A Reminder

It’s good to remind ourselves, on occasion, what kind of people are sitting in “church services” – the gatherings of the local body of Jesus followers. In our culture where people who are seeking God or something from God still “go to church”, not all people assembled in a “church building” are expected to be followers nor are all followers at the same stage of spiritual health, fitness, and growth. We need to bear this in mind and adjust our expectations accordingly. That doesn’t mean that we adjust our worship or our doctrine…just how we view people.

  • Some are seeking belonging and acceptance…but are not followers.
  • Some are investigating faith in and knowledge of Jesus…but are not followers.
  • Some are deconstructing false doctrines and false beliefs that they’ve been exposed to by family, education, and/or false teachers…they may or may not be followers.
  • Some are learning and beginning to place their faith in Jesus…might be followers but maybe not yet.
  • Some are growing in their knowledge of Jesus and The Word as they are taking baby steps of faith through the leadership of God’s Spirit…following Jesus.
  • Some are exercising their faith and intimate knowledge of Jesus as they serve, share, give, grow and worship…following Jesus.
  • Some are deepening the breadth of their understanding of The Way, The Word, and the character of God…following Jesus.

Not all voices represent God’s Word, God’s Will, or God’s Spirit equally. Not all know what they are talking about. Not all come from a clear God-centered perspective.

But all voices represent someone created in God’s image, deserving of the honor, dignity, and respect due to God’s image-bearers.

Be wise.

Be discerning.

Be kind.

Be compassionate.

Be gracious.

Be forgiving.

BY God FOR God

I’m not a lover of high-risk, death-defying activities like bungee-jumping, skydiving, sleeping in a hammock while suspended over a deep, jagged ravine, playing Russian Roulette, eating mushrooms, etc. I have no need or compulsion to feel the rush of adrenaline of a near-death experience. I’m not afraid. I just personally do not find joy OR purpose in voluntarily charging into those situations (no judgment against those who do). I do, however, love the beautiful scenery only observed from some of those incredible heights.

On the other hand, I’m not one to beg God to keep me on this earth one more second than He has already deemed my life useful for His glory and the good of His people. My time is appointed BY God and FOR God and I hope to live every moment as such. I don’t want to waste a minute of this gift on earth (though tragically I have), but I also won’t beg Him for more when I’ve misused what He already entrusted to me. I’m going to trust His sovereign will.

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. Philippians 1:20-21 ESV

Faith Over Questions

Sometimes I think I may just be too simple and shallow. Do you ever think that about yourself?

I hear lots of conversations with people who really struggle with questions for which they don’t have answers…some just want to know answers and search endlessly for them, some get derailed by answers or lack thereof and some walk away if they don’t get the answers they want.

There are a lot of things about God and life that are mysteries…we may never in this life know the answers to them. There are other things for which we have multiple answers and different philosophical bents that diverge into opposing belief systems. For example, creation – young earth/old earth, literal days of creation or figurative, predestination/election and free will, hell – eternal/temporal, punitive/redemptive.

I’m one of those people…I’m okay without answers. I’m okay with mystery. I just chalk it up to faith in the God who knows all. That may be a soft way of saying I’m lazy-minded. I don’t feel like I need to “know” in order to live according to the purpose for which He designed me. But I enter some conversations and follow others where I feel like there must be something wrong with me…maybe I just don’t care enough, maybe I’m just not smart enough, maybe I’m just lazy.

I’m not condemning those who have questions for which they want answers, and I’m not self-deprecating because I don’t have a deep need for answers. I wonder if we’re all just wired differently – some more simple and others more complex – and that presents opportunity for the body to stimulate, encourage, exhort one another.

I heard this phrase the other day: “I’m living through my questions.” I found it intriguing.

I think I could just be living in my ignorance, but I’m going to phrase it this way: “I’m living through my faith”…faith that He is God and I’m not. If I don’t know, I probably just don’t need to know right now.

God Moves His People

“Work as if everything depends on you; pray as if everything depends on God.”

I cringed every time one of the men who attended our church used to say “If God wants it to happen, it’ll happen” – this was always in the context of work that needed to be done around the church campus. My response: “No sir, God’s not going to come in and set those chairs up…God’s not going to come in and paint that shed…God’s not going to come in and mow that lawn…God’s not going to come in and clean that building or pay those bills. He’s going to tell His servants to do the work so he can do the miracle and He tells them through us, the leaders of the church.” God DOES move His people to do the work and give the money to provide the way for HIM to accomplish the things that He wants to accomplish – and he does so through the hard work and sacrifice of His obedient servants.

In John 2 at the marriage of Cana, Jesus told the servants to fill 6 stone jars with water, and each held 20-30 gallons of water.

Have you thought about how much work that was? Drawing over 120 gallons of water from the well and bringing them to the wedding feast…because there weren’t faucets back then.

