Changed Agenda | The Challenge
Monday— But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 1 Corinthians 12:18
“Welcome to Church Shopping 101,” said the smiling face on the video screen. “In this class you will learn how to find the best church for you and your needs. You should try out many of them until you find one that offers what you want. For example, the music. Is it your style? Good band? Right volume? And the pastor, is he the right balance of humor and relevance? How are the kids’ programs? Are they lively and entertaining? And opportunities for you and your spouse: Do they fit your interests? Are they adequately funded? Fit your schedule? And the members: Are most within your socio-economic sphere? Good luck!”
What might be the key verse for that class? Where does the Bible encourage such self-focused consumerism? It’s not there. Yet, many professing Christians church shop using filters very similar to the ones above. They pursue what Church X offers without considering what they can offer Church X. Church Shopping 101 skips over God’s church-hunting filters: “Is this church where God wants me to serve Him? Can I use my time, resources, and gifts to build up this body of believers?” The shift in emphasis makes all the difference. Instead of “What can I get from this church?” we should be asking “How can the Lord use me in this church?” When God saves us, He places us where He wants us and expects us to stay until He moves us.
Final Thought: How faithful are you to the Body where has God placed you?
Prayer: Father, I’ve been guilty of church shopping with self-focused consumerism. It’s about what a church offers me. I want to change, to see my church as the place where you planted me. Show me how to serve you here. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. 2 Timothy 4:10
He’d been gung-ho for a few years, serving beside Paul, excited about the ministry. Then he wasn’t. We’re not told where Demas went, but we hear Paul’s heart as he grieves the loss. He’d trusted Demas, relied on him, celebrated with him as God used him to bring people into the kingdom. But despite his early enthusiasm, Demas was not in it for the right reasons. He had another love, a more pressing desire. And it finally won. So, he bid Paul farewell and reentered the world’s rat race. Paul said Demas left because he was “in love with this present world.” Spiritual passions cool quickly unless we’re fully invested.
Demas was a consumer. At first, he may have seemed as devoted as Paul was. But when ministry stopped meeting his need for validation, he went elsewhere. Many people do that with Jesus and His church. They raise a hand, walk an aisle, pray a prayer, and get dunked, but their reasons are not spiritual. They love the validation. It makes them feel like they did something good and they enjoy the church atmosphere while it’s all new. But they never invest. Like Demas, they have another love. So when someone hurts them, a pastor misspeaks, a decision makes them mad, they disappear. “That’s my church!” they crow but rarely show up. Being “in love with this present world” lures consumers away from God’s work—but investors don’t budge.
Final Thought: God did not call us out of darkness and into the light to be consumers. He’s looking for investors
Prayer: Father, I might look a lot like Demas. Maybe no one else knows yet, but my heart is always looking for the next emotional thrill. If this church stops giving it, I might drop out. Am I a consumer or a disciple? Show me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36
If you had to name the character qualities that God values most, what would they be? Okay, love, kindness, patience…those are easy. But what else? There is one we rarely think of, but Jesus mentioned it, Paul emphasized it, and the book of Revelation highlights it. In fact, Jesus says it’s another way we demonstrate we are really His (Matt. 24:13). But we don’t like this trait. It’s difficult to attain. Sometimes painful. And it’s usually paired with unpleasant circumstances. Do you give up? It’s perseverance. Endurance. The ability to stick it out when life isn’t fun anymore. But why does God value it so highly?
The answer makes us uncomfortable: Perseverance separates the genuine believers from the posers. Some people treat God like a slot machine—pull the handle a couple of times and if He doesn’t deliver a prize, move on to Plan B. They get charged up for a few months, even years, and look really spiritual. But posers can’t endure when the sizzle fizzles. And that’s one way God tests people who claim to know Him. “Will they endure when it’s tough? Will they disobey my word when the world mocks it?” Churches hurt us, people disappoint us, hypocrites deceive us, and temptations overwhelm us. Posers crack under the strain and disappear. But if we’re dug-in, committed, burned-my-bridges, true disciples of Jesus, we will persevere.
Final Thought: Perseverance separates true disciples from religious consumers.
Prayer: Lord, am I a true disciple or will time reveal that I was only a consumer? Deepen my faith, my obedience to you, so that when I’m tempted to walk away, I can’t. Help me to persevere to prove I am one of yours. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. John 6:66
Yesterday, he would have sworn he was authentic, a true disciple of this new Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth. He’d followed this Man from town to town, took notes at the Sermon on the Mount, and was among the thousands who ate his fill from a kid’s Happy Meal. He was a Jesus follower, of that he was certain. Until today. Today’s teaching had been tough to hear. What happened to the healing crusades and the free banquets? He was all in for the spiritual pep talks and assurances of God’s love. But this discipleship thing was HARD. Jesus was saying to go all in or go home. Sadly, he packed up his things and turned back.
This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Until this moment, crowds had followed Jesus, loving what He said and did. They were sure they were in His circle. They were just like the twelve, heard the same things the apostles heard. But then it got difficult and they took off. This happens every day. As long as teachers promise prosperity and blessing, millions cheer. They’ve got the coolest Bible, a shelf full of self-help books, and Jesus Calling on their nightstand. Then they bump into passages that challenge what they want to believe: “You mean, to be a disciple I can’t act on my same-sex attractions? Can’t divorce that boring spouse? Can’t party with the pagans? Can’t be my own boss? I wasn’t counting on all that.” So they turn the page, delete those verses, drop out or find a more affirming church. They’ve joined the defectors in John 6:66.
Final Thought: Are you following the Jesus of scripture or a Jesus that promises you what you want?
Prayer: Lord God, search my heart. Would I have been among those who thought they were disciples, but turned back when they realized the cost? I don’t want to be a consumer, fooling myself. I’m ready to be all in. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Luke 9:23
Jesus drew a line in the sand with these words. Nothing says we’re all in like picking up a cross. In Jesus’ day, a cross always represented death. No one seen dragging a cross through town was coming back alive. When Jesus carried His, He was becoming sin. Our sin. Cruel men would nail His hands and feet while God nailed our rap sheets to it. From then on, anyone who believes in what He did can have their sins cancelled by God. But we must come to His cross dragging our own. We’re crucifying our old life, our loves, and our agendas. In exchange, we get His new life, His loves, and His agenda.
That’s where today’s prosperity gospel clashes with the real gospel. Prosperity gurus teach that Jesus is the ticket into God’s goodie bag and if we simply pray a prayer, God is then obligated to give us everything we want. “Visualize it and it’s yours!” they cry. Doesn’t sound anything like what Jesus said, does it? In fact, it’s the opposite. We GIVE UP what we want: our rights, our opinions, our self-rule. We surrender it all to Him and let Him remake us into His image. There’s no room for consumerism. A cross is a total commitment. It says, “I don’t own anything. I’m just here for Jesus. Whatever He wants.” His cross paid in full the debt we owe God. There’s nothing we can add to that. But our cross frees us to live the new life He offers.
Final Thought: Have you viewed Jesus as a ticket to God’s goodie bag? Won’t work. You must pick up a cross and follow.
Prayer: Lord, have I assumed I’m yours because I prayed a prayer? Your word says nothing about a special prayer but a lot about carrying a cross and obeying. I surrender now. I gladly take up my cross because you’re worth it. In Jesus’ name, amen.