Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Biggest Mistake in the Church Today

(Click to listen)

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

The title of this is The Biggest Mistake in the Church Today.  I know, it is impossible to know the exact biggest mistake in the church today, apart from divine revelation, and it probably changes minute by minute anyway.

But it is such a huge mistake, I’m calling it the biggest mistake in the church today, and here it is.  It’s when we try to make people be like us instead of unleashing them to become the people that God has designed them to be.

Philippians 1:6 says that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.  The church’s mission is to help people discover what good work God is doing in them, and help them become all that God wants them to be.

Every Christian believer is a part of the body of Christ.  We are each a body part, a DIFFERENT body part.  We have various giftings and callings, talents and personalities, and a huge range of life experiences.  

God is calling each and every one of us to fulfill our part in the body of Christ.  That is the goal for each and every believer, and the goal of the church is to help each and every person come to God, walk with Him daily, and fulfill their part in the body.

What sometimes happens, though, is that the church doesn’t identify each and every individual as a separate and special part of the body.  Instead, we take the easy and common route of lumping everyone together and expecting everyone to become more like us.

Let me say it another way.  If I’m a “hand” in the body of Christ, then I look at you and expect you to be more like a hand.  But what if you’re a foot?  It’s a terrible mistake to try to make a foot operate like a hand.  It’s going to be a terrible experience for everyone involved.

Instead, I should try to help you discover God’s callings and giftings in your life, and help you grow into the full person and part in the body of Christ that God has designed you to be.

I’m not talking about compromising doctrine or morality.  I’m talking about expecting people to be more like me, instead of being more like God is calling them to be.

For example, and I’ve seen this so many times in the church, extroverts want introverts to become extroverts.  They sometimes almost demand a personality shift, as if you don’t even know God, you don’t even love God if you don’t spring forth and become a boisterous extrovert.

“Oh, you don’t want to take the mic and publicly testify about the goodness of God?  You must not even love God.”  

Do you feel the uncomfortable, unsubtle pressure?  It is quite possible that the person in your church who loves God the most is the person who quietly adores the King in their heart.

The prayer warriors think everyone should spend more and more time in prayer.

The hand-lifting praisers think everyone should be a hand-lifting praiser, and once you get that down, you need to go do it at the altar, because hand-lifting praise back in the pew is for the lukewarm, you know.

The Bible scholars think everyone must become a Bible scholar.

The Bible memorizers are like, “What?  You don’t memorize the Holy Scriptures?  What are you even doing with your brain?”

Then there are the holy huggers who can’t fathom why a person might not want to be hugged.

The homeless outreach people and the prison ministers just know you are missing God if you are not one of them.

Here's one I’ve seen many times:  extroverts with a passion for evangelism heaping criticism on anyone who isn’t ready to run out into the streets and shout the gospel.  They leave zero room for someone to have a different part in the body of Christ.  “No, you must be like me if you really love Jesus, if you’re even saved at all.”

And then, even worse, I’ve seen this.  The extrovert with a passion for evangelism STOPS EVANGELIZING, because hey, “others aren’t rushing out with me, so why should I even bother?”

Christian!  Stop comparing.  Stop looking at others and trying to make them be like you.

Listen to this account from the Bible.  It involves the apostle Peter, who was perfectly willing to speak his mind, so we can get some good insights from him and his experiences.

In John 21, the risen Jesus is telling Peter how Peter is going to die, and yes, it was uncomfortable.  Then instead of soaking in that information, quietly going away and pondering it, Peter suddenly points out his fellow apostle John, and says something like, “Oh, so that’s my bleak future?  What about John?”

Jesus answered with these patient but powerful words, “What is that to you?  You follow Me.”

If you ever looked around at other believers and wanted to compare their life or calling to your life or calling, I believe Jesus would say to you today, “What is that to you?  You follow Me.”

We each have our own part in the body of Christ.  Yes, we are one body, operating in unity, with Christ as the head, but we each have a different part in the body, with different callings and giftings and personality types and backgrounds.

The church’s job is to help each individual draw near to God and discover and walk in their unique callings and giftings and thus fulfill their part in the body of Christ.

But the big mistake we often make is, instead of helping each individual fulfill their part in the body, we lump everyone together and want them to be like me, act like me, respond to God like I do, behave in a church service like I do…and it’s not going to happen.  It’s only going to drive people away.

