Unleashing the Power

Pentecost Sunday 2023 Sermon Notes – Watch the sermon on YouTube


We finish our After the Resurrection series with the arrival of the Holy Spirit whom Christ told the disciples when He ascended that He would send. Remember He had told them to go back to Jerusalem and wait until it came.

‌‌Today is known as Pentecost Sunday. The Greek word used means fifty. I want to share a little about the historical Pentecost and what the Pentecost means to us as Christians today in this message.

Historical Pentecost

‌Pentecost is celebrated in both Jewish and many Christian circles. Pentecost is not a new holiday for Christians only. It predates our faith going all the way back to the Torah, the Old Testament Law.


“To the Jews, this time of celebration is known as Shavuot, which is the Hebrew word meaning “weeks.” This is one of three separate names that are used in Scripture to refer to this important Jewish feast. Besides being called the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23, this special feast celebration is called the “Day of the Firstfruits” in Numbers 28:26 and the “Feast of Harvest” in Exodus 23:16. The Feast of Weeks takes place exactly 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. It normally occurs in late spring, either the last part of May or the beginning of June. 

Unlike other feasts that began on a specific day of the Hebrew calendar, this one is calculated as being “fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:15–16; Deuteronomy 16:9–10).” – Gotquestions.com


It follows the Passover by fifty days.

Pentecost to the Christian

‌When it comes to the Christian Church, and what this day means to us there is much to be seen.

‌Jesus was crucified as the “Passover Lamb.” He rose from the grave at the Feast of First Fruits.‌ Following His resurrection, Jesus spent the next 40 days teaching His disciples before ascending to heaven (Acts 1).

‌Fifty days after His resurrection and after ascending to heaven to sit at the right hand of God, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as promised (John 14:16–17) to indwell the disciples and empower them for ministry.

‌The promised Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost, which is another name for the Feast of Weeks.

‌Let’s recount this event as Luke records it in Acts 2.

What Happened?

‌​Acts 2:1–18 ESV

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.



‌Many times in the bible we read of people seeking a word from God in the wind. In Genesis it even speaks of the Spirit hovering over the land, this Ruah word in Genesis is translated most as spirit, but can also be breath or wind.

‌‌Think about Jesus’s own words about how the Spirit is like the wind…it blows where it wants to.

‌​John 3:8 ESV

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”


‌And Luke records that “tongues as of fire” appeared above people’s heads. Fire is very often used, or seen, as God’s presence throughout the OT. From the burning bush and Moses to the Israelite’s travels during the Exodus, they were led by fire in the night and a column of smoke during the day.

‌God is described as an “all-consuming fire.”

‌‌So there can be no doubt here, that just as Christ had told them, God would send the Holy Spirit…and here He came with wind and fire.



‌These tongues were not the spiritual gift of praying in tongues or speaking in tongues as Paul speaks of. Instead it was a supernatural ability to speak in languages they did not know so that others would be taught and hear the gospel of Jesus’s substitutionary death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.


It is by the Holy Spirit’s power that Peter was emboldened to stand up and deliver a message that would have been seen as condemning the very people that had crucified Jesus. The same man that feared them enough to deny even knowing Jesus prior, is now strengthened through the Spirit to speak against them with power.

The Prophecy

‌Peter says that all of this that happened was prophesied. In other words, this was the fulfillment of what the Jews would have already read in the prophets.


Joel 2:28–29 ESV

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.


Joel 2:32 ESV

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.


‌So what does the Holy Spirit mean for us today? What does it mean for you and me? For the answer, we need to look to Jesus’s own words. It is promised by God in the OT, and Jesus said it would come when He left the earth.


‌Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus told the disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came.

‌​Acts 1:8 ESV

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


Isn’t it interesting that boldly witnessing is the first display of the Holy Spirit seen in the disciples? Peter courageously stands up and preaches a highly convicting message to those gathered within the place for the Feast. The people there weren’t there for Jesus, they were there for the obligatory act.

‌The disciples received the Holy Spirit. The people then thought they must be mad or had been drinking because they were hearing these disciples speaking in their languages. People were there from all over the world and yet they heard these Galileans speaking in their languages.

‌Jesus said they would receive power to be His witnesses. This wasn’t a physical, stronger-than-anyone display of power. It was the gift of boldness, the gift of unattainable knowledge, the gift or power to explain the Gospel, to be His witnesses, so that others might believe and be saved. They were telling them of the Mighty Works of God.

‌‌Guess what you and I have the power to do? We, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and our own experience of the mighty works of God in our own lives, have the power to be His witnesses. We can tell others about the work of God in our lives and share the Gospel that God can do the same thing in their lives.

The Holy Spirit gives us boldness. Scripture says that He will give us the words to speak.

‌I’m afraid though, that too often we lose our focus on Him, and we look at ourselves, denying His power within us, believing we are too weak, too dumb, to share the Gospel. So we don’t allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us.‌ But, we have it. It’s in us. We just need to unleash it on the world around us!

Our Helper

‌Jesus says the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth. He calls Him the Helper in John 14:26.

‌I need help. Do you need help?


John 14:26 ESV

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

‌‌The Helper will teach and bring to remembrance what Jesus has taught us. How many of you have had that feeling when wanting to share about Jesus to someone and thought to yourself, “I’m not sure what to say. Can I remember enough Scripture to answer their questions?” Jesus says the Holy Spirit will help us remember.

‌We’ve mentioned before how we need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to learn from the Scriptures. It all seems foolishness without having the Spirit. But when we have Him He illuminates the Scriptures so that we can see and learn and receive the Word of God.

He is Our Advocate

‌The Holy Spirit is our Advocate. Not only does He help us in many ways, but He advocates for us…He speaks for us.

‌Paul reminds us in Romans 8.

‌‌Romans 8:26–27 ESV

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

‌‌We need an advocate, and Jesus gives us what we need.

‌Have you ever had someone advocate for you, and speak for you in life? It felt good right? It made you feel like you mattered. We matter to God, and so the Spirit shows us by advocating, and speaking on our behalf to the Father.

Summary of Benefits

‌‌Guidance and Teaching: Jesus assured His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to guide them into all truth and remind them of His teachings (John 14:26; John 16:13-14). The Spirit would illuminate their understanding and help them grasp the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words.

