Bread in the Wilderness (Devotional Reading)

Mark 8:4 KJV — And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

These disciples didn’t even realize they were talking to the One who had fed MILLIONS in the wilderness during the time of Moses.

Before allowing too many doubts to arise in our hearts, let’s remember who it is we are talking to when we pray!

The Only Unifying Government (Devotional Reading)

Though many throughout history have tried and failed to bring unity among all nations, the only place this has ever truly succeeded is in the Body of Christ.

It has only succeeded because of the power of God to help us truly love one another!

John 13:35 (KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Isaiah 9:7 (KJV) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…

Making Confident Decisions – Let Your Yea Be Yea and Your Nay Be Nay

To watch the video recording of this teaching, please Click Here

Bible Reading and Text: James 5:12  But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Introduction: There is a tendency that plagues many people, and the people of God are not exempt! If this tendency is not dealt with, it will haunt the person for their entire life, making their life one of misery and regret. That tendency is doubting their decisions or condemning themselves for making certain decisions.

Nervousness and insecurity are part of being human. These things manifest themselves differently from person to person as coping mechanisms. Often they are verbal coping mechanisms. One person who is feeling insecure may ask, “You know what I’m saying?” after almost every statement. Another may suck air through their teeth when they are inwardly unsure about something they just said or did. Yet another may repeat words like, “right?”, “ya know?” after almost every statement. And (to name one of my own) “Amen…praise the Lord” more times than necessary. When done to an extreme, all of these can make it difficult to listen to them at times because these tendencies can become the focus and therefore overshadow what they’re actually saying or doing.

I personally have a difficult time listening to someone speak when I have to constantly ignore these verbal coping mechanisms. But, as I said earlier, nervousness and inward insecurity are part of being human, so we’re not throwing stones just because we’re commenting on something.

It certainly contributes greatly to our communication skills when we can identify and hopefully minimize and eradicate these verbal coping mechanisms and learn, by God’s grace, to become confident in what we are saying or doing.

As I said earlier, many people possess the tendency to condemn themselves and doubt the decisions they are making. I’m not talking about a decision to sin…we should be condemned by that. I’m talking about decisions that carry no sinful component, but people still feel insecure about making.

I’m also not talking about the process of weighing your options on a matter before coming to a final conclusion. I went through about five different titles for this message before I felt settled on this one.

But, I’m talking about when someone makes one choice, they are not settled with it. If they make another choice, they’re not settled with it. If they choose a third option, they’re not settled with it. They always have a reason why they should and they always have a reason why they should not. Because of this, they often make no decision at all…and then they have doubts about that!

           The Bible gives clear instruction about how to make confident decisions and how to be confident once you have made those decisions, and that is what we’re going to look at in this message!

Doubting Your Decisions Won’t Change Much of Anything

           Once a decision is made, constantly doubting the decision probably won’t make much of a difference in the effect of that decision. It’ll just drive you crazy!

Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

           Someone who cannot commit to a final decision on something, even when they have as much information as possible on it, probably also has a tendency of not following through on things they start. They also run the risk of seeming like they have ulterior motives. It’s as if they don’t want to fully commit in case something goes wrong and, rather than getting the glory, they get the blame. Those who cannot commit to a decision may also be waiting in case “something better” comes along, then they can jump ship.

In the area of Matthew 5:37, the Lord teaches us to weigh our options, check our intentions, confidently make our decisions, and stick with them. Don’t make any special oaths “on a stack of Bibles” or “On my great, great grandma’s grave!”. Usually people who use excessive language like that cannot be trusted and they are trying hard to sound convincing.

Rather Than Fear and Doubt, What We Really Seek Is Wisdom

James 1:5-8  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  (6)  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  (7)  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  (8)  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

           You may ask the Lord, “Should I do this or do that?” If you get no clear answer, weigh all the reasons why you think you shouldn’t and all the reasons why you think you should and go with the one that you believe serves the best and greatest purpose.