And suddenly I’m going to look up one day and realize that the only people left in church are people just like me.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

(For more information on the body, First Corinthians 12 is a great place to start, plus Ephesians 4:15-16.)


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

God Is a Rewarder

(Click to listen)

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

That’s what it says in Hebrews 11:6.  God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Are we diligently seeking God?

It’s not something we do once, or once a year, or once a week.  

Diligently is how Michael Jordan sought to win basketball games.

Diligently is how Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to win Mr. Universe.

Diligently is how hungry people seek food.

Are we hungry for God?

If we are, we will diligently seek Him, and the good news is that when we do, God will reward us.

God is a rewarder.

Jesus said that when we PRAY our Father will reward us.  (Matt. 6)

Jesus said that when we FAST our Father will reward us.  (Matt. 6)

Ephesians 6:8 says that God will reward us for “whatever good we do.”

Our job is to diligently seek Him.

Then watch for it.  Suddenly, there it is.  Over and over again, there it is.  God’s rewards.

And you know what?  We don’t have to seek Him perfectly.  

We just have to seek Him diligently.

Because God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

May God bless you today!

I’m Doug Apple.

Monday, January 04, 2021

My 2021 Manifesto

(Click to listen)

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

“God, what do You want me to do this year?  Do You want me to do something different?  Something new?  Is there a new focus or goal or plan?”

That was my prayer coming into the new year, and nothing new really came to mind.

Meanwhile, I’ve been praying through various books of the Bible.

What does that look like?

Here’s how I do it.  I read until something pops, until something jumps off the page, until something makes me go, “Ooo, that’s good.”

Then I underline it and turn it into a prayer.

For example, the last thing I underlined at the end of last year was Second Corinthians 6:16 where it says, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them…”

What jumped out to me in that verse is the phrase, “I will…walk in them.”  I know about God living in us, but walking in us?  I like it.  It’s an action word.  I want God to walk in me, to use me to make a difference.

So I underline that verse and turn it into a prayer, “Lord, please walk in me.”

Then came my first prayer time of the new year and I came across this verse in Second Corinthians 7:13.  Paul is commending the Corinthians because they had greatly blessed his friend Titus.  It says, “…his spirit was refreshed by you all.”

Ooo, that’s good.  Underline it.  His spirit was refreshed by you all.

Turn it into a prayer.  “Lord, please use me to refresh the spirit of everyone I come in contact with.”

The problem is, I can’t do that.  I’m not good enough.  I’m not smart enough.  I’m not on the ball enough to even know how to refresh everyone’s spirit.  

“God, I need You to walk in me, to work through me so that I can actually do this, refresh everyone’s spirit I come in contact with.”

And suddenly it hit me.  That is my something new for the new year.  That is my 2021 manifesto.

“Lord, please walk in me, and use me to refresh the spirit of everyone I come in contact with.”

And just like that, I have a new year’s resolution, and I think it came straight from God.

I wrote it down.  I shared it with others.  I hung it up so I would see it every day.  I even made little pieces of paper so I can pass it out to others.

“Lord, please walk in me, and use me to refresh the spirit of everyone I come in contact with.”

In Jesus’ name I pray.

Amen.

May your spirit be refreshed today!

I’m Doug Apple.


Thursday, December 03, 2020

Wicked and Lazy or Holy and Hard Working

(Click to listen)

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

Are you wicked and lazy, or holy and hard working?

I’m getting this from Jesus’ parable of the talents.

Two guys worked hard and increased what they had been given, but that one guy, he hid the master’s money in the back yard.  He didn’t lose it.  He just didn’t grow it.  He didn’t increase what he had been given.

Then the master returns and what’s he looking for?  

Increase!

He wants to see improvement.  He wants to see growth.

And what does he say when he doesn’t find improvement and growth?

He turns on that man and in very strong language he says, “You wicked and lazy servant.”

Wow.  He didn’t soft pedal it.  He didn’t let him down gently.  He tore him up.

Why?

Because time had been wasted.  Opportunity…wasted.

God is not into waste.  He is into growth.

He has given us gifts.  We have time.  We have talents.  We have opportunities.  

And we have an assignment.  We have a requirement.

Our requirement is to grow what we have been given.

I highly recommend that you take this to the Lord in prayer.

“God, what have I been given?  How should I grow it?”

This is a sobering time.  This needs to be taken seriously.  

In the parable of the talents, two men took it seriously, and things turned out well for them.  One of them, and I’m not going to say he didn’t take it seriously.  He wasn’t a total clown.  The master didn’t call him a clown.  He called him “wicked and lazy.”