Comfort and Advocate: Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Comforter or Advocate who would come alongside His followers to provide comfort, support, and encouragement (John 14:16-17, 26). The Spirit would be their helper in times of need.

Empowerment for Witnessing: Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would empower His disciples to be witnesses of Him, enabling them to testify boldly about Him and His work (Acts 1:8). The Spirit would give them the necessary boldness, words, and spiritual power to proclaim the Gospel.

Conviction of Sin: Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11). The Spirit would bring about conviction in people’s hearts, leading them to recognize their need for repentance and the righteousness offered through faith in Jesus.

Spiritual Fruit: Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would produce spiritual fruit in the lives of believers, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit’s presence and work would transform their character to reflect Christ’s likeness.

Unity and Fellowship: The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in uniting believers in the body of Christ, fostering love, harmony, and mutual support within the community of believers (Ephesians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

He Seals Us

‌And when it comes to our Salvation, this is a work of the Holy Spirit alone. It is God’s gift of grace to us, and it is offered to you.

‌The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and our need for a Savior. John 16:8. It is He that opens our eyes to recognize we are sinners.

‌‌The Holy Spirit regenerates us. As Jesus taught Nicodemus, we need to be born again. This is regeneration. It is dying to our old self and being raised to new life in Christ, being born again of the Spirit. John 3:5-8.

‌‌The Holy Spirit indwells or lives in us. Romans 8:9. You are no longer your own. Like the Tabernacle the Israelites used to haul around as “God’s dwelling place.” We are His temples now. We are where God, through His Spirit resides.

‌‌The Holy Spirit seals us. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us proves we are God’s saved people. We know we are His when we know He is doing all these things in our lives…giving us power, and knowledge, and helping us to produce the fruits of the Spirit in our life.

‌Paul says:

‌​Ephesians 1:13–14 ESV

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit is the unconditional guarantee of our inheritance, of our adoption as children of God, heirs with Christ, or an eternal inheritance.


The Holy Spirit sanctifies us. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit in our life making us more like Christ. He’s forming us into the image of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

You’re not there yet. Me either. But like me, I am sure that if you have believed in Christ and received His forgiveness through the Holy Spirit, then you are a better person now than you were right?

‌You’ve probably seen some of those fleshly desires be crucified in your life. The things you used to find enjoyment in, are now foolish endeavors. In place of them is that joy that can’t be taken away.


‌Friends, today is said to be the birth of the Church, the Bride of Christ. 

Nearly 2,000 years ago a movement of men and women from all nations received the Holy Spirit and were sent into the world to be Christ’s witnesses for the salvation of the world.

‌The Holy Spirit is why I have given all these words to you today, in the hopes that you too would be filled with the Holy Spirit.

‌That you too would receive His power, become His witnesses, know His comfort, and be sanctified in Christ.

‌May you know Him as intimately as He knows you, and I pray His power would be unleashed in us all.

He Gets US?

With the recent He Gets US ads playing during the Super Bowl in 2023, there have been a lot of opinions given about the campaign. Sadly, it’s been more dividing than I think many would have thought a commercial about Jesus Christ being aired during the biggest event on national TV ever would have. You would think we would all, Christians at least, would applaud the fact our Lord and Savior’s Name is being broadcast to the world! Instead, reviews have been mixed.

It is these mixed reviews I want to tackle here…or at least share what I know of the campaign myself from being personally involved. You see, around the end of 2021, I got involved by responding to an advertisement (if I recall correctly) during the Carey Nieuwhof podcast I frequently listen to. The ad (Gloo) was something about “serving” folks outside your church by receiving messages from them. I thought, “that would be awesome!” I mean come on, as a pastor of a small online only church trying to figure out who and how we can serve folks outside the church, this should be perfect.

At the time, I knew nothing of the He Gets Us commercials. It may have just been a week or two in before I heard of it. Maybe one of my “explorers,” (that’s what they call those that send prayer requests/or ask for more info), had mentioned it in a response to my contacting them. I don’t’ know, but either way, I eventually learned there was more than just the He Gets Us campaign sending those people’s request out to people, pastors, like myself. It was a different campaign, I do not remember.

So that brings us to the “uproar” of some over He Gets Us advertising during the Super Bowl. They had two ads, one called, “Be Childlike,” and the other, “Love Your Enemies.” Both, in my opinion very good and the second was poignant for sure! From the titles alone, both are biblically based on Jesus’s Words about coming to Him as a child, and of course the commandment to love others. And the truth is, I’ve not seen many arguments about the ads themselves…content wise, just a few different “other” views on them.

Understand I want to keep this blog as short as possible so I don’t do a deep dive on all the “arguments” about the ads.

They aren’t Jesus Enough

Well that’s the way I’ll put those comments I’ve seen as. Basically it is the idea that the ads make Jesus “too” human, “too accepting.” These are those that would say the ads don’t “teach” Jesus enough…i.e. they don’t condemn others. They don’t speak of sin. They “whitewash” Jesus some might say, or “fluff” His teachings.

To this I simply say, you missed the point of the ads. (We’ll get to the point in the conclusion of this blog).

A Waste of Money

The cost of a 30 second Superbowl ad in 2023 was about $7M for a 30 second ad. So, quick math tells us, He Gets Us, (it’s founders and partners), may have paid around $21M for 90 seconds worth of TV time. That is in fact a “LOT” of money to everyone reading this blog I am sure. And, the thought of, “what good could have been done with that money?” is indeed a fair question. I’ve asked the same question about many organizations. And everything comes down to ROI in reality, (Return on Investment). For the goals of He Gets Us, apparently, the cost of getting the campaign before the eyes of over 100 million people was worth it.

Again, it is my belief that the problem is people don’t understand the goal(s) of the campaign, addressed in the conclusion.

I Don’t Like Where the Money Comes From

There are those that don’t like one of the biggest investors of the project, David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby. You may recall the past uproar over Hobby Lobby’s decision to not fund birth control for its employees, and as a Christian owned organization, the conservative stance of its leadership in moral and political issues. I remember the news about it, but I’m not looking into it here.