It was only after the servants did all that work that they were able to witness Jesus perform his first miracle of turning the water into wine. They did the work so God could do the miracle.

The same is true in your life today…your marriage, your parenting, your community of followers (the church), your discipleship in reaching your neighbors and your city, your finances, your work, etc. We do the work; God does the miracle. What work does God want you to invest in these relationships so he can perform a miracle in their lives?

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

-John 2:5

doing good matters

Doing good does not MAKE you a disciple of Jesus — a believer, a follower of Christ, a child of God. Only the blood of Jesus, his atonement through his death and resurrection offered by His Holy Spirit in redemption, reconciliation, and restoration can MAKE you a disciple of Jesus. The only thing we offer is our repentance from sin and surrender to His invitation to make Him Lord.

BUT...doing good MARKS you as a disciple of Jesus. IF you are a follower of Jesus, one of the ways that others will be able to tell is by your love for one another - doing good all the time with all of ourselves.

Jesus told the disciples about what it would look like when He returns for those who have inherited His kingdom. He told them that they would be marked by their behavior. Matthew 25:35-40 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ [37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ [40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Sometimes we get that wrong and assume we will be rewarded by doing the least of these, even though that’s not what the verse says – it says TO the least of these. Sometimes we want blessing, rewards, favor, acknowledgment, encouragement because we gave God an hour one Sunday last month when we attended church, or we gave him 15 minutes of Bible reading one Wednesday morning when we were sitting in line at the DMV, or because we gave our old VCR to a homeless shelter for the less fortunate. As we all well know, that list could go on and on.

In 2 Samuel 24, King David was told to go before the Lord, build an altar and make an offering on the altar. The guy who owned the place (the threshing floor) where David wanted to build the altar was willing to let him use it for his altar and even offered to give him the supplies he needed to make the offering. But David was not willing to accept this in order to offer it to the Lord. He said, “I will not offer to the Lord my God anything that cost me nothing.” He was not willing to give to God only what came easy or free to him – his leftovers. He bought the land on which the threshing floor sat as well as the animals, crops, and equipment on the land. This land later became the location of the Temple.

Doing the right things for the right reasons in the right ways at the right times is a MARK of a follower of Jesus. Our identity ALWAYS drives our behavior. We give things up. We make sacrifices. We surrender who we once were and submit ourselves to Him, His church, and His Way. How we live is determined by who we are.

What am I giving to God today that costs me nothing/little? What am I giving to God today that costs me my personal agenda, wants, desires, comforts, pleasures, etc.

Doing Good Matters

Doing Good Matters – ALL THE TIME!

Doing good does not MAKE you a disciple of Jesus – a believer, a follower of Christ, a child of God. Only the blood of Jesus, his atonement through his death and resurrection offered by His Holy Spirit in redemption, reconciliation, and restoration can MAKE you a disciple of Jesus. The only thing we offer is our repentance from sin and surrender to His invitation to make Him Lord.

BUT…doing good MARKS you as a disciple of Jesus. IF you are a follower of Jesus, one of the ways that others will be able to tell is by your love for one another – doing good all the time with all of ourselves.

Jesus told the disciples about what it would look like when He returns for those who have inherited His kingdom. He told them that they would be marked by their behavior.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ [37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ [40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Matthew 25:35-40

Sometimes we get that wrong and assume we will be rewarded by doing the least of these, even though that’s not what the verse says – it says TO the least of these. Sometimes we want blessing, rewards, favor, acknowledgment, encouragement because we gave God an hour one Sunday last month when we attended church, or we gave him 15 minutes of Bible reading one Wednesday morning when we were sitting in line at the DMV, or because we gave our old VCR to a homeless shelter for the less fortunate. As we all well know, that list could go on and on.

In 2 Samuel 24, King David was told to go before the Lord, build an altar and make an offering on the altar. The guy who owned the place (the threshing floor) where David wanted to build the altar was willing to let him use it for his altar and even offered to give him the supplies he needed to make the offering. But David was not willing to accept this in order to offer it to the Lord. He said, “I will not offer to the Lord my God anything that cost me nothing.” He was not willing to give to God only what came easy or free to him – his leftovers. He bought the land on which the threshing floor sat as well as the animals, crops, and equipment on the land. This land later became the location of the Temple.

Doing the right things for the right reasons in the right ways at the right times is a MARK of a follower of Jesus. Our identity ALWAYS drives our behavior. We give things up. We make sacrifices. We surrender who we once were and submit ourselves to Him, His church, and His Way. How we live is determined by who we are.

What am I giving to God today that costs me nothing/little? What am I giving to God today that costs me my personal agenda, wants, desires, comforts, pleasures, etc.