Why was he wicked and lazy? 

Because he was entrusted with something and he didn’t grow it.  He didn’t improve it.

That is the requirement.  

Are you wondering what you are supposed to be doing with your life?

You are supposed to take what you have and grow it, improve it, make it better.

It’s time to get to work.  You sure don’t want to receive the wrath of the master.

And you certainly don’t want to hear the words, “You wicked and lazy servant.”

Instead of being wicked and lazy, I want to be holy and hard working.

“Father God, please help each and every one of us become the holy and hard working people You want us to be, not wasting any of the time or talents or opportunities You’ve blessed us with, but investing, improving and growing, from this day forward, for the glory of God, for the blessing of Your people, and for the growth of Your kingdom.  In Jesus’ name we pray…”

Amen.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

(Matthew 25:14-30)

 

Monday, November 09, 2020

My Analysis of Baby Shark

(Click to listen)

 I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

Do you know what is the all time most played video on YouTube?  

It’s been played over 7 billion times.  It’s called Baby Shark Dance.

That’s right.  It’s a very simple and very catchy song for little kids, and it is now the most played video in YouTube history.

I have a granddaughter who talks about it, but I had never seen it.  I was curious, in this day and age, what kind of weirdness they might be pushing into the impressionable minds of the youth.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised, skipping over the fact that it’s about man-eating sharks.

It starts out simple enough, singing “Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

I like that because kids and people in general have a soft spot in their heart for babies.  People can become jaded over time, but this song has planted the seed seven billion times about the cuteness and happiness of babies.  It’s new life!  

Then it says, “Mommy Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

I like that because a child should be close to its mother, with all those loving bonds, and all the cuddly time and sweet words.  Babies need to be with their mommy.

Next it says, “Daddy Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

I’m so glad that daddy made it into the most popular video of all time on YouTube.  I’m glad daddy is in the picture.  Daddy is with the family, with Mommy and with Baby, the way it’s supposed to be, the way God designed it to be.  And Daddy has a big strong voice, a commanding presence.  Daddy is here and it’s time to pay attention.

Next it says...what do you think it says?  It says, “Grandma Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

I love that!  I’m married to a grandma and we have 13 grandchildren.  My wife is so in love with her grandchildren.  She has such a mighty bond with them, and they love her completely.  It is a wonder to behold.  Grandmas are so important, and I was excited to see them make the list on the world’s most popular YouTube video.

Next up is “Grandpa Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

Man, that says so much.  Grandma and Grandpa, still together, still involved in the family, still an important part of the close-knit family structure.  It is the extended family providing a powerful foundation for the following generations to build on.  

It all sounds traditional, doesn’t it?  In a world today that wants to throw out tradition like some old stale tuna, it’s refreshing to see something so popular that in the most simple way is promoting a solid family structure into the minds of the young.  The world will be a vastly better place if they can just hold onto that ideal.

Next the song takes a turn with the lyrics, “Let’s go hunt, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

Soooooooooo many videos for kids talk about play and fantasy and fun, and that’s fine, but I’m so glad this most popular song talks about work.  There’s work to be done.  It’s time to hunt.  You want to eat?  We’ve got to work.  And we’ll all work together as a team to provide for and support one another as a family.  It’s time to hunt.

The song then takes another turn saying, “Run away, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

Why would I like that?  Because you know what?  There is a time to run away.  There are things in life we should run away from.  There are dangerous people, dangerous places, dangerous situations and even dangerous thoughts.  A big part of life is knowing when to run away. 

And finally the song says, “Safe at last, doo doo doo doo doo doo.”

What an adventure!  Life is an adventure!  And there is a safe place to run to.  There’s Mommy and Daddy.  There’s Grandma and Grandpa.  There’s home and safety and security, inside the fold of the family.  You may venture outside to go on the hunt, but you always end up back home, safe and sound, surrounded by your loved ones.

Okay, yes, it’s a silly song for kids, and it has sharks, and I’m reading a lot into it, but like I said, in this day and age with so many strange notions being force fed into the minds of the young, I know the power of a seed, the power of a tiny thought repeated hundreds of times.  And the seeds of this most popular video in YouTube history are solid:

Baby,

Mommy,

Daddy,

Grandma,

Grandpa,

Family,

Work,

Danger,

Safety.