Green is of course not the only funding for this project as there are many “un-named” investors.

The ads are the product of Bill McKendry’s marketing organization, Hazen. He and his team are truly the masterminds behind the He Gets Us brand. I listened to him on a recent podcast, (forgive me I don’t recall, but he’s been on many), and he shared their early expectations and how blown away they were when they had the “reactions” of over 14 million people on the first ad within less than two weeks.

I believe this argument is more about the litmus test of what some would consider correct Christianity or not, liberal or conservative, and so on. This is a never ending debate really.

The Heart of He Gets Us

He Gets Us is NOT preaching Jesus, (i.e. theology), to people. It’s not about getting people saved, or condemning them. It is about bridging the gap between the Church (and our messed up history) and those people outside of her that are hurting, seeking help, and are “scared” of going to a physical church building. As Bill himself asserts, and I’m sure you can find more factual numbers if you desire, about most of the population, (especially in the west if not world wide), admires and respects the person, the human person, of Jesus. Seriously, half of the world’s religions speak highly of Him. So the campaign uses that idea, and Jesus’s “humanity” in the idea, that “He knows our struggles.” “He knows our pains.” “He experienced anxiety too.” So, “He gets us.”

The ads are presented with the goal of getting folks to go to the website and click around and explore. Now, when I first started with Gloo, the “explorers” would send a message to Gloo that was usually a prayer request or an “I need someone to talk to,” kind of message. The goal for the one receiving the messages was then to respond as soon as possible to the incoming request with basically a “Hi, I am Gerald, and I received your prayer request. I am happy to pray for you about this situation. If you would like to talk more about it with me, just respond to this text and we can chat.”

My Personal Experience

I was told when signing up that I’d probably receive about 10 requests per week. If I recall, I received about 15 that first week, and most every other week was ten or more. From what could see, the goal was to begin a conversation with these folks that could possibly lead to, eventually, a Gospel conversation. For many it might have been seeking opportunity to meet with the explorer physically. But I run an online only church so my goal was simply to serve them, and if/when the time allowed, let the know a little bit about our church. however, most of my conversations didn’t really get that far and I never pushed the issue.

My bigger problem was I got overwhelmed with so many requests and was stressing trying to get back to them. I also found it difficult to carry on the relationships with those I did actually talk to more than once because frankly, I’m busy and don’t like chatting that much.

Here’s a Few Requests I Received

-Lots of changes. Feel like nobody truly loves me. I think maybe I just expect to much from people.

-My family!  My children have cause so much pain and heart break. I’m drowning in debt in part because of them and they just want more for themselves. It’s sad really. I’m losing sleep worrying about them and they just want to use me the rest of the way up for their own benefits. God help me get on my own feet and let me stop being hurt by them

-I think I have depression I’m only 10 and want to hurt myself I always put a fake smile on and can never sleep I cry almost everyday and have somewhat of anxiety I wanna die and feel like I have to reason to be alive and think that I’m better of dead.

-I have so many heath issues I’m about to give up.

-I’m not very good at talking to people like on the phone or in person cuz of my PTSD and anxiety and stuff but I have this situation where I’m living at and I need to get out of it the only problem is I have no car so I have no way of going nowhere and I’m just stuck here no food no heat no power…

-I just want to know if there’s anyone else like me out there. I have been depressed most of my life, it seemed as if nothing would get better and I failed at everything. I failed at having a good childhood at loving myself. I failed College and finding a job. I failed at being a good brother and son, The only thing I succeeded on was being born and that wasn’t even supposed to happen. I feel like nothing but a mistake and that that is all I will ever be and that I should just leave this world.

He Gets Us Explorers

Yes, I even had a few young kids make contact through the system. For those I would respond back with some encouragement and say I’m praying for you. For the one above, her mother saw it on the daughter’s iPad and called me to discuss…of course wondering who the heck I was. And we had a really good conversation that I pray helped the daughter…and mother.


But as you see, these are just a few of the 100+ I received over a 3-4 month period. These are the kind of requests, and more importantly, PEOPLE, He Gets Us is resonating with. They are bridging a gap between folks being turned off to the Church with Jesus and His loyal servants that want to serve hurting folks. This is why I believe the money, is worth it. This is why it doesn’t matter to me who started it. This is why I hate to see the division promoted by those who feel the need to snub this ministry.

It’s not a waste of money when you’re potentially reaching millions of people in need and connecting them with folks that can help them. The ads aren’t about preaching a theology. They’re about making people think, “Maybe Jesus can help me.” “Maybe Jesus can get me.”

You may not feel the way I do about the ministry. You may take issue with it some way or another. But I do cry out to God that you would allow this ministry to continue to do what it is doing to reach people that sadly are not being reached by traditional means, (local churches). It’s doing a great service and connecting people that need connection.

Where’s the Fruit?

Sermon notes. Watch the recording on YouTube.

Luke 13:6–9 ESV

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Where’s the Fruit?

Do you remember, if you’re old enough, the Wendy’s commercials asking, “Where’s the beef?” We had so many laughs at these commercials when I was younger, always asking the tagline, “Where’s the beef?”

This is similar to Jesus’s answer to the question, “What is this parable about?” 

Where’s the fruit?

It’s about the fruit of repentance. “Where is it?” He is asking.

You, I, and possibly His original listeners are also asking, 

“What is it?”

That’s going to be our goal today. To determine what this fruit is, and if we have it. And if we don’t, how do we get it?

History of the Fig Tree

First off, why does Jesus use the fig tree as an example here?

Generally speaking, through much of the bible, the fig tree represents the Jewish people, Israel. 

As always Jesus uses a parable about something familiar to the people He is speaking to. 

It is likely they would have recognized the fig tree’s growth habits as well as the meaning of the fig tree being them.

He speaks of a man that plants a fig tree, the owner, who apparently has hired men that are the ones to keep and work the trees to maturity…to fruit bearing. 

The owner comes to the vineyard where the tree has been planted looking for fruit and he finds none on it.

We’re given the facts that it had been three years, as he tells the vinedresser.

This is important because the fig tree’s normal fruit bearing begins in the first 2-3 years, so this tree is old enough to produce fruit but it hasn’t.