Then stick with it! Let the tree fall where it may! Or as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 11:3  …and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. Sometimes you just don’t know which way the proverbial “tree” is going to fall and you have to learn how to be comfortable with that.

To do anything differently is to be ruled by the spirit of fear, and remember what Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. It takes the power of confidence, love for yourself, and a stable (sound) mind to make a confident decision, being convinced of your true intentions, and letting the tree fall where it may. Not in an angry and pushy way, but just letting it happen and being at peace with the outcomes.

We Must Let God Purify Our Hearts of Double Mindedness

James 4:8  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
           “…and purify your hearts…” Purify our hearts from what? From fear. Fear of what? fear of rejection…fear of other people’s opinions…fear of making the wrong decisions…fear that you may lose some opportunity

           BTW, when making a decision, if you have to say to yourself things like “They can just get over it!” or “I don’t care if they like it or not!” with a raunchy attitude, then you really aren’t comfortable with the decision yet. You are still trying to justify it and convince yourself.

           The idea is, “I know why I’m doing this and I believe I have the right intentions and goals in it”. I’ll use myself as an example, like Paul did. I can probably think of at least five good reasons why I should not have a blog or post anything from my blog online. I can also probably think of at least five good reasons why I should. Which one should I do? The one I believe serves the most good. It isn’t about the number of subscribers or the greatness of the content. It’s about what I believe in my heart I should be doing. Are there people who disapprove? Probably! Are there people who approve? Probably! There is a point at which you just say “yes” or “no” and quit revisiting it in your mind.

Once You’ve Weighed the Options, Stick With Your Decisions

           John 6:65-66  And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  (66)  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

           “…many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” – Did Jesus sit around saying, “Should I not have said that? Did I miss God on that message?”. No, He didn’t! He doubled down and asked those closest to Him in John 6:67 …Will ye also go away? Offending the masses wasn’t the goal, but neither was keeping them at any cost the goal either!

           Pilate, as wicked as he was, understood the concept of sticking with your decisions in John 19:19-22  And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.  (20)  This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.  (21)  Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.  (22)  Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

           There really can be a time when you stop trying to placate the masses, who are only following the other masses, anyway. Ask God to help you just stick to your convictions! There will those who don’t like it, and there will be those who do like it. But, neither of those are the goal…I know it’s hard to believe that being approved of is not the goal!

The goal is being at peace with God about our decisions, or as Paul puts it in Romans 14:22-23  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. (When you are at peace that what you are doing is right before the Lord, and you truly know why you are doing it, you are set free from the need to make sure everyone understands and that everyone is okay with it – as the Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 10:29 …for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? – In other words, if it’s just preference, then it’s totally okay if someone doesn’t like something you’re doing (provided it isn’t sinful). You don’t even have to get mad about it!). Happy is he (obviously this applies to women too) that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.  (23)  And he that doubteth is damned (condemned) if he(fill in the blank with whatever decision you are making at the time.)

           “Pastor Fulmer, if you teach this, there will be people who do things and say it’s from God!”. Probably, but as the Bible also says in Romans 14:4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth In other words, they’ll have to answer to God for that, not to us!

So, Let Your Yea Be Yea and Your Nay Be Nay!

James 5:12  but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

           Paul calls pride 1 Timothy 3:6 the condemnation of the devil. But, the inability to stick with a decision you’ve made is also the condemnation of the devil. It plagues you with the torment that “Maybe I’ve done something wrong” or “I wonder if I’ll get preached at for it” (if that’s the way people who are learning and trying to get better are handled, then you can’t do much about that toxicity anyway)…“Maybe I’ve made someone angry” or “Maybe I won’t be considered”. My friend, at some point you will make the wrong decision (or be thought to have made the wrong decision), you will make someone angry, and you will lose opportunities.

Those are not the questions to ask. The question to ask is, “Provided the decision doesn’t include sin, are you at peace with your decision, as unto the Lord?” If so, remember Romans 14:22 Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

Just Do What You Know to Do – A Lesson from Simon the Canaanite

Matthew 10:2; 4  Now the names of the twelve apostles are these…(4)  Simon the Canaanite…

Simon the Canaanite is someone you don’t read too much about in the scriptures. But, he was among the faithful apostles of Jesus Christ! Tradition holds that he preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, where he died by crucifixion around A.D. 74. Though the word “Canaanite” is used of him, this does not mean he was from the land of Canaan. He was indeed a Hebrew.

