Not A Fan of Normal

I saw this meme the other day. “Normal isn’t coming back. Jesus is.” The latter is a very, very true statement. This is the blessed hope of every follower of Jesus. I don’t know that I can say the former with any authority. I don’t know if normal is coming back, but I sure hope not. I gotta be honest, I wasn’t too fond of normal before it left.

  • I loved that families had to sit down and eat at home, creating conversations together because they had nowhere else to go to be distracted or hide from authenticity and intimacy.
  • I loved that there were no concerts or sporting events to obsess over and/or distract toward idolatry.
  • I loved that there were no “good movies” to see.
  • I loved that people were spending their money on what was valuable, meaningful and crucial rather than on entertaining and/or numbing themselves instead of investing themselves.
  • I loved that people were getting creative to deepen real relationships and enjoy themselves.
  • I loved that people were fighting to get their churches reopened and found what they did at church to be more meaningful once they had been deprived of it for a few weeks.
  • I loved that people started thinking about what AUTHENTIC community looked like…REAL people meeting REAL needs for the RIGHT reasons in the RIGHT ways.

I quite honestly think too much of it returned for too many people.

Nothing Can Distract Me

When my eyes are fixed on what they should be on, there is NOTHING around me that can distract me – no political or social event, no attraction, no relationship, no virus, no mandate, no argument, no party, no person in the office, no sin or sinner, no other goal…this one thing.

Philippians 3:13-16 ESV
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:20-21 ESV
as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Do You Know YOUR Jesus?

In light of recent cultural disruptions and debates, I hear and see a lot of people wax both eloquent AND ignorant about “What Jesus would do” if he were here right now. Whether it’s a response to covid, masks, mandates, systemic racism, gender equality, gender identity, sexual identity, identity politics, political parties, etc., most of the times that I hear or see people say, “Jesus would ____________”, they prooftext a passage and build straw man arguments of what Jesus did with one person or one audience. What they also do is completely ignore three-fourths of what Jesus did and said throughout the rest of the Gospels with other people and other audiences. Jesus knew His audience and we do not.

If you’re going to tell people how Jesus would behave in a certain situation, how He would comply with certain expectations, what He would say to a certain scenario or how he would treat a certain demographic, you’d better know more about everything that He did while interacting with ALL people groups, sins, and scenarios. Know who you are talking to. Know what you’re talking about. Most importantly, if you’re going to speak for Jesus, Know Him.

To do so without knowledge is to ignore God’s indicting Words to those who add to or take away from God’s Word, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Thank You Jesus! #SoliDeoGloria

Evil Makes A Promise It Cannot Keep

The enemy called Evil (the world, the flesh and the devil) makes this promise: “you can define what is good and what is evil on your own terms and put yourselves in God’s place.” Believing in this promise results in brokenness, corruption and violence. It brings to surface the “need” of self-protection, self-preservation, self-gratification and self-elevation.

Jesus let evil exhaust all of its power on Him using its only real weapon, Death. Jesus knew that the love and life of God was more powerful than Evil and He overcame death through His resurrection, opening a way to escape the death-grip of Evil’s deceptive promise and discover New Life through His Promise.

We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. No follower of Jesus ever need be defeated by evil, doomed by the curse of sin or enslaved to the hurts, habits and hangups brought about by the broken promise of evil. This war has already been won.

Romans 8:31-39 ESV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32] He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [33] Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. [34] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [35] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36] As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38] For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What Controls Your Life?

Darryl Jones

3h  · Shared with Public

Public

“Whatever consumes your mind controls your life.”

It could be one of many things…

  • your looks/appearance
  • what others think of you
  • sex (self-gratification)
  • sports
  • your kids
  • your job/career
  • your illness/handicaps
  • money
  • getting married
  • being single
  • your spouse – their flaws or their good qualities
  • your past – abuses and traumas OR “the good ole days”
  • the rest/relaxation/benefits of life you think you’ve earned or deserve
  • the exhaustion, hardships, trials you think you don’t deserve or are unfair

Or it could simply be Jesus.

For too many, we don’t know how to really fix our eyes and our mind on Jesus. If we’re really, really transparently honest – for many of us, Jesus is a religious means to a personal end. The focus is OUR need, OUR convenience and OUR comfort rather than HIS glory, HIS will and HIS Kingdom.

For many of us, Jesus is a religious means to a personal end. The focus is OUR need, OUR convenience and OUR comfort rather than HIS glory, HIS will and HIS Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Philippians 3:9-10-16 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death... [12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Hebrews 12:1-3 NASB
Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

A Day That Belongs To The Lord

If you were an 8-hour sleeper, could you rest in the sanctuary of God’s presence for the other 16 hours of a day and be completely satisfied and content…fulfilled? Would you find this to be a day of abundance?