My Apple Tree

Maybe you can relate if you’ve grown something, took the time to do the work and it didn’t produce the expected results.

I’ve got an apple tree we planted…it’s never produced fruit.

The Vine Dresser

So we have the Vine Dresser responding to the vineyard Owner, pleading for one more year. On behalf of the fig tree, He is telling the Owner:

“Give me one more year to focus my attention on the tree’s care and see if it produces fruit next year.”

“If it works, then well and good, but if not, then you can cut it down.”

What Jesus doesn’t give us in the parable, is the outcome. Did the tree produce fruit? Or was it still bare the following year? And if so, what did the Owner do to it?

The Characters

As with any good example, or parable in this place, we need to know the who’s who right? That will help us determine the what.

We already said, the fig tree represents the Jewish people.

The owner then shall be God. He is the Creator of all things. And He is the Judge of all things.

The Vine Dresser then is Jesus. It is He that is pleading for mercy, for more time, for the fig tree, for the Jews.

What we can then learn from this parable is that the Jews had already been given grace by God, their Creation, they were the ones given God’s Law directly, and it was to them that the Messiah, the Savior, was prophesied to come.

That Messiah, that Savior, is Jesus, there in their midst. 

Can we infer the three years of lack of fruit production to Jesus’s ministry lasting three years amongst these people? Possibly.

It would make sense, as He was constantly battling with them about their lack of belief, their lack of proper righteousness.

The Fruit of Repentance

What is the fruit then supposed to be of these Jews whom Jesus is speaking to as being fruitless?

It is the fruit of repentance. 

Context always matters, and to get the context of Jesus’s teaching here we must go back to the previous paragraph and previous chapter. All of which are speaking the message of “repent for the time of judgment, or the Kingdom of God, is at hand.”

Much of the previous teachings are about how the people needed to be ready, have their lamps burning, be dressed, be reconciled, before the Master returns. 

Tie that into this parable and it is the teaching that the time is at hand. 

You’ve been given time, and yet you are still dead, fruitless. The Judge, the Vineyard owner is ready with the ax to chop down the tree and throw it into the fire.

What is the Fruit?

What is this fruit of repentance then you may be asking?

First off, repentance itself is defined as a change of attitude and ACTION from sin and unbelief to obedience to God.

So at its core, the fruit of repentance is change, from what you might have been doing wrong to doing right. From unbelief to belief, from disobedience to obedience.

A few examples of repentance, and what we night call its fruits from the bible are:

A mourning over sin, such as weeping, tearing garments, or wearing sackcloth.

Making restitution for wrongs committed.

Humbling oneself before those wronged.

These are found in the Old Testament.

In the NT we see:

Zacchaeus making restitution for the fraud he committed as part of his job, giving up to half his good to repay those he wronged.

Paul’s change was preaching the faith he had once been bent on destroying.

But notice the Hebrew definition included the word, ACTION.

You see repentance is not only in the mind and heart but should display itself, as we see by the examples listed, by ACTION.

You can’t claim to be God’s child, saved by faith in Jesus, if you aren’t changed or haven’t repented from previous sinfulness.

It’s like Jesus’s brother James says in James 2:14-26 where he contrasts faith alone versus works. Some may take his words to be in opposition of Paul’s teaching, and the primary Christian teaching that we are saved by faith alone.

James is saying the opposite is true, instead he is making the case that you can’t have faith and not produce good works, good fruit.

James 2:26 ESV

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Today we have too many of us walking around claiming faith in Jesus but living as though He is in agreement with the sin in our life. Like we don’t need to repent, we just need to have faith.

Friends faith and repentance, just like faith and works, go hand in hand.

Faith should lead to repentance, and repentance and faith should lead to a changed life of obedience and good works…fruits.

For Jesus telling the Jews this parable, they thought they were saved by keeping the Law of God…which no one can perfectly except Jesus. And they didn’t have faith, believe, that standing before them was God in the flesh, the Savior prophesied, Jesus the Son of God.

Conclusion – 

Where is the Fruit in Your Life?

So where is the fruit in your life? Are you a fruitless fig tree? Or do you have the fruit of repentance for God and others to see clearly?

The moral of the parable again is God has been gracious. As 2 Peter 3 tells us:

2 Peter 3:8–10 ESV

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

This is Jesus’s warning to us all. The ax is ready at the trunk of those that have not yet repented and are not producing the fruit of repentance. It isn’t about just doing good deeds and it isn’t about just having faith. 

You must have both, faith shall lead to repentance and repentance and faith to fruit, to everlasting life in eternity with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Examine yourself and ask, “Do I have the fruit of repentance?” 

If not, then as Jesus says, repent now, the Kingdom is at hand. 

Give God your life through placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

It might hurt a little…

Like the fig tree in the parable, Jesus, the Vine Dresser, is going to need to root some things out of your life. He’s going to dig around and cut some roots. He’s going to make room for you to grow.

And He’s going to put some fertilizer in there to help foster deeper and better roots to reach the good nutrients, prayer, faith, bible study, Christian community, and more, to help you grow in maturity, in fruit production.

But He promises:

John 15:1-2, 4-6, 8-10

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Next Week

The Purpose of Parables

Mark 4:10-12

10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,

    and may indeed hear but not understand,

lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

Why a Digital Church

Why Is Innovate Church Digital Church?

There was a time, and still is occasionally, that I feel a little “less than” when folks ask me about our church. As pastors and church planters, we all want to tell others of what great success we’ve had. And if we have a building/meeting place, the bigger the better, as it makes things that much more impressive right? And don’t we have that attitude sometimes of wanting to impress others? Let’s be honest folks.

Well, in all honesty, we didn’t choose digital, digital chose us. When I first began to have a vision of a new church, once receiving my calling, I knew what I wanted. And I knew we’d never be a big church for sure. We were going to be different from the start. How different? Not digital only different. But as I was personally getting excited with Spring 2020 coming around, where I could get out and meet people in our local park just down the road, Covid came on us. The world shutdown in a matter of days when Covid began. And like most people, we thought, “oh, this’ll pass in a few weeks, and we’ll get back on plan.” Yeah right! We are now beyond two years of Covid. Thankfully, it is much better now, but we’re still seeing flair ups here and there and especially across the world.