Someone from the land of Canaan is the Greek word Chanaan, as used in Acts 13:19  And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

This word “Canaanite”, as it pertains to Simon, is the Greek word Kanaanites. This was actually a political slur for those of an independent Jewish political party that was fighting for the independence of Israel from Roman rule.

It seems they were dismissed as nothing more than crazy, rebellious political zealots who didn’t want to conform. Politics haven’t changed much! Therefore, Simon is more correctly identified in Luke 6:15 and Simon called Zelotes.

It’s interesting to note here that Jesus had politically active people in His group! This doesn’t mean Jesus’ goal was for His group to become a political party, though they did influence local and national politics. We’re told today that religious people should keep their religious viewpoints out of the political discussion. But, how is silencing the speech of those with whom we may disagree going for us?

Simon had the zeal and desire, not to just see wrongs be made right, but to do something about those wrongs. He was just doing what he knew to do at the time. This is the kind of person with whom Jesus chooses to work!

No doubt Jesus had to polish up Simon’s character and approach along the way, but it seems the Lord was glad that Simon just wanted to do something.

The Lord doesn’t need someone to figure out the perfect way to do things before He can use them. He just needs someone who isn’t afraid to try. He takes care of shaping them into the person He wants them to become!

As important as political independence is, spiritual independence is far more important! The Lord changed Simon’s focus from earthly political independence to eternal spiritual independence, which is brought through the Gospel!

Simon started out doing something locally because that’s all he knew. All God needs is for you and me to do what we know to do right where we are in order that He may lead us into our greater calling for His kingdom!

Will you join me in being that person?

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The Zeal of Phinehas

Numbers 25:11-12  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel…(12)  Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, is someone you may have heard of, but probably not too much. What little is written about him reveals a whole lot of content about his character and his love for God.

At this point, Israel was now in their second 40 year journey in the wilderness. This event was after many of them chose not to go into the Promise Land, and so God sent them back into the wilderness in Numbers 13 – 14.

Ever since Israel was sent back into the wilderness, many events took place up to this point. There was the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16, God establishes the official duties of the Priests and Levites in Numbers 18, Miriam and Aaron die in Numbers 20, and you can read about the exchange between the prophet Balaam and Balak (the king of Moab) in Numbers 22 – 24.

What Happened to Israel?

The opening verse of this chapter reads a lot differently from what was just written in the previous few chapters! How did we go from Numbers 23:21  He (God) hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob (Israel), neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel to reading Numbers 25:1  and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. This is definitely one of those places where you could say, “That escalated quickly!”.

In short, we know that King Balak called the prophet Balaam to curse Israel, but Balaam would only bless Israel. Balaam then left to go back home. But, before leaving, he shared some information with King Balak about how to get Israel to brings God’s curses upon themselves.

We learn this insight from the Lord Jesus in Revelation 2:14  But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Balaam may have thought he had gotten away with it. He may even have justified his actions by saying, “I didn’t curse Israel. They brought it on themselves!”. Either way, God saw it and we know the truth today!

God then gets angry about Israel’s idolatry and commands Moses to carry out judgement upon the people for their disrespect of God’s ways! Numbers 25:4-5  And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.  (5)  And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

The Midianites Get Involved

Numbers 25:6  And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

So, now apparently Midian has gotten involved in trying to bring down Israel. It seems that this man, we later learn is named Zimri, was unaware of the judgment that was coming to pass when he arrived back at the camp with his one night stand. He even takes her into his tent. So, apparently no one let Zimri know what was happening. But, someone was about to inform him!

The Zeal of Phinehas

This is where the story gets interesting! When Phinehas sees this disrespect of God’s ways, he immediately jumps into action!