The Right Group

It’s so refreshing to walk in life with those who trust the Lord, crave intimacy with Him through His Word, who walk holy and humbly before Him together with other followers of His Way. It feeds your soul when people want to talk about who Jesus is to them, how He is blessing them and teaching them and transforming them, how the Holy Spirit moves, convicts, and calls them into communion and service for Him.

Fear, worry, control, distrust, panic, assuming and/or seeing the worst in circumstances and people, focusing on self, negativity, etc. These emotions feed the flesh, which the Bible says is “the enemy” and calls us to “crucify the flesh.” These processes are incredibly draining to our spirit…for both the people going through it and for the people they engage with.

This is why we so desperately need to be refreshed and replenished by authentic community with the first group. The second group needs the first to minister to them, to speak loving truth into their lives, and assist those who are teachable in craving, trusting, and walking with the Lord. This is part of “love your neighbor as yourself.” The first group, filled with the Holy Spirit, needs one another for strength, wisdom, discernment, and peace.

Which one are you? Who is your group one? Who is your group two?

ACT Rather Than REACT

I was watching my great-niece Ellie play a pinball game that she had received as a gift the other day. As I watched, that little steel ball was bouncing from side to side, top to bottom, reacting quite aggressively to obstacles that it hit along the pinball’s slanted surface. Once she hit the steel ball with the paddles, she no longer had any control of the ball until it came back to her.

It reminded me of the culture in which we live…very little ACTION but a whole lot of REACTION. As we travel this journey of life, we often REACT to the opinions and REACTIONS of others as they REACT to the opinions and REACTIONS of even others. The irony is that within the same community, there can be a completely different set of people REACTING to a completely different set of opinions and REACTIONS that are a REACTION to the opinions and REACTIONS of others. This causes nothing but REACTIVE chaos and instability, everyone minding everyone else’s business but their own, worried, fearful, and angry over things for which they have no control.

There is nothing in this world that brings stability, peace, or control. It is only through the indwelling Spirit of God that we can find the peace that SURPASSES human comprehension, the stability and control to ACT on His presence and His truths rather than REACT to what’s going on around us. It is only through His power that we have the strength, wisdom and peace to ACT on His discerning Word.

Conquerers Over Sin

As I often challenge followers of Jesus in my congregation and my virtual audience to pursue holiness and purity – to expose and confess offenses against God and humanity that creep into our lives through the world, the flesh and the devil – someone occasionally expresses concern that there’s not much grace in what I share…that it’s condemning, judgmental, and self-righteous.

It is not me (nor any other human) that condemns sin or judges others. That is not in our wheelhouse of responsibility or ability. Even if I attempt to do so, that in itself is an offense to God by pretending to usurp HIS AUTHORITY. My own life is a trainwreck without the powerful work of the Holy Spirit using God’s Word to convict me and transform me into the image of Jesus. God has already condemned and judged sin so that we are no longer in bondage to it. Jesus bore the full wrath of the Father and judgment for sin so that we can live free from its enslavement. THAT’s GRACE!!!!! And yes, God’s GRACE extends to every offense against His character, His nature, and His law by His followers until Jesus returns.

Here is where my challenge to purity and holiness SOUNDS LIKE condemnation, judgment, and self-righteousness: GRACE does not grant permission to live in the flesh; it supplies the power to live in the Spirit. Sometimes we (myself included) have a tendency to ABUSE God’s GRACE by excusing and indulging in behavior from which we have been ransomed by an extremely high price. Even if I’m a follower of Jesus – ESPECIALLY since I know the cost of His blood poured out for me, ESPECIALLY since I have His Spirit indwelling me and spiritually discerning His Word for me – SIN IS STILL AN OFFENSE TO THE CHARACTER, NATURE, AND LAW OF GOD.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? BY NO MEANS! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Romans 6:1-2

In addition to God’s Spirit and God’s Word, and the BLESSED HOPE of His glorious return and our eternal reward, we as His followers have been given the privilege and responsibility to walk in ACCOUNTABILITY with one another and to one another…for the Glory of God and the Good of His People. Together we live as conquerors over sin…not subject to it.

My Only…

I am under no delusion that convincing you that I’m happy, confident, strong, empowered, independent, secure in my looks or physique, etc. will actually convince you OR me of any of those things. Those are all fleeting emotions that can change with one glance, comment, or lack thereof regardless of how many selfies you post. My flesh is consistently insecure and in bondage to public opinion and manipulation by the enemy. If I do not crucify my flesh daily, I will be in constant need of your approval and attention to what both you and I think of me.

— My only hope is radical surrender through submission, obedience, and commitment to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

— My only security is in 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.

— My only strength is in the faithfulness of the God that resides in me.

— My only beauty is in the image of Jesus that the Spirit of God is transforming me into.

— My only power is in His resurrection.

— My only health is in His sovereign grace and providence.

— My only dependence is on Him who gave His life that I might have life and the interdependence of the community known as His Bride.