John 10:9-10 ESV
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

If you didn’t have to go to work and didn’t have to take care of children or others (which CAN BE forms of worship also), could you spend your waking hours of just one day reading His Word, discussing His Word, Worshipping Him in His Word and Praying Through His Word, listening to His Word through sermons, soaking meditating in His Word? Would that bore you or drive you nuts? Would it make you antsy and unproductive?

Keep in mind, this wouldn’t deprive you of exercise, meals, or relationships. It wouldn’t chain you to a specific location. It wouldn’t deprive you of community, music or conversation. It wouldn’t tie your hands from your devices…but could you spend an entire day where your Creator and Savior, His Spirit and His Word are your absolute, complete and only focus – walking with Him, talking with Him, learning of Him, resting in Him and not feeding any fleshly pleasure for more ________, not even one ounce?

Would you be willing to try it? Could you find a day in your life that you could Sabbath with God Himself…a day where you could completely focus your reverent attention on Him, every waking minute for the purpose of spiritual, physical, and emotional rest, replenishment, rejuvenation?
Would this not be what it means to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ?

Romans 8:28-30 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who We Are

Church, we’re not committed to being better than someone else…God’s Word tells us that comparing ourselves among ourselves makes us fools.

What we are to compare ourselves to is Jesus and the teachings of His Word and to that comparison, we all fall short. So we’re on a journey together…we’ve made a covenant with God and with one another to be transformed.

What we ARE fully committed to is this — keeping our gaze laser-focused on being conformed to His image and pursuing that with reckless abandon…TOGETHER. We walk in this Blessed Hope TOGETHER…in His Word TOGETHER…in His Spirit TOGETHER…for His Kingdom TOGETHER. You may not be there yet, but to be The Church, you MUST BE committed to the journey:

  • We’re not going to make excuses for our sins and shortcomings.
  • We’re not going to get sidetracked by the trappings of this world.
  • We’re not going to pursue lives of self-indulgence and self-gratification.
  • We’re not going to allow the Gospel-Centered Church of Jesus to be used as merely a religious practice, something used to make ourselves feel better about ourselves when it suits us.
  • We’re not going to allow the Gospel-Centered Church of Jesus to be used as merely a social circle of belonging for those who feel alone. Though it is a warm, friendly and welcoming environment, open to all who are seeking Jesus, the Church is not merely a place like Cheers or the apartment of Friends or Seinfeld. It is soooooo much more.
  • We ARE going to learn to love one another…unconditionally.
  • We ARE going to serve God AND one another with the humble hearts of bond servants.
  • We ARE going to pursue covenant community, responsibility and accountability.
  • We ARE going to declare God’s message of love and forgiveness to all who seek healing from the brokenness of this world.
  • We ARE going to be vessels of God’s Grace, Mercy, Love and Hope to a broken and hopelessly lost world.
  • We ARE going to receive all who come to Jesus and repent of their part in this worlds brokenness.
  • We ARE going to be the image bearers of Jesus’ reconciled, redeemed, and restored Creation to a world that God loves and wants to restore to Himself.

The church is the assembly of the Bride of Jesus Christ — those chosen, called and set apart for God’s pleasure and purpose. We will unashamedly and unrelentingly walk in that mission —so other may hear…AND live!

…helping people find and follow Jesus!

Keep Your Gaze Fixated on the King

As she was giving all she had to live on, the widow wasn’t disappointed that the others were only giving of their scraps…their spillover…their leftovers. When she gave it all, she was fixated on the One to whom she was giving it.

There is no doubt that it is a challenge when…

  • …you are giving yourself completely in your marriage and your spouse treats the marriage like it’s a convenient store
  • …you give your job 110% and your co-workers only engage when the boss is watching
  • …you’re killing yourself to honor and care for your aging parents and your siblings act like it’s your responsibility
  • …you’re fully engaged in the work and support of your local church and others treat it as a hobby that they dabble in when they have time.

Keep your head in the game, your eye on the prize, your gaze fixated on the King.

Mark 12:41-44 ESV
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. [44] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

God Never Wastes a Hurt

Eight years ago, over a period of 6 to 8 months, our church suffered subtle, subversive attacks from multiple angles and agents. It wasn’t the first time and as long as God tarries His return, I’m sure it won’t be the last. But this one was different from the others before it. It literally paralyzed me as a pastor – I had a stroke on stage in the middle of a sermon. My confidence in God’s calling on my life had been weakened. I blamed myself for giving the enemy ground on my watch as the shepherd…and there was certainly some responsibility on my part that I’ve had to deal with. My confidence in God’s voice of direction for our church was shattered. I was unsure about nearly everything. I trusted very few but my own family as the blows of the enemy kept coming.