Numbers 25:7-8  And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;  (8)  And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

Now, of course, this is not how things are handled by God today, but God did things differently in the Old Testament. So, we ought to be glad for New Testament grace and mercy!

Though I would never encourage this kind of action, I think we can certainly appreciate the zeal of Phinehas! We are not sure what his thoughts were. His actions were not borne of any priestly duty. The closest justification for his actions were probably from the command of Moses in Numbers 25:5  And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor.

Whatever his reasons, we can see he cared so much about the purity of the things of God that he took the initiative to make an example out of Zimri and this Midianitish woman named Cozbi.

Honoring Phinehas

For his zeal, God gave Phinehas great honor! Numbers 25:10-13  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  (11)  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.  (12)  Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:  (13)  And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

The Character of Phinehas

As I mentioned earlier, you don’t read a whole lot about Phinehas in the Bible, but it’s these kinds of passages that reveal that he had a great amount of character and love for God!

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The Proper Use of Biblical Judgment

Matthew 7:1  Judge not, that ye be not judged.

This is a verse from the Bible that is often thrown about with great liberty! Rather than being used as it is presented by the Lord in this text, it seems to be used more as a shield against any form of questioning or examination.

Ironically, those who quote this verse the most seem to be the least capable of telling you just where it is in the Bible. They just know it’s in there…somewhere!

The word for “judge” in this verse is the Greek word krino. It is used 114 times in the New Testament alone. It does not only mean “judge”. It also means to distinguish; to decide; to investigate claims; to determine based on evidence; and to avenge.

Jesus uses this same word again in John 7:24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Here, our Lord tells us to investigate and come to a conclusion based upon evidence (what He calls “righteous judgment”). In other words, once you have the evidence of something being true, it is okay to actually say that it is true.

What is also ironic is that those who say “judge not, that ye be not judged” are in essence judging you. They do this by insinuating that you are wrong for daring to come to any conclusion whatsoever about anything they are doing. By saying (or insinuating) that you are wrong, they have themselves come to a judgmental conclusion; the very thing they say you shouldn’t do. They have judged!

Those who have nothing to hide don’t mind being legitimately questioned because they will usually have some form of evidence to back them up. They in turn also tend to judge others based upon evidence rather than appearances only.

When people try to deflect by using the text of Matthew 7:1, realize that it’s probably because they just don’t want to be held accountable for something. Those who don’t want to be legitimately questioned (judged) actually tend to judge others based on appearances because appearances are all they have. They do not always seem to realize that the very same text that they use to deflect questioning, also says they will be judged in the same way they judge others.

Examples of the proper use of Biblical judgment:

  • John 7:24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. – It’s okay to make proper judgments about others, just make sure it’s with proper evidence and proper cause.
  • Matthew 7:1-2  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  (2)  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. – Before making a judgment on someone, ask yourself, “Would I want someone making this kind of judgment about me?”. The answer to that question should guide how you proceed; whether you will continue to examine and judge or abandon the idea.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:15  I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. – We are encouraged to learn and make informed decisions (proper judgments) based upon what we are told.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:29  Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? – Once we are sure we have made proper judgments based on evidence, we are encouraged to stand upon our own conclusions (judgments). Just because someone thinks we are doing wrong provides no proof that we actually are doing wrong.
    • “A guilty conscience needs a good memory. An innocent conscience needs only to repeat the truth”

These are just a few of the 114 examples of what Biblical judgment looks like. Once you realize the proper use of Biblical judgment, it sets you free to make proper judgments without allowing people to shame you as if you’ve done something wrong.

The next time someone tries to break out Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged, just ask them, “Can you tell me where that verse is located in the Bible?”. You’ll quickly see what their real intentions are!

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To Be as Our Master

Matthew 10:24-25  The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.  (25)  It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord… In our society today we hear a lot about “equality”. There are those who believe that if we could just get everyone on equal ground materially, financially, and physically, then we could all be happy. This thought entails that we are not already equal.