At the beginning I truly resisted doing online video sermons. Even more so when every other church began doing them. “We do Church differently, right?” Yeah, that’s what I thought. “We innovate.” Ugh, how ignorant I can be at times. This whole journey has revealed in me some ignorance and arrogance from time to time for sure. I think it was Easter 2020 before I put any kind of video message out for the world to take in. Actually, it was the Psalm readings that I began with on April 5, 2020. That’s a video to watch and see just how nervous I was at the start.

For these past two years I’ve struggled to find my own voice and to find our flock. I say flock because it was just one of the Words I heard from the Lord during my calling out of our previous church responsibilities. I’ve been fumbling my way through the digital stuff, throwing up FB ads, sharing sermon videos everywhere I could, and very little has caught traction to make us grow. Along the way I have really wrestled with the whole church planting expectations and growth. But God has always, multiple times, reminded me, this is His Church and He will grow it how He wants it. So, I continue to walk in trust…minus those times I get down and start pointing my finger back at me.

I’ve come to the belief that we are to serve the forgotten, the lonely people, that cannot go to a “traditional” church…i.e. a building. This could be because of a physical or mental issue. It could even be because of a trauma lived through in the church. We all know someone that has been “church hurt,” right?

Of course, my wife is part of the impetus for us being online and not having people over with her anxiety issues, (agoraphobia too),…heightened due to Covid as well. Please understand, I don’t see this as a negative, I see it as God using her to guide us into where and what He wants us to be. And there have been a few other experiences to help me consider these forgotten folks of the Church.

You see, if you can’t make it to church on Sunday, in many churches, then you eventually get forgotten. It doesn’t matter the “why” you aren’t there, you’re just not. I have come to realize there is a significant portion of the population that can’t go and sit in a crowded place physically. Anxiety issues are just one of many. Multiple Sclerosis can keep some one inside their home. Fibromyalgia and temperature sensitivity. And we all know some there are immunocompromised persons today that Covid has brought to the forefront.

Being digital, interactively digital, not just “sit here and watch a live streamed sermon from our church you aren’t really a part of anymore,” has helped us see where and what community we desire, maybe are called, to create. (I don’t want to get ahead of the Lord’s will for sure!) Digital church allows us to be in each other’s lives even when we are not in proximity physically. After months of receiving prayer requests submitted through a service we serve, my eyes have been opened to the epidemic of loneliness in and outside the Church. And then to know there are others similar to my wife that can’t go to a physical gathering to be an active part of the Church, I can’t imagine the loneliness some feel.

We’ve always talked about how some people will never feel comfortable to walk into a church building that first time as well. Even digitally there’s some struggle with that too. But, we’ve found that in many ways, people are more willing to take such risks digitally than, “in real life.”

Don’t get it twisted, while I am a huge advocate for digital or any other means to share Christ’s love, I am not a “digital is always better for everyone,” person either. The reality is the same as any other church. Some are going to prefer what we offer than others. And that is fine. We’re here to serve those whom the Lord draws to us and that is all.

Our heart is to provide a safe place for everyone. To be a community of belonging, even from your own home, hospital bed, or prison cell. It’s been a slow journey, and that is fine. As long as we are faithful to seek whatever, and whoever, the Lord desires of us. There’s plenty of lost sheep out there. They are who we seek to bring into the fold.

Improving Your VR Church Experience

Welcome to Church

So, the other day I posted a blog about my experience visiting churches in the metaverse. If you didn’t see it, you can check it out here. But in today’s post I wanted to make a few suggestions for those thinking about leading or are already leading ministries, (or even businesses), in the metaverse platforms. One thing I must add is that I am brand new to the VR world, so take what I say as a completed newcomer the space.

1. Start On Time

In my first “attempted” VR church experience, I arrived at the time the event was to begin…8PM. Altspace doesn’t allow you to enter events early, but I am one that cannot stand to be late either. So, I was on time. And I was the only one there…for about 5 minutes. I was alone. I explored the space and shot a basketball or two while waiting. But, because no one else was there within those first 5 minutes I left. I went looking for something else to experience, assuming, maybe it’s not really a church group. Like one of those Facebook groups you join only to find out no one has posted in two years. As I was leaving, I do think someone might have come in, but the button was already pressed for me to spawn to another place.

I do not recall where I went after leaving, but luckily it wasn’t something that grabbed my attention for long. But what if it had? What if I was seeking community, nudged by the Holy Spirit, and then found the place empty? How might that have affected my life negatively? You may be thinking, “Come on man, it’s just a VR place, it isn’t like real people.” But no! It is real people. It is real life change that we in ministry are seeking to cultivate. We want to be where the lost are right? I know I want to serve those that are seeking a community to belong to…meta or anywhere else digitally. So, what if it was their last hope and they are left alone in an empty room? What if when I left, I found another community that accepted me and made me feel welcomed…not faith based?

Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story. I didn’t stay where I had been and when I went back out to the menu, I saw there were people in the church event, so I went back. I was blessed to meet some awesome people and to experience life giving community there as I’d hoped. In all honesty, it was the best experience I had all week in VR, so much so I know I will return to it. But again we must ponder, what if I was that lost sheep looking for a flock to belong?

2. Engagement Begins with the Host

If you, the leader/pastor, aren’t going to be there at the start time, please make sure someone is. This is where having a host comes in. It’s the greeter at Wal-Mart right? But it needs to be more than that. Your host needs to be personable. At one of my Sunday experiences, I spawned into the event, and walked to a globe they had showing where everyone in attendance was from. (Pretty cool I thought). While there, I did get greeted by a gentleman with a “Hello” and a stroll right past me. Not even a “welcome to Wal-Mart.” He was a host because his name said so just in case you were wondering. So, I turned and began to walk up the stairs to the balcony like area and there a lady spoke to me, welcomed me, said she was glad I was there, and even let me know that the service was starting in 24 minutes and to check out the space and people beforehand. She made up for the prior gentleman in a big way in my experience. Granted I might have had the thought, “I’m not staying here 20+ minutes for the service to start.”