It decimated our church…we were crippled and curled up in a corner, wondering if we’d ever survive the slaughter. We barely functioned through our numbness and paralysis. After a couple years of that, the Spirit got us to our feet, cleaned us up and we began to see and feel movement again. He slowly nursed us back to health. That took another five years…we were so thankful to still be alive but you could tell, our people were nervous and scared to open up, timid to trust and yet tired of hurting. Sooooo many walls up. Then came a worldwide pandemic…and instead of letting us retreat into fear, panic, obscurity and seclusion, God opened the floodgates of mercy, grace and blessing upon us…He opened our hearts and our minds. He taught us that He’d given us much through years of spiritual, emotional and physical healing and it was time to share that with others who had been battered, abused and led astray.

We’ve just passed a milestone – 22 years since my little family gathered with 3 or 4 other little families for the very first service of Crossroads Church here in Grain Valley, MO. I’m thankful for all of them. I’m thankful for each person whom God used to help us get started, to strengthen our foundation, to serve and love the many who have come through our doors. I’m thankful for those who stayed a short time. I’m thankful for those who have been enduring partners for many, many years. We’ve had heroes who have walked these halls and left an incredible legacy upon our hearts. I’m thankful for each one whom God has used to strengthen my family, those who have poured into us, nurtured us, cared for us, encouraged us and loved us as their Pastor and family. I’m thankful for new life, new family members, fresh vision and spirit of cooperation.

I’m thankful for the challenges and attacks that came in the form of both people and circumstances beyond our control – things that the enemy intended for evil against God, but God meant it for good. We are HIS church…HIS bride. He strengthened us through adversity. He chiseled us through attacks. He tried us through fire. He healed us for His glory and the good of His people. He has released us from the bondage of the past by reminding us of our future.

Odd as it may sound and tragic as it may have been for many, I thank God for this pandemic…for what it has taught us about Him, about His Word, about His Church, and about His Plan. I thank God that for some reason and in His infinite wisdom He has seemingly released us from 10 years of wandering in a cloudy, sometimes dark and frustrating wilderness, knowing that He has never left us nor forsaken us.

To God Be the Glory – #solideogloria
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments, Who has cleansed us by the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ, Who anoints us with Your Holy Spirit, and Who has kept us alive and preserved us for Your glory and Your purpose. May we never be the same again.

It’s Not Up To Me

I saw this meme today and it really stirred some thoughts in me that I’d like to share with those who are willing to listen.

I don’t want to speak for others, but I CAN speak for me and the Spirit of Christ that indwells me.
Just because I don’t, won’t or can’t support an agenda, an initiative, a cause, a religion or a group that is contrary to the Word and the character of God – that doesn’t mean that I hate or even dislike the people who are involved. That would be nothing short of ignorant and petty and, dare I say, hypocritical.

I’m only capable of love because God my Creator is Love. Loving those whom God loves does not equate with accepting what they want me to accept as holy, and let’s just be honest with ourselves. We have no power or authority to approve or disapprove, to condone or condemn – save the authority given to us by God. It is God’s character and nature that are offended by sin – NOT MINE. What so many want is that we as fellow humans feign God’s approval for what He has already condemned. As His bond-servant, one who has become ONE with Him as Jesus and the Father are ONE, out of surrender, obedience and commitment to Him, I am to love what He loves and to hate what He hates.

It is God’s character and nature that are offended by sin – NOT MINE.

But by the same token, hating what God hates does not equate to failing to continue to love those whom God loves the way God loves them – those for whom Jesus ALSO gave His life a ransom, that they might someday repent of and be rescued from the very social lies and humanistic norms that God hates – loving and praying that they will one day be redeemed and restored and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I am not to get passive-aggressive, sarcastic or even defensive with those who walk according to the flesh. I am not to make fun of them or call them names. I am not to speak down to them as if they are lesser than me, simply because I’m a follower of Jesus and their ways do not indicate that they themselves are followers of His ways. BUT, I am not to cower from boldly, confidently and humbly speaking, declaring and living according to THE TRUTH of God – IN LOVE. Not because I’m offended by sin, but because God is offended by sin and God loves the offender and wants them to be exposed to the TRUTH so that they may accept it or reject it. It is not my place to cram it down anyone’s throat. We declare TRUTH to the willing listener and to those over whom God has given us authority (our family, our church, etc.).

It is not that I’m any better than anyone else. My flesh is just as vile, my heart just as corrupt and my spirit was just as dead as anyone else who has walked the face of this earth. The only difference between me and the person that embraces the things that God hates is that I’ve received what He offered to each of us; I’ve repented and surrendered to Jesus as Lord of my life; HE has redeemed me; HE has justified me; HE has restored me; HE is sanctifying me; HIS Spirit lives in me; and HE is conforming me into His image. I am HIS elect. I didn’t deserve it and I still do not. He has done all the work, and I’ve only acknowledged WHO HE IS and accepted WHAT HE’S DONE. My only task is to crucify the flesh and walk in obedience to His Word and in relationship with His Spirit.