If you get those things right, you’re gonna have a pretty good life.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Stay in Your Gap

(Click to listen)

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

As I write this in October 2020, Florida State football fans are licking their wounds once again, this time after being thrashed by Louisville.  Five times in the first half alone, Louisville busted open huge plays against Florida State’s defense.

After the game senior linebacker Emmett Rice was talking about the Florida State defense.  He said, “We just weren’t doing our jobs.  Like eight of the eleven would do their jobs and the big play would happen.  If all eleven did their jobs, those big plays would not happen.”  He said, “You’ve got to do what the defense is assigned to do.  If you’ve got to stay in your gap, stay in your gap.  You can’t be out there freestyling.”

That’s true for the FSU defense, and wow, it is so true for the body of Christ.

I have said it a hundred times and I’ll keep saying it.  Each of us must fulfill our part in the body of Christ.  God has gifted us and called us, each one of us, to particular things.  We need to diligently seek Him, spend time with Him and learn from Him so that we can each fulfill our Kingdom assignment.

As Emmett Rice said, we can’t be out there freestyling.  When we do, we leave gaps, and that’s a huge problem.

If you make your life’s decisions based on worldly values rather than your Kingdom assignment, you are freestyling and you are leaving gaps.

Think of God as the Coach.  He sees the big picture.  He is drawing up the perfect game plan, and He assigns each player their part.

And then some players start freestyling, leaving their assignment to do something else, and leaving gaps where they were supposed to be.

Have you ever looked at the church and felt like the game plan wasn’t working?  Well, here is a huge reason:  too many players not fulfilling their assignments.

My friend Rodney has a great story.  His church was going through some difficulties, and some people were leaving.  He thought about leaving that church, too, and he prayed about it.  And God laid it on him in very clear language, “Do not abandon your post.”

Rodney’s response was the correct response.  He simply said, “Yes, Sir.”

So Rodney stayed at his post, filling the assigned gap instead of freestyling.

I’m not saying everyone has to stay where they are forever.  I’m saying we all need to take our assignments from the Coach, the real living God who is building His church.

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, so what should we do?  How can we discern our assignment?  Seek Him.  Diligently seek Him.  Listen and He will let us know, with authority and peace and conviction, what we need to do to fulfill our part in the body of Christ.

And once we have our assignment, we stay in that gap until the Coach gives us another assignment.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Wisdom Is Justified by All Her Children


I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

Jesus made many profound statements, and here’s one He just kind of tosses out there, like a free bonus.

In Luke 7:35, Jesus said, “...wisdom is justified by all her children.”

What does that mean?

It means wisdom proves itself by the long term results.  

People can SAY anything, but how do we know if it’s wise?

Jesus gives us the litmus test.  Wisdom is justified by all her children.  In other words, what are the long term results?  If the long term results are good, it was wise.

In the moment it sounds like fun when someone says, “Eat, drink and be merry!”  Let’s do it all day.  Every day!

Why work?  Why go to school?  Why do anything hard at all? 

But wisdom is justified by all her children.  Look at the long term results for people who never go to work, never go to school, never do anything hard.  

Years ago I met a young man who was gloriously saved by Jesus Christ.  He was a new creation, full of joy.  He really wanted to grow in his faith, and that’s what led him to me.

Part of his plan for getting his life on track included going to college.  There he ran into a professor who was a vocal opponent of Christianity.  I know, it sounds like one of those Christian movies, but it was real.  

And it really attacked the faith of this young man.  He thought a college professor must really know what he’s talking about.

One day he came to me and shared how his faith was slipping because of what he was hearing from the professor.

I said, “You know, by your own words, your life was not good before.  Then you came to Jesus and suddenly you had hope and peace and joy.  Your life was radically changed for the better.  And now I’ve noticed lately that that seems to be slipping away.  So let me ask you, the professor, what is his life like?”

The young man said, “Not good.  I think he’s an alcoholic and divorced.”

I said, “Well, why do you want to take life advice from someone whose life isn’t going the way you want your life to go?”

Wisdom is justified by all her children.  So when people begin babbling on and on about all kinds of ideas, look at the actual long term results.

If someone is telling you how to live, how is that working out for them over the long haul?

If they are telling you how to parent, or handle marriage, or your money or your business or your career, how did that work out for others who did it?

Did it bring joy or sorrow?  Success or failure?  Stability or instability?

We don’t have to wonder.  We have a litmus test for knowing if something is actually wise or not, and Jesus summed it up perfectly and deeply.

Wisdom is justified by all her children.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.