What is it we want when we walk in the front door of a church, (or even business venue)? I think we want to be greeted in a welcoming fashion that says, “I not only see you but I am glad you chose to join us today.” It is also important to be told things that matter, such as the fact that the service wasn’t going to start for 20+ minutes. While that in itself might have turned me off, I did still want to see the space and so I stayed. Waiting 30 minutes to start the service is a bit lengthy to just walk around and maybe talk to strangers…again especially if you’re an introvert like myself.

Thankfully, as I walked up the steps another gentleman said hi to me and we struck up conversation. He too was a visitor, and I asked if he was pastor as he told me he was visiting churches all day in the metaverse. (See, I’m not weird!). The lengthy time before the service did allow us to connect and get to know one another’s story, so maybe that was a plus for us having 20 minutes to chat. Again, not sure that would be good for many others. But my experience with him brings me to my next point:

3. Encourage Your “Regulars” to be Welcoming

I do not recall being spoken to by other church members in any space except the one I joined on my first night. Even there, it was a gentleman that actually served Life Church as a host that was also attending that group who welcomed me initially. He also explained all the details and gave the history of the group meeting there…answering my questions.

This is where I think VR might be the most similar to church “in real life (IRL).” How many of us, as regular church attenders, go and find ourselves talking to the other members until time for the service to begin. I know, we all want to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a week because we’ve probably also not spoken during the week, (yeah that’s a whole other problem we could talk about). A newcomer generally walks around curiously trying to figure out the lay of the land. We all see them…in both VR and real life, we see their bewildered faces. But how many of us will go over and introduce ourselves? How many will leave our comfort bubble to help the newcomer?

It’s funny because even I, as the newcomer in each space, saw the “others” walking around all alone, and thought, “I should go say hi.” Which in one church, as I had been standing on the edge of the worship area, almost walked over to someone else that looked “lost.” What if I were that lost soul in the church for the first time? Would I come back? Would I leave with the opinion that I mattered amongst the “crowd?”

4. Video Streaming vs Avatar

I know, I know, as a church leader myself, our time is limited. And yet we want to reach those in these new spaces without adding to our docket of “work.” So, what’s the easy thing? Let’s just restream our service to the metaverse just like we do to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, etc. “At least our message will be heard.” I get it, I’m in this battle with myself right now. I want to be in the meta world, and I don’t want to leave my current people behind. If you’re preaching to an in-person crowd, I get the added difficulty. You can’t be in two places at once. But here are a few things I’d like to encourage you to do.

Make sure you have a host there in the metaverse world. Let them be the ones to make the welcome, the announcements to those in the VR church space. I know it will take coordination, but it would add so much to the experience. As my new friend and I were talking, (the one I asked about being a pastor), if we want to watch a video service, we’ll watch YouTube on our TV. When we come into the VR world, we come for a different experience…connection. And that is what a living avatar host can bring to the space. No church space should be about broadcasting only. It should always be about connecting to Jesus and to each other. You want that newcomer avatar soul to truly connect with more than a video screen.

5. Acknowledge Your VR Congregants

My hope would be that the other 4 items I’ve listed here would speak to you for sure. But I understand it may take time for you to make the changes, and they maybe not be perfected, but at least improved. For sure one thing we can all do is this one. If you are the pastor, or host, in an in-person church, please look into the camera and speak to those on the other side of the screen. That includes YouTube, Twitch, Fb, AND VR. At one service I attended, the pastor spoke about everything BUT the VR space. He didn’t even mention it…. though he named about 4-5 other “campuses” or “broadcasting” platforms. Even then I don’t recall him looking into the camera.

The people should matter enough to be recognized as part of your church. To not mention them, to not talk to them, to not look at them, says they don’t matter without you saying a word. As leaders our desire in these platforms should be engagement, even if it’s only a screen they are seeing, we can still engage the person on the other side. The authentic effort you put into that engagement can lead to them feeling a part of your church enough to call you “their church home.” Shouldn’t that be our goal for the lost souls out there? To give them a place to belong, in a family of Christ followers.

As I always I pray this helps you more than discourages you. These platforms give us opportunity and I simply want to see us make the best use of them for the Kingdom.

Exploring Churches in the Metaverse

There’s a big scary thing out there, to some, called… ”the metaverse!” That’s right, there are some that are fearful of it for various reasons…some good some not. But what I wanted to share was my experience of my first week in the metaverse. It’s a place I’d wanted to explore for some time and finally took the dive when purchasing a set of Oculus Quest 2 goggles.

I most wanted to explore it for ministry purposes. I don’t do much gaming these days…though I did join in some paintball fun in “Rec Room,” a metaverse platform. I’d watched videos of VR Church’s services and listened to the “Church.Digital” podcast for some time now and was always fascinated by the idea of church in the metaverse. This is what is scary for some… ”can we do/be the Church in the metaverse?” I’m not going to answer that here, only share my experience from my first week, and more specifically my first Church activities there.

Real quick, let me share with you that there are basically two ways to share your message for churches, on these platforms. Some basically stream their in-person events to their meta “world” and others actually use the avatar feature and inhabit the place themselves. The bonus of inhabiting the place as a “living avatar” versus the “streaming service” is it allows real interaction in real time. Some do have avatar “hosts” or “campus pastors” to fill that void as well.

Me, GeraldNC

My first day was Monday, and after getting my account setup and all that goes along with that and sharing the device with my wife, Allison, I was finally able to jump into the metaverse via the Altspace platform. (One of the most popular, created by Microsoft). It wasn’t long after getting my avatar setup that I found the first church event, “Living Room Church.” They describe themselves as, “Living Room Church is a safe space to ask difficult questions, find community, and share life together.” “Possibly my people,” I thought.

I joined Living Room Church right at the start time of 8PM EST. The platform doesn’t allow you to join events early, and I am usually a “get there early,” kind of guy. So, at 8PM I was there…. alone. I hung around about 5 minutes and gave up. I went out, and a few minutes later I saw people were in the room, (shown on the events page), and so I jumped back in. I was welcomed by a guy named Dave. He is a nice dude that actually serves in Life Church’s world in Altspace as a host. We struck up conversation with me explaining why I was there, and him telling me of his experience as well. I almost left early because my headset was dying, and he mentioned I could just plug it in and use it if I had a long enough chord. Yep, that worked.