Being created in the image of God and possessing intrinsic human value is an equality that all of us already possess. Everyone possessing the same amount of physical, mental, financial, and material ability is an equality that will never be attained. Sadly, people overlook the first, and think the answer to obtaining peace is found in the second, although history repeatedly disproves this theory.

There is another form of equality that, when it is attained, is truly the highest form of equality that could ever be attained. This equality is far above any level of worldly equality! The equality I’m talking about is to be equal with our Lord, Jesus Christ! I do not mean equal with His Lordship, but equal in His character. In other words, as the title of this post indicates, To Be as Our Master.

We cannot be greater than He because He is the only Lord and Savior of the world. But, there are three ways in which we are called by God to be as our Master! When the Christian understands, grasps, and accepts these three ways, they make becoming more like Christ to be a far easier and more attainable goal!

To Be Hated, As Our Master Being hated may not sound like a fun time, and it often isn’t fun. We are told by Jesus in Matthew 10:22 –  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake:  but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, it’s about Me”. There will come a point at which the Christian will make the choice to either be like the world or be like Jesus. This  decision will reveal who our real master is.

To Suffer Persecution, As Our Master Matthew 10:23  But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “If you get severely persecuted in one city to where you can’t stay, don’t feel like you have to stay there. Just go to another city. There are so many cities to flee to and continue preaching the Gospel that you won’t get to them all before I return. Besides, there are people in those other cities that I can save as well.”

If there’s one thing satan knows, it is that he is not as great as Jesus. He doesn’t like that truth, but he certainly knows that truth! 

It’s too bad most people don’t understand this, and even sadder that many Christians don’t seem to understand this (at least not on an everyday practical level anyway).

Christianity has never been meant to be a smooth sailing lifestyle. Whether it be the hatred and persecution by the world or constantly saying “No” to yourself so you can say “Yes” to God, if our lives are smoother than the Lord’s life was when He was on the earth, then something about us is not like our Master!

When we’ve truly met the Lord, there’s the constant and pressing feeling that “There’s something I must be doing for God…There’s something I need to be part of that’s bigger than me in the kingdom of God!”

“I can’t just sit on the sidelines watching. I need to get in the game! I need to make a difference somehow and somewhere for God!” As our Master says in Luke 2:49  And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist (knew) ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? When we take up the mantle of being as our Master, then be assured that our Master will take up the mantle of taking care of us!

To Declare God’s Word, As Our Master Matthew 10:26-27  Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.  (27)  What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.

The Christian life appeals to those who hunger for something more! There is no greater message than the Gospel that says we can spend timeless eternity with the God who created us and gave us purpose and significance! For those who accept it, Matthew 10:22  …he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and your heart on Heaven!

Cultivating a Christ-Centered Culture

*This message is adapted from a post on my personal development page at That post is entitled Six Pillars of an Identity Culture.

Matthew 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

(To watch the video version of this teaching, please Click Here)

A culture has been defined as the set of predominating attitudes and behaviors that characterize a group or organization. When it comes to creating a culture, it really doesn’t take much. There is only one thing you have to do in order to create a culture in any group you are part of. That one thing is…nothing!

I say this because even when you do nothing, there is a culture forming there. It may be a negative culture, but it’s there, nonetheless.

Groups are made up of individual people. These are people with their own identities, tendencies, expectations, preferences, and beliefs.

Even if the group professes to have the same beliefs in such areas as political, religious, or societal convictions, you can be sure that for every person involved there is a different belief in how those convictions should be carried out as a group.

With this said, there will always be a culture of some sort. The question is, what kind of culture do you want to have? If you do nothing and just let things float along, it will produce a culture of every man or woman doing what is right to them. This goes for sports teams, military units, churches, families, etc.

In our church for example, we cultivate a culture of faith AND work. This is where everyone is learning to walk with God by faith, while at the same time showing that we are serious about the things of God by contributing and working together in His kingdom. Not the members doing everything for the ministers nor the ministers doing everything for the members.

We get our inspiration for this culture from the Bible, in James 2:17-18  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  (18)  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James shows us what a Christ-centered culture looks like!

