforting prophetic words protected them from the trial they had to face. It might have seemed that God was abandoning them. They were literally bound to be burned!
Yet from the beginning, there were clues that God was on the scene. Seven is the biblical “perfect number;” it represents a perfect work of God, like the creation of the world in seven days. The enemy (in this case the king), was allowed to turn up the heat only to the temperature GOD would allow, because God was about to promote Himself and His people in the king’s eyes.
God knew that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were able to handle the heat. He knew he could count on them to maintain their witness even in the face of terrible pressure, and they did. They were mature enough to live their lives not for themselves, but for God. They were secure enough in their relationships with Him to trust Him to turn the situation around for His glory, not necessarily for their own. They did not require or demand an explanation from God for His apparent lapse in their protection! In the end, God blessed them – and their nation - with a promotion.
Pressure Releases Presence
Miraculously, the king saw the Son of God in the midst of the Jews’ trial. He saw four men unbound, and was convinced of the reality of God’s presence and power. Astonished, he issued a decree that God – not the king – would now be worshiped as sovereign. If we ever need proof of God’s presence with us in difficult times, we can find it here.
It's immaturity that balks at the idea of God allowing His children to suffer. Insecurity causes us to ask, ”Why me, God? What did I do that you have to treat me like this?” The apostle Paul begged God three times to take away an annoying “messenger of Satan” that buffeted him. Esther pleaded with Mordecai to release her from the obligation of disclosing her Jewish identity to the king. Our carnal nature craves the cocoon of protection we call “entitlement.”
But as with the refining of gold, there must be a trial by fire in order to show forth the immeasurable worth of a life in God. It's not about us; it’s about Him. What doesn’t conform to the life of God will be burned. Allowing our weak flesh to enter into a trial causes the anointing of God to increase in our lives. We can face any furnace in the security of our knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us. In Him, we are people “on whose bodies the fire has no power.” (Daniel 3:27). When the enemy turns up the pressure, God turns up His presence, just as He did long ago for three Jewish boys in Babylon.
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Thank you for reading!
Click for more info:
His Inscriptions website
Send a Prayer Request
or to Subscribe to the weekly blog, click here.
Whatever I tell you in the darkness,
say it in the light;
and whatever you hear with your ears,
preach on the rooftops.
~Matthew 10:27; Aramaic English Bible
Do you ever wonder, what's my rooftop? Where is my place of influence? Think for a moment about where you are heard. Who is your audience? A pastor preaches to his congregation. A worship singer considers the stage her place of influence, proclaiming the gospel through song. A politician's cries for justice resound in the auditorium of Congress. but where do YOU make your voice heard?
The mission of every believer is to proclaim the message of the Gospel. As we get to know Christ better and love Him more, we are naturally compelled to share the good news of His redeeming love for us. Never before have we had such a tremendous opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) by reaching those in "all nations." The question is, how do you carry out your mission?
Ultimately, our mission field is wherever we are at the moment. True, social media is an amazing, world-reaching platform we can use for the Kingdom. But words alone are not always convincing. When people see how we live our lives - how we put actions to our faith - they will take notice of what we say. Character is convicting. And character is best seen up close. As a pastor friend recently said, "Your daily life is the platform your faith is lived on."*
That said, there are times when the Lord wants to amplify our voices. Matthew 10:27 and Matthew 28:19 are mandates to every believer to proclaim the Good News - loudly! So we use the tools at our disposal: social media, books, the marketplace and television to reach as many people as we can. We share our testimony when asked. We leave the results up to God.
So... What Do I Preach?
There is nothing covered that will not be revealed,
nor hidden that will not be known.
What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight,
and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms
will be proclaimed from the roofs.
Luke 12:2-3, NIV
So what is it that we "preach from the rooftops?" We preach, of course, the commands Christ gave us and wanted us to pass on. But it's deeper than that. Our rooftop shouts ultimately come from our quiet listening: the words we hear directly from Him. It is these decidedly personal words, the words we hear in our "inner rooms," that make each of our "rooftop shouts" unique. We preach the things He has told us and the love He has shown us.
I shout about a God who hears us and whom we can hear. I shout about a Savior who delivers us not only from sins, but from financial difficulties, emotional scars, and sicknesses. I shout by putting some of these things in writing. You will shout similar things, but in a different way. This is the beauty of the God we serve. He doesn't tell us HOW to shout, only that we should. He uses each of our individual personalities and creative inclinations to reach His world.
However you shout and whatever your rooftop, I pray that the words He gives you will impact your place of influence and accomplish all that you hope for. (Isaiah 55:11).
*Pastor David Payne, Lifesong Church, Auburn, MA
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping people connect to God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com.
Free Link to the Subscriber Resource Library when you join His Inscriptions!
A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.