Another lady came over and the three of us conversed. After a few minutes we went into the “living room” of the world we were in, (a normal Altspace template…not a full custom build as some do). There the pastor gave us the general welcome words and then invited the same lady I was talking with, “Bernice,” the cue to sing for us. And she did a beautiful hymn I believe it was…not one I was familiar with. Then the pastor, “Rev ZeeTee,” began the lesson by pulling up Scripture on the media player in the room. He read the verses, gave us his thoughts on them, and then asked what we thought about it. After some silence, you know that awkward silence, someone shared. Eventually, I shared my thoughts on it. And around the room people shared what they thought and how it spoke to them. Everything shared was truly from the heart, and eventually we lead into prayer requests. And we ended the “service” with prayer. After that it was general conversation, and I met with the Rev to talk about what he was doing there and learn a little from him while also sharing my own story. I ended the night with 4 or 5 new friends from around the states. A great, fulfilling, experience for me.

The rest of the week I found little time to get on and explore, but I did hop into a few of the other platforms, make new accounts and avatars for them, and venture around a little in them. But I focused on Altspace trying to learn how to set up our own, “Innovate World,” most evenings as I had free time. It takes some learning for sure.

Saturday, I set out a plan to visit multiple churches on Sunday, as I have taken a couple weeks off to explore other ministry tools and avenues, including the metaverse. Unite 180 Worship, VR Church, Life Church, and Cornerstone were definitely on the agenda. A full day of church hopping.

I think it was 9AM that I joined Unite 180. They are a church out of South Africa…lead by a white English-speaking pastor. They were the “streaming” kind of church, making use of a template space. I was greeted by two hosts, one not so talkative and a lady that shared most of the needed information…one being that the service itself wouldn’t start for 24 minutes… (I didn’t come in right at 9AM as I had learned my lesson quickly). I walked up some stairs to the “balcony” space and was met by a gentleman that spoke to me, named Doug. He spoke and shared how he was church hopping too. He was a 57-year-old gentleman from Washington state. We hit it off good, as he was a kind gentleman and a talker. Dave, (from Life.Church), showed up here too. When service started, we went in. Because it was video, there was no real interaction after the initial introductions to the avatar hosts. The pastor on the screen also failed to mention the metaverse church when he spoke of the many other campuses, including “online.” I didn’t stay for the message as the intro, worship, giving, time took a while to get through, and I had other places to go.

I visited, “House of Grace,” on my next stop. They are using the same template space I have been working on for the Innovate Church space, but setup differently. I was late into the beginning of the service, again being video streamed. I think someone might have welcomed me, but we didn’t converse. Oh, and Doug was there already too. Here, the pastor did mention their metaverse world and said he had even been there the prior Sunday and how good of an experience he had. Props to that pastor for recognizing the people in the space as congregants of his church family.

After House of Grace, I took a break knowing Life Church would be on a little later. But I didn’t make it to Life Church as Allison and I had some good conversation, and we ate lunch. I already knew Life Church is a streaming church with avatar hosts like these others anyway. The problem with this, like Doug and I had been talking about earlier, is the fact we can watch a streaming video on our TV anytime we want. While we appreciate there are avatar hosts and “community time” following these video services, it just isn’t why we are in the metaverse.

VR Church was coming up soon, and so I was excited to finally be in there with one of the originating, innovating, churches, that I knew was avatar taught…not video streamed. Sadly, DJ Soto, the pastor, wasn’t in this space today. I also got Allison to join me in this one as I thought it would provide the best “meta-church” experience… (i.e., what is possible). She anxiously joined me lol. (She’s not comfortable with the interaction just yet). VR Church custom builds their world. So, we started out in an outdoor space with a video screen and stage setup. Alena, one of the pastors, lead the service along with an 80+ year old gentleman, former traveling evangelist, “Mr. Pete.” Long introduction and welcome on the screen detailing much of their metaverse world, (they have worlds in several platforms and games), and a video of worship music. Then we were off to the “teaching space,” via walking through a water fall or teleporting by a button.

In the teaching area it was built as a small city, and the teaching was on Matthew chapter 6, the entire chapter verse by verse. We had to “walk” around the city to the various Scripture reading sets, and mostly Alena shared her thoughts on each section of Scripture. Volunteers generally read the Scripture for the group. It was interesting for sure, but more of a free flowing, “this is what I think,” kind of teaching versus a sermon. All good for some and not for some. You be the judge.

We took a little break after VR Church. That’s one thing about wearing the Oculus, you need a break after an hour or two for sure.

Faithbase VR Church

After about an hour I hopped back on and joined, “Faithbase VR Church.” I’m not sure where they are from, but the female pastor brought the heat for sure! Super good message, “Over the Hump,” about not giving up on various situations when you are truly almost, “over the hump.” This was indeed an urban style teacher/church with maybe a Pentecostal flavor. The world was created by them, and you spawned in the parking lot basically, and had to walk some distance to get into the church space. It was like walking up to and into a modern church building. The sanctuary space was rather sparse but had a large video screen in the center with two smaller screens on the outside edges. Seats were the typical cloth covered chrome seats. She taught as an avatar from the stage. And again, she taught with passion for sure! The message was so great I tried to find a recording on YouTube to no avail.

My last church to visit for the day was Cornerstone Church from California. A physical, multi-campus church, with the metaverse world as well. I think someone greeted me shortly after I spawned there, but I also joined there with Doug again as I had visited the world he’d created before the church time. Here they had a world they had fully designed themselves with a rustic open top sanctuary space. They had a “live” avatar host along with video music up front. They hold multiple group meetings in the metaverse as well on other nights/days. For the teaching, we had to go outside and walk to the outdoor teaching space. Again, similar “modern” style chair setup with large video screen up front. They did also have a communion table out, which to me was awesome. I stayed part way through the teaching but left early…even though I really wanted to see/participate in communion with them. I was tired.