If somehow you can establish a Christ-centered culture that is embraced and enforced by those in the group (and often this is the biggest hurdle), then there is great potential for doing bigger and better things, or as  Jesus answered and saidthou shalt see greater things than these. John 1:50

As the old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go together”. In this case, we are talking about going together in a unified and Christ-centered culture.

I believe that when those in a group (again, whether it’s a church, family, etc.) know who they are as a group, it will guide the conduct accordingly. The same holds true when you’re building a Christ-centered culture on a personal level as well. Below, are six statements that will aid us when creating a Christ-centered culture.

1) “This is Who We Are”

Jesus did not back down from who He was, and neither do we have to either.

If there is one thing satan does not want you and me to know, it is who we are in Christ! Who are we as God’s people?

We are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13  Ye are the salt of the earth

We are the light of the world…Matthew 5:14  Ye are the light of the world

We are from above and not from beneath! John 8:23  And he said unto them, I am from aboveI am not of this world.

None of these are meant to be a pride trip, but at the same time when you are a child of God who has been born again from above, you don’t have to shrink from that knowledge either! It doesn’t matter if in the world people call us manager, Sergeant Major, Captain, Colonel, CEO, CFO, COO, etc. We are a child of God wherever we go and there is a Christ-centered culture that comes with being a child of God!

                 “That is NOT Who We Are”

In order to prevent being pulled in multiple directions away from God in this life, we must also be able to say, “That is NOT who we are”. As Paul writes in Hebrews 13:9  Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines

A culture becomes unhealthy when those within it become unwilling to say, “That is NOT who we are”. This phrase will by nature weed some people out of your life. This is all part of a healthy identity culture. In order for a Christ-centered culture to remain healthy, only those who have embraced that cultural identity will remain in it.

Honestly, the phrase “That is NOT who we are” should be said more often than it usually is. There are times we should be saying, “I’m going to say ‘no’ to this because God has something far better for me!

As a child of God, when we are striving for a Christ-centered culture in our church, our home, or in our own personal lives, we can confidently say “This is who we are, and I don’t have to back down from that!”.

2) “This is What We Do”

Now that we’ve established who we are in Christ and the Christ-centered culture around us, let’s move on to what we do in a Christ-centered culture. This one may seem easy to establish, but it takes a little more effort than one may realize.

A car dealer may say, “We sell cars” and, as a Christian, we may say “We serve God”. Ultimately these statements are true. But, what do we do in order to get to do what we do? Certainly a car dealer doesn’t just walk outside and start selling cars and a Christian doesn’t just “serve God” simply because they say so. Here is what I mean.

A born again child of God who is seeking to cultivate a Christ-centered culture in and around them is serving God by being about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In other words, in a Christ-centered culture people are actually serving. This culture must start in our own hearts on a personal level. If we aren’t in some way serving God, then can we say that we are…serving God?

When is the last time we did something for the Lord simply because it needed to be done? “Well, I’m waiting to be asked”. Those who are cultivating a Christ-centered culture are looking around and doing the asking! As Saul (later known as Paul) would say in Acts 9:6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

Notice this question only came from him when the Lord finally became real to him. Before that, he was busy pursuing his career, enjoying his leisure, taking on the extra Christian-persecuting assignments to get the extra points, etc. God has a way of bringing us to a place where doing His will becomes all that matters.

                 “That is NOT What We Do”

In order to cultivate a healthy Christ-centered culture, we (whether individually or as a group) must also be able to say, “That is NOT what we do”. This phrase must be communicated (whether by words or actions) as frequently and most of all as clearly as necessary (which will be often!). If this phrase is not communicated clearly, specifically, and regularly it leaves an opportunity for things to creep in that actually contradict what that Christ-centered culture says it believes.

Paul says in Hebrews 10:39  But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition…In other words, “We are not among those who quit serving God just because things get difficult!”