All in all it was an interesting week visiting more than six different churches without leaving my home and interacting with multiple real live people in the process. There were a couple churches I visited, or thought about visiting, that didn’t have many people…or any in them…so if I entered, I didn’t stay. That would be one piece of advice I’d give the churches…if you are scheduled to begin at a certain time, make sure someone is there in that first minute. And for us visiting, it might pay to hang out a little longer than five minutes to join in with others. If I hadn’t checked back in on Living Room Church, I would have truly missed my best experience of the week with likeminded friends.

Stay tuned as I may have a follow-up post to this blog on some of my learning and expectations as a metaverse church visitor.

What Are You Afraid Of?

All of us have fears in our lives. For some, we deal with fear better than others. For some, fear overwhelms us and causes to shrink back. Personally, I fear many things, health issues, my wife’s health, familial loss, fire, some animals, violence, politics, failure, and more.

Some things we fear are good. We should fear being burned by the fire…it keeps us from putting our hands in it. Fear is a preserving emotion in many cases, and that is why the Lord gave us this emotion. It is protective. But for some, fear can keep us from moving forward, because we fear the “what if?” questions.

What if I fail?

What if I get hurt?

What if go broke?

What if I experience pain?

What if I hurt someone else?

What if I do something sinful?

Fear can keep us from receiving blessings planned for us. Fear can keep us from trusting in the promises of God…mainly that He has a future for us, not to harm, but to prosper, and that He is with us through all the ups and downs of life.

I am reminded of the Israelites in the Old Testament book, Numbers. Numbers 13 tells us right off the bat, “The Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel.”

So, Moses sends out 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s a forty-day adventure for these men.  They are told to take stock of the condition of the land, the protection, and the fruits available in the land. Verse 20 pretty much says, “whatever the condition, don’t fear, just bring back some of its fruit.” (It technically says, “Be of good courage.”

These men went and watched, and even took some of the fruit of the land to being back with them. But, while there, they also noticed the men of the land were like giants, and the defenses are strong, along with all the different people living in the valleys and hill country there…all enemies of Israel. So they reported these things to Moses and the other leaders.

In short, these men returned with a warning of fear. One that told the rest of the Israelites, “The people are too big and too strong for us, so we shouldn’t go.” And in the next chapter we see where God punishes them for the faithlessness…really their rebellion…and most of them end up dying in the desert never to see the land for themselves again.

If you’re not familiar with the story, this was not too long after God had freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and they crossed the Red Sea miraculously by God’s power. He’d already protected them along the way, provided manna (bread from heaven), and lead them on their journey in a pillar of fire and smoke. They had witnessed, with no doubt, the fact that God was with them.

Canaan was the Promised Land. It was the land given to Abraham, whom the Israelites descended from, years prior. This was the goal of the journey they were on. But for fear, they did not receive it.

God had promised “I am giving you the land of Canaan,” before sending the spies. It didn’t matter what was in the land, or who was in the land. God had already said, “I am giving you this land.” The land was theirs! The blessings of the land was theirs!

But fear kept them from obtaining God’s promise. They feared for their lives. They feared harm. They feared failure. Their fear even made them cry and desire to go back to where “it was safe,”…as Egyptian slaves! They desired to trade the safety of living under God’s care, and His promises, for the life of slavery again. Fear enslaves!

What if they had believed God? How would their lives have been different? Who else would have been blessed?

Because of their disbelief, a whole generation perished in the desert, where they continued to basically walk circles for 40 more years.

How many of us are “walking circles” because we didn’t believe the Lord’s promises? I’m sure, like me, you can probably look back on life and say, “if only I had done…trusted…had courage to…” Where would our lives have been? What blessings did we give up because we feared?

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Here’s the thing, look back over your life. How have you seen God work time and time again? He has proved faithful right? If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure that is proof enough of His presence with you. Remember what He has done, what He has brought you through, and then make a stand today on His promises.

One warning…don’t try to go back and do what He told you to do before. That was a folly of the Israelites too. Once He had pronounced His judgement, THEN they tried to go and take the land without His blessing. And…they were easily defeated.

Seek and listen now to what He wants you to do now. What is He promising you? When you hear it, when you see it, stop walking in the circle of fear and GO. If it is a promise from God, there are no giants big enough to stop you!

Your Facebook Live/Video Audience isn’t “All That”

Church, Business Leaders, and Communicators,

During these times we’ve all jumped on the video bandwagon on social media. Many of us have no clue what we are doing, and yet that shouldn’t hold us back either. But that’s not what this writing is all about.

Today, I wanted to talk to you about your audience, more specifically, the audience that Facebook or Youtube tell you you have. When looking at the insights for your videos, each has their way of telling you some numbers. And come on, be honest, the bigger the number the happier we are, right? But, what good is a number if it doesn’t speak the truth to you? Zero. So, real quick I wanted to use Facebook as an example, using my own more “popular” videos I’ve posted recently on my own church page.

The bottom line here is you need to understand the metrics on your FB and YT message performance. If you don’t understand them, then you can’t truly grade how well your message is connecting. The numbers can mislead you easily.

So, these numbers below are from MY two best “performing” videos on our church FB page:

The numbers you are likely to see up front are the estimated reach numbers. However, we should pay more attention to the 3-second views and average watch time to really get the truth about our audience.

Reach – 373 and 643

3 Sec Views – 217 and 358

Ave Time Watched – 17-sec and 13-sec! 😭

The same goes for the “Ads” you paid for. I created one that ran for 7 days (Very targeted less than 2 miles and specific demographics):

Reach – 1,770

Impressions – 3,238 (means it simply showed up in the feed)

3 Sec Views – 451

Ave Time Watched – 2-secs! (of a 15 second video of still images).

In Innovate Church’s case, we have a whole 92-person page audience to begin with, so I don’t expect big numbers on anything. But, if I were to quickly glance and think nothing about the Facebook is giving me, I’d be thinking a lot more highly about our recent videos than reality leads me to…hence continuing to under perform my hopes and goals for posting.

So, while we have a captive audience at home right now, and we all have the internet, it doesn’t mean we are getting our message to them just because Facebook or YouTube give you some numbers that appease your ego. There is more to those numbers up front that you have to dig in to.

On a positive note, keep working on what you are putting out there and keep posting. The audience will build but you need to keep your eye on the real metrics to build upon. Getting started at anything is usually a slow process.