3) “This is What we Expect”

The concept of expectation can seem scary to some people because it carries with it the concept of enforcing accountability, which in turn may create conflict. However, the more cultural accountability is enforced, the more it reinforces within the Christ-centered culture that, “This is what we expect because this is who we are and enforcing accountability is what we do in our Christ-centered culture”. Do you see how these steps build upon each other?

How is it Christ-centered to enforce expectations? Because Christ did it! In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses the word “hypocrite” once, and the word “hypocrites” 14 times! This word hypocrite (from Greek hupokrites) simply means an actor. So, in a Christ-centered culture, what do we expect? We expect that those who claim allegiance to that culture be true to its convictions; not be a hypocrite, or an actor, who is just trying to gain an advantage.

If you pay attention, people will eventually show you whether or not they are in allegiance with your Christ-centered culture or if their allegiance lies elsewhere.

4) “This is What We Tolerate”

Creating a healthy Christ-centered culture takes a lot of diligent and focused work. In order for the culture to be healthy, there must be some things that are tolerated within it. This is because you are ultimately dealing with individuals in the group, and not just one large group. The question is “what do we tolerate and for how long?”.

There isn’t always a black and white answer to these questions, but being able to establish some answers to the previous statements, (This is who we are, this is what we do, and this is what we expect) can certainly offer guidance.

While Jesus called people hypocrites, He also teaches about tolerating certain things. He says this in such places as Matthew 18:21-22  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  (22)  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. AndMatthew 5:7  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. So, we see there are things to tolerate within a Christ-centered culture.

It has been said in so many words that whatever you tolerate today becomes the culture tomorrow. I would also add that whatever you tolerate today becomes the perceived beliefs of you or your group. Given this knowledge, in our Christ-centered culture that we are cultivating, let’s be sure to tolerate the right things!

5) “This is What We Punish”

This one is rather self-explanatory, so we won’t spend too much time on it. When we say “punish” we simply mean what things receive disciplinary action. Did Jesus punish anyone during His ministry on the earth? Yes, He did.

Matthew 16:21-23  From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  (22)  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  (23)  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. We see here that Jesus verbally punished Peter, and satan who was influencing Peter.

While the Lord tolerated a lot of things so as to give space for the personal and spiritual growth of the disciples, by responding the way He did here, Jesus was saying, “Our culture punishes any effort that seeks to seriously derail doing the will of God”.

Jesus didn’t go around verbally abusing people, but when the threat arose, He also wasn’t afraid to meet it directly. Those kinds of things have more value when used appropriately.

6) “This is What We Reward”

Let’s go out on a positive note, shall we? What a person or group rewards says a lot when it comes to how serious they are about cultivating a Christ-centered culture. It also says a lot about what they truly believe.

Some groups use financial rewards, others give medals and trophies, while others simply give favorable mentions of the person’s achievements. The last one is usually the most desired and especially effective if their achievements reinforce the cultural identity of the group. It says, “This is what they did because that is who we are around here!”

There is a reason we have heard such phrases as “What gets rewarded gets replicated” and “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected”, and isn’t that the kind of culture we all want to be part of anyway?

An unhealthy culture will reward what should be punished and punish what should be rewarded.

When Jesus saw a scribe who seems to have been open to His teachings and therefore received great insights about the kingdom of God, Jesus told the man in Mark 12:34 Thou art not far from the kingdom of GodJesus showed recognition that the man was on the right path to understanding.

 When Peter came to the realization that Jesus was the promised Christ, Jesus said to him Matthew 16:17  Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Jesus didn’t just go around telling everyone how great they were and doling out unnecessary compliments. If you constantly reward frivolous behavior, you get more frivolous behavior.

However, Jesus did show the recognition to people who made valuable and substantive contributions to the kingdom of God. This was especially the case when their contributions reinforced the culture that He was cultivating. What are you rewarding? If you reward substantive behavior, you get more substantive behavior.

Those in a Christ-centered culture know who they are. They know what they do. They know what they expect. They know what they tolerate. They know what gets punished and they know what gets rewarded. This is the kind of culture that Jesus cultivated and we can cultivate this Christ-centered culture wherever we are as well.